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

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Spring has spring, the grass has riz, I wonder where my money is

All of last year's short sleeved shirts are too small. Ditto the capris, the clamdiggers, the shorts, and the dresses. It's not even worth trying on last year's sneakers and sandals.

Are the trees in bloom? I hadn't noticed. I'm too busy embarking on an annual spending spree which simultaneously delights and horrifies me. Green is the color of spring, all right. But the green of my spring is made not by nature but by the U.S. Mint.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I clearly have no future authoring multiple choice exams, because none of you seemed to have a bit of trouble with my little pop quiz. This is indeed art. What kind of art? I'm so glad you asked.

This is a centerpiece for our Passover table, created by my 2 year old son under the careful direction of his Mommy and Me teacher. "First paint the inside of the bowl yellow," she told him, and he did. "Now glue in these two cotton balls," she told him, and he did. "Now glue on this plastic spoon," she told him, and he did. "Look at your beautiful bowl of matzoh ball soup," she told him and he looked blankly at her.

Yes, this lovely piece of pre-preschool representational art is supposed to be a 3D bowl of matzoh ball soup. Evan has maybe seen matzoh ball soup twice in his life, since he has a mother who is too much of a purist to buy the pre-made stuff, but far too lazy a cook to make it herself, so this project was pretty much completely lost on him. But I have been laughing over it for 3 days now.

The table gets pretty crowded on Passover, what with the seder plate and the matzoh plate and the bowls of salt water and the hagaddahs and all that damn food. I don't even do a floral centerpiece on Passover because there just plain isn't room. But this bizarre art project will have a place of honor on our table this year. In fact, I'm fairly certain I'll be making room for it on my Passover table for the next 40 or 50 years. If it's funny now, imagine how hysterical it will look by the time we've all finished that 4th glass of wine.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A new pop quiz

This is:

A) A sign that I really need to clean out my fridge more frequently
B) The most bizarre art project that either one of my kids has ever brought home from school
C) The remnants of a meal which reminded me oh too clearly why fad diets are just not for me

Answer tomorrow...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Once a mother, always a mother

It's been about 3 1/2 months since I invited my mother to read this blog, and I've truthfully got no regrets. Sharing my life with her in this way has been rewarding for both of us, and has led to quite a few interesting discussions and even the unexpected (but very appreciated) gift of a lifetime supply of Shabbat candles. Giving my mother the link to this site has created one side effect which I hadn't anticipated, however. If I don't post, she panics.

"Just checking in," her emails will read. "No blog post today. Is everyone OK?"

"Hi, Becca, it's Mom,"
I'll hear on my home voice mail. "You haven't posted on the blog today and I got worried that Evan might have had another asthma attack. Give me a call."

Yesterday, I even retrieved a voice mail message that she left on my cell phone voice mail a week or two ago. I never remember to check my cell for messages, so I'd missed this little gem at the time. "Hi, Becca, it's Mom," it said. "I emailed you and I also just left you a message at home. You haven't posted on the blog, and I just wanted to make sure everything was OK. I'm not sure where you are. Maybe you're putting Evan down or getting Julia set up in quiet time. Maybe you're just in the bathroom. I'll try you again in a few minutes."

We have never been the kind of family who keeps in constant contact with everyday phone calls. My father, who subscribes to the "bad news travels fast" school of thought, is particularly inclined to let time pass between calls. (On one truly memorable occasion, he even refused a collect call I made to him from summer camp. He knew why I was calling and he didn't have the information that I needed, so he saw no reason to pay for the call.) My mom and I speak a little more frequently than he might deem necessary, but several days do generally lapse between our conversations and that's always been fine with both of us. But I think I've created a bit of a monster with this blog thing, because suddenly we've gone from "bad news travels fast" to "no news must be bad." And truth be told, it cracks me up, both as a daughter and as a fellow mother.

Mom, I know that your first instinct will be to fall all over yourself apologizing when you read this and that you'll refrain from calling or emailing me for a few days even if you really have something important to say. Don't bother. I'm laughing with you, not at you. OK, I'm laughing with you and at you. But I'm pretty sure every other mother who reads this blog probably is, too, so you might as well laugh right along with us.

