"Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve." ~Carrie Latet

December 28, 2010

Christmas Morning
Originally uploaded by anastasiav
I have had a week and a bit at home, vacation extended by a Monday snowstorm that kept us all in the house and in our PJs for the entire day.

I have had a week of travel, of late nights and early mornings, of working side by side with my husband, of wrapping, of baking, of cooking, of greeting guests and being hosted. I have had, in short, a week of hard work.

And yet, for whatever reason, it didn't really feel like Christmas. Not even at the very end.

E was pleased. He came downstairs on Christmas morning, paused in the doorway and said, again and again "I don't believe it". He got his heart's desire and then some, tangible proof that Santa is real and he was, after all, a boy on the good and not the naughty list.

Last year, we had very little, but we made do with what we had. This year, the possibilities were endless, and yet I didn't feel at all as though I got "just the right thing" for anyone. This holiday season has strengthened my resolve to make more, to plan ahead more, and to think more about what we can do as a family to give fewer gifts and instead grant more wishes.

I was, officially, on vacation, but of course I worked from home (to a greater or lesser extent) every single day. Most days it was just reading and responding to a few emails. One day it was an emergency change to an almost-to-press document that kept me away from a lovely lunch with my brother and sister-in-law. I've learned to take this 24/7 working life in stride, but my poor husband has not. He was, I think, angry and indignant on my behalf when I was sitting at the kitchen table typing away. Its those moments when it strikes me most that somehow its ok for a father to be shut away in his den or study working, but when its the Mamma its a whole different set of cultural expectations.

Anyhow, despite it not really feeling like Christmas it was, in the end, a good and joyful holiday. I hope yours was as well.

"This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone." - T Caldwell

December 17, 2010

Wrapping Bliss
Originally uploaded by anastasiav
Here's a photo "from the archives" for you (E playing in the ripped up wrapping paper, Christmas 2007), and a few links.

Have a great weekend!

Dr. Mom "An Ivy-League-educated stay-at-home mom tells the truth about "the mommy track"

You need to know a little bit about MBTI personality types to get this, but its an interesting article about personality types and parenting styles. Be sure to read the comments, too.

Armageddon Mama
"Parenting toward the Apocalypse. Are we raising our kids to cope with a radically revised future?"
Not as bleak as it sounds.

I've been following the woman who writes Free Range Kids on Twitter, which has reminded me how terrific her blog is. (Or maybe its just recently gotten better?)

TED Talks: Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do
Video, about ten minutes. (If you're not watching the TED talks, you should.)

Design Mom

Late Add: Corbyn Hightower's Blog
Achingly well written site about raising a family during this recession we're in. A great reminder that -- as hard as it is sometimes to balance work and family, it would be far harder to be involuntarily unemployed.

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. " T Merton

December 16, 2010

Christmas 2010
Originally uploaded by anastasiav
My boss said to me this morning “I think I’m more excited for your Christmas than I am for my own.” You see, this year, for the first time as a working adult, I’m taking the week before Christmas totally off. I’m going to bake cookies and go shopping (and continue to send E to preschool at least three days that week, so I can actually get things done). Most of you know that, until this past January, I worked part-time for a Giant Catalog Retailer while also working full time at a “real” day job. Prior to that, I had worked full time for that same Giant Catalog Retailer, where, although my primary job was not customer facing, at the holiday we all became customer facing and worked 6 days a week to make sure that our customer’s holiday experience was a great as we could make it. What got left behind was making my families’ holiday experience as great as I could make it.

When E was born, I promised myself that Christmas would be magical for him. We work hard at instilling belief in Santa in him, and we’ve also worked hard to make sure that Santa brings him his heart’s desire each year, without totally overwhelming him with gifts. We took him to see Santa, and Santa came by his preschool as well (E told me later that he thought Santa “came back” to see him because he – E – had been so shy when he first met Santa. He became tongue tied and forgot to ask for the one gift I know he wants most in the world.)

Our tree has been up for over a week now. There are still totes of decorations sitting in the front hall, but hopefully I’ll be able to finish off the bulk of the decorating tonight. (Monday’s tooth injury set me back a couple of days.) My shopping is almost done (thanks, internet!) but I still have stocking stuff to shop for. I haven’t done any fabulous crafts yet (I still don’t quite get how working moms seem to find the time to also do amazing crafts after bedtime. I’m lucky if I’m awake after 9 pm.) but they’re in the plan. I did make matching stockings for us last year, and it gives me a little thrill to see them hanging from the mantle.

Still, for some reason, it doesn’t feel much like Christmas. Maybe it’s just the lack of snow. Maybe it’s the big pile of plastic totes that remains in my front hall. Or, maybe, as I mentioned to Josh the other night, maybe it’s that over the years I’ve come to associate a terrible feeling of stress (both financial and time) with the holiday season, and this year that stress just isn’t there.

Lets hope that a good round of cookie baking, holiday specials on DVD, and house cleaning will help me find a “new normal” feeling of what the holidays are all about.

"Empathy is the most radical of human emotions." - G Steinem

December 15, 2010

Anyone who tells you that all children naturally have empathy is lying.

E frequently injures me. Perhaps it is because he is a bouncy boy and I am a short-sighted adult with slow reflexes, but whatever the reason, its not at all unusual for his head to connect with my nose or face in such a way as to cause me searing, searing pain. While I was working at my former place of employment, my facial injuries were so frequent that one of the project managers became convinced that I was being abused. E has broken about four pairs of my glasses, and I'm pretty sure that at least once he's caused permanent damage to my nose.

Now, we can add, I think, a damaged front upper tooth to the list.

E was bouncing on the bed, as we've asked him not to do a million times. And this time, somehow, as I was putting my hands on his shoulders to get the bouncing to stop, his head connected with my front teeth and nose during an upward bounce. Everything went white. Searing pain. I became aware that I was leaning over his bureau, making this sort of half groaning, half strangled bleating noise, as I tried not to scream. And I became aware of another sound as well. I could hear E laughing. As hurt as I was, and as mad at him as I was for inflicting yet another facial injury on me, the thing that made me maddest was the laughing.

I shouted at him. "E, you really hurt me!" He laughed harder. I took a moment and composed myself, and tried as much as I could to get firm and steely with him. "Its time to get ready for bed" I said.


"Did you just tell me no?"

"Yes" He started laughing again.

I have to say this pushed me over the edge, into the land of "as angry as I have ever been." I informed him that he'd just lost all his bedtime stories, which led to a little fake crying that quickly turned into giggling. I told him again to get ready for bed, and he continued to be basically completely defiant. I changed his clothes, since he'd made it quite clear that he wasn't getting into his PJs voluntarily, and marched him into the bathroom to brush his teeth. Finally, in the bathroom, he figured out that something was, in fact, wrong -- that maybe I was mad -- but he decided to try and make me smile by pushing on my mouth, which was absolutely the wrong thing for him to do.

"Don't touch my face."

"But I want to make you smile."

"Don't touch my face, E, it hurts when you do that. From where you hit me with your head."

I sent him back to his room, and got him settled in the bed. Then, I sat down on the edge of the bed to try and talk with him, as it became increasingly clear that he had no idea why I was suddenly so mad at him. Our conversation started off ok, but quickly degenerated into him giggling and giggling as I tried to explain to him that he'd hurt my face very badly.

"E, what is so funny?"

"Mamma, you talk funny."

And with that I said good night, warned him not to get out of bed, and came downstairs. My front tooth is still throbbing, and I suspect its actually been damaged and will require a dentist visit. But even more, I'm in quite a lot of pain at the thought of seeing him laugh and laugh and laugh at me as I was in agonizing pain. I know, rationally, that he won't grow up to be a serial killer, but there are nights like tonight when I really fear he will.

