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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I think I need to choose not to dwell on this one too much

"You don't have to drive me home today," my 17 year old babysitter proudly told me last week. "I finally got my driver's license and I drove here myself!" I couldn't have been more thrilled. My sitter lives down the street and she usually just walks up here in the afternoons, but it gets dark so early these days that I frequently need to drive her home. Bundling the kids up and taking them out for the drive down the street is always a hassle, especially since they're usually both clamoring for my attention after I get home.

"Congratulations," I told her, and we all gathered at the front door to ooh and aah over her new car. The children waved cheerfully as she climbed in and started the engine. And then we all watched silently as she drove away. In the dark. Without her lights on.

This is the person I trust to keep my precious offspring safe in my absence???

Monday, January 30, 2006

Making a list and checking it twice

I see people at the grocery store all the time who look like they are genuinely enjoying themselves. They hum to themselves as they consult lists and sniff produce and examine labels. They chat with deli personnel about meat specials and offer advice about making homemade pasta sauce to people standing near them in the canned tomatoes aisle. I am not one of those people.

There are few chores that I hate as much as grocery shopping. I am at my most indecisive staring at a shelf filled with cold cereal options. I am far too impatient to take a number and stand in line at the deli counter. The smell of the meat section makes me want to immediately devote my life to vegetarianism. I am not the type of person who makes a list and supplements those basic household needs with exciting finds and great sale items. I am the type of person who will wait until the cupboard is bare, then drag myself off to the store grumbling, wander the aisles randomly for a little while and come home without half of the things we need. Grocery shopping is not my strong suit.

Yesterday, Paul announced that he and Julia were off to the grocery store. They had been working with a new science kit that she'd received for her birthday and they needed some standard household items to do their experiments. Needless to say, I was out of most of those "standard" items. Ever one to seize an opportunity, I asked them to pick up a half a dozen things that we were out of while they were there.

They returned home an hour later with everything they needed. The reason for their success? Julia's grocery list, carefully written out before they left with a little spelling help from Paul. She had clearly enjoyed everything about their shopping experience, from the list making on down. I no longer needed to make a Monday trip to the store to buy bread. Everyone was happy.

I know of people who claim that they had children so that there would be someone to take the garbage out or walk the dog. I'll happily do those things myself forever if I can just hand off the grocery shopping to my kid. How old do you think she has to be before I can just drop her off in front of the Shop Rite and tell her I'll be back for her and the groceries in an hour?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Note to Julia: if your milk doesn't come in, maybe you should try yeast

We used to make audio tapes for far-away family members all the time when I was growing up. Long distance calls were still expensive and video cameras were not yet a household item, but tape recorded messages were a great way to stay connected in between visits. We never realized at the time that we might be making a kind of time capsule.

"Your father brought a tape back from his visit with your grandmother last week," my mom told me on the phone the other night. "You and Dan are just Julia and Evan's ages on it, and it's amazing how much you sound like Julia. We'll play it for you the next time we see you."

That conversation triggered a memory for me, and a few hours after my mother and I hung up, I found myself rooting around my attic trying to track it down. I had suddenly remembered that my Aunt Margie had sent me one of these old audio tapes on my birthday a few years ago. I was a single young adult at the time she sent it to me, and I still recalled how much of a kick it was to hear myself as a young kid. Did I still have that tape? I finally located my old tape collection in a stack of boxes in the corner of the attic. And there, in the piles of music long since abandoned for CDs, I found what I was looking for.

We turned the cassette on in Evan's room, since he has the only stereo in the house that still plays tapes, and the wail of a baby immediately filled the room. "That's your Uncle Dan," I told Julia as her eyes widened with surprise. Minutes later, my 2 1/2 year old voice appeared, chattering away about playdates and friends and the things that I liked to do on the swingset outside. With a little coaxing from my mother, I sang Happy Birthday to my uncle, named the children in my playgroup ("I'm having twouble thinking," I told my mother at one point when she had prompted me too much) and described my favorite dinner (pork chops... now how on earth did my mother get a toddler to eat pork chops?).

The look on Julia's face was a priceless combination of amusement and bewilderment. She knew in theory that I'd once been a kid, but she couldn't quite wrap her mind around the fact that the little girl with the high pitched voice and the lisp was her mother. She was clearly every bit as entranced by what she was hearing as I'd been a few years earlier when I first received the tape. But this time, it was the message from my mother to her sister on the flip side of the tape that captivated me the most.

There was nothing remarkable about my mother's words, recorded in a rare quiet moment while both Dan and I were napping. She was having some luck increasing her milk supply with yeast, and she appreciated the extra nursing bras her sister had sent. Dan seemed to be teething and she thought he might cut his first tooth at 4 months, though my dad said it would be 5. He had seemed to be nearing a schedule, but after 3 cat naps that day, she was less sure he was headed in the right direction. He liked prunes. The hand-me-down snow suit and clothes that had come in the same box as the nursing bras looked brand new and would be well loved at our house. I was getting increasingly independent and seemed notably more mature than other kids in my playgroup, but I still tended to be whiney and clingy when we were at home.

