Tuesday, January 30, 2007



Our bestest friend (and cousin) Nancy let us stay at her house last night while the floors were getting redone.

She called me on the cell this morning, after Eric and the girls and I had finished running around her house like crazed piglets, dropping bits of muffin everywhere and bonking our heads and farting and squealing, finally getting out of there and off to school or work.

"Are you glad we're gone?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, no hesitation.

"Aren't you glad we don't have to stay with you tonight?" I asked.


"Me, too."

Not that we're not all a bundle of laughs.  And, in fact, Nolie and Addie slept through the night just fine.  We started Addie out in a sleeping bag on the floor of Nancy's room, the plan being that we'd let her go to sleep first, then Eric and I would sneak in and sleep in Nancy's bed.  Nolie would be in her pack n' play in the office, and Nancy would sleep on the couch with her cats Rico and Paco.

Of course, what actually happened was that Addie ended up in the bed with Eric.  I tried sleeping in the sleeping bag on the hardwood floor, but wimped out and bogarted the couch while Nancy was yakking away on the phone downstairs.  She ended up sleeping in the freezing cold basement (it is WICKED, wicked cold here).  Nolie, toasty warm with the house's lone space heater, stayed cozy and asleep all night long.

So, tally:  Eric, Addie, and Nolie slept fine (Eric woke up this morning saying, "Hey!  I slept fine!"  Good for him.  Good for him).  Nancy and I grunted at each other as we passed in the kitchen, me pausing only to dig the dagger out of my back, the one that shot out of her eyes as punishment for stealing the couch.  We didn't even bother to ask how the other had slept.  We knew.

Later, after the caffeine had set in and we were safely out of the house, we could joke about the situation.  I told her to pray that someone would break into the u-haul in front of our house and steal all of our furniture so that we could get new stuff.  She said she'd be happy to take our old furniture.  "But then Eric would know you have it," I said.  "Or else we wouldn't be able to come over anymore."

"Exactly," she said, snickering.  "Exactly."

The point is, it's tough to be in someone else's space when you've got kids.  Even if they have kids, and a huge mansion with an entire wing for you and your entourage and your ridiculous amount of baby gear, it's tough.  Because you're missing most of your infrastructure, and what little infrastructure you can bring with you will always impose on someone else's space.  We love Nancy, and she loves us, but we'll be glad to get back to our own beds tonight, with our white noise machines, humidifiers, baby monitors, mobiles, stuffed animals, pillows, toilets, and tissues exactly where we need them to be.  And Nancy will be glad to be warm and cozy in her bed, too.

But the stuff in the u-haul is up for grabs, in case you're in our neighborhood. :)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ground Floor

We somehow managed to get both cats, the dog, the two kids, the thousand and one bags, and four rooms full of furniture out the door by 7am this morning.  This is because we are having our floors refinished today. 

I'm tearing up a little as a say this, because we have had these wood floors--with their splinters, and rusty nails, and paint splotches, and mystery stains--since we moved in.  I remember ripping up the hideous carpet in the first few weeks we lived in the house, and being excited to see the wood floors.  "We can get them refinished!" I gushed to Eric!  "They'll look so great!"

And now, five years later, they'll look maybe not great, but a whole, whole lot better.  I'm pretty ding-dang excited.  Here's what our house will look like once we get everything into storage and the floors are done:

Kidding.  Like we could EVER have a white sofa in our house.  Like there would ever be one single space in our house not covered in doghair or cat barf or toddler drool or baby spit-up or nacho cheese sauce.  But I can pretend.

Anyway, the excitement is mounting chez nous, as we begin to ponder the reality of moving into a new house.  I feel mostly calm about this, that everything will work out well.  It will be totally nuts moving, what with all the mammals involved ("Too many mammals!" Addie's always yelling when she runs into a dog or cat or parent while trying to scooch around the house).  But I'm ready to open up to new possibilities. 


A few updates, for the folks

Addie's CAT scan is scheduled for Thursday.  She's waking up a few times a night now, having difficulty breathing.

Nolie is fully weaned (ah, sweet weanage) and is doing a great job of sleeping and pooping.  She's a couple of armfuls of chubby yumminess at the moment.

Burley is vomiting periodically and biting his hair out.  We think he's been digging into the bags of trash that are piling up in the backyard, unable to be removed because of the never-ending snowfall in this fricking city.  He's probably eating coffee grounds, the idiot beast. 

Prudence and Sadie are cats.  Boring sacks of hair, but lovable nonetheless.  They are at the kitty hotel while the floors get refinished.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Clowning Around


"Mommy, when I grow up, can I be a clown?"

Hmmm.  Part of me wants to respond, "Absolutely not!  Clowns are totally creepy!  And besides, how do you plan to support us in our old age on a clown's salary?!?"

But instead I offer the obligatory "Sure.  You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up."

"Mommy?  I want to be a star!"

"Like a rock n' roll star?" I offer, because we've been talking a lot about rock n' roll lately.

"No, just a star!  Then you can sing 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' to me!"

The doctor's office wants to know if we think Addie should be anesthetized for the CAT scan on Friday.  "Do you think she can stay perfectly still for ten minutes?" they ask.  Because if she's not, the CAT scan won't work right, and that's a gajillion dollars down the drain. 

"She's two," I keep saying in response, because in my mind that answers the question.  Of course she can't sit still for ten minutes, especially when being guided into a metal tube with bright lights and weird sounds.  This is a kid who won't even let us put a band-aid on her knee without much thrashing about and baring of teeth.  She had to get an x-ray of her lungs last year when she had croup, and it took two (male) attendants and Eric to hold her down.  I watched from the hallway because I was pregnant with Nolie and couldn't be near the radiation, and it was like watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

But for some reason, the receptionist doesn't want to accept this--apparently, corralling an anaesthesiologist makes scheduling the whole thing a lot more difficult.  "She's two," I insist.  She shouldn't be having to go in that damn thing anyway, but since she does, you better knock her out for it, or else duct tape her in there. 

While they're at it, they could shoot me some valium.  I'm probably going to need it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


In the past, days like today would have driven me straight to the mall.  Nothing particularly bad is happening, but everything feels just a little stale.  I'm really tired--both kids were up last night because of wicked colds--and I've got some biggish projects at work I'm not looking forward to starting.  Both require I be relatively clear-headed, and I'm not.  I don't cherish teaching when I'm sluggish and cloudy either, and I don't feel like exercising, even though it's what would probably make me feel better.

Instead, I want to crawl into bed and watch Cameron Diaz movies, eat pints of chocolate frosting with a spoon, and go splurge at the Gap.  Anything that will take me out of the dullness of the present moment, promise a more stimulating life, make things shiny and new again.

I'm not going to do these things (well...I did eat some frosting, but just a few bites).  For one thing, I don't get to crawl into bed--I've got three sickies at home to take care of, and growing piles of laundry, and growing piles of dog hair on the rugs.  And Cameron Diaz movies are out of the question.  Instead, I have to watch an old Mae West movie to prep for class tomorrow.  I know, I know:  not exactly Chinese water torture, but nothing takes the fun out of watching movies faster than having to watch a movie.  And I'm not going to the Gap, because I apparently need to start saving up for a night guard so as to avoid chipping any more of my own teeth.

