Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An unplanned indulgent ramble about kids, school, and time to think and create

Thanks so much for all the comments on yesterday's post. I am feeling better knowing it's not just me. Jordan actually came home early from work yesterday because Ivey was being so difficult and I needed a break. We went to our favorite fast-food restaurant, and then to the local waterfront park where we happened upon a pregnant friend who was spending the afternoon sitting on a bench in the sun as her three-year-old waded and splashed in the edge of the lake. This is a friend I spend time with almost weekly and she is so good at thinking of fun things to do with a toddler during the day. She should write a book about it and call it Dear God, Please Just Get Me to 5 PM. I have often wondered how single moms, or wives of deployed soldiers, or wives of husbands who are otherwise unavailable at night can possibly cope. I am lucky to have Jordan.

Today I attended a program at the elementary school where my mom used to teach called Artists on the Green. They invite all kinds of different artists--from dancers to painters to potters to bagpipers--to show the children what they do. We of course went to see the pottery guy. Watching people wheel throw is so endlessly fascinating to me. I'm so excited that in about a week I'm going to learn to do it! Suzi watched a local dance conservatory's presentation of Peter and the Wolf and loved it. She wanted to meet the wolf but we couldn't and I felt so bad for her. She's shown an interest in dance and we're planning to enroll her in dance class ASAP.

We also saw a group of seventh and eighth graders from a Montessori school perform Rikki Tikki Tavi. They performed it dressed all in black with minimal costumes and hardly any props, but numerous instruments. I was just blown away that it was 12 and 13-year-olds performing and not adults. They were good. I couldn't help but think that nothing so extraordinary was ever accomplished by me and my classmates at that age, and it wasn't just the play. They were so confident, uninhibited, and worked together so maturely. Their teacher gave advice during setup, but they worked things out on their own. I am not sure exactly how their school days are spent, but as I sat there watching I thought, I can definitely see myself sending Suzi and Ivey to a school like this. We still plan to homeschool for several reasons, cost being one of them, but seeing this made me realize there are some beautiful options out there.

I feel so weird visiting schools. Today my Irish sixth-grade reading teacher was there and ran up and hugged me. (He is now the principal.) He was always so funny and well-liked and just the personality plus teacher of our elementary school. Once he made me sit at the isolated lunch table for not paying attention, and then one time he got really aggravated because I forgot my markers or something. It's hard to remember but it was something to do with markers. Come to think of it the only times I ever got in trouble in school were when I forgot something or wasn't paying attention. The very same things that get me in trouble now! Anyway, he walked us up to the front of the lunch line and I felt naughty for cutting. I ate a school lunch on a little sectioned-off plate, and during lunch one of the teachers lamented how the students just couldn't stop talking, but isn't that exactly what adults do? Everyone wants to be heard, kids included. Kids especially.

A pretty little girl with long blonde hair walked over to me on the playground while I was wearing Ivey in the Ergo and told me how cute my baby was. Then she did "this little piggy" on Ivey's chubby toes four times and sighed and said "I wish I was a grown-up and had a little baby." I didn't know what to say, so I just smiled. This was me 20 years ago, playing with dolls, going to school. Get me out of this line. Get me out of this fence. I longed for home. At home it was quiet and dark and I could play with my hermit crabs and my cat. I didn't much care what I did as long as I was back there. When I finally did arrive home in the afternoon, a long time after school had ended, I refused to go to dance class or piano lessons or anything else. When I left for school I had to leave the comfortable things I loved behind. At school I was one of many, equal to those around me, and no more important to the teacher than the other twenty-some-odd kids in the class, which is as it should be. But special consideration, though it does happen, is an inconvenience in a public school setting. To deviate from the routine, even for the sake of personal accomplishment, will hold up the herd in learning the prescribed information.

Sitting alone thinking is how great things are accomplished. Smoke breaks. Showers. Those last few moments before falling asleep. In a college writing workshop, a professor once told us he'd understand if we didn't come to class for a few days if, for instance, we were "holed up in our apartment eating nothing but cheese and writing." This is how I wrote some of my best work, minus the cheese. In the middle of the night, not recently showered, dressed in pajamas, tapping away at the laptop until sunrise, oh crap, no way am I making it to my 8:00.

But children are so rarely afforded this benefit of the doubt. We think we know they are up to no good. That they belong in school, and what we have planned is more important.

