Upon reflection, my last post seems a little off. It reminded me of a
piece I read a while back about how a woman's totally untrained, unruly
dog taught her about Buddhism by destroying her life and property. I
spent the entirety of the essay wondering "Instead of deciding that
your dog is teaching you the principle of non-attachment by
ingesting your high heels, how about you try some DOG TRAINING?" It
made no sense to me how little agency this woman felt she had in her
own life, how low her expectations were for her dog.

I did not make it clear in the last post that I am not just letting Z run wild. But I do struggle with finding ways to guide her: to watch bugs instead of squish them, to put things back where she found them, to play with things the way they were designed to be played with.

She has this "gumball" machine that spits out hard plastic balls when you press a lever. For the first sixth months of owning it, she would only play with it by tipping it over and dumping the balls out the top. I DID press the lever, show her how it was "supposed" to work. But I also stood back and watched and described and let her do her thing. She has a long time to learn how things are "supposed" to be done, right? Besides, she soon enough learned to press the lever and get them to
tumble out. Right after that, she totally lost interest in the thing.

I try to balance showing her how things work with letting her explore the world, playing with things in her own way, in her own time. The sandbox is a great toy precisely because it has so few rules for play. It can be anything you want it to be.

I still secretly want the sandbox to be clean and tidy with perfect little sand castles. And I work every day on letting go of that.


Thinking outside my box.

It is a cliche of parenthood that having a child makes you see the world anew. What I hear less often is how parenthood truly busts you open, cracking open the ribcage of your life and rearranging every organ inside, stretching some, ditching others and adding still more that you never knew you needed. There are no words for how profoundly Z has changed me.

Before Z, I would have described myself as a bit of a control freak. I liked a calm and orderly house. I wanted to know how things were going to happen and I preferred to plan all things in advance. I didn't like change. I sucked at handling conflict and tried anything and everything to avoid confrontations.

I am obviously in the midst of a very rude awakening.

She smashes up bugs and hands them to me for inspection and I do my very best impression of someone who is not at all grossed out. The more it happens, the less it's just an impression.

She delights in spreading her toys everywhere, taking things out of baskets, dumping every block from the bin. I follow her and "help" her tidy up before she makes her next destructive pass to return it all to chaos. I barely remember the clean and empty surfaces of my former life.

She wants things I can't give her, things she can't have right now or ever, and she loses her mind. And I have to stay there, be present, hold tight to our rules and deal with the conflict-ridden life of a toddler.

Most annoyingly, she changes. every. Damn. DAY. I just get used to something, fall in love with one lovely behavior or research my brains out about a vexing one and the next day it's different or gone. Never to be seen again. Just when I'm getting my bearings, it all shifts.

When we bought Z a sandbox and filled it with crazy expensive "safe sand", I'm not sure what I was expecting. I know I was not expecting her to use it as a place to give her dolls sand facials, including gruntily pushing fistfuls of sand into their eye sockets. I was not expecting that she would spend the rest of her time at the table pouring $5 cupfuls on the dog's head or into her own shoes.

But I am learning to let it fly just like so many other things. I like to think this relaxing of standards means I'm more flexible, open and resilient. A better mother and a better person.

Either that or I've completely lost my mind.


Minding Madeleine.

I'm sure I'm the only one who hadn't heard about Madeleine McCann till yesterday. For anyone else living under a rock, she is the British girl who apparently went missing from her vacation apartment when her parents were eating at a tapas bar on the other side of their Portuguese resort (The tapas bar is "120 metres away" from their apartment for those who can think in such crazy Euro dimensions). There has been much judgment of and finger pointing at the parents: for leaving their children (they also have two year old twins who were in the apartment at the time) alone in an apartment, for leaving the front door unlocked, for drinking several bottles of wine with their friends at dinner and now, for possibly being involved in bringing her harm.

Obviously, if they had anything to do with bringing her harm, they deserve the worst wrath of man and the legal system and I hope they suffer unspeakable anguish for the rest of their days.

