Dora and Boots and the end of me freaking out about Halloween costumes

Erin's comment on my last post was so right on. What's the big deal if Z wants to dress up as Dora? Like this is really at the top of my list of things to worry about??

And so what if I spent way too much money on the Boots costume that E wore for exactly 4 minutes? E looked adorable and Z was thrilled that she had a Boots sidekick, pronouncing Halloween her "most favoritist holiday of the year!"

(Until Christmas, of course.)


All Hallows Eve (TM)

I like Halloween. I like costumes. I've always admired kids' homemade costumes, the ones where you can tell the parents and kids spent hours sewing or hot gluing or (internet ordering). In my pre-child days, I often spent weeks working on my own costumes. I always thought I would be in the trenches with my kids coming up with crafty, intriguing costumes.

The reality? I'm just too damn tired and disorganized.

This year, as soon as I broached the subject of Halloween costumes with Z, about a month ago, she immediately said she wanted to be Dora. She has the haircut and people often remark that she looks like Dora. And she wanted E to be Boots.

I tried to gently steer her away from this idea. I had visions of her coming up with her own costume, perhaps a unique, imaginative woodland creature, preferably made of out bark, feathers and organic cotton. Something, ANYTHING, besides the scary plasticized products of Current American Childhood INC.

Now, to be clear, I am not one of those people who only like bands BEFORE they become popular (in fact, I am usually a year or so BEHIND the trend.) I don't really want to eschew all aspects of childhood media. And I enjoy as many cheesy aspects of the dominant popular culture as most people. But there is still something so uncomfortable for me about having Z dress up as Dora (TM, I'm SO SURE).

It feels like her childlike imagination has been taken captive by Nick Jr..

It feels like it's telegraphing to the world just how much this mighty anti-tv mama has fallen. (Okay, I know it's not actually about ME.) (Uh...right?)

It feels like ... I need to start thinking about next year's costumes NOW.


Gimme Gimme Gimme

This weekend:

Z, gazing at a Toys-R-Us circular: "I wanna put that on my wish list. And that on my wishlist. And that and that and THAT on my wish list......"

CBHM, holding head in both hands: How did I get here?


It all started this summer. We were purchasing A LOT of things for our new house and there were more than a few new toy-like-items purchased to ease the stress of traveling and transitioning to a new life. For a while there, it seemed every week included the purchase of something NEW and EXCITING for Z. So, of course, she started thinking this was the New World Order and decided she would get in on the decision making with her own requests.

Every trip to Target, every trip to the grocery store, every package that arrived on our doorstep, all were opportunities for her to MELT THE F*#$ DOWN about wanting something new and fun for her. So CG and I started searching for ways to help with the inevitable "I WANT THAT" meltdowns. I started telling Z that we can't buy everything we see and want but sometimes it's fun to think about what we might want and put it on a "wish list". Then, when a holiday is coming up or, eventually when she has her own money, she can decide which things she might like the most.

While a success in reducing Target meltdowns, this tactic has had an unfortunate side effect: the aforementioned, EVER PRESENT "I want to put that on my wish list" pronouncements. They seem harmless at first. "Sure, we'll put that on your wish list", I say, barely registering whatever the hell plastic hoo-ha she's talking about this time. But it's a little embarrassing to walk through the drug store and have her running in front of me ORDERING everything on the shelves for her "wish list".

Have I really taught her materialistic little mind anything, except maybe to covet things MORE?

Last week, she caught glimpses of TV advertisements (That's right, I was using TV as a babysitter and there's no way to cut out the ads on the end of Tivo'd Dora and I was still knee deep in laundry by the time I figured it out and I AM ON THE DARK DARK SIDE NOW.) and immediately hollered out: "MOM! I WANT THAT! ADD THAT TO MY WISH LIST!!".

So I decided not to lecture her about talking to me like a servant and instead sat down next to her on the couch, turned off the TV, and talked to her about how advertisements try to trick you into wanting to buy things, that many of those things aren't that great anyway and we won't be watching advertisements anymore.

Fast forward to today.

Z: "Mom! My program's over! Can you come and turn it off so I won't be tempted by the ad'tisements?!?"

I guess that's some progress.


