The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Thursday, March 31, 2005


MISSING: Sweet 3 year old girl. Last seen quietly playing with her toys. Appears to have been replaced with demon clone while my back was turned. REWARD.

FREE TO GOOD HOME: 3 year old girl. Has all shots (though distemper may need to be re-administered) and is potty trained. Comes with own time out chair.

EMPLOYMENT WANTED: Overeducated, underutilized mother of 2 seeks position. Job duties and compensation unimportant, provided I can cover a nanny's salary. No work at home positions, please -- I've had quite enough of that lately, thank you very much.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

This is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen

I know people say that late walkers progress quickly, but this is rediculous. Evan woke up from his afternoon nap today a crawler. And then somehow, in the next 3 hours, his whole world changed. My late bloomer son just stood up all on his own and took TWENTY SIX independent steps across my family room floor. It's almost as if he learned to walk in 20 minutes. He's immensely proud of himself -- he's giggling hysterically with every step he takes. And I can't say I blame him...

Welcome to toddlerhood, Evan.

Random Viral Illness, Day 4 (AKA Slap Happy)

In the spirit of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," today's ministones blog entry has been cancelled. Yes, we have no bananas. Survey says, XXXX. You are not an instant winner, please try again. Thank you for funking at the funk shop. Mommy, will you put the thermometer in my tushy again and see if I'm better yet?

The "don't say anything at all" approach is so not my style. Can I borrow your towel? My car just hit a water buffalo...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Weather and illness -- the 2 most boring blog topics on earth

I'm embarking on a new "find that silver lining" approach to life today. And therefore, I can happily report that we have all been saved the trouble of venturing out in the wettest, lousiest weather I've seen in weeks by Julia's eight millionth bout with Random Viral Illness. Yes, she's sick and all, and that sucks. Yes, my kids run scarily high fevers when they're sick and that sucks. Yes, I've wiped her nose and washed my hands so many times today that my fingers are cracked and bleeding and that sucks. But I didn't have to put on any raincoats on any squirming children today. I didn't have to try to carry an antsy toddler, hold hands with an unpredictable preschooler and balance an umbrella all at once. I didn't have to scramble to dry off the ceramic tile floor before someone dripped and someone slipped. We're all warm and cozy and snuggled up on the couch watching Finding Nemo because that's what you do when you're sick. Not such a bad deal, really. There's something to be said for looking on the bright side on a dark day. ..

...but if she's still sick tomorrow when it's beautifully warm and sunny out, I'm going to have a few choice words about Random Viral Illness Number Eight Million.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Getting to know Evan

In a short addendum to yesterday's entry, I must in good conscience mention that we had friends over for dinner last night and Evan's table manners were atrocious. His entire meal ended up on the floor; I'd be surprised if two bites passed his lips, he was so busy flinging food around. So much for brilliant parenting and perfect children...

In between demonstrating the yin and yang of table manners, Evan took 6 steps all on his own yesterday. He looked so natural and comfortable walking towards me that I nearly forgot for a minute that he can't actually walk, and frankly, I think he did, too. His balance and ease were far more advanced than his usual death grip on my finger would lead me to believe possible and he didn't even appear to be concentrating at all. One shot at this vision was all I got -- the second I started cheering, he remember that he doesn't know how to walk and dropped to his knees. He has staunchly refused to try again and I think it'll probably be some time before he forgets himself and repeats this trick. But for a second there, I got a glimpse of the future, how ever far away it might still be.

Even without the walking mastered, Evan comes into his own a little more each day. Yesterday, I watched him feeding Julia's dolls with a plastic baby bottle, last week I saw him actually fitting together Lego pieces instead of just tossing them around the room. He's been easing into imaginative play for a while now, but recently, I've noticed that there's absolutely nothing babyish about the way he approaches any of his toys any more. Simply put, my baby is now a kid, and I'm sad and fascinated by the transformation all at the same time. This weekend, I watched as he sat down with one of those classic Fisher Price shape sorters -- the kind with a canister, a lid that has shapes cut out of it and several different brightly colored shapes to fit inside. He dumped out all of the pieces, put on the lid and easily fit all of the circular pieces through the round hole. When he'd finished with the easy pieces, he picked up a triangle, thought for a second and then removed the lid to the container and dumped in all of the rectangles and triangles by the fistfull. The he replaced the lid, turned to me with a smile and applauded himself. I could see his future clearly in that moment. If Julia is the kid who will study intensely for every test and quiz, beating herself up for weeks if she misses even a single question, Evan is the child who will skip the monotony of his textbooks and instead rely on creative shortcuts and his charm to get by. I hate to say it, but in the end, I suspect he'll get farther with his approach to life than Julia will with hers.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Compliments of a stranger

