1.) It’s not all tea parties. Yes, there are tea parties and princess dresses and My Little Ponies. There are also dinosaurs and robots made of legos and occasional wrestling matches and hair pulling. Today, D and Lucy defeated some sea snakes in the hallway by spraying large quantities of air freshener and then fleeing for the top bunk. Rather than saying no to gendered toys, we have tried to say yes to most things ( only a few things–Bratz, Alien Autopsy kits–have been ruled out entirely) and then encourage them to mix it up. It would not have occurred to me to put the My Little Pony skirts on the dinosaurs and stage an elaborate dino ballet, but they don’t hesitate to cross gender (and species) boundaries when they play.
2.) Having 3 is actually not that much more difficult than having 1. Because when you have 1, all you know is how to be a parent to 1 kid. And if you are anything like me, it is the most unbelievably overwhelming life-altering time suck you could ever imagine. I distinctly remember feeling that every minute of every day was overflowing with this new weird experience of parenting and sometimes that was joyful and sometimes we were all crying but there was no escaping, either way. I wrote about the intensity of those emotions earlier this spring. But once I had two, and three, I flexed. Time flexed. I parent differently. I’m less likely to read Busy Busy Pandas 100 times in a row and more likely to read it once and then say, “Now look at the pandas and make up your own story!” Or, “Go find your sister and ask her to make up a panda story with you!” Or, “Go roll around on the floor and pretend to be a panda!” Before Margeaux was born, I worried that D and Lucy would be jealous of the time I would need to devote to her. It only took a couple weeks to realize that in fact, they are so deeply enmeshed in their relationship to one another that if I left the fruit snacks and juice boxes within their reach, they might ignore me all day. And now that Margeaux is on the move, she tags along behind them and plays along to the best of her ability. Which brings me to:
3.) By the time you get to the third, safety standards seem like very flexible recommendations. When D was 1, if you had suggested that I let her go down the steps alone to jump on a trampoline with a 4 and 5 year old, I would have laughed out loud at your hilarious joke. Margeaux does this every day. In the morning, she sits on the couch with a toaster waffle and watches Ni Hao Kai Lan in her sleeper. She brushes her teeth. When I drop Lucy off at preschool, if I start chatting she’ll slip away and sneak into the classroom and sit down in a chair at one of the tables, like she’s totes ready for art center or play dough time. She can climb all the way up the ladder to the top bunk, though I try and prevent this since she and Lucy came crashing down in a sad, bruised pile last week. Today, though, I forgot to pull the ladder up because D slept in late, and when they fled the sea snakes Margeaux followed them up, lickity split, and they rolled around on the top bunk laughing and shrieking. When I reminded them that it’s not safe for Margeaux to be up so high D said, “But Mom! We were escaping the sea snakes! And sea snakes aren’t safe for babies either!” Can’t blame a girl for looking out for her baby sister.
Ugh. You know those weeks where it feels like you just keep coming up short? This has been one of them. Even the new recipe I tried from The Pioneer Woman was a disappointment — and that NEVER happens.
For starters, I’ve clearly fallen off the NaBloPoMo wagon, although I’m hoping to finish strong with a post a day for the next 6 days. This happened in large part because I had been counting on the hours between 9pm and midnight to squeeze out blog entries, but I had that terrible migraine, which put me under for a few days, and T was frustrated that I was blogging in our only grown up time together and then I made the crazy decision to try and put Margeuax into her big girl bed, which means that my nights are now entirely taken up with trying to get her to go to sleep and stay asleep so now I’m not blogging and there’s still no time when T and I can have conversation and beers and make secret Christmas plans or watch House Hunters International. I think in order for this transition to work M has to stop nursing, but I don’t know how to do that without dealing with a lot of middle of the night tears and agony, so we’re just muddling through, and nobody is sleeping much.
