Sucking, and lack thereof.

What royally sucked about my birthday:

That I went into it in a fairly bad mood because I hadn't slept well the night before due to brooding and fretting and worrying.

That I spent the morning stewing about a miscommunication/misunderstanding with my family over holiday plans that is basically all my fault. And that I did this while walking with my still vaguely sick and totally NOT VAGUELY teething toddler through a local botanical garden instead of going to my parenting education class that I was looking forward to.

That I was starting to feel very small and sorry for myself because of the sad, sad state of my pathetic little birthday. (wah)

What didn't royally suck about my birthday:

That lots of folks called and sent emails and cards and gifts and well wishes. My friends and family rock, even and especially the ones with whom I've miscommunicated/ misunderstood.

That my husband didn't tell me I was being a baby and should snap out of it but instead came home early so that I could take a little time out, we could all walk the dog as a family and we could all go out to dinner.

That my husband brought me the world's best cupcakes and even bought a whole bunch of mini ones for me to take to my class that I teach on Wednesday nights. Without me even suggesting or knowing about it.

That my husband had my daughter decorate my very first babe-scribbled birthday card.

That the birthday isn't even over- the celebrations are planned for tomorrow and Saturday.

Let this be a lesson to you: Even if you are celebrating your birthday on another day you STILL need to do SOMETHING on your actual birthday so that you don't feel small and sad and then get pissed at yourself for feeling small and sad.

Or maybe you are a better person than me.


Happy advanced maternal age to me.

Today is my birthday. My 35th birthday, to be exact.

Which doesn't really bother me. I'm happy I'm not 25 (though I wouldn't mind having my 25 year old body back). 35 seems like it'll be a good year.

What kinda bugs me is that it means I'm officially old in the baby making sense. It means that the next pregnancy will probably include lots of testing that I don't want and even more worrying than last time. It means I am officially "advanced maternal age".

(blah blah blah. Insert a paragraph or two about being too old and wanting another baby. I don't feel like writing it and it IS my birthday.)

So what clueless but hopeful things am I doing for my birthday, you ask?

Well, I really like the idea of doing something new and challenging on my birthday. To keep myself young and to keep feeling a little dangerous, a little spontaneous, a little edgy.

Of course, for me that means some well-planned, thought-out activity. Nothing like planned spontaneity to make you feel young, right?

This year's challenging festivities will hopefully happen on Friday and you'll just have to stay tuned to hear about it.

Here's a disjointed clip from my favorite challenging birthday activity. On my 30th birthday, I decided to take on my fear of heights:

In other news, here's a sick Poncho Villa with the weather: "It's cold here in So Cal this morning!"


To tat or not to tat.

I'm not exactly an obvious tattoo candidate: I'm not a big fan of pain, I don't wear much jewelry or otherwise adorn my body on a regular basis, I have major commitment issues when it comes to said adornment and I'm generally fairly conservative (read: BORING) in my dress. To my way of thinking, tattoos are for two general types of people: renegade, artsy, punk types who draw the blueprint for their own huge, beautiful dragons or meathead frat boys who get the ubiquitous sun on their shoulder-- of which I am neither. Plus I think tattoos may just be on the way out (it would be SOOO like me to get in on the fad right as it's going officially OUT).

The only time I've ever been seriously tempted to inject ink into my epidermis via a burning needle was when I left San Francisco two years ago. For a few months there I contemplated getting a small, boring, conservative little star on my butt or something equally tiny and hidden. I wanted to MARK the end of my days in the place where I became an adult, the place where I found myself and found my love. Around the time that I actually looked up tattoo parlors in the yellow pages, I also found out I was pregnant and I had to put it off.

