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

Friday, April 29, 2005

Feeling boxed in

When it comes to division of household labor, I think we are like most couples in that there are certain jobs which are always mine and there are certain jobs which are always Paul's. There are also certain jobs which we both try to ignore for as long as possible in the hopes that the other person will give in and take care of them, but I won't mention those here because if I admit that they exist, I will therefore be obligated to take care of them.

Taking care of the garbage and recycling is on Paul's job list. I'm not sure why, but this universally seems to be a male responsibility, and we're all for traditional roles around here, me being a housewife who neither cooks nor cleans and all. Paul's pretty good about remembering to take the garbage and recycling out, but he's a bit stymied by the sheer mass of it all. He frequently leaves a bag or two behind when he fills the bins on garbage nights because he says we just have too much. I'm unclear on this concept. To me, it's simple. We pay the nice people to take our garbage away. When we have garbage, we should put it out and they should take it. Period. Yes, we admittedly generate quite a bit of trash around here, what with Evan's diapers and both kids' penchants for food that comes in cardboard boxes and all. But that's why we have garbage service. Paul disagrees. He is somehow embarrassed by the evidence of our conspicuous consumption that fills dozens of white kitchen bags each week. He doesn't seem to want our garbage men to know that we have (gasp) garbage.

I obviously think this little hangup of Paul's is a tad silly. I can see maybe taping a $20 bill to the trash cans if we've just a had a party and generated an insane amount of garbage, but I can't see letting refuse simmer away in our garage on a weekly basis for fear of offending our sanitation workers. But as much as I feel this way, I really don't care to take over garbage duty. So I let him do it his way and complain only when bags of little diaper genie sausages remain in my garage so long that the interior of my car begins to smell as a result. And we're both pretty happy with that arrangement (though this entry will no doubt start the "you know, you could just do the garbage yourself" discussions all over again around here).

The recycling tends to pile up in our garage as well, as Paul tackles it only in periodic bursts of energy. We're usually pretty up-to-date on bottles and glass these days, but cardboard remains a problem thanks to the endless supply of eBay and Amazon purchases which arrive in boxes that then need to be cut up and discarded. Paul usually lets the boxes sit for a while until the garage reaches critical mass and then spends several hours cutting, stacking and binding them all for recycling pickup. This is a job I have no desire whatsoever to take care of and we have a lot of storage space in our garage, so I really don't care too much about how long it takes him to get to it. But I think the whole neighborhood must be talking about us by now, because this is what they see every time I open my garage:

Posted by Hello

Yes, you counted correctly. There are three dozen empty pizza boxes in my garage right now. I cringe to think what this says about my family's nutritional intake. It has been a very, very long time since Paul has tackled pizza box recycling. Nonetheless, no litany of excuses could possibly make this stack any less embarrassing. I hate to get pushy, honey, but I think I know what you'll be doing this weekend...

At least it's going to rain, so you won't have to worry about missing golf.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Evan to English dictionary

For quite a few months when she was just learning to talk, Julia's word for sleep was "elbie-yehyoh-papa-baba." Complete gobbledygook to anyone who didn't put her to bed on a regular basis, but to those of us who knew Julia and how her mind works, it was quite clear. She was asking for her stuffed Elmo (Elbie), her yellow lovey (Yehyoh), her paci (papa) and her blanket (baba) -- the 4 things that she got only when she was in her crib. It always made us laugh that she'd managed to turn a one syllable word into an eight syllable word.

I don't remember how long she used this term before she started just asking to take a nap or go to bed, but I'm pretty sure it was quite a while. It was one of those cute, endearing things we were sure we would always remember about Julia's early language development. And less than 2 years later, I had completely forgotten about it until a friend reminded me last week. So much for memories.

The fact that I'd forgotten such an "important" Juliaism so quickly unnerved me a little bit (though it also underscored yet again why I shouldn't take it so personally when my mother can't remember which of her children likes mustard and which of us likes mayo). Whole chunks of my children's early years are going to disappear forever into the abyss of my over-caffeinated, undernourished mind if I'm not careful. So, at the risk of boring the roughly 30-40 of you who visit my blog daily (who are you people, anyway?), I'm going to take this opportunity to catalogue Evan's current gobbledygook in the only place I know I'm likely to be able to find it later.

At just under 15 months, here's what Evan has to say these days:

Mama -- did I mention I got top billing this time around?
Dada -- the big guy who shows up at the end of the day
Doo Dah -- Julia (this is by far my favorite nickname for her now -- particularly when sung to the tune of Camptown Races)
Wih Wah -- Willow, our cat (and now every other furry 4-footed creature, from a dog in the park to a lion in a book)
Nana -- originally banana, but he had such great results with this one that he now uses it to describe any form of food or to tell me that he's hungry
Nyhna -- strange bastardization of nana used exclusively for milk
Buh Buh -- bye bye (accompanied by frantic 2-handed waving)
Buh Buh -- bubble (distinguishable from bye bye only because no waving is taking place and there are bubbles floating around)
Beh Buh -- bless you (the difference between this & the 2 above words is very faint, but it does exist... plus he says this one only when somebody sneezes)
Beh Beh -- (are you seeing a recurring theme here?) this one means baby. I swear.
Boo -- just what it sounds like (he and Julia love to "get" each other with boos)
Gurgle - Gurgle -- I can't spell this one phonetically and I'm giving up trying. It means Cookie, though (the Sesame Street monster, not the food, thank you very much)
Ah Duh -- all done
Yeah -- an affirmative response (used all too rarely these days, I'm afraid)
Nah -- it's hard to miss what this one means, since it's usually repeated several times in rapid succession, along with violent head shaking

I've heard many other word attempts recently, including up, Grandma and Grandpa, and there are several things, including Elmo and Zoe, that he's clearly trying to say but is mispronouncing so completely that it's not worth even trying to record them. Then there are the words like cat (an emphatic AT!) and achoo that seem to have disappeared by the wayside in the past month or two. But for all intents and purposes, this is Evan's vocabulary at the moment. Nothing as fun as elbie-yehyoh-papa-baba just yet, but at least I'll be able to look back and remember that now...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

15 years later, the words to Pat the Bunny are still the same

The summer before my freshman year in college, I got a sneak peak into my current life. Four days a week, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., I cared for a brand new baby.

