Tuesday, December 28, 2010


We are in Telluride, Colorado right now staying with Jason's aunt and uncle at their slope side vacation home, and let me tell you, this has turned out to be one damned good vacation. One might question the wisdom in packing up an almost three-year-old, getting on a plane and travelling all day during holiday season whilst thirty-two weeks pregnant to stay at a place that, while breath takingly beautiful, is situated at 8,500 feet and taxing on already squished lungs. I have to say though, despite my reservations, this was a good idea.
When we left for the airport Saturday morning, Jason and I were prepared for the worst. That's just how we are. That way, we can be pleasantly surprised if things go okay. The Austin airport was almost deserted. We checked our giant, barely under fifty pounds bag - no problem. We went through security - no problem, though Jack was concerned initially that we weren't going to get our shoes back. The flight was on time and we boarded early with the other families with young children - no problem. The rest of the day of travel - transfer in Houston and shuttle from Montrose to Telluride - also went off without a hitch. There was no lost luggage. Jack only had to pee once on the airplane and was extremely entertained just looking out the window. It was truly amazing.
Since we've been here, Jason has gotten to ski and has enjoyed it more than he ever has before. Being able to ski in and out right out the front door of the house is a big plus. Jack has enjoyed sledding and playing in the snow, though I think his very favorite thing has been riding the gondola to and from town. I went on a snow shoe hike with Jason's cousin, who is also pregnant, and I did way better than I thought I would hiking up and down hills in the snow at this altitude. We had a little trouble sleeping the first couple of nights, due in part to Jack's coughing so hard he threw up in bed the first night. Now that we're all a bit acclimated to the altitude, though, we're sleeping better. Strangely, Jack has been taking naps every day since we've been here, which is what he's doing now, allowing me to write. Jason and I haven't gotten to spend as much time together as I'd like, since he's skiing and I'm not. I have got to get back up here sometime when I can ski, because it is so beautiful here, and there are a lot of nice long blue and green runs that go all the way to the top of the mountain.
I am so glad we came, because I have a feeling it's going to be a long time until we do something like this again. It's one thing to travel and vacation with one young kiddo and an entirely different thing with two. I think toting a baby along with Jack and all the accompanying gear may just tip the scales toward more trouble than it's worth.

P.S. I typed this on our brand new iPad, which i am still figuring out, so please excuse typos, misspellings and anything that doesn't make sense.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

To dance or not to dance...

Yesterday was Jack's first tap performance with his school.  I was hesitant at first to let him do it, because he tends to be shy and not like to perform, even when it's just me asking him to sing the ABC's in front of a well-known relative.  He seemed enthusiastic about it, though.  He was excited about our seeing his "train dance," and he'd been showing us pieces of it at home.  So, Saturday morning, we piled into the minivan and headed to the Mexican American Cultural Center for the show.  When we got there, I was relieved to see the room was relatively small and well-lit and there wasn't really a stage - just an area of the room flanked by screens where the kids would do their dances and folding chairs set up for the audience.  It seemed less intimidating than a giant auditorium with a stage and spotlights and whatnot.  Jack was all smiles.  I took him to where his fellow dancers were waiting in the second row of chairs in their matching overalls and train conductor hats.  They were all bouncing on and off the chairs and looking so cute together.  Jack sat with his classmates to wait their turn to dance.  He periodically turned around to check we were still there, seated about four rows behind him, and smile at us.  This is going well, I thought.
The boys had to wait about fifteen minutes until their turn to dance, and as the time passed, Jack began to look more and more worried.  Jason, I and my parents all smiled encouragingly at him every time he turned around, though, and he made no move to leave his row.  I went up to hug and reassure him a couple of times as well.  By the time it was their turn to perform, Jack looked teary eyed.  Jason was in place to video Jack's dance, which was all of about three minutes long.  As the train music started, Jack began to cry in earnest, but, bless his heart, he was still doing his best to do all the steps and moves.  He obviously knew them well.  As the longest three minutes of my life went by, I almost went up and got him several times.  I didn't though, because he was still trying so hard to do the dance, despite how upset he was.  It broke my heart.  By the time it was over, I had pushed my way to the front, near the dancers.  As the music ended and everyone clapped, I called Jack into my arms, where he buried his head in my chest and snuggled his blankie.  I felt horrible.  How could I subject my child, whom I know to be shy, to such torture when he's not even three years old?  I should have sat with him while he waited, despite the school's instructions that parents stay in the audience.  I should have stayed closer to the stage area during the performance so Jack could see me better.  I should have gone up and gotten him in the middle of the dance when it became obvious he was not going to calm down.  Maybe I shouldn't have had him do the damned show in the first place.
Jack sat on my lap for the rest of the dances.  The whole show was only twenty minutes long, and halfway through the dance right after his, he was practically standing on my lap to see the older kids doing a dance to "Singing in the Rain," with umbrellas.  He seemed perfectly fine, as he asked, "Why they have umbrellas?  It's not raining."  We went out to lunch after the show and got Jack his favorite - a chocolate milkshake.  He was happy and bouncy and talking our ears off like normal.  He did not seem scarred by the morning's event in the least.  We talked about the performance later, and Jack stated very calmly and matter-of-factly that he, "did not like all those mommas and daddies there."  He said, "It was hard."  I was glad he felt all right to talk about it, especially without getting upset about it again.  For Jason and I it was another matter, though.  As we talked later that evening, it turns out Jason felt much the same as I.  He was mad at himself for not going to get Jack during the performance when he seemed so upset.  Both of us still feel guilty about it, even though for Jack it's already ancient history.  I know I may never want to watch the video Jason shot.
The kids do another show in May, and I can tell you, we're going to do that one a lot differently.  First of all, I'm going to ask Jack if he wants to do it, point blank, instead of just gauging his level of enthusiasm.  And, I think I might encourage him to just go and watch the show, instead of dancing in it.  He loves tap and music so much.  I don't want him to start hating it because he dreads having to perform it.  It's not about the performance anyway; it's about learning to enjoy and appreciate the arts.  I do want to encourage him to come out of his shell and to honor his commitments, but he's not even three yet.  I don't want to do those things at the expense of his comfort and enjoyment of dance and the school experience.  So, in May, should he decide to do the performance again, I want to be right there to bail him out, should he change his mind at any point.  Even though I never want to be one of those moms who hovers over her child, not letting him make his own decisions and mistakes, I think in this case, maybe a little helicopter parenting is warranted. 
It's just so damned hard to know what the right thing is sometimes.  Yesterday, I thought I was giving Jack room to make his own decisions and experience his own life, when in the end, I think he needed a bit more guidance.  He needed someone to tell him it was okay if he was nervous and decided not to do it.  I think he felt like he had to go up there and dance, come hell or high water.  And, while that may be an all right sentiment while trying to teach your older child to follow through with what he has promised to do, for a preschooler, you should cut him a little slack.  I keep telling myself just to learn from this and stop beating myself up over what I could have done differently.  No parent is perfect, and Jack will bounce back from just about any error we make.  It seems guilt comes with the territory of being a parent, though.  All I know is, I better get over it, because I have a good eighteen plus more years of parenting mistakes to make, and the guilt from those could crush a momma.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas "Fun"

This will likely be my last blog before Christmas, and I wouldn't be shocked if it were the last before the baby is born.  I had all this fun stuff planned for these weeks before the holidays - social events, shopping, neat crafts for Jack and I to do at home and of course blogging.  Yesterday, however, I realized as fun as all this stuff sounds, I don't have the energy to enjoy it all.  After "quiet time" yesterday (I can no longer even pretend it's nap time) we set out to make Oreo balls.  Jack was excited about it, and so was I.  I'm not a big fan of cooking, but I love to bake.  And Oreo balls only have three ingredients, so they're pretty simple.
We started at three o-clock with plenty of time before bath at five.  I began chopping Oreos in the blender.  That didn't work so well, so I transferred them to my small chopper, which ground the cookies with marginally better results.  Since the chopper is small, I had to do five or six different batches of chopping and dumping into a bowl.  Then, I tried to blend the cream cheese with the Oreo crumbs with the same blender that failed me the first time - no dice.  I chunked the blender into the sink and got out my heavy-duty KitchenAid mixer.  Why I didn't start with the mixer is beyond me.  I'm claiming pregnancy brain.  In doing so, however, I had a flash to the last time I made Oreo balls two years ago.  I had a sneaking suspicion I went through the same song and dance with multiple kitchen appliances then.  By the way, Jack really enjoyed "helping" throughout all this, since his main task was periodically sampling the Oreos, which he'd never had before yesterday.
So I finally got the Oreo crumbs thouroughly blended with the cream cheese - never thought mixing two ingredients could be so time consuming.
Now it was time to roll the entire bowl of dough into roughly one-inch diameter balls.  My back ached.  I sighed and dug in.  Jack helped make two more or less log-shaped "balls" before he lost interest and ran off to the play room.  It took me the better part of an hour to roll around 130 little Oreo balls.  I did transfer everything to the dining table halfway though in an attempt to save my back, but I'm not sure it helped much.  When I finally got all the balls done and into the fridge to chill and the kitchen cleaned up, it was 4:55 - five minutes til bath time.  I couldn't believe how long it had taken and how exhausted I felt.  After all, most of us don't consider baking an exercise of physical endurance.  And I still had to melt white chocolate for coating the balls, something I still haven't done, twenty-four hours later.  I spent that last five minutes before bath cuddling on the couch with Jack before I begrudgingly  dragged us upstairs to start the bath/dinner/bed routine.  I could have easily sat there on the couch for another hour or so, but with no nap these days, if we don't start bath at five o'clock and get Jack in bed by 7:30, bad things start to happen.
As a result of the Oreo ball experience and my subsequent exhaustion and crankiness, I've decided to cut a lot of unnecessary things off my "to do before Christmas" list.  I thought I'd rather enjoy our last holiday with only one child than make myself miserable cramming in all the "fun" stuff.  So if  I don't show up at your holiday gathering, get you a gift or even talk to you for the next several months, no offense intended.  I'm probably napping.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Tribute