Which is particularly problematic because since T works retail, he worked overnight shifts Thursday night into Friday and Friday night into today, so his sleep schedule is completely off kilter, and I’m cranky, and the girls are tired of being cooped up but I’ve been hesitant to take them anywhere because all the kiddo hot spots (children’s museum, indoor play gyms) are packed full this weekend, and I was trying to avoid the stress of being in a crowded play area with 3 children who all want to do different things but who really can’t operate independently. But our house is small, and it’s hard for them to remember to be quiet.
Tonight, thankfully, they all took a bath and watched the Barbie version of the Nutcracker, and D and Lucy danced off to bed with no complaints. And Margeaux is in our bed with T, who works a semi normal shift tomorrow, and even though I should just go to bed in her bed so I can sleep peacefully for a few hours, I’m feeling this internal nagging about blogging, and washing dishes. So. Now to the kitchen. I might be able to squeak one last glass of wine out of the box in the fridge and try and bring some peace back to my mind/heart/soul before I go to sleep.
Anybody got any advice about weaning an 18 month old? Ideally, I would love to be able to nurse her before she goes to bed, but not have her wake up and demand to nurse repeatedly (3-4 times) in the middle of the night. Is this an impossible dream? When she asks to nurse during the day I just tell her we only nurse at bedtime and then distract her with a story or Elmo or a snack, and that has been working fine. But I’m really not into having story and snack time in the middle of the night, and she’s really not into just being snuggled. Advice? Anyone? Lauren?
What I thought: I’ll just lay down with Margeaux this first night in her big girl bed while she figures out how to fall asleep.
What Margeaux thought: Whoa. I can just climb in and out of this bed? Anytime I want? Maybe I’ll just do that a couple times. Maybe a couple more times. Weird how mom is not excited about climbing in and out of the bed.
What I thought: Maybe she just doesn’t understand what’s supposed to be happening here. “Night night Margeaux! We go night night in the bed! Put your head on the pillow and close your eyes!”
What Margeaux thought: Oh! Night night! Maybe I’ll lay on my back. Huh. I’m not asleep yet. Maybe I’ll flip over to my tummy. Nope, still not sleeping. On my back? Still awake. On my tummy? Still awake. Mom looks like she’s sleeping. Maybe I need to be closer to her. I’ll just put my face right here, touching her face. Wow. Her eyes are right there. I can touch them! (pokes me in the eye about 50 times, saying EYE! in a perky voice each time) Oh look, there’s her nose! And her mouth! Does she have teeth? (jams a couple fingers in my mouth) Yup, teeth!
What I thought: Please god, please, let her fall asleep.
What Margeaux thought: Are those Polly Pockets? YES! I never get to play with the Polly Pockets!! I’m just going to dump all these tiny things on the floor, so it’s easier to find what I want.
What I thought: I wonder how much that sleep lady that my facebook friend was talking about costs. I’m pretty sure I remember her saying the sleep lady totally trained their toddler to sleep in a weekend. I need to look her up tomorrow.
What Margeaux thought: I love that duck and turtle on my wall. Maybe I should say good night to them. Night night duck! Night night turtle! QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK! Hey, is mom still awake? Hard to tell when her eyes are closed. Better look closer. Hmmmm. Our foreheads are touching, but I’m still not sure. Maybe I should shout in her face a couple times. Mama Night Night? Mama Night Night?
What I thought: I’m going to open my eyes, just to be sure this is actually happening.
What Margeaux thought: YES!! She’s awake!! “HI MAMA!!! HI MAMA!!!”
Funny how she keeps telling me it’s night night time when I’m so wide awake.Maybe I’ll try laying on my back again. Nope, still not sleeping. Tummy time! Hmmmm. Still awake. What if I kick these blankets off? Or pull them up to my chin? Or kick them off? I like how it feels when my feet bounce off the mattress. Maybe I’ll just kick the bed a couple times. Maybe a couple more times. Hey, what if I kick mama? Do my feet bounce? Nope. What if I kick the wall? Nope? Okay, better kick the bed a few more times then. Night night Mama!!
**It was around this time that I actually did fall asleep. When I woke up in the middle of the night Margeaux and several Polly Pockets were in bed next to me. Needless to say, no one got much sleep. If you’re the sort of person who prays, please pray for us. If you’re the sort of person who trains other people’s children to sleep, please come to my house immediately. Because I’m about to get back in bed with her, and I’m not looking forward to it.