Christmas Bat

December 14, 2010

Christmas Bat
Originally uploaded by Furryscaly
We've had these sorts of adventures before.

Last night, E was sitting on the stairs, weeping because he didn't get a movie before supper and now it was bedtime, when suddenly Josh says, firmly but loudly, "Take E upstairs to his room and shut the door. Now." Something in his father's voice snapped E to attention and we both ran up the stairs and made it safely into his room.

Yep, bat downstairs.

Josh dealt somehow with the bat. (He said it involved gloves and a laundry basket on his head. Unfortunately, his fencing equipment was out in the car -- a fencing mask is the BEST piece if bat-hunting equipment known to man.) Then he came upstairs and the rest of the night proceeded pretty much normally.

Until E began to scream and cry in the middle of the night.

I eventually got him calmed down and back to sleep, but this morning he told us that his preschool class was on a bus, but two of the kids (S and J, two of E's friends) were lost in the "misty woods" and there was a Vampire, and so E and another child had gone to find their friends.

Man, I'm sick of bats.

(Just as a note, you can actually find anything on Flickr. Even a Christmas Bat.)

"The Talk"

December 8, 2010

As a quick follow up on Monday's post that touches on the lack of Star Wars in my son's life (and my conflict about it), I offer you this, from Wired: Have You Had “The Talk” With Your Kids? No, the Other Talk.

"I can hardly wait to see you come of age. But I guess we'll just both have to be patient."

"He didn't come out of my belly, but my God, I've made his bones, because I've attended to every meal, and how he sleeps, and the fact that he swims like a fish because I took him to the ocean. I'm so proud of all those things. But he is my biggest pride."

I was going to write about something else today (about our tree, actually) but I've been reflecting all morning about the life and death of John Lennon, and his family, today, and I wanted to write a little about it.

When their son Sean was born, Lennon and Ono struck a deal: she would work and he would stay home and raise their son. In 1975 this was a revolutionary idea. Not just because the Lennon-Ono family was one of the five or six most famous families on the planet, or because of their wealth, but simply for the idea itself: mom going off to work and dad staying home in his PJs and changing diapers and taking care of every meal -- especially a dad raised, as Lennon was, in the middle- to working-class ethos of World War II era Liverpool -- was something to be looked at askance, despite the rise of feminism. (For comparison, the film Mr. Mom came out in 1983, and the idea of dad as sole caregiver was still considered high-humor, as it is, to some extent, today.) Again and again during those five years, in myriad ways, it was implied that Lennon had somehow "lost it" -- lost his mind -- to want to chuck in fame and music to take care of his infant son.

I've been trying to bring this to some profound wrap-up, but I can't find it. Suffice to say that my heart goes out to his son today, for his loss, and I hope those years of his father's love provide him with some comfort.

“I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart.” - Pope John XXIII

December 7, 2010

Eye - pink
Eye - pink
Originally uploaded by Danny Mo
So, yeah, the eyedrops.

Last Wednesday E was diagnosed with conjunctivitis, and ear infection, and a sinus infection. He was utterly miserable. Eye drops are part of the fix to this. Unfortunately, the eye drops administration process may, in fact, be worse that the issue its curing.

We tried just, you know, asking him. We tried bribing him with cookies. We tried taking his beloved Cars cars away if he didn't comply. We even tried doing it while he was asleep. But the only thing that works is brute force. It takes two of us to hold him down, while he squeezes his eyes shut as tightly as he can and screams and cries and begs us not to give him the drops. (The begging and pleading is the worst part.) And yet we have to. So we do, but its one of the most unpleasant things I've ever had to do. E's been through multiple medical procedures in his short life, including two surgeries, but he's never, ever hated anything as much as he hates this.

After Sunday's morning dose he looked at his father and said, quietly, "I hate you."

Josh handled it better than I would have. He told E he loved him, and he was sorry, but because part of our job is to keep E safe and healthy we had to do this. And soon they were snuggled up again.

Still, that kind of thing sticks with you. I sort of thought he'd be older, you know? Before he started in with the "I hate you." Older than four....

"I ought to clobber you" - Lucy van Pelt

December 6, 2010

We have a number of friends with kids E's age or slightly older, and almost all those kids know far more about pop culture than E does. Particularly Star Wars, for some reason.

Despite being steeped -- and I do mean steeped in pop culture, though (particularly Star Wars) somehow we have managed to keep E shielded from the bulk of it. He knows about Thomas the Train, and Pooh, and recently Blue the Dog and Lightning McQueen the Car have made their way into our lives, but all in all I'd say he's a kid who is pretty well shielded from the bulk of what the big old media machine has to offer. Some days I think that's terrific. Modern technology (Tivo, Netflix, the plain ol' DVD) have enabled us to keep commercials almost totally out of his life (when he sees a commercial he almost always complains to us and asks us to turn it off). Moving him to preschool increases his exposure somewhat, but not as much as I'd feared. But other days I fear he's actually just culturally a little naive for his age, and I hope that somehow he's not being left behind by not having a detailed knowledge of Star Wars. (See, I can worry about anything.)

Then, there are moments like tonight, when we're done in by nostalgia.

Over the years, we've collected a pretty comprehensive collection of all those holiday movies we (and you) loved as kids. Rudolph (with its rampant sexism and celebration of conformity), Disney Santa cartoons from the 30's and 40's (featuring racism and a shockingly high level of child abuse), and ... good ol' Charlie Brown.

Believe it or not, Charlie Brown is the worst of the lot. The Halloween special added a few new phrases to E's vocabulary, but not ones that were necessarily problematic. The Thanksgiving special led to him calling people Blockheads and sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and complaining (in Peppermint Patty's famous phrase) about the lack of Pumpkin Pie. But the Christmas special -- the one which is more or less regarded universally as the best of the lot -- is the one that may have caused us to swear off Charlie Brown all together, and its not even due to the nativity.

Its the violence, you see.

Tonight E, in a moment of frustration over the torture we are causing hm by dosing him with eyedrops twice a day (more on that later) and making him pick up his toys, turned to his father, held up his tiny fists and said "I ought to clobber you." And that -- THAT -- did not go over quite as he had hoped. I suppose I can be thankful that he tried it out on us first rather than on his buddies at preschool, but I still never really honestly thought that Charlie Brown, of all things, would lead my son into threats of violence.

And who knows what pop culture has instore for us next.

As soon as tradition has come to be recognized as tradition, it is dead. - A. Bloom

December 3, 2010

Evan in the Woods
Originally uploaded by anastasiav
Every Thanksgiving weekend, since before you were born, we have a tradition. My mother, Josh and I (and now E with us) go walking through the woods at the farm where I grew up and gather greens to decorate my mother's house. In a typical year we'll haul home two small trees and three or four 55 gallon bags full of assorted greenery.

This year I did not want to go. An enormous project at work had taken over (quite literally) every waking moment of my life in the week prior to Thanksgiving, and over Thanksgiving weekend we had a houseguest and multiple family gatherings to attend. By Sunday, our scheduled day, I wanted nothing more than to stay late in bed, then just putter for the day. To be in control of my own schedule and my own life.

I think often that its the loss of control that is the hardest part of parenting for me. For the first two years of E's life all I wanted and wished for was to wake up at a time of my own choosing, as my body clock chose, rather than waking up to an alarm or (more often) the sound of someone crying. Now that E is older I've adjusted to the whole sleep thing (I still only very rarely get to wake up at a time of my own choosing, but at least now I'm awakened by kisses rather than wailing, which is an improvement), but I miss being able to come and go as I please. Sometimes I just want ice cream at 10 pm, but if I'm the only adult home there isn't any way to get it. Or to just go our after work and run a few errands, which I could do, but then it becomes a choice between doing what I want and spending precious awake hours with my son, and unless its something urgent my son always wins.

