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.