The week before Thanksgiving, I was at my parents house with Jack when my dad got a phone call.  His mother had died.  It came as a shock to my dad and the rest of the family.  She was eighty-three years old but still living in her house, taking care of herself and even volunteering at the hospital each week.  She wasn't sick at all.
We all went to Dallas that weekend for the service - my aunts, uncles and cousins.  My family handled the next several days in a way that was beautifully balanced between sadness and celebration.  This is one thing I love about them.  They have the heart-warming ability to tend to the practical business of death without ignoring the pain everyone feels and the tears that need to be shed.  And there is still a sense of gladness we are all together, still jokes to be made and laughter to share in the midst of grief.  In the spirit of this ability to celebrate, I'd like to dedicate this writing to my grandmother, June Saint Germain Coover, and all that she was in life.

It didn't really hit me that she was gone until Friday night, when Jason took my cousins and mom to the airport to pick up my sister.  I was alone in her house, with Jack asleep in the bedroom.  I walked around and looked at all of the things I had seen countless times throughout childhood in visits to my grandmother's house - the shells on the window sill in the bathroom, the tiny african violets in the kitchen, the blue and white china dinner dishes.  But what really got to me was her sewing room.  I saw neatly folded fabrics, meticulously labeled with type, number of yards and whether or not she had washed it.  Laid out on a table, I saw a pattern for a skirt with fabric and lace trim obviously meant for that pattern.  I could tell she had intended to make the skirt for herself.  That's when I really felt how abruptly she had gone.  She had all of these things she intended to do that would now never be completed.  I was much more hesitant to disturb the fabric and pattern than other things in the house.  It was as if I still expected her to come back and finish it, and I didn't want to disarray it for her.  I think that sentiment ran throughout the family, too.  Later that weekend, my dad found an incomplete "to do" list in the study.  He held it up and exclaimed, "She can't leave us yet.  She hasn't finished this list!"
When you look through the house, you can see a little of who my grandmother was, but things do not tell a person's true, complete story.  I did not spend a lot of time with her as an adult, but as a child growing up living thirty minutes from her house, we went over there on a regular basis.  Here is what I remember about her:
I remember her "tee-hee" laugh.  It was almost like a cartoon grandmother laugh, and I thought it was cute even when I was five years old.  I remember when I'd stay with her, she'd let me put sugar on my cereal and we'd have ding-dongs for dessert - things we didn't do at home. But, it was only one spoonful of sugar and only one ding-dong.  June Coover liked sweets, but she was all about self-control and reasonable limits.  I remember there used to be a swing that hung from the huge sicamore tree in her front yard.  It was the kind made out of a board and two ropes, like something out of a fairy tale.  I'd swing on that swing and look at the white ceramic cats on the roof of the house across the street, wondering if they were real, watching for them to move.  I remember my grandmother's love of dogs and babies.  Both seemed to gravitate towards her instinctively.  Fussy babies instantly slept on her bosom, and dogs were all wags around her.  She had a beagle named Tex when I was really young.  That dog wore a path in the grass where he walked the same route around the house every day.  Later, she had a golden retriever named Lilly.  I remember helping Grandmother bathe her and brush her and the big fluffs of golden hair that would drift across the lawn afterward.  My grandmother loved to swim.  I remember when she finally got an in-ground pool in the back yard.  She got in that pool to exercise or to relax.  We spent many a birthday, and fourth of July over there swimming in that pool.  The whole family would get together and cook out hot dogs and hamburgers.  We kids (and some adults too) would fill up water balloons and have a blast breaking them all over the place.

I remember my grandmother as a warm, loving person.  She indulged her grandchildren to some extent but never to the point of gluttony.  She was fun.  She always had great toys and books at her house.  She knew what children liked.  She had her rules, though.  There was a bedtime, even at her house, and toys were to be picked up and put away when you finished with them.  She was a disciplined, organized person.  I imagine that's how she managed to raise four children for a time at least, in a two bedroom one bathroom house without totally losing her sanity.  My grandmother worked hard for a lot of her life, and she didn't complain.  She simply did what needed doing and still managed to be a pleasant person, to boot.  Circumstances that would have made a lot of people bitter, did not seem to affect her spirit much at all.  Hardship that might have given her an excuse to lie down and not "do" did nothing of the sort.  Her concern for others - her children, her family, her community - often superseded her attention to herself.  Several times since her death three weeks ago, I've heard people say she was a saint. And, while I try not to deify those that have passed away (after all, no matter how wonderful they were, they were still human with faults like the rest of us) in this case, I tend to agree.  I am not a religious person, and I don't know what the qualifications for sainthood are, but my grandmother surely hit close to the mark.  Only once in my life did I hear her say something even remotely negative about another person.  And while I know she wasn't perfect, I think she truly strived to see the good in all people.  I think she honestly and pervasively worked to be nonjudgmental of others.  Through her work at her church and the hospital, she put her beliefs into action, something so few of us do, but she did not pontificate or preach at people.  In that way, she was a woman of action. 
I love and admire my grandmother - yes, I always oddly, formally called her "grandmother," while my younger cousins came up with the warmer moniker "Grammy June."  And even though as an adult, I only saw her a couple of times a year, I miss her.  I missed her at Thanksgiving, and I'm going to miss her next year when we all gather at the lake for the Fourth of July, but even now, here in my own house in Austin I miss her.  I miss the idea of her in the world, because it was a better place for her having been here.  This writing is not just for her, but for the whole family, because whomever she was to us - June, Mom, Grandmother, Grammy June - she can live on not just in our memories but in who we choose to be, in our actions that we learned from her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Preschool Pointers

Yes, Momma Files fans, here I am - blogging for the second day in a row!  It's just one of the many benefits of Jack having started preschool.  I am so elated right now, because I just dropped Jack off at his school and he did not cry at all!!  I was surprised and psyched, and I ran out of there as fast as I could, lest I jinx it.  He did look a little anxious and went straight to Miss Mandy for a cuddle as I left, but not crying is a HUGE step in my book.  Since I am feeling so positive and successful at this point, I thought I'd share some things that worked for us in this whole, scary starting preschool and being away from Momma thing.

Creating Ritual
Young children can't tell time, so they know what happens next based on routine, i.e., they don't know they nap at noon, but they do know nap comes right after lunch.  Part of the anxiety surrounding starting school is the unpredictability of it from the child's point of view.  School is a brand new world for them.  They don't know what order the school activities occur in or when Momma is coming to pick them up.  You create routine so your child can find comfort in what comes next.  Incidentally, it occurred to me today that, no matter how carefully you have prepared your child for starting school, some anxiety is inevitable, as it takes time to establish routines  Here's what we do:
The night before a school day, we lay out Jack's school clothes in the bathroom.  This cuts down on prep time the next morning and helps Jack understand that the next day is a school day.  We then check his backpack, which we keep in a specific place by the door.  I have Jack make sure everything he needs the next day is in there.  I ask, "Do you have your extra clothes?"  He hollers, "yes!"  Me:  snack?  Jack:  yes!  Me:  tap shoes?  Jack: yes!  Then we zip it all back up.  We do this even if I know everything is there.  The idea is not only to make sure he has what he needs for school but to help Jack begin to take responsibility for his own things.
The morning of a school day starts out very regimented in our house.  We get up, get dressed, and brush teeth before going downstairs to eat breakfast and feed the dog.  Having prepared everything else the night before allows the time after breakfast to be relaxed.  With everything done and Jack all ready for school, we usually have twenty or thirty minutes of free time.  I make a point to sit on the floor and play with him instead of getting distracted by laundry or dishes or whatnot.  This way, the time right before we leave for school is calm, fun and positive and Jack gets some quality Momma time.
On the way to school, Jack usually has a snack in the car.  He's not that into breakfast, so I feel better if he's eaten something before I drop him off.  Instant breakfast (the no sugar added variety) is a favorite car snack.  With a lid and a straw, it's not too messy and Jack usually downs it pretty quickly on the fifteen minute drive.  While in the car, I usually tell Jack a story or we chat about things we see on the way.  I also tell him what I'll be doing and where I'll be while he's at school.  I was surprised he cared about this, but after a couple of days at school where he constantly asked Miss Mandy, "Where's Momma?"  and "What's she doing?"  I realized he found some comfort in knowing what I was up to during his school time.
When we get to school, we walk in the front door and wave to Miss Mandy in the classroom as we head down the hall to the bathroom.  This one last pit stop gives Jack time to adjust to the fact that I am about to leave and has him starting his school day comfortably pottied.  Next, we take his shoes off at the classroom door (Something I love about his school is that they let the kids go barefoot.)  We then walk into the classroom, put his backpack in his cubby, I give him a kiss and a hug and say, "see you after school!"  Then I leave as he goes to cuddle and talk in Miss Mandy's lap for a bit.

