Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wishes for a New Year


Eric and I don't make New Year's resolutions, exactly.  But our friends Kim and Anondo did tell us about a tradition that Kim picked up when she was an exchange student in Italy.  On New Year's Eve, you get twelve grapes and with each grape you eat, you make a wish.

We started doing this on New Year's Eve 2004 (Eric, reluctantly so.  He typically doesn't like anything that smacks of, oh, I don't know.  Spiritualism?  Good cheer?  But he's come around, and likes looking at the goals now.  We're both often amazed by how many we meet).  We then post the list on the fridge and reflect on it (or laugh at it, or curse it) over the course of the year.  Because it's New Year's eve, we made our list again today, in preparation for the year to come. 12 wishes, 12 months.  Here they are:

1.  Meet health goals consistently.  [This is sort of a cheat-y one.  I have a list of health goals I carry around in my wallet--to move every day, only eat when I'm sitting down, not to eat after 8pm, etc.  So this is one wish that encompasses a bunch of other wishes].

2.  Make a financially responsible decision when we buy a house in Golden, a house that will help us to live a full life.

3.  Live frugally and in accordance with what we value.

4.  Eric wants to read one book a month for a whole year.

5.  Jen wants to publish 2-3 articles.

6.  Drink water [this is Eric's wish, but it's also on my list of health goals].

7.  Maintain or create connections with friends and family.

8.  Have more patience with the girls.

9.  Have an adventure.

10.  No debt.

11.  Express our creative selves [blog? another album for E? who knows?].

12.  Scuba.

The interesting thing we realized when we finished this list was that several of these wishes/goals were on here for the third time running.  We have wanted to be out of debt since 2004; we've wanted to think about moving, get ready to move, then move (A decision three years in the making!); we've wanted to keep in touch with friends and family; we've wanted to make healthy decisions; and so on.  That might seem strange, might seem that we haven't been meeting these goals.  But it could also mean that our values are pretty consistent, and that we're fine-tuning them.  Maybe it's some of both.

For example, the debt thing has dogged us for a long time.  Mostly, I've thought about this wish in terms of making more money.  But it's only been recently that I've realized we also need to spend less.  I know, duh.  But for some reason, this option didn't seem real to me until the last few months.  Now it is, so we'll see where this wish ends up at the end of the year.  Hopefully selling this house will help to wipe out some of the base debt we have, and we'll be able to keep our slate clean by living and spending frugally after that.  This Christmas was sort of an initial test of that, and we did okay.  It was hard seeing so many gifts pass hands and know that we didn't give as much this year as we did last year (though we still managed to spend almost $2000 on travel and gifts.  Geesh).  Frugality in and of itself might be an adventure.

The other thing these reflections do is remind us of what an incredible life we have--of how much we value our friends, family, and self-expression, and how we continually try to make decisions in line with those values.  Christmas was also a reminder of that--the amazing, thoughtful gifts people gave us, the meals and laughter together, the phone calls and cards.  Truly awesome stuff. 

Friday, December 22, 2006

Breakthrough Two


I've written about breakthroughs before--just when you think you're going to throw your child out the window from frustration, they change in some small way that gives you hope or makes life just that much easier so that you close that window and decide to keep the kid after all.  This is a good thing to remember, if you can, when you're going through a rough patch with your kid(s). 

In Denver, we have a saying:  "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."  Things are constantly changing.  My friend Cortney (mom of two) gave me this advice when I was pregnant with Addie:  Things change about every three weeks, she said.  You may think you've got something good going, and in three weeks, you may have to invent a whole new way of doing that thing.  Same goes for struggles, though--wait three weeks, and the problem will probably have resolved itself without your doing anything.

I wrote a few days ago about Nolie's exhausting sleep routine (exhausting for us--not for her).  I've been struggling with when to let Nolie cry it out--when to give her the chance to soothe herself to sleep.  It's been tough to make this choice, because several nights a week, she goes to sleep pretty well with the exhausting sleep routine, and hearing her scream in her crib has been akin to nails on the chalkboard.  But the nights and naptimes that it isn't working, or only works after several hours, are increasing in number.  So, I've just been sort of waiting for the tipping point.

Which was last night.  Nolie went down after Eric gave her the "treatment" at 8pm; she woke at 1am, and I fed her.  She feel asleep, but was up again 20 minutes later.  I fed her again, but at some point I looked down at her, and her eyes were wide open.  She gave me a big grin, and I knew we were in for it.  Two and a half hours of her cooing and playing and whining later, I handed her over to Eric for the second "treatment."  Thankfully, she slept until 8.  Maybe I'm spoiled.  Maybe this doesn't sound that bad.  But to me, it felt like misery.  I haven't been sleeping well for several nights now, and this just felt like the capper.  Plus, it is about 30 degrees in our house at night, making staying up with baby that much tougher.

So, once Nolie was giving some tired signs this morning, I put her down in her crib, unswaddled and out of her bouncy chair.

No dice.

Then, inspiration.  Change something else.  To my great surprise, Nolie downed her first two bowls of rice cereal like they were manna.  This made me happy--Nolie is one step closer to people-ness:  she eats food! (dreams of normal-size breasts dance in my head).  Then the sleepy signs really increased, so I gave Noles the death swaddle and laid her down in the crib (no bouncy seat) and made a commitment to myself to let her cry for at least an hour.

Ah-ha!  Five minutes of very loud screaming later?  Quiet Nolie.  Sleeping Nolie.

A few minutes ago she awoke and cried a little.  I didn't go in right away, and she quieted herself.  She's sleeping again now.  The season of miracles, indeed.

Will we be able to replicate this tonight?  I hope so.  But breakthroughs have their fits and starts.  The point is that there's hope, and maybe more sleep, in our future.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Snowed In

We just got socked with about two feet of snow, and Addie and I just got back from a walk--she was in the pack, and I was trying not to fall on my ass.  So, she's going to help me write this blog.  Here's what she has to say:


I don't know.


Go to Nancy's.  Nancy wasn't home.

a letter pack

That's it, friends.  Straight from the mouths of babes.  Apparently Addie isn't feeling too talkative today.  Here's the picture she wants us to post today, though (not sure why she likes it--Nolie's acne was pretty agro in this shot):



Monday, December 18, 2006

Lumps and Bumps

We've moved Addie into the queen-sized bed in the guest room in preparation for trying to sell the house (and thus cutting down on visible kid stuff, like her little toddler bed).  She was growing out of the toddler bed, anyway, so it made sense to move her into the bigger bed and the bigger room, where there is also more space to play.

Major business seems to be conducted in Addie's room, particularly during those naptimes or evenings where she's not particularly tired.  She doesn't have much but her books and stuffed animals in there, but she manages to make it sound as if she's heaving sacks of dead warthogs against the walls.  There is much great thumping and bumping.

There is also a lot of rattling of the doorknob, and cries of "Mommydaddymommydaddymommydaddy I did a big yucky poop!"  Which we are more than happy to respond to:  I'll sprint to her room to prevent more poop fingerpainting.

But lately, she's been summoning us for less urgent matters.  For example, last night, she was rattling the door and calling for mommydaddy; when Eric opened the door, she looked at him and said, "Daddy?  Walk and talk rhyme." 

Newsflash, friends.  Walk and talk rhyme.  Our two-and-a-half-year old (whom we smugly call "baby genius," when we're not calling her "annoying") is kept awake at night thinking of words that rhyme.  Future poet?  Lyricist?  Insomniac?  Only time will tell.

Addie has also been very interested in being helpful lately--she wants to help make dinner, clean the kitchen floor, fetch Nolie toys, and so on.  Addie especially likes handing me my towels as I'm getting out of the bath.  The minute she hears me pull the plug, she's standing there (she appears like--who was it, on The Addams Family, Uncle Fester?--out of thin air, scaring the crap out of me sometimes) with a towel in hand.  It's like having my very own pint-sized butler.

Anyway, I was toweling off today and Addie pointed at my crotch and asked, "What's that?"  "Uh, hair," I told her.  She moved around to the back and gave my butt a few good whacks.  "Mommy?  This is all bumpy and lumpy!" 

I had to laugh because, well, she's right.  My butt is bumpy and lumpy.  And she said it without any judgment, just as an observation, so I appreciated that.  It's a reminder to just observe myself without judment now and then, too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Death Swaddles and Lullabies


Nolie's been a pretty good sleeper, really.  Oh, there will be a night or two a week where she'll wake up two or three times to eat, but that's usually because her stomach is gassy from not pooping, and it passes (you know, passes).  But she's definitely not a nightmare sleeper, not a kid who screams all night or who has to be held constantly or who we're going to have to kick out of the family bed at thirteen [ed. note:  There's nothing wrong with the family bed.  We co-slept with both our kids for the first few months of their lives, until they became hot and squirmy and slept better in their cribs].

In fact, Nolie sleeps through the night four or five nights a week; if she does wake up, it's usually for a quick top-off from the old nip, and back she goes. 