But reading the story sent chills down my spine because we've done something similar while on vacation; although I would argue that we took important measures to ensure the safety of our precious charge, things that the McCann's really should have as well.

When we took our family trip to Yosemite last April, we brought along our baby monitor. We were staying at a nice hotel and had the benefit of a room on the first floor, close to the elevators. We quickly discovered that Z's early bedtime and our group's late dinners were on a collision course for disaster and we decided to feed her quickly, put her down in her crib in our room (with the baby MONITOR on and the door LOCKED and not on the ground floor) and come back down to enjoy the rest of a leisurely dinner. It was, quite simply, heaven. We felt brilliant. We could hear (on our MONITOR) that she was fine in her crib in our (LOCKED) room (in the same building as us) and we didn't have to take turns going to bed at 7 pm. We could hang out and drink and laugh and enjoy ourselves.

There were a few people who looked askance at our monitor, though. Like, "Is your baby in the room BY HERSELF?". Well, yes, she was by herself. But we were in the same building, we could hear everything happening in the room (which was, thankfully, nothing but snoring most of the time) and did I mention that she was safely in a crib behind a LOCKED door?

But I guess their point was valid. What if someone HAD come into the room? What if something HAD happened to her? It would have taken us a few minutes to run out of the dining room, scramble up the stairs, unlock the door and go in. I know this because a few times she lost her pacifier and needed it quickly replaced. Were we too far away? Were we negligent?

Deep down, a selfish little part of me almost hopes that the parents had something to do with Madeleine's disappearance. That way I won't feel too guilty about leaving Z in our hotel room last spring.


Uh, Success?

This was Z's third official week of full-day, three-days-a-week daycare. Of the roughly 20 hours a week that we are paying for, she spent exactly 4 hours this week. But this was a huge step up from last week's total of 2, read it, 2 hours. Which was a huge improvement over the first official week which included 1 glorious and gut wrenching hour of childcare.

What's to blame for our truancy? Well, the first week started with a fever and rash. The second week was a laugh riot that included a whole family snotfest and pink eye. This last week began with a 4 hour stint on Tuesday which was promptly followed by some diarrhea on Wednesday night which we only later figured out was due to her obsessively fruitopian diet but being the zealous rule follower that I am, I kept Z out of daycare on Thursday. By Friday, my mother in law was staying with us and kindly offered to take care of her while I worked my morning shift.

But if I'm being honest with myself, this week was sort of a, uh, I guess you could call it a, uh, success?

Because, on Tuesday she did some things at daycare she has never done before. She NAPPED (they swear they didn't drug her but I'm not so sure....). And ATE. And apparently her head didn't spin around while she shot sparks out of her eye sockets when her father dropped her off. And when I went to pick her up, she was her normal, crazy, toddler self the rest of the day. I mean, she doesn't seem damaged at all.

I am still terribly conflicted about Z being in daycare. (Really? It's so obvious that I don't even need to write that?) When I'm there with her I watch the amazing but tired women who work there doing a job I could never do- running in circles, with a baby in each arm, tending to diapers and bottles and insistent but totally unclear needs and books and "crafts" (for babies? and budding toddlers? Am I so lame to think that it's a little early for painting with real paint and brushes?!?!). And this is all set to a loud, ululating chorus of wailing and whimpering and tantrumming.

When faced with this scene, I have the hardest time thinking: "This is EXACTLY where I want to leave my daughter for the better part of the day!".

But maybe it's working? Maybe she's adjusting? Maybe this won't damage her? Maybe when she moves out of this baby room and into the true toddler room, it'll be different? Better? Maybe??

I do scan Craig's List for nannies on a somewhat regular basis. I also think that moving to be closer to grandparents is, perhaps, the smartest thing parents can do. That grass on either side of me is looking so very green.....


Chopped liver no more.

