The sweet spot

Dear E.,

You are in a sweet spot, perhaps the sweetest spot known to man me, between the buzzing blur of early infancy and the crazy-making mobile-without-an-ounce-of-self-preservation days of later babyhood.

At four months old you are old enough to smile and laugh with such open, innocent perfection it never fails to make me smile too.

You flap your arms and pant a little when you see the boob come in a for a landing and you often coo contentedly as you nurse, gazing up at me like I'm a goddess.

Your excitement is palpable when you grab something and triumphantly stuff it in your mouth. WHOAH! CHECK ME OUT!

When you are happy in your bouncy chair, you turn into a little Gregory Hines, watching your feet as they tap and stomp out an intricate rhythm and then looking up at me like yeah, that's right, did you catch that?You (mostly) sleep like a champ and I can still take you on errands in your car seat during naps.

Your crazy infant reflux-y barfing hasn't happened for several months.

You aren't teething yet (though your drool production and interest in chomping on things have shown a rapid uptick lately).

You aren't crawling or able to get into too much trouble yet (but you are rolling and eyeing your options intensely for when it will be possible).

You don't make messes for me to clean up (other than those diapers, which, WHOAH.).

So when the pediatrician gave us the green light for solids, rice cereal, because you are big enough and have started waking up some nights hungry, I said No, thanks. We'll wait. We're in a sweet spot I never want to leave.

This is why people say I want a baby.

You, right now, make me want TWENTY MILLION babies.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


The right fit

I finally got my wedding and engagement rings resized on Friday. They have been too tight since I got pregnant with Z. I went ringless starting in my first trimester and finally squeezed them back on my sausage-y man-hands about 6 months after Z was born. They were so tight after that that my ring finger wound up with a waist. When I got pregnant with E, I gave up the fight and buttered up my finger (mmmmm buuutttterrr) to take them off. Every time I tried them on since then, they still didn't fit.

Until now.

After picking them up at the jewelers on Friday, I put them on for the first time in over a year and remembered that warm April night when CG pulled out a little box, got down on one knee in the middle of a fancy pants restaurant and told me he needed a little help with his birthday wish, would you marry me? I sputtered and put it on and had to be reminded to say yes.


It amazed me then that the ring was the right size. It fit perfectly. This ring, the one that he earned the money to buy by participating in a long, inconvenient, uncomfortable medical study, slipped right on my finger. He thought it would be a place holder until we had one made.

But it fit.

They fit.

(and are apparently quite tasty)


I bought Z some new uniform pants for her school. I used a much coveted free time slot this weekend to hem them (as she is cursed with her mama's Long Waist/Short Limb Syndrome).

I hope it wasn't a waste of time.

We have yet to meet with Z's teacher and continue to wrestle with ourselves about whether to look for another preschool. I'm trying to not overreact, to calm myself a little bit about my inconsequential knit-picky issues like typos on the promotional material and focus on what really matters: whether this school, this class, is the right fit for our kid.

We want to give her, and ourselves, a chance to adjust to this new school. We don't want to act rashly when there is so much going on that could be clouding our perceptions.

When I try to get the root of my issues with her school, I keep coming back to feeling disconnected from the classroom, like I'm purposefully being kept at arms length. The drop-off/pick-up line (where we drive up and have our child met at the door by a staff member) seems so cold and leaves me with NO sense of the vibe of the classroom that day. I never see how the teacher interacts with my kid. I never see any of the other kids or parents. I feel like Z gets dropped into a black hole for three hours.

So I'm reduced to pretending to be nonchalant as I grill her for detailed information. She tells me about how, at her old school, she could cut any way she wanted but at her new school, she has to cut on the lines. She notes benignly that there aren't any "toys" there, only "works" but seems a bit put off by the conspicuous lack of baby dolls. She complains that some of the "works" that she's interested in are reserved for older kids. I find myself thinking: shouldn't preschool be a magical place where, as long as you are safe and respectful, you get to play with whatever you want, however you want?

