Saturday, November 9, 2013

In Which Chaos Attempts to Redefine Itself As Cleaning.

Our house has been on the market for three months. Experts we know describe our local real estate market with words like "collapsed" and "dead" and "maybe you should consider renting."

Thing is, my house is *so nice*. I love it so much. It's very hard to see something I love so much get no love at all.

So you can imagine my excitement this morning to hear the magical questions "can you show the house" and my enthusiastic "YES!!" in response.

One problem.

The house was a disaster. Today was the end of a week that had a lot of priorities and housecleaning was definitely not one of them. At some point this week, K splashed half of her milk on the sliding glass door. It's still there, an amorphous body outlined in semi-transparent yuck, with long skinny legs where the milk ran down and puddled on the floor. The dining room table was buried under who knows what, and when I walked down the hall little ripples of pet hair floated behind me like a the wake of a canoe. My bathroom was a no-mans-land. The kitchen? Let's not talk about it.

I cleaned from the moment I heard the news of the showing until half an hour before they arrived, which is to say 9am to 2:30pm. And I wasn't even close to finishing.

After a few hours I just had to triage, which is why, frankly, the milk is still there on the door and if you look more than a few seconds at any floor surface you'll seriously call into question the origin of the 5 second rule.

The laundry was the biggest challenge. I didn't have time to wash it. I didn't have time to pretend it was clean and fold it. I couldn't just sort it and leave it in several huge piles on the floor. What to do, what to do, what to do?!

Hide it in the car, of course.

I hid so much laundry in my car that it is now impossible to differentiate between the back seat and the way back.

In the end, the cleaning was a relative success. I am reminded of a scene from the movie "Julie and Julia" when Julia Child and her sister look in the mirror all dolled up and one of them says "We look good. Well...good, but not great." That's how my house feels right now.

Now we just wait to see what the buyers thought.

(See that optimism? Buyers. Ha.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sticky Fingers

Yesterday we had an intervention.

Despite our best efforts, and for lack of any other options, we were forced to evict the long-beloved bath ducks from their home. It was an emotional scene, let me tell you, but I just couldn't have them bringing that mildew under my roof any more and as much as I begged and pleaded, they just wouldn't get clean.

Then we went to Target.

I have a theory that shopping with small children is what really separates the wheat from the chaff, parentally speaking. It requires strategy, forethough, quick thinking, unflappable negotiating skills and physical and mental agility. And that's just to get them from the car to the parking lot.

So the deal (highly unoriginal, I know) is that if they're *really good* they can choose one thing to bring home from the store. And I have veto power over what they choose. Yesterday I vetoed a $35 talking stuffed animal, sparkly permanent markers and chewing gum.

Normally the veto is no problem, but occasionally I feels pangs of guilt, like the one time when F fell in love with an enormous pool noodle that had a seahorse head on the end. On the one hand, it was a harmless toy and kind of sweet looking in a 6' floaty noodle kind of way. On the other hand, knowing F, she'll want to feed it dinner and take it for rides in the car, and take it in the tub and have me dry it off with a special towel and tuck it in bed with her.

She gets very attached. Better to cut things off early.

Finally, we finished shopping (aka saw K's fourth attempt at throwing herself out of the moving cart as the writing on the wall and called it a day) and circled back around to the super discount section. Miracle of miracles, there were 4 bath toys for $3! Talk about timing!

In these situations, F serves as K's proxy for choosing the toys, not because K doesn't have opinions but because I can only deal with so much negotiating and if I never let on that K has a choice, she's just as happy that she got anything. Don't feel too bad for her, she'll grow out of it any minute and I'll be forced to reckon with the both of them. Live in the moment, that's what I always say.

So, F could choose two duck sets or two frog sets, or one of each. She chose two frogs, immediately named them and started telling me all about their complex relationships, including one who couldn't remember if he had a sister. Poor little guy.

Once home, she was apparently still mulling over her choices because she made the following startling announcement:

F: We should go back to Target and steal some of those ducks.

I'm sorry, what?! My precious child, a thief?! Surely not. Surely. NOT.  How does she even know what stealing is? OH, maybe she thinks it is just, like, picking up or know, how we say that Ulrich von Dog is stealing the food off her plate...right?

So I launched into a gentle lecture.

Me: No, baby, I don't think that's a good idea. If we need some ducks we'll go back to the store and buy them. When you're at a store, you have to pay for things at the checkout before you can take them home. It's bad to take things you haven't paid for, and it makes people very angry when you do it. You always have to pay for things at the store.

At this point I expected her to say something reassuring like "Oh, ok, then let's go buy some ducks."