Here's the thing, though.  It's kind of a production to actually get her to sleep.  First, she has to be in a death-swaddle, one that Eric is extremely proficient at executing, in which she is unable to move any limbs.  Second, said swaddle has to be in one of the hospital receiving blankets (the pink and blue striped kind) which we thankfully stole from Presbyterian/St. Luke's after her birth.  Third, she has to be tightly wrapped in her kiddopotamus, so that she can't break out of the death swaddle.  We only own two of these because they're a little pricey and I refuse to buy any more baby gear than is absolutely necessary.  The problem is, Nolie is constantly doing the milk hork all over herself, and so these things have to be washed pretty much every other day.  Great.

Then, she has to be nearly suffocated while we carry her around in the back-breaking, quad-building tango my brother-in-law Steve calls the "Thunder Moccasin Dance" (he has perfected this with his own children, who require no such insane swaddling).  I often do this with my boob in her mouth; Eric muffles her cries in the crook of his arm until she hyperventilates and passes out.

Then, once she is totally quiet, she is placed in a bouncy seat, sans any hangy-things, vibrations, or other distractions.  This bouncy seat is placed, a little precariously, in the crib.

Eric and I keep wondering to ourselves if this is a good thing.  Nolie is getting kind of big, and at some point could ostensibly wiggle herself out of the baby seat, thus cracking her noggin a good one on the crib slats.  It also seems a little weird to us that she's still so into the swaddle--most kids have definitely outgrown it by four months, my web-sleuthing reveals (and, Addie did).  I suppose there is a lame-ass part of us that worries she'll be stunted by not being able to move any of her limbs.  I suppose there is a lame-ass part of me that worries that this baby is going to be insanely needy for the rest of her life. 

Mostly, though, I think we would like to whittle down the production somewhat.  We'd like to shave off a step or two and maybe, just maybe, take a nap ourselves someday.

As a result, today, I tried feeding Nolie in the rocker, unswaddled, until she fell asleep.  Once she (and my left arm) seemed soundly asleep, I tried to lay her in the crib. 

Uh, no.

Two hours of repeating this process over and over and over again, and Nolie was wide awake, looking up at me and giggling.  I suppose she had her nap, though interrupted, and was ready to rock.  I gave her over to Eric, who played with her a while, swaddled her, and has her sleeping peacefully in his arms as I write this.  I had to soak in a hot bath, my nerves and lower back worse for the wear (Eric, on the other hand, is fine.  I wore the baby out for him, and it's football season, so he has an excuse to just hang on the couch anyway).

Nolie has quite clearly let us know that she likes what she likes the way she likes it.

Anyway, the production continues.  My instincts tell me not to force it (like I did with the potty training fiasco this fall), that Nolie will tell us when she's ready to sleep unsheathed.  To paraphrase our good buddy Dr. Sears, whatever works, man.  Whatever works.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Working It In, Working It Out

For a number of reasons, I am finding it nearly impossible to find time to work out.  There's the end-of-semester rush, the holiday mania, the two-small-children-under-the-age-of-three thing.  Eric's got practices and his first solo gig coming up, so he's busier than usual, and then there just seems to be a million little things that have to get done.  Get the dog's heartworm pills, go to the dentist, watch Season 2 of Lost.  And so on.

But I have to fit in a workout somehow, or I become a poor excuse for a human being.  I can feel my cognitive functions slowing, my waistline increasing, my sleep becoming more fraught with stressful dreams.  So, this week, I decided to try some unconventional workout times.  I did yoga one evening at 9pm; that night, I slept beautifully, but didn't get some work done because I was working out.  I got up at 6 another day and did an abbreviated yoga routine--that was okay, though I felt so stiff from sleep that it was really challenging to stretch anything.  I got up yesterday morning at 6:30 to take the dog for a walk, which precipitated my first asthma attack in a year and gave me really sore hips today.

What the hell, I ask you!  I am 31 years old!  Why is a walk with the dog making me sore and asthmatic?  Something is seriously wrong here.

I think part of it is that I am just not made to exercise in the morning.  To say that I am not a morning person is putting it mildly.  The only reason I am up before 9am is because my children wake up and require my attention.  Otherwise I would perennially sleep in.  When I do get up early, it takes me a while to ease into wakefulness.  This makes morning workouts hard.  I refuse to get up before 6 in order to avoid total exhaustion for the rest of the day, but if I get up at 6, I have to start exercising immediately in order to finish before the kids wake up and demand my attention.

Normally, working out at night would probably be fine.  Eric would probably agree to watch the kids for 45 minutes while I walk or run or do yoga.  But it's getting cold and dark here before he even gets home, and I'm a little scared to run in the dark.  I tried doing yoga Tuesday night, but both kids were meltdown mode and just ignoring the melee wasn't an option.

I could work out at 9 more often, I suppose.  Though I'm pretty comatose by that point, after a full day of working and childcare and housework.

The most workable solution would probably be for us to get a double jogger, and for me to bundle the kids up and take them out for a spin.  I'm just resentful of having to buy yet more huge baby gear that is expensive and which we have to store (especially painful when we don't have a garage).  I want to simplify my life--not weigh it down with more stuff.

For a while, I was taking the kids to the gym--they camped out in the daycare for an hour while I worked out.  But the cost of my membership and the daycare was getting prohibitive, and the stress of getting them there and back before naptime wasn't worth it--I would work off the stress of the drive, then have a stressful drive home and undo the workout.  And the kids were fried.

My local yoga studio doesn't have childcare, so Eric has to watch the kids if I want to go.  Which means one more night we don't have together.

These sound like excuses.  They are excuses.  But I'm having trouble finding workable solutions here.  Even those of you without kids must understand--some of you have insane schedules, too.  What do you do?  How do you fit it in?  Help!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Milestones, Maybe


Big day for the Schneider kids.

Hallelujah, raise your hands, the roof is on fire, because we seem to be back on the slow train to toiletland.  Addie has been showing some disdain for wet pull-ups the last few days, and on the way home from school yesterday, she initiated a conversation about how big girls go potty in the toilet.

Not wanting to get my hopes up, I debated with myself over what such signs might mean.  Is now the time to push forward?  Or will she just push back again, leaving us firmly stalled at the pull-up depot?  Could this be the window of opportunity we were hoping for?  Our second chance at winning the toilet trophy?

Well, it seems it might be.  It's only been a few days, but here's the data:  I've been wanting to set her up for success, so I've only been asking her to use the potty at times I know she'll need to pee (a few minutes after eating, before nap, before bath).  She's resisted a few times, but I've given her the choice of going potty on the big-person potty or on her little potty--the old change-the-choice trick.  Going potty is the given, which potty she uses is up to her.  Anyway, she's been going a few times a day.  Then, today, she was dry almost the whole day, with one small exception, which she told me about right away. 

I view this as progress.  I'm not going to over-push or put her in her cloth underwear just yet, but I am giving lots of even praise and trying to give her lots of ways to succeed.  Geesh, I hope this works.

And Nolie?  Nolie must have had a big night last night, because she woke up this morning almost able to sit up on her own and wanting to play with Addie.  By play, I mean kick and grab at Addie's legos, which is sweet justice after Addie has destroyed every cool lego structure her dad and I have ever built.  Now she'll have her own Godzilla to contend with.  Nolie's interest in toys seems to have multiplied over night, and she is grabbing at and mouthing everything she can convince her fingers to clutch.

I'm understating the HUGENESS of this.  Just yesterday, Nolie was only content in a tight, could-barely-breathe swaddle.  She would occasionally hit herself in the eye with an errant fist, and wasn't babbling too much.  Now, she's in the ring, for real--talking, grabbing, squealing.  I anticipate walking tomorrow; by the weekend?  Everest.  Anyway, it's an inkling that someday these children might play together, might amuse one another (and yes, I know, scream at and fight with one another).  But this inkling is exciting, and I think it makes Nolie just a little more real to Addie.  And to me.

And, I swear to God, it sounded like Nolie said "mama" today.  Oh, I know she doesn't know what the sounds mean yet.  But it's pretty cool to hear some consonants, and those just happen to be my favorites.

Also, in case you were wondering, yesterday was Puesday, and yes, Nolie did poop.  While sitting on my lap, the minute I finished typing this blog.  It's uncanny.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Green Eyed Monster?


Some folks were asking today about how Addie's doing with Nolie--whether she's jealous or whatever.  My first response was to say that I haven't seen much jealousy.   For the most part, Addie has sort of ignored Nolie, though she does ask where "Magnolia Jade" is when Nolie's napping or in another room.  I think this is probably because Addie likes to say the big words.  So far, though, it has seemed to me that Nolie hasn't cramped Addie's style too much.  Nolie is still pretty much in the inactive baby stage; her crying can get annoying, but there's not much else she can do to molest the world around her (unless it's Puesday--then, watch out!).  Addie seems to be handling the whole thing beautifully, on the whole.

Except, I'm probably wrong, now that I think about it.  I mean, there was the whole potty training-regression thing that happened in full force after Nolie came, and an entire month in which Addie wanted to be carried absolutely everywhere, even when my arms were visibly full of groceries, or Nolie.  Especially when my arms were full of Nolie.

And then, there was this conversation, which happened in the car yesterday, after I got off the cell phone with my Mom:

A:  Nana Debbie is your mommy, Mommy!

M:  That's right, Addie!  She is.  And who is your mommy?

A:  YOU are!

M:  That's right!  And who is Nolie's mommy?

A (brow furrowed):  Nolie doesn't have a mommy!

M (brow furrowed):  Uh, yes she does.  I'm her mommy.

