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

Thursday, June 29, 2006


London is on. London is off. London could be on. London could be off. It is now in the hands of faceless executives -- higher up mucky mucks who have no knowledge of my family (or even my husband) -- whether London will be on or off. Pack your bags! We'll never end up doing this. Call a realtor! This might be a long shot. This could easily happen! Nothing is ever easy. Run! Walk! Stop! Go! Yes! No! Maybe?

If this is my crash course in the "go with the flow" attitude required to live overseas, then I'm honestly not quite sure which way I hope this all pans out in the end.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

London calling

It's all been planned out for years, this life of mine. The marriage and the kids and the house in the 'burbs, all anxiously anticipated and joyfully realized. The friendships I've made and the friendships my children have made, all carefully cultivated to give us a social network, a base to fall back on and daily entertainment. The classes and activities which my kids participated in as babies, which positioned them for the preschool they now attend and for the elementary, middle and high schools they will someday attend, all painstakingly thought out with far more detail than was probably strictly necessary. I know what I'm doing next week, next month and next year. I know how those actions will impact my life even further out. Planning is my nervous tic and my outlet for excess energy and worry. I obsess over decisions and details, but I'm happy in my obsession. In the end, I am comforted by a wealth of personal knowledge and by the security of a well thought out and executed plan.

So when the plan gets tossed up in the air, when a once in a lifetime opportunity comes up that would upset the applecart completely, rendering the past 7 or so years of planning somewhat irrelevant, how do I respond? Are you kidding? Just think of all the new obsessing and researching and planning needs to be done to make this new life path successful! Bring it on...

And just like that, everything changes. An unexpected job opportunity for Paul. A year -- maybe 2 -- in London for all of us. A new lifestyle. New experiences. A new view of the world. And yes, I selfishly admit, maybe some new writing material, too. Nothing's set in stone yet. No papers have yet been signed -- or even proffered. It's too early to say for sure how this will all pan out. But in my mind, I'm already walking my uniformed daughter to her first day of British school. I should bring an umbrella in case it rains.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A burgeoning sense of self, part 2

Over the past two years, Evan has gone through a pretty standard succession of names for me, including Mama, Mommy and (a little too early for my liking) Mom. He's even called me Rebecca or Becca on occasion, which I secretly find far more charming than I try to let on. But in the past week or two, I've picked up a new title which is by far my favorite. I am now "My Mommy" -- as in, "can I have a snack, My Mommy?" or "My Mommy, where are you?" I love what this says about Evan's growing understanding of the English language, as well as his increased awareness of the world around him. And of course, I love what it says about my role in his life. This one will be short lived, I suspect; the best ones always are. It will be an especially sad day when this new moniker -- and the sweetly earnest way Evan pronounces it -- is gone.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A burgeoning sense of self

"Aren't you cute! What's your name?"


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I is for incredulous

I hesitated a bit at the door when dropping Julia off at her first day of camp this morning. This was a new set of teachers for her, and she'll have them not only this summer but throughout the next school year as well. Should I say something? Would that be too pushy? Would waiting make more sense or would patterns already have developed by then which would be difficult to change? I knew that I felt just as unsure as my child at that moment. Finally, I bit the bullet and spoke up.

"I expect Julia won't say much to you today," I began hesitantly. Miss M looked up in surprise. "Is she shy?" she asked in surprise. "I've seen her on the playground this past year and she certainly seems comfortable talking with her friends."

"She is," I replied, "but it's a very different story with adults." Briefly, I explained; the year of silence in the 2s, the gradual social blossoming in the 3s, the continued unwillingness to speak in a group setting. "She's made great progress," I told her new teacher, "but talking is still a struggle for her. For the past two years, her teachers have nurtured her and let her be who she is, and she's loved them for it, but this year I'm hoping that you'll push her out of her comfort zone a bit and help her get to the next stage." There. I'd said it. I'd told this woman how to do her job. How would she respond?