Today felt like a "freebie" to us since Paul was off work and we had nowhere we had to be, so we bundled the kids up and took them downtown to walk around a bit and get a bite to eat. We ended up at Vickie's Diner, a local hot spot with classic diner appeal, and after a short wait, we were lucky enough to score the coveted window table.

An older woman dining alone was seated at the table next to us and I could feel her watching us throughout our meal. I caught her eye early on and smiled at her and she told me what a beautiful family I have. I thanked her and Evan waved cheerily at her before we turned back to our table. I continued to feel her eyes as we waited for our food and as we ate, and while I wasn't particularly put out by her interest, I did feel a little bit as if I was being scrutinized.

Turns out I was right and she was watching closely. At the end of our meal, she spoke to me again, complimenting Evan on his excellent table manners (luck of the draw -- the kid usually flings food around the room willy nilly, but I wasn't going to tell her that). "You spend a lot of time with them, don't you," she asked me. I smiled and admitted that I do. "It really shows," she replied. "You're doing a great job."

She chatted with Julia for a few minutes, complimented me again on our family and then paid her check and left the diner. Soon after, we did the same. Her sweet comments stayed with me, though, and left a warm feeling that's lasted all day. Someone thinks I'm doing a good job. Granted, that someone knows nothing about me or the job I'm doing, other than what she saw of a half an hour family outing during which my children happened to be uncharacteristically well behaved. But she thought enough of my parenting skills to compliment them. And it made me feel good. Until I sat down to write this entry. Because as I wrote this, I suddenly realized that if I'm so desperate for affirmation, so insecure about the job that I'm doing here that I need a complete stranger to tell me I'm doing OK, well, then I'm probably not doing so great after all. It was nice of her to say such sweet things about my kids and my parenting skills. But being able to say them myself? Now that would really mean something.

So here goes. I think I'm doing a pretty good job with this mothering thing. I'm raising 2 nice children and so far, I don't think I've done any damage that a few years of therapy won't heal. They're loved and clothed and fed and they feel secure and happy in their world. I've taught them to be interesting and interested and to value those traits in others. They know right from wrong, they usually choose to do the right thing and they know that even when they do the wrong thing, I'll still be there to back them up. I'm proud of them and I'm proud of myself for the way I'm raising them.

It feels a little odd to write those things and I'm almost a little embarrassed to have done so -- as a society, we're not conditioned to pay ourselves compliments too often. But you know what? We ought to. I think a pat on my own back means a heck of a lot more than one coming from a stranger. It's good to be proud of what I'm doing here, and to recognize the value in the work I do every day with my kids. It's great to feel the warm glow I felt today when that woman complimented me. But I should feel that way because I know it to be true, and not because somebody else tells me so. I'm doing a good job. And it was awfully nice of that woman to remind me that I think so.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

My little runaway (a run, run, run, run, runaway...)

Julia told me that she was running away for the first time today. "I'm going away and I'm never, ever coming back," she announced angrily after some slight so small I couldn't even figure out what had set her off (please remind me to hide the silly penguin book that put this idea into her head in the first place).

Her foray out of the nest didn't last long. Less than 3 minutes later, she had to poop. She had to ask me to open Evan's baby gate so that she could get to the bathroom and then she needed me to wipe her tushy afterwards. Somehow, that seemed to change her mind about things because she happily agreed to come back into the family room with me after we'd washed our hands. The world is a cold and terrifying place, kid. There's no one to wipe your ass out there beyond these doors.

Deciding to run away is a rite of passage every little kid seems to go through and I always expected my daughter to do it, though possibly not quite this young. I still vividly remember the day I tried the runaway thing with my friend Erin Byrne. We were about 8 or 9 and we hid behind the woodpile in her backyard for what seemed like an eternity, though it couldn't have been more than half an hour or so. We thought we'd stay there indefinitely and live on the candy necklaces we'd gotten in birthday party favor bags earlier that day. It seemed like the perfect plan and everything was going swimmingly at first. But eventually, we both needed to pee and suddenly the lure of indoor plumbing was more appealing than making it on our own in the world. So we convinced ourselves that our poor parents must be out of their minds with worry and headed home. I'm pretty sure no one even realized we'd been gone.