So, Sunday the last thing in the world I wanted to do was walk in the woods. But away we went.

The Farm (as we simply call it) is the house I grew up in. I played in these woods as a child no older than E is (I shudder to think of it. I wouldn't allow him to play in these woods at this age. But there I was, climbing across beaver dams and climbing trees a half mile from the house at four or five years of age.), and that land continues to be one of the few places where I am calm and at peace. We still own the property -- tenants live there now, the current family has a boy just E's age who was super curious about him and kept waving from the window whenever he caught a glimpse of us - and I still nurture a forlorn hope that some day my family will move there and live there. (Unlikely, as my husband is quite literally too tall for the house. He has to duck going through every doorway.)

One of the reasons we have traditions, I believe, is to center us, and to give us checkpoints to reorient our lives. Of course you know the moral of this story already - we had a terrific day clomping through the woods, a peaceful day, a day to watch hawks circle and talk about what beavers do in the winter. We made pizza with my mother and looked at photos of me as a child. And by the time it was time to go home I was actually recharged, and ready for another week.

Good thing, too, since this week has been full of more 14 hour days, compounded by E getting sent home from preschool on Wednesday morning with conjunctivitis and an ear infection.

Somehow, though, just looking at the photos of him in the forest seems to center me again.

Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. ~G.B. Stern

November 24, 2010

Originally uploaded by anastasiav
"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving."
H. U. Westermayer

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union."
-- Text of the 1863 Proclamation of Thanksgiving, A. Lincoln

Have a wonderful holiday!

"You send a boy to school in order to make friends - the right sort. " - V Woolfe

November 23, 2010

Originally uploaded by anastasiav
So, preschool.

Last Monday I took E in for his first "orientation" day at his new preschool. Preschool is more like a school than not. They have a weekly theme, daily chores, lots of outside play but also lots of practice of things like taking turns, sitting still, etc.

We got there at 8:45. He played on the playground with the other kids until it was time to go inside at 9. They had 15 minutes of circle time (during which I realized we'd never taught him to sit with his legs crossed, what used to be called "indian style"), then snack. As they finished snack, the kids could get up and go read a book or play a quiet game.

Five or six kids had already finished when E finished. He got up, selected a book about Dinosaurs from the reading nook, and sat down on the rug. He opened the book and started, rather dramatically, to "read" the story (really just telling a story based on the pictures he saw). One by one the other kids drifted over to him and his very compelling story. By the time snack was finished, he had the whole class gathered around him as he "read" to them.

He'd been there less than an hour at that point.

Sitting still is going to be a challenge for him, but they're clearly willing to work on that. I think we've made the right decision. I think, actually, he's going to do great.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.” - Einstein

November 22, 2010

Originally uploaded by anastasiav
Some weeks stretch on for ever. Other weeks, its hard to find time to eat, or go to the bathroom. Last week was one of the latter.

My job is one of those jobs where its feast or famine. We have certain times when we are overloaded with work, and other times when we're casting about for something to do. Last week three giant projects all came due at exactly the same time -- on the same day, even -- leaving me with little time for anything other than work: household chores, social life, my family, meals, shopping -- all these were cast to second place.

Add to that that E had his two "orientation days" at his new preschool, and the timing belt broke on Josh's car, leaving us with a single car and jobs in two different cities, and its been an exciting adventure.

I'm so fortunate that Josh is both willing and able to simply pick up all the threads when I drop them. E is equally comfortable with Daddy getting supper (which is what happens most nights; Josh is the cook in our house); giving him a bath; doing bedtime (although if I'm there he wants me to do the stories - end of story).

So, anyhow, tomorrow I'll tell you the exciting tale of E's very first day at his new preschool.

Anyhow, here's something to read:

A Former I-Banker Explains Why The "Mommy Track" Was The Right Track For Her

(This article really irks me, because its so judgmental. I'd be interested to read your take on it.)

Its the Childcare, Stupid

Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn. - G Vidal

November 12, 2010

baby and mom
Originally uploaded by kasiQ
Not much going on here. Get up, go to work, get home, get hugs, eat supper, go to sleep. Rinse and repeat.

I did get to watch E's swim lesson for the first time last night, which was fine. He made it across the pool himself, with help from a floatie.

Josh has to be away all day Saturday so its just E and me -- and my mother, which should make E very happy.

Monday we have the "orientation visit" at his new preschool, so I'm looking forward to telling you about that. (I'm also looking forward to hopefully telling you that there wasn't any huge disaster, but we'll see.) Hannah has been sending daily "we'll miss you" cards home with him from Daycare, but somehow I think they'll both be better off.

Parents are Junkies from Slate. Its totally true.
"Children regularly give parents the kind of highs that only narcotics can rival. The unpredictability of those moments of bliss is an important factor in their addictiveness."

Have a good weekend!

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." - C Jung

November 10, 2010

Daddytypes today had a link to this very interesting and informative blog post about some children known as the Fultz Quadruplets.

The four Fultz girls -- identical quadruplets -- were born in 1946 to parents Pete and Annie Mae, who already had six children. Pete was a tenant farmer. Annie Mae was deaf and mute. The family lived in North Carolina, and, much like the Dionne Quintuplets born twelve years earlier, they were taken from their birth parents and raised by doctors and nurses. In the case of the Fultz girls, their care was subsidized by a company called PET milk - an early formula company.

There is a ton to be shocked by in this story, starting from the doctor who delivered them deciding to name them after members of his own family. But what made me absolutely irate in reading this was not actually the story -- it was the blog author's very casual note, at the end that all four girls had breast cancer (three died from it), and that this was the "consequence" of being formula-fed (rather than breast fed) as infants.

Give me a break.

Lets set aside for a moment (as my friend jenne.heise pointed out) the logistical difficulties involved in a poor woman with six children being able to nurse four hungry infants. Lets set aside, too, any thought that I personally might not feel like "breast is best". I nursed my son as much as I was able, but I also fed him formula. Because he had to eat something and he would have starved to death if his only choice had been the few ounces a day I was able to pump.

I know women who put forth this kind of uninformed, unsourced, judgemental, incorrect hogwash mean well. They want every mother to breast feed and that's a fine and noble -- and totally unachievable -- goal. Breastfeeding does a lot of good things, and protects babies and small children from a lot of things (including some childhood cancers), but it does not protect them from getting Breast Cancer. Rather it is women who lactate for at least 24 months who see the big decreases in breast cancer rates.

But it just doesn't help. I didn't feed my son formula because I wanted to. I did it because I had to -- I had to go back to work and he had to eat something. I'm sure my friend W.'s first choice isn't to formula feed as a stay-at-home mom, but breastfeeding simply wasn't working for her, and so having the option of formula available is keeping her baby happy, well-fed, and healthy.

In trying to find any -- any! -- source studies for her assertion, I discovered this interesting tidbit: in the 1960's, mothers with a family history of breast cancer were advised not to breast feed their daughters, since it was felt at that time that breast feeding might somehow increase the baby's chance of developing the disease in adulthood.

There is so much we can do to increase the rate of exclusive breast feeding in this country -- starting with education, especially for health care professionals and low-income families, right up to the pipe dream of Canadian-style year-long paid leave for new mothers. Scare tactics like this are not part of education. They don't convince anyone. All they serve to do is to increase the guilt and worry all mothers have over whether they are doing every single thing right for their baby.

"You've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it. " - G Marx

November 9, 2010

Originally uploaded by anastasiav
Lest you think its all gloom and doom and angst at my house, I will share with you some of E's verbal gems from yesterday. He's a huge goof, in case you hadn't guessed.....

