Sunday, October 31, 2010


I became a cat mom when Honey and I moved in together. Calvin and my dog Megan got along great after a pretty rough start, and when Megan died I know he was missing her. When we got another dog, it seemed Calvin liked Elkie well enough but he kept his distance. As our family grew, he took it all in stride and became a very chill cat. He let the kids mess with him and lately he had been really public instead of always running and hiding when guests were here. He slept on our bed every night, and had just recently begun to sleep on Peanuts bed sometimes. We complained about his hair everywhere, his hairballs. He was supremely lazy. He had his favorite spots on the couch and chairs, various beds in the house, and in front of the heating vents. He meowed at me when it was 10pm to force me to go to bed, as though he had been up and running all day and was tired dammit. He was a good cat. He was a beautiful cat.

This afternoon, he just was sick and moaning for hours. I called Honey to let him know something was wrong. After a while, Calvin parked himself on a chair and just didn't move. He barely opened his eyes when Honey came back home. I knew, Honey knew, I even think the kids knew. I still bawled when Honey came back from the vet by himself. I will miss that little furball. I'll miss his warm purring at night and the sight of his little body curled up in random places around the house. He had a great life - and a long one. He was well loved and I know he knew that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I had a phone consultation the other day with a life coach. Now, I've done my fair share (maybe more) of therapy. I've sought answers and questions in many different places - college, religion, books, yoga, the middle of the woods, men, alternative health, EFT, diet... I've spent some time following a guru, visiting an ashram, backpacking for a week at a time, and generally seeking some kind of enlightenment. This life coach thing felt a little strange, even with all of these other experiences under my belt. I have to say though, it was worth the time.

Rather than telling me what to do, she asked lots of questions, and made some profound statements that I have been considering as I move forward and attempt to mesh my ideal and reality. What is draining my energy? What can I eliminate? She asked me to observe what is working. She asked me to appreciate something each day. She advised me to respond rather than react.

I've been thinking about these questions and ideas and have found some interesting things. One is that I very rarely stop and appreciate myself - I often stop to enjoy something the kids said or did, but not something I have done. I also noticed that I am not really breathing - I find that when I stop to" check in" I am almost always holding my breath.

As we talked about interactions with the kids, the life coach brought up an idea that I have heard before, but don't always take the time to think about. After an interaction whether it is positive or negative, think "What conclusion did my child draw from that?". I'd love to say that the answer is always that I love her/him no matter what is going on, and that her/his ideas and thoughts and feelings are important to me, but at times I'm sure that is not their conclusion. So that is something to be attentive to.

The thing that keeps coming around like a boomerang was this - "The more extreme your self-care, the more time you have". I know this. I know if I do things for myself I will be better able to organize and plan meals, days, activities, and I'll be calmer, saner, and way more fun. It is so hard to take the steps towards doing this, since it feels like you are robbing that time from someone else. But she is right, as was every other person who said something similar before her. Just need to keep hearing it.

Now is the time.

Very Neat

So Pumpkin is really enjoying using a fork. For a long time, he has had a little plastic spoon and sometimes a plastic fork, that he held in one hand while he picked up his food with the other hand. He did use his spoon for things like oatmeal and applesauce, and to be fair, he was always excited about it screaming "spooooon!". Last weekend, I gave him a regular fork and he used it with ease - like he had always been doing it. So now he is a bonafide fork user! He works hard and carefully to stab the food and seems to like being neat about it. Very cute! Of course, he continues to cover himself with yogurt while using his spoon on a regular basis, but it will come!


Little kids have a hard time sleeping. Which means parents have a hard time sleeping too - or at least their sleep is interrupted - some of us (ahem - I'll give you a hint - it isn't me) have no trouble sleeping at all.