F: I don't like paying for things.

Me (betraying a certain alarm): WHY?!?!

F (shrugging): I just don't.

How could this possibly be? F is brilliant, I assure you, but she has no idea how to count money and has never paid for anything in her entire life.

I guess at this point I just have to up my game: if I thought shopping with two toddlers was bad, now I get to try it with one who has (extra) sticky fingers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's In A Name?

I've always been happy with the standard American name "Mama" from my children. It's a soft sort of name, and it sounds so on their soft little voices.

For the last two weeks, F referred to me exclusively as "Mother" (pronounced MUH-ver). At first, being called "Mother" really grated on my nerves, I guess because I'm so accustomed to it having some sort of sarcastic connotation. She wasn't sarcastic. I wondered if it came from watching too much Sound of Music or Mary Poppins on our Sing Along videos (we totally rock the VHS around here). When pressed, F said she did it because Aye the otter asked her to.

Over time, I got used to it. I was getting fond of it, even. Slightly formal, slightly eccentric, my new moniker was like a little microcosm of our family encapsulated in one sweet little word. I was almost proud of it, mostly because it was so funny.

This morning, that all changed. At the park with her friends, we were surrounded by never ending "MOMMY!" and "MAMA" at high pitched squeals meant to travel across a playground the size of two baseball diamonds. Really, it was more charming than it sounds, but before we'd been there 10 minutes, I hear F's voice belt out from across the way "MY MOMMY!" in at attempt to summon me.

And it stuck. All day she's been calling me "My Mommy," even when we're alone.

I tried explaining that no one else we know calls their mother "Mother," so that would be enough to distinguish it among the playground chorus. F just looked at me and laughed.

"You are 'My Mommy.'" she said.

"But you were calling me 'Mother' yesterday. You could still call me 'Mother' now. "

"I don't think so. I told you already, I called you that because Aye asked me to." F clearly thought I was being incredibly slow on the uptake.

"You could still do it today, though..."

"That silly My Mommy. I'll never call you that again."And off she ran to find the giant red ball that had just been blown across the field by a gust of wind.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sad Bird

So I've known for a while the F is pretty sensitive and also has a very good memory, a combination which at times can prove difficult, particularly when there are some things I wish she would forget.

Like,  that charming vocabulary word she has learned because a significant male her in her life uses it to verbally bludgeon inanimate objects into submission without regard for passing 2 year-olds.

There have been other things too. Two weeks ago, the two babies and I were exploring the yard and visiting the volcanoes (aka tree stumps). As we turned the corner on the back of my house I didn't notice a dead bird in the grass before F did. K was trying to eat a spider and Ulrich was trying to chase the cats though the closed downstairs window and I guess I was distracted.

Anyway, but the time I caught up, she'd been looking at it for a while.

"What's this, Mama?"

"Um, it's a bird. Why don't we go find some dandelions?"

She stared at it, unmoving. It was clearly dead, but perhaps of natural causes. I mean, it was intact. I had some vague hopes that she would get bored with it not moving and leave it alone.

Also, I was torn. I didn't want to make a big deal of shooing her away from it, like it was some horrible thing and run the risk of making the whole situation worse. Play it down, was my thought. But also, PLEASE CAN WE JUST GET AWAY FROM THIS DECOMPOSING BIRD, was my other thought.

"Is it going to fwy?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Is it sweeping?"

*cringe* This was getting seriously uncomfortable for me now. How does one explain death to a 2 year old while she's looking at this ugly thing?

"No, it's not sleeping."

"Mama, is the bird sad?"

What could I say? Yes? No? There were no good options. I panicked, muttered some inarticulate response, took her by the hand dragged her off to investigate whether there are any apples on our trees. There aren't.

F is normally a good sleeper, but that night she woke up every hour or so, sobbing huge serious sobs with big tears running down her cheeks. I couldn't get her to tell me what was wrong. I thought she was telling me there was a bug in her bed, but I couldn't find one and I didn't think she would see one if she were asleep anyway.

By the time the fourth wake-up came along, it was P's turn. Daddies have a powerful securing effect on the psyche and she slept through the rest of the night. In the morning she was more coherent.

"I had a bad dream," she told me, as I changed her diaper,"The sad bird was in my bed."

No wonder she woke up so much. What a terrifying dream.

Needless to say, we didn't linger on the topic of the bird and I had hoped the whole thing had been washed away by the river of fun and beautiful experiences F is exposed to every day.

But, when an old family friend came for a visit two days ago and F took her to see the volcanoes, which she and I have visited countless times in between, guess what else came up. As soon as they rounded the corner F pointed to the corner where it had been and said, "There was a sad bird. It did not fwy."