Is it? Is it really?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It's been a while, so I thought I'd explain. I don't have anything nice to say anymore. Not right now. It's been a bad day, but these words have been in my head for weeks now and are finally coming out.

My life is a lot of screaming--the baby at me, and me at the kids, and inside, at myself. Right now I am typing this left-handed so I can hold and nurse the baby and not get screamed at.

Some of my friends, one in particular, blog about finding that ever-elusive village. Apparently there are women in this dream village who will hold your baby for one freaking second while you pee, for instance, or make dinner, or work on a community project. Everyone shares and works together. Sounds lovely, but in my neck of the woods, I've noticed that if people are working together or sharing and it's not charity, people think it's inadvisable and weird and unhealthy.

Most days I sit at home, totally alone but never alone all at once. Nobody to talk to or drink coffee with, but always, always, ALWAYS a baby. 24 hours a day. One thing I am deeply grateful for is that she is physically unable to breastfeed and scream at the same time. I nurse her to sleep, nurse her in my sleep, wake up still nursing her and sometimes get screamed at when I pop her off to run to the bathroom. Running, stumbling, begging her not to wake up Suzi.

I get emails from old friends asking what I've been up to other than taking care of the girls and I just want to laugh, or cry, because that's basically all there is. There are no more hours to be had in a day. I only have two hands and at least one of them is holding a baby most of the time. When I put her down and she doesn't screech like a banshee there's lunch to make, a table to clear, dishes to wash, laundry to fold, and even if I spend every single spare moment doing those things, it will still look like I did nothing at all. It's pointless.

Sometimes I do go places, and sometimes it's fun. It's just that getting the girls dressed and clean and wrangled into their car seats involves a lengthy battle and so much screaming from Ivey that I think my ears might bleed. Nothing happens easily or quietly or at a leisurely pace. The other day we went shopping with my mom and Suzi pitched several embarrassing fits while we were out. All I could think was crap. Hell will probably freeze over before she wants to go shopping with the three of us again. I go to babywearing meetings sometimes, but at the last one Suzi whined and argued with the other kids and almost wet her pants and after all that we finally left early, without saying goodbye to anyone, totally defeated. Group meetings can be hard anyway because it's tough following one conversation out of five going on while simultaneously and endlessly saying don't Suzi STOP Suzi can't you share no that's not yours don't take the baby's toys and don't push do you have to pee come here DON'T no stop stop stop. And then Suzi gives me a break for a minute and the baby cries. Shopping trips and other outings are a parade of car seat buckling and unbuckling, awkward diaper changes, and getting baby situated in a carrier. People without two kids don't understand that I can't help that everything is so slow. And if I do happen to go out and everything goes well, and a good time is had by all, I come home and see the state of the house and probably wish I'd stayed home and cleaned instead.

I love to make things, but I so rarely get to anymore. I completely stopped making my clay nursing mamas. One day I was working on making something new and different, but Ivey was crying to be held. I ended up stashing the project in a box, telling myself I'd come back to it later. "Later" still hasn't come and now the clay is all dried out and sad and ruined. People think I've gotten bored with it but really it's so much harder to start something and have to stop after five minutes that I just don't start.

Earlier today, right after I got out of the shower, Ivey was crying to be picked up and I started crying too. Crying for just a couple minutes to dry my hair and throw on an outfit. Suzi ran off and came back with a tiny wadded up piece of toilet paper in her warm little fist and handed it to me. "What's this?" I asked. "You wipe your tears," she replied. Sweet little girl. Suzi is at my parents' house right now, but Ivey and I are still sitting here.

Take all this and top it off with a heaping spoonful of guilt. Because some people do this with twins, and do it better. Some people do it with no husband, or with a debilitating condition, and some people wish they were doing this but are unable to have kids. I have what should be a perfect, beautiful life, but it's not. It's a frustrating, jumbled up mess I can't seem to straighten out.

And I just can't think of anything worth writing about, and even if I could I don't have time, and typing one-handed really screws up my flow of ideas. I'll keep posting pictures of the girls, probably, and there may be a stray paragraph or two, but gone are the days when I posted more than once a week. Maybe one day Ivey will be like "bye Mama, I'm going to play with Suzi now!" But that is not today. Tomorrow doesn't look good either. Just thought you should know.