Honey wakes with the kids at night, because he is able to go right back to sleep within seconds of his head hitting the pillow, while once I am out of bed I am up for good. We have had some interesting occurrences lately when both kids wake up. A couple of weeks ago, everyone was waking on the hour and Honey went in to sit with Pumpkin and I went in to see to Peanut. Well, I fell asleep in Peanut's bed when she just couldn't be soothed any other way, and woke sometime later to a strange rhythmical sound - "bang, bang, bang..." I started thinking about what it could be, and then it dawned on me that Pumpkin was awake and walking around the house while Honey had fallen asleep and had no idea he was on the loose. Sure enough, he was opening and closing my nightstand drawers. He then he came in to Peanuts room to say good morning. I'm sure glad he is pretty safe now on the stairs!

A few early mornings this week I took advantage of the early wake up to go downstairs and exercise. Well, I arrived back up after my workout to find Honey and the kids eating breakfast - so far so good - and then discovered my pillow had been beautifully decorated with black pen. Two days in a row. So once again, Honey took Peanut back into our bed so they can sleep, and once daddy is out, Pumpkin gets into mischief! Thank goodness we are pretty chill about this kind of thing, otherwise I can see us having fits every day. I'm just going to look at this as Pumpkin being very independent and curious - which is a good thing, isn't it?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Peanut and the Princess

She didn't even know her name for the longest time, but the draw of that princess in the blue dress was really overpowering. It all began with the idea that princesses show their shoulders - I saw her looking in the mirror with her shirt sleeves pulled down her arms to create a princess dress, and knew that they had a hold on her. I think she had seen the Disney princesses on the stickers she got from the doctors office, and maybe at one friends house, so how it got so significant so fast is really beyond me.

She got fixated on a spinning, music playing Cinderella doll she saw at Lowe's last year, and we had to stop to see her every single time we were in the store. (You may recall that we were remodeling, so we were at Lowe's quite a lot). We caved and bought the doll for Christmas, and she drooled over it so much that I was more than a little concerned.

For a while, I tried to avoid the whole thing completely - the "no princess zone". Then I started making up princesses - Princess Strong and other equally random girl power figures. Then I gave in a bit, and looked for princesses and other heroines we could read about. I began to realize that the dress was the real draw - she loves the beautiful dresses - and that the rest of it, the damsel in distress, the beauty being the only reason the princess gets "saved", doesn't even really cross her mind. So we read about Pocahontas, Betsy Ross, and even Princess Diana. And Peanut wore lots of fancy dresses.

But Cinderella was the big one. She was just drawn to her and the blue dress Disney version she saw all over the place. One day, it occurred to me that Disney didn't make up the old folk tale, they just made their version more available to little girls. So we opened up the box, and dove into the folk tale. Turns out, it is thought that the Cinderella story originated in China, and there are hundreds of versions from many cultures. The main idea of the story is always the same, but the elements of magic and the forms the characters take, as well as the moral, differ based on the culture. You can read more here and here about the origins and history of Cinderella.

In addition to sewing a "dark blue Singarella dress" for Halloween, we took a Cinderella seeking trip to the library last week. We chose eight books (out of many many more) including the Carribean, Korean, Hmong, and French versions of the fairly tale. I've been just fascinated by this whole thing. One book is set in the Spice Islands and has the fairy godmother played by a crocodile. The Korean Cinderella is named "pear Blossom" and she has magical animals who complete her chores and provide her with food and clothing. Sometimes the stepsister (or sisters) die, sometimes they all forgive each other, sometimes they run away. I love the variety of literature and culture it allows us to see - even the illustrations are interesting to look at and talk about with Peanut. I'm sure we will revisit this tale as she gets older and can understand and learn more from it, and I can honestly say that I am excited to do that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Having a second kid hit me pretty hard. With the first, I was ready and excited, I knew how to be with babies, I knew what I was in for. I went back to work part time, found a great daycare situation, took pretty good care of myself, and gave Peanut 100% of my attention when we were together. I can't say that life with one child was always all rosy, but it was pretty darn close.

I'm sure people tell you how hard the transition to two will be, but I am not sure they are clear enough or that I was willing to listen to them. I had no idea the level of guilt having a second child would cause. Am I giving each one what they need? (no) Am I giving myself what I need? (no) Am I giving my marriage what it needs? (no). I understood that I would and could spread my love and attentions around, but I don't think I realized that there are useful ways to do that and really detrimental ways as well. I know I had no idea about the depths of sleep deprivation and the resulting complete lack of patience, empathy, or caring about the attention getting antics of a 2-3 year old.