E, talking about how another child at daycare had a miserable day:
"Hannah used her naughties to make everyone miserable"
(Somehow I think this sounds like she was torturing them with her underwear. But that's not what he meant.)

on his forthcoming new daycare:
"I'm going to be the smartest one at school cause the teacher will show me how to be smart."

In response to an ad he heard on the radio (for a sports bar):
"Daddy did you hear that, football season is back!"

Last night we went out to eat and then out to look at new sofas (super fun for a little guy, actually) and he was just a fount of amusing quotes all night long.

"Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play." - Mike Singletary

November 8, 2010

Once upon a time at our house, a game of Candyland was the high point of any day. Candyland was all about cooperation, with a splash of figure skating. Candyland represented a colorful oasis of fun on a Sunday morning while Daddy was sleeping, where E and I could play the game without much regard to The Rules and just run around Candyland, jumping over sticky licorice and racing each other to the candy treats.

No longer.

I know he's been playing Candyland at daycare, and sometime over the past few weeks E has developed a (very age appropriate) focus on "The Rules". On Friday night, after dinner, we played Candyland by The Rules, and E lost the game. Twice.

And then -- then! -- Oh, the weeping. Not winning is clearing the Worst. Experience. Ever. Falling off the chair, wailing and weeping, with big fat wet tears running down his cheeks. I'd seen a glimpse of this behavior once before, when he was running footraces with a much older boy at a local mini-park, but at the time I just chalked it up to E being tired and crabby and hot (which he was) and didn't think much more of it.

Now I'm thinking something of it, and trying to sort out what to do. Increasing, E loves to play competitive games. He loves Go Fish, and Candyland, and this fall he's become enamored with football (although I think that's more about falling down than it being an actual game you can win). And he asks - begs - us to play with him. But now its a little nerve wracking to play with (against?) him, because I know the outburst is coming at the end.

I was also an only child, and I remember ever Christmas having a Board Game on my list. I amassed quite a collection of them over the years, but the grownups in my house were always too busy to sit down and play with me. So I particularly, explicitly want to play these games with him, and teach him about "the opportunity to play" and sportsmanship and being a gracious winner and a "good" loser and all the rest of it. But I dread the end.

As his mom, my instinct is to soothe the tears away. But as a grownup, I know that I have to find a way to teach him that this kind of reaction to simply losing a game is unacceptable, so often I'm forced to tell him I'm not going to play any more even as he's tearfully begging me to play with him again, so he can win. On Sunday, he was playing against his Aunts - Josh's sisters - and when the "I wanted to win!!" wailing started, they tried the typical tactics -- "playing is the important part" "we each won one game, so we shared the winning" -- which utterly failed. In frustration or desperation (or, you know, from the experience in being a younger sibling in a family of six), one of his Aunts finally told him "nobody likes a crybaby".

Unsurprisingly, that didn't work either. He ended up snuggled down in Mimi and Poppa's bed for a while - not a nap, but just some "quiet time". And in a bit he was fine, up and running around and wanting to play again.

There's lots of advice out there about this, mostly centered on "redirect him to cooperative play". But it seems like that's just postponing the problem, not addressing it.

I really miss the days when a game of Candyland ended with all the playing pieces holding hands and doing a little dance.

Those that despise people will never get the best out of others and themselves. - de Tocqueville

November 4, 2010

Originally uploaded by anastasiav
Its been a crazy week here. At work, we have our Annual Meeting on Friday, which means that I've been going in early and working until late, late, late - end result being that mostly the only way I've seen E is as you seen him here: conked out, snuggled up with two bears. However, this morning I was able to get him dressed and play a round of "Go Fish" with him before he and his dad left for the morning, so that's a win.

And lets not even mention the election, okay? Okay.

We've finally found a new childcare situation for him; a real pre-school (with classrooms and everything). 16 other kids (including Boys!) in the class. I'll tell you more about that in a bit.

I'm sure you've seen this by now, but if you haven't its worth a read (if only for the awesome photo: My Son is Gay
"If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one."

E wanted, originally, to go as a pink cat for Halloween, but I convinced him that black cats were scarier. Partly its because I was having images of The Pink Bunny Suit from A Christmas Story in my head. But partly its because I knew what his (honestly, really progressive) dad would say. Which he did actually say, when we presented the black cat idea to him (afterwards, out of earshot). "Its kinda girly".


A few days ago a friend posted this link on her blog:
You Might Be a Counterculture Mama if....

Honestly, after reading it, my conclusion was that you might not be a counterculture Mama if you have to work to support your family, since a lot of those indicators are simply out of reach if you work in an office 8 hours a day.

Finally, I said I wasn't going to talk about the elections, but here's something of interest: The Midterms and the "New Momism": The Takeaway for Working Moms.

I've written here before about my mixed feelings about Sarah Palin, and this article touches on that. Politically, I'm about as far away from her as you can get. But I have to admire, a little bit, any woman who can seamlessly combine parenting (including a special needs newborn) with Governing a State. Be sure to check out the New York Times article on the same subject that's mentioned in the text.

"I wouldn't want to be accused of taking part in a rumble. " - Sally Brown

November 1, 2010

Here he is, the warmest kid on Halloween:

Stray Cat Strut

After all the work I put into "a black cat with pink ears" we had a momentary scare when E told us he would prefer to wear his pirate costume from last year, but we were able to arrive at a compromise.

E and Friends

He has a small posse of friends (he's the youngest) that we've been lucky enough to go Trick or Treating with every year. There are a couple of neighborhoods around here that go all out with decorations and whatnot, and I'm so happy that he has the sort of "Norman Rockwell memory" of being able to run from house to house to house with a gang of other ghosts and goblins and coming home with a bucket of candy.

Trick or Treat

And, because I am a trusting parent with the courage of my convictions, I even let him eat an apple given at one of the houses. (I washed and inspected it first.) Actually, it was the first thing he wanted out of his bag.

Scary Faces

Our house is always a Jack o'Lantern extravaganza. This year we had a total of eight. For a number of them, Josh was able to translate E's "pumpkin face" drawings into terrific Jack o'Lanterns. You can see two of them on the ends here, flanked by the happier face I requested.

A good night. I hope he's able to hold these memories fast when he's older.

I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one.

October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

E drew a picture and Josh translated the picture into this terrific pumpkin.

Have a great weekend!

"How to help your Husband Get Ahead" - Title of a book by Mrs Dale Carnagie

October 28, 2010

50's Housewife
Originally uploaded by Sherri DuPree Bemis
Blogger Jen Byck spent two weeks back in May living the life of a 1950's housewife. Apparently she had so much "fun" (note the quotes) that she's doing it again for another week.

Check it out. This is awesome stuff.

Tomorrow night is nothing but one long sleepless wrestle with yesterday's omissions and regrets. - Faulkner

October 27, 2010

Yesterday, we made the gruesome error of letting E remain asleep after he fell asleep in the car on the way home from daycare. Typically when we do this its no problem; he just sleeps through until a stupid-early but basically reasonable hour of the morning. Last night, not so much.

Instead, he woke up at around 11:30 and came downstairs. Now its so happens that we had some friends over, and had just finished watching Glee, so not only was he disoriented and cranky, but he found it doubly (triply?) weird that the house was full of people and we had the TV on.

"But we can't watch TV after supper time. Its a rule!"

We had to come clean to him that his father and I do, in fact, sometimes watch TV after supper. Another childhood illusion destroyed, I guess.

We fed him a Peanut Butter sandwich (yes, I feed him PB&J - I wonder if, these days, this is a mark in the "bad mother" column) and sat up with him while he ate. So, more than an hour after I had intended to go to bed I was snuggled up with him, reading.