The things that she talked about were the same kinds of things she might have said in a phone conversation, had the aforementioned clingy kids and tight budgets not made chatty long distance calls a rarity. But as I listened to that tape, I found myself so incredibly grateful that the era and circumstances had led her to record her thoughts and day-to-day experiences in that way. Because in that younger, yet still familiar voice, I heard myself in my mother and my mother in myself. Young kids. Long days at home. Clingy little girls and hand-me-down snowsuits. A mirror image spanning 30 years.

I've always said that one of the reasons I'm keeping this blog is so that my kids can read it some day, but I've also wondered on more than one occasion whether they'll ever really be interested in all of this. Listening to my mother's recorded thoughts from so many years ago, I thought about the digital recording that I've got here and I suddenly knew for sure. They're going to want it. I was captivated by that cassette because for the brief time that it was rolling, my mother and I were peers. I wanted to commiserate with her about sleepless nights and compare notes about parenting mature little girls. I wanted to learn more about this yeast trick and I wanted to pick her brain about ways to convince toddlers to eat pork chops. And I couldn't wait to sit down and blog about the way I was feeling so that some day my kids could be captivated by it, too. My mother. Me. Someday, Julia and Evan. A peer group that spans three generations and three times as many decades, brought together by universal experience and the power of recorded words.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Evan was released from the hospital yesterday.

If the fact that he was in the hospital at all seems to come out of left field, well, so did the incident that landed us there. One minute, I was waiting for the cold medicine to kick in and quell his cough so that I could put him down for a nap. The next minute, he was having so much trouble breathing that he couldn't even cough at all. A phone call to my pediatrician's office later, we were off to the ER.

I'm a classic under reactor where my children's health is concerned. It's ironic, given my tendency to over react about virtually everything else, but I simply don't feel the need to run off to the doctor every time my kids get a cough or cold. Why pay a copay and sit in a germy waiting room when you can get an instant consult with Dr. Google free of charge at any hour? Not breathing was scary enough to merit a phone call to my pediatrician, but I was still pretty taken aback when the nurse advised me to take him directly to the hospital. "Really?" I kept asking her. "Because it's his nap time and I'm usually a pretty big stickler when it comes to naps." Apparently, inability to breathe trumps a sleep schedule, because she was very clear. Go. Immediately.

Thank God for the kind of friend who will meet you at the ER and whisk your four year old away on a playdate, because if I'd had to manage Evan's needs and Julia's needs all alone in a tiny ER room all day, I can't imagine what I would have done. Somewhere en route to the hospital, I went from feeling inconvenienced by the situation to feeling downright scared, and it was all I could do to offer basic acknowledgement to Julia's cheerful chatter in the backseat. Yes, it was silly that someone had knocked her tower down at school today. Yes, her friend has a great pair of sunglasses. Was Evan still breathing? I handed Julia off in the hospital parking lot without a backwards glance and raced inside with Evan.

A massive dose of steroids, 5 or 6 Albuterol treatments and a gazillion hours later, the decision was made to admit Evan for the night. He was responding to the treatments, but not for long enough. They wanted to observe him for longer and to offer frequent breathing treatments throughout the night. And so we spent a restless night together, cuddled up on a tiny hospital bed scarcely big enough for one person but somehow just the right size for a sick kid and his protective mother. The doctors and nurses came and went and we both tried unsuccessfully to sleep as we both struggled -- for very different reasons -- to breathe.

By the morning, Evan's breathing looked a lot better and shortly after noon, we were released with a portable nebulizer and boatloads of Albuterol capsules. As I packed the few things that we had with us, my gaze fell to the hospital bracelet the nurse had cut off of his ankle a few minutes before. Should I take it with me as a keepsake, I wondered, a reminder of Evan's first (and hopefully last) hospital stay? I decided to leave it behind. I didn't need a memento from any of what had happened in the past 24 hours. I didn't need anything to remind me of that tight feeling in my chest when I was told to take my child to the ER or the helpless experience of watching him struggle to breathe. I didn't need a reminder of the hours spent waiting and worrying and wondering. This was not a memento occasion.