I'll be expecting your call...

Friday, March 24, 2006

I guess when you only eat 3 foods, you have to think about this kind of stuff

Julia's class has been hard at work this week with projects and songs and discussions all related to the upcoming holiday of Passover. Her teacher's been going all out on this one; the kids have built their own pyramids and dressed up in the kind of traditional Egyptian headdresses they would have worn as slaves and acted out the story of Passover. They've been singing holiday songs and reading holiday stories and assembling holiday puzzles. There's even crumbled matzoh in the sensory table this week.

For today's Passover project, the class discussed what it would have been like to cross through the Red Sea and come out as free people on the other side. Each child was asked what the first thing he or she would have done after gaining his or her freedom, and the teachers wrote their answers down on individual pieces of paper for the kids to illustrate.

Most of the kids said that they would have playdates with their friends or play with a favorite toy or hug their Mommies, Julia reported when she told me about the project after school, but not my kid. In classic Julia fashion, she thought through the situation and then announced that her first act as a free person would be to go to the grocery store. There wouldn't be much string cheese left, she reasoned, after all of that fleeing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This is one time when I would have preferred to be a little less right

Yesterday was Tuesday yet again, and with the help of an accomplice, I finally broached the big breakup discussion. It wasn't pretty to say the least. Did you ever see this Seinfeld episode? This was an eerily similar experience (though obviously sans the dead bird and the boyfriend who's secretly on welfare, which is something, I suppose).

Things were getting emotional and awkward, so we've agreed to discuss the topic further over dinner next week. I, for one, plan to drink heavily throughout the conversation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A bedtime conversation

Julia: Matthew asked me to marry him at school.

Me: Oh, Julia, your first proposal... how exciting. I like Matthew. He's a nice boy.

Julia: Yeah. I said no, though.

Me: You don't want to marry Matthew?

Julia: No. Well, I don't know. But I kind of had to say no. He had asked every other girl in the class, too.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Higher math

When my kids were babies, I spent my days constantly calculating and recalculating. I nursed on demand, but both of my children were pretty by-the-clock eaters anyway, so my days were broken into small chunks of time between feedings -- first two hours then two and a half, then three as they grew. From the first feeding of the morning, I'd start running the numbers in my head ("let's see... it's 7 am now, so I'll probably need to nurse at 10 before heading out and I'll need to either be home or someplace that's nursing-friendly by about 1..."), adjusting throughout the day as necessary. I thought about everything -- when I could squeeze in an errand or how I needed to adjust to make it to playgroup or even just whether I might be able to get a shower -- based on those maddening little blocks of time.

I suppose to some, the constant running of numbers might be comforting. But I am not a math person, and despite my predilection for schedules and routine, this kind of fluid routine which required me to count and re-count was the bane of my existence. Despite two full years of nursing babies, I still had to manually count out the hours on my fingers nearly every time I calculated, and I was wrong as often as I was right. As bittersweet as weaning was, leaving my counting days goodbye was a huge relief. I still live by the clock even though I long ago hung up my nursing bras, of course; this one gets dropped of at this time and that one gets picked up at that time. But at least those times are reasonably consistent from week to week. Our current schedule requires a good memory and a good calendar, but no head for figures is necessary, and for that I'm grateful.

Every time that Evan has an asthma attack, however -- as he did again this weekend (you jinxed me, Liesl!) -- I am thrust back into my old world of time blocks with a regulated series of nebulizer treatments. To make matters worse, though, now I'm trying to fit these regularly scheduled treatments around our full schedule of regular time commitments. Figuring out how to get a shower was child's play compared to these calculations. Now, as I'm waiting for that 4 a.m. sputter, I'm thinking "OK, if I do the next neb at 8, we can get Julia to school by 9, but that would make him due at 1 and that's not going to work because that's when Julia has to be picked up at school, so maybe if we move the whole thing back half an hour..." The mind boggles, or at least mine does.