It's probably not a good sign that my daughter is already plotting her escape from my home at the tender age of 3, but it cracks me up that bodily functions changed her mind the same as they did for me 24 years ago. If only it could still be so easy to reel her back when she hits the teenage years...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I can't stop thinking in 17-syllable thoughts now

The latest issue of BrainChild features a hilarious collection of "mamakus": haikus about motherhood. They stole the idea from AustinMama, so I'm feeling free to steal the idea from them. Here are a few of my humble offerings. Give it a try -- it's addictive!

Kids are napping well
I dare not make any sound
Guess I just won't flush

Never ending snot
Fifteen tissues every day
Will Spring ever come?

Don't you smile at me
What you did was NOT OK
(Damn -- can't hide my grin)

Little hand in mine
Little arms around my neck
Love you, my sweet boy

How many years left
Until I don't have to know
That you need to poop?

Sunday, March 20, 2005


I met her at a birthday party once last fall, and I know I saw her at the pool with her son a few times. She most likely stood behind me in line at Baby Gap or the grocery store once or twice and odds are good we did a make up Little Gym or music class together on occasion, though I really don't recall. This town's not big enough, nor is the stay-at-home-Mommy circuit expansive enough, for us not to have come into contact on a few occasions.

On the surface, our lives looked similar. She and her husband moved to this idyllic suburban town the same year Paul and I did and their son is just a few months older than Julia. She left her career to stay home when he was born just like I did, and from what little interaction I had with her, seemed to approach the world with the same outgoing, confident persona I'd like to think I portray. Her son was in the same preschool class as one of Julia's friends and I remember one day last summer when she approached Anna's mother at the pool and suggested getting the kids together before school started and maybe even planning a mom's night out. "She's one of those," my friend smiled. We laughed, both knowing full well that I'm one of those, too. A month later, I stole her idea and organized a night out for the moms of Julia's classmates.

I know hundreds of Karens -- I chat with them at preschool pickup and playdates, I smile at them as we push adjoining swings on the playground and encourage my kids to share crayons with their kids at storyhour. Sometimes we'll get to talking about stuff that matters, occasionally we'll move beyond acquaintance to friend. That never happened with Karen. I didn't know her, not really. But I can't get her out of my mind.

Last week, Karen killed herself. She left behind a husband and a 3 year old son. When her son wakes up calling "Mommy," she won't be there any more. When he scores his first soccer goal or reads his first book, his father won't be able to smile proudly at Karen over his head. In time, her son probably won't remember her at all. The loss is horrible to contemplate, made 100 times worse by the fact that this was no accident. She was compelled to do this by something I'll never understand.

I can't stop thinking about her, about what must have been going on in her life to lead her to such a decision. I wonder what felt so unmanageable, so unfixable, that this felt like her only option. I wonder if she reached out for help first, if it wasn't there or if it simply wasn't enough. I wonder how long she contemplated the idea before she did it. Was it a spur of the moment decision? Or did she plan carefully, making sure first that her son would be taken care of? Did she kiss him goodbye? Tell him she loved him? Think about what it would be like for him when she was gone?

People talk frequently about these years being hard. I've mentioned it myself lately. But there's a world of difference between struggling through some hard days and what Karen must have been going through. It makes me wonder -- not only about her but also about the other people in my life. We all bitch on occasion, or talk about not being able to take it any more. But we're really just letting off steam most of the time. Would I know if a friend was sinking this low? Would I see the signs? Or would I listen with half an ear while I chased my children down and then mutter platitudes as I bundled my kids up to take them home?

Karen looked just like me -- not in the physical sense, but in the makeup of her life. The idea that someone in my shoes could end up in her shoes leaves me deeply shaken. Her story makes me want to do better. It makes me want to love my children better, be a better friend to the people I care about. It makes me want to appreciate all that I have and value the individual days as much as I value the big picture of the years. I know better, though. Despite my best intentions, I still won't be the world's best mother or friend or spouse. I'll be good enough -- sometimes great, other times just getting by. But to try to be more than I am, well, I'll never know for sure, but I can't help but wonder if that's what got Karen into trouble.