A Few Keys to Success

Talk about school ahead of time, both before you enroll your child and the day before a school day.  Keep it casual, though.  For example, before enrollment, you might visit the school and mention, "This is a fun place!  Some day you'll go to school here."  Before a school day, you might talk about the teacher or about what activities your child will do at school.  Talking about it too much, though, can create anxiety  It's very different from child to child, so keep conversation about school short and light and don't force it if your child doesn't want to talk about it.   It's good, as well, to acknowledge your child's concerns and fears.  When Jack seems nervous about school, I say something like, "Are you worried about Momma leaving?"  When he says, "yes,"  I try to acknowledge that I know it's hard for him to be away from me, but that I look forward to picking him up and hearing about all the great things he's done at school.  This reassures him I'm coming back and reminds him there's fun stuff to do at school, even without me there.  I also want him to know it's okay to feel sad or anxious and that we can talk about it.
Routine should be simple, comforting and predictable for your child.  It will take a couple of weeks or so for your child to recognize the routine and be able to know what's next.  You can help by reminding him along the way.  For example:  "After we use the potty, we're going to the classroom."

Construct your morning routine before school to promote calmness.  This may mean getting up earlier or leaving the house earlier, just so you aren't in a rush, even in the face of the unexpected, i.e., your kiddo spills his Instant Breakfast all over the car, you accidentally throw your keys in the recycle bin or the dog throws up on the rug five minutes before you have to leave.  We all have, "one of those mornings," on occasion, but careful planning and allowing enough time will minimize these.
Pick your drop-off time thoughtfully.  Most schools have a window of time in which they prefer you drop off your child.  I discovered through trial and error there are fewer children coming into Jack's classroom on the earlier end of this window.  If I drop him off during this earlier slow time, there is less hustle and bustle, and Miss Mandy has more time to attend to Jack, which makes for a smoother transition.

Do not sneak out.  Sometimes it would seem easier just to slip out the door without saying goodbye, especially if your child is involved in play, but in doing this, you're setting your child up for a meltdown later when he discovers you're gone.  The next time, he may not want to separate from you, because he's anxious not knowing when you'll leave.  Remember, predictability is key.
When you drop your child off DO NOT LINGER.  I can't stress this one enough.  As a parent it is incredibly hard to leave your child when he's crying, but he will turn it off a lot faster if you don't draw out your leaving.  Much of the stress a child feels at drop off surrounds the anticipation of your leaving, not the actual fact of your being gone.  So, as hard as it is, make yourself follow your ritual, give that quick kiss, hug and reassurance and leave...smiling.  Save your own tears for the parking lot.  Your child needs to see you trust the people with whom he's being left in order to develop his own trust.  I have a friend whose daughter is in Jack's class.  Since she gets there after we do, she sometimes calls me to report how Jack was doing when she got there.  This has been great, because it allows me to relax, knowing that he did actually calm down after I left.
Table special events until your child is used to school.   He will get used to school a lot faster if everything is very consistent in the beginning.  You may eventually like to volunteer your time in the classroom or pick your child up early for a special event, but save these things until after he's comfortable with his new school - probably anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
Every child is different, and you may have to experiment some to find out what works for yours.  For Jack, the going to the bathroom right before entering the classroom works well, but for another child, that might be too much time in which to become anxious before Mom leaves.  Some children do well when the parent takes time to get them involved in play before leaving.  That way, he's a little distracted and having fun when Mom says goodbye.  Take your cues from your kiddo in finding what works. 
It takes time.  This is something I had to tell myself over and over again.  The first day of school may not go smoothly, nor the second or third.  But once your child is used to the rituals and routines surrounding a school day, and he realizes that his teachers are trustworthy people who are going to make sure his needs are met, things will get better.  During the first couple of weeks of school, I questioned my decision to start Jack in preschool.  Was he really ready to spend the time away from me?  I agonized over whether or not I chose the right program.  I trusted the staff and school, but there is always the question of fit - even if it is a good place, is it the right place for my kiddo?  I promised myself I'd give it at least six weeks, though.  And now, after three weeks of school, things are really looking good. 

 A Few Practical Notes
Most of this comes from my experience as a preschool teacher.  There are some things you can do to minimize the stress of school for you, your child AND the teacher.
Label everything.  Jackets in particular have a way of disappearing, and young children do not always recognize their own clothing.  A tip I learned from my mom:  You can put just your last name on items that may end up being handed down to a younger sibling.  So, put a permanent marker by the door and label anything you'd want back!
Provide extra clothes.  This is especially pertinent if your child is potty training.  It's much easier for a teacher to pull a child's extra clothes out of his own back back than to hunt through a box full of extras trying to find something that will fit.  It's also less stressful for your child to have his own clothes to put on after a potty accident.  Did I mention you should label these clothes with your child's name?
Be on the same side as the teacher.  If the classroom rule is that no toys from home are allowed, don't tell your child, "It's fine with me, but your teacher doesn't want you to."  This puts the teacher in the unfortunate position of "bad cop," and makes your child's cooperation with him/her less likely.  It's fine, though, to have the teacher reinforce the rules, i.e. "Remember, we have to leave your toys from home in your backpack, right Miss Mandy?"
Develop a relationship with your child's teacher.  In a good school, the teacher will communicate with you about your child, regardless, but you can make that easier for her by being accessible.  Make sure the school has your current phone numbers and email address on file.  Tell your child's teacher key things at drop-off, like about the fire truck that woke the whole family up in the middle of the night.  This will help the teacher understand why your child might be a little tired and give her something to chat with your child about as she helps him transition into his school day.  Volunteer, if you can, whether that's spending time in the classroom, cutting things out at home or donating various items.  At the very least, even if you're not particularly social, make a point to look the teacher in the eye, smile and say, "hi," during drop-off and pick-up times.  You probably want to save longer conversations for the phone, email or a conference time, though, since teacher's usually have their hands pretty full while the children are in the classroom.

This ended up being way longer and more detailed than I thought it would be!  If you got all the way to the end, I hope you gleaned a least one or two pearls of wisdom from it.  I think I could write a whole book on this topic.  Maybe with all this extra time while Jack is at school I can...hmmm...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Wrath of Hormones

Today, I am exhausted.  Jack woke up at ten til six, because he had to pee.  I don't think either of us really went back to sleep after that, though we laid in bed until almost seven.  Fatigue only heightens my pregnancy hormone-induced irritability at... well, at everything.  And knowing that my pissy feelings are irrational does nothing to abate them.  For some reason, I tend to direct a lot of my irritation at the dog.  Just the look on her face as she stands there, wagging her tail expectantly makes me want to scream.  Of course, it is genuinely annoying the way she has glued herself to me recently.  Every time I turn around, she's six inches behind me.  Either she really loves me or she is plotting to undo me via tripping hazard. 
A couple of evenings ago, Jason came downstairs to find me sprawled on the couch in my pj's, belly hanging out and frowning at the magazine I was reading.  He chuckled and said something to the effect of, "You're so cute sitting there scowling at your magazine.  I love you."  (I'm really going to have to hang on to him if he thinks a pissy pregnant woman in her pajamas is cute.)  I can't even remember what it was now, but there was something in that magazine that irritated me - an ad for some utterly ridiculous and useless product, an article listing idiotically common sense ways to control your weight... who knows.  The way I've been lately, it could have simply been that I found the color scheme of the cover off-putting.
The funny thing is, I don't really feel like I'm in a bad mood.  I feel happy and relaxed most of the time, I just knit my brow at things and periodically... a lot of things.  And I know these are things that wouldn't normally irk me at all.  I've found muttering to myself that old adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," because often the quips that want to escape my mouth when these minor irritants pop up are utterly unconstructive, if not downright mean.  I guess I just have to control myself, keep going to yoga and wait it out.  I REALLY hope my patience meter goes back up once this baby is born, because I'm certainly going to need it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Preschool Update

I am at my parents' house right now, and I have a limited amount of time to type before Jack comes upstairs and discovers I'm back from yoga already, so this will probably be quick.
We have now been to preschool a total of three times.  The first time... well, read the previous post to see how that went.  The second time, Jack cried when I dropped him off, but he was quite cheery when I picked him up.  The teacher said he calmed down after I left and really enjoyed his tap class in particular.  I was feeling good.  Then there was the third time, yesterday, which as any parent will remember was the dreaded, "Day After Halloween."
I tried to get Jack in bed on time after trick-or-treating, but it didn't happen.  He ended up falling asleep about forty-five minutes late - not too bad, but then he woke up at 6:30AM, an hour earlier than usual, because his pull-up had leaked and he was all wet.  There was no going back to sleep after we got that cleaned up, though I tried.  So, when I dropped him off at school at 9AM, he cried, as did several other overly tired kiddos who where being dropped off at the same time.  I stayed strong, gave him a kiss and a smile as I left and worried most of time I was gone.  When I went to pick him up, they were on the playground, and Jack was crying in the teacher's lap.  It turns out, he had calmed down after I left and had really enjoyed painting and tumbling, but he had gotten the mistaken impression I was picking him up before lunch.  This is what caused the meltdown about forty minutes before I got there.  I had explained to him when I was picking him up, but it didn't sink in, apparently.  It was good to know he had enjoyed at least some of his time there, but as a parent, it's pretty disheartening to drop your kid off crying and then pick him up in the same state.
I am blaming this backslide at least partially on Halloween.  I'll take him again tomorrow and hope for a better day.  I'll also try to do a more thorough job of explaining when I'll be picking him up.  *Sigh*  This preschool thing is hard, but I'm hoping in a month or so I'll also add, "but totally worth it."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Preschool Possibilities