Miss M smiled at me. "My job is to get her to kindergarten next year able to speak up for herself," she told me. "I'll definitely push her a bit." I smiled back in relief. "That's absolutely it," I gushed. "Here's a kid who's been reading for a year now, and I'm so afraid that if she can't tell her teacher what she knows, she'll spend a whole year doing 'b goes buh' again so as not to make a fuss..." Realizing that I was getting ahead of myself, I stopped short, but Miss M was still smiling. "I've seen plenty of kids like this before," she told me. "Mark my words, by the end of the year, she'll be reading books aloud to the class in circle time." I laughed. "Don't hold your breath," I cautioned her, "but I'm very grateful that you'll try." She thanked me quite genuinely for the heads up and we said goodbye.

Three and a half hours later, a beaming Miss M met me at the classroom door. "Julia read the note that you wrote on her napkin to the whole class at lunch time," she told me, "and we've had some lovely chats today." I stared at her, stunned. "See you tomorrow, Julia," she said breezily, smiling at both of us as I tried to scrape my jaw off the floor.

I think that Julia may just have met the person who will change the path of her life.

Oh, yeah... the kids had fun, too

One harried mother...

Two children who refused to be hurried along...

A shitload of stuff that should have been taken care of earlier...

Two backpacks, carefully packed with towels, sunscreen, water shoes and clean clothing (all labeled with a Sharpie)...

Two plastic bags, filled with emergency clothing (all labeled with a Sharpie)...

One lunch, carefully packed in a lunchbox (you guessed it... labeled with a Sharpie)...

Two children, slathered with sunscreen and dressed for play (the younger one in a name tag that was written with a Sharpie, now that you mention it)...

Two children, two backpacks, one lunchbox, one beloved Cookie Monster book and one purse, all precariously juggled after an over-filled parking lot necessitated a block-long walk to the first day of camp (a rapidly cooling cup of coffee regretfully left behind)...

One cheerful goodbye, one tearful goodbye and 20 minutes spent waiting in the hallway for the all-clear sign on child #2...

Forty five minutes in Starbucks with friends, adults-only for the first time in 4 1/2 years. No strollers. No sippy cups. No toddler meltdowns. Conversations that were actually finished without interruption. Language and topic unsuitable for small children. Not a single spill.

Is it any wonder I was positively giddy?

Monday, June 19, 2006

The obligatory vacation photo

CAPTION: My two happy, carefree children scamper down the beach, laughing together at some joke only they understand. No one is whining, flashing me "I hate you" looks or demanding food. I am not yelling, making empty threats or attempting to bribe them into submission. We are all just genuinely enjoying each other and the natural beauty of our environment. We are having fun.

It lasted just long enough for me to snap this shot. But it happened. This is proof.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

You take the good, you take the bad, you take then both and there you have... vacation

Yesterday morning, after I spent an hour and a half organizing belongings and packing bags and stripping beds and sweeping away the sand and detritus of a week at the shore with four small children, we all donned bathing suits and headed down for one last hour on the beach before going home. As I stood at the edge of the water, holding Evan (who had already experienced the indignity of one too many waves in the face over the course of the week) and watching Julia and Paul collect shells further down the beach, I felt vacation amnesia set in.

The naps which Evan decided were entirely unnecessary while away from home and his resulting crankiness? Carried out to sea by a wave. The sun which woke both children several hours earlier than usual and further contributed to the crankiness factor? Washed away. The bickering and fighting which was inevitable with that many kids in the same place for that long, yet no less annoying for this inevitability? Whisked into the surf. The sight of a cozy lounge chair and a good book just slightly out of reach all week as I tended to my family's needs before my own? Erased by the tides.