Karen's life touched mine in only the most peripheral way. Perhaps some day I'll meet her husband at a party or maybe her son will end up being Julia's prom date or Evan's math tutor. More likely, this will be the last I hear of her. It won't be the last I think of her, though. Not by a long shot.

Friday, March 18, 2005

True blue

One of Evan's favorite books these days is a cute rendition of The Little Engine That Could which his cousin Andrew passed down to him a few months ago. I'm unclear what it is about this book that makes it such a hit while dozens of others sit on the bookshelf ignored, but he brings it to us to read at least a few times a day, so clearly something in it strikes a chord.

Paul's recently noticed that in this version of the book, the train that breaks down is red and the one that saves the day is blue. He's decided that the book is making a political statement and that the author is making thinly veiled references to the blue and red states on the big election night maps all of the major networks use. As a Republican, he's deeply offended. And as a Democrat, I'm terribly amused.

We're a politically divided household here. Our votes routinely cancel each other out and Paul and I both spend a lot of time around major elections jokingly devising elaborate tactics to keep each other away from the voting booth. Paul even spent hours last fall trying to coach Julia to say she was a Republican, only to have her come home from our polling place and proudly tell him that Mommy let her press the button to vote for Kerry. Nothing could delight me (or annoy my husband) more than Evan's love of that little blue engine. Time will tell if our kids grow up to side with me or their father politically, but we'll both keep working them from every angle we can think of. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Baby steps toward baby steps

OK, so he stood there with both feet planted on the floor. Lifted one foot, moved it forward and put it back down. Stood there again for a little while. And then sat down and crawled away.

Does this count as a step?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Rite of passage

If his Bar Mitzvah makes him a man, the first haircut made him a boy.Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The 13 month shuffle

It was almost a step. It wasn't really enough of a step to count as the "first step," I don't think (not that I'm sure what such a thing would look like since Julia progressed to 3 or 4 steps within seconds of figuring out what to do with her feet). He just kind of moved his foot forward before he toppled over onto me. But it was the first time he's moved a foot. Usually, he just stands there for a while giggling and then lunges for me with his upper body, his feet planted on the floor so securely it's as if they were encased in concrete. Today, he actually moved a foot. (Just once, of course, and then we were back to the lunge.) It's not a milestone, not even a ministone. But it gives me a little hope that some day, some day (most likely not soon), the child will walk.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Julia's love of poetry continues this week -- she's now memorized Halfway Down and enjoys reciting it, much to my delight. There's another poem in the Milne book about stepping in squares and not on lines which has turned her into an instant devotee of the "step on a crack, break your mother's back" game. When her feet get just a little bigger, our ceramic tile kitchen floor is going to become a real land mine.

Meanwhile, my love of poetry was revived this week by a great poem on Literary Mama. Do click through -- it's good for a giggle.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Greetings from down here in the dumps

My first Mother's Day was one of those memorable, idyllic days that you picture prior to becoming a mother but rarely actually get. Paul made me breakfast in bed, gave me a lovely gift and wrote me a touching card about what a wonderful mother I was and how amazed he was by the patient, knowledgeable way I cared for our beautiful daughter. I tied the balloon he bought me to Julia's foot and watched her giggle as she laid on her back and kicked it around over her head for the better part of an hour. I felt warm and loved and capable in my role as patient, loving Mama.

I haven't felt any of those things much lately -- not particularly warm in this never-ending winter, not particularly loved (though I think it's self-love I'm missing more than anything here) and not particularly capable as I struggle to handle things I know came easier just a few months ago. My patience lasts about as long as a balloon tied to her foot would entertain Julia now and I fear that the snippy words that horrify me even as I hear them coming out of my mouth leave my children and husband feeling that I'm anything other than loving these days.

There have been moments of joy, certainly -- minutes, even hours when I've felt like I had it all together, and those have been primarily what I've chosen to write about lately. I'm not sure why -- maybe I've been hoping that writing about the good stuff will edge out the bad, maybe I've been reluctant to whine and complain and maybe I just haven't known how to tackle the topic of my discontent. Because in truth, I don't know quite what's got me in such a slump. And I'm equally unsure how to fix it. I'm trying certainly -- I've just hired a teenage sitter 2 afternoons a week so that I can take a little time to work out, I'm planning a girls' getaway weekend for May with my friends and I'm doing my best to focus on the high points of my days rather than getting bogged down by the low points. But it's slow going and I suspect I have a ways to go before I shake the unhappy, on-my-last-nerve feelings that have dominated the last few weeks.