Now it seems there is a new demographic of tattooed people that actually includes me: moms. Last Thursday's New York Times' Style Section covered the rising popularity of "mommy tattoos". As more than 40% of women between the ages of 26 and 40 have at least one tattoo, it's increasingly common to find moms with a tattoo of their babe's footprints or their nickname or their birthplaces' geographic coordinates (think Angelina Jolie). (Sorry, no link to that NYT story as they make you cough up dough, and possibly blood, to read them online.)

I have to say, I find this idea appealing. But my conservative little self would most likely go with something small, hidden, and drab. A tiny black star with a "z" in the middle? A little red heart with a "z" in the middle? A small leaf with a "z" in the middle? Do you see where my non-artistic, limited-imagination brain is going here?

But I think I will have to wait. Again. No, not because I'm pregnant but because we do want another child (*gasp*choke*clutch chest and hope for sanity to befall us*) and I guess I'd have to commemorate their ass as well.

It may be my latent pessimism but I swear I can just hear it now: "Mooom! Why did Z get the leaf and I got the lame star? Why does she always get something cooler?"


Scenes from the long weekend.

*Z and E, our friend's almost-three year old daughter, have been playing well all turkey day. During our walk around the block in between the stuffing course (Was there anything else to eat during that meal? Huh... I must have missed it!) and the pumpkin pie course, E and Zoe are suddenly holding hands. Z looks surprised, pleased, then desperate to hold on. The light is fading and the girls giggle, chasing seeds and stomping leaves with their feet.

*Nana offers her lap to a clingy, post-breakfast Z. I wait for the inevitable refusal ... that never comes. Z pads over to Nana, climbs aboard and spends the next ten minutes checking out the specials we will blissfully be missing out on from Black Friday's newspaper.

*A fussy Z is suddenly discovered to be feverish. I spend a few minutes in the dark, cold night singing and rocking her in the rocking chair my mother rocked me in. The silent, still weight of her against my chest is bittersweet. With her padded butt on my lap, I just barely tilt my head down to kiss her hair. I stay awake by remembering the tiny, floppy baby she once was, in this same chair, at this same hour, a long, long time ago.


I sing the playgroup electric.

I know it's sooo not cool (in the blogosphere but also in mommy culture worldwide) but I really, really love my playgroup. And, by extension, my parenting education class.

I know, SO LAME.

But on this Thanksgiving eve, I am reminded (by the fact that I'm currently cleaning out my iphoto library with its 1200 photos in it) of how intensely hard the first 6 weeks 6 months year of Z's life was. Normal, first-year hard but still, the kind of hard you can't pull through alone.

I have a wonderful family but most of them are far away. I have wonderful friends but I've only lived in So Cal for 2 years so the people who really know me - who've sat through repeated viewings of Fast Forward, the BEST MOVIE EVER MADE - live in San Francisco and Northampton and New York and other hippy enclaves.

So when when I stalked a friendly mom and joined a playgroup, I also found my mommy version of salvation.

It is the ladies who are learning alongside me that I turn to time and again for support, ideas, encouragement, reminders that putting Z on eBay really isn't an option.

So, after all my thanks are given tomorrow, I will silently raise my glass to the moms of my playgroup.

And to the moms in the blogosphere who also aid my sanity-retention project.


It sounds like you're feeling like a whiny, crazy toddler.

As we slowly descend into the terrible twos, I'm turning more and more to the tantrum-avoidance advice of friends, doctors, relatives, random people at the grocery store and, AH YES, books.

Since "The Happiest Baby on the Block" seemed to work fairly well for us, we bought "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" (THTOTB). The simplistic style of "The Happiest Baby on the Block" made it a welcome addition to my volumes of US and People Magazines in those early months. However, as I browse through THTOTB, I'm finding the singsongy writing style a bit grating these days. In THTOTB, there is considerable time spent comparing the growth of our precious babes to the evolution of man (ie. Z is currently in her Neanderthal phase). His biggest advice seems to be to use Toddlerese- a simple, emphatic, empathetic recitation of what you think your little toddler is trying to say to you.