I only wrote about this because it seems like it was such a significant thing for F. I know it's a downer.

It makes me wonder why the human mind is so sensitive to images of death. I also can't really figure out a way to counter the impression the bird gave her. I mean, she sees live birds all the time, of courseh, but what can I do to ease the idea of death into her little world?

Surely it's too early?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Really Expensive Yogurt and Eggplant Dirty Rice

Spring has sprung and allergy season has exploded all over my domicile. There are daffodils and benedryls as far as the eye can see.

P, unused to the terrible zombification that pollen allergies mean to most of the rest of the world, is convinced that he has a collapsed lung or at least leprosy and has confined himself to the downstairs guest room as far away from me and the babies as possible so as not to get us sick and also so he can catch up on some much needed rest. This has left me -1 after the babies are in bed for the evening.

Weird feeling, it is.

What have I been doing with my time? Well, two nights ago I cautiously overcame our ferocious pile of unmatched socks by speaking softly and using a Netflix movie as a way of avoiding direct eye contact. I was even daring enough to throw away a bunch of old worn out socks, which, if you know me even a little, you know that throwing away things of any value at all gives me physical pain. So let that tell you just how worn out those socks were.

While I matched them I watched "Forks Before Knives," a documentary recommended by a friend, about links between diet and health. Specifically, it discusses The China Study, which is an incredible study of thousands of Chinese people and their regional diets, and how those diets are connected to disease. The links between high levels of animal proteins and cancers of various types is stunning.

The next night, I watched a much lower-quality and almost endearingly simple documentary called "Veganucation" or something like that. It tracked three New Yorkers who decided to try being vegan for six weeks while they learned about the reasons for being vegan: health, environment and animal welfare.

I'm tempted to go read the China Study on my own, but right I've already gotten a fairly succinct summary of its high points. It is very compelling, especially in combination from what I learned reading "The Omnivore's Delimma" a few years ago (back when reading books was a real possibility in my daily routine).

Now, I'm not going vegan or vegetarian and likely never will.

For one thing, I don't have the time to suddenly jump into a new way of shopping and cooking for my family. For another, P would never go along with it. Thirdly, I don't have a thorough understanding of how to be a healthy vegetarian and I'm 100% responsible for the nutrition of my children, a responsibility that I already take very seriously. Also, I like meat and cheese (especially cheese!) and I'm just not in the frame of mind right now to commit to that kind of sacrifice.

That said, I have had a change at attitude toward certain things. I no longer think it is funny to hear people joke about how they don't care about how the animals are treated, as long as the bacon tastes good. Good bacon is one of God's most delicious gifts to Western Man, and so is fried chicken and filet mignon and leg of lamb or a good blue cheese, but factory farms are not where it's at.

So here's what I can do: I can make better choices. I'm surrounded by farms up here. Actual farms, where happy children collect eggs on summer afternoons and dairy cows wander around in green fields, hardly even noticing the occasional car going past beyond the white wooden fence. It is expensive, yes, and a little more inconvenient than the supermarket. But I have to remind myself that good treatment of animals is valuable, and anyway, animal protein is harmful in excess. So, I'll pay more for the meat and cheese and possibly eat a little less of it. Surely I can handle this.

Tonight I ate dinner alone(ish) because P took HC on a college visiting roadtrip leaving me and the babies back. I've been making my own babyfood for K ever since she started eating it because it is more economical and I know exactly what's in it. This batch is strawberry/raspberry/banana with whole milk yogurt. I got a big container of the yogurt from the dairy across the street from me...and it costs me almost twice the price of normal yogurt.

It was painful.

 Seriously, I almost had to close my eyes and tear the container across the scanner to check out, like it was a band-aid removal.

Don't look at the receipt, don't look at the receipt, don't look at the receipt...

But now that I've frozen all my little containers of fruit and yogurt puree in neatly labeled stacks, I'm pretty proud of how healthy it is -- for K and for the cows.

For my meal I made vegan eggplant dirty rice, which was surprisingly delicious. I could easily choose this dirty rice over the usual beef kind.

I know with me that these waves of consciousness come and go, their tides determined by what and how many other things I have to think about at any given time. But each time the wave returns I learn something new.

Plus, I never have to start from zero; my feet were already wet from before.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Love is Blind

I've never been one to care much one way or the other about gender specific toys or games, and I've always just bought my girls' toys based on a combination of quality, price and personal fancy. On the way to Turkey when F was tiny, I was surprised when my sister said she was happy to see I bought F some "boys" toys (a race car, I think? whatever it was, it's probably still in Istanbul) to play with on the plane.