Where Rilke and the Beatles conspire to make me crazy

We have been living here for over two months and BOY HOWDY I am getting tired of living half-unpacked. There are still boxes everywhere and many things are not quite put away and those things that are put away have been put away only temporarily because we needed to put them SOMEWHERE and there is as good as anywhere for now.

I've been trying to be all Rilke be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart about it and you know what? THERE ARE STILL TOO MANY BOXES AND TOO MUCH STUFF AND TOO MUCH UNSOLVED IN MY HEART.

The feeling of not being settled in one's home is not one that I'm all that good at just accepting. I want to DO something about it. I want to organize and hang things and buy organizational hohas that might transform the crap into ORGANIZED CRAP. And there are these two little people around who are conspiring to keep me from getting anything done above the most basic oh-hey- let's eat off of CLEAN PLATES okay?

I've been trying to accept the clutter, to just let it be and you know what? WHERE IT BE IS ALL OVER MY FREAKING HOUSE.

I have one setting at the moment: desperate to get things done before the long cold Little House on the Prairie winter OMG MUSKRATS ARE BUILDING THICK WALLS.

Poor CG. The work-week is a wash; we basically try to keep our heads above water. So we get to the weekend and I'm like YAY! WEEKEND! LET'S GET STUFF DONE! and CG's like YAY! WEEKEND! I NEED A BREAK FROM GETTING THINGS DONE! because, of course, he has one of those pesky job things where all week long he is pressed and pressed to get things done and then he comes home to ME. INSANE GETTING THINGS DONE WOMAN.


The sickness aspect of the whole household is not helping. Usually I could have our little neighborhood 6th grader come and play with Z for a few hours so I could get some things done but with Z still sniffling and E still coughing and CG still complaining of a sore throat and me still with bronchitis, we're pretty much still quarantined over here.




When I was dancing, one of my favorite compliments from a teacher or another dancer was "you were really taking up space!" or "you tore that space up!". It meant that I seemed larger than myself, my limbs extending past their earthly bounds. I ached to move across the floor as if I had an extra inch or three of thigh bone.

Being somewhat shy and passive, and also quite short-limbed, I coveted this compliment above all others. I printed out the word "ROBUST" and taped it on my mirror. I tried attacking every movement as if desperately drowning.

I wanted to be robust, to dance BIG, to matter on a stage or a class, in life. I wanted to matter and I thought mattering meant big tricks and big moments.

Then I began to study the dancers who captured my eye. I noticed that not only could they "dance big" but they had perfect control over the small, subtle moments too. Even standing still, they could tell a whole story, evoking sadness or exhaustion or exhilaration with every muscle fiber. Calibrating effort as carefully as a surgeon, they could send shockwaves through an audience with the tilt of their head, the flick of their wrist. The older I got, the more I realized the importance of the smallest moments, the transitions, the moments of stillness or seeming inconsequence that could convey volumes when delivered with purpose and intention. During the last years of my dancing, it seemed I finally started to find that nuance myself. The power of the small moments became my obsession and I found the big moments, the big tricks, rather boring.

I think about this a lot these days, these seemingly small, inconsequential days. As a stay-at-home mother at the moment, my world, my life can feel so small, so inconsequential. The days spent wiping and tidying and stacking and hand-holding can go by in a blur as if I'm just biding time and wishing I could rush toward the BIG TRICK.

This last week, we've all been sick and my world feels like it has contracted inward even further. I've got bronchitis after the flu, E has an ear infection after having a cold, Z has a low grade fever and a cold and .... a bad case of the threes. I try not to yearn for some BIG moment in the future. I am searching for meaningful impact in the small moments. How much it means that I am here with Z, stroking her forehead while she watches Kipper. How each moment holding E as she whimpers at night, groggy and uncomfortable, is a gift of love.

So when I find myself wishing these days away, I try to stop myself and imagine what power each small moment in our lives can have. I may not be on a stage anymore but I can imbue this moment, with this audience, with extraordinary, big, ROBUST love.


Evolution of a flu freakout (volume 1)

Summer 2009- Ignore as much flu paranoia as possible all summer long. Lalalalala months of fun with no family members getting any kind of sickness lalalala.

Late August- Start to think vaguely about inevitable sickness once your oldest starts preschool, aka. The Petri Dish of Doom. Start washing hands often enough that they are permanently flaky.