Why this sounds just like "reflective listening", thought I. You see, when I was in college, I joined an earnest student-run peer counseling group called The Listening Center aka "TLC". (Don't go chasing waterfalls..... please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to....). It was soooo me- earnest, caring, respectful. TLC was also totally, thoroughly unused, except for the weirdo we dubbed "Pyscho Caller" who called on a regular basis to breathe heavily into the phone and who was the reason for many an earnest, caring, respectful meeting: "But what if he really NEEDS us? Who cares if he's jacking off? He might really NEED us!!".

Anyway, the basis for this peer counseling group was "reflective listening" which in our simplistic terms basically meant you would fill in these blanks: "It sounds like you're feeling *blank* because *blank*". You do not move on to problem solving until you have fully heard and fully reflected back what the caller is saying. I was such a TRUE BELIEVER that I was a trainer in my junior year.

So I should be GREAT at this Toddlerese business, right? Uh, as I am quite self conscious in public and hate to make a scene, NO. But we're still giving it a try as it appeals to my earnest, caring, respectful self. I am not capable of turning away from Z's tantrums (yet), she's not really old enough for time out (right?) and she's often easily talked down from them using Toddlerese. So away we go.

Most of the time, it's easy to figure out what to say to her. "Z's UPSET! Z says: NO DIAPER! NO DIAPER! NOOOOOOO DIAPER!" or "Z's SAD! WANT ICE! Zoe lost that piece of ice to Puppy and now she's SAD!" or "Z's frustrated! Z wants to walk into traffic RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW! MUST GET INTO TRAFFIC, RIGHT NOW!". I use my carefully formed and much prized reflective listening skills to hone in on the exact words that will capture her emotion: "Z's MAD MAD MAD. Z says: WANNA RUN WITH PEN! MUST RUN WITH PEN AND IMPALE MYSELF ON IT!"

Other times, I am at a total loss. The girl is whining. Clinging. Thrashing head and hands back and forth while doing the neutron dance. It takes all my strength and the power of TLC behind me to keep myself from saying: "Z's CRAZY. Z's an illogical, whiny, stubborn TODDLER and she's UPSET FOR NO REASON THAT I CAN FATHOM."


My worst nightmare.

Z is not the happiest of car companions. But as a wise parent with a cranky toddler once said, music soothes the savage beast.

Upon entering the vehicle, I always connect my ipod to the car stereo, set it quickly to Susie Tallman and get ready to sing along to the gag-worthy hits of the toddler set. (Trust me, "Big Rock Candy Mountain" is preferable to "Z Screams All The Way Home".)

Yesterday, I had forgotten to charge my ipod (WTF? If these things are so GD amazing, why can't they jump out of my purse, recharge themselves and jump back in? When will technology actually make our lives EASIER?) and I was faced with my tired, cranky toddler and NO SUSIE TALLMAN. (*cue Halloween screams.*)

So I frantically surfed the radio for anything she would tolerate. She was emphatically shaking her head "NO" to every option until..... UNTIL....

the unmistakable sound that sent chills down my spine.......

Kenny G's "Songbird"*.

It turns out my precious babe likes SMOOTH JAZZ.


*(I just had to go to itunes to find out the name of the offending song and it's still ringing in my ears. HELP ME.)


Dangers of the sibling.

On Monday I wrote about all of Z's cohort who are about to receive siblings. Truth be told, Z already has a sibling: Sweet Dog. And true to form, Z has acquired some strange habits from growing up under the tutelage of our furry little friend.

First there's the leash obsession. Z is enamored with Sweet Dog's leash and choke chain collar (Sweet Dog may be sweet but she's a huge puller and we didn't work hard enough on leash training so choke chain it is.) so we had to give her her own leash (actually Sweet Dog's puppy leash). Z especially likes to put the leash on her dollies and drag them around the room. This is slightly unnerving but far from the worst thing that happens to dollies around here.