After much internal debate, over many months, I finally decided to try preschool for Jack.  I had been thinking about it on and off, when Jack noticed the preschool room in the dance studio where we do yoga.  He was very interested in what was going on in there and wanted to go in every time we passed the door.  This, coupled with his budding interest in interacting with other kids at play dates made me think maybe he's ready.  Jack has always been a bit shy and reserved around new situations and unfamiliar people, but I thought it might be good for him to learn that it's okay and even fun sometimes to be away from Momma.  I investigated several different programs but ultimately decided to go with the one at the dance studio.  The space is familiar and obviously enticing to Jack, the teachers are warm and friendly and have been there a long time, and the classroom has a calmness to it, even with fourteen kids under age five in it.
So, after visiting a couple of times and talking about it a lot with Jack, we set up our first day of preschool for Monday.  I only planned to leave him for a couple of hours to start.  We got his clothes and his backpack ready the night before.  In the morning, before we left the house, I took a picture of him by the garage door, backpack on, Jack smiling proudly.  I was nervous, but doing a damned good job at acting normal, if I do say so myself.  We got to the school, and as we entered the classroom, Jack started to act nervous, wanting me to pick him up.  I smiled, though and told him I'd help him find something to do, and then I would go.  I tried to get him involved in playing to very little avail.  In the end, I hugged and kissed him, told him I'd be back in a couple of hours to get him, and left him crying in Miss Mandy's lap.  I strode out into the parking lot, my vision blurred and I broke down into tears.  I sat in my car and called Jason.  I was crying so hard, he couldn't understand me, though he insisted it was his phone reception going out.  I felt horrible.  It took every ounce of willpower I have ever had to walk out of that classroom and leave when Jack was crying, though, having taught preschool for years, I know that delaying your departure only makes it worse.
I spent the next two hours getting a pedicure and shopping - bought several things I really don't need.  I almost relaxed.  When I went to get Jack, I peeked into the room where they were doing tumbling.  Music was playing, and the teacher was helping kids jump on small trampolines, crawl over big foam blocks and hop through hula hoops.  Everyone seemed to be having a blast, except Jack, who was just standing by the teacher.  As soon as he saw me, he ran to me and tearily asked to go home.  We stayed for a few minutes so I could talk to the teacher.  She said Jack had stopped crying after I left, but he alternated between being upset and settling down to play.
Two seconds after we got home from preschool, he was bouncing off the walls.  He had more fun in yoga class later that day than he ever has before.  He is obviously not scarred by his first preschool experience.  I, on the other hand, have not recovered so quickly.  Over the past two days, I have questioned my decision to start preschool.  I wanted it to be in place before the baby gets here in February, but is Jack really ready?  Should I just cherish this time with him at home and not push him to be more social?  On the other hand, once the baby is born, having Jack in school a half-day, two days a week might be a real godsend.  And, more importantly, he is going to have to try new things.  He is going to have to do things without me, and maybe it's time for him to do that, even if it is a little stressful at first.  After all, a little stress isn't necessarily bad.  I really don't think Jack is analyzing it near as much as I am.
I also have to admit that part of my negative feelings about starting preschool have to do with it's disruption of our schedule.  If we do preschool Monday and Wednesday, I have to totally restructure when we've been going to yoga and scheduling play dates.  I am a routine person, and I do not like having my routine thrown up into the air and scattered all over the floor like a stack of cards in fifty-two card pick-up.  So that part of it is about me, not Jack, and definitely something I need to set aside in my decision about whether or not we are ready for preschool.
Tomorrow, we will try our second day of school.  I intend to leave him there a bit longer than Monday but not the whole time just yet.  It's tap day, and Jack is excited about wearing his tap shoes.  Funny thing, he has said several times he wants to me to stay with him at school, but he hasn't said that he doesn't want to go.  I take this as a sign he wants to go but is just unsure about my not being there as of yet.  I am hoping that, over the next several weeks, Jack and I both will get more used to school and even if he isn't jumping for joy when I leave, he'll at least participate and enjoy himself once I'm gone.
After killing myself over whether or not this is the right decision for the past two days, I have reminded myself of a piece of advice I've given friends countless times:  If you're not sure, just try it.  You can always change your mind, and you won't know if you don't try.  I asked myself if I really thought I was doing permanent harm to Jack's psyche by trying out preschool, even if it turns out he's not really ready yet, and my answer was "no."  We can always quit if after a few weeks, it doesn't seem to be getting any better.  So, as usual, I have come upon a solution that harkens back to something people have been telling me my whole life that I never really got until now:  "Try it!  You might like it!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Temporary Insanity

I thought I had baby brain when I was pregnant with Jack.  I think the extent of it was once putting ice cream in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.  With this baby, however, I seem to be in a race to do every stereotypically flighty thing there is.  Until earlier this week, I have been soaring along, even forgetting at times that I am pregnant.  I have been going to my same hatha flow yoga class.  I have been walking, talking and generally getting through the day like a normal person.  Then, on Tuesday, I enthusiastically threw my left leg up in the air in the downward dog position and reveled in my own flexibility...until my yoga instructor came by and whispered, "right."  I had clearly heard her say, "right leg" but my left had involuntarily shot up anyway.  This wouldn't be particularly remarkable if I didn't do almost the exact same thing six more times during the hour-long class.  And this was only the beginning.
The next day, while leaving the house with Jack, I walked out in the garage with my keys in one hand, trash for the recycle bin in the other... and promptly threw my keys in the recycle bin.  I quickly realized my mistake and wasn't quite as far gone as to think I could start my car with a flattened milk carton, so I had to do some digging in the bin - not an easy task at twenty-two weeks pregnant.
The following morning, while Jack and I were upstairs getting ready for an appointment with a potential preschool, Jason called up, "Uh, baby?  There's a big mess down here."  I thought the dog had thrown up or something, but no, Jason continued with, "The pot wasn't under the coffee maker when it started.  There's coffee everywhere."  I groaned, knowing I was the only potential culprit for that one.  (You'll note Jason is a very smart man - He didn't accusatorily say, "YOU didn't put the pot under the coffee maker," despite the fact the fault was obviously mine.  He's been through the reactionary emotional roller coaster of pregnancy before.)  Jason had to run off to work.  I got downstairs to discover the coffee pot in the dish drainer - nowhere near the coffee maker.  I spent a good portion of the morning hurriedly cleaning up the mess, so we could get off to our appointment with the preschool.
The very NEXT morning, after I had the evening before, very meticulously set up the coffee, pot included, to start in the morning, I got downstairs and the pot wasn't even on.  My first thought:  "What the f&*k!  I can't even make coffee anymore!"  Upon investigation, I discovered that when I had unplugged the machine the day before to clean up the mess, I had neglected to reset the timer.  So, there had been a wonderfully fresh pot of coffee... at midnight, the timer default.
Later that same day, Jack and I had lunch at a restaurant with a friend and her son.  We had a great time, and on the way out, she carried both of our leftovers while I held hands with both kids.  When we got to the cars, she set my leftover box on top of my van and jokingly told me not to forget and leave it up there (I had told her the coffee story.)  I laughed, she went to her car right next to mine, and I strapped Jack into his car seat.  As I was getting ready to drive off, my friend came back to my car and I rolled down the window, wondering what she had to tell me.  Without a word, she reached up and handed me my leftovers, which were, yes, still on top of the car.  I had forgotten about them in the space of about thirty seconds.
All of these incidences happened in the space of about four days, so I am feeling close to certifiably nuts now.  If it gets any worse, I'll have to recommend taking me off the road, because, in this state, I definitely should not be operating heavy machinery.  In fact, I should probably stay away from the stove; I might hurt myself.  I don't think I should be operating the washing machine or the dish washer, either, and maybe I should lay off cleaning or vacuuming, too; you never know what might happen... come to think of it, maybe baby brain isn't so bad. Hmmm, being slightly nuts could get me out of a lot of chores and possibly get me some sympathy to boot.  Maybe they'll even add it to the list of official disorders.  Now all I have to do is work on an excuse for the rest of my non-pregnant life...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Terrible Two-and-a-Halfs