At 1 am I told him "I'm turning off the lights and going to sleep." And that's what I did. I stayed in his room, because I knew if I didn't he'd be up and playing for most of the night, and I had hopes that he would fall back asleep.

For two hours (at least) he squirmed around. He played with his teddy bears. He would periodically lay his (very heavy) head on my head. I believe he fell asleep by 3:30.

This morning, I was wrecked. He was chipper and cheerful and ready to go. Tonight, as we wait for dinner to finish, I'm still wrecked.

I wonder if employers take into account the fact that parents just don't ever, ever, ever get enough sleep. I wonder how much more productive I could be at work if I did?

"One need not be a chamber to be haunted; One need not be a house" - Dickinson

October 22, 2010

Spooky Shadows
Originally uploaded by anastasiav
Josh and I bought this spooky Halloween tree the first year we were a couple. Its up now, in a corner of our front hall, with that house (actually a votive holder) that fits just right below it.

This weekend I make a black cat costume and finish decorating. Halloween is our favorite time of year!

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

October 21, 2010

Kids Out Of Bound
Originally uploaded by Lorenzo Pasqualis
There is an overwhelming sameness to our days.

Morning. Josh sleeps through his alarm again (though I do not) and we let E sleep until the last possible minute we can. I dress him, in a rush, while wondering how he will ever learn to dress himself, realizing he probably already can but it’s a skill I don’t let him practice much on these rushed mornings, electing to give him every second of sleep he can. They bundle at the door a few minutes past 7:30 and I am alone in a cold house, trying to motivate myself to start the day.

In the shower by 8. Out the door by 9. Sometimes a stop before work, sometimes not. Drive the mile and a half to work. Sit in my office, watching other mothers and fathers walk by with their children. Wave to babies who toddle by my office window and wave to me. Wonder what E is doing. Wonder if he’s ok. Wonder if its raining.

I know Josh leaves at 4:30 (-ish) to collect him from Sarah’s house. Sometimes when Josh arrives E runs and hides and fights going home. Sometimes, increasingly, he does not. They drive half an hour, maybe talking, maybe singing to the radio. I know that around the time they pass through Yarmouth Josh will reach back with his right arm and hold E’s hand while they drive.

With driving and pickup antics and more driving and whatnot they arrive home just before 6. At some point earlier in the afternoon Josh will have called me to have a somewhat futile conversation about dinner, but mostly it is Josh’s task to start cooking immediately when he gets home in hopes that we can eat by 7. E plays downstairs or watches TV, or helps with dinner, as the mood strikes him. Our parlor is taken up with a huge train table, as it has been since Santa brought it ten months ago. Soon we’ll need to move it upstairs and then Josh fears that E will go upstairs with it in this precious hour when they are home together, and he will never see E again.

I try to leave the office by 6. I don’t always manage that, but I try. Home by 6:30, ecstatic greetings from E who runs from any corner of the house shouting “Mama! Mama!” but as soon as I am hugged and kissed he returns to whatever he was doing. I try to play with him, but sometimes the mail, the meal, the laundry, my husband, sometimes those things take up the precious rationed minutes until supper and I don’t mange to lie on the floor in the parlor to admire E’s latest stadium or destruction project.

Dinner is served. We eat, all together, E eating from his red plate. I try to use the slip of paper Sarah sends home to guide my questions to him, but often I can elicit zero details about the day. Often dinner is a struggle – here, have a bite, another, three more, two more, just one more. Although he can feed himself, he will often eat those last few bites only if I feed them to him. This weekend, a friend observed us and remarked, not unkindly “young man, can’t you feed yourself?” to which I replied “Can and Will are two separate things” and the questioner agreed this was true.

No movies after supper is a firm house rule. I will clear the table and wash the dishes while his father plays with him or bathes him. Sometimes, rarely, we will finish supper in time for me to wash the dishes and come play. More often, I finish just as bedtime is announced and we all run up the stairs racing, while E shouts “I’ll win! I’ll win!”

Bedtime. E is better at undressing himself than dressing. I get him into a diaper (yes, still, at night) and PJs and send him off with his father for tooth brushing and a final potty break. E chooses books, or I do, and we climb in bed together, often me in my PJs as well, completely surrounded by stuffed friends – two bears, a star-belly sneech, pooh friends, a rabbit, a snoopy that plays Linus and Lucy when you squeeze his hand. Three books (if he hasn’t lost any for bad behavior), and then the light goes out and he falls asleep next to me, warm and heavy, he and I cocooned against the chill of the drafty house, wrapped up in quilts together. More often than not I fall asleep, although I hardly ever mean to. If I escape the lure of Morpheus, I can go downstairs to visit with my husband a little, watch some TV, explore the internet, be companions together. If Morpheus wins, I often wake around 1 in the morning, get up, take my contact lenses out, shout downstairs for Josh to come to bed (he might be asleep on the sofa, watching TV, reading, allegedly ignorant that its gotten so late). I may at this point slip into my own bed, or just give up and crawl back into E’s. E likes it best when I’m there next to him in the morning. I have to confess, I like it best that way too.

And then the cycle begins again.

I can’t imagine what he learns from us in those few hours filled with dressing and eating, eating and undressing. He asked me tonight why he doesn’t sleep at Sarah’s, and I was not surprised. She is more of a mother to him than I am most days. But he doesn’t seem to think of her as a mother, just someone’s mother, not his. We’re in the process of moving him to a new daycare, an actual preschool, likely after the first of the year. He knows the change is coming and he doesn’t seem heartbroken. Its funny to me that despite the fact he’s been ‘in care’ with Maddie since he was 12 weeks old he almost never talks about her, unless asked directly. He talks more about Hannah, our caregiver’s daughter, but virtually always in negative terms. He never asks for them on the weekends, never has stories to share about them, never seems to miss them the way he misses our friend’s children or his aunts or even the other kids at swim class. Maybe its that they’re so familiar. And yet I sort of sense in him that he’s done with them, that he’s ready to move on, make new friends, “go to school”, learn new things.

Over the weekend a friend, a new father, was marveling to me how some of his co-workers “only” see their children “two or three hours a day. Can you imagine?” I gently reminded him that the schedule he was marveling at was my regular life. He’s a teacher, so he can be home before four, and they’ve worked out a way for his wife to stay home, at least for a while. He talked about how he has been rushing home each day as soon as the final bell rings (he’s a teacher) so he could spend as much time as possible with his infant daughter. She’s a tiny infant, born just this past July. At that age, I actually found our schedule easier with E, because as long as he was safe and warm and cared for it didn’t matter so much to me who was holding him. Now though, as he soaks up the world and tries to work out his place in it, its harder – even and despite the fact that I’m ‘only’ working one job and am home for dinner virtually every night.

I started writing this entry (which has turned into an opus, really) as I thought about other blogs I read, with their daily stories of parenting success and failure. I was watching E sleep (unusually, he’d conked out mid-story) and I was thinking again (as I have been all week) about the comment my friend made, about the parents I see all day, about my choices, about how we live our life.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard an amazing speech given by Robert Reich (its available as a podcast behind the link, scroll down to October 8th) all about the economy and the history of “crashes” in America. I’m not going to get this exactly right, but part of what he talked about was the fact that “real” wages haven’t risen much (or at all) in this country in several decades, and that families have tried to compensate for this lack of rise in wages through several strategies, including taking on debt, working longer hours, and both parents working. He quoted a statistic (and, again, I’m likely to get this wrong) that in the ‘70’s only about 25-30% of mothers with small children worked for wages outside the home, and now that percentage is closer to 70%. He made the point that this wasn’t really about the rise of feminism - although certainly women have made enormous strides in the type of work available, the salary for that work, and the general social and societal acceptance of women in the workplace – but rather it was a result of simple economics. Families, many families (my own included) must have two wage earners in the home in order to survive. (Listen to the whole thing; it’s a great speech, making some tough stuff easy to follow and comprehend.)