A (crying):  No you're not!  You're MY mommy!

Cue weepy tantrum.

There's that.  Which makes me wonder about how much Addie understands about Nolie.  Does she know she's here to stay?  That soon she'll be crawling and talking and mouthing all of Addie's toys?  Probably not. 

Still, mostly Addie is pretty gentle with Nolie.  For example: 

Addie's Nana Debbie sent her a doctor kit that I used to play with when I was a kid:  it's awesome.  It has a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff and a reflex hammer and a pretend syringe and medicine bottle.  And a special nurse's apron with a red cross on the front.  Anyway, we've been playing doctor a lot with Addie's dollies Betty and Holly Emily; in particular, Addie seems to like the part where I (the doctor) take Betty's or Holly Emily's blood pressure, and Addie (the nurse) holds the dolly's hand and says "It's okay, Holly Emily.  This won't hurt." 

When we were at the real doctor's yesterday and Nolie was getting her blood pressure taken (those tiny sphygmomanometers are pretty cute), Addie took Nolie's hand and told her it would be okay, that it wouldn't hurt.  Okay, so I know that she was just play-acting what we had done with the dollies, that she was basically reading from the script, but it was so gentle and sweet that I teared up a little.  Good thing my doctor thinks I'm nuts anyway. 

I shouldn't ruin the picture you have of Addie right now by telling you that I've also caught her trying to twist Nolie's feet off at the ankles, but we are all for full disclosure here at toddlerspit, so there you go.  Would I leave the two of them in a room together alone for very long?  No.  Is Addie going to smother her sister in her sleep?  Probably not.  Good enough for me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Needles Suck, and So Does Pesto

Whatever you do, do not stick Nolie four times in the leg with a needle.  She will scream her head off at you for the rest of the day, cursing the evil, evil vaccination nurse in her very special screechy, your-eardrums-be-damned sort of way.  Nolie hates vaccinations.  She hates needles.  She has made this very clear to us all day long.  Yikes.

Also, Addie now hates pizza with pesto sauce.  Up until now, Addie has loved pizza.  When we took her to her back-to-school night in August, she interrupted a very lovely presentation by her teacher to bellow "I LOVE pizza!" several times.  Addie especially has liked the Boboli pizza Eric makes, with lots of olives and yellow peppers and pesto sauce.  Apparently now, however, pesto sauce is "yucky" and gets all over her cheese and olives, permanently tainting them.  I supposed it is green, and suspiciously granular.  Perhaps it is too much like the boogers Addie has taken delight in scooping out of her nose lately ("Mama, I have boogers!").  My only point is, why does she ask for the pizza when she knows she doesn't really like it anymore?  My only question is, how many different meals can one family actually make at dinnertime before Mommy blows her stack?

And I'm not even the one who cooks.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday School


I have to make what feels like a weird sort of confession.  I took Addie to church today.

Here are a whole bunch of caveats and explanations and hems and haws:

First, my church (is it my church?) is not a churchy-sort of church.  In fact, it feels weird to even call it a church.  There is some praying--though it doesn't really look or sound like prayer--and there's music--though it's not what you might consider your typical kind of churchy music--and there's a "sermon," though that doesn't really seem like the right word for it.

It's a Science of Mind church, and I think I will do a poor job of explaining exactly what that is here, so Google it if you want to know more, or check here to find out about my church, Mile Hi.  Or don't.  My worst fear is that you might think I'm prosletyzing.  I'M NOT.  I hate that, and wouldn't do it to anyone.  I'm just trying to explain this experience, what it's like to go to a non-churchy church.

So, what's non-churchy?  Well, I suppose the most appealing thing to me about it is its inclusiveness.  There are no stern pronouncements about gender or sexuality there, and the ministry staff (oh, these words, which in other contexts give me the creepy crawlies!) is racially diverse--though the congregation is less so.  The theology is also quite inclusive, drawing on a spectrum of faiths and teachings, with Christianity only being one.  They speak of Jesus not as a savior or even as the son of God (I'm getting the jeebies!) but as a great teacher.  And God is more of a force or energy that exists in everything, rather than some bearded guy with a bunch of rules and regulations and judgments (not my God).

The music is good, the prayer is basically guided meditation, and the emphasis is on how we create and understand our realities.  It's a nice middle ground for the intellect and spirit to meet, without having to do too much compromising on either end. 

But this post isn't really about my decision to go back to church (un-church), though it's part of the something big I alluded to in an earlier post.  I'm not really ready to write more about this yet, since I'm not totally sure what's happeneing.

No, this is actually a parenting post, believe it or not.  See, there's a daycare at Mile Hi (un)Church, and so I decided to have Addie to go with me today.  I thought it might be fun for her to play with some other kids, and have some time out of the house this morning, and she usually naps better if she's had an outing for the day.  Still, I was a little nervous about dropping her off, for a few reasons. 

First was simply that it was a new environment, and as a parent it's always a little scary to leave your kid somewhere new.  But I have faith in Addie's adaptability, and true to form, she ran right in and started to play, not even giving me a backward glance. 

Second, Eric is an atheist and I'm a pretty skeptical agnostic, so I was worried there might be some Sunday-school-indoctrination going on.  There wasn't--the only religious thing that happened was that there was a tiny wood manger scene on the floor for the kids to play with (the rest of the kid paraphernalia wasn't religious).  Ironically, Addie gravitated to the manger and immediately started to play, picking up one of the wise men, who had a crown on, and asking me, "Mama, where's the Queen and the Princess?"  Where, indeed.

Third, as an ending to the (un)service, the entire congregation holds hands and sings a slightly tweaked version of the song "Peace on Earth" (tweaked to be more inclusive--"with God as our power" instead of "God as our father" and "family all are we" instead of "brothers all are we," and so on).  While this is happening, all the kids who have been in daycare come to the front of the congregation and stand on rafters in the front of the room (which seats several hundred).  I was a little worried about Addie doing this, worried she might freak out or cry.

But she just tromped right out there, eyes wide at the hundreds of people singing before her, but looking confident and unscared, and held her teacher's hand for the song.  She was wearing the leopard coat that her Aunt Julie brought her ("It has ears, Mama!  And a tail!") and seemed totally fine with the whole thing.  I was the one who freaked out.  I started waving my hands and jumping up and down and yelling, "Addie!  Addie!  Over here!" like some maniac cheerleader mom.  I was filled with this bizarre pride, this desire to yell to the entire room, "Look at my kid!  She's only two!  Isn't she brave?  Isn't she smart?  Isn't she wonderful?"

And, of course, she is brave, and smart, and wonderful.  Still, the depth and origin of this pride is a mystery to me.  Somehow just seeing her up there, though, away from me and on her own and in front of tons of other people triggered a protectiveness, an ownership that I hadn't felt before.  She's mine, is what I really wanted to yell.  She's mineI did that.  And at the same time, I was in awe of her separateness from me, her ability to get up there and be without me.  Can you tell I'm getting a handle on this whole individuation thing?  Talk about your spiritual mysteries.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Scrooge or Splurge?


 Today is Christmas preparation day.  I have a gajillion papers to grade by Monday, but today, December 8, belongs to old Saint Nick.  Addie's at school, so Nolie will be helping me to address a bunch of xmas cards (look for yours in the mail soon) and to finalize shopping plans.

The thing is, I'm in a simplifyin' kind of mood.  Maybe it's the fact that we're planning on trying to get out of this trash heap some time this spring, so I've been randomly packing up some clutter, and taking things to Goodwill.  Maybe it's that, like tons of other folks out there, I'm tired of going into thousands of dollars worth of debt every season (part of which is the small fortune we spend on plane tickets), which we barely get paid off before the next Christmas rolls around.  Maybe I'm just feeling oppressed by stuff and delighted by non-stuff-type things, like being around my kids, or writing on this blog, or doing yoga.  I don't know, really.

On a couple of my favorite blogs, like The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly and Parenthacks, folks have been posting good articles on how to decrease mindless spending and increase meaningful creating and sharing.  Some of the tips are obvious, but maybe a little hard to implement, such as encouraging your family to draw names, deciding to make all of your gifts, having a giftless Christmas, or making donations in someone's name instead of giving them a "gift-gift." 

We did this with my mom's side of the family.  All of us drew names for stockings we would fill.  This makes me happy--it will be nice to focus on small gifts that will surprise and delight and that hopefully won't cost too much to be opened.  Still, I know my mom is going to get lots of unstocking gifts, especially for the kids, so it's hard not to feel that we need to have extra gifts, too.  I can hear her, now, though--she really doesn't want us to spend our money on her, so maybe we'll have to try to heed that voice.

My dad's side of the family is trickier.  Because we fly home for Christmas, it's difficult to take a bunch of huge presents with us.  We can ship things, of course.  But because we live far from our family and don't see them often, it's also hard to know what to get them.  What do they already have?  What do they need?  So we usually end up getting gift certificates, and they often get them for us.  Somehow, though, we're in a gift certificate competition now, where the amounts increase every year, certainly beyond what everyone can afford.  But who will be the first to back down, and give a more reasonable amount?  Hard to say.

