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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

My cat will never forgive me for having children

Willlow! Hi!

scamper, scamper, pitter patter, pitter patter

Hi, Willow!

scamper, scamper, pitter patter, pitter patter

Here, Willow!

scamper, scamper, pitter patter, pitter patter

Nice Willow!

scamper, scamper, pitter patter, pitter patter

Here, nice Willow!

scamper, scamper, stomp, stomp, stomp


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There's a life lesson in here somewhere and I'm not sure it actually has much to do with potties or shoes or leaving extra time for such things

I have been a mother for over four years and the mother of two children for over two of those years. My days of tossing a purse over my shoulder and heading for the door ought by all rights to be nothing but a distant memory by now. We leave the house at least once a day, often more, so that probably means I've gone through the "getting everyone out the door" motions with two children in tow at least what, 750 times now? That's at least 750 times that I've been "surprised" by a missing shoe, a last minute potty trip, a dawdling child or my own inability to locate my keys. That's at least 750 times that I've underestimated how long it will take to walk the 5 feet from the garage door to the car door and buckle my children in. That's at least 750 times that I have been late to my destination.

"I should have left earlier," I think every single time that I back out of my driveway, silently cursing whichever child has made us late this time. I grumble and I fume and I curse the 25 mph road that lies ahead of us as I vow to build more time into my schedule, to expect the unexpected. And then the next day, I do the same thing all over again. Time sneaks up on me, my kids fail to see the urgency of the hour and we all end up grumpy and rushed. And late. Again.

I get annoyed at my children when they do the same foolish things over and over and over again. I find it hard to believe that Evan's bladder only calls when he sees me putting my coat on and it drives me nuts that Julia misplaces her shoes with such frequency. I am impatient for both of them to learn what seem like some terribly obvious life lessons. Use the bathroom when I suggest it, rather than waiting until the last possible second. Put your shoes in the same place every time you take them off so that you'll be able to find them again. They're simple enough things to learn, and I am surprised anew each day by my children's inability to grasp such obvious lessons. But leaving a little extra time for life's inevitable this-shouldn't-be-a-surprise-by-now surprises? That is much, much harder lesson to learn... or so my actions would imply.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

There was a little girl who had a little curl

I honestly don't think a week's gone by this year that someone hasn't complimented Julia on her hair. It's always been her best feature; long and thick, with big fat curls that corkscrew when it's humid and spiral gently then there's not much moisture in the air. It's certainly not something that she inherited from me. I've spent my life battling with thin, straight hair that's prone to frizz, so Julia's beautiful locks are something I both covet and protect. Her shirt may be stained, her shoes may be scuffed, but by God her hair is always carefully coiffed.

Last week, I took both kids to the hair salon, Evan for a spring shearing and Julia for a semi-annual trim. Her hair had gotten so long that it stretched all the way down her back when it was wet and I hated to let a pair of scissors touch it, but it was growing in slightly uneven and was starting to look a little stringy. I knew that a trim would make a world of difference, and I was willing to part with a little bit of length to clean it up a bit.

"This much?" the hairdresser asked, holding up about an inch of curl at the bottom of Julia's hair. "Looks about right," I agreed. "I just want to clean it up. I don't want to lose any of the length." The woman nodded and began pinning up sections of hair, so I left Julia in her hands and went over to supervise Evan's cut.

Anyone who's ever been the victim of an enthusiastic stylist knows where this is going. I returned to Julia's chair minutes later to find at least 2 1/2 inches of hair lying on the floor around her. I must have gasped a little bit, because the hairdresser was apologetic. "Her hair was a lot shorter on one side," she explained. "I had to keep going." I just nodded. What else could I say? The deed was done. Silently, I watched as she blew Julia's hair dry. It did look thicker and healthier, and I knew that the length would grow back. But the curls were another story. In her exuberance, the stylist seemed to have cut every last one of them off. "Look, Mom, my hair's straight like yours," Julia crowed. I wanted to cry.

It's been a week since the fateful cut and I have yet to reconcile with Julia's new appearance. I'm still trying to convince myself that the curls are still in there somewhere. I've tried scrunching and products and everything else I can think of, things I never thought I'd do to a 4 year old's hair, to coax them along. With effort, I can corral the thick waves into something resembling her old hairstyle. On humid days, it's almost curly. But those beautiful curls, the ringlets that naturally spiraled down and puddled at the small of her back, are gone forever. Julia's just about the age that her cousin was when her beautiful toddler ringlets relaxed into a headfull of thick, wavy "real" hair, I'm now realizing. Nature probably would have taken Julia to the same place sooner or later. But her ill-fated haircut accelerated the process, and I'm inexplicably bitter about it.

