"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.