And the gift certificates make my stepmom roll her eyes (you know you do, Gloria!).  I think they seem like the easy way out.  And they probably are.  So maybe I'll think on that today as I'm figuring out what to get that side of the family.  I will say this:  the nice thing about the gift certificate is that it fits everyone.  My sister has three kids, and I'm pretty bad about tracking their ages, so I'm sure I've purchased a lot of age-inappropriate stuff in the past.  Again, though, maybe a different sort of effort needs to be made here.

We agreed with Steve and Julie that we wouldn't exchange grown-up gifts this year--only stuff for the kids.  I think this is great.  We grown-ups don't need any more stuff, certainly, but we can get some goodies for the babes.  The key, of course, will be to refrain from sending grown-up gifts, right?  Because if one side sends a grown-up gift, then the whole cycle of guilt and buying begins again.  Restraint is key in these situations, and it's not easy to implement.

I was guilty of breaking the pact a few years ago.  We made an arrangement with Eric's dad and stepmom not to exchange gifts, and then we ended up giving them a big, framed photo of Addie.  Trust-breaker.  Not cool.  Especially because I was the one who initiated the no-gift-giving idea, which I think was hard for Phil and Ubi to swallow--I think they wanted to exchange gifts, and it makes them happy to do so.  So, I blew it.

Are you getting the picture?  We have so many separate families to think about and buy for.  When younger, one of the few perks of being children of divorced parents was that you got twice the gifts.  Now that we're older, though, we have twice the gifts to buy.  Luckily, we also have twice as many people in our life to love and be loved by, so it worked out, thank goodness.  It's just a lot of pressure to judge yourself and your relationships by what you can afford to get someone.

Eric's susceptible to this holiday madness, too.  For a few years now, he's left the gift buying to me, and he's always unhappy at unwrapping time because he feels I haven't spent enough on folks compared to what they've spend on us.  This make him feel bad, and make me feel terrible, like a greedy little gnome taking bites off of everyone else's mushroom.  I feel like saying, "Well, you buy the gifts, then!"  But then the gifts wouldn't be bought, or we'd spend thousands of dollars.  And I don't feel like either is a great option.  Still, this year, he's responsible for buying for his family (within a set budget that both of us agreed on), and I'm buying for mine.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Do I sound ungrateful?  Stingy?  Resentful?  I suppose there's some truth in that.  Maybe it's unfair that now we're comfortable and have most of what we need that I all of a sudden decide this gift-giving thing is for the birds.  But it's not that I don't want to give.  I enjoy being crafty, so I like making gifts and giving them to others.  I like finding good deals on something I know someone else will love.  I just wish there wasn't pressure to do this at one particular time of year.  Wouldn't it be great if, some time in the heat of June, I found a beautiful vase that I knew my sister would love.  I wrap it in festive paper and attach a Merry Christmas card.  Because I am thinking of her then, and found the perfect gift then.  Wouldn't that be great?  Wouldn't it be great it I stopped putting all this pressure on everything?  Wouldn't it be great if I changed my expectations and let go of everyone else's reactions?  Stopped projecting my feelings of inadequacy on to them? 

But for now, Nolie and I will spend today figuring out how to keep these balls in the air, and we will address Christmas cards (which I love to do).  And we'll try to make decisions from a place of love and gratitude.  Hopefully our sentiments will hit their mark.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

This Just In

Or out, as the case may be.

My new theory is that my blogging makes Nolie poop.  She just pooped twice (after doing a big one Monday).  The past several times she has pooped have been while she's sitting in my lap as I type this blog. 

It's like when I walk into a Barnes and Noble.  All those neatly stacked rows of reading material and...bam.  Need to poop.  Same thing for her.  My lap is her Barnes and Noble.

Or else, the formula thing is working.

Big Deals


Some biggish deadlines have been looming at work, and so I've missed a few days here at toddlerspit.  But things have been happening.

We had another pretty vicious poo strike on Nolie's part; she usually poops on Tuesday afternoons (no kidding about that--we call it Puesday because it's so regular).  But she was cranky and gassy all weekend and finally let it fly Monday, after which she slept through the night, evidently exhausted from the effort.

As a result of her crankiness and gassiness, Eric and I decided to try replacing her evening feeding with formula.  This has raised unexpectedly mixed emotions in me.  For the most part, breastfeeding is a pain in the, er, boob.  It requires a lot of planning, and forces me to just sit for extended periods of time (I've tried feeding in the sling while I putter around the house, but the bigger Nolie gets, the harder this is on my back).  Also, Nolie is allergic or reactive to something I eat, and we have trouble figuring out what that is, so she frequently is gassy and unhappy when she's eating, meaning my nipple gets stretched to mind-boggling lengths before she wrenches away. 

That said, my hormones seem to be doing their job; the thought of weaning Nolie (even if it is just for one feeding) has me a bit weepy and sad.  When she's not pulling a gumby on me, the whole nursing thing is pretty pleasant.  She cozies up and I can stroke her head and sniff at her, monkey that I am.  And it releases all sorts of delightful, relaxing endorphins.  So I'm a bit wistful at the thought that we might be making a transition to formula.  Or maybe just wistful at the thought that she won't be a baby for much longer.

What else?  Oh, silly things.  Like, I was ironing today, and saw that the black pants I wore to work yesterday (with blue and white striped underwear underneath) had a big hole in the buttseam.  Thanks to everyone who didn't tell me my ass was hanging out in front of an entire class of 18-year-old freshmen. 

Or, when I was ironing today (big day for ironing), and was watching Oprah, and there was this quartet of male pseudo-opera singers (you know the type--the Josh Grobin-alikes), and I was being snorty and snarky about how dorky they were, commenting to myself that one guy's nostrils were HUGE, like train tunnels.  Then they started singing "O Holy Night" and for some reason I started bawling.  It was just really beautiful.  I asked my friend (and cousin) Nancy why she thought I could go from being so cynical to being so mushy in the space of ten seconds, and she said it's because I really want to believe in these things.  That things like this Christmas carol being sung by the modern-day equivalent of the Kingston Trio have meaning and depth, and that I try to use sarcasm to distance myself from the cheese because the cheese hits so close to home.  This may make no sense when I say it.  But it made perfect sense when she did, and I think she's right.

Also, I did finally get a second opinion about the blood-in-the-urine thing (toddlerspit is all about bodily functions, after all). 

A little background:  when the blood kept appearing this summer, before Nolie was born, my ob-gyn said off-handedly, "Oh, it's probably nothing.  Or it's bladder cancer."

Um, thanks.  That's exactly what a woman who is eight months pregnant needs to hear.  Excellent bedside manner, doc. 

So I had the whole scope of all the important orifices, and they turned up nothing.  So my ob says that it's probably nothing, that I just have chronic blood-in-the-urine. 

Not a very satisfying explanation, right?  The thing is, I'm not that freaked out about it.  I mean, I can't see the blood--it's microscopic amounts that just show up on a dipstick test the ob does on all pregnant women.  But at the urging of Eric and some friends, I go for the second opinion last Friday.

At which the second doctor says, "Oh, it's probably nothing.  Or you have muscular dystrophy."


So, now we're waiting for the blood test results (which were supposed to be in yesterday, thank you, HMO).  The thing is, there might not be any blood in my urine after all--the second doctor didn't see anything when he looked at it under the microscope.  So the dipstick is showing positive for blood.  But the blood thing on the dipstick is also triggered by the presence of myoglobin, which can be an indicator of muscle disease.  Sweet.  Now you get to learn something at toddlerspit.

I'm trying to be funny about this.  Because chances are, it's nothing.  Chances are, I'm one of those women who just has microscopic bits of blood in her urine, for whatever reason.  But it's scary when there's that other thing out there, that shoe that might be waiting to clunk you in the head.

Which leads me to the last big thing, which may be nothing at all.  I'm not even sure how to write about it, because it's just an essence at the moment, a feeling.  And that is the feeling that something large is about to come my way (not something bad, like MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY, for Christ's sake, but something good, something important and life-changing).  Am I having a spiritual moment?  Am I divining the future?  Am I imagining things, inflating my own importance in the universe, inviting catastrophe?  I don't know.  But I feel a weird sort of tingling, and existential tickle in the regions of what might be described as, oh jeez, I don't know.  A soul?  A force?  Feely-ma-bobbers?

Believe me, these words make me wince.  I'm very wary of anything smacking of religion.  But I'm not quite sure how else to explain it, except to say that it feels as if something is coming my way, that I am in line for something.

Perhaps this will be nothing at all.  But maybe you should keep reading, just in case. 

UPDATE:  It's Thursday morning now, and the doc just called.  I've a clean bill of health.  Yay for that.  Super yay!

Monday, December 4, 2006

National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Vacation


I don't even know where to begin describing this weekend.  It was wonderful.  Chaotic.  Inspiring.  Exhausting.

And that was just the first twenty minutes.

They came in two cars from the airport; Eric drove Julie (my sister-in-law) and the kids Gwen and Raiff back, and Steve (my brother-in-law) and Laurie (my mother-in-law) rented a car and drove together from the airport.  In that twenty minutes, Steve and Laurie were in a fender-bender (a mirror-bender, actually), Addie fell onto her head again, Nolie, Gwen and Raiff were screaming their heads off, Julie was in tears, and I was headed out the door for a faculty seminar.  Wowza.  I was just glad we had boarded the dog, otherwise I'm sure he would have crapped all over the carpet.