When we got home, Evan settled back in while I went upstairs to put a few things away. As I unpacked the toiletries that Paul had brought to me the day before, I found a note from Julia on my bathroom counter. Dear Mom, it read. I hope you go come soon home. Love Julia. Smiling, I noted the date on on the corner of the page and slipped it into my bedside table. Apparently, this was a memento occasion after all. Julia's note was the keepsake that I knew I would want to remind me of this day -- not a symbol of Evan's struggle to breathe in that hospital, but a reminder of the breath of fresh air that was waiting for us both when we got home, safe and sound.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A graphic discussion

As I was rushing around this morning, trying to get everyone up and dressed and organized, Evan was clamoring for my attention. He had something so important to tell me that it simply couldn't wait. "Ball, Mommy," he exclaimed, pointing at his crotch. "Ball!"

"Yes," I replied in that completely absent I'm-not-really-paying-a-bit-of-attention-to-this-conversation way. "Those are your balls." And then I froze.

We're all for talking freely about body parts around here, but I was pretty damn sure that my son's scrotum had never really come up in conversation before. So where had he learned this term? Was someone talking inappropriately to him? An adult? Another child? Could touching also have been involved? Should I be alarmed? Is the mother always the last to know?

As Mommy Panic set in, I stopped rushing around so that I could get down on Evan's level and start asking some serious questions. Kneeling down, I happened to look at the area causing all of the excitement. And there, on Evan's brand new Pullups (courtesy of the potty training that is not being discussed or acknowledged but is shhh... coming along quite nicely), was a picture of Elmo and Big Bird. Playing with -- you guessed it -- a ball.

Today's awkward and slightly inappropriate moment was brought to you by the makers of Easy Ups and the letter M for Mommy.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Gimme four

Jennifer was kind enough to rescue me from coming up with something to blog about today by tagging me for the fours meme. I'm never sure if I think memes are fabulous or silly, but since I had nothing much to say today (other than to report that Evan's 0 for 3 on the "produce something after demanding to sit on the potty" thing today and I'm going with "fluke" rather than "potty ready"), I think this one sounds like a pretty good idea at the moment. Here goes...

Four Jobs You've Had

1. telemarketing for a home remodeling business (I was scarily good at convincing people that they needed quotes for roofing, re-siding and other renovations)
2. working the beer tent in the Carrier Dome (not the best job to try to do when you're hung over)
3. blowing up balloons in a party store
4. marcom manager for an internet startup during the dot com heyday

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over

1. Stand By Me
2. When Harry Met Sally
3. Rain Man
4. Fletch

Four Places You've Lived

1. Parma, OH (thanks, Mom, for outing me on that one)
2. Acton, MA
3. Hoboken, NJ
4. Syracuse, NY

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch

1. Grey's Anatomy
2. House
3. The Bachelor (I know, I know...)
4. The Amazing Race

Four of Your Favorite Books

Strangely enough, despite being a voracious reader, I'm having trouble answering this one. I go through an astounding number of books in a year and quite a few touch me. But virtually none stay with me for very long after I've finished them. If people bring up a book, I'll often remember my impressions and occasionally even some of the storyline. But in terms of retaining favorites? I find myself honestly unable to think of a single one. I wonder what this says about the way I read (or the value of the hours I put into reading)?

Four Places You've Been on Vacation

1. Istanbul
2. Nantucket
3. Israel
4. St. Thomas

Four Websites You Visit Daily

1. eBay (I'm a junkie)
2. Bloglines (gotta keep up with my blog reading)
3. Yahoo Mail (too cheap to pay for a real email account)
4. Parents Place (I'm an unabashed lurker)

Four of Your Favorite Foods

1. pizza
2. chocolate
3. avocado
4. is red wine a food?

Four Places You'd Rather be Right Now

1. lying on a beach
2. lying on a massage table
3. lying on a cruise ship lounge chair
4. lying in my bed

Four Bloggers You Are Tagging

Has anyone not done this meme already? I feel like I've seen it pretty much everywhere. If by chance it's passed you by, tag... you're it!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A year from now, I will be laughing at the naivete of this post

So, uh, yeah. Twice, in the last 2 1/2 hours. The request, followed by the result. Pee pee in the potty, where it belongs. Cheering little boy on toilet. Confused mother unsure whether to laugh or cry.

Evan is fascinated with what his body can do. He pushes and out comes the... well, you know. I am more than a little horrified. This is beginning to look a little bit like potty training, isn't it?

edited 20 minutes later to add: Holy shit. Literally: shit. In the potty. Announced and then produced by a very proud and clearly very determined little boy. What the hell is going on here?

Genetic roulette

I was about 16 weeks pregnant with Julia when I was diagnosed with colitis. Apparently, the stress of pregnancy caused a disease that had been lying dormant in me for years to flare up in a most unpleasant way. I've had only a few episodes of the disease since and all things considered, I've been very lucky. But I didn't feel one bit lucky when I got that diagnosis.