While its sort of comforting to know I fall into such a big group (70%!), I’m afraid I don’t have any pat way to wrap all this rambling up. There is an overwhelming sameness to our days. I will never be the parent that has a funny story to share each day, a new adventure, a new milestone. So many weekdays are just about dressing and undressing, eating and reading, playing trucks while dinner cooks. The reality of being a dual-working parent household is that its mostly dull. For us, for you as a reader, but not, I don’t think, for E. Somehow, I feel more and more that he finds pleasure in the routines of home. I don’t know why I think that, but I do. Its stable. Its normal. It’s the way he’s always known his life to be.

But I would change it, if I could.

"To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about."

October 20, 2010

Tony Romo
Originally uploaded by le cabri
Every Tuesday night, Josh has practice and so is gone from about ten minutes after I get home until after 11 pm. I've really come to savor this evening when its just E and I, because it has a totally different dynamic than our other evenings at home. I come home, start a simple dinner (sometimes E helps, sometimes he's not interested), we eat together, just he and I, then he helps me with the dishes, we play some, then sometimes a bath (there was one last night) and bedtime - PJs, teeth, stories, snuggles - a pretty typical night really, but for some reason it seems simpler, closer, and more streamlined with just us two. I wish I could put my finger on why that is.

Recently, E has been all about Football. His aunt introduced him to the game on TV and my mom gave him a Football, and now all he wants to do is watch, play, eat, breathe, and sleep football. (And Pooh. And Trains. So, I guess, its not really all that as obesssions go, but its now on the list of things I hear about every single day.) In cleaning our house this weekend I unearthed a "7-in-1 Family Games Set" that we'd gotten as a gift at some point. Two wooden boards, and the games are checkers, chess, backgammon, Chinese checkers, mancala ... and, umm, two others that I can't remember. E broke into the box and has been playing with it ever since. His dad taught him to play checkers - an interesting experience, as E did well but then burst in to (very real) inconsolable tears when he didn't win, and E asked me to teach him Chess, which I did, but which he quickly lost interest in.

Now, the chess pieces are football players, and E and I spent nearly an hour after supper last night playing 'football' on the chess board and talking about this and that. Because we're apart so much of the day, its a constant source of surprise to me to see the length and breadth of his knowledge on some topics, and to note the (sometimes age appropriate, sometimes not) limits of his knowledge or imagination in others.

One item that came up last night was, for lack of a better phrase, "the souls of toys". E is remarkably cavalier with his toys, which horrifies me, in large part I think because as an only child growing up in a very rural area (I was the only child I'd ever seen "live" until I was four) my toys easily "became real" for me, so much so that I continue to see their real-ness as a 40-something year old adult parent. For E, toys are toys - inanimate objects that exist as entertainment, not much more.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this, but I still wonder if some irreplaceable part of his childhood is missing because his toys aren't real to him.

If you don't already know, I'm not going to tell you....

October 19, 2010

I've linked to A Room of Mama's Own before, but her post today "Why you are a bad parent (mother) and how to fix it" exactly hits the spot for me, especially this:

"Next, focus your complete, perfect, developmentally enriching attention on your children for some unknown ideal number of hours each day. Too much or too little and we are right back to friendless alcoholic. If you don't already know that perfect number, I'm not going to tell you; all good parents already know it. If you don't, you were clearly raised by wolves yourself, so there's no point. You're beyond hope, and so is your child. You'll have to skip to Option 2."

"It can be a verb and a noun, meaning that it can be a mother, all things motherly, or even the action of mothering."

October 8, 2010

iMama - a tale of parenting in the age of the smartphone. (from Slate)

I totally get this. It falls in the "sad but funny" category. Also, its interesting to me that so many parents (including us) do what is described here - do the thing (say, go down the slide), video it, then watch it immediately, then do it again. Its a fundamental change, I think, in the way our children will remember their childhoods vs. the way we remember ours.

"Don't ignore your son's tender years" - Juvenal

October 7, 2010

Boy With Trucks
Originally uploaded by Wooliedales
Some nights when I get home from work E and I simply don't interact much at all. I always try to find time to lay down on the floor with him and play trucks or trains for a half hour or so, and probably 5 days out of 7 bedtime is our special time to talk together, but some nights (like last night) events conspire against us and our entire interaction for the evening is sitting together to eat supper and a quick hug and kiss before bed.

I try to tell myself that its balanced out by days like Saturday (when we went to the Cumberland Fair -- just the two of us -- and rode the Ferris Wheel and petted goats and hung out together for hours and hours) and that spending one-on-one time with his father is equally valuable as spending time with me, but there is always a tiny voice inside me that says "you're his mother, damnit. Be more present for him."

Very recently our family had a financial windfall, which, if we really wanted to, could have been used for me to quit my job for a year and stay at home with E until he starts Kindergarten in the Fall of 2011. (Class of 2024 - wow, its the future!) Its very tempting to do this, enormously tempting, as in "don't press the big, red, candy colored button" kind of tempting. Josh and I talked and talked about it, and have come to the conclusion that, although it might be emotionally satisfying for me, its not strictly necessary and would be a step backwards for our family, leaving us, in a year, basically where we are now but with even less savings and less of a safety net. What if I couldn't get a new job next fall? What would be the financial impact to our insurance? What if one of our cars finally fails and we really need to replace it? So we decide to maintain the status quo, but I find myself keenly aware that its a choice that, in some ways, is putting our desire for a certain kind of middle class lifestyle above what may (or may not) be best for our child. And I get, too, that its a luxury for us to even be having this conversation -- that for many families its not a choice, not a conversation, not a discussion. Working is simply survival -- as it has been for us too, for a while now.

So, today being Thursday E and his dad are at E's swim lessons, while I work late. After lessons E and his dad will go for dinner together and perhaps some climbing on indoor play equipment. While I work late. And then they will go home and E's dad will tuck him into bed and read him stories and I will (hopefully) arrive home in time for a sleepy kiss before E drops off to dreamland.

And then I will go downstairs and wonder how different our problems would be if we made different choices in our lives.

"You will never stub your toe standing still." -- Charles Kettering

September 14, 2010

Middle Child
Originally uploaded by gotbaby
E has an ingrown toenail on his left foot. He doesn't complain about it, but when I look at it (when he lefts me look at it) its clearly an angry red with a little peeling skin. I have to confess that I don't look at his toes much (anymore) - his father noticed it before I did, at bath time, and we've soaked it and sort of hoped it would resolve itself, but it hasn't. I'm not really surprised at this development. E was born with the strangest shaped big toes I've ever seen on a person, and the real surprise is that we haven't faced something like this sooner.

So, last night, after bath time, his father tried to "do something" about it. I had known he was going to do this, and had hoped that he would let me know before he started, but instead I was alerted to the "something" by the shrill screaming that began to emanate from E's bedroom. When I got upstairs Josh was sitting on the edge of the bed with E's left leg clamped firmly under his right arm. E was pushing on Josh's back with his other foot, and laying back on the bed, a Thomas train playing card clutched in each hand, and he was SCREAMING. Heartbreaking, earsplitting screaming. Screaming as I had never heard from this child, not even as an angry infant. Tears running down his face, breath hitching, the whole thing.

Then I realized with a start that there were also tears streaming down Josh's face as he diligently worked at E's toe.

E's dad is a huge man. He's 6'6", broad shouldered, bearded, and slings boxes around all day for a living. when E was a tiny infant, Josh used those microscopic infant clippers they give you to try and cut E's fingernails, and ended up cutting into the tip of one of E's fingers. He was shaken when that happened, but I've never seen him quite as upset as he was last night.