I was trying to be funny last week when I said that my family was complete because I don't have to cut pizza any more, and I was a little taken aback by all of the comments taking me so seriously. "Wait," I thought as I read them, "you all realize that I can still change my mind here, right?" And then Evan got sick again. As I found myself thrust back into my old counting patterns, I was suddenly reminded of what it was really like to parent a baby. Thinking about how busy our lives already are and envisioning what another year of higher math would really be like... well, it sure did squelch any ambivalence I felt after re-reading my flippant post.

I still feel the need to mention that I reserve the right to take back every last word that I've written here some day if desire or circumstance so demand. Life is too uncertain (and I am too prone to second guessing myself) for absolutes. But will I ever actually exercise that right? Don't count on it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

It's as good a reason as any, maybe better than most

I've come up with a few borderline absurd reasons not to procreate again over the past few years, but I finally have a real one.

Evan has finally decided that he wants to eat his pizza by the slice like a big kid, which means that I no longer have to cut pieces of pizza into dozens of little bites before I serve them to either of my children. This may sound inconsequential, but trust me... given the number of times a month that pizza is served around here, it is no small thing.

My family is complete.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sssh... I'm trying to watch my stories here

On the motherhood totem pole of the infamous mommy wars, there are lots of different types of mothers. Depending on your perspective, the positions may differ somewhat; some put the stay at home moms way up top, others think that working moms deserve that place of honor and still others reserve the top slot for the work at home moms or the part time working moms or the fill-in-the-blank-here moms. Nearly without fail, however, the same group is almost always down at the bottom, and that is the bon-bon eating, soap opera watching mommies.

For all I know, the whole soap opera mommy category might be a fallacy. Perhaps they don't even really exist. But it is that image -- however fictional -- of women sitting around watching their stories while children run amuck around them that give stay at home moms a bad name. Most mothers at home with their kids, myself included, are quick to point out that we are in a different category than that type of mom. We are home to raise our kids to the best of our abilities, we proclaim haughtily, not to sit around eating confections that everyone has heard of but few of us have ever even actually seen. I have always been more than a little disdainful of the soap opera mommies. At least, I used to be. But now I'm not so sure. Because lately, I'm beginning to think that I might be living in a bit of a glass house here.

Nearly every day, after Evan has gone down for a nap and Julia has disappeared into her room for quiet time, I carve out some time to get online and catch up on my blog reading. It's the "me time" part of my day, and by the time it rolls around, I've usually got some burning questions I want answered before the kids get up. How was Rosemary's third date? How is Gretchen weathering the postpartum blues? Did A sleep last night? Where are Jordan and Dan jet setting to this week? How will Jenn make me laugh today? Will I see myself in Kristy's world today, or in Jennifer's or Steph's? I am addicted to blog reading, to these short, serialized daily installments chronicling the lives of people whom I don't even know but have come to care about.

Short, serialized daily installments? Yikes.

The writing is better, of course, and the drama rings truer than that which I'd find if I switched on my TV instead of my laptop. But the activity itself, the escape from my own world into the lives of other people and the resulting urge to tune in tomorrow to find out what happens next? Well, hell... maybe I ought to give bon bons a fair shake, too.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

While I'm on a "love letter" roll

To my sweet, loving, generally very endearing son:

It is my honor and my privilege and my role as your Mommy to teach you all about life and the world that we live in. Because of this, I am generally very happy to answer your questions for hours on end, even when they tend a bit to the mind numbing and irrelevant. But when you stand completely alone in a room and are overheard to say, apropos of absolutely nothing, "why Mommy?" I cannot help but wonder if you aren't perhaps messing with me just a teeny tiny bit with all of this "why" shit.

If so, please stop.

your martyred mother

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

For future reference

To my dear, loving, generally very thoughtful husband:

I'm all for being upbeat about your business travel. You work hard, and I think it's great that your company ships you to interesting places Business Class and puts you up in the Ritz when you arrive. I'm happy to hold down the fort while you're away. I'm even willing to listen to your descriptions of nights out "on the company" (though I must confess that on more than one occasion, I have wondered whether I really need to hear every detail of your delectable steak dinners when I myself am looking at endless evenings of the very best that Lean Cuisine has to offer). But when you start to say things like "ooh, I think the Rangers might have an away game in Montreal this week... maybe I'll try to get tickets" or even "it looks like my flight's going to be delayed and I'm going have to hang out in the business class lounge and read my book for a while"? Well, at some point I'm going to be hard pressed not to get just a teeny tiny bit jealous.