I missed some of the notable experiences of new motherhood, of course. If I sacked out on the couch for a quick snoozer while Benjamin napped, it was because I'd been out partying with my friends the night before, not up pacing the halls with a screaming infant. The smell of curdled breastmilk that clung to me all day came not from my breasts but from tiny baggies of expressed milk that I retrieved from the freezer and defrosted under hot running water while I jiggled Ben's bouncy seat with my foot (no battery operated chairs in those days). And when I handed the child over to his work-weary father at the end of a long day, I was able to walk away for a few hours and think about something other than Pat The Bunny and baby poop. Nonetheless, my days weren't all that different then from what they were like when Julia was a baby. I read the same childhood favorites over and over to a drooling and unfocused infant, put him on his belly and watched him try to lift his head until he screamed with frustration, took him on long walks in the stroller to escape the monotony of my days, sang every song I could remember the words to as I rocked him, fed him again and again, changed him again and again and put him down for naps whenever possible. I was a little bored and a little overwhelmed and a whole lot mesmorized by this tiny person, all at the same time.

In hindsight, I'm not sure what his parents were thinking, entrusting a not-quite-18-year-old with their precious baby, though I surely took the job seriously. Benjamin was only 6 weeks when I started caring for him, and I have much more appreciation now for just how hard it must have been for his mother to place him in my arms and walk away that first morning (and really, every morning thereafter). She used to disappear into her room to pump each morning as soon as I arrived, and while I had a basic idea at the time of what that must have entailed, now I really appreciate the value of that stash of little Medela baggies in their freezer. I earned $5 an hour for my time, which seemed like a fortune then, though it's half of what I pay a sitter to watch my own kids now. But I also earned confidence in myself that summer. I enjoyed my time with Benjamin. I loved watching his first efforts to understand and explore his world and I loved the boost that keeping him happy and safe gave me. I knew by the time the summer was over that someday I definitely wanted to raise children of my own. And I also knew, now that I'd seen first hand what that would entail, that I was going to be damned careful about making sure that "some day" was not going to happen any time too soon.

I haven't seen Ben or his family in years, though I hear about them occasionally from my mom. They were in this area last weekend for a Passover seder, though, and so they stopped by for an hour on Sunday to say hello and meet my kids. At 15, Ben bears no resemblance to that little infant I danced with and sang to all summer long. He's a self assured, interesting young man and I enjoyed getting to know him immensely. Watching the nearly-grown child I'd once cared for next to the little ones who now fill my days was a strange juxtaposition -- it reminded me how far I have to go with my kids and at the same time, how fast it's all going to change. I can't picture Julia or Evan on the cusp of adulthood any more than I was able to picture Ben as a baby any more, yet I know that some day, I'll have the same kinds of blurry memories of these days that I have of the summer I spent with Ben.

My visit with Ben's family should probably have left me nostalgic and stereotypically weepy about how finite these years are and how quickly they go. But instead, it left me strangely excited about my children's futures and the ways my relationships with them will evolve in the coming years. Nearly every time my kids have reached a new stage, I've waxed eloquent about how wonderful it is (Julia's recent 3 year old behavior being the obvious exception). Every time, I say "this is truly my favorite stage" and every time, people laugh at me because, well, I say that every time. It was nice to get a sneak peak into the future and know that I'll still be saying that 15 years from now. I'm in no particular rush for my kids to grow up, but I look forward to it all the same. In the same way I spent the nine months each of them grew inside of me anticipating what they would look like and act like, I look forward to someday seeing for myself who and what they've become.

Monday, April 25, 2005

You gotta have faith

In the past week, Julia's been introduced to two fictional characters with dramatically different results.

On Thursday, the Paci Fairy came into our lives after a playground tip from a friend. Julia accepted the Paci Fairy blindly and completely. She never questioned why the voice on the other end of the phone sounded so much like her best friend's Daddy, nor did she seem to wonder how the Paci Fairy made it to our house to pick up her paci and replace it with a gift in only 5 minutes' time. She's been equally accepting of further elaborations on the Paci Fairy tale that I've been making up as I've gone along -- when I assured her on her first night without the paci that the Paci Fairy never would have come if she weren't truly ready to sleep without her paci, she happily snuggled down under the covers, secure in the knowledge that she was ready. The whole experience has gone far smoother than I ever expected -- we've had a few napless afternoons and one or two tearful discussions, but overall, Julia seems to have made the transition easily and confidently. Five days after the fact, she seems to be back to her regular sleep patterns sans-paci and she tells me that while it's still a little hard, it gets easier to fall asleep without her paci every day. Her belief in the Paci Fairy, coupled with the many discussions we've had about her feelings, seem to have done the trick and despite my initial doubts, I owe Brianna's Mommy a great debt of gratitude.