Honestly, I hadn't even thought about it.

Fast forward to now, and F's absolute favorite toy is a hard plastic dinosaur we picked up in Target a few weeks ago. She was being very well behaved and I gave her the option of a Hello Kitty figurine or a dinosaur. "That one." she said without hesitation, and then announced his name was Yukub (she didn't clarify the spelling so I'm going with phonetics here).

Yukub goes everywhere F goes these days. Aye is F's stuffed otter, and he will always be the king of her heart, but he is really too dignified to traipse around the sand box. He has soft fur and fluffy insides, and really needs to save up all his energy for the critical bedtime routine that is his unique responsibility.

F and Yukub, at a tea party in the rain.
So in comes Yukub, and he's quite a busy guy. Tonight alone he got his hair washed, teeth brushed, booboos tended to, even got to take his turn at Pat The Bunny (after baby K, since it was her bedtime book, but before F). Who knew that "Paul can put his finger through Mummy's ring. Can YOU put your finger through Mummy's ring?" applied to short yellow dinosaur arms? Well, now you do.

F and Yukub birdwatching.

So I'm left wondering: does the fact that F's two favorite toys are male, and one of them is the opposite of cute a cuddly, imply something about some kind of gender preference she has? Or should I read more into the fact that she has established herself as the dutiful, loving and devoted female in the relationship?

Well, I don't know, but I sure don't hear Yukub complaining.

Friday, April 5, 2013

First Day That Feels Like Spring

For the first time in a long time, today was a beautiful day. I didn't even have to wear a sweater, and I spent most of the day outside.


1. Vegetable garden that was abandoned all last year because I was pregnant and afraid of commitment to bending over, cleaned out.
2. Courtyard garden that was totally reorganized with a bluestone hardscape last fall, cleaned out.
3. Compost pile turned over
4. Compost distributed to vegetable and herb gardens.

Tomorrow, I'm starting tomato plants. They never work (no matter what I do, my seedlings always frizzle up as soon as they sense the real sun) but I have a few seeds left from previous years so I'm going to give it a shot before I just break down and buy some seedlings.

It was so sweet having F play around me while I worked. She talked the ENTIRE time, mostly about random stuff that I couldn't even understand.

Her favorite toy right now is a plastic dinosaur that she named Yakub, and the two of them are inseperable. She has to take very close care of him because he is very demanding and curious.

After she and I were outside for a while, Yakub told her he wanted to watch a movie, but F said no, it was time to play outside. He insisted.

This is the part that amazes me.

F put Yakub on the edge of the herb garden where he could see her shadows on the stone patio, and then acted out "movies" for him with her shadows. There was a cooking movie and a painting movie, and then she had to "rewind" them (yeah, we rock the VHS) and play them again because he liked them so much.

I don't care what you say, that's genius right there.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter (The Trap)

The family and I just returned from a really nice Easter dinner hosted by some family friends who live about an hour and a half away. They're house is gorgeous and pristine, their children adorable, the food was delicious and, here's the kicker, the hostess was as serene as ... I don't know, something that's super serene.

I should say that I don't know the hostess all that well. Our real connection to her is through her mother, who was also present. This was my first time at the daughter's home, which is in a tony town in our already tony state, and my family of hicks was pretty awe-struck by the area in general.

Needless to say, my whole drive home was spent thinking the following thoughts:

1. The has three children. How is her house so clean?
2. How was she so put together while carving that ham, with the children running around?
3. No but seriously, how was her house so clean?! And how was she so put together?!

There are a variety of possible answers to these questions, but before I delve into them, let's take a step back in time to my house exactly a week ago. It was Sunday night, and there was a guest set to arrive for the following day, Monday, lunchtime.

The house was in shambles. Literally. As in, there was actual broken glass on the floor in the kitchen, but don't worry you couldn't see it anyway because of all the dog hair and toys. (NB: getting felt food for the play kitchen is a BAD IDEA when you have a German Shepherd. There's not a day that I don't spend at least five minutes de-furring a felt donut or snap pea before putting it back in the play refrigerator.)

I was exhausted.The children were in bed, but barely, and nine-month-old K was still complaining about it. She hasn't slept through the night yet, and we were coming off of a week of attempted sleep training which was a complete failure because we didn't realize the reason she wasn't sleeping on this particular week was not just to exert her disproportionate-to-her-size power over us adults for the fun of it, but because she was teething. Take that, timing!