As soon as Z started babbling, I found myself not-so-subtly pushing her to say "Dada" and "Mama". "Dada" came pretty quickly. Maybe around 11 months? Fabulous Husband would walk into the room and her face would light up as she exclaimed "DADA!". This was the "Daddy is a rock star" phase. All my man needed was some guitar hero hair and some pleather pants and he'd be ready for his deranged toddler fans throwing their diapers up on stage.

"Mama" remained elusive. For the last few months, Z's been very interested in looking at pictures. So everytime we'd get to a picture of us, I point at it and say "Who's that? Is that MAMA?! Can you say MAMA?!!" like a deranged stage mother. She would just stare blankly at the picture of me, glance over to the picture of her father and say "DADA!" with great enthusiasm. Which was always met with: "That's right Z.... and who's next to him.... MAMA?!?!? MAMA?!?!"

That's me, insane chopped liver.

Finally, the day I've been waiting not-so-patiently for has come. Z has finally started saying "Mama". I can't tell you exactly when but sometime in the last few weeks, it's become a reliable thing.

For my junkie fix of the day, all I have to do is point to my chest and ask her: "Who am I?"

"Muhmuh!" is almost always the response. Every once in a while I'm "DahDEE?" but that's okay. All the "Muhmuh!"s make up for it.


Finding Nemo = Crack.

What's TV for if not to help with the stresses of a haircut? It's still reserved for nail cutting and haircuts in Zland. That blank stare on her face is the main reason. I swear, she did not blink the whole 10 minutes she was in that chair. She was like an addict looking at her fix.


Me and My Stalkee.

Once upon a time, I was in serious need of some friends. I was a new mom in a new town and I was desperate for a like-minded person who I could relate to, who would tell me I wasn't crazy for waking Z just to make sure she wasn't, you know, dead and who would not gag or glaze over when I talked about baby poop, sore nipples or how my belly felt like a wrinkly kangaroo pounch, only without the cute little kangaroo to fill it out.

Strangely, even the most Chic Geek of all wasn't too interested in endless discussions of such topics.

So when Z was 6 weeks old, I dragged my very sore and very sorry butt out of the house for the first excursion since her birth and went to a "breastfeeding support group" at our hospital. There in a circle of chairs sat mothers in various states of post-partum recovery. I anxiously shhhed Z, asked stupid questions, and tried to nonchalantly size up the moms around me.

Pretty soon, my gaze narrowed to a woman who seemed friendly, funny and smart. Our girls were similarly large for their age, dark haired and good sleepers. We often dressed them alike. She too was from the East Coast. She lived relatively close by. She was non-judgmental and hipper than me and what more could I ask for?

Self, I thought to myself, there is the lady you need to be friends with.

So, of course, I set out to stalk her.

I tried to sit by her. I tried to think of things to say that weren't totally lame. I tried to leave at the same time she did so that we could talk on the walk to the parking garage. It all seems so hopelessly desperate to me now.

Somewhere along the line, it became clear that a group of women, my stalkee included, went out to lunch together after the support group. How had I missed out on this? And more importantly, how could I finagle my way in?

Luckily they quickly included me and over the first year of our babies' lives we all became friends, holding playgroups and a lively email discussion group full of support and encouragement and information. And my stalkee became a real friend.

So, of course, she and her husband decided this summer to move back to the East Coast. She left on Saturday.

I am so happy for her. She will be close to family and friends and her daughter will learn about leaves changing and snow and rainy spring days. But I miss them already.

I now have a great playgroup (If Z will ever be well enough again to attend!) and have made other mom friends who I can rely on for support and encouragement and companionship. But I still will miss my stalkee dearly.

So I'm prepared to stalk again, if need be. It sure worked out the first time around.


Extremely patient dog.

Dear Sweet Dog,

I know you remember the good-ole days fondly. The days when YOU were our baby. When you got to splay across the bed on weekend mornings and got your belly rubbed by TWO people who had nothing else to do besides lay there for hours with the newspapers and some coffee. When you and I would take long hikes together and then come home to chase the ball in the backyard, followed by some 'training' (aka. Easy Treat Acquisition).