Instead, I slinked into the office this morning, slurped down a few cups of crappy coffee, and sat in my dark office, slogging through my to-do list.  I'll teach this afternoon, then race back to Denver to pick up Addie before her preschool closes.  She and I will then race to pick up Nolie at her daycare across town by 5:30, which is just about the time both girls lose it because they haven't had dinner and they're tired and cold.  I'll carry them both into the house (Addie insists on removing her shoes EVERY TIME we get in the car, and I'm too lazy to put them back on EVERY TIME.  "Why do you take your shoes off, Addie?" I ask.  "Because I do," she'll say).  Then, I'll carry into the house the one thousand and one bags it takes to make all of this working mom stuff possible--diaper bags, lunch bags, purses, briefcases, canvas bags full of work books, library books, student papers, Addie's art from school, her shoes, the toys and sippy cups and scarves and hats and mittens.

Then, my face melts off as I try to simultaneously nuke a hot dog for Addie, let the dog out to pee, feed the cats, feed the baby, feed myself, open the mail, listen to the phone messages, get myself out of tights (oh, god, the feeling of freedom when that flesh meets the open air!), turn on the heat, read Addie's progress report, clean up the breakfast mess, and so on.  If I'm lucky, I remember to pee.  If I'm not lucky, I forget, and then sneeze, and...you get the idea.

Eric will get home and start dinner, and everyone will finally have eaten, and Nolie will go down, then Addie needs a bath and six-hundred books read to her and a story and a song (which now has to be about her mommy, daddy, bear, bear, Elmo, coyote, and whomever else happens to be in bed at the same time), and by 8:30 the kids are (hopefully) asleep or at least locked in their rooms.  I'll do some lame-ass exercise tape while Eric does dishes, then Eric and I pick up, get the one thousand and one bags ready to go out the door the next morning, fold laundry or pay bills or argue or make love or disappear into our sanctuaries (me, the tub--him, the basement).  We may reconvene in bed later to read two or three pages of the books we're trying to slog through before we pass out from exhaustion, only to be wakened a few hours later by one or both girls.

My nails need trimming and my hair needs coloring; I need to balance the checkbook and buy birthday gifts.  The stack of books I need to read is a mile high and growing.

It's hard not to get caught up in all of this, not to feel sorry for myself, and like I deserve a treat--In Her Shoes, or Duncan Hines, or a new hoodie.  It's hard to remember that this is the treat itself, this getting to spend such hectic moments with people I love and at a job I love.  That we're saving money so we can enjoy big treats, like a new house.  It's easy to forget that hair on the rug and an extremely long thumbnail are not such big deals in the grand scheme of things.  That, often, I'm really deliriously happy with my life. 

But days like today...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sure Do

Addie has a few favorite phrases right now:  "A couple of weeks ago..." "Sometimes..." and "Sure do."  These get used in almost every sentence Addie speaks right now, whether she understands what they mean or not. 

We were on the way to the ear/nose/throat specialist this morning, and Addie, quiet for a few moments, finally pipes up. 


"Yes, Addie?"

"A couple of weeks ago, Daddy lost his mind."

I almost spit out my coffee.


"Yes, Addie?"

"Where did he lose his mind?"

Which entailed an overly long discussion of what "to lose one's mind" might mean, and when we say it.  It also led to a discussion of how long "a couple of weeks ago" is, as I believe I told her just yesterday that her father was losing his mind.  Glad that stuck with her.

Anyway, the bad news is that it looks like Addie's a prime candidate for having her tonsils and adenoids removed.  She's got hearing loss in one ear, and fluid for miles in there.  She has to have a CAT scan later this week, and then probably surgery.  I feel a little sick even writing that, and am trying hard not to imagine what she's going to look like, cotton packing and swelling and all.

At first, I felt like I was taking all this in stride.  It's a pretty minor surgery, after all, and she's a tough kid.  But in my head I keep piling up the list of things on our plate right now:  Eric needs a deviated septum fixed or he's going to snore us out of house and home.  Addie has this surgery.  And, I don't want to impinge on anyone's privacy here, but I will say that a cherished member of our extended clan is fighting a second bout with cancer.  Like I said, a lot on the plate. 

I thought I was staying fairly calm about everything, which is not my m.o.  Usually, I make a big drama out of everything, make it all about me.  But I haven't really been doing this lately, and was sort of congratulating myself about staying relatively even-keel.  And, checking in now, I'm breathing a lot, and focusing on my love for those around me, and just doing the daily stuff.  No huge panic attacks or meltdowns on the horizon.

But this stuff appears to be working itself out in my sleep.  I've been grinding my teeth for a few years now, and the dentist keeps harping on me to get a night guard, but it's $350.00, and our insurance doesn't cover it (those a-holes).  I figured it could wait--we just shelled out an arm and a leg to get our dilapidated old Subaru back on the road, and we have to spend a lot to get the house on the market, so I just didn't get it done.  But last night I discovered there is a chunk of one of my molars missing--ground off in my sleep. 

I'm tempted to just throw my hands up and say, "Add it to the list!  Get in line!"  But the whole martyrdom thing isn't so appealing.  I was telling someone about Addie's surgery today, and they said, "Phew!  I thought you were going to say she had something much worse."  Which reminded me there are different ways to view all these things, and to view them as catastrophes is one way of going about it, though that way involves much gnashing (or grinding) of teeth and pulling of hair.  Or, I could view them as just the stuff of life, opportunities to look at my loved ones with fresh eyes, with renewed appreciation that they are in my life--whatever the circumstances may be.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Specters of Sleep Future

What the heck?  Someone deposited this strange baby in our house, a baby who sleeps unswaddled, who coos and shrieks herself to sleep, now, without any contorted machinations from us.  Who is this strange child, masquerading as our Nolie?

Four glorious naps and counting; only one night-waking last night, with no need for a swaddle.  A rested, happy baby.  Seeming just a little bit older today. 

What?  What is that smell?  Is that freedom?  I think it might be.  I think it might be the glorious odor of sleep, wafting its way down the halls of possibility, coming my way.

Could potty training her older sister be far behind?  Dare I hope?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Spring Cleaning

We're moving into overdrive to try to get the house ready to put on the market in April.  All the million and one little projects left undone over the past four years are now being revisited:  a new faucet for the clawfoot; finishing work on the built-in bookshelves; getting the wood floors refinished.  I've packed away boxes and boxes of photos and knick-knacks and extras and extras and extras.  We'll get a storage unit next month to put all of our "extra" stuff in.  Here's what the living room used to look like, furniture in every corner, this horrid, geometric-patterned rug that I keep begging Eric to let me get rid of:

So, although we seem to maintain a puzzling level of clutter around the house (kids, dogs, cats, and all their necessary stuff), things are definitely looking thinned out and, well, finished.  And I really, really like it.