By the time we'd all scrubbed ourselves clean in the fabulous outdoor shower and headed off for home, all that remained of our vacation were the good memories; hours spent digging in the sand and playing at the water's edge, trips for ice cream and pizza, amusement park rides and aquarium exhibits, watching the moon rise and pouring another glass of wine on the deck with friends after the children had gone to bed. "Maybe we should go for two weeks next year," I suggested to Paul. He considered this for a moment, my husband who despises sand, can't stand putting on a bathing suit, and is driven nuts by too much time spent in the presence of too many children. "I think that's a good idea," he finally replied. You gotta love vacation amnesia.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

List-free (in 2007)

One year ago today, in between frenetic acts of disorganized packing hysteria, I posted this. A year later to the date, here I am once again packing again for the same annual family pilgrimage. "I won't even need to write an entry today," I laughed to myself as I sat down at the computer today. "I can just re-use the one from last year!" My laughter wasn't exactly the happy kind; I've felt like I've just been treading water for months now, and the realization that it's been an entire year and nothing has changed in my life just seemed to confirm that feeling. I opened up last year's entry fully expecting to come face to face with undeniable proof that time really is standing still these days.

Then I actually read what I'd written a year ago.

Lists? I had lists? Huh. No lists this year. No gear, few toys, just enough foodstuff to get us started. I can't even imagine what the "extras" I was referring to last year included, and I'm equally unclear how there could have been enough of them to merit an entire list. We'll be leaving the tricycle behind this year (I learned my lesson), and things like booster seats are a thing of the past. In fact, I've really got no plans to bring much of anything with us other than some clothing, some linens and lots of suntan lotion. I may be doing the same things I was doing a year ago, but I'm doing them in an entirely different way this year.

Looking back, I can't help but feel a little superior to 2005 Me, the Me of Many Lists. Did I really need all that stuff or did I make myself crazy for nothing? Either way, I am determined that 2006 Me is going to be a relaxed, happy, list-free traveler. None of that silly "make it and check it twice" stuff for me this year, no more making my entire family crazy as I run around like a mad woman trying to fit every single thing we own in the back of a Nissan Murano. I'm going to bring some things that I think we'll need on vacation. Whatever we forget, I'll buy when we get there. Whatever I can't find, we'll do without. It just doesn't matter.

Perhaps, ever so slowly, life is moving forward after all. Maybe, just maybe, there will come a day when a trip feels like a vacation again. It won't happen this year, that's for sure. But my sudden certainty that such a day will actually come some day has me humming a very different vacation tune this year. In looking back, I guess I'm finally looking forward a bit. My family and I? We're apparently all growing up a little after all, and it feels good. Damn good. But before I get all smug about my growth and development as a mother and a person, I need to find a pen. While I was re-reading last year's post and feeling so good about the subtle changes a year can bring, I also realized that I really ought to toss some sippy cups and some Children's Tylenol into the car again this year. I just know that I'm going to forget about them if I don't write this down somewhere. And now that I'm really thinking about this, it wouldn't be a vacation without Trivial Pursuit... Oh, and I'll definitely want to make sure the video camera's charged...

How much could one little list hurt?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Further proof that what's fascinating to a 4 year old is less than riveting to the rest of the world

Julia's last day of school was today. In honor of the "occasion," today's post comes from her. Here are her thoughts and reflections (dictated, with the occasional subject prompt from me) about school and the things she hopes to remember about this year.

School was good because I liked my teachers. I liked them because they give us fairy dust and we do messy art projects with them. Do you know what my favorite messy art project is? My favorite messy art project is doing the shaving cream like I did today.

And I liked school because I had fun. I liked to have fun with Morgan and Abby and Brianna. We all played together. We did flip downs with Brianna and Morgan, but Abby was scared. When I went on the playground, I liked to do things to find Jake in Pre-K. I like doing our balance beam thing with Abby.

I liked going to lunch at school. I liked to do bubbles and the obstacle course at Enrichment. I liked to play with Abby with blocks and build a Princess castle. When it was the third day of the school year, I used to hide from the Monsters (Matthew and Maxwell) with Brianna in our special spots.