It was one of those pivotal moments when I knew that I was becoming a mother. Instead of worrying about what colitis was going to mean for me, I was wholly concerned about what it might mean for my unborn child some day. There's colitis on Paul's side of the family, too: a double whammy for our kids where genetics are concerned. Add into the mix our bad eyesight, my chronic migraines and a variety of other ailments and conditions and I was starting to feel pretty damn bad about the genes we were passing along to the next generation. "Everyone's got something," my mother reassured me. "What were you going to do, not have kids because someday they might have headaches or gastrointestinal issues?" I reluctantly agreed (what choice did I have at 4 months' gestation?), but I didn't feel completely reassured.

I had pretty much forgotten about that conversation until today, when I got my first glimpse into the results of our game of gene pool roulette. Julia had her 4 year checkup today, and as I stood and watched her squinting at the eye chart and mumbling "I don't know" over and over as the nurse pointed to letters, I knew that we were on our way to an optometrist referral. "Technically, she passed the exam, though just barely," her pediatrician told me as she looked at the results afterwards. I shook my head. "The nurse was making allowances for a 4 year old child who might still be confusing letters," I told her. "Julia's reading. When she said the F was an R, that's because she couldn't see it, not because she wasn't sure what it was."

Our pediatrician repeated the exam, then handed me the referral slip I'd been expecting. "I don't think she's going to need glasses right away," she told me, "but it sure looks like you're headed in that direction. Given her family history and the way this exam went, it seems like a damn good time for a baseline exam."

Sorry, Julia. Your parents both wear glasses and contacts, and our parents did, too. I guess 20/20 vision was probably too much to hope for when your grandfather can't even see the big E on the eye chart. When the time comes for glasses, I'm sure you'll look adorable in them. I'm also sure that you'll hate them at some point -- just as I did -- and you'll probably hate me for my bad eyesight genes, too. I'll tell you then what I'm telling you now. I apologize for passing on this gene to you, but it could be so much worse. Hell, it could be colitis.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

See no pee pee, hear no pee pee

I have sworn up and down and left and right and every which way that I am not going to potty train Evan until he's begging for it. I've watched friends with kids about his age start dragging out the little potties and the Elmo potty rings and the pullups and I've smiled and shaken my head. Not us. Not here. Not yet. Training Julia didn't exactly go smoothly. Boys train later than girls. He's clearly not ready. I'm not going there. End of discussion.

For the past month or so, Evan's been showing more and more of the classic readiness signs and I've been steadfastly discounting them. He's talking about elimination ad nauseum and announcing his bodily functions like a sports commentator? I guess boys just like talking about such things. He refuses to stay in a dirty diaper? Can't blame him... sounds uncomfortable to me, too. He searches for potties everywhere we go and spends enormous amounts of time talking excitedly about them? The child has a mother with an itty bitty bladder. I look for potties everywhere we go. It's no wonder he thinks they're so important. There's nothing out of the ordinary going on here. I'm not wasting my time or energy even thinking about potty training. He's way too young. I'm not getting fooled into starting this nonsense.

Today, Evan dragged me into the bathroom before his nap on yet another "seek and discuss" potty mission. I steeled myself for the inevitable conversation about a potty's merits that was sure to follow. But instead of talking happily about potties, Evan made a pronouncement. "I pee pee on potty," he said, clear as a bell, and he started pulling his pants down.

Shit. Here we were in a place I didn't want to be. I've been saying all along that I'll wait until he's begging, until nothing but the potty will do as a place to put his urine. But here he was, fumbling with his zipper and announcing his intentions. It looked, if I was forced to be honest, a tad bit like begging. Would I screw up yet another round of potty training if I didn't play along? Sighing, I helped him with his pants and removed his diaper. I turned to the vanity to pull out the potty seat I had stored under there after Julia had finished with this horrible process and as I was rummaging around in there, Evan urinated. NEXT to the potty. "I pee pee in potty," he announced proudly as a puddle of urine pooled three inches to the right of the toilet.

Despite myself, I smiled as I cleaned up the mess and re-diapered my son. Next to the potty is not in the potty. And thus, we are absolutely not on the road to potty training.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Birthday bonanza '06: you can please some of the people some of the time...

What I was thinking: This party coordinator is just not dynamic enough. Am I too much of a perfectionist? The party is not organized enough for four year olds. Am I too much of a perfectionist? She should have thought through some of these details ahead of time. Am I too much of a perfectionist? She doesn't use her time efficiently. Am I too much of a perfectionist? I don't think that she understands this age group all that well. Am I too much of a perfectionist? I can't believe I'm paying someone to do something that I could have done better. Am I too much of a perfectionist?