Then there's the foot-licking fetish. Sweet Dog is a licker. To minimize my disgust, we decided early on that Sweet Dog could lick Z's feet but not any where else on her body. This has worked out in the sense that she no longer tries to lick other places on Z's body. The only downside is that Z regularly and repeatedly insists on having her feet licked. I try really hard not to think about the later-life issues possible here. (*stop thinking about foot fetishes, RIGHT NOW*)

Just last week, Z acquired a new pastime courtesy of Sweet Dog: begging for ice. My parents (Yes, I blame you guys) taught our dog that every time the freezer door opens, an ice cube can be expected to be handed over. Sweet Dog comes running, even if she's dead asleep, whenever she hears the freezer door open. Now Z does too, demanding "iith! IITH!!"

Then there's the sad and twisted fact that Sweet Dog spends most of her days on our previously off-limits couch and looks put upon if anyone is in her spot. Z, with her own chair and lots of other places to chose from, decided she would take over what Sweet Dog has never gone near: the dog bed.

Lastly, Z has started collecting the tumble weeds of dog hair that appear every 2 seconds around here. I wish I could say that this has it's merits, like if we could convince her to collect them and put them in a trashcan. Unfortunately, she mostly likes to try to return them to their source which means that the sleeping Sweet Dog often has several piles of dog hair/dustballs on her when she wakes up.


Next up: Publisher's Clearinghouse.

We're flying east for the holidays this year and we got Zoe a seat because we're currently sane and we'd like to stay that way. When booking the flight we were asked for her frequent flier number. After the hearty guffaws subsided and we realized we're going to be buying her a plane seat from here on out (*gasp* *ack* *clutch check book*), we signed her up and she quickly received her very own Mileage Plus card in the mail:

(Check me out! Little Ms. Naive is getting all jaded and paranoid about people stealing her child's identity. Not only did I white out her last name but also her Mileage Plus number. Who knows what dastardly deeds someone might attempt with such information! No you CANNOT redeem these miles for magazine subscriptions, you bad person!)

About two weeks later, this arrived in an envelope addressed to Zoe:

In case you can't tell, this is a promotional "gift certificate" for a local fitness trainer/gym. Since nothing else is really in Zoe's name, I can only imagine that United Mileage Plus sold her name and address and this may well be her inaugural piece of junk mail. *sigh* My girl is all grown up with her very own junk mail!

Either that or someone decided she might need a few workouts after catching sight of this:


The next batch? Already?

Something must be in the water. A whole bunch of moms I know who have babies Z's age are pregnant again and due this spring. What the hell? Weren't we on the same page for so long? Since when did they get ready for this and leave me behind?

I'm not sure whether I should say "Oooh! Yay! I wanna new baby!" or "Good luck with that, suckaz!".

Soon these friends will be knee deep in all the pleasures that infancy has to offer- sleep deprivation, blowout diapers, leaky/engorged/painful boobs, endless "could-it-be-the-beginning-of-colic?" crying, hormonal roller-coasters, wrinkly/pouchy/marsupial abdominals, spit-up covered clothing, and days without showering or leaving the house (Shut IT CG. I shower most days now.). PLUS: This time, they get to do it all with a toddler at home on the brink of- or knee deep in -the terrible twos! Yee haw!

Sounds like a party I'd like to pass on.

Except, I guess we kinda think we maybe want a second kid and I'm not exactly a spring chicken. As CG says: "Wanna spin this roulette wheel one more time?"

It seems everyone has an opinion about the perfect age spread for siblings. Too close and your first will still be the baby and have a hard time with jealousy. Too far apart and the first will be set in their ways, old enough to remember being an only child and resentful of this major change. The moms I know who are pregnant again talk about "getting the diapers over with" or "hoping they'll play together and be close". Those of us waiting and pondering (or sticking our heads in the sand) are maybe just hoping to spend a little more time messing up the first one before we tackle another one.