On Saturday night, at our seder, the second imaginary character was introduced. At the end of the seder, Jewish children traditionally open the door for Elijah the Prophet, who is said to visit every seder in the world on Passover, taking a sip of wine from every table. It's a big deal for kids to watch Elijah's wine glass to see if they can see the level go down after Elijah has been invited in -- my brother once commented as a child that Christians may have Santa, but Jews have Elijah and he's even better. (Me, I'd go for the presents over the missing wine, but it was a cute sentiment nonetheless.) Julia's been looking forward to this part of the seder for weeks, and even made a special cup for Elijah at school. She was less than excited with the outcome on Saturday, however. "I didn't see him," she kept saying. "And I didn't see the wine level go down in the cup." She regarded the adults, all of whom assured her that we could see a difference, skeptically. "What was he wearing?" she asked. "Cause I really don't think he was here."

Two made up characters, two totally different responses. And as I think about it now, it's clear to me why. Julia accepted the Paci Fairy because she needed to believe in him to get through a difficult time. Without that same need for Elijah, she was able to really think and question things that didn't make sense. I'm glad to know that she has the good sense to ask questions and not just accept things blindly. But I'm equally glad to know that she can let rational thought go and simply believe when she needs to. Whether she believes in religion, a little bit of magic or mystery, or even just herself, she'll have extra strength when times get hard if she can keep that faith. Long after she's forgotten about her beloved paci, if she can retain her ability to believe, then that will be the true legacy of the Paci Fairy. And if she never believes in Elijah? Well, then there will just be more wine for us.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

And you shall tell your children and your children's children

Julia got about 2/3 of the way through the Four Questions at our Passover seder last night before she needed me to take over. She did have me sing along with her, but her voice was loud and clear and proud, even in front of a room full of people. I don't know how many other 3 year olds were reciting the Four Questions at their seder tables last night, but I was pretty damn proud of mine, and especially proud of the fact that she did it not in English, but in Hebrew.

Raising Jewish children in an interfaith family isn't always easy, but last night made the effort worth it.

Friday, April 22, 2005

It's like lipstick on his collar, only worse

It's admittedly a minor complaint, and I feel a little silly even mentioning it. But the fact that Evan smells like his babysitter's perfume for hours after she's gone? It really oogs me out.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Where are my manners?

I'm generally pretty good at the social niceties game. I'm not a send-a-thank-you-for your thank-you extremist, but I know my entry-level Emily Post and I generally abide by the rules of the game in my everyday life. Not so much in cyberspace.

Despite repeated attempts to get Blogger (the capitalized entity) or a fellow blogger (one of the uncapitalized masses) to explain the technique to me, I remain completely clueless as to how to send an email reply to a comment on my blog. I know it can be done -- I've gotten emailed responses to comments I've posted on other blogs before. But I just can't seem to do it. If I already know a commenter's email address, I can forward their comment to them and reply from there, but if not, I'm shit out of luck. Nothing else about Blogger strikes me as rocket science, but I'll be damned if I can figure this out, and I've put altogether too much time and energy into trying at this point. Just today, Blogger sent me an email apologizing for the fact that they will simply never, ever have the time to reply to my polite inquiry on this topic (excuse me?), and with that unsanctioned-by-Emily-Post blow off, I'm officially giving up trying. If you've commented here before and not gotten a reply, I apologize for my rudeness. I really do appreciate knowing that people have been here and enjoyed what I have to say. I'm apparently just too clueless to tell you that personally.

If anyone wants to tell me what I'm doing wrong and teach me the right way to respond to a comment, I'll gladly send you a proper thank you note with my newfound email reply skills...

There's a Fairy for everything these days

At the playground after school today, Julia's friend Brianna told the kids all about her recent visit from the Paci Fairy. Apparently, the Paci Fairy called Brianna last week and told her he thought that she was old enough to give up her paci. Brianna agreed, so she packed up her pacis to leave for him and received a special big girl nightgown in their place. Now babies who really needed her pacis can use them, Brianna explained to Julia and her friends, and she gets to sleep in her special new nightgown.

Brianna's mom said that Julia seemed very thoughtful as she was listening to Brianna's story, so I asked her about it in the car on the way home. She enthusiastically told me all about the Paci Fairy and I told her it all sounded very exciting for Brianna. And then it happened. Julia asked if we could call the Paci Fairy this afternoon. She thinks it's time.

After our last paci withdrawal experience, I'm somewhat less than enthusiastic about giving this another go, particularly since Paul's scheduled to go out of town again next week and I don't want to deal with the detox alone. But common sense tells me that I have no choice but to embrace her interest. So I called Paul at work to let him know he'll need to play the Paci Fairy on the phone this afternoon. "I have bad news," I told him. "Julia thinks she's grown up enough to give up her paci." "Oh, no," he groaned. "Can she be talked out of it?" We're as chicken as they come. If this works, we owe Brianna's parents a big debt of gratitude. And if not, I think I'll be calling them to complain at 3am. Hell, I know they probably won't be sleeping then, either -- Brianna gave up her paci last week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Musings of a golf widow

There is a little boy who goes to Julia's school who has two mommies. His parents have two sons around my kids' ages, both conceived with the same donor's sperm. Each woman carried one of the boys and then adopted the other one after the fact, ensuring the children a biological connection while enabling both mothers to have the pregnancy and childbirth experience. Both women are very active in the school community and I'm enjoying getting to know them. I still don't know them well enough to ask, but lately I've found myself wondering quite a bit about how they handle the division of parenting labor. More specifically, I wonder if they've managed to bypass all of the "my husband doesn't see this like I do" issues my friends and I seem to have.