I'm feeling like I am out of the very dark woods now, and have learned some lessons to share. I've spoken with some moms lately about the birth of their second child and how they have been evolving, and I've thought a lot about the things I would have done differently.

- Keep daycare. I would have continued once a week with our daycare provider for several reasons. It would have kept Peanut with a familiar adult who doted on her and would provide her with some of the one on one attention she was not getting from me. I think Peanut feels sometimes like she lost something big when Pumpkin was born since she stopped going to daycare. It would have also forced me to focus solely on the baby for a while and not feel guilty about it.
- Have someone care for the kids with me, rather than taking one or the other for a while. I feel like something I needed was someone to remind me how great my kids are when I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I would have loved to have someone show me or comment on them in order to help me focus on the positives instead of the negatives. I'm sure people did that, but I feel like it needed to be less subtle.
- Scheduled time to be with my older child every week. I feel like when i did have someone help, it was always to take care of Peanut so I could deal with Pumpkin. I think having someone take the baby so i could spend time with the toddler should have happened earlier than it did. As it was, I think we were trying to repair bridges by the time I had "mommy daughter days".
- Nap. I have never been a napper, but I think i should have made a conscious effort to nap when I could. Now, I don't know how realistic that would have been as naps for both kids were spotty and uncoordinated, but I do think I could have tried family naps or some other way to get some more rest and become less insane.
- Continued to seek help. I had a therapists for a bit last year, but when she sounded like a broken record saying I just needed more sleep I kind of gave up since that wasn't happening any time soon. I wish I had continued on and found someone else to work with and work through some issues.
- Got more exercise. I really needed to start taking care of myself better a long time ago. It's still not happening consistently and Pumpkin is almost a year and half. I have fallen way down my own list, and that is bad for lots of reasons. I'm way more patient when I eat well and get a workout in. I sleep better, yell less, lament my wrinkles less, enjoy my children more, and do much better at rolling with the punches if I've exercised.
- Listen to more music. This could be a whole post in and of itself, but the technological change in how music is listened to has not been easy for me. Finding and making sure the Zune is charged, finding the speakers, flipping through to find the album I's more than popping a CD in the stereo. Music makes me feel - good, bad, sad, happy - and it helps me release lots of emotions. I feel like I haven't nearly done enough listening and singing to get my feelings out and off my chest.

I know there's more that I'd have done in a different way if I could, but I'm here now and it's been done, so the best I can do is pass my advice along. As hard as this road has been, I wouldn't change it for the world. Those two babies sleeping upstairs are everything to me. When I think of the things I have said and done because of my exhaustion, impatience, or whatever, I just want to cry. They, like all children, should always feel and know love. If you are a mom of two (or more) and finding it hard to be loving, know that it happens to all of us. You are not alone - it's just hard to talk about so you feel like you are the only one. Your kids are great and they are what matters. Everything else is just stuff and it will all be there when you are done listening to, talking with, holding, loving your child.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Real Live Prima Donna

So Peanut took ballet lessons last year at a local dance school. She loved the classes, loved her teachers, and loved the girls in the class although you would never know it during class. She always looked as though she were headed for the guillotine, but afterwards she would re-enact the entire class with her dolls and she'd dance around the house. We figured that if she was still talking about ballet after a summer without, we would enroll her in a class again this fall but we'd try something a little less expensive. I can only stand so much watching her stand there motionless while I think about how much money this is costing.

So we signed her up for a Sunday morning class at the local rec center. I thought Honey could take her and we could see if maybe there was a difference in her participation level depending on who was waiting outside. The first week, we all went to check it out. And we stood around for a while, the kids ran around the room, the parents aimlessly checked their iPhones...and nothing. One dad said that they had taken classes with this teacher before and she was always late. Not good. But we gave it some time, and then finally a parent went to the front desk to inquire as to our prima ballerinas whereabouts. Turns out they couldn't find her, handed out rec center family passes and dismissed us, saying we'd hear if the class was cancelled - otherwise show up again next week. I asked if there was some music we could dance to so we could avoid having any kids leave crying that they didn't get a chance to dance, and we had a dad hook his phone up to the sound system and play Disney music for a bit. The girls spun around the room and we all left happy. This is the one and only time I will praise Disney.