Writing about things generally helps me to process them and that hasn't been the case this time -- I feel as icky and just not myself now as I did when I sat down to write this entry. But I'm glad to have it here anyway. It felt a little disingenuous to keep writing only about happy little moments in my life -- to keep being so "up" in my blog when I'm so "down" in real life right now. The whole point of this blog is to chronicle these years so that I will be able to look back and remember some day, and that can't happen if I paint only half a picture of what things are really like. So here it is -- today, right now, I'm not so happy. I'm just not quite sure what I'm doing here or what the point is and I don't know why I feel that way or how to fix it. I can only hope that years from now as I re-read this entry, the Mother's Day memory I wrote about above will still be fresh in my mind but the memories of this unhappy period will long since have faded away.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Grandpa's eulogy

A year ago today, my grandfather passed away.

His death was neither unexpected nor tragic -- he had led a long, wonderful life, and after several months of increasingly debilitating illnesses, we all knew that it was time for him to go. It was particularly sad for me, however, because with a brand new baby who had not even had his first shots yet and a unhappy 2 year old who was not reacting well to her brother's arrival, there was really no way that I could fly cross-country for the funeral.

My mother suggested that I might be able to say goodbye to my grandfather and participate in the funeral without attending if I wrote the eulogy and had my father read it for me during the service. I resisted the suggestion at first -- all that I could think about was newborn poop and toddler tantrums and lack of sleep and it had been so long since I had written anything longer than an email that I wasn't even sure that the writer in me still existed at all. In the end, the idea grew on me, though, and when Julia finally went down for a nap that day, I grabbed the laptop and started writing furiously, the words coming faster than my sleep-deprived fingers could type.

The experience of writing my grandfather's eulogy sparked many memories for me, memories of my grandfather, of course, but also of why I've always loved to write. As the words poured onto my computer screen, I remembered how good it felt to express myself on paper and how important that part of my life used to be before feeding schedules and playdates and nursery rhymes crowded that piece of me out of the way. I mulled over that missing piece for a few months before I actually started this blog, but the idea for it was born that day as I said goodbye to my grandfather in a way that turned out to be far more personal, heartfelt and cathartic than flying out for his funeral ever would have been.

This is probably far too long for a blog entry, but I'm posting my grandfather's eulogy below anyway. I miss you, Grandpa. Thank you for the many ways you touched my life, including this last gift -- a rediscovered love of writing -- which you gave to me on the day you died.

Growing up, I always imagined Walter Cronkite as looking just like my grandfather. I'd never actually seen the CBS Evening News, so I wasn't sure what exactly Cronkite looked like, but I always heard Grandpa talk about how strangers on the street would ask for his autograph thinking that he was the famous newscaster. Years later, as an adult, I actually met Cronkite. I'd seen his face plenty of times on television by then of course, and I definitely saw the resemblance, but he still looked "wrong" to me in person somehow because he didn't look exactly like my grandfather. I guess that's how much larger than life Grandpa must have seemed to me as a child, that I fully expected one of the most famous faces in America to look just like my grandfather, rather than vice versa.

As a child, I thought of my grandfather as the man who knew the mouse. I had a fabulous collection of Disney character watches thanks to him, and when he took us to Disney Land, I fully expected everyone there, from Goofy to the man who operated the teacups, to know him personally. I think it was some years later that I realized he only knew everyone's name because they wore prominent name tags. Even outside of Disney, it always seemed to me like he knew the whole world. I remember an "autographed" poster of Darth Vader he sent to my brother when we were kids. He had signed it himself, of course, but it took me forever to realize that. In my young view of Grandpa, it was perfectly reasonable to believe that he would know Vader well enough to ask for a favor like that for his grandson.