I had just gotten terrible feedback about the house we're trying to sell, and so I was trying to decide whether I should go over to the house and try to remedy the situation on Monday morning before lunch, or go work out. I'm supposed to be working out twice a week but in the past month I'm barely hitting 50% of that. Either way, house or gym, I wasn't going to have time to make any kind of lunch since the weekend had gone the way of the housing market and grocery shopping was the most significant casualty.

On top of all that, I had only just realized in a formal sense (despite ample notice on her part) that Mary Poppins wasn't coming in on Monday which is her usual routine.

And yet, when the guest arrived, the house was clean(ish), the children were peaceful, the lunch was good and generous, and I was not in my pajamas.

How did I do it? Magic. Slight of hand.

Whatever you want to call it, what my guest saw was not real life.

"You make it look so easy." She said. "I was expecting you to have rollers in your hair, a baby on each hip and chaos in tow."

Oh girl, you have no idea.

The closest I came to admitting the truth was to say that a lot of fires get staved off while guests are visiting. And what I meant by "staved off" was "gagged, bound and stuffed into hidden closets."

Of course I'm aware of all this while I think of our pleasant Easter afternoon, but I can't help but come away either reproaching myself or resenting my hostess.

Am I not good enough?
What should I do differently?
Why do none of the systems I try to integrate, work?
Do I over commit?
Do I under perform?
It's probably because she has so much money.
It's probably because her standards are lower on other things.
It's probably because...

This is the trap.

It doesn't matter what I conclude. Either way, I'm the loser because life is for enjoying, not nit-picking, even if the one I'm picking on is myself.

In all likelihood, none of the above is true anyway, and she was just utilizing the same slight of hand that I did for my guest.

Yeah, let's go with that.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pondering Modern Womanhood

I'm not sure it has ever in history been more paradoxical to be a woman than it is right here, right now, in western modernity. There are so many conflicting messages, so much misinformation, so much pressure. The mid-century joy at the prospect of "having it all" has been replaced with a post-millennial dread at the expectation of being required to do it all, and for very little in return.

Let me be clear: I have been incredibly blessed with a husband who is a very active father, a very loving companion and a very tolerant boss (yes, I work for him). I feel no particular pressure from him to do anything but that which pleases me most. But as an intelligent, hard working woman, I'm often overwhelmed not by possibilities, but by the expectations those possibilities have secured in the minds of others.

I am expected to do it all. Cook (I love cooking), clean (not my forte, but I can manage it), procreate (hate the pregnancy, love the outcome), educate, love and support my four children and my husband, meet everyone's domestic demands...


...look presentable, have a paying job, read the news, read to educate myself, carry on intelligent conversation about topics other than child-rearing, experience culture, get a good night's sleep and occasionally indulge myself.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of reuniting with my closest friends for a "girls' weekend" in NYC. My friends and I represent the whole spectrum of modern adult womanhood: one of us is single in a high-pressure job, one of us is married and straddling the gap between remodeling her home and considering a family while also persuing academe and careerism, one of us is a divorcee picking up the pieces of a neglected career now that the coward she neglected it for showed his true colors, and then there is me, happily married three children at home, with a part time (but growing) job.

I came away from our time together with the feeling that all four of us women are at a crossroads.
Settle down? If yes, how?
Have children? If yes, how?
Pick up the pieces? Of course, but how?
Manage chaos? Yes,

The more I think about it though, the more I realize all the women I know are at a crossroads.

Is it possible that women are at a crossroads?

I haven't read Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In, but I've read a lot of commentary on it. It is just one of the many many...many things to do on my list and frankly, the more I read about it the lower it sinks in my pile.

The facts as I see them are these:

1. The biological clock exists for women. Ask a doctor.

2. It doesn't exist in the same way for men. Men continue having healthy children for decades after women have no possibility of natural pregnancy.

3. Many modern careers do not allow the flexibility required of a mother to meet the needs of her children.  Children need love and  crave parental attention. Farming them out to professionals (baby nurse to nanny to preschool to elementary school to summer camp to high school...) does not answer to the dignity inherent in their little lives.

Where does this leave us?

Full-time-motherhood is no longer adequate in the eyes of the general public. Once a paragon of honor and love, stay at home moms (let alone supportive housewives!) are now condescended to and tolerated, but certainly not celebrated in powerful circles. I have never felt criticism from my family over this issue -- although my friends are not so lucky -- but I do feel the color rise to my cheeks every time someone says "so, what is it you do?," knowing that the questioner may ask a few polite questions about my children after I answer honestly that I stay at home, but will soon turn away in search of someone more interesting to talk to.