Those weekends seem like a lifetime ago (specifically the lifetime of one little person named Z). Boy howdy, I remember them too. (Sometimes a little TOO fondly. Some days, parenthood seems like an endless work week with a boss who whines, makes unreasonable demands and, of course, poops their pants and then has the nerve to scream and flail during the unpleasant, necessary changing of said poopy diaper. Plus? THERE IS NO WEEKEND.)

Now you have to deal with this little interloper who is not terribly interested in you. Except when you are sleeping, because that is when she decides you should wear your metal pronged collar and delights in dropping it on your head. Other times she is interested in you include: when you are eating something particularly tasty, when your eyeballs look like they could use a good gauging and when she has decided that it is YOU that should wear her hat.

For all of this, I'm sorry. But remember, you have your sister to thank for the yummy, plentiful food droppings around the dining room table, in the backseat of the car and on the patio during snack time.

I can only hope that you girls will grow up best friends and that you understand when I whisper into the velvety folds of your ear: "you will always be our first daughter".


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama.


My Sweaty Book Report.

I am a woman who loves research, experts and information. In my opinion, there is nothing that can't be cured with some more reading and some more experts. So it will come as no surprise to you that my bookshelves are cluttered with many a child-rearing advice tome.

I've never understood the many, many people who have said things to me like "Well, SHE (meaning my daughter) hasn't read the book has she?" or "Every child is different" or "Every book is just one person's opinion. YOU'RE the mother. Use your intuition.". To the first two points, I say this: Um, yeah, NO DUH but that doesn't mean the advice in these books is worthless. And as far as the last point goes, the authors' opinions in the best of these books are backed up by serious study, research and experience the likes of which I have neither the training, time or energy to undertake myself. Motherhood is the hardest job I've ever had (and I'm including the job where I danced, dressed as a bat, to the song "Tequila" only I had to yell "Mosquito!" over the chorus. Ah, to be broke and 20 again....) and I feel strongly that there are people out there with information that can save me, not to mention Z, the stress of too much trial-and-error, "intuitive" parenting.

*stepping off soapbox*

Where was I ?

My MIL gave us "The First Three Years of Life" by Burton L. White and I bought "Raising a Happy, Unspoiled Child" by the same, because hey, I want a happy, unspoiled child. There is a metric ton of repeated information in these two books. So if you are crunched for time, my advice is to skip "TFTYL" and head right to the more condensed "RHUC".

First of all, the good: Unlike a few books on my shelf (Oh, Mr. Weissbluth, love your advice but did you not have an editor?!?!), these books are clearly written and easy to read. And unlike some other books on my shelf (Oh, Dr. Karp, were you expecting your book to be read mostly by fourth graders?), they are also packed with juicy sentences that give great information and are based on extensive research.



What is up with the fear mongering, Mr. White?

Here's a sample of what he has to say about the age group I am vitally interested in currently, "Phase VI", 14-24 months: "The fourteen-twenty-four month period is, in my opinion, make-or-break time." and "It is vital that you be aware that Phase VI is the last period during which you have an enormous impact on the basic shape of your child's personality." and "It is not possible to overemphasize the importance of this sixteen-month stage of life", and FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS CHOCOLATE, "You have the power to help her become a chronically happy two-year-old who is a pleasure to live with or a chronically dissatisfied child who regularly engages in power struggles with you."

Anyone anxious yet? Can you smell my sweaty palms THROUGH YOUR COMPUTER?

As if I wasn't anxious enough about this time in Z's life. As if I didn't know that this is an important time (because you know, I totally ignored her during the last five phases just waiting for this one, the holy freakin' grail.).

Unfortunately, in TFTYL, White does much to induce parental panic attacks and spends lots of time patting himself on the back for how great his methods are before actually getting down to the methods themselves. But I appreciate his conviction that this is a rough time for all parents, asserting that even the ones who have parented perfectly well will have their authority tested by the blossoming individuality of their toddler. And I like his clear frank opinions on time out (he uses "prevention of proximity" instead during this phase) and his explanation for the rise in "negativism" during this phase.