Then there's her crazy behavior of late, for which I'm always searching for some external cause. (When she was a baby my go-to explanation was always TEETHING! When she was a toddler it was IMMINENT ILLNESS!) When I pick her up from school, she often screams from unspecified frustration (Z: "AAAHHHHH! I'M FRUSTRATED!!!", Me: "I can hear that. What's frustrating you Z?", Z: "WAAHHHH! I DON'T KNOW!"), refuses to cooperate with anything I say and throws a tantrum at the drop of a hat. It is at lunch time and the school's morning snack is earlier than she's used to. Is it low blood sugar? I always pick her up with E in the car with me. Is it an attention getting/ sibling rivalry thing? This new school is the last of a ton of transitions in her life recently. Was it the last straw? She's three and has been challenging in all kinds of new ways all summer. Is this just the age? Her sleep has been A MESS lately with naps mostly a thing of the past and all of us are unsure if it's better for her to nap or not. Is her messed-up sleep causing all this or is it the other way around??

Is this school the wrong fit for her? Is the classroom so structured that frustration builds up in her until it is safe to let it out?

She does tell me about older kids helping her out; one girl reminded her to use a tissue, another helped her up when she fell on the playground. She asked to bring some cookies that we made at home (mmmmm coookkkies) to her teachers. She proudly shows us her "work" that she brings home at the end of each week. She got upset when I had to pick her up early this week for a pediatrician appointment because she didn't want to miss playground and music time. She tells me repeatedly that she wants to be a "full dayer" like some of her friends.

She has moments of anger and frustration and INSANITY on the weekend that are just like when she gets home from school.

Color me confused.

Time to make an appointment with the teacher.


Today (YOU ARE MY WITNESSES) I am taking the girls to a local moms' meetup. I've been lurking around their board for weeks now. Today I will try my hardest to be Normal Friendly and pray that I find some other moms that I hit it off with.

It is so hard to be looking for friends at this ripe-old age. So far there have been very few opportunities for me to meet other adults. Mostly I try to chat up moms at the playground with my usual Strange Friendly I've-been-at-home-talking-only-to-children-under-three style. Not surprisingly, this has not been too successful yet.

I feel like I'm still at the very beginning of building a life here.

I hope I find a good fit.


I love you

Dear Z,

I say it to you on the mornings when you crawl into bed with us. I kiss your forehead, wrestle your wiggly body to capture a moment of stillness, marvel over the limbs that have grown overnight.

I say it to you when you are past your breaking point and I am close to mine. I pull you into my lap, desperate to break through, to change the dynamic with the hopeful three little words.

I say it to you just because.

I sometimes say it to you when I'm trying to remind myself of its truth.

I want to say it to you on the playground as you run and slide and stun me with each new physical skill but you are too far away.

I want to yell it at the top of my lungs when you approach a girl and ask her name and if she wants to play with you or you say "thank you" or "excuse me" to a stranger. (But, of course, I don't.)

I say it to you when we part. I can feel (and often hear) that our separation is hard for you. I wish I could tuck its truth into some permanent pocket on you for when I am not there.

I say it to you whenever you say it to me first. (This is my favorite.)

I say it to you at night, as I'm tucking you into bed. Sometimes it is a moment of penance for my impatience and frustration that day. Sometimes it is a moment of reverence and gratitude for the gift that you are.

I will keep saying it. Again and again and again.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Dear E,

I say it to you when I'm picking you up from sleep. I unwrap your swaddle and revel in your full body smile. It comes out of my mouth in a sing-songy torrent IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyou because you won't stop me and I can't stop myself.

I say it whenever I press my lips to your soft cheek and your sister is out of earshot (or within earshot and having a good day).

I say it while you nurse and gaze up at me adoringly. I imagine filling you up with love the same way your belly fills with milk. I know you will digest it and need more and more and more.

So I am here to keep saying it. Again and again and again.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


My teeth are the only sharp things that belong near those thighs

I believe in vaccines.

I hate vaccines.

I am grateful that we live in a time and a country where many childhood diseases have been eradicated. Vaccines have saved many, many lives.