What Julia was thinking: All of my friends are here to celebrate my birthday with me. I'm having the best time at my party. We're playing lots of fun games and I'm not getting put in the spotlight too much. I'm having the best time at my party. We're stuffing pets, just like I wanted, and I got a yellow one because that's my favorite color. I'm having the best time at my party. Pizza is my favorite food and I'm sitting here eating it between two of my favorite friends. I'm having the best time at my party. I'm using my artistic talents to make my new bear a cool shirt. I'm having the best time at my party. More games? Sounds great! I'm having the best time at my party. A tea party with real cups and saucers and a princess cake just for me? Wow! I'm having the best time at my party.

The bottom line: Julia had an amazing time at her party. And I'm probably too much of a perfectionist. If one of us was going to be frustrated, I guess I'm just damn glad it wasn't her.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I just can't quite bring myself to title this post "Jersey Girl"

When I was about 7 or 8, my great aunt and uncle took me and my brother to the Bronx Zoo and Coney Island during on of our semi-regular visits to their New York home. I vividly remember standing and looking out over the water at some point during that trip. "What's that over there," I asked, pointing to the land in the distance. "That's New Jersey," my great aunt replied, wrinkling her nose. "There's nothing good in New Jersey."

Twenty five years later, through an odd twist of fate, I now call New Jersey home (and so, ironically, does that great aunt). It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I live in a state I'd spent so many years making fun of. I begged Paul to let me put "Somewhere In The Tri-State Area" instead of "New Jersey" on our wedding invitations and I was only half kidding. I obsessed over buying our house not because of a fear of mortgages or commitments but because it meant my name would be legally attached to a little piece of New Jersey. I half considered going out of state to birth my children to spare them the embarrassment of New Jersey on their birth certificates. I make it a point to slip the fact that I grew up in Massachusetts -- and am not, therefore, a New Jersey native -- into any conversation (see how I did that there?). Don't get me wrong... I live in a lovely home in a lovely town in a lovely area of New Jersey, and I love it here. It's just, well, New Jersey.

Driving home yesterday, I heard on NPR that the state of New Jersey has adopted a new slogan. "New Jersey: Come See For Yourself," it proudly proclaims. The short news item ended with a couple of suggested slogans that didn't make the cut, among them "New Jersey: You Got A Problem With That?"

As I sat in my car laughing out loud, I found myself thinking that I could be proud to live in a state with that kind of slogan. Maybe, just maybe, I belong here after all.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Gender stereotypes

Julia to Paul, suspiciously: "The dentist SAID he was a doctor. But he was a man...?"

Three cheers for the female-pediatrician-as-role-model approach.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

No pressure, but just think how silly I'll feel if this entry gets no comments

It's National Delurking Week, or so Suzanne at Mimilou and Phantom Scribbler tell me. I know there are plenty of you out there who visit this blog regularly and never comment. Care to say hello this week?

Or not. Whatever. (Do you think my inability to put the pressure on -- even for something this simple -- says anything about why I don't ever want to return to my PR career?)

Who am I to question such a marvelous turn of events?

For the second day in a row, my newly-4 year old is napping.

Julia received a stuffed elephant holding a huge pink fleece blanket as a birthday gift from her best friend yesterday. Apparently, she laid down to snuggle with these new favorite items during quiet time yesterday and that is how she came to fall asleep. She slept happily and soundly with them again last night and announced this morning that she could not wait for nap time so that they could all snuggle up together and sleep again. Sure enough, come 2:00 today, she could not lie down with them fast enough. I have not heard a peep from her since.

Uh... OK.

I have not yet discounted the fact that she could be getting sick, particularly since there is apparently an odd stomach thing going around town. But when awake, Julia seems perfectly healthy and happy. She simply wants to snuggle her new lovies. And sleep. A lot.

This may possibly be the best gift anyone has ever given me... er, I mean her. So far, 4 is off to a hell of a start.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vegas odds are not so good on this one

Julia celebrated her fourth birthday today by taking a nap for the first time in nearly a year.

Either I got my secret birthday wish or the kid's getting sick. With the big party only 5 days away, is a sudden renewed interest in midday sleep too much to hope for?

Happy 4th birthday, Julia

Dear Julia,

It was so easy to write your birthday letter last year. I knew just what I wanted to tell you and how I hoped to convey my love for you. I hate to say it, but I think I might have blown my wad on that one. It's not that I don't feel every bit as much love and amazement watching you turn 4 as I did when you turned 3, it's just that things are, well, more complicated this year.

You're growing up, kiddo. Sometimes, that's the highest compliment that I can pay you. You're increasingly self sufficient and self aware and self directed, and you're finding your way in this world better than I could ever have hoped or dreamed. At just 4, you are completely your own person, and the person you're becoming takes my breath away. You are thoughtful and intelligent and silly all at the same time and the dozens of friends who surround you most of the time only reinforce the fact that I'm obviously not the only one who thinks you're great.