So all in all, I recommend these books. Lots of great research. Interesting information. Just skip over, tune out or sweat through the fear-mongering.


Sybil takes her daughter to school/daycare.

Personality #1: "School will be good for her. By spending time away from me, she'll learn to be independent and resilient."
Personality #2: "Daycare is where she will learn that the world is cold, harsh place where Mama dumps her to go off and do something she deems more important than raising her."

Personality #1: "I am showing my daughter that I am strong woman who has her own needs and her own career goals. I will lead by example that women can be mothers without losing themselves."
Personality #2: "I am showing my daughter that I do not view motherhood as truly valuable 'work'."

Personality #1: "School will help build her immune system."
Personality #2: "Daycare will cause ten thousand plagues to descend upon our house."

Personality #1: "When I am away from my daughter, I can finally turn off the constant vigilance of motherhood, focus on myself and come back to her refreshed and ready to be present as a mother in a way that I cannot be without those breaks."
Personality #2: "When I am away from my daughter, I have that phantom limb feeling. Like something is missing. I look at the clock and wonder 'what's she doing?', 'is she okay?', and 'will I ever get over feeling guilty and actually ENJOY my time away from her?'."

Personality #1: "Kids I know who have been in school at her age seem more independent and assertive, qualities I want to instill in my daughter."
Personality #2: "Kids I know who have been in daycare at her age seem more aggressive and mouthy, obviously picking up bad behaviors from their peers."

Personality #1: "We are too enmeshed. She needs some space from me to grow up to be her own person. By letting others care for her, she will learn to trust others as well as herself."
Personality #2: "We have the close, constant, primary relationship that is vital for a child her age to have. At daycare, with too many teachers floating around the classroom, she will get lost in the shuffle and feel unmoored."

Personality #1: "I am telling my daughter that, though I love her very much, there are things that matter to me other than mothering."
Personality #2: "I am telling my daughter that, though I love her very much, there are things that matter to me other than mothering."


The first daycare plague.

Yesterday was supposed to be Z's "landing" day at daycare. I love that term: "landing". It's a bird, it's a plane, it's SUPERTODDLER! "Landing" at a classroom near you!

So of course, she got a raging fever this weekend (no doubt some random daycare plague she caught last week as we transitioned her into the classroom) and though it was finally down yesterday morning and she had no other symptoms we had to wait till the fever has been gone for 24 hours before sending her back to the petri-dish, er classroom. I am hesitant to take her anywhere now, let alone back to daycare; with all the snotty toddlers in there, she might as well be french-kissing someone in the mononucleosis ward.

How is this supposed to work exactly? I was stressed enough about her being IN daycare, I wasn't fully prepared for the stress of she's-supposed-to-be-in-daycare-but-she-has-to-stay-home.

Chic Geek had an important meeting and lots of work to do and I had a full morning of Pilates clients scheduled (Yes, that's the higher calling that I am putting my child in daycare for. It may not be curing cancer but I enjoy it and it pays relatively well for part-time work.). I knew this would happen, but so soon? I couldn't exactly cancel my clients on my FIRST DAY. So CG took the morning off, missed his meeting and I rushed home so that he could speed off to work till 10 last night.

I guess we could do that: a few days a week, I could work for a three or four hour block in the morning and he could work till midnight. That would totally kill the roughly three hours of free couple time we have in between Z's bedtime and ours but hey! the kid would be taken care of by the people who love her most, I would keep one foot in the adult, working world and we would be pulling in some more income.

Who cares about our needs as a couple, right? Who cares if we never see each other or have time to relax or watch a Flight of the Conchords episode for the 54th time?

OOOh but think of all the money we'd save. (read: spend).

(Note: I am a big girl and have started referring to Z's daycare as.... "daycare". But I reserve the right to call it "school" anytime I get anxious or guilt-ridden.)


Not your mother's 4-H.

The radio spot for the LA County Fair, sung to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm".

"LA County had a fair, E I E I.... Yo!"

Blog Designed by: NW Designs