My grandfather was a salesman through and through. From the ladies' handbags and later watches he sold professionally to the ideas and opinions he sold to family and friends, he was born to sell. His success in sales was due in no small part to his ability to b.s., and no one could do that as well as my grandfather. As I grew into my teenage years, I started to realize he sometimes employed those skills for less than kosher reasons, like using the handicapped parking pass he had as a volunteer driver for the blind even when it was just us in the car. But despite the fact that my grandfather no longer seemed a superhero to me at this stage, I still admired him. In addition to golf, his active retirement included many altruistic activities, including volunteering at the hospital, driving the blind and of course, the many, many hours he put in at the LAPD. Flashing the police badge he shouldn't technically have had might have made me embarrassed at times, but the work he did to help his community there always made me very proud.

There are Kramer family traits I'm proud to have inherited from my grandfather, like a desire to contribute and give back to my community, and those I could do without, like the stubborn streak a mile long that runs through all of us Kramers. I'm sure I have his b.s. gene to thank in large part for my successful public relations career and I know my daughter has him to thank for her beautiful blue eyes. I'm so sad that Grandpa's no longer with us and even more heartbroken that I can't be there with my family to say goodbye to him. But I'm grateful that he's not suffering any more and I'm especially grateful for all of the years I had with himÂ…-- how many women get to dance with their grandfathers on their wedding day or see them hold their great grandchildren in their arms? Most of all, I'm grateful that Grandpa will live on for me in so many ways -- when I catch myself refusing to believe that the person I'm arguing with might actually be right, when I look into the eyes of my children, and whenever I see Walter Cronkite.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Halfway Down

I've always loved the written word, and there are more than a few stories and poems I enjoyed as a child that I can still recite from heart. Among my favorites are many of the verses in When We Were Very Young, a collection of poetry by Winnie The Pooh author A.A. Milne. My father loved this book and passed his love down to me as we read it together again and again when I was young. I even calligraphed our favorite poem, Halfway Down, on poster board for my father's birthday one year during a brief period when I was interested in visual arts (and didn't yet realize that leftys should never work with slow drying ink). When Julia was born, my Dad brought me my old copy of the book to share with her when the time was right. I did actually read it to her a few times in the very early months of her life when I could have been reciting the Greek alphabet over and over for all she cared or understood. But the book was old and falling apart, so when she really became interested in books, I put it out of reach. And then, of course, I promptly forgot about it.

Julia's been interested in poetry lately, and I suddenly remembered the book last night and decided to pull it out. The pages smell like old paper and the binding is literally coming apart, but I think that just added to the charm when I explained to her that this was a special book that her Grandpa used to read to me. I was a little nervous that it all might still be too much for a 3 year old, but she was fascinated with the idea of reading something her grandfather and I both love, so we gave it a whirl. I started, of course, with Halfway Down.

I turned to the right page (easily identifiable because of the ink marks that remain from my calligraphy attempts) and immediately realized that I didn't need the printed words on the page to know what to say next. I lost myself in the memory a bit as I recited the poem and then turned to look at Julia when I'd finished, half afraid to see her reaction in case she hadn't liked it. I wanted so badly for her to share the love my father and I had shared for this book and I was worried that I'd be disappointed if she didn't have much of a reaction.

I shouldn't have worried. The look of pure delight on her face was unmistakable. She'd clearly "gotten" it and her joy was beautiful to see. She told Paul all about the poem this morning and has asked to read it again several times already today, each time handing me the book in an almost reverent way. It's clear we're going to be reading a lot of Milne in the coming weeks.

It's been a really dissatisfactory couple of weeks around here. The winter weather just will not end, Evan's been needy, Julia's been whiny and mouthy and I've just barely been holding it all together enough to get through the days. For the first time in the three years I've been at home, I've been questioning what the heck I'm doing here as each day finds me more and more unhappy and discontented and less and less sure what to do about it or how to snap out of this rut. And then last night, my daughter and I bonded over the poetry of my youth. It didn't make things all better by a long shot, but it sure was a good start.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I am my own parenting manual

I spent this morning with a couple of friends who've each just had their first children. The babies slept quietly in slings and carseats while their mothers discussed all of the usual new mommy stuff -- cloth vs. disposable diapers, stroller and diaper bag brands and how to meet like-minded moms who tell it like it is instead of waxing eloquent about the Hallmark joy of parenting. Listening to them talk about the things they're learning and discovering was a total flashback to 3 years ago for me. I still think of myself as a new mom, but in this company, I was clearly the old pro.