At the same time, the fact that you're growing up means that you're challenging me more, pushing my buttons and testing the limits as you feel your way. Worded like that, this sounds so wonderfully mature and developmentally appropriate of you, but in reality, it just makes me want to strangle you half the time. Becoming your own person means testing me and pushing me away, and just because I understand and appreciate that doesn't mean I'm ever going to like it one bit. As I look ahead to the future, I'm realizing that things are only going to get more complicated between us as you get older, and that frankly scares me to death.

This age is full of contradictions. You hug me tight and beg me to sit and snuggle with you at home, but you won't even let me kiss you goodbye when I drop you off at school. You read all sorts of things I didn't expect or necessarily want you to know about, but then refuse to sit down and actually read an Easy Reader book to me. You show remarkable maturity in caring for your younger brother when I'm not around and then yank a toy out of his hands when you know I'm there watching. You take school bullies and playgroup dynamics in stride and then collapse in tears when I tell you that your pink socks are in the laundry. You're mature and wise way beyond your years and you're just a little girl, and the way those two sides of you coexist is the most amazing and maddening contradiction of all.

Your growth hasn't felt as dramatic this year as in the first few years of your life, but upon reflection, I guess it kind of has been. This year, you learned to dance (sort of) and to read (sort of) and to swim (sort of) and to speak up among your peers (loud and clear, that one). You've figured out how to deal with minor bullies on your own and how to put clothing on tiny little Poly Pockets dolls on your own and how to zip your coat on your own. You've got a firm grasp on some big concepts like negative numbers and the existence of God, but you're still charmed by the idea of Santa Claus or magic socks that can give you good dreams. Oh, and you've definitely mastered pushing my buttons. Did I mention that one already?

When I think of you at this age, I'll always picture your gorgeous head of curly hair and the sweet toddler-esque tummy that still protrudes a bit over your ballet tutu. I'll remember your awkward way around adults and the way all that awkwardness magically disappears when you're alone with your friends. I'll remember your unending devotion to your best friend Brianna and the elaborate 2-sided conversations you hold with your imaginary friend Gofo. I'll remember the way you appear in my bedroom at exactly 7:30 nearly every morning and the fact that if you miss that time, you force yourself to wait in your room until 8:00 so that you get up on a round number. I'll remember the fact that you only eat about 3 different foods, but you enjoy all of them with gusto. I'll remember how protective you are of your brother and how you love to teach him new things. Do you think it's possible that I could remember all of these wonderful things and still manage to conveniently forget how maddening you can be?

Last night as we snuggled in your bed, I told you the story of your birth. When I'd finished, you held me tight and looked at me in a way that made me feel like you completely understood what you mean to me. "Thank you for making me a Mommy," I whispered as I hugged you back. "You're one of the best things that's ever happened to me." I felt so lucky in that moment, with my arms wrapped around you and yours around me. And then I watched your eyes turn from understanding to calculated as you assessed my level of sentimentality. "Can I have an extra glass of water, then?" you asked me with a smile. You've got my number. And call me a sucker, but you got that extra glass of water, too.

I love you more than I ever dreamed possible, you know... manipulations and all. Maybe that's the problem. Happy birthday, Julia. Please go easy on me this year, kid.


Monday, January 09, 2006

An update for the three readers who were waiting on pins and needles all weekend

"Waiting on pins and needles" -- is that really how the expression goes? It looks decidedly odd in print. I'm inclined to think I probably butchered it terribly.

But I digress. I'm quite confident that all three of you who actually commented on the Shabbat dilemma post have been waiting with baited breath all weekend to find out how I handled my latest minor household crisis. (No? Well then, could you at least feign a little interest since I'm talking about it yet again?) After delaying the inevitable as long as possible, I had a stroke of genius at the eleventh hour and went with an entirely different tactic:

D) THE "LET THE CHILD MAKE HER OWN CHOICES" APPROACH: You get to make a special Shabbat decision tonight! Should we use our super deluxe green Shabbat candles or the cool wooden ones that are in your pretend Shabbat set?

Julia cheerfully picked the wooden ones, I tried to keep a straight face as I recited the prayers over a pair of carved and painted wooden candles and everyone was happy. (Well, almost everyone. Evan really wanted me to light those wooden candles on fire.) I felt like Super Mommy. "They write articles in parenting magazines about doing things just like this," I thought proudly. It was a beautiful moment.

And then, 10 minutes later, both kids were in tears because they couldn't agree on a television show to watch. Having blown my entire parenting wad on the Shabbat crisis, I found myself completely incapable of calming either one of them down. As my kids whined and cried and I floundered in a fit of "which child do I side with this time" indecision, I knew that my brilliant parenting moment had come and gone. But in the flickering light of the compromise television show that I finally got them to agree on, those pretend wooden candles sure did look pretty.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pop quiz

When you realize way too close to sunset that you have again forgotten to purchase Shabbat candles, how do you share this news with your far-more-devout-than-anticipated 4 year old?