Early September- Begin casual trolling of internet for information about H1N1 and seasonal flu. Get totally freaked out. Also? Confused. (Of all possible reasons not to get the H1N1 shot, one in particular makes the least sense to me: It's been rushed to production! THEN WHERE THE HELL IS IT??? Also? If it wasn't rushed, WE'D BE MORE PISSED.)

Mid-September- Resolve to stop reading internet for information about H1N1 and seasonal flu.

Later-September- Repeat steps 3 and 4 indefinitely.

Early October-Give preschooler seasonal flu shot after some deliberation. Try not to think too much about it after that. Resolve to get her the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. Buy more hand sanitizer.

Early October- Gaze often at baby who is too young for flu shots and imagine her getting horribly sick. Try not to cry. Resolve to get any and all flu shots available for the rest of us to help protect her.

Early October- Find yourself unable to get any flu shots because everyone seems to be out of the seasonal one and NO ONE has the H1N1 yet.

Mid October- Freak out just a little upon reading blog posts about flu-like illnesses hitting families. Demonstrate amazing self-control by not Google searching for stories of H1N1 fatalities.

Last Wednesday- Find yourself achy and tired and OH YES feverish and try to ignore it for the better part of the day before it dawns on you that this might not just be your body's response to a very cold "pony playdate"

Yay for ponies! Boo for flu!

it might actually be that flu thing you've been alternately freaking and not-freaking out about. Find yourself not surprised but scared and a little pissed off when your temperature reads 101.6. Finally understand that you are truly sick when you realize that you have absolutely no interest in chocolate.

Wed., Thurs., Fri.- Suffer with continuous fever, body aches, headache, exhaustion, loss of appetite. Wash hands so often you think they'll fall off. Cough into your elbow or one designated shoulder and then freak out whenever you're holding the baby because you can't stop worrying if she's touching any lingering cough particles. Is she resting her cheek on the safe shoulder OR WAS IT THE OTHER ONE????

Weekend- Study preschooler and baby for signs of impending doom and seriously consider encasing entire family in a bubble and staying inside for the next six months.

(Wake me when it's Spring.)


You know what they say about mothers and daughters

Dear Z,

Four years ago, when your dad and I were told we were having a girl, some people congratulated us on our good fortune: "ooooOOO! Girls are so fun!". I would inevitably grin and agree, so fun. Others lifted their eyebrows and intoned knowingly: "You know what they say about mothers and daughters". And I would just stare blankly at them because I didn't know what they say about mothers and daughters, though I suspected it had something to do with the inevitable eye-rolling, walk-five-paces-behind-at-the-mall days of adolescence.

Let's just say I'm starting to understand a little bit about those vague ominous pronouncements and I didn't have to wait until your adolescence.

These last few months have included some dark days between you and me, when all you want is me, at your disposal, ALL THE TIME and yet it seems I can do nothing right in your book. I don't know if it's daughter vs. mother, first born vs. mother-of-two, three year old vs. the world or just you vs. me. All I know is that we have been locked in a struggle in new and exhausting ways and some days it seems you are searching for things to fight me on. I often catch you fighting back a smile while I desperately try to break through your frostiness and redirect you with something fun or silly.

Why fight a smile?

I am back to reading parenting books at night for inspiration, out of DESPERATION.

Your father and I talk nightly about what went wrong, what worked, what didn't. We are still grasping in darkness, listening for ideas at the playground, reminding ourselves of every happy moment, reading your every tea leaf for clues.

So last week, when you were upset that your dad and I were going on a date and you sobbed "When can I go on a date with Mommy??!", I listened and took your question literally.

Last night we had a date. You and me. We went out to dinner at a fancy(ish) restaurant and shared a pumpkin ice cream sandwich for dessert.

It didn't fix anything of course and I spent more time than I wanted reminding you of your basic table manners. But as we drove home and you said "I had a really nice time on our date, Mommy", I felt like it was a small step in the right direction.


Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


The sisterhood of the traveling breastpump

(Q: How many times will I use the word "breast" in this post?

A: Many, many times more than I had to actually say the word to strangers during this past weekend's trip, thank goodness as I tend to stumble and blush when doing so.)