I am terrified of autism (and any other possible reaction to childhood vaccines). I know the overwhelming consensus of scientists and research shows there is no connection between vaccines and autism. The parents out there who believe in a connection still scare me.

Today I have to take my girls to a new pediatrician; it is time for E.'s four month old shots. I will have to hold her little legs down and watch her perfect smiling face transform into a red mask of fright and pain. This is at the heart of why I hate vaccines so much. It goes against every fiber of my being to willingly inflict that kind of pain on her, even for a moment, even for "her own good". I think that's one of the reasons why the vaccine/autism debate strikes such fear in me: instinctively, watching my child gets these shots feels WRONG in my evolutionary mama bear CORE. Despite what my head knows to be true, I will forever hate these visits to the doctor's office.

Poor trusting, unsuspecting thighs.

It is one of the first major decisions CG and I have to make as parents. It is one of many, many times that we will have to educate ourselves, weigh the options and then do what we think is best for our girls.

Believing it to be the right decision doesn't make it any easier for this mama bear.



The first strike: The promotional material we originally received last spring from Z's new preschool included many, many typos. The kind of typos that anyone can make, but would easily catch with a simple run of spellcheck. The kind that are sorta unforgivable when coming from an institution that hopes to teach my kid to read eventually. (The kind that are almost as bad as, uh, flagrant use of incomplete sentences and the word 'sorta'?) (BUT THIS IS A BLOG. NOT PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL FOR AN INSTITUTION OF LEARNING.)

CG wouldn't let me look at the material at first, knowing that I would howl at the typos like some kind of wounded-dog-who-happens-to-be-the-world's-first-canine-editor.

I decided I would try very hard to forgive them. Perhaps they were too busy making children into stellar citizens of the world to proofread or run spellcheck?

Strike the second: Their website sucks. It features a very basic, sterile design with small, unexciting photos in which most of the children are NOT SMILING. There is very little information on the methods of the school, the ideas behind the instruction, the reasons why we should pay so much money. Plus: last year's school calendar is still up on the site.

It all makes me wish I knew some html so that I could offer to spruce it up a bit because REALLY.

(So says the blogger with the most boring, plain template EVER. Whatever. DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO.)

Third strike and you're.... really starting to disappoint me. We hired a babysitter (Turns out our cul de sac is full of teenagers just waiting to be hired by us to watch our kids! And mow our lawns! Yipee!) to go to the Back to School night and it was pretty darned disappointing. Information about the methods of the school? No. Chance to chat with the teacher about our child in particular? Nope. Tour of the "work" that our child has done and will be doing during the school year? Nada. Explanation for the enforced pick up and drop off line that seems a little stringent for THREE YEAR OLDS? No can do. (Opportunity for those of us who DESPERATELY NEED FRIENDS HERE to meet and chat and exchange emails? NO FRIENDS FOR YOU.)

Passing out print material about suggested snack options and penalties for "uniform infractions" and then READING THEM ALOUD VERBATIM? CHECK. (At least there weren't any typos! *smiley face*!)

We are trying to keep an open mind about the school but we are struggling a bit here. It's not just the typos, boring website and pointless Back to School Night; those things are not nearly as important as our daughter's overall experience.

We're not convinced that this school, or Montess0ri in general, is the right fit for our daughter. I know we are all having to adjust from her previous warm and caring school/daycare, where she had a "primary" teacher who was responsible for knowing her likes and dislikes, for receiving her when we came in the morning and listening to what kind of morning Z had and telling me stories about Z's day when I came to pick her up in the afternoon. Of course this school is different. This is preschool now, after all. The fact that she used to be able to cut paper however she likes and now she has to cut paper in a certain way is all part of the progression of school, right?

But how do you know if your kid is so easily frustrated lately because her new school is so serious and strict without enough play or just because she's gone through yet another major transition and has to work through it in typical three year old CRAZY fashion? Is Z's new interest in berating her dollies that they are not playing with things "appopiately" a reflection of what she hears at school? Is her creative self being squashed by the insistence that she do each "work" in a specific way?