You always tell me that I should do a better job of thinking before I speak. I have thought very carefully this time. And what I have to say is this: ditto.

Have a great trip and hurry home. You'll be missed!

your martyred wife

Monday, March 13, 2006

Musical mulligan

It doesn't matter if we're just going down the street or embarking on an hour-long drive. Each and every time we get into the car, Evan starts begging to hear the Sesame Street Count sing. "Ah, ah, ah," he screams over and over, imitating the way the Count laughs. His voice gets more and more frenzied until I acquiesce and turn on his favorite CD. (Good God. Am I really raising a child whose favorite CD is Sesame Street Sing Along Travel Songs?)

I have tried to compromise and offer musical alternatives. I have attempted to engage him in such convoluted discussions that he can't get a word in edgewise to ask for the song. I have even lied outright and pretended that the Count is "sleeping" and thus unable to perform for us (it's like parenting crack, this lying thing). Nothing works. Either the Count sings this or Evan screams like a banshee. It has come to the point that I actually dread getting in the car each morning. I'm all for happy children, but no mother in her right mind could truly be expected to listen to Ninety Nine Bats (In My Car Today) 52 times a day without going a little batty herself.

I've always been terribly amused by -- and more than a little bit disdainful of --the concept of a mulligan. Maybe it's the cynical golf widow in me, but the whole idea of just saying "I take it back; this never happened" has always struck me as just plain silly. As the days and weeks pass and Evan's obsession with terrible children's music simply does not wane, however, the idea is growing on me. I've reached the point that every single time I give in to Evan's musical demands, I find myself fantasizing about calling my very own mulligan. That moment when I first popped that damn Sesame Street CD into my car dashboard? Never happened. Here, kids, let's listen to some lovely classic rock. Would that it could be...

Friday, March 10, 2006

At least their jeans still fit

The fancy growth chart just decorates Evan's bedroom and we've never really gotten around to starting a pencil marked wall. I'm notoriously lousy at remembering the measurements my pediatrician's office painstakingly records at each well child appointment. Growth is noted around here primarily when pants get a little too short or tummies protrude from underneath t-shirts. "You're just a tiny bit too big for that outfit now," I'll say as we pack things away. Nothing too dramatic. Just the passage of time.

Today was the first day that's felt like spring around here, and my kids were delighted to reacquaint themselves with our outdoor world. As we all spread our wings in the unexpected warmth of a premature spring day, I watched them play on our swingset for the first time in nearly 6 months.

Feet dragged on the ground as a swing that had been just the right height before now suspended Julia way too close to the grass below. A climbing apparatus that had felt way out of reach the last time Evan attempted it was scaled with nonchalant ease. Both kids still wanted my attention as much as they had last fall, but they no longer seemed to require my help, turning instead to each other as playmates. New games and ways of using the equipment were invented as they built on each others' ideas and suggestions to make their own fun.

Physical growth, seen in the height of the swings. Growth in capability, evidenced by the conquering of new tasks. Cognitive growth, measured in the give and take of a new form of interactive play. Just the passage of time, yes, but incredibly dramatic nonetheless.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I always swore that I was not going to be the kind of mother who sugar coats things. I was going to speak openly and honestly to my children about life, the world and how we all fit into it all the time. I would always answer questions, provide age-appropriate information and raise informed children. I would speak the truth.

Open. Honest. All the time. Always. The truth. It sure sounded good. But like most of those things I promised myself before I had any idea what being a parent was actually going to be like, it was a little too absolute a plan, without any wiggle room left for the realities of daily existence. I'm still following that basic blueprint for parenting. Kind of. But as time goes by, well, I'm starting to see the value in the wiggle.