I am proud and grateful that I am breast(1!)feeding, that it is possible, even easy, for me to do so. I read about women not being allowed to nurse in public or being hassled for needing to pump at work and I feel grateful to have had a relatively easy road (especially if you don't count my ridiculously poor public nursing skillz: I always either flash several people, leak all over my shirt or both).

But I was extra nervous for my solo flight to a friend's wedding this past weekend (Woohoo! A whole bag of peanut M&Ms THAT I DON'T HAVE TO SNEAK OR SHARE!). I would be carrying on my breast(3!)pump and, on the way back, a small cooler full of breast(2!)milk. I made the mistake of Googling "carrying on breast(4!)milk" and read horror stories. Specifically, it seems many women are hassled by TSA for carrying on breast(5!)milk without a baby, which, DUH, why would I have all this breast(6, oh, forget it)milk if I had the baby with me?? Others had posted that TSA gave them a hard time for the pump itself, especially since many don't come apart easily so it looks suspicious on the xray.

So, me being me, I worked myself into quite a lather about how this would all go down.

What actually happened? I carried on my breastpump with no problem, not even a question.

I cried like a fool at the wedding (OF COURSE),
(I think she gave me a corsage for the dedicated pumping that was required to get me there.)

cried when I saw the garden where CG and I were married

(I walked down the aisle to relive the glory, of course.)

and pumped like a fiend and stored the milk in a refrigerator at the place I was staying.
(Must have pumping accessory: vital cultural reading)

When I left NY yesterday I packed some bags of ice into a little insulated cooler with the breastmilk bags stuffed in. I didn't even bother to measure them into 3 oz bottles or put them in a quart sized ziploc. I figured if they gave me a problem I would just dump them. I am cursed/blessed with an oversupply problem so even though throwing away pumped breastmilk would feel like a colossal waste of my hard earned effort and time, I would rather do that then get even more worked up about it.

I got into the security line with my pump and my wad of full breastmilk bags and sweated a bit as they went through the xray machine. And then the TSA folks did.... nothing. NOT. A. THING.

So there you have it, my friends.

Now if only I had thought ahead to how exactly I would pump in the airport after getting through security. I should have known there was a battery pack for my pump. Then I could have at least pumped in the relative privacy of a bathroom stall.

But instead, I sat on the floor of the United terminal bathroom, draped my coat over my shoulders and pumped away much to my embarrassment and the amusement/shock of my fellow bathroom visitors. (There was one lady who tapped me on the shoulder -making me jump out of my skin and drop my pump pieces- and said "right on!")

The things you learn...


Oh crap. Also: have a fun weekend CG!

I swear I put E in the center of her play mat 2 minutes before I took this picture.

Also: I think it may be time for us to stop letting Sweet Dog, who licks her own behind and, uh, eats rotten apples, rabbit poop, and DIRT, lick E's feet.


"One is one, two is ten."

or so says Gavin Rossdale. (Thanks K!)

For me, there was something so binary about having one kid. I either was with my kid or I wasn't. I was either in "mom mode" or I wasn't.

On or off.

Home with two kids, one of whom has STOPPED NAPPING ALTOGETHER OMG, I am much more rarely off and I feel like I am two steps behind on EVERYTHING, all the time. (Can you tell Z has been home sick from preschool the past two days?)

I have to remind myself when I start to get squirrelly that I need time out of the house without ANY child. Even though it suddenly feels almost easy running an errand with "just" one child it still requires that low level hum of constant vigilance, the antennae that must remain alert for DANGER in all forms (Balloons and lollipops at the checkout counter for Z! Strangers too close and pokey for E!), the awareness of schedule that is the constant thrum in my head (It's been two hours since E woke up and one hour since she finished eating and she's had exactly -woops!- NO minutes of tummy time today and OMG HOW MANY HOURS SINCE SHE POOPED??? STAND BACK SHE'S GOING TO BLOW!!!).

Looking back now, the time before E was very, very different. It was more like "I have a kid" as if that could have been an accident and WOOPS here I am, with a kid. That I was working part time was part of it too. I had a kid but I also worked outside the home, had responsibilities somewhere else, existed in a world beyond my couch. I was a mom but there were times, significant portions of my week, when that wasn't plainly obvious (or so I like to think).