Today was observation day in dance class. You can see the reflection of all the parents in folding chairs in the back of the studio. The girls started classes at this studio in early September, and parents haven’t been able to see or hear (other than the echo of the tap shoes) the classes yet, so today was exciting for all of us.
I’m writing this from a chain coffee shop in a strip mall a few blocks from D’s elementary school. Today has been fragmented in the way so many of my days seem to be lately: a few hours making small talk with parents who are showing us the ropes of popcorn volunteering, a few hours on campus answering student emails and reading reviews of Halberstam’s new book about Lady Gaga and wondering whether I should assign it for my Mass Culture class next semester, back to the elementary school for the book fair, then the coffee shop, then back to the elementary school, then back across town to go home.
I wrote the other day about how I have this more is more is more problem, but maybe the problem isn’t the more, it’s the driving to get to the more. The girls go to school in a nearby district and we can’t afford the extended day care at the preschool, so on days when I’m working I drive D to kindergarten, then drive Lucy and Margeaux to my mom’s house or T’s mom’s house, then drive to campus, then drive to my downtown class, then drive back to campus. By noon I’ve spent around 90 minutes in the car. Now add the driving to gymnastics and dance, the drive to school and back on days when I’m not working, and let us not forget the 45 minute commute to the night class, and I’m starting to feel like I live in my car. If you need further evidence, just look at the mountains of jackets, shoes, empty travel mugs, granola bar wrappers, and mismatched gloves accumulating in the minivan.
One possibility is to try and move to the district where the girls are enrolled, home of the strip mall chain coffee shop. Housing prices are affordable here (if we could sell our house, a nightmare which I will address in another post). We love the elementary school and have every reason to believe we would continue to be satisfied with the academic experience. There’s a Spanish immersion program and a championship marching band. There’s also a Romney/Ryan/Take Back Our Country yard sign in every other front yard.
The parents we’ve met have been lovely: friendly, funny, welcoming. I’ve asked lots of questions about the district, and everyone has been eager to be helpful, offering insight and perspective on teachers and schools. What I don’t know how to ask is, are we going to be welcome here once you find out we don’t go to church and my kids are ardent fans of President Obama? It seems crass, somehow, to bring it up, like I’m accusing them of intolerance when they’ve been nothing but genuine and kind. But I can’t help but wonder if it just hasn’t occurred to them that I’m an interloper of sorts, if they’re simply assuming that if we moved here we would join the neighborhood Bible study group and our kids would go to Sunday school with their kids.
I want to be clear that I’m not hesitant about living in a community where faith is an important part of many people’s lives. I just don’t know how to gauge the centrality of faith and politics in establishing relationships here, and one of the things I really am longing for is a neighborhood where I can have coffee with other moms and carpool to preschool and feel connected to my neighbors and my kids’ schools and my community.But if those activities all include Bible study, this is just not going to work.
I want less time driving and more time doing, and in order to get that, something’s gotta give. My schedule next semester is shaping up to be slightly less time intensive behind the wheel, but there’s still the crazy morning commute: so much time and money wasted. This might be the only area of my life where I can say with absolutely certainty that I want less. I just wish I knew how to figure out whether or not we might want to call this place home.
One of the best things about living in Iowa was getting to caucus. In Michigan, like in most states, we have primaries. But in Iowa, folks still caucus, cramming into high school gyms and then dividing out into smaller rooms by candidate. Then each room sends a representative around to try and convince the people in other rooms to switch candidates, then there’s a period of time when you can switch, then the final results are counted and phoned in. It’s sweaty and ridiculous and glorious.
I moved out to Iowa in 1999, with no idea what I was in store for politically in the 2000 election. Not only did it seem like there was a presidential candidate perpetually in town, standing on street corners, shopping at Prairie Lights, eating at the Hamburg Inn, but it was the year of the Nader-traders, when Ralph Nader had those great black and white ads with kids talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up and voters in swing states were organizing to trade their Nader votes with voters in safe states.