I don't know why I can't get past this, why I'm so desperate to get those curls back and so distraught that I can't seem to resurrect them. It's just hair, and Julia's still looks long and lovely. She's perfectly content with the change and actually seems a little bit delighted that her hair isn't as curly any more. But I am anything but delighted, and I can't quite figure out what's at the root of my complaint. Is this a materialistic ache for the loss of something I considered beautiful? A maternal ache at the loss of my child's youthful look? Or simply resistance to change, any change at all? I keep wondering, and as I keep wondering, I keep twirling my daughter's hair between my fingers... sometimes absently, sometimes deliberately and -- disappointingly enough -- rarely with any success.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Too much of a good thing is... not so good

My wonderfully thoughtful sister in law took pity on me after reading this and sent my kids a copy of the coolest kids' music ever released. The first time that I played it in the car, Evan screamed "more... more NOW!" when I tried to turn the car off and I thought I'd died and gone to the kind of heaven where children have good taste in music and no one has ever even heard of the Sesame Street Count. I sent Jordan a glowing email of thanks and settled in to forget the past months of Ah-ah-ah agony.

Several weeks later, however, I've come to realize that the problem was not Evan's obsession with the Count, but Evan's obsessive nature, period. Ninety Nine Bats (In My Car Today), it is history, folks. My fickle son no longer cares one iota about those bats. Today, we're all about a plethora of other animals, the ones in Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of Old McDonald, to be precise. I had forgotten just how passionate Evan can be about that song, but Evan, apparently, had not. This CD lit the fire in his farm-loving soul once again and he simply can not get enough of it. "EIO, Mommy," he now begs as soon as we get into the car. "EIO again," he begs as soon as the song ends. "EIO again NOW!" Things get nasty quickly if he doesn't get his fix. It's all beginning to sound, I'm afraid to say, a tad familiar.

Ella is a vast improvement over a Muppet, of that there is no question. I completely loved her version of this old favorite the first time I heard it. But frankly, after the seventy fifth time I've heard the song this week, I'm getting a little tempted to tell her where she can put those animals of hers. Evan thanks you a thousand times over, Jordan. I do, too, of course. But possibly not quite as much as I had originally thought...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The hearts are a lovely touch, but somehow they still don't make me feel any better about this

I'm admittedly no MILF or anything. But I still fit into the occasional size 4, I don't ever leave the house without a touch of makeup and I have yet to succumb to the Mommy haircut. I'm holding it all together, thank you very much, though perhaps just barely so.

So then why do you suppose it is that my daughter, whose self portraits include such details as long flowing curly locks, persists in drawing me as some sort of matronly June Cleaver with a huge belly button?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Damp enthusiasm

I get one weekend a year.

One weekend when I can wake up when I want, do what I want all day and call it a night when I damn well please. One weekend when I can wear whatever I want without fear that a small someone will wipe his or her nose on me. One weekend when the only person who I have to take to the potty is me. One weekend when I can pay other people to cater to my every whim rather than doing the catering myself. One weekend with good friends who knew me before I was a wife, before I was a mommy and before I was a stick in the mud. One weekend filled with luxurious spa treatments, fattening foods, too many glasses of wine and the kind of laughter you can only have with people who know you inside and out. One weekend when I can leave the children in my husband's very capable hands and not look back. One weekend for myself.

Our destination for this one weekend? The beach. You know, so we could all luxuriate in the springtime sunshine and salt air. Could the forecast for the Eastern Seaboard have therefore been anything other than this?

I apparently also have one weekend to curl up in some overstuffed armchair somewhere inside the resort and read the rainy days away. And you know what? I'll gladly take it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dumb luck

A good friend came over today to tell me that she's been diagnosed with lymphoma. I'd known that she'd been undergoing some tests, that there was the remote possibility that something might be really wrong. Turns out she hit the remote possibility jackpot on this one. It was dumb luck, she says.