P.S. Sorry if I sound like a jerk. I shouldn't blog while I'm hungry.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our new toys

From the consignment sale...

Peeping chicks for Ivey (Suzi loves them too),

And a new(er) Ergo for Jordy and me. We had one already that we bought used from a friend, but this one is an upgrade. The old one will be out on loan to a friend this summer. We love the new Ergo, but we do not love the overpowering scent of the prior owner's laundry products. What is it with people and faux-flowery scents? Hopefully it will wear off soon. At least it doesn't reek of cigarette smoke.

I am having some trouble deciding if I should go to the next sale, which is in early April. I do not need anything. However, if I volunteer I get 70% of my sales rather than 65% and we are selling a nice jogging stroller. And if I volunteer I get to shop early, and if I spend four hours of my life volunteering it'd be a waste not to go to the early sale. It's such a privilege after all. Super marketing plan, isn't it?

P.S. Don't worry, we got Suzi some new toys too. A moon bounce ball to play with in the yard. A couple of new dolls. A pink dinosaur bank she loves to "feed." Swimsuits for this summer. A mini-chalkboard box. Probably some other things I can't remember.

P.P.S. I can see now I reallllly need to stay away from this next sale.

P.P.P.S. Hmm. Well maybe it wouldn't hurt just to drop by the 50% off sale.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New stroller! (plus my thoughts on more kids)

We (my friend Megan and I) waited. We tagged. We sat outside in line, and fortunately it was sunny and warm. Then we shopped the consignment sale, and here is one of my two favorite finds...

I'd hoped to find an inexpensive umbrella stroller, because the latch on ours broke and it's no longer safe. Instead, I found this one. It's a Joovy Caboose.

Baby sister can ride in front (it also can hold a car seat carrier, but we don't use one),

And big sister can stand on the back.

Or if she prefers, she can sit.

Sometimes she jumps off and runs around looking for rocks!

While we almost always favor baby carriers, sometimes a stroller is nice. I like taking longish walks around the neighborhood with this one. Also, trying on clothes while shopping is pretty impossible while babywearing. This stroller is way lighter and easier to fold/unfold than our old one. Our old one is a jogging stroller and we'll be selling it at the next sale.

The one other reason I'm glad to have this stroller is that I can see it being useful for three kids. No. I'm definitely not pregnant, and I have to admit I am glad. But we do want more kids, and I can envision myself pushing Ivey and Suzi in this stroller and carrying baby #3 in a wrap. Someday, you know? Am I the only mom who fantasizes this way?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just a step or two down the hall

After talking about it for months, we finally moved Suzi to her own room a few weeks ago. (These pictures are from the end of January, when we first showed her the new setup.) The room was already a playroom, as I organized it during my pregnancy with Ivey. All we had to do was swap the coloring table for her little bed and tack the bookshelf to the wall for safety. Then we put the table in our craft/catch-all room, straightened up a bit, and we were done. She was excited about the move; we wouldn't have done it otherwise. I was perfectly satisfied with having her in our room, because her sleeping habits were fine. She wasn't needy or overly dependent the way some people think children who are parented this way are. It's a myth.

The first experience in her new room was an afternoon nap, but I'm not sure she slept at all. The "nap" ended when she yelled for Daddy. He went up to see what was wrong and she was trying to reach a book that had fallen behind her bed. Jordan said that if she hadn't dropped the book (which she pulled off the bookshelf behind her) she'd have been up there reading in bed. Kind of cute to think about! Jordan used to read in bed when he was supposed to be sleeping, and so his parents wouldn't hear him switch the lamp off he'd unscrew the bulb instead.

The first night, Jordan tried to put Suzi to bed as usual, but it wasn't going well. When I heard her crying I offered to go talk to her. It took an extra bedtime story, another doll ("Rosie," her Raggedy Ann made by Grandma), lots of hugs, and just the right setup of night-lights to appease her. She has a Twilight Turtle, a stuffed turtle that projects stars onto the walls and ceiling, but it has to be really dark to see them. The darkness made her a little nervous, so she told me to put her Betty Butterfly and big tiger up against the bed (to stand guard).

I was a little nervous at first. Now that it's been a few weeks, I am okay with it. Jordan and I are just a step or two down the hall from her. She does call for us a lot more often now, and we do have a more intricate nighttime routine, which includes but is not limited to getting her tissue (in case her nose runs), making a potty run, brushing her teeth, getting the three or four stuffed animals/toys she requests, turning her stars on (the Twilight Turtle), letting her kiss and hug all three of us at least once, and always, always reading "In the Night Kitchen." We must read this book or the evening can't continue. And she has it memorized.