One story I heard recently provides some insight into another aspect of this. My friend lives in a very liberal town in California and knew another married woman in her town who was a sure-fire feminist all the way. Down with the patriarchy, equal pay for women, you get the idea. She had a nice job (a lawyer, if  I remember correctly) and took the train in to work everyday until...she had a baby.

Every day, the reality of separating from her baby and leaving it with a caretaker to go to work was so hard that she took to driving herself in her own car so as to spare herself the embarrassment of having everyone on the train watch her sob uncontrollably for the entire commute.

This is one way in which her husband misses out. He will never be pregnant. He will never feel that baby move inside of him, or even be offered the possibility of providing nourishment for that baby from his own body.

And I don't care how active and emotionally available a father he is, he's not sobbing on his way to work every morning, I can tell you that right now.

In other words, no one can have everything.

So why are women pressured to try?

I have a few theories, but I don't feel quite ready to spell them out here. Anyway, I'm way behind on some work and the baby is crying.

Maybe next time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Preschool Visit Number 1

Last Saturday I attended an open house for the preschool down the road from here as a possibility for F in the fall.

While I was there, I didn't like it.

On the way home, I really didn't like it.

The more I think about it, the more I really, really don't like it and there's no way that she will be attending.

First of all, my daughter is very quick. She's adorable and precocious and she learns everything very quickly and with little effort. I'm sure that at some point she will hit a rough patch with some subject that is a challenge, but right now, it's all go. I have little doubt that she will know how to read a year from now, and it isn't because I'm pushing her. She begs to learn.

And normally, she's quite social as well.

Something about the preschool classroom, though, made her uncomfortable. It wasn't that she wasn't interested -- she was fascinated -- but it was almost like it was too much for her to take in at one. So many things on the walls, so many activities to choose from, so many toys, so many....

It would have been great if one of the several teachers came over, got down at her level and engaged with her. She was shy. She was hiding behind my legs and squeezing my fingers so tight there was a circulation issue, but she was smiling.

Instead, all the attention went to the bright, adorable little girl who jumped right in the midst of it, sitting in the laps of her prospective teachers and making silly faces at her father from across the room.

It was understandable that this other little girl got lots of attention -- she deserved it! But so did F.

Also, F already knows, at the age of 2 1/2, everything they are teaching these 3 & 4 year olds.

  • They learn a letter a week; she knows all her letters, upper and lower case.
  • They practice shapes and colors; she's known those since she could talk, which was early.
  • They learn how to wash hands and be polite, she already (mostly) does those things on her own, and is ever now learning to say "excuse me" if she needs to interrupt.

None of these things are bad, of course, and I'm sure she would have a blast just playing with these other kids in their igloo made of empty milk jugs and child-sized hair salon. The toys were awesome! But why should I pay money for her to spend many hours a week at a place that is going to be well below her level?

There were other issues too which I won't discuss here, But when I came home, my helper Miss Julie, was less than surprised.

In fact, she may have said "I told you so."

I still plan to visit the public preschool to see if it is any more exciting, but I'm not optimistic. I continue to go back and forth about whether to send her off to school.

I'm beginning to wonder though, if I should stop worrying about whether I should homeschool F. Maybe I already am homeschooling her and I just need to embrace it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Well, it's that time of year again. Resolution time.

Last year I had some pretty serious resolutions. First, I was going to give couponing a try. After spending Christmas break watching a few episodes of Extreme Couponing, I just couldn't resist. Here I am a year later and I must say, it's pretty neat.

Not only did I stick with it, but I think I've actually been fairly successful. On a normal shopping trip (granted, my shopping trips are very much longer than they used to be) I can expect to save about 1/3 of what I would otherwise spend. I am aware of a couple of lingering issues that someone with a more Type A personality would probably have figure out by now, such as how to remember what the lowest expected price is likely to be on a given item (sure, it's a good price, but is it the BEST price?) and when should I ignore the sales and go full-on generic. With practice I can identify the best price of milk, different breads and a handful of produce items, but here in the modern world there are way to many grocery choices to keep all in my head. Similarly, I've experimented with a few generics and drawn conclusions, but I can count them on two fingers.

Alka-Selzer can be bought store-brand for less than half the price, with no obvious quality issues (and is an excellent treatment for alcoholic overindulgence). Also, cold cereal is better generic (although it's tough to find generic organics).

I keep waiting for a smart-phone app that will help with this kind of tracking but I've yet to find one that is as simple as I imagine it should be (is that how I will make my first million?!).