Every once in a while, FH and I will look at each other and say: "Maybe one is enough. Maybe we should stop at one". But it doesn't feel right to either of us. We want Z to have a sibling, even if that means they'll spend most of their childhood beating and scratching each other (like me and my brother) or tricking each other into eating raw chili peppers (like CG and his brother). For some reason, childhood seems like it should include some serious hazing. We're like a couple of frat boys: we had it done to us, so we feel it's only right to do it to the next generation.

As I see it, there are different benefits and challenges- for the kids and for the parents- of both being an only child or one of several. Either way, it's kind of a crap shoot. I think whether siblings get along is so much more dependent on their individual personalities and temperaments than whether they were 1 or 5 years apart. I think how well I survive motherhood is completely dependent on how well I take care of myself regardless of how many kids I have.

For better or worse, we'll probably spin this roulette wheel again. Just not anytime soon.

Maybe I should wait and see how my friends fare first....



Last weekend, the whole famn damily went on a hike in a nearby canyon with Sweet Dog. At the very end of our hike, as we passed by a picnic table full of people, a large, unleashed male boxer attacked Sweet Dog. True to her submissive ways, she whimpered and cried out and ducked for cover while FH wrestled the boxer off her and yelled at the silent, motionless owners. CG was scratched up and Sweet Dog was cowed and dirty but unhurt. We were all a little shaken.

I've felt panicked and breathless for days thinking about this. Ever since they were both babies and it was clear that Sweet Dog was not a fighter by any stretch of the imagination, one of my biggest fears is that some dog will attack us while I'm walking alone with my two girls and I will have to make a Sophie's Choice about who I will protect. (There is, of course, no question that human trumps dog, but it breaks my heart to even type that.) I've had nightmares with variations on this theme for the last few nights.

On Monday at the playground, I ran into a mom I hadn't seen since our babies were slugs. We hung out (as much as two people who are corralling and monitoring the whims of two toddlers can "hang out") for a few hours. Z was her usual self: a little reserved and careful when new or potentially scary things happened, a little slow to warm up, dismayed and sad when things didn't go her way. As we were leaving the mom said "Z is just so sweet and tender."

One might say we are all a bit tender here at Casa de Clueless.

Sweet Dog doesn't fight back. She doesn't ever even bark. While we mostly list this as, perhaps, her greatest trait and one of the many reasons we talk about cloning her, it is also somehow symbolic of how submissive she is. "Don't mind me, I'll just lie here and wait for you to notice that my eyeballs are turning yellow from pee. I wouldn't want to *shudder* bark at the back door or anything!"

I always wanted to be the person other people described as robust. Resilient. Strong.
But I have always known that I am very, very tender. Sensitive. Passive. I've done years of therapy and tons of work to be stronger and more resilient. I hope to encourage robustness in Z and I'm clueless as to how. Obviously she's hard wired a bit like me at the get-go. Then there's the whole modeling thing. She's learning from me to be..... like me: tender.

And she's always shocked whenever she hears a dog barking. Dogs? They don't bark. They just lie there and willingly get their eyes gouged out, right?


Deceptive? hardly. Delicious? hmmmmm.....

I can safely say that Z is officially a picky eater. She basically eats milk in all its forms, fruit and some bread-type products. Anything else is a crap shoot.

I know where this comes from. Though I am currently well known among my friends as a healthy eater (chocolate obsession aside), my mother swears I didn't eat a single vegetable until I was 15. She used to boil pasta in some green vegetable's cooking water so that I would at least get some trace amounts of greenery into my system. As I watch Z vehemently fend off even the remotest proximity of broccoli, I know exactly who to blame.

So I was primed and ready for the hard sell from Oprah when Jessica Seinfeld was on to talk about her new book Deceptively Delicious.