I probably shouldn't be surprised at anything Josh does anymore, but somehow I found that I was surprised. And moved. We do thing together, he and I, as a team. And as stoic as he can be, I need to remember that all the pain and anger and anxiety I have as a parent lurks in him below the surface as well.

PS: We took E to the doctor today, and the doctor just told us to continue to soak it. That's money we could have saved.

"Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect.” - R Bach

September 13, 2010

Saturday, while walking in the park, we saw a dead seagull.

All white in the green grass, looking for all the world as if it had tumbled directly out of a tree and landed inches from the trunk. It was unmarked, its wings half folded like the eagle on the back of the quarter, head turned to the left, beak open.

E and his father were so busy watching the antics of a squirrel a little way ahead of us that I think they would have stepped on it had I not said something.

We, of course, tried to bustle E around it, but as we passed it he turned and craned his neck for a good long look. I found out later he knew its eyes were closed, which is something I had not noticed.

I don't think E has ever seen anything dead before, certainly not anything larger than a bug. I was not surprised he had questions - why is it dead, how did it die, where is its family? - what really surprised me was our inability to answer his questions to either his or our satisfaction.

Given the events of our week (I had been ill, in the hospital for a couple of days) "it got sick and died" wasn't really a good answer. Josh ventured that it might have been hit by a car, but E noted (logically) that it wasn't in the road, but was rather far from the road, near a tree. I talked with him some about steam engines, and how their parts wear out and need to be replaced, but parts on people and animals can't be replaced (an oversimplification). I talked with him about how no one knows what happen when you die, how Sarah or his Grandmother might say you go to heaven (yes, even seagulls) but that no one really knows - but that I was sure that nothing hurt after you died, and that no one was lonely.

He seemed very concerned that it would be lonely, laying there in the field. Concerned that its seagull family would be looking for it, but also that it would miss them, that it would have no one to play with. This is an ongoing theme with him, Strange, I think, for a child who has other people around him constantly - this fear of being alone, of loneliness - although as I look back now I suppose you could call my only-child childhood lonely as well. But E's driving concern is that no one he loves (parents, toys) be lonely. Its the reason I still co-sleep with him almost every night, the reason its important to him that someone be in the room with him, his concern about his grandmother (who lives alone) and his primary concern about me in the hospital (that I would be lonely, with only the doctors and nurses to keep me company - "but no one to sleep with" he says). Its the reason he has three "best toys" so that one can be with him while the other two keep each other company. It comes up, daily, and I don't know where it comes from, but its a strange dark hole inside my otherwise joyful little boy.

But more wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the secret lore of ocean. - Lovecraft

June 18, 2010

the wave
Originally uploaded by bill dwyer
Wednesday night we took E up to Popham to spend a few days with my mom at a cottage she is renting there. He's told us steadfastly for days that he doesn't want to go, but he's a kid that has trouble with change and spending days on that beach is one of my favorite childhood memories, so our hope was that he'd like it once he got there.

There has been terrible (and totally natural) beach erosion at Popham Beach State Park in the past couple of years (Very interesting MPBN piece on the how's and why's of this) but the "private" part of the beach is untouched. However, the beach is empty. EMPTY. My mom says she's probably seen less than 100 people enjoying the beach for the entire week she's been there (including last weekend). Which is sad, but also kind of good from a "hey I get to play on this wide open beach" perspective.

Over the past two days I think I've done well. I called her five times yesterday but only once today. It was a rainy day yesterday, so they did rainy day things (like visit the fort). Today, however, is glorious and my mom says she has trouble getting him out of the water. Josh and I went to dinner with friends last night and will again tonight. Our house is achingly empty without the E there - in some ways its like a time warp, just Josh and I together, but there is an astonishingly large hole in our lives without The Little Boy.

I have to admit that there is a growing part of me that thinks its important that E had this time at the ocean, and I'm praying he remembers it. Because I'm not convinced that a year from now the ocean will still be swimable. Or five years, even.

The Grass is Always Greener....

May 12, 2010

Originally uploaded by The White House
How Michelle Obama Made Me a Bad Mother

(No, not me personally). An interesting set of thoughts on one woman's work/life balance.

“Oh yes, and by the way you might want to be a wife and mother too.”

April 19, 2010

An interesting read for your Monday morning:

Learning to be Left on the Shelf

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” - O W Holmes

April 3, 2010

Saturday. My day of rest. We started our day at 6:30 am this morning, when E came clambering up in our bed, and we've been on the go ever since. Josh is out tonight with a friend, so E and I will be dying Easter Eggs after supper (I hope). (Yeah, nothing like waiting until the last minute!)

A few snapshots from our day:


Photo Session


Its days like these that I like the best.

"The marathon can humble you" - Bill Rodgers

April 2, 2010

Daily Reports
Originally uploaded by anastasiav
Every day, when E gets home from daycare, I get a yellow sheet of paper that tells me about his day. At the top is a list of what he's had to eat that day. At the bottom, an outline of his potty habits - at one time, just a list of when she'd changed him and when he'd pooped; more recently its been a small celebration of his new-found ability to go to the potty independently (along with the occasional reminder that he hasn't quite mastered it yet).

The middle is the important part. In the middle of the page is a short list of his activities for the day. Today's reads:

outside 9:30 to 11
outside 12:30 - 4
visited Papa and Mimi (my caregiver's parents)

Yesterday's reads:

picnic set
nap 2 to 3:30 pm

I cling to the middle section. Its as much as I know about how my son spends the majority of his day. As often as I can, I use what Sarah wrote as a way to start a conversation over dinner. Asking him "what did you do today" almost never elicits a response. Being able to say "so you played outside today" or "did you play superheroes with Hannah today" will sometimes at least start a conversation. Sometimes he'll share a story or two about his day. Sometimes they make sense. Other times, the things he says are puzzling or inexplicable, but there isn't much we can do to find out the background to the tales he tells us.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a little bit about blogger Heather Armstrong being invited to the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility. (I also made a comment on a post over on Daddy Types). Today, she published a long post about the flack she's gotten for this invitation. Reading it (and reading it again just now), I guess I have to admit that I'm probably lumped in with the people she's railing against. I've done a bit of Googling to try and figure out what made her so upset, and if there has been a big backlash on the web, I can't seem to find it. This recap is the closest I can find.

I'm not flattering my self here that Heather Armstrong reads my blog, or even knows I exist. That's not my point here. Tonight as I was putting E to bed I was thinking about my day. How I too hit the ground running at 6 am and don't stop until my head hits the pillow at night - often when I fall asleep fully clothed next to my son as he falls asleep. But a lot of what Ms. Armstrong is describing in today's post - the long hours, the pressure of never being able to take a day off -- that's not about being a working mother. Its just about being a mother. The simple and sometimes impulsive act of deciding to have a child puts you into this high pressure world.

I understand her anger at being second guessed, I really do. But even now I've not seen an answer to the original question I posed: who else was there? Was there anyone like me sitting at that table ... someone who reads about her child's day on a yellow sheet of paper instead of experiencing it? Because that is the key difference between the Armstrong workplace and mine. She gets to experience the daily routine of her children. I get to read a recap of my son's day on a yellow sheet of paper.

"Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else." - J M Barrie

April 1, 2010

Burning the midnight oil.
Originally uploaded by grapesmc
About six months ago I started a new job. It was a significant step up for me in terms of pay and responsibility, and its hard, challenging, fun work. I actually sort of love it. Except for this unexpected part:

I'm on call all the time. For the past three or so weeks I've had work to take home on the weekend, I've sat down to work (at home) at 7:30 am as soon as Josh and E leave, worked for a couple of hours at home, gone in to the office and been there until 7 at night. Although I know that many people work this way, its a big change for me, and an adjustment for my family.