Really, though, it was an incredible weekend.  I mean, I love these folks because they're my family now.  But I also really like all of them, which is an added bonus.  I loved talking with Julie about how fast our kids grow up and about what it's like raising them; I loved hearing from Steve about how things are back in San Diego, so that I can imagine their routine when they leave; I loved watching Grambie Laurie bliss out with all of her grandbabies.  I chased around with Gwen, who jumps like a frog, squeals like a banshee, and smiles like an angel; I bounced Raiff, who gives giant bearhugs, grabbing fistfuls of your hair and pulling you to him as if he just can't get enough of you.  These are good people, the best.  These are my people.

In all, it was a magnificent visit, with much love and reconnecting.  But of course everyone was utterly wiped out when the San Diego Schneiders boarded their plane Sunday.  Having house guests, even of the most wonderful kind, is tiring, especially when your house is on the teensy side, like ours.  But, really, I felt most tired for them.  Have you ever traveled with small children?  Holy cow, is it crazy.  There's the stress of the flight, which might be delayed, or canceled, or over-full.  There's worrying about your child freaking out on the plane while other passengers shoot you poison-dart-eyes.  Your kid might barf or poop everywhere, and there might not be a changing table in the lavatory.  You might lose your bag, drop your kid on her head, miss your flight.

Then, if and when you get where you're going, things might not be babyproofed the way they are at your house so that you never get to sit down for one minute for chasing your baby around making sure he doesn't light himself on fire or swallow a Christmas ornament, and you might have to sleep in different configurations such that nobody sleeps much at all, or the kids might get sick.  The food is different and you're constipated from traveling.  Your kid might have tantrums that reach heights they never reach at home, and you worry someone thinks he's out of control, you're a bad parent, whatever.  On and on.  A perfectly joyous visit can also be perfectly stressful.

I remember when I first flew back to Idaho so that Addie could meet my folks.  She was weeks old, and the minute I strapped her in the carseat on the way to their house, she started to scream.  She screamed for the whole twenty-minute drive.  I got sweaty and panicky and eventually broke into tears, too.  Her screaming sounded so loud to me, and I worried my Dad would get into a wreck from the hassle of it, or that my parents would think Addie was a bad kid, or that I was in the backseat pinching her, and that my secret--that I am truly a horrible parent!  That I should never have been allowed to procreate!--would be revealed. 

Of course, Addie eventually calmed down, and so did I, and the rest of the visit was pretty uneventful.  But I still remember that feeling exactly, and it's recreated almost every time I go somewhere with the kids.  Just leaving your front door is inviting a whole bunch of uncertainty that we as parents are always trying to ward off by carrying extra diapers, sippy cups, fruit snacks, barf bags, changes of clothes, toys, books, pacifiers, wipies, birth certificates, strollers, carseats, etc.  If that trip out the front door is leading you to the airport, the anxiety--and the gear--is tripled.

But we do it anyway, this traveling half way across the country, because we want our kids to know one another.  We remember how much we loved our cousins as kids, and how important it is for them to know that family is a big idea, meaning lots of different things.  We do it because, although we love where we live and what we do and who we are, we are always missing where we came from, and missing the people who aren't here with us.  We do it because these babies grow so fast, and we need to grab whatever minutes we get with them and hold on tight.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Your Sausage is So Small

Over the last month or so, I have been getting triple the amount of email spam.  I opened my inbox this morning to a subject line that said "Why your sausage is so small :) :)?"  A few questions about this.  First, does anyone really call it a "sausage"?  Because, ew.  Second, do the emoticons really help here?  I mean, you're insulting the receiver of this email by a) assuming the person has a sausage (I don't.  At least I don't think I do.) and b) telling him that it is small.  A few smiley faces don't really gloss over that kind of insult, in my opinion.  Curses on whomever stole my address and is sending me this schlock (and you know who you are, you bastard Craig's Listers!).

Anyway, I had an exhilirating ride to work today.  If by exhilirating you mean terrifying, that is.  I got on the freeway and it seemed perfectly safe--if not dry, at least not icy.  I suppose that is why the dreaded black ice is so tricky, eh?  You can't see it!  Bastard black ice. 

Lucky for me, I have some experience almost dying on the freeway, and knew how to keep my cool.  Doing a half-scream as you pump your breaks while the world spins past you is my standard operating procedure.  Works like a charm. 

Harrowing is the word of the day.

Update:  A new email just in.  This one?  "Take Your Award, Mr. Smallest Weenie 2006."  Now really.  Does this actually sell products?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Impending Arrivals

Today, I am so excited.  First, we woke up this morning to heavy snow that fell on and off all day.  I took the girls to daycare so that I could get some work done, and it was all cold and frosty outside, and the roads were a mess.  But it is so beautiful when it snows, and it makes settling in to get some things done so cozy.  Hot cup of cocoa, please.  Brrr.

But I'm also so excited because Eric's family is coming in from San Diego--his mom, and his brother Steve, sister-in-law Julie, and our niece Gwen, who is almost two, and Raiff, who is about eight months old.  It is going to be a crazy, packed house this weekend!  But I love it.  I love having people hanging around in their pj's, and I love making big dinners with Eric, and watching the kids be adorable.  It's particularly relaxing to be around families with kids the same age as yours--you can all totally bliss out in the amazing-ness of your children without having to apologize or trying to hold an extended adult conversation.

And I haven't seen these guys since last Christmas.  Eric and Addie went back to meet new baby Raiff:

in April, but I didn't go (mostly because I was pregnant and bitchy and didn't want to sleep on an air mattress and also because I wanted a weekend to myself before Nolie came.  And, I must admit, that weekend to myself was wonderful.  I ate out and saw friends and slept in and cleaned up and read books.  But, as a result, I've really been missing these guys.  And I'm not just saying that because they read this blog.  I really miss them.  I'm tearing up just thinking about it).

Isn't Raiff beautiful?  And Gwen is stunning, too.  I can't wait to see them, and to watch Addie interact with them.  Addie's been running around saying, in one long breath, "Tomorrow Grambie and Unca Steve and An Julie and Cousin Gwen and Cousin Raiff and Cousin...ARE COMING!"  She's been adding on the extra cousin just because she gets so excited.  Nolie will just be smiling and sticking her tongue out a lot, when she's not screaming her head off.  But I'm looking forward to that, too.

And I love that Eric's mom is coming, partly because she is just a cool woman who knows a lot about politics and art and culture but also because I love showing off these grandbabies to their grandparents.  And I know how important grandparents can be--mine were to me. 

Of course, I'm a little worried about them all.  It is freezing-ass cold here, today, and tomorrow is only going to be a little warmer.  I think we'll have to bundle them all up in quilts and fleece and hand out steaming cups of hot tea.  But won't it be exciting to see snow?  Or just alienating and cold?  I'll let you know.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Little Equivocation


 What is this feeling?  This crybaby, mushy-mushy, cranky feeling?  Or is it feelings, plural?  Many, many feelings all at once?  That I am having?  Am I losing my mind? 

I am.

One minute I am packing away Addie's baby pictures (you know, in preparation for the move that is, what, five months away) and crying my eyes out.  I am watching videos of her rolling around on the floor sticking her feet in her mouth and spitting up and learning to walk and I am speechlessly in love and angry that time is passing so quickly.  That my babies' baby-ishness is leaving, leaving.  That I will never again live this moment with these precious people, that my life is literally speeding past me.  My God, I'm living in the moment as much as I can, and still these minutes pass through my hands like so much running water.

The next minute, I am wishing Nolie would stop crying, wishing, wishing that she would grow up and be a little easier to take care of.  Wishing that Addie would be quiet, that I could read more than five pages in a row, get through a whole yoga workout without being interrupted, that I had more me time.  ME!  Wishing the kids were in school, were easier, were less demanding. 

I've written about this before, I know.  But I'm not sure you can understand the pendulum upon which I ride, legs astride, hair whipping in the wind as I speed toward bliss, then am thrust backward toward utter frustration, unless you are on a pendulum of your own.

Some friends are considering having children.  A few have asked me to weigh in on the decision, others haven't.  But what do I say?  What could I say?  I don't know if you should have children.  If I say yes, will you remember me at the times when your lives are utterly enriched, enhanced, made fuller than you could ever have imagined by the presence of these little people?  Or will you remember me when you're cleaning toddler poo off your new couch, when your babysitter is sick and you can't go into work again, when you're fighting with your loved one because you're both exhausted and haven't seen each other, really seen each other in what feels like a lifetime?  What are you willing to sacrifice?  Because that's what a lot of it is.  There is a whole lot of giving up that goes on.  There are rewards--inexplicable rewards, but the price is also dear. 

Of course, nobody is going to make the decision based on what I say.  It's too personal a decision for that.  Most people just want confirmation of what they already know to be true:  either that they are going to do it, or aren't.

I know that for us the math has worked out.  We are both better, happier people because of our kids.  Having kids made us work on our marriage and ourselves in positive ways.  These babies are utterly extraordinary people to whom we are deeply bound.  They are also exhausting and maddening.  But the "fulfillment" side of the scale has certainly outweighed the "What the hell have we done?" side of the scale.