How do you know if your kid's (pre)school is the right one?

(This is just the beginning of feeling tortured about my kids' schooling, isn't it? I KNEW IT.)


The other times

The other times I don't write, it is because there is just no justifying blogging when life is this full (and challenging).

I've got a messy cold and am counting the days 'till the rest of the family falls ill.

My house is a tangle of half-unpacked boxes and half-done laundry and everyday I feel I'm falling further behind.

My oldest daughter is in a no man's land of "one nap is too many, no nap is not enough". Symptoms include screaming naptimes, pushing bedtimes and falling apart at the smallest provocation.

My youngest daughter is getting more interested in the world around her and is starting to roll and scoot around in pursuit of anything small and hard and choke-able. What, exactly, will life be like when she requires more of me than a little nursing here and a few diaper changes there?

And. AND. I'm ridiculously sad about Patrick Swayze's death.
Z., October 2006
E. September 2009

On the plus side, there is "Mad Men" and "Glee" and "So You Think You Can Dance". Honeycrisp apples and extra dark chocolate and the promise of fall.

I think instead of folding laundry I'm now going to surf the web in search of Halloween costumes to cram my children into.


There are things I don't write about.

There are things I don't write about, but not for lack of trying.

Some post ideas appear like butterflies, fluttering around my head. An image. A phrase. An idea. They often come at inopportune times. While I'm driving. At the playground. When nursing an infant and reading to a preschooler. They leave me quickly, like a dream that falls away upon awaking, lost forever. I try to remember them later, when I'm finally sitting in front of my computer. I usually fail.

There are things I don't write....

Some things start out making sense, feeling interesting. Then I sit down to write about them and they... bore me. The end.

There are things I don't write about, because they are no longer true.

Sometimes I start to write a post and it takes awhile to craft it into anything that makes sense. By the time I finish it, the emotions and behaviors may not be true anymore, as if the act of crafting the ideas into words and paragraphs washes the former reality away.

There are things I don't write about, because I need to learn the limits of oversharing.

Some ideas come to me and feel.... charged. I mull them over. Too darkly personal? Too annoyingly whiny? Too schmaltzy? Too revealing?

This isn't your diary
, I have to remind myself repeatedly. Your family reads it. Strangers read it. Your husband's college buddies read it. Your former boss reads it.

One day, your daughters will read it .

There are things I don't write about, because I shouldn't.

Some stories aren't mine to tell.

That's the current rub.

What's mine to tell and what isn't is getting harder to figure out the older my girls get.

Zoe used to feel so much a part of me that my comfort sharing anything and everything with the Internet extended to her, in my mind. Now I realize that this isn't fair.

I'm sad to say that this profound and simple truth is only recently dawning on me: my daughters aren't a part of me, nor are they an extension of me no matter how possessive I may feel or how mushy my boundaries can sometimes be. They are their own people; people who will be growing up in an internet age that naive little me can barely imagine, let alone comprehend all the potential pitfalls. CG reminds me frequently that everything I write here will be out there forever. I feel sick when I think about the possibility of my girls being teased on the playground about the words I type here in what sometimes feels like a self-centered exercise of self expression and memory-keeping.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. After reading some very personal and explicit blog posts from other mothers. (No, not you, lovely readers. You are the reason I read blogs in the first place.) After reading a father's memoir of his teenage daughter's first psychotic episode this summer. After reading the reviews and criticisms of a mother's memoir about her son's drug abuse. These authors have large audiences and they write about the darkest moments of their children's lives, laying out all their dirty laundry for anyone to see.

I love memoirs; I gravitate toward truth-telling stories whether they are written on the page or blogged on the web. The deeply personal posts on many of my favorite blogs stay with me, reminding me that I am not alone in this universal struggle to be a good mother. This summer I devoured "Hurry Down Sunshine" and "Beautiful Boy", both haunting and gorgeously written tales of the kind of dark days of parenthood that I hope I never learn about first hand. Still I find myself wondering about the limits of parental sharing. Are these books beautiful art? Educational missives? Dark moments of someone else's life that are too personal to be shared?