Week two, Honey goes with Peanut. The teacher is a few minutes late. Peanut goes into class, she dances and has fun, she falls in the middle of class. The teacher asked that Honey come in to help, and so he did. Peanut then asked him to stay, and so he did. He could hear what was happening now rather than just see it, which turned out to be a very good thing. There was another parent in the room as well, but everyone else was waiting outside the glass door. When they came home, Honey said he thought I should go next week and sit in because he felt that I would not be pleased. He said the teacher just seemed mean, and didn't seem to like kids. He also said that there was one girl who didn't want to participate and was crying, and instead of encouraging her, the teacher told her and her dad they should just leave.

Week three, we all go to ballet. Oh yeah - meanwhile, we've had to go buy tap shoes too since she mentioned the need for them as she expected the kids to be changing into them midway through the class last week. I went and sat in the classroom, as far from where I was told the teacher had been last week. Another mom sits next to me, and all of the other parents are outside. The teacher arrives a few minutes late and a mom speaks with her about it, gesturing to the clock. I notice the teacher has on a shirt that reads "I'm worth it" on the front and "me, me, me" on the back. Maybe a poor choice. Another parent comes in and helps their child get settled, and asks if she should stay or leave, and she is told to leave.

From across the room, the teacher, without approaching or introducing herself, tells me that I should leave. I said I'd be staying. She says she doesn't let parents stay past the second class. I said I understood that, and I wasn't here last week, and I'd be staying. She continued from across the room to tell me that she was the teacher and she made the rules, and she became quite huffy with me. I said I was the mom and I'd be staying. Then she starts the music (way too loud) and has some problem with it, and says "would you watch them?" gesturing to the kids as she walks out the door to get help. I looked at the other mom sitting there and said "really?" Turns out she is there because she felt the same thing last week - that this may not be the best class for her kid since the teacher seemed really mean.

So the kids get rolling finally, it's like 10 - 15 minutes into the class time now. This is why you arrive early as a teacher - you prep the room and the music, and whatever props you may need before hand. You greet and introduce yourself at least to the students. You have time to learn their names. You have time to lay out any ground rules. So I already know this is not a teacher of small children. She continues on with a warm up that revolves around baking a cake and eating it. There is a lot of praise for a group of children who are not even remotely doing what is asked of them. "Good Job" is handed out like candy, while specific instruction is left behind.

She calls the kids "girl" and "you". She rolls her eyes when one asks to go to the potty. She yells at the parents when another asks to go tot he potty. What are they going to miss their Swan Lake audition because they went potty while they were supposed to be learning to releve? Come on - take yourself a little less seriously. She watches the clock. She used at least three songs that provide dance instruction so she does not have to. She has the kids run out to change into tap shoes, having the parents do it since she can't be bothered to spend the five minutes it would take to have the kids learn to do it themselves and help each other. Another mom decides to stay after the shoe change. We still have not heard her name. Miss Ballet teacher realizes about halfway through, that a large folding table is leaning precariously against the wall, and stops the kids mid tap to fix it. I am more and more annoyed as I realize she has no lesson plan and is just thinking about how she can make 5 more minutes go faster.

At the end, she just stops. There is no ending, and when the girls just stand there, she says - "OK girls you can go". I get Peanuts shoes out and set her up to change back into them, while the teacher pokes her head out the door to tell parents that under no circumstances will other parents be allowed to sit in her class. As I start to walk across the room, the teacher grabs her things and practically runs for the door. I had to call from halfway across the room "ma'am - I'm sorry - I didn't catch your name." She did not answer, so I called again "ma'am!" - and she turned to me in the doorway and told me she was very tired and would not speak to me now. I asked her name again and she walked away. I asked if anyone else knew her name and no other parent had a clue. Rude? Yes. Inappropriate? Yes. Prima donna? Yes. Teaching my kid again? No way.