A) THE "INNOCUOUS DECEPTION" APPROACH: Remember last week when our Shabbat candles looked suspiciously like purple votives? Well, today I got us green ones! Yes, of course I'm sure they're kosher.

B) THE "DISTRACTION" APPROACH: Let's do a really cool art project tonight and create our own Shabbat candles. (Pause to wait for "but I want to light REAL candles" wailing to begin) Here... have as much glitter glue as you want.

C) THE "OUT AND OUT LIE" APPROACH: Shabbat? What do you mean, it's time for Shabbat? Today is Wednesday.

Answer as soon as I figure out which way I'm going to go here...

Today is the first day of the rest of your life

Evan collapsed only 15 minutes into the now-familiar cry-fest last night, too exhausted and spent to keep up the good fight. I found him 12 hours later, when I regrettably had to wake him in order to get Julia to school, lying exactly where he had fallen. He clearly had not moved a single muscle all night long. Even his diaper was dry, as if his body was too overwhelmed and in need of rest to even so much as eliminate its own waste.

We spent a delightful morning shopping together and he chattered away at me cheerfully, fully engaged. When left to his own devices, he entertained himself in his usual way, rather than staring blankly out the window. He ate heartily when presented with food. And at nap time, he whimpered for less than 15 seconds before lying down to go to sleep. As fast as The Strange Child Bearing No Resemblance To My Son swept in earlier this week, that's how quickly Placid Cheerful Boy seems to have returned to take his place.

Is the change permanent? Of course not. But it's a hell of a lot easier to say that -- and to honestly and cheerfully believe that I'll be able to deal with the changes as they come -- when my child is napping peacefully, that's for damn sure. If the strange, maddening and worrisome behavior of the past week was a phase, it was a blessedly short one. And if that was the real Evan, well, I think I'll just take this not-so-real version, thank you very much.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The storm after the calm

When my children are in a good period, acting relatively normal and well behaved, I tend not to think too much of stages or phases. "This is who they are," I tell myself smugly. "This is how things work around here." And then, when everything turns on a dime (as it inevitably does) and nothing is working at all around here, I refer to the ensuing chaos as a phase. "We just have to get through this," I say.

It's a little bit Pollyanna of me to think this way, I suppose, though there's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to see the best in your own children. But sometimes, and this week is one of those times, I have to wonder if I've been deluding myself about what great, well-adjusted, well-raised kids I have. Maybe the good periods are the phases, the aberrations. Perhaps it's the nightmare periods that are everyday life and the manifestation of my kids' true personas. It's a truly pointless line of thought, one that's akin to the old glass half empty/half full debate (who the hell cares -- either way, you've got the same amount of water), but this is the way my mind works when I have been driven to distraction because one of my nearly perfect children has been replaced with the spawn of Satan overnight.

After well over a year of relative ease where parenting Evan is concerned, we have reached the end of the road. I do not know whether there is a cause for the abrupt change in behavior -- teething, perhaps, which I've been historically bad at pinpointing and treating, or maybe just the way we babied him a little more than usual when he was sick last week -- or whether we are just reaching a new stage/phase/period of time/pick your euphemism. But suddenly, the easy little boy I know and love is gone. In his place? A child who refuses to be left at babysitting, cries hysterically when I am out of his sight and is nearly impossible to engage even when he has my full attention. A child who stood in his crib and cried for 3 hours at bedtime last night, refusing all attempts to soothe and placate him. A child who is in the process of repeating the same behavior right now during his nap time. Evan is 23 months old today. And overnight, he has become twice as much work as a child half his age.

A phase. A stage. My kid's true inner demons released. Does it really matter the cause? My "me" time is essentially gone for the duration and my patience is about to be sorely tried. If this is a phase, then please God may it be a short one. And if it's real life, then baby, bring on the next phase.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Wishing your life away must be an inherited trait

Julia's unbridled enthusiasm about her upcoming birthday and the eagerness with which she is counting down the last few days until she turns 4 are, as always, fun to watch. But our endless discussions about the topic have taken a surprising turn in the past few days, and it is beginning to appear that I have been way off base in my estimation of the value of a fourth birthday.

The fact that she will soon be having an exciting birthday party? Ho hum... she's at a birthday party every weekend anyway. The fact that she will be receiving yet another round of wonderful gifts? That's nice... but she's already got great toys. The fact that she will be a whole year older? Eh... just a number, really. No, apparently the reason Julia can't wait for her birthday is that once she's 4, there will only be nine more years until she becomes a teenager.

God help me.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Family dynamics, courtesy of my 4 year old

"Daddy, how come Mommy does all the work around here?"