I have been waiting for the terrible two's to show up like one waiting for the other shoe to drop.  The experts warn they can show up as early as eighteen months and can certainly last through a child's third birthday.  Jack, however, has been amazingly agreeable, even reasonable, for a two-year-old.  He has seemed to understand when I explain why we can't do something he wants to do, like go swimming when it's dinner time or feed the dog an entire box of dog treats.  He's been going to bed without complaint and happily sitting down at the table for dinner... until now.  Yes folks, we have finally hit it.  Just when I thought we were in the clear, the terrible two's have shown up - a day late, but certainly not a dollar short.  There have been crying fits over my not carrying him when my arms were full of other things and hysteria over broken toys that could not be fixed.  There have been all-out, fall-on-the floor-and-kick-and-scream tirades over seemingly small things.  Example:  Earlier today, Jack was playing with a new fire truck my mom bought him.  He was ecstatic over how the ladder extended far over the truck, until he realized the ladder would not stay erect when fully extended.  I suggested we prop it up with something.  My dad found a wadded piece of paper to stuff at the base to keep it up, but Jack kept whining and getting more and more worked up as he was intent that the ladder stay up with no help from other objects.  It's almost like he wanted or needed to be upset.  So he ended up lying in the hallway with his head on his blankie, crying that he "no like ladder fall down!" over and over again.
I found, in these situations, it's best to leave him alone and let him calm down on his own.  Sometimes I suggest he get his blankie, lie on the couch or take deep breaths, but he really seems to calm down quicker if I leave him alone and go off and do my own thing so he can come find me when he calms down.  This is all well and good if we are at home and not in any hurry to go anywhere, but it can be really irritating to have him melt down over something that is a physical impossibility when we are trying to get in the car and go somewhere.  And his irrational expectations and dramatic reaction to things not going how he wants don't fit well with my mid-pregnancy super-irritable state.  It really doesn't take much to push my buttons these days.  I remember this from being pregnant with Jack.  And if expired coupons, people driving slow in the left lane or inane t-shirt slogans can get me going, imagine what a screaming two-year-old can do. 
When I do feel my hackles rising in response to Jack's tantrums or antics, I try to follow my own advice:  I take deep breaths and lie on the couch if I can... maybe I should get myself a blankie, too.  And, if by "blankie" I mean "glass of wine," it would probably really work.  *Sigh*  Since I'm abstaining for pregnancy, I guess I'll have to quell my irritation au natural for now with good ol' relaxation.  It's probably better for me anyway than drowning my stresses in alcohol, but I'm not making any promises come next spring.
A few days ago, I was making quesadillas (spelling??)  for dinner.  I was excited, because I thought they'd be really good, but I really f-ed up Jason's as I was flipping it and turned it into a scrambled mess.  Pregnancy irritation combined with fatigue did not allow me to cope well with this minor setback.  I took many MANY deep breaths in attempts to calm myself and keep from taking it out on Jack who was asking repeatedly, "Why Momma breathing so hard?  What happened to quesadilla?  Why Momma getting upset?"  I held in my anger, trying to respond rationally to his questions and finally told him I didn't want to talk about it - that I just needed a few minutes.  Then, there was a pause in our conversation as I tried to repair my culinary mess and Jack examined the portion of refried beans I'd already served him.  He pointed at the beans and very objectively asked, "Momma, what this big plop?"  I burst out laughing and my cloudy disposition was shattered.  That's the thing about two-year-olds and bad moods:  so often they are the cause, but so often the cure as well.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Eyes of a Child

I've been noticing lately all of the things about which Jack gets excited - things that we adults take for granted or may not even notice.  Last Friday, I took him to the mall, a place we don't frequent, to buy some fall clothes for him.  He was fairly patient for a 2 1/2 year old while I sorted through racks of 2T's and 3T's, trying to find jeans to fit his skinny little body, but what he got really excited about was the escalators.  He loved riding up and down them, and a couple of times I coaxed him into "just one more store" by promising a titillating escalator ride afterward.  I mean, if you think about it, they're pretty cool - moving stairs!  You don't even have to walk, and the hand rail moves too!  If you'd never seen the like, you'd be pretty impressed.
There are all sorts of things Jack loves that we adults tend not to see.  Every time we go to my parents' house, we drive by a fire station.  He waits with baited breath to see if the garage doors are open and if the "big truck" and the "tiny truck" are out on the driveway.  If they are, we speculated about what the fire fighters are doing with them that day.  If the doors are closed, we talk about why that might be, too.  I'm not sure I'd even have noticed there was a fire station there if Jack weren't so interested.
Jack also jumps out of bed on trash day to watch the truck that picks up our lawn refuse bags - his favorite of all the trucks, because there's a guy on the back who gets off to chunk the bags into the truck.  If we're lucky, we even get to see them use the compactor to crush all the leaves and sticks.  Of course, the recycle truck and regular ol' trash truck are also cause to run out in the front yard, naked if necessary (Jack's naked, not me.)  If it were not for this kid, I'd not know so much about how our trash is collected.
One Sunday a couple of months ago, for a treat, Jason and I took Jack out for ice cream after dinner.  Jason had just had his wisdom teeth out, so it was a treat for him too.  When we announced our post-dinner excursion to Jack, he ran around the downstairs, jumping and cheering like he'd won the lottery.  Watching that was almost more fun than the ice cream itself.  That's the great thing about kids, though.  They don't need to win a bunch of money to get a thrill.  Two dollars worth of ice cream (or a free escalator ride) will do it.
I suppose there is some advantage to growing up and not responding to every stimulus with such enthusiasm.  It would be pretty pathetic after all, if I still cheered when I put all the pee-pee in the potty or managed to put on my own shoes.  But one of the great things about being around young children is their infectious enthusiasm.  Watching Jack run and play in the rain makes feel nostalgic for doing the same when I was a kid.  And his rapt attention to the world's less-noticed details reminds me how amazingly complex and fascinating our world really is.  I try to hold on to that for myself and for Jack, because I know that all too soon, Jack will be a jaded teenager, bored with the simple things that used to entertain him so thoroughly.  But if you can hold a snapshot of some of those things in your mind,  a bit of that sense of childlike fascination and wonder, maybe you'll be just a bit happier.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rockin' the Minivan

About a month ago, we bought a used, Toyota Sienna minivan.  I have been wanting one for a while, and now that we have one, I love it!!  I love the wide, automatic side doors.  I love that I don't have to bend over to strap Jack into his car seat.  I love that our dog can jump in the back instead of my having to strap her into the front seat.  I love the gas mileage - almost as good as my Altima - and the fact that it handles more like a car than a big ol' truck.  I can't see why anyone with kids and dogs wouldn't want one. 
I've gotten several knowing looks and ambiguous comments from friends:  "So you sold out and bought a minivan," or "Why wouldn't you just get an suv?"  Well, I'm not sure who I'm supposedly selling out to, for one thing.  And the reason I wouldn't get an suv is because I don't like the way they handle, due to their being built on truck chassis.  I don't like their low gas mileage, AND they don't have the awesome huge sliding doors my minivan has.  You do not know how fabulous those doors are until you've tried to cram a wiggly toddler into a car seat in the back of a subcompact and hit your head on the door frame as you try to back yourself out of the space.  I'm pretty sure they're going to save me big bucks in back therapy in the long run, especially now that we have kiddo number two on the way.
My mom asked me several years ago what my generation had against minivans, and I couldn't come up with anything substantive for her.  It's just a stigma:  the minivan-driving soccer mom who bakes fabulous zucchini bread and hasn't another thought in her brain besides the nagging underlying feeling that she's not really fulfilled and happy.  This is part of my generation's denegration of the stay-at-home mom - part of our idea that you cannot possibly be intellectually fulfilled if you stay home with children, and if you are, you are a simpleton.  While it's true it can be challenging to feel your needs for mental challenge are being met while you play "let's make Thomas the Train wreck and put him back together" for the eighty-ninth time, parenthood is not without it's intellectual challenges if you're really committed to doing a good job of it.  Any parent who has come up with yet another creative solution to getting her child to brush teeth, put on pajamas and get in bed without a fight certainly feels she's met a challenge.  And if you do feel you need more stimulus, you find intellectual pursuits in your "spare time" like write this blog.
At any rate, I'm glad I have the intellectual independence to eschew the negative stereotype of the minivan in favor of owning a vehicle that serves our family needs beautifully.  (Did I mention the huge sliding doors?)  The car industry has yet to come up with a better family vehicle, and the minivan is a vast improvement over the station wagon, with it's rear-facing rumble seat or the full-sized custom van that barely fits in a standard garage.  And maybe some day when Jack is older, he'll do like I did with my parents' minivan.  He and his high school friends will drive it to concerts so they can all ride together or take it on Spring Break trips where they can all hang out in the back and....  wait, I'm beginning to have second thoughts on this minivan thing. 

P.S.  I actually DO make fabulous zucchini bread.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's a bird, it's a plane...it's Super Chilled Momma!

I swore I was going to use my blog as a way to journal this pregnancy on a regular basis.  When I was pregnant with Jack, I wrote religiously in a paper journal once a week, recording how I felt physically and emotionally, how much I weighed, and such.  This time around, now that I'm feeling better, I tend to forget I'm pregnant at times.  I have kept up with some things.  I take pictures of my growing belly once a month, just like I did with Jack.  I don't want this baby look back at his or her baby memorabilia and feel slighted, but it is damned hard to be as psycho into pregnancy as I was the first time.  With Jack, I read more than a few books on pregnancy and child birth.  I read details on line every day about his growth in utero.  We took child birth classes and breast feeding classes.  I thought about being pregnant ALL THE TIME.  Now I'll periodically run into a friend of acquaintance who is bubbling over with congratulations for "my news," and it takes me a few seconds to figure out what they're talking about.
It's not that I'm any less excited about this baby.  I've started to feel some little movements now, and it always makes me smile and feel warm and fuzzy.  When I hear the baby's heartbeat at the doctor's office, as I did today, it still moves me to near tears. It's such a wonderful, life-filled, reassuring sound.  And I do like to look at my baby bump profile in the mirror.  It's just that I am a lot busier and a lot less nervous than I was the first time around.  I don't comb the internet to reassure myself that my symptoms are perfectly normal.  I don't worry that every little thing I put in my mouth is going to give the baby a second head.  We've been through the labor and delivery thing once before.  I know how it goes, and I know I have very little control over it.  And I'm a little busy answering all Jack's toddler questions - "What that, Momma?"  and "cuz why?" and playing "soccer ball" in the back yard - a game Jack invented that involves throwing his pint-sized soccer ball across the yard, running in circles and falling down.  Actually, when I think about it, this baby has the slight advantage over Jack in that it has a much more relaxed momma.  So, while I do want to be sure this one doesn't feel second fiddle, (I'll be sure to take the same ridiculous amount of photos when he/she is born)  I don't think I'll feel guilty about spending less time going nuts over this pregnancy.  It's kind of nice that it seems to be flying by, as opposed the slow creep of my pregnancy with Jack.  It's relaxing to refrain from cracking a book and reading about all the potentially horrible things that can go wrong during child birth - things I can't control and thus only serve to make me feel worried.  Jack got hyper-informed momma; this next one gets super chilled momma.  By the time they're two and five, I figure it ought to even out.