I know I'll be happy to see all our stuff when we move, that I'll unwrap yet another duvet cover or set of coffee mugs and say, "Hey!  I love these!  Glad to see you, old friends!"  But for now I'm equally pleased to pack it all away, to live a simpler life for a while.  The house looks pretty darn zen, with the exception of our basement, which looks like a tornado hit Kmart and deposited all of its detritus there. 

It's also exciting to see things a little more polished--I can't wait to see the floors free of paint splatters and splinters, to see the railing on the Juliet balcony completed, to see all the nail-holes filled.

It's strange, of course, to know that we're doing all of this for someone else--whoever owns our house next.  I know there's an outside chance we won't sell, and then I guess we'll get to enjoy all of this for another year.  But chances are, someone will buy this place at some point, and we'll move on to a new house (and new house projects).  So I'm looking around at this old house, which has no right angles and uneven plaster, and missing it a little, already.  Our first house.


Nolie Sleep Quest 2007 

Are you wondering how things are going with Nolie?  Well, we have mixed results.  She's went down unswaddled fine last night.  She woke up twice, but put herself back to sleep both times.  Then, she woke up at 11:30 inconsolable, and I gave in and swaddled and nursed her back down.  Same thing at 4am.  But then she woke two more times before 8am, and put herself back to sleep both times.  I view this as an awkward sort of progress.

Both naps today, she went down unswaddled, no problem.  She's really starting to bond with her Gigi blanky, and is falling asleep in my arms without too much problem (before, she'd only go down for Eric, who nearly had to suffocate her to get her asleep).

Baby steps, in other words.  But this feels much better than just throwing her in her crib and letting her howl it out.  That just wasn't working for any of us.  I'm still getting up at night, but feel like there's forward progress, however incremental.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Half Nolie


It occurred to me last night that I haven't really known Nolie the way I knew--or thought I knew--Addie.  Somehow with Addie I had interpreted or projected onto her all sorts of personality traits:  namely, a pretty fierce independence, among other things.  Whether she really had that from day one, or it became a self-fulfilling prophecy, or both, I don't know.

But I haven't had as much time to scrutinize Nolie's every sound, every move, every facial expression.  As a result, it feels as if I "know" her less, as if in order for me to realize something new about her it has to hit me in the face.

There are the surface differences, of course:  Nolie's intense need to be swaddled and held, her night wakings (Addie slept through the night, unswaddled and for long stretches, from four months on).  Nolie refuses the binky, whereas Addie held on to it as if her life depended on it.  Addie latched on immediately to "Bear Bear" (see the picture that heads toddlerspit), while Nolie refuses any such love object.  I am trying to force a blanky on her as we are moving away from swaddling, but it's not naturally taking the way it did with Addie.

But there are bigger differences that are starting to emerge, too.  Nolie wants to keep an eye on me at all times, whereas Addie was always a little more self-focused as a baby; not that she didn't demand a lot of attention, too, but Nolie's energy is a lot needier.  Nolie is most interested in the people around her; Addie was most interested in her own activities, I think.

I say all this because I'm trying to solve the puzzle of our sleep problems with Nolie.  I feel a little silly even describing them as problems.  She takes a long nap almost every day, and she's getting easier to put down at night.  But she still requires a really tight swaddle, and I'm getting concerned that when she physically grows out of those blankets, she won't be able to put herself to sleep. Then, too, she's waking a lot more at night:  a while back she was sleeping through the night more often than not, but that trend seems to be reversing itself.  She's waking 2-3 times a night now, wanting to be nursed down, and I'm getting tired.  It's a really busy semester for me, and I'm noticing that I'm forgetting appointments, searching for words in class, drinking too much caffeine.  I'm eating better and exercising, but I'm fuzzy-headed from lack of sleep.  So, something needs to change. 

We've been trying the cry-it-out method with Nolie, because it worked with Addie so well, and because we're a little tired and muddle-headed about what else to do.   Not to mention we have Addie to take care of, so sometimes we just have to put Nolie down so we can put out whatever fires Addie is starting.  This is working when we first put her down at night--she's not crying for too long, and stays asleep for a few hours.  The problem is the night wakings; she gets really worked up and can't soothe herself back down.

I watched a couple videos today on Babycenter that tracked couples trying the Ferber method (cry-it-out) and the Sears method (attachment parenting).  The strange thing was, though the two methods are fairly opposite in theory, the solutions that the two sets of parents came to were the same:  teach the babies to self-soothe, offer periodic comfort when it makes sense to do so, and find the right middle ground.

This made sense to me.  Instead of just laying Nolie down for her nap and leaving the room while she screamed herself to sleep for an hour, I laid her down, unswaddled but with her Gigi blanket in her grasp, and patted her for a while.  I went back a few more times and patted her some more, which seemed to ease her crying (this would have just pissed Addie off as a baby), and now she's asleep.

We'll have to practice this tonight, and when she wakes.  What I'm learning is that, with Nolie (again, unlike Addie), there isn't any magic bullet.  What works today probably won't work tomorrow.  This is incredibly frustrating.  And yet, everyday, I keep trying to find the missing piece of the puzzle, the thing that will lock everything else in to place with her sleeping, so that I, too, can get some sleep.  It's also a lot tougher to figure this stuff out with two kids:  it's harder to set and keep a sleep routine with Nolie because we're also dealing with Addie.  It's just a different terrain when you have two mountain goats to corral.

This is one of the tougher things about parenting, guiding your kids from a place of comfort so that they can grow and try new things, be in new ways.  Often, your hand gets forced--in this case, by exhaustion--but there is no set timetable or set of guidelines that tells you exactly when and how to do things.  So you have false starts and mis-steps and fiascos.  And the lessons you learned from the first kid may not apply to the second, because they're different humans.  You think you've got it, then you don't.  They may be little, but they sure can pull big rugs out from under you.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Napsy Daisy


Holy mackerel.  I just woke up from the most satisfying little 20-minute nap.  I can't remember the last time I had a nap, but I definitely had a good one today.  I work 12 hours or so on Wednesdays, and usually one or both kids wakes up at least once during the night, so by Thursday mornings I'm usually a wreck.  The kids then pitch in by taking naps at different times, meaning all-day-baby-duty, which means by the time Eric gets home at night I'm comatose, or amped up on too much sugar and caffeine, or bawling like a bruised puppy, covered in baby urp.

But today, oh, today.  Addie went right to sleep for her nap, which almost never happens anymore.  And, after a few false starts, Nolie is sleeping in her crib, UNSWADDLED.  It might have something to do with this:  http://www.gigibaby.com/, the softest baby blanket on the planet, which Nolie loves to sleep on.  Or, maybe, she's finally growing up some. 

Here's the perverse thing:  I'm so grateful to the two little monsters for sleeping at the same time that I am filled with love and want to wake them up and kiss and hug them. 

But I won't.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

All Stuffed Up


A couple weeks back, we had a parent-teacher conference for Addie at her preschool.  We pretty much sat there and glowed, which is sort of silly, right?  I mean, Addie is completely wonderful, but what are they going to say to the parent of preschoolers?  Your kid is destined for a life of crime because she can't sit still at circle time?  You're headed for many years of misery because she can't fingerpaint?  Still, it was nice to hear the good things the teacher had to say about Addie.