Julia's in a fearful stage right now, and a lot of familiar children's stories and shows are freaking her out at the moment. As her awareness of the world around her increases, so does her concern for characters and their well being. Paul recently told her an abbreviated version of Hansel and Gretel that had her up crying at 4 a.m. because "the children were lost and it was getting dark." I know that this is a terribly age-appropriate phase and despite the fact that it's a little bit inconvenient, all of this consciousness-raising strikes me as a good thing overall. So we're just trying to ride out the stage and get through the fears as best we can. We talk about what's scary when fears present themselves, but we also do a fair amount of picking and choosing material that we hope won't lead us down that road in the first place.

The other night, it was my turn to tell Julia a bedtime story. The Hansel and Gretel situation was still fresh in my mind, so I picked a fable that I knew she had heard before. As I got further and further into the story of the boy who cried wolf, however, I realized that I'd misjudged my audience. Julia's eyes were getting wider and wider as she contemplated the idea of a little boy encountering a wolf. I was treading on dangerous ground.

Mindful of her fears, I offered up a slightly sanitized ending, in which the wolf "took the boy away." It seemed an easy enough compromise. But as I leaned in to kiss Julia good night, I saw that it hadn't been enough. "What happened to the little boy after the wolf took him away?" she asked me, her eyes wide and worried.

I sat there for a moment, weighing my options. Honesty is always the best policy, I told myself as I remembered my long-ago vow to be open with my kids and teach them what's what. Life isn't always pretty. My now-experienced parental side had a ready response. Neither is waking up at 4 a.m. to comfort a kid who's got nightmares. I wanted to do the right thing, of course. But which right thing? Julia was waiting anxiously for an answer, the covers pulled up to her chin. I sighed and brushed her hair back off her face. And then I gave the lamest answer ever. "They played for a while and then the wolf sent the little boy home," I told her.

Julia eyed me a little suspiciously for a moment and the sighed with relief. "Oh, OK then," she replied. "Good night." I kissed her and guiltily left the room. The former purist in me was horrified at myself. What the hell kind of an answer was that? If it's a slippery slope, this fibbing to children thing, I thought to myself, then pretty soon I'm going to find myself teaching her about the stork or pretending that people of all races and creeds live together in perfect harmony. What ever happened to my open, honest parenting plan? For a second there, I was tempted to go back into Julia's room and confess my whole sordid attempt at deception. "Wolves eat little boys," I wanted to tell her. "But don't worry. I'll never let one eat you." Yes, that would have been the right way to answer her question. That's what a good parent would have done. That's what the parent I intended to be would have done.

That urge passed pretty damn fast. Maybe I'd missed my moment, but I wasn't about to ruin my kid's night just to calm my own conscience. I went and confessed my sins to Paul instead and we both had a good giggle at the mental image of the wolf and the little boy playing dominoes until his mother called him home for dinner. It was, we decided, a highly entertaining rewrite. And so while I was in the practice of rewriting things, I mentally rewrote my parenting vocabulary as well, completely eliminating the words always and all the time. If two lost kids in a forest kept Julia up all night, I can only imagine what a wolf consuming a small child would have done to her. Honesty just wasn't the best policy in this case after all.

A little bit of wiggle room, I'm now realizing, is a very good thing to have in your parenting toolbelt. Yes, I still believe that honesty is almost always the way to go, of course. But not always. No one woke up with nightmares after my wolf story. For that night at least, we all lived happily ever after. And if bedtime isn't the time for a fairy tale ending like that, well then I don't know what is. I'm learning. And so are my kids, even if they're not learning things the way I initially expected or planned.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

One is the loneliest number

I have turned this house upside down and there is absolutely no sign of the silly thing. I know that it must be somewhere; buried in the dress up trunk, maybe, or somewhere in the dirty laundry. As of yet, however, all of my creative attempts to locate it have failed. I am handicapped by the fact that I have little knowledge of where anything is after a week of being sick and uninvolved with the daily happenings of my household, but I still fail to understand how such a pivotal item could just be... gone. I'm holding out a small amount of hope that Paul will be able to turn it up, but I'm not holding my breath. It's highly likely that we're just going to have to face facts here. One of Julia's primary pair of shoes is gone. Just gone.