And in Iowa City, there was Nader guy. He was a fixture on the ped mall, handing out literature, getting signatures on petitions. He seemed to be everywhere downtown, Nader guy, always trying to get me to sign something, reminding me to vote, talking up the Nader-trader websites. When I went to caucus, Nader guy was there, standing shoulder to shoulder with me in the crowd. When we had to nominate delegates for the convention, Nader guy volunteered. And perhaps weirdest of all, when I crashed my car attempting to turn left onto Highway 6 from the ShopKo parking lot, the guy in the other car turned out to be Nader guy.
I didn’t vote for Nader, but I admit that tonight I’m feeling nostalgic for Nader guy, and for Iowa politics, for the intensity, the crowded rooms, the necessity of coming face to face with your neighbors and talking about where you stand. I may have been unnerved by Nader guy’s near-constant presence in my life, but I had and have a tremendous amount of respect for his commitment, his willingness to make his politics transparent, to stand on a street corner and try and make the world a better place. I think for so many of us, what’s missing from this election is a sense of investment, a clear articulation of why this election matters to us, in our own voices. We circulate facebook memes and youtube videos, but we rarely speak from the heart about the issues closest to us.
For me, tomorrow’s election is about my family’s right to affordable medical care. It’s about the right of my friends and family members to marry the person they love, to seek employment and housing without discrimination and to serve openly in the military if they choose. It’s about my right and my daughters’ right to reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion, and our right to equal pay. It’s about Pell grants. It’s about the $200 per month we are saving because we were able to refinance our home under a federal program for homeowners who owe more than their home is worth. It’s about the world I want to live in and the world I want to raise my daughters in.
We will be at the polls early tomorrow, with all our girls, casting our ballots. And I trust that somewhere out there, Nader guy is voting too.
I took Lucy to the ER today, because she’s had a fever off and on since Thursday (at times as high as 102) and started complaining that her neck hurt. I’m not one to overreact to illness, and I’m generally comfortable with a ride it out, rest and fluids and endless Dora approach, but fever + stiff neck are the universal warning signs for meningitis, and meningitis is some scary, scary business.
So I packed a bag and we went to the Children’s Hospital ER, and it was the best hospital experience I have ever had. From the valet parking to the kid-centered approach to care to the tremendously compassionate and kind doctors and nurses, every minute we spent there I felt valued and respected and cared about, like they were as concerned about my kid’s well being as I was.
And the entire time I was there, I worried about how much it was going to cost.
And my plan was to write a thoughtful post about the completely fucked up debate about health care in this country, and my student who needs gall bladder surgery and the family friend who was just diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer and the hospital bills from childbirth and preeclampsia that we are still paying, a year and a half later, and we will still be paying this time next year, and how can it possibly be that I live in a country that does so many things well and does this one thing so deeply, profoundly wrong?
But that thoughtful post is going to have to wait, because even though it is 10:20 and there is every reason in the world why this should be quiet writing and drinking tea time, for some reason every member of my household is still awake and two of them are crying. So. Health care conversation tabled. Just know this: every mother and child on the planet deserves the quality of care Lucy and I got tonight, and it shouldn’t leave them (or us) bankrupt.
I have a long standing joke with my younger sister that my life philosophy is MORE IS MORE. Her house, her style, her basic approach to life is understated, clean, simple, elegant. But me? I’m crowded, messy, saying yes to too many things, feathers in my hair, 3 kids in 5 years, more is more is more.
Last week, I found myself hunched over Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics, prepping for class at the last minute, again, while trying to simultaneously answer phone calls and update my list of which mom was bringing cookies/juice/pin the heart on the skeleton/owl stickers to the preschool Halloween party.
I realized I’d been reading for 10 minutes by the clock but hadn’t actually read anything. And I didn’t know if cookie mom was also bringing the frosting. And the alarm on my phone that reminds me to go to class was ringing.
“I think my brain is full,” I said. “I think I’m doing too much.”