This seems like a good place to mention that I have the gold standard in parenting partners. Paul is an active, involved, knowledgeable father and I never think twice about leaving him alone with the kids. He's changed more than his share of diapers (though I always seem to have to sniff them out for him), given more than his share of baths and handled many of the other routine, mundane parenting tasks with ease and skill. He does these things not because I ask him to but because he assumes that it's his role to do so. He's a natural teacher who does a brilliant job of introducing Julia to new concepts and skills and he has an easy way with our kids which I both admire and appreciate. Both of my kids adore him, and I adore watching him with them.

That said, we view things (ahem) differently. Some of the differences are philosophical in nature -- we don't always fundamentally agree on priorities and policies for our household. But I suspect that would be true of any pair of parents -- it's rare (and I would imagine a bit creepy) to find two people who wholeheartedly agree about everything. I'm thinking more of the differences in how we view our roles and commitments to this family. And I'm thinking about that a lot lately. Because, you see, it's golf season again.

I'm of two minds on the whole golf thing. In the abstract, I think it's a good thing. Paul works hard, both in the office and in our home, and he deserves some recreation and time out with his friends. I really do believe that. But in practice, it drives me nuts. It makes me crazy that when we wake up on a sunny beautiful Saturday, my first thought is a family outing to the zoo or a picnic in the park and Paul's first thought is a day on the course. It pisses me off that he wants to bargain his and hers time with the kids (like I haven't had enough of that during the week) so that he can go play when all I want is time together to enjoy our kids and each other and share the parenting load. It equally infuriates me when he takes days or afternoons off work to hit some balls -- I should probably appreciate the fact that he is saving the weekends for the family, but really, I just end up annoyed that I don't get to decide to take time off that easily. I end up jealous of golf a lot during the summer months -- jealous of the time that it takes Paul away, but even more importantly, jealous of his heartfelt belief that it is fine and important for him to take that time.

I want to feel the same way Paul does, but the bottom line is, I just don't have that mindset and I can't seem to get it. While Paul encourages me to take more "me" time, I tend to race around and do what I need to do and then rush home as fast as I can, fearful that I've taken too long or asked too much of him if I linger. I'm certainly not stopping for a beer on my way home from working out or hanging out with a friend chatting for an hour after I get a pedicure. I'm all for "me" time and I fight for my share of it, but I just can't enjoy the feeling of freedom I had before I became a parent. I can't ever fully leave my role as a mother behind. I feel like my primary responsibility is being home with my family. And Paul feels like it's one of his many responsibilities.

This could be a stay-at-home thing, but I don't think it is. My friends who work tell me that they feel equally responsible and encumbered in a way their husbands do not. The bottom line seems to be that like many couples I know, Paul and I just think about our families and our responsibilities to it differently. I don't entirely blame Paul for the differences between us, though it might surprise him to hear that. I suspect that most of the problem is in my mind. While I'm happy to spend time away from my kids, I don't know that I'll ever escape the feeling that I'm racing against the clock to get back to them. And I know that Paul won't ever feel that way.

I suspect that this is a Mars/Venus thing and that it is as stereotypical a marriage dilemma as a couple can have. But the bottom line is that when all things are equal, Paul and I still don't view our roles as equal and that's always going to be a sticking point between us. I know that lesbian couples face many, many other obstacles a heterosexual couple doesn't need to face and I'm certainly not interested in switching teams over this issue. But if Sam's mommies have managed to bypass this particular marital sticking point, well, then I have to say I'm a little jealous.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Now you tell me

"Dr. Levey said he really had to work to get that thing out of you," his nurse told me over the phone today. "He said he's never seen one be quite that much work. And he's never had to go into the OR to remove a Mirena before, that's for sure."

Monday, April 18, 2005

In hindsight, I should have asked for a little liposuction while they were in there

Lying in bed after I got home today, I mentally composed a wickedly funny blog entry about the after-effects of anesthesia. Several hours later, with the stuff more fully out of my system, what little I remember of that post was completely incoherent and not in the slightest bit funny except in a "look at the stoned chick" kind of way. That's some strong stuff they had me smoke.

Things went fine this morning. The IUD is gone, my uterus is still here and I'm looking forward to putting this little adventure in birth control behind me. I'm also looking for a new method of birth control, I guess -- when I asked the nurse whether there would be any lasting effects to my fertility, she assured me that I could get pregnant in a few months and then laughed at the look of horror on my face. Despite the fact that I don't anticipate having any more children, I'm relieved to know that the option is still there. I want that to be a decision that comes from the fact that we feel like we have everything we could ever want, not one made for us by the fact that we no longer have everything we would need.

All's well that ends well. Thanks to those who were thinking of me today... it means a lot.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Thousands of dollars later

My children are happily engrossed right now in a game they've devised on their own. I'm not 100% clear on the nuances, but it seems to involve placing crumpled up pieces of paper into one of Julia's shoes and taking them out again. They're both giggling hysterically.

Tell me again, why do I live in this Fisher-Price infested kid paradise if they're content to play with magazine scraps and articles of clothing?

Statistically screwed

If there is a side effect to a medication, a tiny little inconsequential "this never happens but you should know that it could" disclaimer in a patient information insert, an odd "check out this patient's story" in a medical journal, odds are good that it will happen to me. I'm the person who gets weird reactions to just about everything, from Amoxicillan to Sudafed.