Still, I'm well aware that this equation (Lord, am I mixing metaphors) does not work out to the same answer for others.  Eric and I were laughing the other day that we didn't even have to discuss having kids.  We just always knew we wanted to be parents.  We were lucky enough to meet and get married, and then, well, I just stopped taking the pills.  I think we had a five minute conversation about it.  "How about tonight, honey?"  Sounds good to me.

I don't mean to minimize the gravity of the decision.  There are situations where more planning is required either because of the mechanics of the thing or the health of the parents or the mental, social, political, and economic hurdles.  Still, there is a sense in which you just do it, decide to have kids Because how do you figure out whether kids are right for you?  You can't know until you know, and then it's too late, either way.  And even if it is right--if the scales tip in your favor--it won't be right all of the time.  Because having kids is hard.  A huge, terrifying risk.  Even now that we have them, it's terrifying.  What if one gets sick, or hurt?  Or turns out to be a jerk?  It's awful.

And also the best thing ever. 

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Nickeled and Dimed and Hundreded


Eric and I try to keep to a budget.  We really do.  We keep a very detailed Excel spreadsheet that tracks every penny in and out each month, and we have certain limits on categories like groceries and eating out and babysitting.  We've been doing this for about a year, and though we still have a lot of debt, it's slowly inching its way down.

Very slowly.  Because for the past few months, we've been paying a small ransom in copays.  Trips to the doctor here, ambulance rides there; stays in the hospital here, emergency room visits there.  It adds up, you know?  And we are some of the lucky ones who have insurance.  I can't imagine what it would be like not to.  I suppose we'd be a whole lot more careful about when we went to the doctor and when we didn't.  But maybe we'd be sick a lot more, or for a lot longer.

I don't mean to complain about money, especially when you consider this, which suggests we are the 29,907,929th richest people in the world.  That maybe doesn't sound that great, but it actually means we are in the top 1% wealthiest people on the planet.  So, perspective.

Still, it would be nice for the family not to be sick for a while.  To have everyone stay out of the doctor's office, so we could spend our money on eating skillets at our favorite breakfast joint, Hotcakes, or so we could pay off some more credit card debt.  I've been wishing that Eric and the kids and I could just be well.

I didn't even think about the animals.

Last night I wrapped up a steamy session of Windsor Pilates (oh, my aching Powerhouse!) and got ready for bed.  Eric was out playing a gig, so I was on dog duty.  I was cursing Burley under my breath for needing to go outside every five minutes when I noticed, Hey, Burley is needing to outside every five minutes.  Turns out he was going out to puke.  

He's done this before.  He eats something he shouldn't, something a well-intentioned neighbor has perhaps thrown over the fence for him, like a chicken bone, say.  Then, he's sick to his stomach.  So he goes outside, eats some grass or leaves to make himself throw up, then throws up and feels better.  When this happens, it usually doesn't last too long.  But last night was different.  The poor dog was going out and horking all night long, and he was, well, hang dog this morning, in a big way.  Addie and I got home from a friend's birthday party, and Burley was barely able to stand.  

I won't lie.  Burley is often a pain in my whatsit.  He barks a lot and has to be in the middle of everything and sheds like a mo-fo.  Jeez, does he shed.  But when I saw that poor, sick dog today, my heart just about broke in two, and I made Eric take him to the vet, even though it was a Sunday, and emergency animal care makes you pay through the nose.  The animal hospital:  otherwise known as Usury-Is-Us.  Otherwise known as  Otherwise known as "It's cheaper to euthanize your pet than to get an x-ray here."  But I made Eric take him anyway, because that's what you do when you have a member of your family who is sick, and you have it in your power to make them better.

So, $250 later, Burley is back home.  All he had was a tummy ache.  I'm glad we took him in--glad we can afford to make sure he wasn't poisoned or really sick or diseased.  But, man.  $250 could have bought a lot of skillets at Hotcakes. 

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Little Crazies


Boy, have I been off center this week.  I don't know if it was the holiday, or my hormones, or the doozy of a fight (argument? misunderstanding?  No--fight!) that Eric and I had at the beginning of the week, but I have been weepy and tired all week.  Addie's been going around singing, to the tune of "I'm a Little Teapot":

I'm a little turkey

My name  is Ted

Here are my feathers

Here is my head

Gobble gobble gobble

Is what I say

Quick!  Run! 

It's Thanksgiving Day.

I can't seem to get this out of my head, turning it over and over in my mind.  It makes me laugh to hear Addie croon, "I'm a little turkey."  Because she is.  But then, I wonder, how strange that she's learning this song in preschool.  I mean, here's Ted, a cute singing turkey, who is then freaking out and running for his life.  I go over this again and again, cycling between amusement and despair.  Over this silly little song.  This sort of obsessive thinking about something trivial usually signals a bout of depression is about to hit.  And, sure enough, this week has left me feeling doused and kooky.

Is it hormones?  My hair has been falling out in small fistfuls.  I remember this happening after I had Addie, too.  Your hair gets crazy-thick during pregnancy and then about four months after the baby is born it skedaddles by the handful.  And I'm getting a bunch of zits, craving panfuls of brownies, and having a whole lot of difficult concentrating.  Next will be the bacne and the water retention.  Then the period comes back.  Which I will be oh-so-grateful to see.  Because--even though my kids are the most amazing thing to ever happen to me, other than Eric--the thought of another pregnancy right now makes me want to jump into the Grand Canyon.  Which has necessitated a bunch of other discussions around here regarding what's to be done to make sure I don't get pregnant again.  EVER.  You get the picture.

Just writing all this down is bringing everything into focus.  Of course it's hormones!  Here: 

We got a Christmas tree today, and Eric put it up and I decorated it while Addie was napping.  When she woke up we all came downstairs, speaking in hushed tones about the surprise, and when she saw it, totally awed by its presence in our living room, I just started bawling.  Like, over-the-top bawling.

Eric videotaped the whole thing--Addie caressing each ornament and whispering in the smallest magic voice, "It's Christmas!  It's Christmas!  Mama, is it Christmas?" and me in the background, weeping.  Then running to cram a brownie into my mouth.  Then weeping some more. 

Somehow, her utter awe at that moment felt like the biggest success of my life, as if everything I have ever done led up to that moment.  Every choice I've ever made somehow culminated in this most beautiful child having a moment full of magic and excitement and awe in front of a tree I had decorated with ornaments from my childhood.

Ten minutes later, I was yelling at her not to break the ornaments, of course, while also trying to cram a boob into screaming Nolie's mouth.  Because, though it was a magical moment, and I don't want to take away from that, it was also saturated with the return of my non-pregnancy, non-postpartum hormones.  These little chemicals have colored all of my interactions this week, and they have made me into an unreliable kookfest of joy and irritation all rolled into one brightly colored Christmas ball.  That may be breaking a little.

Example 1:  There is STILL blood in my urine (there has been since I first got pregnant with Nolie, almost a year ago), which means another round of trips to a kidney specialist, and more probes in uncomfortable places, no doubt.  I find this out on Wednesday and of course leap to the conclusion that I am dying, and have to take to my bed and cry for an hour, like some Victorian hysteric.  I decide I'm just not going to worry about it until a doctor friend of mine--who calls herself a "minimizer" when it comes to other people's symptoms--tells me I need to have it checked out.  More hysterical crying.

Example 2:  We go to drive around neighborhoods in Golden on Thursday morning because we're finally getting serious about moving.  The whole thing freaks me out so much that I come home and pack up half the house.  Because discomfort = must act!  Now!  Even though we probably won't list for another five months.  Manic, manic.

Example 3:  And then, after two very lovely Thanksgiving dinners at different friends' houses, I drink too much and get boisterous and obnoxious at my friends' party, which I always regret the next day (no need to bring up a certain Thanksgiving at a certain family member's house a few years back, at which I may have drunk too much and shared too much information about my wild-ass college years with my in-laws, to the horror of my husband.  I still cringe.  I still blush.)

Maybe it sounds like I'm trying to shirk personal responsibility.  Maybe I am.  But maybe I'm also a little crazy right now as the chemicals flow back into (or out of?  I don't understand the biology) my body.  This would probably be a good time to have some patience with myself.  I hope others will, too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Butt of the Joke


I'm sorry to do this to you, dear readers, but this will be yet another post guessed it!  Poop.

I hear Addie stirring after a long nap this afternoon, and go in to check on her.  Little did I know that she would be stirring her own poop.

Yep.  She had yet again pulled off her pull-up (grrr....) and on her pillow was a perfect, unmarred impression of her butt.  In poop. 

I'm not sure about the mechanics of this.  Did she poop in her pull-up, then roll around on her butt for a while to get it evenly spread on both cheeks, then carefully remove her pants, make the buttprint on her pillow, then stand up, making no other marks anywhere? 

Sheer artistry.

So, I walk in, and she's standing there, her poopy pants around her ankles, poop all down her legs, holding her arms out, looking horrified, like Carrie at the prom.

To my credit, I did not freak out.  I just put her in her bath, talked to her again about what a good idea it would be to poop in the potty, and threw a load of laundry in. 