Where is the line between our stories and our children's stories? How can we speak our own truth when it is so often bound up in the lives of our children?

Should I have given my girls pseudonyms on this blog? Probably, but it's a little too late for that now. I have decided though that from here on out, I will use the initials Z and E when telling stories about my girls. The Google searches with their names will not have as many hits that way, says my tech savvy husband. This nod to their privacy seems like the least I can do.

Most importantly, I vow to write with their future selves in mind. I want them to be proud of what they read about themselves and their clueless but oh-so-very-hopeful mother.


Permanent Markers

When Eliza's birth was fast approaching, I spent a lot of time thinking about how the addition of a second child would feel. My biggest concern, after all the usual late-night-Google-self-diagnosing of possible temperament challenges and birth defects that ran rampant late in my pregnancy, was that Eliza and her new-babyness would somehow usurp my memories of baby Zoe. This felt particularly possible because they're both girls. I would be putting Eliza to sleep in Zoe's pack n- play and then her crib. I would be dressing Eliza in Zoe's clothes, wrapping her in the fabric pieces of her sister's babyhood.

What I know now is that my memories of Eliza do not erase my memories of baby Zoe, even as she lies in the same crib, wearing the same clothes. If anything, watching Eliza grow and change brings Zoe's babyhood all back to me in tangible, clear-as-day visions. I see Ellie in a onesie that I chose for Zoe before there was even a proto-Zoe and I remember my joy when putting Zoe in it for the first time.
Zoe, June 2006

Eliza, July 2009

I put Eliza on her tummy in her crib in a favorite onesie and I remember one of my favorite pictures of Zoe and rush to take a matching one of Eliza.

Zoe, Sept. 2006.

Eliza, Sept. 2009 (E modestly covers her cleavage.)

My girls' unique selves, their lovely differences, are inescapable already and no amount of hand-me-down wearing can change that. Eliza gives me the gift of remembering my favorite moments of Zoe's infancy on a daily basis.

My memories of each will have permanent markings on my mind. One cannot erase the other and I'm so glad that's true.


The primacy of the boob

Have you all read this article from the Atlantic Monthly?

I read it before I had Eliza. I heard what she was saying back then but it didn't totally resonate with me.

I've been thinking a lot about it recently, mostly when I am breastfeeding Eliza and Zoe's having a tantrum that can only be about sharing my attention or when CG is working away at projects in the house like an untethered adult while I spend my time nursing or when I'm in public and I'm struggling with my piss poor public nursing skills that seem to get progressively worse instead of better. (You'd think with a nursing tank AND a hooter hider, I'd be able to keep my nips hidden from the eyes of poor unsuspecting waitstaff and restaurant patrons, BUT YOU'D BE WRONG.)

I struggled long and hard nursing Zoe as an infant- weeks and weeks of cracking, bleeding, and both of us SCREAMING- and wound up treasuring it fiercely, probably because of how hard fought it was. Thanks to CG's support and an awesome lactation consultant, we made it through and I experienced true bliss at times. I felt a deep connection with Zoe that I wouldn't have traded for anything. I looked forward to having that same bond with my second child.

Nursing Eliza has been so much easier from the very beginning. I had a week or so of sore nips and that was it.

And I'm sad, and surprised, to say that I'm not as in love with it as I was before.

Now I feel nursing to sometimes be .... a bit of an issue.

When CG and I decided to become parents we were in complete agreement: I would nurse the children as long as we all thought it reasonable. I would be staying home with them, at least for the first year or so and we knew about the research saying breast was best and we're totally cheap and breastfeeding is FREE and all this made sense. It wasn't so much of a decision as it was an assumption.

Now I ponder how the seemingly simple decision to breastfeed our children has shaped the dynamics of our family, for better or worse.