But at the end of the conference, Addie's teacher said she had noticed that, at naptime, Addie was sort of a mouth-breather, snored some and seemed to have difficulty breathing.  This, combined with the enormous amount of snot and drool that Addie produces, had the teacher wondering if something wasn't going on health-wise.  Maybe the adenoids? she thought.  And, too, Addie seems to have problems with "spatial awareness" now and then--seeing a table, and then running smack into it.

A light seemed to go on for Eric and I at that moment--maybe all this stuff was connected, the toddlerspit and the snot and the clumsiness. 

I took Addie to her pediatrician last week, and he thought they might be connected, too.  He prescribed some nasal spray that might help if the problem is allergies, and Addie has been a very big girl about having it squirted up her nose every night.  The doctor also said that if we noticed Addie having trouble breathing at night--having apnia, or gasping--we should take her to an ear/nose/throat (ENT) specialist.  Having a bunch of drainage might be causing some inner ear difficulties, which could mess up her balance, too.

We've been doing the spray, and we've noticed the apnia, so we're on our way to a specialist soon.  But what's going on, we're wondering?  Is Addie allergic to the cats?  The dog?  What are we going to do with them if she is?  Does she need to have her adenoids or tonsils removed?  What big babies are we going to be if she has to have surgery?

Does this mean the mystery of toddlerspit may soon be solved?

Nah.  Where there are toddlers, there is spit.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Aunt Ruth is Dead

My favorite Christmas gifts this year came from Addie (facilitated by her amazing teachers at preschool).

The first is a tiny wooden box, painted in haphazard purples, blues, and whites.  Inside it, a little red heart, the words "Filled with Love by Addie" on it.  It sits on my desk at work, reminding me to slow down and breathe, to leave work on time, to feel loved.  The second gift is a DVD Addie's teachers put together featuring footage they shot over the course of the year of the kids playing, singing, laughing, and so on.  It's put to music, and we've watched it over and over again already.  It stuns me to watch Addie there, doing things without me, my big girl, so bright and funny.  I treasure this movie.

Do I sound overly sentimental?  I mean, don't get me wrong--I also got jewelry, and bubble bath, and clothes, and books, and money for Christmas, and I have really been enjoying these things, especially since I'm now on the slow wagon to frugalville and don't just go out and buy this stuff for myself anymore.  These things have been wonderful.  But the personal gifts got to me a bit more this season.  Like the collection of letters my Mom wrote home when we were living in Saudi Arabia--I was three, and apparently very interested in donkey poop (still am), or the mix cd from my dear friend Nancy.  These are little pieces of the people I love, that I carry throughout the day.

Maybe this exercise of examining why we spend more than we earn has forced some good introspection in other areas, a re-charging of the attention to the idea of "value"--what we value and how; maybe going back to work full time has rendered my family and friends a little more dear; maybe going to un-church and reviving some spiritual practice is calming me down a little, taming my frenetic energy.

And loss has been somewhat palpable too, lately, as has the specter of loss.  Addie enjoys playing with these nesting dolls I have, little dolls given to me by my great Aunt Ruth when I was a kid.  I told Addie once to be careful with them because my Aunt Ruth had given them to me, and so they were special.  Which led to the inevitable question:  "Where is your Aunt Ruth now, Mommy?"  

We are now locked into an ongoing discussion of death in which I lamely try to explain what it means to be dead (you get old; you get sick; you decide not to wake up; you are tired of your body and so it just fades away).  None of these explanations make sense, and she's frustrated or bored with all of them.  She just runs around the house yelling "Lightning McQueen!" (from the Disney movie Cars), or "San Diego Chargers!" (thanks to her Dad) or "Your Aunt Ruth is DEAD!"  To her, it's just something to say.  Maybe it would be easier if we could talk about "angels" or "heaven," but Eric is an atheist, and I'm wary of handing her some Christian baggage that I can't adequately unpack at the moment.  So, we're stuck with semi-realistic explanations of death, all of which may or may not be slightly terrifying to a toddler.

Our dear friends lost their dog, The Great Gatsby, last week.  I tried to tell Addie he wouldn't be there next time we went to visit.  "Am I dead, Mommy?" she asked.  "No, sweetheart," I assured her.  But in the car the other day, on the verge of a tantrum, she yelled, "I AM DEAD!"  And, I could sort of sympathize.  Sometimes driving makes me feel like that, too.  What her outburst also suggests is that some of the seriousness of death is translating; she is understanding, on some level, that this idea of "death" is something to consider.

Anyway, I'm the billionth parent on the planet to wonder how to explain such things to a two-year-old without overexplaining or complicating matters, and I'm not sure how important it is that she really understands what it means.  In some sense, I suppose it would be nice if we could all treat death like a toddler does--something to yell and scream about occasionally, but also something we can talk about without getting overwhelmed, or bogged down in details.  Lightning McQueen.  San Diego Chargers.  My Aunt Ruth is Dead.  Like that.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Magnolia Blooms


I've done my fair share of kvetching about Nolie on this blog, about how she goes on 10-day poop strikes--usually followed by a giant poonami that wipes out everything in its path.  I've written about the hours-long, thigh-breaking death swaddles it takes to get her to sleep.  I've written about her grunting, and her nipple-stretching, and her monumental urps.  I've written about her looking like Ernest Borgnine.

So, it's nice to report that I think Nolie has turned some corners.  For starters, she's eating baby food now, and also soy formula for all but one or two feedings a day.  This means that she poops everyday--kibbles, usually, but poops nonetheless.  As a result, she is much more pleasant to be around, and generally smells better, too.  My boobs are returning to a much more reasonable size, and I'm not eating everything in my path.  All welcome turns of events.

Also, we finally committed to letting her cry it out some, and though it was very difficult and seemingly unsuccessful at first, she is really doing a good job of putting herself to sleep now.  Twice yesterday, in fact, I put her down for her naps very tired but pretty much awake, and within ten minutes both times she was out.  If she cries longer than that, we know there is something wrong; maybe she's still hungry (she eats like a sumo), or she's got kibbles in her drawers.  Otherwise, she's going down pretty well--still swaddled, but we have her out of the bouncy chair now and in her crib, and we are not breaking our backs walking her around, trying to get her to sleep.  She's also doing better at Miss Debbie's, which makes going back to work a lot easier.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, she's starting to have a personality.  She is reaching for things and starting to recognize words (mostly "kitty" and "baba" at the moment).  She smiles and laughs a lot, and wants to play with her sister all the time, which drives Addie nuts.  She's awake and alert and really, really cute. 

Welcome, Magnolia Jade, to the world.  It's exciting to witness your awakenings, large and small.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Tiny Indignities


I'm pretty convinced that motherhood is all about the tiny indignities, the bringing you down to size (around two feet, if you have a toddler).

It starts with pregnancy.  I don't know too many pregnant women who didn't fart like maniacs their entire pregnancy.  I have a friend who told me that practically every step she took was punctuated with a little squeak from behind (Right.  A "friend.").  You grow hair in strange places, your genitalia swells, you have increased vaginal discharge, stretch marks, and you're puking at anything that smells stronger than a violet.  Gag if you want, but hey.  This is what it takes to propagate the species.