The lovely, amazing faculty member who shares her office with me stopped typing and said, “You always say you just need more time. But this is not that? You feel like you’re doing too much?”
And then she asked a really obvious question: “What do you want to do less of?”
And I was completely stumped. Less hands on time in my kids classrooms? Less time working at a job I love? The things I want to do less of I’m already neglecting: housework, for example.
I’ve been thinking about that question all week. What do I want less of? What could I live with less of? What could I do better if I did less? What would I get more of if I was willing to let go of something else? I don’t have any answers yet. Letting go is my absolute worst skill. Like I said, I’m more is more is more. I hold on tenaciously. But oh, my brain is full these days. So maybe it’s time to rethink that life philosophy.
It’s NaBloPoMo! I’m blogging every day with the amazing writers at yeah, write. Because even though this entire post is about how I need to do less, at 11 pm on November 1 I decided that actually, I need to write more.
As I’ve written before, I’m not terribly crafty. Yet I have this wild hair when it comes to Halloween costumes: I just refuse to buy them. I feel like Halloween costumes should be found in closets and boxes, cobbled together from whatever’s around, and involve some creative interpretation.
I remember being a kid and wanting my costume to be beautiful and perfect. I fantasized about elaborate princess and fairy costumes, or truly scary ghosts. But our costumes were homegrown and mostly involved creative use of facepaint. One year, I was a fairy, and we used my regular pink tights, a dress up leotard and skirt, and taped a gold star to a stick. Another memorable year, I was a scarecrow: we used my regular overalls, an old felt fedora of my hippie Dad’s, and a white, longsleeved t-shirt. Mom painted my face in patches and stuck straw in my hair.
My hands-down, all-time best Halloween costume was in 8th grade. I made a beard out of fake fur, found a black cowboy hat, and wore a shiny black jacket of my Dad’s. I made a guitar out of cardboard. I was ZZ Top.
I’m amused and interested at the lengths I will go to DIY the girls’ Halloween costumes, when this kind of thing is usually emphatically NOT my bag.
The first year we did Halloween was when Robin was 2 and Holly was nearly 1. I bought sweatshirts and used fabric paint to make Carebear belly patches.
Last year, both girls were just old enough to care. Robin wanted to be a ballerina and Holly wanted to be a cat (these desires shifted, but we worked with these as the most commonly mentioned options).
Holly ended up liking Robin’s skirt, so she became a ballerina cat. For the cat elements, we bought a $5 pack at Target that included a clip-on tail, ear headband, and bowtie. The rest was eyeliner.
Robin wanted to be a ballerina. This involved a dress-up skirt we already had, a shirt featuring a ballerina, and a lot of makeup that didn’t show up. Note to self: my everyday/barely used makeup is not as striking as little girls would like. I need to buy facepaint so they can actually SEE the makeup this year.
(We were amazed at how excited our sleepy farm town got about Halloween. Everyone decorated, and packs of children roamed the streets. It was genuinely awesome and we are excited about this year. We need to step up our game!)
DIY costumes can cut both ways: you could spend hours perfecting a costume only to have it be rejected as too tight/scratchy/heavy/weird/whatever at the last minute. This happened to some old friends of ours. I try not to be overly elaborate. I ask the girls for ideas. I want them involved and invited in the process.
This year, Robin wants to be a cat and Holly wants to be a butterfly. They have been talking about it for weeks and I hope they are satisfied in the end.
I’m trying to find all the parts to the kitty costume we used last year, but one of our cats loves the tail like it’s his toy. I think we lost the headband. So for now, the cat costume plan is:
- Find the tail (I hope).
- Make ears for a headband out of paper/tape.
- Find the bowtie (I hope).
- Use leopard print pants and ask around for a leopard t-shirt or coat.
- Face paint.
Holly’s butterfly wings are the most complicated part of her costume. I think we’ll just save some cardboard and go at it with paint, then clip it to a coat or maybe a backpack so she can wear it. We’ll make antennae on a headband, and paint her face, and just dress her seasonably and likely in all pink.
What are your Halloween plans this year? What do you DIY?