My other resolution was more complex. Between the in-home office with employees coming and going, my part-part-time job, two babies, a large house in need of cleaning and upkeep, a decidedly UNhandy husband and the possibility of moving to Texas in the next couple years, my life is pretty complicated, logistically. My second resolution was to streamline as much as possible and become more self reliant as a household. Organize, routinize and simplify was my mantra.

Honestly, I'm not sure how far I've come on that one. Part of the problem was that my goal was for the household, but I was the only one working toward it. It well nigh impossible to organize, routinize and simplify other people, and in most cases, it is quixotic to set goals on behalf of someone else. On the one hand, I don't feel any less dependent on other people (hired people, that is) than I did previously, but on the other hand I have a deeper understanding of how the conflicting dynamics of my life work together and occasionally clash.

Can that be counted as a success? Probably not, but I did manage to clean out two closets, so there.

So. Onward and upward, eh?

This year's resolution is incredibly boring, so brace yourself. I want to be a better housekeeper. I want a clean-ish house that I have done myself.

P will likely hate this resolution. He thinks that it is a waste of my time to clean and he would much prefer I just hire someone to come do it, freeing up my time to do more work for our family business, take the kids to the park, or lie on the couch eating bon-bons.

Seriously, that man would be delighted to see me eat bon-bons. I'm blessed, what can I say?

As penny-pincher supreme, I can't let myself do that. (Plus, I have a nagging voice inside saying self reliance, Self Reliance, SELF RELIANCE!!!).

In 2012 I tried subscribing to Fly Lady's house cleaning system but it made me absolutely nutty and I had to quit. In my short time as a mini-fly-lady, though, I learned some valuable tricks:

1. If you notice something that can be done in less than 30 seconds, do it RIGHT NOW. No excuses. No regrets. Yolo?

2.  Be on a schedule. This makes it less important for major tasks to get completely finished. Obviously, the goal is to finish tasks completely, but perfectionism is not a good thing and it is better to chip away at a problem than to put it off until the end of time because you can't finish it in one sitting. If you can't finish it this week, no big, this time next week you'll be able to pick it right back up again.

Here's my schedule. I've divided the house into 6 sections, leaving one day a week open for things that got missed or other big projects.

Sunday: Laundry Room, Hallway, Stairs. Take out the trash.
Monday: Dining Room, Drycleaning.
Tuesday: Spare Rooms, Spare Bathroom, Office Hallway and Mudroom.
Wednesday: Wash Stone Floors.
Thursday: Nursery, Nursery Bathroom, Drycleaning.
Friday: Catch Up, Big Projects.
Saturday: Master Bedroom and Bathroom.

So far, I've had this system in place for about a month and it's going ok. I'm optimistic.

Will 2013 be the Year of the Clean House?

Only time with tell.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You're Singing It Wrong.

With the visit of my mom and sister last week, the usually female dominated household that P and Ulrich von Dog must tolerate became even more so. We did lots of hanging around, wedding planning (WOOT LITTLE SISTER!!), baby snuggling and nail painting. Seriously, that's pretty much all we did, other than cook, clean and do laundry.

Very liberated, my binder of women.

And it was great.

One of the rare outings ventured was a trip to our adorable local cinema (two screens, home made cookie and hot tea refreshments) to view Les Miserables.

Ever since I emerged from that hushed cinema with the vestiges of Anne Hathaway's performance lingering in my mind like the mascara that tears smudged down my face...I can't get it of my head.

That was last week, and still it's there. Why does it linger? Is it my inner tragic revolutionary? Is it my irrational fears of not providing adequately for my children and being left alone with nowhere to go? And haircuts?

Is it my habit of belting out my emotions in song, while the world provides a seamless chorus? Probably.

Whatever the reason, a fly on the wall in my house today would have seen the following scene:

Me: barefoot, pants cuffed, up the the elbows in rubber gloves and toilet cleaner, trying to ignore the complaining infant in the playpen who is living up to her own "LES MISERABLES" by teething painfully.

Toddler: blond hair half fallen out of a french braid her older sister attempted, following me with her own scrub brush "helping" me clean, narrowly avoiding the ingestion of said toilet cleaner.


*The streets are supposed to be full of strangers, not the trees. Trees full of strangers would be alarming indeed.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Last week around this time I was waiting anxiously sitting around the house waiting for P to come home with a car full of my Mom and sister. Dinner was all cooked (tamale pie, etc) and the babies were fed and clean. We were just...waiting.

Bored, I turned on the Food Channel.

Over the course of the next hour I watched, among other things, my first ever episode of Paula Deen.

My impression?


The only reason I kept watching it was that I was fascinated by how little content there actually was in the shows.