Childbirth is, of course, the gagfest of all gagfests,  in addition to being the most amazing experience of my life.  I belonged to an online discussion board of pregnant women when I was expecting Nolie, and was surprised to learn that 90% of them pooped during childbirth.  I did.  Both times.  It makes sense, right?  I mean, you're pushing harder than you've ever pushed in your life down there.  No surprise that a little poopsy flies out now and then.  Still, it came as a total shock to me both times--I didn't even know I had done it.  I was so out of it after Nolie was born that I told the nurse, "I think the baby pooped--can you clean her up?"  "Oh, no, honey." she said. "That was you."

Having written this, I'm sure I'll get all sorts of comments from women who didn't poop on the table.  My gorgeous sister-in-law Julie, who took about five minutes to have both her babies, probably didn't.  But most women do--they just don't know it, and everyone was kind enough not to tell them.  I dwell on this because pooping in front of people is potentially my worst case scenario in life.  I'd rather do anything--lick razor blades, eat fish guts, whatever--than poop in front of somebody.  But there you go.  I did it.  I pooped in front of a lot of people.  Twice.  All in the name of having kids.  If that isn't an argument to have a c-section, I don't know what is.

Then, there's the motherhood itself.  I'll be sitting and reading with Addie, smelling her hair and enjoying the yummy deliciousness of my quiet moments with her, and BAM.  Booger on the arm.  She'll just pick her nose and leave a little nose boulder on my wrist.  Why?  Why not rub it on the sheet?  Or eat it, like most kids?

Because moms are the repository of all things bodily.  We clean up pee, poop, and puke.  Hairballs and dingleberries.  Boogers, snot, spit, drool, urp.  So why not wipe a booger on my arm?  I mean, look at me.  I smell like rotten cheese from Nolie constantly spitting up on me.  I probably have an old diaper stuck to my shoe.  Every coat I own has wipies in the pocket.

So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised last night when, as I'm walking Nolie around in the sling, Eric stops making dinner and says, "Honey?  You have something coming out the back of your pants."  And proceeds to pull out a wad of toilet paper from the top of my jeans.  I had been peeing earlier when some kid emergency propelled me from the pot and the t.p. got stuck. 

Thank God it wasn't poopy.

But, still.  I mean, Christ.  Not exactly a recipe for a sultry night of hot lovin' with your man.  I'm waving goodbye to my last shred of dignity now.  Who needs it, anyway?  Not a mom.  Not me.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Preschool Paranoia


Jesus, I think I'm hyperventilating.  I have been naive, friends.  Very naive.

Addie's almost three, and it's only now that I'm starting to understand the whole "why schools matter" thing.  I'm ashamed to even write that.  I mean, I'm an educator, for God's sake.  I should know better.  But there was definitely a part of me that believed that hey, if the parents are pretty smart, and the kids are pretty smart, the school doesn't really matter so much. 

Then there's this:  I went to public schools.  My brother went to public schools.  Between us, we have six degrees from institutions of higher learning (which is maybe not so smart, considering how much debt we accrued).  Still, if public schools produced us, if they were good enough for us, aren't they good enough for my kids?

Well, some are.  And, obviously, some aren't.  This post isn't really even about public schools--Addie won't be in kindergarten for another couple years.  But this is the wild, wild roller coaster ride my mind took when I went to visit two Golden preschools today.  I imagined this being the initial step on a long road that would culminate in unwanted teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, mass murder.  Or at least in our kids not being able to realize their full potential.

Believe me, I'm gagging as we speak on the phrase "realize their full potential."  I do not ever want to be one of those moms who is going on and on about getting her kid into such and such a school.  But here I am, tottering on the brink, one step away from being one of those suburbanite freakshows who shoots her daughter's cheerleading nemesis.

But then.  I visited these two preschools today.  And, friends?  I got it.  In big neon lights, I got it.  Good schools matter.  The kind of environment your little kid is in 8 hours a day matters.  Oh, I get all the political implications.  I realize that my perceptions could be viewed as elitist, classist ridiculousness.  Or, it could be seen as a critique of the crappiness of daycare available to working parents in this country.  But I can't help it.  These schools were bad.

Addie, our klutzy, creative little smarty-pants (I'm paraphrasing from her parent-teacher conference last week--ahem) is enrolled in an amazing preschool in Denver, which also happens to be weirdly inexpensive, or at least affordable for us.  The two preschools I looked at today, by contrast, were like holding pens for toddlers.  I half expected there to be a cattle grate inside the front door.  One old lady who was teaching the 3-year-olds, the class Addie would be in if she went there, was screeching, "One at a time!  Shut your mouths!"  At the second preschool, there was only one teacher for the 10 3-5-year-olds, and one (very nice) woman for the seven babies, much fewer than what the state mandates.  Babies were lolling around on the floor like mewling kittens.  Nolie would never stand for it. 

Quick, get me the paper bag.

Maybe things will be better this afternoon.  I'm visiting another preschool, which charges much more than we can afford, and I'll make an appointment with the Montessori here to visit them, too.  But, honestly, if we don't find a good place for the girls that won't bankrupt us, we may be staying in Denver, and I may be getting very familiar with our local buslines into Golden.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Cost of Having Kids


A number of my wonderful friends are thinking of having kids.  To the last, all would make amazing parents.  To the last, all have a variety of concerns about what it means to have kids.  Some are gay, some have health problems, some are just weighing all the options.

And all have mentioned the cost of having kids.  In the past, I've kind of pooh-poohed this.  My opinion was, if you're ready to have kids, just go for it.  Don't let money get in your way.  In other words, if most of us waited to have kids until we'd saved up enough money to support them, not too many of us would be having kids.  That was certainly our experience--having kids has been forcing us to get some other financial ducks in a row, but we certainly haven't been bankrupted by them.

Or have we?  I was curious to find out just how much having kids is costing us.  Because we keep really detailed records of our expenditures every month, I went back over the last year's records to check this out.  A couple of things became really clear.  First, these numbers are very context-specific.  In other words, your numbers will vary based on how many people are parenting, where you're located, whether one, two, or three of the parents decide to work, and so on.  I've tried to be specific about our particulars to give you a sense of the variables.

Second, kids cost money, even when you do things on the cheap.  Being middle class with at least two incomes is the only way we could swing it.  The money we spend on daycare alone could probably get us out of debt in two years.   

The numbers below are pretty accurate because of our record-keeping, but where it made sense to do so, I rounded off to the nearest hundred.  So, here is what we've got:

1.  Daycare.  No surprise here:  This is far and a way the biggest expense we have, one that has doubled since Nolie's arrival in August.  Next year's number will be even higher because we'll pay daycare for both kids for every month of the year, and Addie is in preschool now, which is more expensive than a home daycare (where Nolie currently is). 