I tried to keep quiet and let them share what they're learning, but I had to laugh at all of the discussion about parenting philosophies and what the books say. I finally suggested to them that they can find a book that will tell them anything they want to hear, so they might as well just save the cash and follow their guts. They agreed that they were coming to similar conclusions about parenting books ("I finally just threw away the Baby Whisperer book," one laughed), yet neither seemed fully comfortable with trusting themselves yet. Both continue to search for the perfect sleep solution and the ideal schedule as they strive to do things the "right" way.

"I've started bringing the boys into my bed at about 5:30 most mornings," the mom of twin boys confessed sheepishly. "We've had our daughter in the snuggle nest, but I've clearly got to get her out of our bed quickly before she never leaves," her friend replied. I assured them that both of my kids had spent some portion of time in our bed over the past 3 years with no long lasting ill effects. "Yeah, but was it philosophical?" they asked. Uh, no. It was preservationist. I did what it took to get through the nights. And as my kids got older, it took less and less until they both just preferred their own beds to mine. Both mothers stared at me when I told them this. "So did you follow a technique?" Not unless you call "let's do whatever's easiest right now and we'll deal with the ramifications later" a technique. I'm sure I lost Mommy credibility when I admitted this today, but really, my kids both sleep 12 hours a night in their own beds, so how wrong could my approach have been?

Almost everyone I know started out with intentions to do "by the book" parenting. My friend Cheryll called me the month before her son was born to get my opinion on the "best" philosophy to read up on and my friend Laura went through "What To Expect The First Year" every month for a while checking off all of the skills her daughter had mastered. Me, I read voraciously and acquired a vast amount of knowledge, but then found myself too worn out from the act of researching to actually implement the techniques I'd learned about, so I ended up winging it anyway. Eventually, we all calmed down and just went with the flow.

I'm sure my new mommy friends will run out of time to research as soon as their kids start moving and will eventually find themselves in routines they don't even recall implementing, same as the rest of us. I missed a good deal of the discussion today chasing down Evan as he headed for stairways and bargaining with Julia as she requested an eighth donut hole, but I heard enough to know that as sweet and snuggly and easy as those new little babies look in comparison to my mobile, mouthy toddler and preschooler, I would never want to go back to that unsure time in my life. I still don't know anything about what lies ahead for me as a parent. But I trust my instincts enough now to know that I'll figure it out as I go along.

I left today feeling good about being on solid footing and proud of the knowledge that I'm the only expert I need to tell me how to raise my kids. Someone please remind me of this next month when one of my kids does something unexpected and I become a researching lunatic again.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Hide and seek

Julia's been on a Hide and Seek tear lately -- she's been playing it with me and Paul, her friends, her grandparents and whomever else she can rope in on the action. She's still in the "if I close my eyes, you won't be able to see me" stage, which makes her games amusing, if not exactly challenging, to participate in, but her enthusiasm is infectious and the game always ends in giggles all around.

Yesterday afternoon, we were at a friend's house and predictably, the girls started playing Hide and Seek. We were sitting back and enjoying the show when we spotted the other little game going on in the room. Evan was crawling away as fast as he could for a few seconds, then pausing and looking over his shoulder. Owen, who's just 3 months younger, was then racing after him and "finding" him, at which point the boys would hug, giggle hysterically and then start all over again. It was a junior game of Hide and Seek for the 1-year old set, and a game all of their own creation. I suddenly remembered all over again why the toddler years are so much fun. All that's been hidden inside of Evan for the past year is starting to come out and I can't wait to "seek" it, as Julia would say. Ready or not, here I come!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

And now I've just given them extra publicity with this blog entry

My kids don't watch any television shows with commercials, but they do see the sponsor spots that PBS runs at the beginning and end of children's shows. There's been a Danimals yogurt spot running a lot lately and I offhandedly mentioned to Julia one day that this is the brand she generally eats.

Now instead of asking for yogurt, she asks for "Danimalsyogurt" like it's all one word or something. If I say something about yogurt, I am corrected "you mean Danimalsyogurt." And she's consuming copious amounts of the stuff (which sounds like a healthy enough choice, but I suspect it actually contains about 85% sugar and maybe 15% yogurt). Julia's always been terribly brand loyal, but this is getting a little extreme -- I'm pretty sure we're headed toward a Band-Aid or Kleenex type association with the Dannimals brand name around here.

Talk about ad dollars well spent.