You'd think that, knowing this about myself, I would have put more thought into the potential ramifications of my choice of birth control when I selected the Mirena IUD. Hell, I even signed a patient consent form acknowledging that I was aware of all the things that can go wrong with the Mirena. That silly form should have stopped me dead in my tracks, but I couldn't see past "worry-free birth control for 5 years."

Worry-free, my ass.

I had problems from the beginning with my Mirena. Days after it was inserted, I started cramping excessively. I knew this could be common, but decided to check to see that the strings were in place just to confirm that everything was where it should be. Couldn't find the suckers anywhere. After several consultations with a friend who has a Mirena and several more attempts to locate them, I called the OB who had inserted my IUD. She agreed that things didn't sound quite right and very sweetly met me at her office after-hours on a Friday evening to see what was up. I knew the news wasn't good when I saw her face during the exam. My Mirena was nowhere to be found and she couldn't say for sure where in my body it might be.

I had a series of ultrasounds over the ensuing weeks and my Mirena was eventually located in my uterus, just slightly off of where it should be, with the strings up and inside. I was still having extensive cramping, and the obvious solution was to remove the device. But without strings to pull, there was no easy way to get it out of me. My doctor attempted to retrieve it with a "string catcher" device, a terribly uncomfortable procedure which involved a needle-in-a-haystack search through my uterus with a long metal rod. It didn't work. My only option, my doctor regretfully told me, was surgery.

I was still breastfeeding Evan, who was 5 months old at the time, and he wasn't great about taking a bottle. I would need to pump and dump for 24-48 hours after anesthesia, and even if I could get him to take a bottle, I had very little milk in my freezer (why bother to pump if he wouldn't drink expressed milk?). Julia had never tasted a drop of formula and I hated the idea of not being able to say the same for Evan. I was also terrified of anesthesia, which I've never had, and of the potential side effects I might encounter there. What would happen if I left the IUD in place, I asked my doctor. She saw no reason why it couldn't remain, and even be used as birth control, if I could handle the discomfort. I opted to give it a whirl.

Over the next several months, I reached a truce with my Mirena. The initial pain subsided and while I would occasionally feel it shift inside of me and have several days of pain, it was nothing I couldn't live with. I loved the freedom from thinking about birth control and eventually decided that despite my lousy start, I loved my IUD as well. Then I started to bleed.

Over the past several months, I've bled at least 3 weeks out of every month. After years of anovulation, followed by nearly continual pregnancy and breastfeeding, I actually think I've bled more in the past 5 months than the past 5 years. My doctors office assured me when I called that bleeding was normal up to a year after insertion (see the small print on the patient release form?), but I was concerned that since I couldn't check the strings, I had no way of knowing if the sucker had moved. So they scheduled me to come in.

After discussing the situation, my doctor and I agreed that between the bleeding and the cramping, this Mirena clearly just isn't working for me. So she tried again to get it out. No dice. I came back again today and another doctor in the practice tried again while the original OB worked an ultrasound on my abdomen so that they knew where to guide the string catcher. It was agreed that I endured a metal rod poking through my cervix and fishing around my uterus like a champ. But again, the attempt failed. They now suspect that the IUD is actually embedded in the muscle of my uterus, which I suspect can't be good news, though no one in my doctor's office will come right out and say that.

I'm out of options and after months of telling me there was no reason to get this thing out of me any time soon, everybody now seems to be in quite a rush to remove it. So on Monday morning, I'm going in for a D&C. I'm terrified -- of the surgery, the anesthesia, the side effects I might endure and most importantly, of what they're going to find when they get in there and what it might mean for my future fertility.

I'm 95% certain that I'm through having babies. But I want to reserve the right to change my mind later on, which is why the Mirena seemed to be such a good choice for me in the first place. I'm not sure how I'm going to feel if I find out I lost that ability when I chose to get a Mirena. But before I can even worry about that, I have to worry about Monday's procedure. I know that statistically, there's nothing to worry about, that these things happen every day and are handled routinely. But statistics and I, we don't have a very good track record. I signed the Mirena patient agreement without thinking twice about it, and look where that got me. I don't mind telling you, I'm a little terrified of signing that surgery release form on Monday morning. I can just cross my fingers and hope that statistically, I have to get lucky some time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Jack Handey had nothing on my daughter where deep thoughts are concerned

Julia's been very interested in the concept of time lately and has spent a lot of time studying clocks and asking questions about minutes and seconds and hours and how they all fit together. She doesn't really get it all yet, but her brain is clearly working overtime to try to figure this puzzle out.

The other night, Paul went in to check on her about an hour after she'd gone to bed and she was still wide awake. "What are you doing," he asked her. "I'm just lying here thinking about time," she answered.

They talked a bit about what time it had been when she'd gone to bed, how much time had passed, and how much remained until the clock moved from 12 back to 1 again (a concept that fascinates her). And then after a short pause, she asked him, "but Daddy, what happens when time runs out and there's none left?"

What indeed. Paul explained that the clock just keeps going around again, day after day, but he said it was pretty clear that wasn't what she really wanted to know. How do you talk about these kinds of things with a 3 year old, particularly when you're still grappling with the answers yourself?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The group

It's Tuesday afternoon and my kids are sleeping. Normally, that's all I could ask for -- 2 sleeping kids and some peace and quiet and time to myself. But it's Tuesday, so I can't wait for them to wake up.