Note:  my schedule is flexible, and Eric's work allows him every other Friday off.  As a result, both kids are in daycare only three full days a week (sometimes less).  So this number includes 20-25 hours a week for both kids because I work evenings and odd weekend hours.  It also includes the cost for gym daycare (back when I was going to the gym), gratuities for our daycare provider, and the occasional night out, which was almost never--we're homebodies, for the most part.  Finally, we have limited friends/family to use as babysitting resources--most of Eric's family is in San Diego, mine's in Idaho.  So we don't get much free daycare that other folks might get if they live near grandparents, for example.

Total:  $5400

2.  Groceries.  This one is harder to calculate, because we didn't keep track of what exact expenses were for Addie and Nolie, and which were ours.  However, on average, we spent $1100 a month average on groceries.  Before you get all indignant at that number, let me tell you that we are now down to $800 a month because of some lifestyle changes we've made.  But $1100 was the number for most of 2006.  My guess is that out of that, approximately $200 a month went to stuff for the kids (diapers, food, baby wash, etc.).  I breastfed both babies until around 6 months, so that saved a lot on formula, which is ridiculously expensive (especially when your kids are lactose intolerant and have to drink soy formula.  Argh).

Total:  $2400

3.  Medical copays.  We are members of the lucky club of Americans who actually have health insurance, and we belong to an HMO, so we're primarily on the copay system.  This number is what it is because of a couple of trips to the E.R. for Addie, an ambulance ride, and Nolie's birth.  Then, all the little doctor visits over time added up.  So, we had very reasonable copays, but they accumulated over time.

Total:  $1400

4.  Clothing:  My kids are rarely dressed in designer duds.  They puke and poop all over everything anyway, so why bother?  In fact, almost everything either one of them wears is a hand-me-down, a gift, or from the thrift store.  The one thing I do spend money on is shoes, because Addie is very picky about what she'll keep on her feet, and she'll wear one pair until they are falling apart.  Another note:  Nolie is a girl.  That means that she is now wearing all of Addie's baby clothes.  If she had been a boy, he probably couldn't have worn all of Addie's hand-me-downs (even though boys look cute in pink), and our clothing costs no doubt would have increased.  The number below is mostly maternity clothes for me.  I had Addie in spring and Nolie in the heat of the summer, so not all of my old maternity clothes translated to the new pregnancy. 

Total:  $600

5.  Entertainment:  This number includes eating out (we now have to pay for Addie to take one bit of something and decide she doesn't like it in a restaurant), trips to the zoo or museums, memberships, and so on.  Granted, we probably would have spent entertainment money on something else if we didn't have kids, but I'm trying to be thorough here.  I'm sure there are ways to reduce this cost (don't eat out, don't go out).  But if you never take your kid to the zoo or for ice cream, why are you a parent?

Total:  $650

6.  Travel:  We took Addie to San Diego once to see Eric's parents, and to Idaho twice.  She's now over the age of two, so we pay for her plane ticket.  My family does offer to help out with tickets when we come, but even with that, we paid almost a grand to fly her to see her family.  I don't know what in hell we'll do once Nolie turns two and we have to pay for her ticket.  Hide in our basement for the rest of our lives, I guess.

Total:  $800

7.  College Savings:  We put $50 a month in a pre-tax account for Addie's college, and set up one for Nolie in November.  One of her grandparents also has an account saved up for her.

Total:  $700

8.  Gear:  We probably paid out for a lot more stuff when Addie was born, but I saved all that stuff, so we didn't have to buy much for Nolie's arrival.  Still, we did need a double stroller, some humidifiers, and a truckload of stuff for potty training.  We bought most of this used from Craig's List.  I think gear is not something new parents need to worry too much about--you'll get a lot as gifts or hand-me-downs, or can procure quality stuff used pretty easily.  And a lot of the crap they try to sell you as new parents you don't really need (of course, you probably won't know this until you're done having kids).

Total:  $240

9.  Haircuts:  Addie's hair grows incredibly slowly, so we don't get it cut often.  When we do, we go to Supercuts.

Total:  $50

10.  Birthday parties/gifts and Christmas:  We keep Addie pretty well hidden away, but she's still managed to make a few friends and get invited to a few parties.  And she had one birthday of her own (we only bought her one gift, by the way.  We figured she'd get plenty of stuff from her grandparents, and she did.  Same with Christmas).  Still, we spent some cash on gifts for other kids and on things like new Christmas stockings.

Total:  $125

11.  Having Nolie:  The $100 copay for her birth is factored into the health insurance number above, but we also paid to have a doula (a birthing assistant) at Nolie's birth, which was money very well spent (Nolie shot out so fast the doula practically had to catch her).  I also needed some medications and other aids when pregnant and in the weeks postpartum.  These were luxuries but made that whole wretched experience more pleasant.  The cost of a doula in my area is $400-800, but varies depending on where you live.

Total:  $900


So, how much did having two kids (one only since August) cost us this year?

Grand Total:  $13,265.  Holy God.  About 20% of our take-home pay.

Can you do it for cheaper?  Probably (we probably could have).  Maybe you wouldn't have a doula at your birth, or don't need to travel to see family.  Maybe you live in a part of the country where things don't cost quite so much.

But maybe you couldn't do it cheaper.  Maybe your kid will have to be in daycare 5 days a week.  Maybe he or she will have health problems our kid didn't have, God forbid.  Maybe you will decide your kid has to be dressed in fancy new clothes.  I don't know.

And I'm sure there are things I'm not considering.  I'm sure there is a tax benefit to having kids--because I own a small business, I can write off daycare expenses, and you get a tax credit for every child you have.  So you should factor that into your calculations.  I also want to be clear that I recognize our enormous privilege here:  we both have jobs we love that pay us decent (though not excessive) wages; we have health coverage; we have 401ks.  We have some debt, but on the whole we're in pretty good shape financially.

Of course (necessary disclaimer here), my kids are not quantifiable, not reducible to numbers.  The joy and depth they bring to my life is incalculable, so this post is really just an exercise, something to notice and be aware of.  I suppose that's what I would tell my friends who want kids, now, if they make enough and have some left over:  yes, do it.  It will make your life so rich.  But it will definitely make your pocketbook poorer.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Snow Schmow

Hmmm.  These were my first three thoughts this morning, upon waking:

1.  I don't think snow is pretty anymore.

2.  I'm going to be home with the kids, inside, all day, again.

3.  I hate snow.

Classes start next week, and I'm glad to be teaching again.  I'm teaching a new film class, and have some new ideas to test out for my other classes.  But I have a lot of work to do before then, and because we only have one car that can drive in the snow (which never seems to stop falling), Eric is taking it to work today, and I'm home with the kids.  This, because it is snowing, yet again, here in Denver.  For the third weekend in a row.   

I'm sure there's a lesson in this, involving--oh, I don't know--letting go?  Surrendering?  But I'm also feeling grumpy, and a little groggy, even after a cup of coffee and a cup of green tea.  I'm just not in the mood to play 300 games of Dora bingo, or paper dolls.  I don't want to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" again, and I'm tired of being urped on. 