Since I am nursing Eliza, I am constantly pulled away from Zoe, who very clearly notices my absence since I nursed HER and am still her preferred parent as a result. I fear nursing Ellie fuels Zoe's resentment toward me and toward Ellie. Nursing is such an intimate act. Is watching me nurse Eliza more painful for Zoe than watching me give Eliza a bottle would be?

Sometimes, I have to admit, I welcome the fact that I have to go to Ellie and nurse her, leaving CG, when he's home, to deal with the emotional fall-out from Zoe. Other times, it just sucks that I have to been the one constantly pulled away from Zoe.

Since I am nursing, it is me who, of course, went with the girls to Vermont for a month while CG dealt with packing, moving and unpacking. I am grateful for all the work he did on both houses and it's likely that I would not have been able to do half of what he did as well as he did. CG and I have always had stereotypical gender roles, despite both us having strong feminist values. Have they been further entrenched by our decision to breastfeed? I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have switched roles for that month. If we had been bottle feeding, would that have been at least a possibility?

Since I am nursing, the fact that I am going to a friend's child-free wedding in New York in October becomes an even bigger issue, an even bigger favor to ask of my husband. Pump for weeks ahead of time for enough milk to feed Eliza for 48 hours? Bring the pump and pumped breastmilk on the plane (!?@!?!#!$!??)? Bring the pump to the wedding for clandestine pumping in the bathroom?? It's already giving me a headache just thinking about it.

When we made that fateful decision to breastfeed, we were also under the illusion (delusion?) that, though I would be the primary caregiver during the week, CG and I would share equally in the childcare during nights and weekends. Nursing, for us, makes true equality impossible. Of course, it should be me who takes the baby most of the weekend. Of course, it should be totally on CG to support our family. Of course, it should be CG who runs more of the childless errands, does most of the household projects. Of course, it should be me who disappears from the dinner table/adult conversation early to tend to the baby's needs. Of course, it should be me who gets up to feed the baby in the middle of the night.

Of course?


The good, the bad and the..... you know.


The good: Zoe had her first week of preschool. I now have some time in the mornings to unpack, exercise, walk the dog, and gaze adoringly at my second born without guilt. She wears the most adorable uniform with an emblem on the chest and there is no wrestling over what to wear in the morning. She is very, very excited about the playground there and the "work" that she gets to do.

The bad: She has to wear the same uniform 5 days a week (she changes into regular clothes when she gets home. Which means two changes of clothes, AT LEAST, each day.). She needs an spare uniform at school for emergencies. We only bought her two changes of uniforms because I swear she's growing a foot taller every week and I didn't know what the weather would be like and now I have to do laundry every effing day (or feel the guilt of sending my kid to school in a not-quite-clean uniform).


The good: CG and I were actually able to organize our lives enough to each make a childless trip to the DMV and get our new licenses and registrations before CG had to start his new job. Mine arrived within just a few days.

The bad: On my old California license I am smiling and surrounded by color: "Hey! Welcome to sunny, happy California!". At the Virginia DMV, they insisted on a "neutral face, NO SMILING" and I had barely slept the night before due to homesickness and a strange new bed and hot, humid air and the army of cicadas trilling away at a decibel level that I was sure would deafen me in my sleep. Hence the colorless, humorless MUG SHOT: "I don't know what I crime I committed but I sure didn't enjoy it".



The good: Remember my lemon-lover lament? Well, it turns out our new back yard has apple trees! And we've eaten a few of them! That were quite delicious!

The bad: Sweet Dog loves the apples too. And ate a few. And threw up all over our king sized duvet at 5 am the other morning. OY. MORE LAUNDRY.

The good: I'm standing in front of my new WALK-IN CLOSET. Oh, my, it doesn't get much better than that. I've got two (2!) monitors strapped to me because both (both!) girls were napping at the same time. It doesn't get any better than THAT.

The bad: I have to pass by that full length mirror every time I go to our bathroom. There's a reason why the only full length mirror in our old house was on the door of the guest room closet: I don't like HAVING to pass by full length mirrors several times a day. Also, every. single. time. I bend forward with the monitors strapped to me, one or both of them falls to the floor with a baby-wakening BANG.