From a certain point of view, you could say that I'm actually filling the traditional "Dad" role in our family. I'm the main breadwinner in my family, and my husband is the person in our house who ends up doing most of the cooking, the laundry, the pickups and drop offs from daycare, bath time, and so on. (He also works outside the home. Much of my angst about parenting would be relieved, I think, if only he were able to leave his job. Financially, we could do it, but his company offers really stellar health insurance while my employer offers none. So he continues to work.)

I get home from work to find supper on the table, and have just about enough time to eat, perhaps play a little after dinner, then take E upstairs for PJs and tooth brushing and stories - our bedtime routine. Over the past couple of weeks, though, even the bedtime part has been handed over to Daddy, partly because I was sick and partly because I was working every available minute to get a certain project off the ground.

A few nights ago, for the first time ever that I can recall, E woke up in the middle of the night and called for father rather from me. I was the one who woke up anyhow, and went into his room to see what he needed. "Go away," he said. "I don't want you. I want my Daddy."

Even the next morning, as I snuggled up with him at sunrise, my son pushed me away. "I don't need you," he said.

"Well, I need you. Are you mad at me?"



"I just am." He burrowed deeply under the covers.

"Are you mad because I couldn't do bedtime last night?"


"I'm sorry, buddy. But sometimes Daddy has to have a turn too. You know I love you wherever I am."

It didn't take much convincing for me to lure him out from under the covers. We read some (The Sneetches are a current favorite) and after the book was over he gave me a tight hug and told me he loved me and we started our day without much more fuss. Somehow, though, I thought he'd be older than three and a half the first time he told me he didn't need me.

We have friends who raised two daughters while the mom worked as a nurse and the dad was a stay-at-home dad. Throughout their childhoods, the girls looked to their father for their daily needs, much to the chagrin of their mother, who would often say things like "Its almost like I'm not their mother anymore."

Feminism taught us that gender roles could be more fluid. But biology holds more sway over us sometimes than we'd like to admit. I'm comfortable in my role as the breadwinner, the career woman, but at 2 am when my son cries out in the night I still also want to be the Mamma. For a child, though, the idea of "mother" is a different thing - the nurturer and caregiver is the person they cleave to, no matter gender or biological relationship. So as I work to identify the causes of my ongoing inner turmoil about parenting, I have to try and resolve this tug of war: biology wants be to be the Mamma, but our life as it is now puts me squarely in the Daddy role.

Happy Birthday, Mommy Track!

March 31, 2010

Slate Reports that the term Mommy Track is turning 21, and the author writes in a very personal voice about her unexpected detour from high-powered attorney to "just a mom of three boys".

Its a good article, and I recommend you read it. Given the fact that the life of an elite attorney is, at best, hectic (more likely crazy stressful) I wish she'd done a similar survey of the men in her class. How many of them have stuck with it, and how many have prioritized the 'balance' part of work-life balance?

"mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled." - E Dickinson

March 30, 2010

Preschool Colors
Originally uploaded by barnabywasson
Heather Armstrong (the author of Dooce) announced yesterday via her Twitter feed that she's been invited to attend The White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility.

I want to state up-front that I'm a big fan of Heather Armstrong, and a big fan of the current White House. (So much so that I'm strongly considering standing outside all night in the rain tonight to get tickets for the President's visit to Portland on Thursday.) In particular, I think her voice has done a lot to educate people about the need for healthcare reform in the US, not to mention how she's raised awareness of post-partum depression. However.... (you knew that was coming, right?)

But Heather Armstrong is also the object of envy of every working mother I know. She is one of the few people I can say honestly "has it all" -- she's doing something she loves and has become very famous for it. She and her husband both work from home, on whatever schedule works for their family. You could easily say that she, almost uniquely, has built a career for herself that is the ultimate in family flexibility. But her very unique set of circumstances are not, I think, replicable by a large number of people in the world.

One of the things that makes me proud to have the Obama family in a leadership position in this country is that they are a real, working family. I do strongly believe that they get it, that they do really think they "understand the challenges" of balancing work and parenting, to use the phrasing from their press release.

But, even before he went to the Senate, they were also highly-educated professionals in leadership careers, who had family and paid in-home caregivers available to them. I doubt Sasha and Malia were ever in daycare (although I don't know that for sure). I think its more likely that they were cared for in their own home, either by their Grandmother or by someone else (a nanny, perhaps) who became, more or less, a part of the family. I know they mean well. But the experience is so different for working mothers who are a bit farther down the pay scale.

The press release says they've invited "labor leaders, CEOs, small business owners, and policy experts" to this forum. I wonder if there will be actual working mothers there? Women who hand their child over to a facility at 7:45 am and pick them up at 5:45 pm, who work blue collar jobs, who work service jobs, the low-income women and families for whom workplace flexibility is most needed. There is a cynical voice in my mind who says that the mothers who most need to have a voice at this summit won't be able to attend, and will, in fact, not ever even realize that anyone was having the conversation.

Every morning, I send my son off to be raised by a woman whom I don't know well and who doesn't really share my personal values. And I count myself lucky, because she's warm and loving, because my son spends his days in a mostly unstructured way, because he gets to run in a pasture and play outside for hours ever day, and (to be frank) because she's very inexpensive. And then I go to work and spend a large part of the day watching other, more fortunate parents as they come into my workplace and share experiences with their own children.

I have to wonder if my voice and experience will be represented?

One interesting note: in searching Flickr for an appropriate photo to add to this post, I noted this: if you search on the word "daycare" you get page after page of child care facilities in third world countries. To get middle-class American images, you have to search on the phrase "preschool". I wonder why that is?

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.” - R Tagore

March 25, 2010

Winters Morning

Once a month I have to attend a 7 am board meeting, which means I need to be in the office by 6. I hate getting up early, leaving the warmth of our shared bed, but there is a moment as I leave the house when I walk down my steps, hear the birds, see the glow of the morning over the cove, hear the ever-present crows calling as they move from tree to tree, there is just a moment before I get in my car and drive away that I actually enjoy the morning.

6 am Meeting

(This is all a fancy way of saying "I haven't forgotten you" and I might be writing more here in a bit.)

"He who limps is still walking." -Stanislaw J. Lec

March 19, 2010

Originally uploaded by Chris Daniel
I so very much wish I had a photo of my own to show you with this.

Last night, after supper, we decided to go for a walk because it was such a nice night. We normally have a little path around the neighborhood we take, nothing too strenuous, but with lots of rock walls to climb on and a few places to stop and play tag. Well, after a bit, E asked if we could go on "a long walk". So we walked down to the Back Cove trail and headed out. And we walked farther. And farther. And somewhere down by the Hannaford, I made the silly suggestion that it was now as far to walk around the cove as it was to just turn around and walk home.

So, the three of us walked the entire 3 1/2 mile trail around Back Cove last night. It took about two hours and we stopped to look at a lot of stuff on the way. E was a trouper through all of it, but we think his actual walking limit is right around two miles. He bravely trudged on for a bit, slower and slower, until finally Josh carried E on his shoulders the last part of the way. He seemed to have a good time, but I don't think this is an adventure we'll be repeating (at that distance) anytime soon - although we did discuss getting the bikes tuned up.

I'm very pleased that this morning my knee neither hurts nor is swollen. The balls of both feet hurt (I didn't really have on appropriate shoes for this adventure) and my hips are sore, but otherwise I feel pretty good. Of course, I may feel differently tomorrow....

... and although he was pretty pooped at the end, I think he had a really good time. He loved looking at the cove from the bridge, and we talked a lot about how "my friend the moon" was up in the sky and you could see the moon reflected in the water.... So, a testing night, but a good one all the same.