P.S.  On a side note, my doctor noted I've gained four pounds since my last visit three weeks ago.  He gently mentioned that I may want to watch my weight a bit, as the baby doesn't weigh very much at this point.  I nodded and smiled and fully intend to eat as many cupcakes as I want for my birthday on Saturday.  I love what pregnancy does for my weight attitude.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm Pregnant!

I haven't published anything to my blog in a while, but this time it's not the standard rash of weak excuses.  About eight weeks ago, Jason and I found out I'm pregnant with our second kiddo.  So, I've been exhausted and nauseated and using every spare minute to nap instead of write (or clean, or make dinner, or do laundry.)  The other thing is this:  I did sit down and start to write a few times, but all I could think about was being pregnant.  That's what I felt compelled to write about, and we were not yet telling the world since I was just in the first trimester.  Now that I'm around thirteen weeks and we've seen a very active little one on ultrasound, we are letting the proverbial cat out of the bag.
Our decision not to tell anyone was not just your garden variety err on the side of caution.  Before we had Jack, I had four first trimester miscarriages.  I won't get into the details, but I had a uterine abnormality that was corrected, allowing Jack to be carried to term.  Then, right before last Christmas, I had another miscarriage, for no particular reason that could be determined (like most.)  So you see, we guarded our enthusiasm for this pregnancy with good reason.  I used to feel sorry for myself because I couldn't let myself feel the excitement that many other women revel in when they get that positive pregnancy test.  I felt envious of friends who announced with beaming faces, "I'm pregnant," when they were only five weeks along.  I have realized, though, that it could be worse.  I could have trouble getting pregnant (which I don't AT ALL) on top of the miscarriages.  I could have any number of other maladies that would prevent me from having children at all.  The tendency to miscarry and the anxiety that goes with it is just my particular row to hoe.  Everyone has troubles and challenges, even if they're not obvious.  I might as well accept mine.
Early pregnancy for me comes with a lot worry and stress, but this time I really wanted to keep that at bay.  It's maddening to wonder every second of the thirteen plus weeks of the first trimester if everything is going okay in there.  The kicker is, there's nothing I can do about it.  I think that's the main source of stress.  I can eat right and take care of myself, but beyond that, there is nothing I can do to change the outcome of a pregnancy.  So this time around, when I would feel that panic welling up from my heart into my throat - that anxiety-ridden voice that asked, "what if I miscarry again?"  I found a strong, firm voice to answer it.  I'd repeat a mantra I picked up in yoga:  "I am only part."  What that means to me is this:  I can only do my part to make sure my body is a good place to grow a baby.  The rest is up to chance, fate, the universe, whatever.  It doesn't matter what.  The point is, there is a very large part of pregnancy that is not up to me.  So I would take a deep breath and do my best to let it go, because worrying about it was only going to make me miserable, not change the outcome.  This actually worked pretty well, and I was much less of a basket case this time than previously.  And now, I can relax a little and be excited.  I have finally allowed myself to start thinking about where we will put the new baby and how to prepare Jack for a sibling and all the other fun stuff that goes with being pregnant.
My mom said to me not too long ago, she thought I was brave for persevering with my goal of having children with so many miscarriages under my belt.  After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Though after having Jack, I thought about it more like gambling in Vegas.  My odds of getting a baby out of a pregnancy  were pretty low, but it HAD happened and, oh, when we hit the jackpot again, it was gonna be sweet!  I really don't think it's about bravery, though.  When you want something as badly as I have always wanted children, you do what you have to to get it.  The alternative, giving in and resigning yourself to failure, is unthinkable.
I seem to be hitting a recurring theme in my life the past several years, and it revolves around letting go of control, or more to the point, things over which I imagine I can have control.  It turns out, not only is a large part of pregnancy beyond my influence, but a substantial part of life in general is as well.  Having babies, when, what kind and how many, is largely out of my control.  Those children are going to have personalities, quirks, habits and ideas that are totally beyond my manipulation.  And I know that's only going to get more pronounced as Jack and baby number two get older and go out into the world on their own.  They are going to make decision I don't agree with, they're going to have friends I don't like and they're going to eat, drink and/or smoke things that I don't approve of.  If I maintain my illusion of control, these things are going to break me, because I am going to thing all of them are my fault - that they would make better decisions if I were a better mother.  So I think I'll keep working on my abdication of control, because, as scary as it is to let go, it feels really good not to be responsible for every bad thing that ever happens.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running With Scissors

I was thinking the other day about all the things I (and probably most other moms) do that the prevailing literature tells us not to.  I was pondering it because Jack fell asleep in the car on the way home from my parents' house after refusing to take a nap that day.  I then did something strictly forbidden:  I parked the car in the garage and left him sleeping in there while I went in the house.  It was seventy degrees outside.  The garage was a pleasant temperature.  I left the car windows down and the door to the kitchen, where I was, open so I could hear him.  I also checked on him several times.  I felt perfectly safe about it, and he woke up an hour later, perfectly healthy and well-rested.
It seems silly to make blanket statements like, "You should never leave a child sleeping in a car unattended."  When did we stop expecting people to make rational decisions based on individual circumstances?  It was probably when we all went and got so litigious, the manufacturer of my hair dryer was compelled to place a sticker on it warning, "Do not use while asleep."  There is a big difference between leaving your infant in the car in shadeless, 100-degree heat while you walk off where you can't hear them and letting your toddler sleep in the nice cool garage with mom nearby.  Many of the things we hear we're not supposed to do, can be perfectly safe if you take unique circumstances into consideration and aren't a complete idiot.  I'd like to see us as a society encouraging people to take more responsibility for their own actions and their own children.  In an act of defiance from the safety police, I am listing the thing I've done as a parent that would earn me a frowny face from the "experts."
  1. left child sleeping in the car
  2. let baby sleep in bed with us
  3. let formula sit out longer than the prescribed time period before feeding in to baby
  4. put baby in bouncy seat on a table instead of the floor
  5. put antibiotic cream on child that was prescribed for someone else
  6. drove to the mailbox and back with toddler on my lap instead of in the car seat
  7. let toddler play in the back yard by himself (I could see him from the window, and we don't have a pool.)
  8. left toddler momentarily unattended in the bathtub
  9. let toddler help light candles
  10. given two-year-old many MANY toys rated for three and up
  11. used adult toothpaste on toddler's teeth
  12. allowed child to "graze" instead of making him sit down for every meal
  13. don't make child wash hands before every meal or even after every trip to the bathroom
I'm sure there are a lot more I'm forgetting.  I know you can say just because none of it ended in disaster for me, doesn't mean it couldn't have - maybe I was lucky.  But here's the thing:  You have to know your child.  I feel like I should write that in all caps.  KNOW YOUR CHILD.  These are not things I did carelessly.  I did them calculatedly because I know Jack.  I know what he can handle and what he cannot.  I would not have made the same decisions with a different child.   I am certain he will not drown in the bathtub if I run out of the room for 2 minutes to get a wash cloth.  I know he's not going to light his or my hair on fire when he helps with the candles because he is a very careful child..  And, I know it's not worth it to try to make him sit down for every meal - I don't have that kind of fight in me.  I'm not saying other parents should do the same as I am, but that we should all use our brains and make our own decisions about what's safe and good for our individual children.  The warning labels sometimes make us feel as if there is some big, bad unquantifiable monster out there that's going to get our children if we violate the "rules."  I'm taking back my personal responsibility and my confidence in my ability as a parent.  If the rest of the world would do the same, well... there'd be a lot of out of work lawyers.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Breaking Momma