First of all, do you really expect me to believe that Jessica Seinfeld, who's married to Mr. Moneybags Seinfeld, actually cooks all her family's meals?!?! That's certainly the picture she paints in this book. I don't know about you, but hiring a beck-and-call cook to make healthy, tasty meals for me is always a part of my strike-it-rich fantasy.

Also, I have to rant just a bit about the crazy infomercial that Oprah gave this book. She was cackling and hollering after every bite during the taste test. She was slapping her thighs and wiping her mouth like this was the most amazing food she's ever eaten.

Well, I'm here to tell you that after my exhaustive (read: one recipe only) experimentation, Deceptively Delicious is a load of hooey that .... uh.... maybe works?

On Monday night (First mistake: never, ever take on complicated dinner recipes on a Monday night.) I made the "rice balls". The name alone should have warned me away. I chose it because it had pureed chicken (eeewwww) in it and I hoped to get Z to ingest some chicken sometime this millennium.

First, I had to make the purees (Second mistake: you're supposed to be all organized and spend your Sunday nights with your veggies and your Jerry Seinfeld and your Cuisinart making ziploc baggies full of pureed spinach for your week's worth of fine dining. I, uh, didn't do that.). I roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes during Z's nap and pureed them. Then, after CG got home so I could pass the Z baton one hour before dinner time, I set out to make the hugest mess my kitchen has ever seen. I dirtied every pan and bowl and spatula in the house and spattered grease on every horizontal and most vertical surfaces in the kitchen.

Behold the results of several hours of cooking!:

Yeah, they look about as good as they tasted.

By the time I dragged my tired and oil-splattered self to the table, I was grumbling full force about my hours and energy wasted only to be greeted by the sweet face of my daughter eating RICE BALLS with pureed chicken, sweet potatoes and butternut squash in them. She happily ate about 4 of them while CG and I stupidly grinned at each other and sucked a few down ourselves before taking turns eating some chips in the kitchen.

I think it will be awhile before I attempt another recipe from this book. I like that the veggies are supposed to be hidden but I just don't see how that's possible. These rice balls had a distinct orange hue from the butternut squash and sweet potatoes. I can only imagine how they would have looked and tasted if I had actually used spinach or broccoli puree.

I have some culinary ambitions and I have the desire to get Z to eat vegetables at some point in her life but I'm not sure I have the time and energy necessary to devote to this insanity right now. Spinach brownies? Not any time soon!


Addressing myself, as always.

Dear Future Self,

Yes, you love Z very, very much. Yes, you will miss her when you are away from her. Yes, you already get time alone with Chic Geek once Z has gone to bed. Yes, it's more expensive than you can comfortably stand and seems silly and takes effort.

Go away anyway. Take a break. Beg your parents, bribe your neighbor, pay a babysitter, trust the dog (kidding!). Do whatever you need to do, but TAKE A BREAK.

It's amazing what 21 hours (but who's counting?!) of free time, alone in a hotel with your husband can do. It doesn't matter if you spend too much of that time talking about Z. Because that time will be free of proto-tantrums, wriggly diaper changes, washing of sippy cups, and the exhausting hum of parental vigilance. Plus- there is ROOM SERVICE.

You will come back feeling more connected to who you are. To who your husband truly is. To who you are together and why you have this amazing kid to begin with. To the kind of mother you want to be. (Hint- I want to be the kind of mother who babysits for Z's baby someday so that she and her husband can reconnect in totally chaste and g-rated ways at their leisure.)


Your Clueless But Hopeful Self.


Maybe we should keep on driving....

My parents are in town from the East Coast and they have volunteered to watch Z OVERNIGHT while we check into a lovely hotel and do the craziest, most wonderful thing we can think of doing (that's right, even better than cleaning out a closet in an empty house!)-- we're going to sleep in! watch TV in bed! order room service!

I'm too excited to think or write anything else so here are a few pics from the LA Arboretum yesterday.

Aren't they the sweetest looking suckers grandparents ever?!


Straddling the great divide.