I wanted to freak out.  Oh, did I want to.  But I couldn't--she was so bummed (ha-ha) at the situation that I couldn't make it worse for her.  When I gently suggested that next time she could go poop in the potty she said, "Yes, Mommy.  I will go poop in the potty."  And I know she probably won't.  Still, I was proud of her for thinking it might be a good idea.  There's always hope.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Feel [Sic]


This morning was one of those mornings that leave my head spinning a little.  I woke up early and a little groggy and got ready before the girls woke up.  Eric took Addie to school and I checked email, ran an errand, and then dropped Nolie off at daycare across town.  Back to this part of town, to the dentist.  Where I had the most talkative oral hygienist on the planet. 

"Am I going to get out of here by 10:30?" I asked.

"Oh, sure, hon" she said, leaning back, leisurely twirling and untwirling floss around her fingers.  "So anyway, I'm looking at moving out to Debbie's, you know, because Rick has the cocaine problem and the girlfriend, and Debbie and I love to go gambling.  That's where I was last Thanksgiving--Las Vegas, I mean.  I met a big-time gambler who took me out...."  Blahdiblahdiblah.

Normally, I find these one-way conversations fascinating, a break from having to hold my end up.  In fact, I know people who just talk the entire time we're together, and I love it.  I can just listen and nod and uh-huh and not have to contribute.  Which feels like a giant relief.  Almost like meditation.  I can just leave my body and live in their saga, their drama, rather than my own.

But today, I really had to be out of the dentist's office by 10:30.  A coworker had her baby yesterday and I needed to cover her 11 o'clock class in Golden.  In short, I needed more flossing and less talking. 

"I really have to leave by 10:30," I said meekly.

"You will, hon," she said.  "So anyway, Deb runs this bus with all this dental equipment, and drives around to different little towns...."

I thought I was pretty much screwed by that point.  Not only would I be late for class, but my teeth wouldn't get cleaned and I'd have to make yet another dental appointment.  I'd had to cancel three already, and barely squeezed this one in.  But then came my big break.

I read an article a while back by a professor who was talking about how, as soon as people find out she's an English teacher, they say something like, "Oh, I've always been terrible at grammar and spelling!  You're probably going to correct my English!"  As if, as an English teacher, you're trolling the streets with your dictionary and thesaurus and Strunk and White's waiting for a missed apostrophe or incorrect tense.

This has happned to me.  If you teach English and you're in New York, the cabbie will ask you what you do (if he speaks English, that is), and you'll say, "I teach writing," and you know suddenly conjured in his mind is some looming Nun, Sister Grammarface from St. Mary of the Conjunction, who rapped his knuckles with a ruler when he didn't know the past pluperfect of "to kneel."  And he's projecting that history on to you.  "I'm terrible at English," he'll say.  "Your students must love you!" he'll say sarcastically.  End of conversation.

Mostly I hate these moments.  Someone finds out I teach writing and they begin apologizing for their grammar or giving me crap about what Mrs. So-and-So gave them in 8th grade English.  Then, the uncomfortable silence.  I've never had much use for these moments.  I'm not a grammar Nazi.  I'm not even a grammar expert.  It's important, but it's not the most important thing in communication.  I'm uncomfortable, in general, with being seen this way.

Until today.

The hygienist finally took a breath long enough to look at my chart and saw that I was an instructor.  "So what do you teach, hon?" she said. 

Ah-ha, I thought trying not to smile as she inserted the bitewings for the x-ray.

"Witig," I managed with the cardboard in my cheeks.

Silence.  Then, "Oh."  Teeth clenched (hers, not mine).

Which was followed by the most brutal gum cleaning I've ever endured.  Mrs. So-and-So must have flunked my hygienist back in 8th grade.  But it quieted her down at least, and I got out of there by 10:30, got to Golden by 11, taught the class, turned back around and picked up Nolie so that the sitter could leave for her Thanksgiving vacation, and was home by 1.

All in a day's work.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tied to the Tube

You know that bread I made last week that I was so proud of?  Well, the bread I made today kicks that other bread's ass.   Today's bread was light and fluffy and flavorful and delicious.  Yum.

Of course, the bread I tried to make over the weekend was a doughy mess, because I only put in half the yeast the recipe requires.  Oops.  But today's bread more than made up for it.  I've already eaten five slices, just to prove it.

Enough with the bread soap opera (Days of Our BreadAll My Bread?). 

When I was little, reading was sort of a mandatory activity in our house.  My mom tells stories of us reading together in bed for hours every morning when I was little, and as I grew older, my brother and I had to go to our rooms and read for a half-hour every night before bed.  Pretty soon I was trying to read books by my little Strawberry Shortcake nightlight, furtively sneaking the books under the covers when I heard footsteps approaching.  The first book I stayed up all night reading was It, by Stephen King.  I still remember how scared I was, how I didn't want to go to the bathroom that night for fear of what was in that sink drain....  I don't think I've read a Stephen King since.

Anyway, reading is still a big part of my life.  I have to do (get to do?) a fair share of it for work, and always have a couple of books going.  And we read to Addie a lot--we make weekly trips to the library, and my mom saved every one of my children's books (numbering in the hundreds), so we have a good stash at home, too.  Addie loves books. 

She'll even turn off the T.V. to read them.

Oops!  So there's my big admission.  We let our kid watch T.V.  Call child services.

An hour or two a day, actually.  Oh, we only watch PBS or parent-approved DVDs, but she's definitely in front of the tube for part of every day.  Which allows Eric and I to have a conversation when he gets home, or gives me time to make bread, check email, or to direct some attention Nolie's way.  Addie learns from these shows, you know.  She has a precocious vocabulary, a strong sense of narrative, and an affection for characters.  Much of this must come from all of the reading we do.  But part of it is from the great kids' shows she watches, like Bear in the Big Blue House or Dora the ExplorerBarney makes me want to put my own eye out, but she's not that into him, thank goodness.

I don't think any of my friends with kids let their kids watch T.V.  Or at least they won't admit to it.  Others I know are adamant about it, rabid even.  The anti-T.V. brigade.

So the question is, why?  I know there have been studies done that suggest that babies shouldn't be exposed to T.V. because it can alter brain development.  Actually, someone told me this.  I haven't really seen them enough to know if they make sense or are valid (Steve, feel free to send the links my way).  But what's wrong with kids watching Sesame Street?  I mean, isn't it T.V. for kids

Okay, so some of you might say that this


is the problem.  That catatonic, drool-inducing, creativity-killing properties of T.V.  Right?  Is this it?  To be honest, this doesn't bother me that much.  I think Addie gets a much needed time out now and then when she watches a show.  It gives her a change to lay on the couch and relax.  It gives us that chance, too.  And Addie still wants to read, and play with toys, and see her friends, and paint pictures.   


Does all of this sound like an excuse to you?  Did you watch T.V. when you were growing up?  Probably.  And probably the kind with commercials and guns and stuff like that, too.  And that probably wasn't good for any of us.  But is there a middle ground?  Can I let my kid watch T.V. without suffering massive guilt over it, without comparing what you are able to withstand with what I can withstand?  Hmmm.  Maybe not.  But maybe a little bit of guilt is worth a little bit of quiet for all of us.

So, if you don't want your kid to watch T.V. at my house, I'll respect that.  But a little T.V. now and then works for our family.  So there.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Forest for the Trees

I'm back at work.  Granted, full-time for me doesn't look much like it does for other folks--it's definitely not 9-to-5, anyway.  Full-time for me could mean two hours at 7 in the morning, 3 at 9 o'clock at night, 10 on a Sunday.  Hours here, hours there.  But I typically get my 40 in and then some.  I'm not teaching classes this semester, but there still seems to be plenty on my to-do list.  My to-do list is not on family leave.

Eric has every other Friday off, and so he's been watching the girls on Fridays and also on Sundays while I'm at work.  He has been amazingly supportive of my needing to work these days, even though both of us would much rather just enjoy the time off together at home, taking walks and going out for lunch.  Still, we agree that Nolie is still too little to be in daycare full-time, if we can avoid it.  So we work the weird schedule for now, and feel grateful that our jobs give us the flexibility so that she's only in daycare a few hours a week.

To be perfectly honest, though, those hours while the girls are at daycare or with Eric?  I need them.  I need to get out of the house.  After Addie was born, I was down right relieved to go back to work once she hit four months, not because I didn't want to spend the time with her, but because I felt aimless, purposeless without work.  After Nolie, on the other hand, I was more reluctant to go back.  Maybe time has mellowed me some, maybe having two kids just makes the logistics of getting out of the house a lot harder. 

But now that I'm back at work, I'm glad to be back.  I like my job.  I like how I feel after clearing out my inbox, planning a syllabus, or organizing a faculty seminar.  I like wearing clothes that aren't streaked with spit-up, smelling like rotten cheese.  I like blasting the radio in the car on the freeway on my way to work.

Still, I find I return home from a full day of work feeling utterly desperate to see my family.  I want to nurse Nolie, cuddle Addie, curl up on the couch with Eric.  This need is powerful and physical, feeling almost like a biological imperative.  I suppose a part of it is guilt at not being home with them all; another part of it is habit--you get so used to having these people hanging off of you, slobbering on you, loving you, that to be apart from them is both delirious freedom and gut-wrenching lack, void.  Mostly I just love these people, take delight in them, and want to be with them.

There is a sense of relief, though, that things are returning to "normal":  my body is assuming less cartoonish proportions; both girls go to bed at reasonable times, leaving me time to write, read, stretch, meditate, or watch crap t.v.; the days are organizing themselves into a comforting rhythm.  At least once a day I wonder at how lucky we are to be so blissfuly happy. 