Many people have obsessive tendencies in one or more areas of their lives.  Some people clean their houses to the point of madness.  For others, it's health food or exercise that brings out their inner Gollum, or it's checking the door is locked and the coffee pot is off twenty-three times before leaving the house.  For me, it's The Schedule.  I am a very routine-oriented person, and according to my mother, have been from birth.  My morning routine, both pre-child and now is carefully designed so I can do it by rote and not have to fully wake up until after I've gotten downstairs and had coffee.  Having routine in my bones served me well when I worked in child care and then as a first grade teacher.  Children thrive on routine.  They, like me, find comfort in knowing what to expect.  While I do like spontaneity, I always come back to The Schedule.  As you might guess then, Jack has a nice, predictable schedule when it comes to sleeping and eating.  He wakes up around seven o'clock, eats lunch at noon, naps at one and is asleep by eight in the evening.  At least, that's how it was going until a couple of months ago when Jack decided that sometimes he would start rubbing his eyes and yawning at eleven o'clock - two hours before nap time.  Other times, he refused to nap until nodding off at three or four, in his car seat or stroller.  And some days, god have mercy on us, he didn't nap at all.  All of this really threw a wrench into The Schedule.  I struggled to maintain it.  Then, I fumbled with finding a new "The Schedule" that would work with Jack's nap antics.  All of this was a great failure and lead to much frustration on my part.  Kids need The Schedule!  Why was my child suddenly bucking it?  Surely, I just had to find the right schedule and he would follow it again, right?
I was in the midst of all of this nap chaos last Thursday.  I laid down with Jack for an agonizing hour at his "normal nap time," most of which he spent flailing and talking gleefully to himself with not-so-brief intermissions to the potty no less than four times.  During one of the potty interludes, he attempted to flush literally half a roll of  paper, still attached to the roll, down the toilet.  I caught it before the bathroom flooded and ended up fishing the massive papier-mache-like wad of tissue out with my bare hand.  But I digress...When I finally sighed and got up, it was time for us to go to mom and kiddo yoga.  It's in our neighborhood, so I strapped Jack in the stroller and started the one mile walk .  On the way, I chatted to Jack:  "Look at the fire hydrant.  That one's red!  Look at the big black dog.  Hi, dog!"  I was babbling like an idiot when I realized Jack wasn't responding at all.  I stopped and peeked at him in the stroller.  He was dead asleep!  As I walked, I considered my options:  Wake Jack up so we could both go to yoga, be grumpy and totally not enjoy it OR let him sleep while I walked around the neighborhood in perfect peace and quiet.  So I squashed the voice inside me that said I was asking for it at bed time if I let him start a nap at 3:45PM and went on what turned out to be a lovely one-hour walk, for all practical purposes, by myself. 
After Jack woke up and we got home around 5:00, he started complaining that his botton itched.  This is a perpetual problem we have due to his stubborn insistence that he wear neither pants nor underwear while playing in the sandbox.  I was hot and sweaty from the walk, so I decided we'd take a bath before dinner, deviating yet again from The Schedule.  We had a wonderfully relaxing bath together and then went downstairs to make dinner which was much more relaxing after a warm bath instead of staying sweaty and sticky.  After dinner, I (gasp!) left the dinner dishes on the counter and even (gasp again!) neglected to get Jack to pick up all of his toys out of the living room.  We went upstairs where I sat in the playroom feeling downright blissful while Jack, still naked from the bath, played with his trains.  This is where Jason found us when he got home from work.  He was quite surprised to find Jack up past his bedtime running naked around the upstairs, and he was downright shocked to see me with a relaxed smile on my face as I told him of the late nap.  Jason smiled and said, "It only took two years, but Jack finally broke you."  He laughed pretty hard and reiterated this statement when I calmly explained the reason Jack's hair smelled so good was because Jack had washed it himself in the bathtub... with my shave gel.
In the end, we brushed Jack's teeth, took him to the potty and read him books before bed like we always do.  He went to bed about thirty minutes late, pleasantly tired and without complaint.  Apparently, The Schedule is not as vital in keeping our world aligned on its axis as I previously thought.  As I reflected on the day, I realized that what made it so relaxing was not so much that I threw The Schedule out the window.  It was that I gave up control.  I gave up thinking that if I just did the right thing then Jack would eat/sleep/act how I wanted.  I let go of the idea that I am directly responsible for every missed nap, every bad mood and every hang nail the kid ever has.  Life is a whole lot easier when you don't take responsibility for every single little piece of it.  Since that Thursday, we have maintained a looser version of The Schedule.  I still do think we need it; I just have to remember I'm not completely in charge of it.  So yeah, Momma is now broken, but I like it.  I think I'll stay this way.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Grammar According to Momma

I saw this product while shopping at Target on Sunday.  It caught my eye enough to make me stop, scowl and take photographic evidence of this blatant and absurd transgression of grammar.  There are two things that bother me about this:
1.  They are selling a plaster, paintable "OMG."  What are you supposed to do with it, paint it and hang it on your wall?  What meaning does a shortened version of "omigod" have as a wall hanging?
2.  The more abhorrent violation of the two:  The text at the top of the package says it is a "plaster word."  WORD??  REALLY??!  Since when did teenage text acronyms qualify as words?  As a matter of fact, since when did any acronym make the cut?

I don't have a problem with "omg," per se or abbreviating things for the sake of time while texting.  It is a convenient and practical thing to do.  But, I do have a problem with this little gem snaking it's way into everyday conversation enough that people are actually considering it a word.  I have observed "omg" in two non-cell phone commercials, one sitcom and a billboard before sighting this one at Target.  I don't have strong opinions about a lot of things, but this seemingly trivial thing really irritates me.  "Omg" is trite, meaningless, unnecessary and IT IS NOT A WORD.

I'll admit that, as you may have already guessed, I am a card-carrying member of the grammar police.  I know every grammar rule there is, and I abide by most of them.  I break out the red pen for misuses of "I" and "me," "effect" and "affect" and "there" "their" and "they're."   I have relaxed about certain things over the years, like the rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition or "not using a preposition to end a sentence with," as we grammar comedians like to say.  I finally had to face the fact that saying, "With whom would you like to speak?" just sounds snooty.  Another place I've given up is using "their" when in the context of the sentence, "his" or "her" should be used.  Example:  "Does everyone know where their pencil is?"  If phrased correctly, it should be "Does everyone know where his or her pencil is?"  (If you don't know why, I'm not going to deign to tell you.)  Using "his or her" is very cumbersome, and I'm annoyed with whomever thought up our gender pronoun system for not coming up with a gender neutral pronoun.  Technically speaking, you can just say "his" and that's supposed to include everyone, but frankly it's just plain sexist.
So, because I am the utmost authority on the matter, I have come up with a sample list of April's New Grammar Rules, because whomever wrote them in the first place, had no idea they/ he or she needed to remind everyone that "omg" is a pathetic excuse for communication.  Here you go:

  1. You may substitute "they" or "their" for "he or she" or "his or her" when the gender of the party to which you are referring is unknown or includes multiple genders.
  2. You may end a sentence with a preposition, but ONLY if it sounds absurdly pretentious to do otherwise.  For example, you can say, "Who does this belong to?"  instead of the stuffy, "To whom does this belong?"  You may under no circumstances say, "Where's it at?"  or "The road has to be finished for cars to drive on."
  3. You may use text-originating acronyms only while texting.  Anyone using "omg" anywhere else shall be flogged.
  4. If you are typing an email  or text to a friend and you are in a hurry, minor typos or spelling/grammar mistakes and typical abbreviations are acceptable, but we will make fun of you.  If you are typing a business email, writing a formal letter or for the love of god, a resume, all spelling and grammar should be absolutely correct.  All mistakes made in formal documents will be published to a website with a link on Google's homepage so that we grammar mavens can smirk and feel superior.
  5. Let's talk word misuse.  If you are a sport announcer, you are banned from using the word "literally."   There shall be no, for example, "He literally ripped his head off!" during football games.  Really??  I guess he's under indictment for murder then, since he "literally" committed a heinous crime in front of millions of viewers.
  6. If you are a sports announcer, Alanis Morisette or anyone else who is not absolutely positive they know the meaning of irony, you may not use it or any derivative thereof.  Newsflash:  coincidence is not irony.  "Ironically, he's playing the best game of his career against the team of his former college roommate," is in no way, shape or form a correct use of irony.  I could use a whole posting to illustrate the proper use of irony, so I'll leave that for a later time.  
  7. This last rule is probably the most important one of all.  If you are trying to type a grammar-related post for your blog because you are trying to do something that makes you feel a little more intellectual than listening to "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" on repeat eight-six times in a row, but your 2-year-old is doing acrobatics in your lap and shouting "I type!  I type!" you are indemnified from all typos, grammar mistakes, misspellings, word misuse, run-on sentences, fragments, awkward sentences and anything that ends up not making sense.  Thanks and goodnight!

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    Summer Fun, Wasted Food and a Moment of Bliss