As I wrote about here, I've been looking for ways to get some exercise everyday.  Because I canceled my membership to the gym (it was getting expensive, and I wasn't going much because hauling two kids there and back was too stressful), I've been trying to take walks or runs or do yoga at home.  I've also resorted to using a small collection of exercise tapes I have collected over the years during those desperate moments when I just wanted to change my life.  You know, Tae-bo, Windsor Pilates, step aerobics.  Eric lays in bed every night, snickering, while I sweat and quad-lift and roundhouse kick my way into a little sweat, in hopes of working off the 349 chocolate truffles I eat every day.

Because it is very difficult to get out at the moment without breaking your ass on a sheet of ice, I've been doing a lot of these tapes over the last few weeks.  Last night was Kathy Smith's lower body workout.  Between leg sweeps, I kept swearing at her.  "Bitch, 1, 2, 3, Lift, 1, 2,3."  I am so sore this morning.  My butt hurts just sitting here, and my quads were screaming as I squatted to put the chocolate pumpkin bread in the oven this morning.  The eating of which will necessitate a session with Susan Powter tonight after the kids are in bed.

So, I'm groggy, grumpy, and sore.  We're stuck inside while big, beautiful flakes swirl outside our windows.  We've got good music to listen to, and soon some hot pumpkin bread is going to emerge from the oven.  Addie has a ton and a half of new toys to play with from Christmas.  I'll have to work all weekend, but maybe today is a good day to just let Addie watch (yet another episode of) Dora, wallow in my gritchiness, and be thankful for some little pleasures.  Enough with the self-punishment.  I'm taking the day off.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Future Fears

Eric and I bought our first house in November, 2002, just a few short months after we got married.  I had a tiny (I mean TINY) little slice of stock in Albertson's grocery--I think almost every one in Idaho did, at one point--that I convinced my parents to let me cash out.  We combined this with some of the money we got for wedding gifts, used it for a down payment, and moved in.

The house was a wreck.  It had been empty for eighteen months while it was on the market, and some squatters had lived in it for a while.  Before that, it had been a rental with out-of-state landlords, the same landlords who refused to accept any decent offer on the house, listing it only "as-is."  Someone had come in before the house went on the market and had sprayed paint all over the walls (and hardwood floors) and had put in the cheapest carpet imaginable.  My guess is that this same person told the out-of-state landlords that he or she had "fixed the place up," which also meant stripping it of any and all fixtures in the house.  There was no kitchen, only an empty room with one cabinet and a tiny little sink.  There was linoleum everywhere that there wasn't crappy carpet.  There is no garage and the basement is unfinished.

But, we bought it.  At the time, the house seemed huge to us, and we didn't have kids, so fixing up the place sounded like fun (yes, I realize how completely insane this sounds, now).  Plus, the house was in a "low-income" neighborhood, so we got an excellent loan at a very low rate with no mortgage insurance.  We have done a lot of the work on the house, we make an extra mortgage payment every year, and our neighborhood is slowly but surely gentrifying, so we've built up some good equity and the value of the home has substantially increased.

Now it's 2007, and our lives look a lot different than they did in 2002.  We've got two precious babies, and we both work in cities a half hour away.  Though we don't accumulate a ton of material stuff compared to a lot of folks, the house is feeling small to us, and the drives to work are getting to be more of a hassle.  It takes me an hour to drop off both kids at their respective daycares in the morning and to get to work; it takes an hour to get back to Denver and pick them up.  In addition to paying for the gas of the drive, the girls are in daycare an additional 6 hours each week while I drive back and forth to work.  All told, we guess this adds up to an extra $200 a month in gas and daycare.

If we were to stay, we'd need to build a garage and have the basement refinished.  We definitely don't have the capital to do either, so these would have to be long-term plans.  In the meanwhile, we're outgrowing our space.

These reasons alone would be good enough motivation to consider to moving to Golden, where I work, or to Louisville, where Eric works.  I teach environmental studies, and thinking about global warming and peak oil is giving me hives, so it would be good if we could get down to one commute.  Since I'm usually the caregiver to take the girls and pick them up, we think it might make more sense to move to Golden.  Both cities are suburbs, but Louisville is, I don't know, a little more suburban.  Golden feels just a little more city, or closer to Denver, at least.

But I have mixed feelings about all this.  I was calling daycares in Golden yesterday to arrange visits so we can get on waiting lists for next fall, and I started feeling weepy.  I love Addie's preschool, and I love Miss Debbie, who watches Nolie.  I love our pediatrician.  I love living within walking distance of Denver's biggest park, and the zoo, and museums, and restaurants (even though we don't go out anymore).  I love living near downtown.  And we have put a lot of work into this old pit.  I have some nostalgia about it, too.

And, of course, there's the market, the market, the market.  Everyone has an opinion about whether or not we can even sell this thing, and for how much.  We want to sell it for enough to pay off our home equity loan and to garner a decent down payment on a new place (which will be more expensive than what we're in now, but also substantially bigger).  If we can do this--and I think we can--we'll just about break even financially every month (because of the savings we'll have in credit payments, daycare, and gas, and given the increases in the mortgage and utilities).

There's so many variables.  Will our house sell?  For how much?  Will we find the right house for us in Golden?  Will we like it there?  What if the house doesn't sell?  Will we decide to stay?  Or should we just find another place in Denver?  What if one of us loses a job and then we're stuck in a suburb to which we have no ties?

I'm realizing more and more that finances are not just numbers--they are deeply emotional issues, and interwoven tightly with who we are, what we value, and how we want to live.  But, as one of my mentors reminded me last December, "You can't plan for disaster."  Instead, I think we'll try to plan for the life that allows us to be happiest and most fulfilled, and hope we make the right choices.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Word Games


Addie walked into the kitchen while I was making breakfast this morning, adorned in her Piglet outfit, which now serves as very cozy jammies, and asked, "Is it hot in here, or is it just me?"

It's pretty weird hearing all of these grown-up phrases coming out of my toddler's mouth.  I mean, she's a little young for hot flashes, right?  I know she probably doesn't know what these things mean, that she's just parroting what she hears at school or from us or from her dress-me-up Elmo doll (a Christmas present from her Nana Debbie and Grandpa Bill).  But it's still a little jarring.

We were in the car on the way to preschool yesterday, and Addie was asking me what rhymes with tall (this is in line with her new fascination with rhyming everything).  We went through a list of words--ball, call, small--her nodding after each one.  I finally came to the word "pall." 

"Mommy!" she said, in that exasperated voice that I thought I wouldn't hear until she was a teenager, "Paul is a Beatle.  And so is John.  John works with Daddy." 

As do Ringo and George, apparently.

Anyway, Addie is up in her room now for quiet time, singing softly to herself, and every now and then punctuating one of her songs with a very loud, very expressive "ROCK ON!  ROCK ON!" 

Someone has been spending a lot of time with her daddy lately. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Permitted Fruit


This is a picture of us on the plane to Idaho.  I was eating an apple when Nolie started to grab it and gum it.  She gummed it for a good fifteen minutes before I, like a ravenous castaway, snatched it from her and finished it.  But a beautiful light went on at that moment. 

Nolie might be ready for solids.

If you do have kids and breasts, and have used those breasts as the sole means of nourishment for those kids, you understand the importance of this epiphany.  If you don't have kids and breasts, you might not see why this is a big deal.  Let me see if I can explain.