In a couple of years it'll be Ivey moving into that room, but she'll be moving in with her big sister. Suzi's little arms will comfort her when she's afraid of the dark. We'll probably get them a double bed, maybe even bunk beds with a double bed on the bottom once they're old enough. They can cuddle and play and laugh and share clothes and argue and do all the other things I'd imagine sisters do when they share a room.

It's going to be beautiful. It already is beautiful.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When you're alone, alone in the world

A few minutes ago, Suzi was prancing wildly around the living room on her horse on a stick. Jordan and I were unfortunately forced to take the horse away after she proved unable to keep the long stick out of her baby sister's face. Eardrum-shattering fit-pitching ensued. Jordan picked Suzi up and tried to comfort her, but this only made her angrier. She shouted at him to PUT HER DOWN AND LEAVE HER ALOOONE!!! I gently asked if she might like to be alone for a little while, and she said yes. I told her if she wanted she could go up to her room (*not* as a go-to-your-room punishment; just for a chance to calm down). She agreed, hung her head, and trudged up the stairs, ruefully singing "when you're alone, alone in the wuld, when you're alone in the wuuuuld," a tune from one of our favorite Christmas specials, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

(And in case you were worried, she came back down the stairs, smiling again, in like 30 seconds.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hand to the Princess Awawa

Suzi raises her glass (well, cup) as she sings "Scamps," another Sleeping Beauty reference

In the van over the weekend:

Suzi: (singing) Hand to the Princess Awawa! Hand to the King! Hand to the Queen! Hand to the Princess Awawaaaaaaaa!
Me: Um, Suzi, it's actually hail. Hail to the King! Hail to the Queen! Hail to the Princess Aurora!
Suzi: (annoyed pause) Mommy, you sing your own song.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Like a lead balloon

Unrelated picture from today. Found a new way to keep her out of trouble!

If I had to describe our attempts at feeding Ivey solids in three words or less, it's been gaggy. Clunky. Confusing.

Food #1: Avocado. We started out with small strips which I hoped she'd pick up on her own. I got just a little bit on my finger and put it in her mouth to give her the idea, but after a little while she gagged. Gagging scares me; I'm sorry, but it does. We sort of mashed it up on the tray a bit and she had a great time rubbing it all over the highchair and herself. A little bit did get into her mouth.

Food #2: Sweet potatoes. I cooked one in the microwave and cut it into grabbable pieces. She was into this (after I dorkily demonstrated what she should do). A little sliver found its way into her mouth and she began to chew. Then it got too far back. More gagging and this time we got two little puddles of milk-puke to go with it. Apparently this gagging is normal when starting kids on solids, but I'd rather avoid it.

Food #3: Egg yolk. I thought, maybe our problem is that we should try a mushed up food just to start, and then we'll go to finger foods later. I boiled an egg and added just a little breastmilk because it was kind of dry, and mashed it up. When I approached her with the spoon, she indicated she'd like to feel the food a bit before eating it. I let her squish it on the tray and play in it a while, and then I put just a little on the inside of her mouth. She gave me this look as if to say Mama, why do I have to eat this weird stuff when you have two perfectly good boobies right there? But you don't have to take my word for it.

I told her not to worry about it and gave her what she really wanted. Here is her face a little after our nursing session:

Ivey, as our midwife Carey suggested the other day, is a "booboo baby." Other people are looking forward to the day she eats solid food, but she doesn't really care, I don't think. Yes, she has seemed curious before at the table, but when actually presented with an opportunity to eat food, she is unenthusiastic.

I remain unrushed. I am enjoying being able to eat huge amounts of food without gaining weight, the absence of a monthly visitor, dirty diapers that smell like butter and don't require scraping or spraying, and the convenience of solely breastfeeding. I may be a lousy cook, but I can make milk and it turns out perfect every time!

Next, I think we'll give bananas a go. As Amber mentioned, I think I'll get them sort of mushy and then pile them on the tray for her to fling around the room or gobble up, whichever she prefers. If that doesn't work, we'll wait a week or two and start over again.

Anybody else out there who took longer than usual to get going with solids?