Tuesday is playgroup day. Our little group assembles religiously on Tuesday afternoons -- 6 mommies, originally toting 6 babies, now escorting 12 children between us with a 13th on the way. Three years ago this week, we met for the first time, cautiously hopeful that new friendships would help alleviate the loneliness and boredom of those first few postpartum months. I remember being afraid to breastfeed Julia in front of strangers that day and Eileen gave Ryan one of his first bottles there because she felt the same way. I can still recall the fits and starts in conversation -- there was so much we all wanted to say, but no one wanted to come off as anything other than a competent, happy Mom so no one said much of anything that mattered. We traded life histories and admired each other's babies, and for the first day, that was enough. Lauretta put out dozens of appetizing snacks and played soft music on the stereo in her spotless home. It was warm and peaceful and quiet as our babies laid on blankets and we slowly got to know each other.

There will be no crudite today, just some goldfish or pretzels to keep the kids happy, and the only music will come from whatever electronic toys the kids set off as they chase each other around the house. Cynthia certainly won't have cleaned for us -- we all used to make sure our homes were spotless for playgroup but now we leave the house good and messy since the kids are just going to mess things up anyway. There will be nothing peaceful or quiet about 12 kids running and laughing and fighting and screaming. There will be nothing held back amongst the mommies, either. The polite restraint went out the window years ago. Now it's who can talk the fastest and the loudest before someone else breaks in. Nothing is sacred -- our kid's faults, our relationships with our husbands and our failures as mothers are standard conversational fare. We probably know too much about each other at this point, and like it that way. No one's holding much back, that's for sure.

This group, randomly assembled from mothers I met at the gym and at Gymboree, has been my lifeline these past 3 years. Their husbands have become Paul's golf partners and their children are my children's oldest friends. We do girls' dinners out, couples' evenings and family BBQs. This spring, the 6 of us are finally doing a girls' weekend away in NYC. We've talked about doing something like this for years, but it had to be carefully timed -- after Evan and Owen were weaned and quickly before Suzanne delivers again.

We are absolutely nothing alike in our parenting styles. Kim never put a child to her breast, I never put a drop of formula in my kids' mouths and everyone else netted out somewhere in between. We sleep trained early, late, not at all and offered solid foods on similarly different timelines. We are permissive and strict, intense and laid back, we plan and we wing it. Amazingly, no one has ever said a derisive word about a single parenting decision made by another member of our group. We support each other unconditionally and we universally agree that we're all good mothers and we've each made the right decisions for our families even if those decisions might not be right for other families in our group.

Our kids are equally all over the map. We've all got one of each now -- there are 3 older boys, 3 older girls and 3 of each gender in the younger set. We're waiting for Suzanne's baby to break the tie and tip the scales one way or the other. We have kids who walked at 9 months and at 16 months, early talkers and late talkers, easy potty trainers and kids we're still holding out hope for. Sometimes the kids play beautifully together, other times they just coexist, occasionally they fight. As long as they don't interrupt us too much, it's all good.

The first time Julia got sick, Lauretta showed up at my door with cheesy magazines and a candy bar to help keep me sane. Every time since then that one of my kids has been sick, at least one of my playgroup friends has called to check in on us. I've borrowed clothes and baby equipment and maternity wear from pretty much everyone in the group and my stuff is scattered throughout their homes as well. When I was put on bedrest during Evan's pregnancy, Suzanne was on my doorstep within 12 hours bearing weeks' worth of meals she'd prepared for my family. The group met at my house for those long 2 months, arriving each week with food and magazines and news from the outside world. They ran the show, even changing Julia's diapers when need be, as I laid on the couch and reveled in the normalcy and the time with my friends. When Evan was born, I called the whole group from the delivery room, just as they'd all called me.

I've been blessed with many close friendships in my life, and there are certainly a handful who hold more important roles in my life. But this group of women came into my life at a time when I desperately needed them and have stood by me through the most trying and triumphant years of my life. We've got the kind of bond that comes from worrying about each other's prenatal test results and rejoicing over each other's potty training successes. We've shared sleep deprived days, "haven't seen the sunshine in a month" days and "oh my God, if you touch your brother again I'm not responsible for what I say to you" days. And we've been supportive of each other even when we weren't quite sure we deserved any support in return.

As the most rigidly child-schedule focused member of our group, I'm not one to wake a sleeping child. But now that I've finished writing this entry, I'm off to wake both of mine. It's playgroup day. And some things are more important than a nap schedule. If my playgroup friends were reading this now, they'd probably be a little shocked to hear me say that, but they'd know me well enough to recognize that I just paid them the highest compliment I can.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Crisis of conscience

So, if Julia is shoving, yelling at or otherwise acting inappropriately toward her brother, and Evan is giggling gleefully and relishing the attention from his beloved big sister, what's my obligation here? Should I:

A) Break up the scuffle and reprimand Julia for behavior which would horrify me if she directed it at any other child

B) Praise Julia for keeping her little brother entertained


C) Pretend not to notice and use the time when no one's bugging me to get stuff done around the house

Does the answer change if I confess that my definition of "get stuff done around the house" typically involves bargain hunting for expensive children's clothing on eBay and writing a blog entry?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Language Arts

After a frantic rush to learn to read, Julia suddenly dropped the effort one day and moved onto other things. She'll still sight read the words she knows, do the trick where she uses some letter clues and pictures on the page to decipher new words, and even "read" memorized books aloud, but she's less interested in sounding out new words phonetically and frankly, I'm glad. The intensity of her effort was a tad scary there for a bit.

She still remains captivated by language, though, and is particularly entranced by Shel Silverstein's new book, Runny Babbit. The playful use of letters and words delights her, and we're all salking tilly a bit here lately.

