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.