My favorite snack was the snack we had today: chocolate cupcakes. We had chocolate cupcakes because it was Jack's birthday. My favorite song was the snowman song (it's kind of not the weather for snowman songs, though). My favorite art project was the Life Cycle of a Flower and the Life Cycle of a Butterfly. My favorite holiday was Purim because I liked the castle we built at school. My favorite thing to do at school was read the bumblebee book with Abby (the one the Pre-K made). My favorite job was calendar.

I hope I'll have a good time swimming this summer at the temple. I hope when I'm in Pre-K, I can read the bumblebee book again with Brianna.

The End

First Day of School

Last Day of School

Talk about growing up before my eyes...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Matters of grey matter

I have been saying for years that I would have far more room in my head for important information if my brain were not already full of useless nursery rhymes and mindless sorority cheers. If recent changes to my daughter's memory are any indication, this tongue in cheek excuse for my forgetfulness may actually be dead on after all.

Julia's memory impressed me for a long time. Throughout her 2 and 3 year old years, she would frequently regale me with detailed stories of things that had happened a full year or two prior. She would recall with eerie accuracy precise details about what people had been wearing at a given event or where she had first been introduced to a particular food or concept. She was able to recite books verbatim after only one or two readings, and she remembered entire conversations we'd shared a few months back as clearly as if they'd just occurred moments before. "She must have a photographic memory," we would say as we watched her in astonishment.

She doesn't. At least, not any more. Because in the past several months, these recall abilities suddenly seem to be gone. "I don't remember that," she frequently tells me when we discuss events of the recent past or important occasions that she's always recalled before. Entire concepts that she fully grasped just a short time ago suddenly escape her ("What's a negative number?" she asked me the other day after a whole fall spent begging people to give her harder and harder math problems). She's forgotten entire vacations which she used to discuss in intense detail, entire books which she used to be able to recite with no effort at all, entire topics which used to fascinate her, entire relationships with people who used to matter a great deal to her. She's gone from seemingly remembering every little detail to remembering shockingly little about anything at all. It's bizarre.

Or is it? At the same time that she's seemingly lost all sorts of memories, Julia's reading abilities have truly flourished, her imaginative play has taken on new dimensions and her social interactions have become strikingly more mature and involved. She's thinking just as much as ever, but she's thinking about very different things these days, and those things seem to be crowding out the things that she used to think about, competing for valuable space inside her head.

Julia's brain was empty enough in the first few years of her life that there was room to store every little detail of her daily existence. But now that her own repertoire of nursery rhymes and life experiences is growing, there just isn't room for the little details any more, for the fact that I was wearing a pink shirt on Tuesday or that last year, her bedroom in our vacation house had a blue bedspread. The memorized words to Corduroy may have to be pushed aside to make room for all the new words she's reading now, and it's likely she'll forget those, too, as her appetite for increasingly complex reading material increases in the coming years. Her mind can't store everything that happens to her indefinitely. Some choices will need to be made about what gets retained. And those choices, I'm now realizing, are going to be pretty damn random.

The older she gets, the more selective Julia's memory will become, just as mine has over the years. Suddenly, it's not a foregone conclusion that anything will be retained. This is in some ways depressing (I spent nearly three years and hundreds of dollars on enriching Mommy and Me activities, but when I brought her to sit in on one of Evan's Music Together classes today, she had no memory whatsoever of having ever participated in one before). It's also a little liberating (ok, so I yelled at her for something that wasn't technically her fault yesterday, and probably the day before that too, but odds are good that she'll have completely forgotten all about my sharp words by next week). But mainly, it's a challenge to me. It's a challenge to ensure that the good of our lives outweighs the bad, of course, so that whatever random memories Julia does retain are largely positive. And it's also a challenge to keep on writing here, to keep storing up all of those memories that her brain may not have room to keep but my heart can not afford to let her lose.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A rhetorical question

Am I more self-absorbed when I post endless blog entries about the largely uninteresting minutiae of my life or when I am so caught up in the largely uninteresting minutiae of my life that I don't bother to post at all?