That it is by no means true only made the look on his face all the more priceless...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Come on baby, light my fire

I've been having a lot of trouble with the whole resolutions thing this year. I'm not so much bothered by whether or not I'll actually be able to keep any resolutions that I might make; I tend to think that the act of identifying things that I want to work on and vowing to do so is far more valuable than my eventual success or failure. (Empty rationalization? Maybe. So what?) What really bothers me is that I can't seem to come up with a single resolution this year. Not one.

January is a funny time for me because it marks not only the beginning of another new year but the anniversary of my departure from the work force. With the flipping of the calendar this morning, I have officially been home for four years. That's four years of jeans and sweatshirts instead of suits and blouses. Four years of negotiating with creatures half my size instead of executives half my intellect. Four years of playdates instead of meeting. Four years of pb&j instead of business lunches. Four years of being caught up in an insular little world in which that the vast majority of society has little interest or involvement.

For the most part, it's been good. I certainly wouldn't trade any of it, though I'm frankly relieved that certain portions of those past four years are now long since behind me. But four years into the game, I'm just starting to feel pretty ho hum about the whole thing, and that's never been more clear than when I sat down to think about my New Year's resolutions.

The "Mommy" resolutions -- to yell less or interact more or try some new parenting technique? I think I'm past them. Yes, I could certainly stand to yell less and I could probably stand to interact more. But at this point in the game, I'm pretty much coming to accept that the kind of parent I'm destined to be is fairly established at this point. I am who I am. My relationship with my kids is what it is. Some days, that's a wonderful thing to be able to say. Sometimes, it's something I mutter under my breath as I struggle against the tide of my day. But for the good and the bad, I don't see myself changing as a parent much in the coming year. I will no doubt evolve along with my children and I will grow and change as they grow and change. But the big, bold resolution-worthy changes? Not likely.

So, the "me" resolutions then. Last year, I resolved to write more and to seek published outlets for my work. Big fat waste 'o time, that resolution. Not that it wasn't a good one -- it was -- but clearly, something was holding me back from pursuing that goal. A resolution wasn't enough to get me off my duff, and I spent a good portion of the year feeling guilty and conflicted about that. No point in wasting my time feeling guilty and conflicted, not when those emotions don't spur me on to reach my goal. So I won't be bothering with that resolution again this year. I'll write when I'm ready. Maybe it will happen this year and maybe it won't, but as the past year clearly showed, a resolution isn't going to make an iota of difference in this area of my life.

A different direction then, perhaps. I could resolve to do more things for myself outside of parenting or to pursue volunteer opportunities that make good use of my underutilized, molding professional skills. Both would be good for me on a personal level, and one of these resolutions would even benefit the world at large. But when I try to think of what exactly I might do, nothing appeals and the excuses just flow too freely. "I'm not going to end up doing that because (fill in the blanks here). This is not the year for that." My litany of refusal and rebuttal downright depresses me. No dice there.

So what, then, is this the year for? I'm not new to the parenting thing any more and I can see the next year of my life stretching out before me as clearly as if I'd lived it already, which in a sense, I have. There will be new crises and challenges, of course, but the day to day chauffeuring and refereeing and making of grilled cheese sandwiches is bound to have a ring of the familiar to it. At the same time, I can not think of a single thing that I could be doing outside of parenting to expand my creative or intellectual or even selfishly personal horizons which ignites even a spark of interest right now. I don't want to take classes at my community college or look for freelance work or volunteer to run the carnival at my kids' school. I don't want to take up knitting or scrapbooking or join the League of Women Voters. I've got bubkes. And that, I have to say, is a pretty uninspiring way to start a new year: boring and bored.

So after much thought and contemplation (are these one and the same?), I've decided that my New Year's resolution is to seek out inspiration. I don't know what kind of inspiration I'm looking for, exactly; just something that will light a fire in me again. It could be the personal kind or the professional kind or even the Mommy kind of fire; I'm not really sure what form it will end up taking and at the moment, I'm not sure I particularly care. But I resolve to know it when I see it. Perhaps, I will do something about it right then and there. Perhaps, if it is the really big kind of inspiration, it will be something I will resolve to actively pursue when New Year's Day rolls around again next year. It doesn't really matter to me, provided I can at least find a path this year which will lead me down the road to interested and interesting again. Finding the goal? That is my goal for 2006.

This is either the lamest resolution I've ever made or the most brilliant. But if I can manage to keep it, I suspect I'll be a happier person in 2006 and, by extention, a better parent, partner and friend. It's the journey, not the destination that matters with this particular resolution. And perhaps, with that in mind, I'll be better able to enjoy the ride.

Overheard at yet another playdate

(This should be a series.)

"C, can't we just snuggle first?"

How many times do you think she'll ask that very same question on future New Year's Eves? I certainly hope the 14 and 24 year old versions of C will be as gallant about honoring her request as the nearly-4 year old version was...