She's remarkably composed about the situation, which sounds complicated but not dire. Her doctor tells her that the disease is eminently curable, and she's taken that to heart, choosing to focus on the "what nows" rather than the "what ifs." I took my cues from her, asking more about practical matters than emotional ones, for which she seemed more than a little grateful. She's told very few people yet, and asked that I keep quiet for now, but said that she'd let me know when she wanted me to spread the word. "When you're ready for me to rally the troops, I will, but not a moment before," I promised her.

Thinking back about our conversation today and thinking ahead to the next few months, I'm a little surprised at how I'm feeling. I should be sad, I suppose, or frightened or vulnerable, or even angry. And I do feel those things to an extent. But what I primarily feel is lucky. I feel lucky for my own health, of course, but mainly I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to serve as a confidante and a support system to my friend. I feel lucky because we are both surrounded with a rich community which will support her through every step of this process. When she says the word, we'll spring into action and meals will be prepared, child care will be provided and groceries will appear on her doorstep. There will be people to talk with her and laugh with her and cry with her, if that's what she needs. She won't go through a minute of this alone, and should I be faced with similar adversity some day down the road, I won't have to go through it alone either.

That's no small thing, having a community to rally around you like that. I take it for granted some times, that there are dozens of women in my life whom I consider friends. Good people, people who I genuinely enjoy and who make a positive impact on me, have found their ways into my life in the past few years, even when I wasn't actively looking for them. I hear stay at home mothers talk all the time about how isolating being home with their kids can be, but I've quite frankly found the opposite to be true. I find interesting, vibrant, intelligent women who also happen to be home with their kids almost everywhere I turn, and I've been lucky enough to convert quite a few of them into real friends. I've stumbled into a group that I can call on for just about anything, and as today showed, those people know that they can call on me, too. I suppose you could say once again that it was just dumb luck. But this time, those words mean something very different.

There are many things in my life that I'm grateful for, and my husband and my children and our extended family are way up at the top of that list. But right up there with them is my family of friends. I know what I've got, and I know how special and important it is. And that's why my friend's news, while troublesome and upsetting, is not nearly as bad as it could be. I know that together, we'll all make this easier for her than it would have been if she'd had to face it alone. That's not dumb luck. It's just plain lucky.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Fun with Interfaith issues, the Passover/Easter edition

Dayenu is probably one of the most well known Passover songs, and the message it conveys, "it would have been enough," is pretty classic Jewish stuff. In the spirit of the song and that message...

If the Lord had only given me the opportunity to celebrate Passover with my children,

Dayenu (it would have been enough).

But Evan's repeated requests to sing Dayenu at Easter dinner?

That was the icing on my kosher-for-Passover cake.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


"This is called Molluscum Contagiusum. It's a viral rash and should eventually clear up on its own, but it can take up to a year for it to fully go away. If the bumps don't bother her, you can leave them alone, but if you don't like the look of them or if they're getting irritated, they can easily be removed by a dermatologist."

"Yeah, that's exactly what Dr. Google told me you would say."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A ministone of my very own

My first few attempts at making my mom's brisket recipe involved quite a few phone calls for clarification.

"I know that this is all approximate, but can you give me a ballpark figure here? How many onions I should be buying to cover the bottom of the crock pot?"

"When you say 'cook a long time,' do you mean in the neighborhood of 2 hours or 12?"

As time went on, I got more confident and the phone calls tapered off. "Oh, I did that already," I'd casually say when my mother would ask when I planned to make the main course for an upcoming holiday. I no longer held my breath before my guests took their first bites. I was confident in my ability to follow the vague recipe, confident that my brisket was going to taste like my mother's brisket tastes and like her mother's brisket once tasted as well.

And then, last night, I had a ministone of my very own. Three quarters of the way through preparing the brisket for this week's Passover seder, I realized that I hadn't even taken the recipe card out of the drawer this year. A few more onion slices here, a smidge more garlic there... my hands naturally knew what to do. I even (don't read this part, Mom) tweaked things a bit. And I knew that it would taste just right.

I've followed my mother's recipe at least a dozen times in the past dozen years. But last night, I made my very first brisket. I was Bat Mitzvahed at 13. I moved out on my own at 21. I was married at 26 and I became a mother at 29. Each of those occasions technically made me, in some small way, more and more of an adult. But last night, preparing Passover food from memory, I felt like a real grown up -- a bona fide Jewish woman -- for the first time. It wasn't nearly as scary as I always thought it was going to be. Not by a long shot.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Spring cleaning schizophrenia

I cheerfully threw out the boppy, the baby toys and the burp cloths without a passing glance or a twinge of regret. Ditto the half-used pack of size 3 diapers, the pacifier clips and dozens of pairs of outgrown children's shoes. Ruthless in my determination to say goodbye to the clutter without sentimentality, I tossed them all in a flurry of decisive activity.