I think I've mentioned that I have a special relationship with Nolie, one that is most tender and wonderful when she's nursing.  Except, of course, for those times when she's trying to remove my nipple from my body via her ultra-strong gum-clasp.

Nursing is great for many reasons--it forces me to sit with her and just be; it releases excellent relaxing chemicals in both of us; it's a chance for us to bond, and look into each other's eyes; and yes, I'll say it, it has helped to get off some of the pregnancy weight (though the last 10 pounds are like a weasly distant relative, out of work and sleeping on our couch, here to stay).  There's also the wonderful health benefits for her--breastfed babies tend to be less prone to infections and obesity later in life.

But breastfeeding can also be a huge pain in the ass.  I was walking to work from the parking lot today, negotiating the solid sheets of ice between me and my building, carrying a bag of books, my laptop, my purse, and the behemoth known as the "Pump In Style" breast pump, which can double for an ottoman in a pinch.  I will not miss hauling that thing around come weanday.  Had I fallen, it no doubt would have cracked the six feet of ice in the parking lot, making it impassable for motor vehicles.

There are also times when I don't really want to be put to sleep by the hormones that course through my body when nursing, like at noon, when I have a toddler to interact with.  But the minute Nolie latches, I might as well just tuck in and say nighty-night.  Addie might as well be raising herself at those moments. 

And, I don't love exposing myself to strangers in malls, airplanes, or doctors offices, though I certainly think women should be allowed and even encouraged to do so in the greater society.  Maybe if I had a stomach like Cameron Diaz I'd be more into it, but for now, hiking up my shirt to expose my white, white dinner roll-stomach and sand dollar-sized nipples isn't so great.

Then there's all the small physical annoyances--the tiny stretch marks, the bras that leave lumps (hubba-dubba boobs) as my overgrown breasts spill out in all directions, the unwanted cleavage at work, the leaking, the aching, the chafing, the squirting, the insatiable appetite at all hours of the day. 

Still, a month ago, I would have refused to give up nursing; I needed the time with Nolie, and felt her need for it even more deeply.  But now?  Well, it's a month later, and visions of breasts past are dancing in my head. 

This has been precipitated by the fact that for the last week Nolie has been tucking rather nicely into solids (she seems to like apple sauce and sweet potatoes pretty well) and is also taking the bottle better from Eric and Debbie.  And, we need not understate the fact that she has POOPED THREE TIMES IN THREE DAYS.  I've never been so happy to see poop in all my life.  Because, much as we as a culture pretend to hate our poop, and it stinks, and we like to flush it away, can you imagine life without it?  When's the last time you were constipated?  Sucks, doesn't it?

So, solids and soy formula seem to be a pretty handy mix; they seem to be loosening her tubes pretty good, and she might even be sleeping better (she slept for 9 hours straight last night).  Oh, I'm not ready to totally give up breastfeeding.  It's nice when she wakes in the middle of the night, or when she's really distraught.  I'm guessing I'll still keep a few feedings every day.  But I'm feeling a lot more ready for her, and me, to make this transition now. 

Monday, January 1, 2007

A Foul Wind


Occasionally I take a bath with Addie at night.  Not too often, because I typically like my baths scalding hot, and boiling your toddler is not recommended.  But every once in a while, I brave the tepid water and jump in with the kid, which she loves.

But let me backtrack.  Have I mentioned that Addie can fart like a sailor?  I used to work at a truck stop, and this kid could put those guys to shame, both in terms of volume and odor.  She is definitely our kid.

Basically, our approach to bodily functions is to laugh at them, because we are a family that has a lot of bodily functions.  So, when someone toots, we typically make a big production out of it.  As in, "Holy cow!  Did a truckload of skunks just get slaughtered?  Or did Daddy toot?  Peeeee-uuuuu!  Way to go, Sir Toots-A-Lot!"  And so on.  You get the picture.  We're pretty much constantly joking about toots around here, and Addie gets her fair share as the heir apparent to the Kingdom of Tootsville.

Addie is particularly skilled at tooting in the bath tub, which is occasion for much drama, because we all know what happens to a toot in the tub--loud and stinky, right?

Do you know where I'm going with this?

All this is by way of saying that we aren't shy about tooting around here, and that we talk about tooting a lot, and we toot a lot, and it makes us all laugh like idiots.  So, tonight, in the tub, (oh god, I can't believe I'm writing about this), I let a big toot fly.  Or gurgle, rather.

But instead of laughing and saying something like, "Mommy, you tooted!  You're so funny!"  Addie looks at me, completely straight-faced, waits the most perfect comic beat, and then says, "Mommy?  That's why we don't toot in the tub."

I stand corrected.  Apparently, we are no longer a family that toots in the tub.  Good to know.

Frosty's Revenge

I have never been the last person to leave a party, that I can remember.  I like to leave just as things are winding down, usually, and having kids has meant I typically have to be home early to relieve the babysitter, anyway.  In general, I don't like the feeling of overstaying my welcome.

But sometimes, you don't have a choice.  For example, when your city of residence gets socked with several feet of snow within a ten-day period, and you end up not being able to get home, and a very, very lovely visit with your family in Idaho goes just a little too long.  Denver got so much snow that we were able to carve this out of a bank in our front yard:

And that was before we left.  Before the second and third snowstorms hit, locking us out of the airport here (or at least we thought.  Turns out, our flight back to Denver wasn't actually canceled, but we probably wouldn't have been able to make the drive home from the airport because the streets were so nasty.)

But none of that really matters.   We had a great time in Idaho.  I love seeing my family, and it's all that much sweeter now because we get to watch the kids interact with their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.  For example, it's like my mom was pretty much born to play pretend with grandkids someday.  She has saved all of these play cups and saucers and plates and a pint-sized stove from the fifties (which you can actually plug in and make work!!!  How has our species survived???).  She played "restaurant" for about a million hours with Addie, where Addie was the customer at "Molly's Restaurant" and my mom the waitress.  Addie rang up a serious tab that we have yet to reconcile, and probably wore my mom out with incessant pleas of "Play with me!  Let's go upstairs and read!  Let's play hide and seek!  Let's play restaurant!"  I was exhausted just watching it, but my mom was an amazing sport.


Then there was the big event itself--Christmas Day.  Despite all of my curmudgeonly complaining about swapping of presents and spending of money, it was exciting to watch Addie tear into those presents.  Twice.  Once in the morning at my mom's, once in the afternoon at my dad's.  If there's a perk of coming from a divorced family, this is it.  In particular, there was some crazy madness at my dad's when Addie and her three cousins tucked into the million and one presents their Uncle Jade and Aunt Heather and Uncle Joe had bought them.  It was, seriously, overwhelming, and wonderful.

But, as my mom and I mutually agreed on the phone today, it's good to be home and back to a routine.  There's still a crapload of snow on the ground, so things aren't completely back to normal, but we're home and unpacked.  The laundry is done and the new loot put away.  We go back to work tomorrow, and the kids go back to daycare.  And those suitcases are put away for a while, awaiting our next adventure with kids on a plane.