In addition, she's been more focused on writing and has finally mastered all but 2 or 3 letters of the alphabet. This gives her a whole new creative outlet:

Julia: Look, Mom -- I wrote a word!

Me: N - o - q - s. Noqs?

Julia: Yeah, noqs. That's how you say "coloring" in Hebrew. Here's another one...

Me: B - l - o - u - s. Blous?

Julia: Uh huh. That's "stroller" in Spanish. And here --

Me: K - a. What's ka?

Julia: It actually should be kas.

Me: Huh? What's kas?

Julia: Like when you say that thing kas 15 dollars.

So much more fun than the easy reader books ever were...

Thursday, April 07, 2005


It was Julia's favorite word for a while. "Yeah," she'd answer when asked if she wanted to read a book. "Yeah," she'd like a banana, a nap, a trip to the grocery store. She said "yeah" months before she said "no" and we were so captivated by her lovely agreeable stage that we asked her opinion constantly, just to get an affirmative response. We had a babysitter around that time who tried repeatedly to teach her to say "yes" properly, and finally last summer, Julia made the switch. But we kind of liked that breathy little "yeah" and we were sad when it was gone.

This week, as part of his language explosion, Evan's started saying "yeah" constantly. I was delighted to hear it come out of his mouth and have been enjoying his early attempts to voice his opinion about things, particularly since Julia's finally mastered the "no" game a little too well. "Isn't it nice that someone's so agreeable?" I keep saying to Julia as Evan offers up a "yeah" in response to every suggestion I make. Now she's in on the game, too, constantly asking him questions and waiting for his enthusiastic response. "Yeah!"

If the "sits happily in one spot and plays with toys" stage is my favorite of the first year, the "yeah" stage easily takes the honors for year 2. Evan learned to sit incredibly early and crawled incredibly late, blessing me with a full 5 1/2 months when he happily sat where I left him. The addition of "yeah" to his vocabulary seems equally early -- a good 2 or 3 months before Julia, if memory serves me correctly. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to get as long a run out of this one. Yesterday, when I asked him if he wanted to get out of the tub, he shook his head violently back and forth. "Come on, Evan, say yeah," I urged him. "Mommy, he's shaking his head no," Julia scolded me. "He wants to stay in." I refused to believe it. "I see nothing," I replied cheerfully, trying again for a yeah. Eventually, Evan humored me and out he came. But it's pretty clear that my days are numbered here. Before I know it, I'm going to have two naysayers running around my house. Am I in for it then? Oh, yeah...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My drug of choice

Apologies for my slightly incoherent ramblings yesterday. I was a little disjointed all day, and my blog entry was no exception, I'm afraid. I finally figured out last night why my whole day had been so "off" -- in my rush to get us all out of the house yesterday morning, I never got my coffee. Kind of scary how dependent my body is on that morning cupful of energy. Even scarier how my body is almost singing this morning as I replenish its supply of caffeine. And scariest of all is that I just caught myself passing some frightening values along to Julia. I was talking to her in that annoying "fill the silence with ANYTHING" narration of my day without even thinking about what I was saying. "I was useless without my cup of coffee yesterday, wasn't I," I heard myself ask her. "I'm going to have coffee this morning and then I'll be a much happier Mommy," I promised. "Coffee makes everything better."

"...And cigarettes will keep you skinny," I might as well have continued. "And alcohol will help you relax in front of that cute guy you're afraid to talk to. And pot will help you understand your philosophy class and make the world a funnier place. And heroin? I hear that's pretty darn good, too..." Brilliant parenting on my part. But what can I say? I hadn't had my coffee yet.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Becca, get out of the tub

Last night, I saw Tell Them Who You Are, a documentary by Mark Wexler about his famous father, cinematographer Haskell Wexler. As much as the film told the story of Haskell's life and career, it also told the story of Mark's relationship with his father, a complicated and rocky one at best. After the film, I went for coffee with some friends and we talked a bit about the movie. We were all reasonably new mothers except for one of us, who has grown children (one of whom had brought her along on our girls' night out). "Does it make you think about the way you parent your children?" she asked us as we discussed Mark and Haskell's relationship. "It sure makes me think about how long lasting my casual comments and reactions might turn out to be," I replied.

I find myself losing the temper with Julia a lot these days. I'm told it's par for the course with a 3 year old and all anyone can do is muddle through these years. Nonetheless, it frustrates me that I let her get to me so much, that I can't remain in control in the face of 3 year old defiance. For every time that I've done something nice one-on-one with Julia lately -- sat and worked on a puzzle with her or taken her on a special errand or just snuggled in bed with her and talked about whatever she wants -- it seems there's also been a time that I've snapped at her or simply told her that I'm out of patience and she'd better do as I ask OR ELSE. I'd like to think the good always trumps the bad. But lately, well, there's been a lot of bad.

My mom's favorite story about my childhood is from a night when I was just a little younger than Julia is now. I had taken a long bath and she told me it was time to get out. I, predictably, ignored her. "Becca, get out of the tub," she told me. Nothing. "Becca, get out of the tub." Still nothing. "BECCA, GET OUT OF THE TUB," she finally screamed, all composure lost. And at this last request, I cheerfully climbed out of the bathtub and into my waiting towel. "Why do you always wait until I yell?" she asked me. "Because then I know you're serious," I replied.