I bagged up my old work clothes for donation, though it pained me to do so. Those suits had hung there untouched for 5 years now, but I'd never been able to bring myself to pack them away before. I was honestly distressed to see that part of my life go (despite the fact that it's obviously been gone for so long now), but I was also fully aware that even if and when I return to the workforce, I will never return to pleated pants. Out they went.

I sorted through my underwear drawers, tossing dozens of items that should have been discarded long ago. And then, inexplicably, I tenderly returned all of my stretched out, threadbare nursing bras to the drawer. Really good nursing bras are hard to find, and I just couldn't bring myself to let go of mine just yet.

In the end, I cleaned things up, yes. But I didn't quite clear things up, now did I?

Friday, April 07, 2006

The real truth about stay at home moms

I woke Evan at 8:20 this morning. He was groggy and unhappy that I had interruped his sleep. I felt terrible, but Julia had to be at preschool in 40 minutes and I was cutting things as close as I could already. I yanked a shirt over his head before I'd even lifted him out of his crib and helped him into his pants, socks and shoes while he was still sitting on the potty.

He wasn't really ready to eat when we got downstairs, but time was a'ticking. I'd just received a call from a friend who needed me to take her daughter to school, which would require an extra, unexpected detour. We really had to walk out the door, but he was only half done with his frozen waffle. "You can carry it with you and eat it in the car," I promised him as I helped him into his coat.

After preschool drop off, we stopped at Drug Fair to pick up a couple of things that we needed. I let him walk instead of putting him in a shopping cart so that the errand would be more fun for him, and at first it was. But then he got a little too enthusiastic in the hair care aisle and had to be scooped up into my arms and whisked away from all of the pretty bottles and jars. He left the store sulking.

We headed home to balance out his morning meal with some apple slices, which he munched on while I made a bunch of phone calls that I needed to take care of. As soon as we both were done, we were back out the door again and on our way to Lord & Taylor's big spring sale. I hated to force Evan to sit through yet another errand, but I had a 15% off coupon that was about to expire and a long list of things we all still needed for spring. I couldn't justify missing the savings. I promised him that we'd get through the trip as fast as we could.

I knew that it would be impossible to get any real shopping done with Evan perusing the racks, so I guiltily pulled the stroller out of the trunk and sweet talked him into climbing in and sitting nicely. I was right that things would go much faster that way, and I zipped through my shopping pretty quickly. But when Evan's 2 trips to the bathroom and the long sale lines at the registers got added into the equation, this was still no quick trip. By the time we got back out to the car, I was startled to discover that we had only 20 minutes before we had to pick Julia up at school.

By now, Evan was grouchy and annoyed about being contained in his car seat. But it was raining and we didn't have time to get home and back before we had to be at school, which left us without any real viable options for getting him out of his seat. So I killed time with a quick driving tour of some neighborhoods I like to drool over while trying to keep Evan engaged with songs and discussions. He wanted none of it.

Evan perked up as soon as he saw Julia, but his delight was short-lived; Julia had a play date scheduled for right after school. We drove her to her friend's house and waved goodbye again. By now, Evan had pretty much given up on our morning (not that I could blame him). He munched on a piece of challah in the backseat and refused to let me engage him in conversation.

We came home for lunch and a little bit of play time. Finally, Evan had my undivided attention, and he was thrilled. We played with his cars and put together some puzzles and had a grand time laughing together for about 45 minutes. But before I knew it, it was 1:30 and I had to call an end to play time so that Evan could get a nap. "We'll do something fun when you get up," I promised him. But I knew full well that by then, Julia would be home competing for my attention too, and he'd probably end up getting a small piece of me at best.