For those of you who came late to the party, here's a little backstory on the whole school/daycare situation.

I stayed home with Z for the first 16 months of her life. I wasn't sure how I would feel after her birth and was open-ended about going back to work. I decided early on that nothing felt as important as raising her and that meant I would stay home indefinitely.

I then went a teensy bit mental, at random intervals.

So I started working one morning a week, just a few clients, while CG stayed home with Z. This worked for about a year. Luckily, the child care center on the campus where CG works called us right around the time that we decided we needed some more help.

Up until 2 months ago, Z had been watched only sporadically by other people; by her grandparents whenever they're in town and by two non-family babysitters who rock our world on a not-quite-regular-enough basis. For the first 16 months of her life, I knew every little thing that had ever happened to her and I, frighteningly, felt like I could/should control every aspect of her day, life, world.

Those of you who've been reading for a few months know this: when she started part time day care about 2 months ago, my world was rocked.

Now that I have officially left the constraining, proud, boring, comfortable, known existence of being Stay at Home Mom I find myself in limbo. I don't really feel like I've entered into true Working Mom territory. For starters, I work very part time. But mostly, I don't think I fit the Working Mom mold. In my mind, Working Mom wears a skirt suit, "blouse", sensible heels and carries a briefcase. As a Pilates instructor, I wear stretchy pants and flip flops; I'm often more dressed up at the grocery store than I am at work.

I feel like I'm straddling this great Mommy divide, at least mentally. How's Working Part Time/Home Part Time Mom for a title? WPT/HPTM?

Becoming a WPT/HPTM has some losses involved, of course. I can't go to all my former sanity-saving playgroups so I miss my old SAHM friends. I don't have every nap time at home to get things done around the house. But hardest for me so far is knowing that I'm missing things in her life. I don't know every single thing that has happened to Z anymore. She often smells weird when I pick her up from school and I don't know what she's done that day so I'm left sniffing and guessing: dirt from the sandbox? new crayons? some other kid's lunch?

Smells get to me the most. I don't like the diapers they use at school; their scent gives me a headache. I almost always immediately change her diaper when we get home. It's my small way of reclaiming her: I know you, I know your smell, you're mine.

My dirtiest little secret isn't that I don't have to work. For some reason, I don't feel all that guilty about that. I work because it makes me happier, more whole; both because of the break I get from the drain of constant childcare and because of what I get from working (speaking with adults about something other than poop and tantrums, feeling reasonably competent at something, keeping those parts of my brain that don't involve repetitive reading of certain books or changing diapers from atrophying).

No, my dirtiest little secret is that I don't spend the entirety of Z's time in "school" working. On most of the days she's there I have a few hours after my clients to work out (this is partly my job but still somewhat indulgent) and run an errand or two. Last week was even more dirty than normal because I had a few clients cancel so I was left with some more open time. This meant that I spent several hours on both Thursday and Friday at home. While Z was at school. As in, I could have picked her up early but I chose to come home and do things around the house without her.

Frankly, this is rocking my world. Who knew that cleaning out a closet in my empty house would feel like the most outrageous, self-indulgent thing I could possibly do?

It is simultaneously freeing ("You mean I can actually focus on one thing for as long as I want to and listen to loud music that doesn't involve any animal sounds?!?!") and guilt-inducing ("If I really were a great mom, I would never need a break from my child. I'd figure out how to get everything done and get all my needs met in between chasing her around the house and repetitively reading the same damn Miffy book over and over and over again.").

Straddling these two Mommy worlds is certainly challenging but I'm learning to like it and I think I'm finding a balance. I still get to go to my parenting education class and a few playgroups here and there. And I get my time in the working world as well. It's starting to seem like I get the best of both worlds.

Since Z just gives a wave at drop-off and seems to be thriving there as well as at home with me, I think she'd agree. And that matters almost as much as, if not more than, me getting a chance to eat a lunch or two a week in peace and quiet.

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