    I just realized I missed posting last week.  There was memorial day, then I had to do end-of-month billing for work...in short, it's the oldest, lamest excuse in the book:  I forgot.  I also spent the end of the week making lists and gathering things to go out of town to see Jason's parents.  I have to say, it was by far the best, most relaxing road trip we've taken with Jack.  We left at bedtime on Friday.  Jack hadn't taken a nap and had run around like a nut with my parents all afternoon, so he crashed in the car almost immediately.  He did not, however, pass out before we went through the Chick-fil-a drive-thru with the little general demanding a vanilla milkshake, which brings me to an important digression:
    We asked if they had a kid-sized shake, because even the small size is gargantuan.  They didn't, so Jason asked if they would just fill up a small halfway.  We'd still pay for the whole thing.  Apparently, their shake machine dispenses pre-determined amounts, so they couldn't give us less.  It seemed kind of ridiculous.  We ended up with a small (giant) shake and an extra cup.  I quickly ate off the whipped cream and cherry, and then poured about a third of it in the extra cup with a lid for Jack.  The rest of it sat melting and wasted in the front cup holder, Jason and I determinedly refusing to give into the temptation to finish it.  As it turned out, Jack took three sips of his portion of the shake and fell asleep with it between his legs before we even got out of town.  So, instead of getting, say, a six-ounce cup of shake, we wasted approximately 14 ounces of ice cream and milk, a cherry and whipped cream that I didn't really want to eat, and we sent two styrafoam cups, two plastic lids and two straws to the landfill.  All this, and Jack didn't even really drink much of it.  I REALLY wish restaurants would offer not just kids' meals, but toddler portions.  While the waste of money does irk me, what bothers me more is the abundant waste of food and plastic containers.  It shouldn't be so hard to get less, especially when you're not even asking for a price reduction.
    So that digression turned out to be longer than I intended.  I'll hop down off my soapbox now.  We had a great trip to see Jason's parents.  We took Jack to the beach on Saturday, and he loved loved loved it.  He shrieked joyfully at each wave when we were out in the water.  He didn't even mind that much when one occasionally hit him in the face.  He delighted in stomping on the sandcastles Jason's mom (Linda/"Gigi") made expressly for that purpose.  He chased seagulls and hollered, "come back!" at them when they took flight, and he intently licked the saltiness off my shoulder as I carried him.  We stopped for burgers and fries on the way home.  Jack ate about a third of his grilled cheese and about four fries - another food-wasting opportunity.  Why can't I order half a sandwich for him??  But that's beside the point.  It was a great day.  We all had a good time, and Jack had a blast.  Linda and I took a lot of pictures, but I'm pretty sure none of them is going to really capture the simple fun of the day.
    The rest of the weekend was also great.  Jason and I got to go to an Astros game with his dad (David/"Papa") that night.  The Astros lost, but we relished the opportunity to be out together as adults and not have to have eighteen conversations about backhoes and frontloaders and trash trucks and fire trucks and ambulances.....  Sunday, Jason and David played golf.  Linda, Jason's sister (Shannon) and I took Jack to Kemah Boardwalk.  We rode the train and took a ride on the carosel - Jack's first.  We ate lunch there and met the guys back at the house afterward.  Then, we packed up to go home.  Jack, exhausted, fell asleep for a nap in about ten minutes.  When he woke up an hour later, we made a pit stop and continued down the highway with Jack happily playing with his cars in the back.  As we neared home, I thought the weekend had been close to perfect.  I actually felt relaxed after being in the car for three hours with my toddler - damned near amazing.  As I reclined in my seat with my bare feet propped on the dash, I took time to cherish the moment.  It's nice Jack can finally entertain himself with a few toys and his own imagination for a bit.  I took a picture of it in my mind and told myself to remember it, because since we're thinking about kiddo number two now, it's going to be a long time before this happens again.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    "Nuts to You" At the Dog Park

    I like to think that I am pretty good at seeing other people's perspectives in most situations.  Even when I react with initial incredulity at how a person has behaved, I try to put myself in their position and imagine what would motivate them to act the way they did.  Even though this may not bring me around to their way of thinking, I can at least extend a little understanding their way.  Ever so often, though, I run across some behavior that I just do not get.  Occasionally, someone will do or say something that I cannot possibly imagine being rational from any point of view.  This story illustrates just such a instance:
    One afternoon last week, Jack and I took Zoe, our 3-year-old lab/pit mix to an off leash dog park here in Austin.  While Austin has a true abundance of parks and greenbelt, there are only a few that are officially off-leash.  The Redbud Isle dog park is one of them.  It's like a long, treed peninsula extending out into the lake.  We spend our time there wandering down the wide path that is this park, stopping occasionally to let Zoe get in the water.  There are dogs everywhere, happily frolicking in the water and playing chase with each other around the trees.  Then, just as we are wandering off from some stone steps that go down to the water, a lady comes up with her two children (both around six or eight years old.)  She does not have a dog with her.  Zoe stops to sniff her, prompting the following conversation:

    Lady: You need to come get your dog!
    Me (confused): Oh, what did she do?
    Lady:  She's just being a little too familiar.
    Me (thinking to reassure her): Oh, don't worry.  She wouldn't hurt a fly.
    (This is a dog that's afraid of empty grocery bags and cardboard boxes.)
    Lady:  Well, I've heard that before.
    Me (after a pause):  It is a dog park, you know.

    After the exchange, Jack, Zoe and I walk off to seek our entertainment elsewhere.  I don't really want to hang around this chick if she's as unreasonable as she has thus far appeared.  We wander down the park, Zoe swims some more, and we finally decide to head home.  On the way out, we pass the same lady with her kids.  Zoe (I swear she did this on purpose) veers off and does a drive by, stopping oh-so-briefly to sniff the one woman in the park who doesn't like dogs.  THAT conversation went like this:

    Lady:  Come get your dog!  I know it's a dog park, but people pay the taxes.
    Me:  She didn't do anything!  You know, there are plenty of other parks for you to enjoy if dogs make you nervous.
    Lady:  Well, it's just common courtesy!
    Me:  You need to relax!

    Then, we walk off, yet again.  I didn't point out to her that many of those same tax payers she referenced own dogs that use the dog parks.  I didn't ask her what in the world she was doing at an off-leash park with a dog phobia.  I did notice that neither of her kids seemed bothered by the dogs.
    If Zoe had jumped on her or growled at her, it would have been a whole different story - one involving a profuse apology on my part and Zoe's being leashed for the rest of the trip.  I would not, however, let Zoe off leash if I thought she posed any threat whatsoever to other people or dogs.  I do think, when visiting that particular park, you have to concede it is for the dogs and their owners primarily.  This is why I keep a close eye on Jack and pick him up if the big dogs get too rowdy and why I don't complain if one of them accidentally knocks him over or gets mud on my pants.  It's a dog park; that's par for the course, as is dogs coming by and pausing briefly to sniff you.
    Maybe this lady didn't realize it was an off-leash park.  That's hard to imagine given the signs at the entrance, but I suppose it's possible.  Maybe she was looking for a fight and thought complaining about dogs at a dog park was a good way to find one.  Or, and this is the theory I favor, maybe she recognized the pit bull in Zoe, and that made her nervous.  Whatever her motive, I think I can safely say that her behavior was irrational.  It's like complaining that children on a playground are walking too close to you or laughing too loud.
    After this altercation, as I do with all things, I considered the example I was setting for Jack.  And, I considered the kind of person I am and strive to be and whether or not I handled it well.  While I am by nature non-confrontational and don't think it serves anyone to start fights with strangers, I do believe in standing up for myself and for my loved ones, including Zoe.  I do believe in saying what I think, without name-calling or accusations, and I think I did a fair job of that in this instance.  While I do want to pass onto Jack a sense that all people's points of views deserve consideration, maybe knowing that, occasionally, people are just plain nuts isn't a bad lesson either.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Adventures in Napping

    Nap time has not been going well lately.  Sometimes Jack sleeps for 30 minutes to an hour, and sometimes there is no nap.  The problem is, I don't know ahead of time which kind of nap day it is.  There is a lot of lying in bed with him for a long time, waiting to see if he'll go to sleep.  During this time, he talks to himself, rolls around and sometimes kicks or swats me in the face on (sort of) accident.  This is NOT restful for me.  On the days he doesn't sleep, I end nap time feeling the very opposite of what I'd like - tired and irritated, instead of rested and refreshed.  I've been thinking that we need to do something different.  I don't want to spend no-nap days feeling grouchy for the second half of the day, because I spent my down time being poked in the face with Jack's feet.  And, honestly, I don't think it's something I should have to put up with.  I am not big on formalities like calling parents "ma'am" and "sir," but I do feel severely disrespected being repeatedly kicked in the face by the little person I spend most of my time taking care of every day.
    So, I've started giving Jack a warning, like "Don't kick me.  That hurts.  Be gentle to Momma's face."  If he doesn't heed the warning, I leave the room.  This worked a couple of times.  He would then come out of his room, appropriately meek and say, "Sorry, Momma.  Come back."  I'd say, "Will you be gentle to Momma?"  He'd answer yes, I'd go lie back down with him and he'd go to sleep or at least refrain from whacking me for the rest of the time.
    Last Thursday, though, we did this routine, and Jack was right back at it the moment I laid back down with him.  He actually pulled my hair (very much on purpose), and when I told him to stop, he pulled harder.  I got up and said, "You can do the rest of nap time on your own.  You can come out of your room when the turtle light comes on."  The turtle light was set to come on in fifteen minutes.  He tried to come out of his room immediately after I left, but I... and I really hate to admit this... I held the door shut.  Jack began crying hard.  When I heard him flop back onto his bed, I went and sat in our guest room next to his.  I stared at the carpet and listened to him bawl and felt like shit.  He cried on and off for the next ten or so minutes and fell asleep three minutes before the turtle light came on.
    He slept for about thirty minutes and woke up crying hard, just like he went to sleep.  He was hard to comfort and acted very sullen and subdued for the next half-hour.  He just sat on my lap, being quiet and not really wanting to snuggle - unusual for Jack.  He did come out of it, though, and there don't seem to be any lasting effects or trauma.  Jack has neither learned to fall asleep by himself, nor has he developed a complex about being left alone.  I haven't left the room before he falls asleep since then, and Jack has ceased in doing me bodily damage as well.  So, maybe to some degree, it worked.  I think the take-home lesson here is a reminder to myself not to worry so much that every little thing I do will dramatically impact my child's development and determine whether he wins the Nobel Peace Prize or leads a life of petty crime living in a cardboard box under I35.  Jason told me that, if the worst thing Jack has to deal with growing up is crying himself to sleep for nap one time, he's got it pretty good.  Jason has a very good point.  I don't know if we'll ever repeat this particular scenario, but we might.  At the very least, I think I'll let myself off the hook this time.