I have always said that I stay at home with my children because I believe that I can give them the best possible start. This time with me, I've always maintained, will be invaluable to them, and it's well worth putting my career on hold to give Julia and Evan the gift of my time and attention in their formative years. But on days like today, I have to wonder how true that really is. If Evan had been in daycare today, he would have played with friends, built a tower with blocks, maybe even painted a picture. A teacher would have read him a book and he would have interacted with his peers during his snack. He certainly wouldn't have been confined to a stroller or car seat for the better part of the morning, and play time would have been the entire focus of his day, rather than a 45 minute activity guiltily tacked onto a morning of boring errands. He would have missed me, yes, and I would have missed him. But would he have been missing out? Rather the opposite, I suspect, and I'm not quite sure how that makes me feel about what I'm doing here at home.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


The odd side effects of Julia's temple education never fail to catch me a bit off guard. Today's doozy came as she watched me wrap Evan in a frog towel after his bath: "Look, Evan's a plague!"

Saturday afternoon surfing


"Oops what?"

"I meant to visit Home Depot, but I forgot to type the M."

"I imagine that would give you something very different than what you were originally looking for."

"Yeah, sure did. Hey, look... they have an interactive showroom here."

"Which site are you on???"

"Oh. Home Depot now. But I guess an interactive showroom would have been pretty interesting on the other site, too, huh?"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

On the bright side, if they provided a feminist lesson for Julia, just think what they can do for Evan

I thought I'd dodged a bullet on the Barbie thing. After her initially enthusiastic introduction to the dolls, Julia completely lost interest in all things Barbie soon after she turned 3. Her sole Barbie has languished on a shelf for over a year now, with no one to paint her toenails or help her select careerwear, and I can't say I've been all too upset about that turn of events.

Granted, I'd be more pleased with the situation had Julia not fixated instead on Polly Pockets, which are really no better (and potentially worse, since there is not a single outfit in the 450 little plastic pieces of Polly apparel we now own that any of those dolls could wear on a job interview). I know it's all the same crap, really. But Barbie's got years of bad PR working against her, and I must admit that I was still feeling a little bit smug about the fact that we apparently weren't going to be a Barbie household.

As usual, I counted my chickens too soon.

Evan and I went to the toy store last week while Julia was at school to pick up a birthday gift for one of her friends. I grabbed a random assortment of Pollies and accessories off the shelf and headed for the cash register, only to realize that Evan was no longer at my side. I turned around and there was my son, reverently selecting one Barbie at a time off the shelf, kissing each doll and then gently placing each one back where he'd found it. "Let's go, Ev," I encouraged. "No, more," he replied, clearly determined to give every doll in the store her due share of love. "Please, Evan," I begged. "We have more errands to do today." He stubbornly refused to move. Despite my best efforts to woo him away, he spent the better part of the next half hour engaged in a Barbie lovefest the likes of which his sister has never seen or contemplated.

We eventually managed to get out of the store without purchasing any Barbies. After Evan had kissed each one reverently, he was more than willing to leave them behind. But I've never seen that look in his eye before, and he's certainly never shown quite that much love to a Thomas train. It would appear that we just might end up being a Barbie household after all. It figures.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The remembering paper

"I should write about this on my remembering paper," Julia told me today as she was working on an art project after school. I was only half listening, truth be told, but something about the words she used caught my attention. "What's a remembering paper?" I asked.

"It's something I write things down on so I can remember them," she replied. "You know, like if we have Fit To Go or something. I don't know where it went, though. I'll have to start a new one."

I felt my breath catch in my throat for a minute. "That sounds a little like a diary or a journal," I told her. "They're blank books where people write about their thoughts and ideas and experiences so that they can look back and remember them later." Julia nodded. "Yeah, it's just like that," she said.

"Sometimes," I continued, "people write those things on the computer, and then they're called blogs. I do that. I write things down in a blog -- things that you and Evan do and say and things I think about -- so that I can remember them later on. Is that kind of the same thing you're talking about?" She nodded again. "Did someone else teach you about remembering papers?" I asked. "No, it was my idea," she replied.

It's such a simple thing, really. Millions and millions of people write in journals and diaries and blogs ever day. I didn't invent the idea any more than my daughter did, and neither of us are particularly unique in our desire to record the minutiae of our lives for posterity. But the fact that my daughter felt the unprompted urge to journal at the age of 4? This pleases me more than I can say.

Julia watches as I flip open the laptop and start to type. "Mommy, what does that say?"

"I'm writing in my remembering paper about your remembering paper," I reply. "You know, so I won't forget." A big smile spreads over her face. "Huh," she says. Huh indeed.