Paula Deen, I guess because of her diabetes situation, claimed to be cooking healthy food. Of the three dishes she served, one was one was loaded with hidden sugar, one was loaded with fat and sugar and one was a plate of carbs.

At one point, she held up a slice of rich banana bread slathered with cream cheese, sliced bananas and topped with honey, and said "Now, wouldn't you feel good about giving this as a snack to your children, with all that fresh banana in it?"

The answer, Mrs. Deen, is yes, I would give that as a snack. But not because it is anything close to healthy. I would give it because it is delicious and my kids deserve a treat every once in a while.

If I want to give them fresh bananas I give them fresh bananas.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

She's Not a Bully, She's Just...

She's enthusiastic defender of private property. She defends her private property from you, and she defends your private property from you, too. Specific ownership is not a distinction that she acknowledges.

I assume this enthusiasm with fade with time, and if it doesn't, I'm she'll grow into quite an asset to Team IRS.

On the one hand, yes, there may have been a stroller incident recently that took us all by surprise, but really she didn't intend to hurt the kid. She was just wrestling the stroller out of his grasp and his head happened to be in the way. No harm, no...oh wait.

Some harm, some foul?

And on the other hand, I have some darling photos of baby K virtually buried under the piles of toy offerings F left around her in the baby swing. Just today, when F spotted the baby nomming on a corner of a precious Pooh stuffed animal, she gently removed it from K's tiny hand and said to me "She doesn't want to play with this. She wants to play with that ball." Dutifully, F presented the ball to her baby sister, who didn't even notice the swap.

Obviously, both of these situations must change: F has to learn to share and be gentle, and K will start to NOTICE and CARE when her toys are moved around (at which point I suppose the whole process starts again).

In the mean time, I think F needs some new friends. Bigger ones.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Self Knowledge

F and I had a particularly difficult play session today at a new friend's house. It was a very small house with a very large number of children under the age of 2, accompanied by their mothers.

I should have known the lookout wasn't good when she got no nap, but in a habit born of necessity, I just kept on track with our plans for a day out.

At just 2 1/2 years old, F is struggling with some serious demons known to the rest of the world as "sharing," "care," and "gentleness". These three are not her friends, and she makes that quite plain. She is also the oldest in the group (and baby K is the youngest).

By the end of our visit, the tally was high:
  • 1 newly walking little boy had been hit over the head with a toy baby stroller, 
  • 1 crawler had been run over with said stroller, 
  • 2 eardrum-splitting tantrums had our attention and 
  • the baby hostess (in this case a *tiny* 15month old) had been shoved into a wall after territory dispute regarding a chalkboard).
We were only there for an hour and fifteen minutes.

(Side Question: Does anyone have advice on how to teach a child how to peacefully interact with other, particularly younger, children while also keeping up with a 6 1/2 month old? I find that holding an infant inhibits my otherwise cat-like reflexes that are in high demand when object and elbows start being thrown.)

 Needless to say, F was reprimanded and we even left early as a punishment. After a silent care ride home, she suddenly engaged me in conversation as I untangled her from her car seat.

"What I do at party?"

"You need to sit on the potty?"

I'm still learning how to speak her language, and right now "party" and "potty" are the same on the ear.

"No, what I do at party?"

"Oh. Well, what did you do at the party? You tell me."

I can never tell with F if she is asking me a question because she actually wants me to answer, or just as an opener for her own thoughts.

"What I do at party?"

She actually wanted me to answer.

"Let's see, you played with a baby and a stroller. You did some puzzles and wrote on the chalkboard and had a snack. But you also hit your friends and screamed and cried, and you pushed Lucy down. It was very bad. You have to learn to be nice and polite, otherwise no one will want to play with you."

Honestly, I was totally exhausted. It's amazing what a toll this type of thing can take on one's energy level.

"F, do you want to watch a movie?"

This was me caving to my exhaustion. I just couldn't face trying to make dinner with her underfoot.

"Yes....No. I just want to hide for a minute."

This is truly remarkable because a) she never refuses an movie watching opportunity and b) what's with the hiding?

"You want to hide somewhere?" At this point we'd made it into the mudroom and I removed her coat and tiny snow boots.

"Yes. Can I hide in your room?"

"You can hide in the nursery, is that okay?"

"Shew." (translation: "sure")

I opened the door to the main house, and she soberly scampered (is that even possible?) into her own room where she remains to this moment, reading to herself quietly on the couch.

We all have bad days. She doesn't want to share, and really, who does? But I hope this concept of removing herself from the chaos and recouping with some quiet time alone, sticks. And I wish more adults had the ability to recognize when they just need to go hide for a minute.