Then, of course, both kids start screaming, and all of a sudden someone has pooped on the floor or is projectile vomiting, and the phone rings, and someone is at the door, all at once--a perfect storm, and my face feels like it's melting off.   But we get through it.  And life is good.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hold Me Back


Wasn't it just a few weeks ago, in this post, that I was rejoicing over our decision to take a break from potty training Addie?  Wasn't I saying that I had learned my lesson, and that I wouldn't try to push her into it, and that if there was going to be a battle of the wills, she would win?  Wasn't I?

And yet, that old itch is back.  That itch to control and schedule and cross off the list.  That fear of inadequacy:  why isn't my perfectly delightful, intelligent, wonderful child potty trained yet?  Why do I care so much?  Am I really this obsessed with poop?

A few nights ago, Eric had to remind me why we were taking a break from pottyland.  He looked at me, quizzically, and said, "Wasn't it just last week that we decided not to worry about it for a while?"  Yes.  It was.  "Let's just give it a rest, babe," he said.  "It's driving us all crazy."  Right.

But here's the problem.  All of these stories of other people potty training so easily come to mind.  My mom potty training me in the blink of an eye when I was two.  I just saw other kids in daycare doing it, and voila!  For a few measly m n' m's, I was potty trained.  Some woman in the mall told me she had both her kids trained by the age of one.  One, for God's sake.  Then, all the women on Babycenter who are "so proud of my little guy" for pooping in the potty after just one weekend of training. 

Then there's this problem:  I hate pull-ups, in case you haven't noticed.  They're expensive, and Addie can pull them off when she has a big poop in them, and they're horrible for the environment, and they blow up and explode into a million pieces when you accidentally wash them with your laundry.  But we seemed to be locked into pull-up mode.  I wouldn't hate them so much if they weren't just glorified diapers.  But that's all they are, and they're not helping with training anything. 

Well, I guess we're trained to buy them.

And then, of course, there's the small, grinchy, Gollum-ish part of me that would like to win just one frickin' war with my toddler.  I'd like to be able to point down at her, like Zeus on a mountaintop, white hair blowing in the gathering storm, long robes fluttering about me, and command her to use the potty.  Because she can.  She's physically able to do it.  She just won't. 

This pisses me off.  Which is probably at the core of my potty training issues (and, let's be honest.  They're really my issues--not hers).  It makes me mad that this child could make things so much easier for everyone by just using the potty, by at least trying to use the potty, but refuses to do so.  And I'm completely powerless in the face of her awesome obstinacy.  I am completely bowed before the awesomeness of her expression of individuality.

I am, in short, floored by the fact that she is a different entity from me, individuated and whole, with a will of her own.  Maybe that's why I'm having such a hard time giving this up.  Her saying no when I want her to say yes is a pretty good expression of the fact that this kid--whom I love so fiercely and dearly--is her own person.  And will someday leave me.  Let's just hope she's potty trained when she goes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lessons Learned in Poop School

1.  Your 3-month-old has a history of only pooping every 7-10 days; when she does poop, it is as if a mustard bomb has exploded.  You are sitting with her propped in your lap, busily firing off emails.  You hear a wet, farty sound that suggests a poop has arrived (it has been eight days).  Do you:

a)  Get up immediately to change the baby's diaper; you know if you don't, the mustard will, literally, hit the ceiling fan;

b)  Answer just a few more emails.  Hey, if she's not bothered, why should you be?

c)  Give the baby away to the church down the street.  Only a man of God can deal with a disaster of these proportions?

Answer:  B.  When you get up, poo is seeping out both sides of the diaper, front and back, and you are covered in poo.  But, hey, your emails got answered and you get to keep the baby.


2.  Your 2 1/2-year-old toddler has surreptitiously snuck a full pull-up into the laundry basket, and you run the load without noticing.  Do you:

a)  Express astonishment at the gigantic balloon that emerges from the washing machine after it has finished running, shaking your head in disbelief that the pull-up is able to hold SO much water, and fretting over what these things are doing to our landfills;

b)  Curse at the million little particles of disintegrated pull-up collected in the bottom of the washing machine;

c)  Continue to run several more loads of laundry without cleaning out the particles, so that all of your clothes and linens for the week are coated in pull-up pustules, which itch and chafe;

d)  All of the above?

Answer:  D.  Goddammit.


3)  Your toddler has yet again reached into her diaper and touched her poo.  Do you:

a)  Silently gag, taking her to the bathroom to wash her hands, reminding her for the gazillionth time that touching our poo can make us very, very sick, as you try not to overreact because you don't want to give her Freudian scat issues for the rest of her life;

b)  Poop in your own pants, modeling for her how you don't touch your poo, and neither should she;

c)  Reach into her pull-up, screech like a monkey, and throw the poo on the wall?

Answer:  A.  PhEW.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Disaster Fantasies

I used to have a lot of disaster fantasies after Addie was born--horrible imaginings that she had died in her crib, that she was going to fall and hit her head and be killed, or that someone was going to snatch her.  Every episode of Oprah or the evening news or Law and Order that I had ever seen featuring the abduction, abuse, or death of a child seemed to replay itself in my head, over and over again.

These scenarios got so bad that I began to have mini panic attacks with them, and they got worse over time, particularly after news of horrible disasters, like the tsunami in South Asia, the war in Iraq, or the earthquake in Pakistan.  Just the thought of all those families and babies suffering and dying would trigger an out-and-out anxiety attack. 

I didn't have good ways to express these fears at the time.  I tried writing some poetry, and that worked some.  Sometimes I would try to talk to Eric about the fears, but when I actually verbalized them, they sounded ridiculous, and I didn't want anyone to think I wanted anything bad to happen to Addie.  In fact, just the opposite--I think I was having them because I wanted to play them out in my head in order to ward them off in reality.  Sort of like, if I could put myself through the crisis in an imaginary way, it wouldn't happen to me in real life.  I know--this doesn't make a whole lot of sense logically, but emotionally, it seemed to at the time.

Eventually, this anxiety built up so much that I would explode into intense crying fits, or outbursts of rage that typically got directed toward Eric.  One night, I broke down in front of Eric, and Addie was there.  She saw me yell at him, them collapse on the floor, manically upset.  At that point, I decided I probably needed to get some help so that I wouldn't do that again.  I suffered a lot of guilt that she had to witness the outburst, and I knew I didn't want to pass on those behaviors to her.

So, for the first time in my life, I got into some therapy, and Eric came to sessions every other week with me to help me understand the anxiety.  We were so, so lucky that we ended up with an excellent therapist, who was in tune with my desire not to go on meds and to use the tools I already had--yoga and mediation, primarily--to help me understand and overcome the panic.  And, of course, we were lucky that our insurance covered the sessions:  we couldn't have gone otherwise.

The two main insights I arrived at through that work were that I felt anxiety most of the time.  In fact, I couldn't remember a time when I didn't feel anxious, didn't know there was any way else to be.  And so, historically, I used a variety of behaviors to avoid feeling that anxiety--shopping, eating, cleaning, working.  Things had become so much worse lately because having a child was forcing me to just sit a lot of the time (in order to be with her and care for her properly).  That meant I was having to actually feel the anxiety, experience it, and it was coming out in the form of these fantasies and violent outbursts. 

We worked a lot on my just experiencing the anxiety, on locating it in my body, and on noticing it without judging.  I still work on this, and am not able to do it all the time (see my post on the tires going out on my Subaru).  But a lot of times I can do it, and just experiencing it and noticing it will, paradoxically, lessen it.  I don't even have to figure out why it's there--just feeling it helps.

The second insight, which links to the first, is that I need to focus more on the present.  If I continue to tamp down my anxiety through diversions rather than being with it in the moment, it will result in behaviors or feelings I don't like. 

For example:  have you seen that movie Crash?  It's awesome, but there is a scene in it where a child is threatened--in fact, you're led to think she has died.  Well, this made me completely freak out.  Talk about disaster fantasy.  I was totally hysterical during that scene--weeping like someone had cut off my arm!  I literally felt as if I left my body from grief, would do anything to make it go away because it just felt like more than I could bear. 

And it was just a movie.

So, my therapist suggested that what I might need to learn to practice is present observation.  In other words, the ability to see the horrors of the world, watch them pass before me, but not to be swept away by them.  This is compassion:  to see crisis and distress and not become numb to it, but not let it overcome you with grief or hopelessness, either.  This is so not easy.  But I've been working on it, and have been able to do it some.

For example, a friend sent me a link today about a Denver man whose wife and two toddlers were killed in a hit and run over the weekend.  He was crossing the street with them, the kids in their stroller, and the next minute, the three of them were gone.  I think a year or two ago, this story probably would have sent me over the edge, the fear and anxiety of it.  But now I know I can give this tragedy only a little of my heart, and then watch it pass on.  Because my family needs me here, now.  My family is not gone.  And excessive grief over a stranger's tragedy will not protect my family from harm, either.  What will harm them is my exploding into a million little pieces.

Of course, this doesn't relieve me from my responsibility to act when I see injustice, and it doesn't protect me from outrage at violence and tragedy.  But it does force me to focus positive energy into the universe, and to make sure my own garden is tended, too.