Before I had children, I loved this story because it was so typically "me." After my kids came along and started to pull similar crap, I loved the story even more. Not only did it remind me how universal (and eminently temporary) my kids' defiance is, it made me feel better about the times I end up yelling at them. My memories of my childhood center around feeling loved and accepted, and while I remember being yelled at on occasion, that certainly isn't the dominating theme of my youth. I remember the good stuff, I've always reasoned, so my kids will, too -- even if there's some bad stuff mixed in.

But last night, as I watched a complicated father-son relationship unravel on the screen before me, I realized that you just never know what's going to stick, or with whom. I may remember that bathtub story only through my mother's retelling it over and over again, but it clearly made an impact on her, and while she thinks it's funny now, she certainly didn't initially. I'm sure that incidents like that one influenced the way we butted heads through my teenage years. And I'm slowly realizing that regardless of how we come out of it all at the end, the way Julia and I relate to each other today is building the foundation for how we'll relate for years to come. I hope that someday, our adult relationship will more closely resemble the one I have with my mom than the one Mark Haskell has with his dad. But I suspect that will have as much to do with how Julia processes my reactions to her as those reactions themselves.

This parenting thing... it's complicated, isn't it? It's great to have philosophies and goals about how you want to raise your kids, but actually following them all the time is nearly impossible. We're with our kids for the better part of 18 years straight while we're raising them, nearly every second of every day for those first few years. Some of the time, they're going to get raw reactions out of us rather than polished parenting techniques. That's life. Last night's film did make me think about how I parent. But what it mainly made me decide is that it's all a crap shoot. Sometimes, I'm the mother I want to be and sometimes, I'm not. I'm just as human as my kids. All I can do is pray that the good stuff is what eventually sticks -- in my kids' memories and in mine.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

How dry I am

I guess I know now what an independent bookseller feels like when a major chain rolls into town. This week, the small but perfectly tailored amount of milk my body provided for Evan was pushed aside for the stuff you can purchase in mass quantity at the grocery store. The cup is officially in and I am officially out of business. At just shy of 14 months, my last baby is weaned.

Evan giggled with delight when I handed him a cup of milk at bedtime on Thursday night. He drank it down happily, chortled quietly to himself through the rest of the bedtime routine and drifted happily off to sleep when I left the room. He had no ambivalence about the switch, only excitement at the extra opportunity to drink from a cup. The following night, he even took the cup of milk from Paul instead of me, never even looking for me or for the breast he'd depended on only a few short days ago. "That means you did it exactly right," a friend assured me. "He was ready." And I know she's right. We weaned slowly, on Evan's timetable, and in the end he made the transition himself. I'm glad it was such a great experience for him. I'm glad that the cup of milk fills him before bed. But for now, I'm feeling a little empty.

For 4 years this month, I've been pregnant or nursing a baby. My body has been given over to my kids for so long now that I scarcely remember what it's like to simply do as I wish without thinking about the effects on a fetus or a nursing child. I'm delighted to bid adieu to the DD's that were ludicrously large for my frame and welcome back my old C's, though I suspect they'll bear little resemblance to their former selves. Slowly, I'm getting my body back, and though it will always bear the battle scars of pregnancy, childbirth and nursing, I'm hoping to look a little more like my former self again (I even bought a pair of size 4 jeans for the first time in as many years last week). I could grow to like this. And I'm sure I will, just as soon as my body stops aching to feed my baby.

I miss nursing. I miss snuggling up in the glider with Evan, struggling to find a way to fit us both on a chair that seemed smaller and smaller with every inch that he grew. I miss his excited babble as I unsnapped my nursing bra and gave him access to his meal. I miss the initial tug as he sought out a snack, the way both of our bodies relaxed as the milk started flowing, the contented sigh that usually slipped out of him as my nipple slipped out of my mouth when he was through. I miss the most obvious way I nurtured my baby -- no less important than the myriad other ways I take care of him and comfort him, but the one way that was uniquely mine to offer.

It was a good run, kiddo. I don't begrudge you growing up, though I do with you'd slow down just a little this week. Enjoy that cup of milk and please forgive me if I hold you just a little too tight while you drink it down. And as the old pun goes, thanks for the mammaries.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I blinked and everything changed again

I don't recognize either of my children this week.

Julia, as I've alluded to in earlier entries, is in a phase that could politely be described as "trying." I'm not polite, but I'm also way too exhausted from trying to deal with her to summon up more appropriate adjectives. So let's just leave it at "trying" and move on. (I wish it were that simple to get her to move on right now...)

Evan, on the other hand, has been full of delightful surprises this week. This afternoon, I watched him walking around our backyard, waving to our friends next door and calling "bye bye" when they went inside, and I realized that I have a completely different child than I had a week ago. The walking thing is disorienting enough, but on top of that, he seems to be in the midst of a language explosion -- on top of "bye bye," he's added "Willow" (our cat's name), "Cookie" (the monster, not the food) and "good" to his vocabulary just in the past few days and his receptive language has accelerated dramatically, too. Last week, he crawled and babbled. This week, he walks and talks. The mind boggles.

If Julia had been an only child, this week would have been as crappy as they come. But the joy we all shared in Evan's accomplishments kept me more "up" than "down" this week. I had a long list of reasons why I wanted 2 children -- the valued sibling relationship, childhood companionship, support and friendship in the adult years. But those reasons were really all about what my kids would gain. This week, I've discovered an unexpected benefit to me -- with 2 kids, the odds are better that someone will be making this parenting thing worth my while at any given time.

Of course, you could look at it the opposite way, too, I suppose. I choose not to. And that, as Evan would say, is why my week was "guut."