The good: The girls are really starting to interact and BOY HOWDY it is so sweet most of the time.

The bad: Every toy that's been given to Eliza winds up in Zoe's possession. Every old baby toy of Zoe's that's been unearthed for the suddenly-interested-in-toys Eliza is clutched to Zoe's chest as her "very favorite toy that's been missing!". My heart breaks for one or the other of them every hour, every day.



U G L Y.

I try to never say the words "fat" or "ugly" around Zoe. I don't have some major parenting philosophy about this, it's just something I started doing when she was really young because I wanted to keep those words, those concepts at bay for as long as possible (That's my philosophy! All negative things about the world will be kept at bay as long as possible! How do you think that will work out?). Books are always rhyming "fat" with "hat" and I'm always and forever messing it up with "large" and "hat-like barge". The jig will be up soon enough, I know, but I'm holding this line, this time before the concepts of "fat" and "ugly" are powerful realities for her.

I particularly dislike how "ugly" people in the stories are always "mean" and vice versa. I want Zoe to learn that just because some people have features that don't add up in our visual processing to equal "beauty" does not mean they are MEAN. How do you explain that to a three year old?

Lately, Zoe's been asking me if her hair is "pwetty", if her outfit is "pwetty", and I always start to respond with a stammer. OF COURSE, she's pretty and beautiful and I want so desperately to tell her so but I usually ask her what she thinks because I don't want to be the great arbiter of her tastes or the supplier of her feelings.

I so don't want to teach her that being pretty is the best, most important thing to be.

But then I think of women I've known whose mothers never told them they were beautiful and how hurtful that was to them. I blurt out: "I love you. You're so beautiful to me!" and Zoe looks at me like I'm a bit of a crazy person.

Both are true. I am a bit of a crazy person. And these girls are SO beautiful to me.


Clueless But Hopeful Mama's Top Ten Tips for Moving Across the Country with a Preschooler and an Infant

(What's that you say? No one but me is crazy enough to do this? So these tips are useless to anyone but me, circa two months ago? Pshaw!)

1. Don't be so concerned about how hard it's going to be to move with an infant. Your 2 month old infant is basically a heavy, liquid-producing-and-consuming piece of luggage. She will make you a bit more tired, and require you to sit down and pay attention to her at somewhat regular intervals, but mostly, she'll smile a lot and sleep a lot.

2. Your three-year old? The one that whines, requires constant stimulation, and is prone to fits due to changes in her SNACK CHOICES let alone changes in everything and everyone in her known universe? That one? Yeah, that's the one you need to worry about.

3. When buying your house without seeing it in person (What's that you say? NO ONE but me does that??), it's best to avoid studying the pictures too much lest you spend the first few weeks in your new home with a bad case of vertigo from walking around inside what you KNOW to be a two dimensional scene.

4. Definitely go to your daughter's new preschool "social". Definitely don't spend most of it alternating between staring at your shoes and smiling strangely at people when they pass you by.

5. Join a mother's meet up group. Spend hours lurking in their online message boards. Try to imagine actually, uh, MEETING UP.

6. Don't feel too guilty for feeling just a wee bit relieved that you no longer live in the crazy wildfire zone (or The Big One zone, for that matter).

7. Get to know the neighbors. Try very hard to keep an open mind, even though you think the previous owners of your new house were almost definitely a-holes and you know which neighbors were friends with them and which weren't.

8. Decide to stop fighting the previous a-hole owners over the stuff that they were supposed to fix but BROKE WORSE by trying to fix themselves. Your life is too short and your current life is TOO STRESSFUL to add lawsuits to it.

9. Smudge your house tomorrow whenever the baby is asleep and the preschooler is at preschool to rid house of all the bad juju that must be in here.

10. Understand that one day, you will stop feeling like you are on some very strange, very stressful trip that will end with you back in Pasadena in your old house with your old life. This is your new life and it will only get better, richer, fuller once you really start ACTUALLY UNPACKING living it.

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