One shoe. You take them off together, so you would think that one could later be found with the other, no? Apparently not. How does one lose a shoe? Misplacing such an item, I understand -- I am the queen of misplacing things. Keys, pens, even slippers might temporarily be mislaid and then, of course, rediscovered. But actually outright, permanently lost? I don't get it. Nonetheless, there is a precedent for such things in this house. Last summer, just about a month before the time came for fall shoes, Julia lost one of her white sandals. We searched high and low and up and down, but it was nowhere to be found. I was sure that it would turn up the day I replaced it, but it never did. Seven months later, the damn thing is still MIA. And now, it appear that the missing white sandal has claimed a hot pink mate.

I hated those shoes with a passion when Julia picked them out. And yes, I'll admit it, the prospect of losing one of those hideous shoes seemed highly appealing when we first brought them home. But they've grown on me, for no other reason than the fact that they still fit six months later (a little dirt to dull their radioactive glow didn't hurt, either). Buying those shoes was bad. But spending good money to re-buy them? That would be so very much worse.

First, the flu. And now, a day spent turning my entire house upside down hunting for heinous footwear. What have I done to deserve this week?

UPDATE FROM THE "BLOG IT AND THEN IMMEDIATELY PROVE IT FALSE" DEPARTMENT: I found it, of course. Can't imagine why I didn't just look in the oven in the first place. Where else would one expect to find a missing shoe? I wasted an entire day of my life on this quest and am now rejoicing over the discovery of something I actively dislike. Still not a very positive commentary on my week. But at least we don't have to go shoe shopping on top of everything else...

Monday, March 06, 2006

One flu over the cuckoo's nest

If my doctor was right and the Tamiflu he gave me lessened the severity and duration of this illness considerably, I shudder to think what I would have been like without the stuff. It has been nearly a week now and I am still hard pressed not to put my head down right here on my keyboard for a little snoozer. This flu is nasty stuff.

Julia spiked a fever on Saturday, just hours after she had breathed all over her friends at a birthday party, so I suspect that we are not going to be very popular people in the preschool community this week. Fortunately, the flu shot which I foolishly deemed unnecessary for myself has made a world of difference for her and the disease which has crippled me for nearly a week scarcely seems to be affecting her. I doubt that she'll be able to return to school tomorrow, but Wednesday seems somewhat likely. Unfortunately, by Wednesday, all of the friends who she probably infected on Saturday should be good and ill, so really, what's the rush?

I had hoped to ease back into civilized life today with a day that included school for both of my children and strategically scheduled babysitting to give me a mid-day break, but Julia's illness pretty much killed that plan. Instead, here we are at home containing our germs; a slit-eyed flu survivor dreaming of cool sheets and blessed silence, a germy preschooler whose fever does not seem to be impacting her ability to cover every spare inch of my home with scotch tape and her stir crazy younger brother who, as the victim of circumstance, has now been unfairly cut off from civilization for the better part of a week. It aint pretty, folks. The house is also filthy because our cleaning woman is deathly afraid of flu germs, so I guess it is fortunate that my "give a shit" quotient has been significantly reduced by this illness. If we all make it through this day alive, I am going to consider it a parenting triumph.

I know, I know. I don't usually write blog entries that are quite this rambling and self-absorbed. I usually at least have a point to make. But it has been five days since I have seen a human being other than my immediate family, and the whole situation clearly has me a little on the crazy side. How crazy? Well, I don't think that it is the feverish delirium talking when I report that I now have indisputable proof that the graphics department responsible for Pullups is indeed messing with my mind. Paul did an emergency run to the store this weekend when we were running dangerously low on Pullups and came home with a Toy Story-themed pack. The balls on the Elmo ones might have been coincidence, but really, how am I supposed to tell my son to keep his Woody dry with a straight face?

It hurts to laugh. I will be the first in line at next year's flu clinic.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Famous last words

"Since both of my kids and my husband have already gotten the flu shot, there's really no reason for me to bother to get it. I mean, what are the odds that I'm going to get the flu anyway?"

Dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Those odds, they always seem to find me.

I'm going back to bed now...