Now I am home with two (TWO!) kids, I feel like I've crossed over to a new world: I am no longer just a woman with a kid, I am a MOM.

I'd like to follow that with "HEAR ME ROAR" but instead this mom is more likely to whimper. I am feeling a bit pummeled by the ever present NEED NEED NEED of two kids. (To those of you with more than two kids who are chuckling at my whining, I SALUTE YOU. Also: any tips? I've been visiting Swistle's brilliant inspiring post OFTEN.)

I often find myself wishing that I had more time to give to each of them, alone.

I often find myself wishing for more time for myself, ALONE. (Were introverts really meant to have kids? How exactly does one get energy from being alone when you've always got a talky three year old who NO LONGER NAPS around?)

I am going away this weekend, by myself, for about 36 hours. A dear friend is getting married, in the garden where CG and I were married, and I am going. I hope that I will be restored, though I imagine I might miss these little suckers just a little bit (which, come to think of it, would be really, really nice).
I have a feeling it's going to be a loooonnnngg winter (Did I mention the DEATH OF NAPS around here?)



(How many bad puns can I find for Montess0ri?  We'll surely find out!) 

Many thanks to all of you for your comments and emails on the posts about Z's preschool.  Writing about this has helped tremendously as we try to settle into the school year. Through reading your comments, I realized that I never fully went through my preferred process when choosing her preschool:  my gut.  When choosing my college, I had pro and con checklists for each college I got into and then when I stepped onto the campus that would become MY campus, I threw them all away.  It just felt right.  

I didn't get to have my usual over-researched-and-then-gut-reaction decision making process when looking for Z's preschool.  We had to choose it from afar or not send her at all and the thought of being home alone with two kids in a town I knew no one was terrifying to me.  So we chose her preschool based on proximity to our house and the teaching method.  We had come to love her old school in CA where they use a lot of Montess0ri ideas and equipment.  Her teacher there suggested Montess0ri would be a good fit for her.   CG visited her new preschool a few times when he came to VA for work and was pleased with what he saw.  That was the best we could do.

If I had to do it all over again?  I would have worked harder to find moms who could fill me in on the local preschool information.  We would maybe have waited until we could tour a bunch of them together, even at the risk of not finding any preschool for her till the spring.  We could have hired a nanny to help me with my Keep My Sanity project for the fall and winter rather than send her to a preschool.  

But we're here now.

We finally had a meeting last week with Z's teacher and the head of the school.  Sitting at the teeny toddler table for a half an hour before school started one day, they both took our concerns seriously and responded with clear ideas for what might make us all feel better.  They fully supported us observing the classroom and have been emailing with us since the meeting. 

These are all good things.

They both also said they have found Montess0ri to be incompatible with some students' temperaments but they had no concerns about Z.  She apparently is chatty and involved and (mostly) following directions.  They noticed she seems most interested in working with older children (which reaffirms our feeling that the multi-age classroom would be a good fit for Z as she is fascinated by older children).  We also talked a bit about aspects of Montess0ri philosophy that had been concerning to us, such as whether the precision with which she is expected to complete each work might be causing built up frustration.  At the end of the meeting, Z and the other children who are in "before care" came in and we got to see what the beginning of the school day looks like, which for some reason was the most helpful of all.  (Black hole, NO MORE.)

One of the suggestions they thought of to help with pick up was to switch car seats so that Z wouldn't have to squeeze past E's seat to get to her own when I come to pick them up.  It seems small and unimportant but maybe it was just enough to send an overtired, low blood sugar-ed, three year old with a newish baby sister in a new home/town/state around the bend?

When we said goodbye after our meeting, Z dissolved into tears and the teacher quickly came over and encouraged her to pull out a work to show a new, younger girl how to do it.  I thought for sure this suggestion would be refused but Z's tears disappeared and she excitedly pulled out a work and started chatting up the new girl about how she used to not know how to do it but now she does.  It was comforting to see her respond so confidently and move on so quickly.  

We aren't totally convinced that this is the absolute best preschool for her but for now our feelings have stabilized; we're staying put. Just in the last week, we seem to have turned a corner;  Z seems to be more and more settled there and less and less of a mess upon pick up.

Perhaps she's in a good place after all.  Great?  We're still not sure.  But it's good enough for now.

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