After much discussion with the other parents and the obtaining of the program coordinators name, comment cards, etc. I continued to relive the events of the morning. I could absolutely not believe the whole thing. If she had come over to me and asked if I felt comfortable leaving and explained why she was supporting that way of doing things, I would have still indicated that I'd like to stay, but it may not have started a huge show down. If when I approached her afterwards, she smiled and shook my hand to introduce herself, I still would have taken Peanut out of the class but I would not have been sure to outline every issue with her boss the next day. it could have been different, if only she were a teacher and not a prima donna.

I called our old ballet school, signed Peanut up for a Monday afternoon class, and she was dancing with her old teacher the next day. Dollars be damned, I almost cried when I watched. Miss Tiffany actually teaches - she is animated and fun, she enjoys helping the kids get the steps right, and has a lot of great metaphors that don't involve candy and baked goods. She knows every childs name, and uses their names when she gives direction. Everyone was having fun, and the one little girl who was crying was allowed to sit with her dad at the side of the room until she was ready to join the class. She spent a good 5 minutes with the hand stamp at the end of class (which honestly i could do without, but I appreciate the discussion about the reward) telling them what the stamp said (Star!) and why she was giving them each a stamp. Since class on Monday, Peanut has been wearing her ballet and tap shoes and just dancing around the house.

I really dislike ballet and the whole dance scene, but if my child is into it, then we will do it. And I'll tell you - this is the only way I'll do it. I know so many of the parents with kids in the rec center class have never seen anything different, so they probably think I am nuts for being so annoyed. Until you can compare the two classes, you have no idea what you are missing. When you know it you know it, and that woman - Oh, I finally found out her name is Miss Carla - should not be teaching kids anything.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


The big news around here is the stink bugs - otherwise known as box elders. They are everywhere!

I thought I'd share a few pictures of their infestation. Yuck!

They have really invaded what was left of the garden, and have taken up residence in the maple tree out front. It seems their only natural predators are chickens, so... one more point in my attempt to get a few hens in the backyard. I keep trying even though our yard is not considered large enough for our county to allow chickens. Honey is still not OK with that. You'd think seeing a mass of bugs like this every day would sway him!


Lately, Peanut is obsessed with wearing dresses. She even wants to wear them to bed in place of her jammies. So for the past few nights, she has chosen a dress and after she is all settled into bed we have been hearing little feet moving about in her room. Turns out, she is going to her toy shelves and gathering up some things she feels are essential to a good nights sleep. My favorite collection so far has been her day planner and, as she says, her "cash". I'm wondering if she had some important event in the middle of the night. I couldn't resist taking a picture - notice the party dress. No outfit is too good for sleep!

diapers, diapers, diapers...

I took on a small part time job. I know - add to my plate? Why would I do that? Well, hear me out here. I'm working a few hours a week for a woman who lives around the corner. She owns a cloth diaper company, and I am doing quality checks for her. So I can bring the kids to her house and they can play with her kids while I work. And I'm just inspecting diaper covers for issues or concerns. It's a little zen - like doing yoga or Tai Chi - I can't really think about anything else except what I have right in front of me while I am concentrating on the minuscule seams, snaps, and bindings. It's been great - it has forced me to sit down for a few hours to do one task and not get scattered all over the place with half finished projects. Who would have thought? But yeah - I think this is good for me.

Food glorious food

A few weeks ago, the kids and I went on a little trip to visit some friends and family. While we were away from home, we ate very differently than we usually do. It wasn't like we were gorging on soda and candy or anything - we ate "healthy" - it was just completely different than we have been eating for a while now. We ate breads and grains, more dairy than usual, and had a few days where we all had a little more sugar than we are used to. I had some coffee - enough that I had some caffeine headaches when we returned. Everyone did fine, and I did notice that the addition of bread to Peanut's diet made it way easier to get her fed. She scarfed down toast and peanut butter or a ham sandwich pretty quickly, and gained a few (much needed) pounds in the process.

So the fact that there were no major reactions to the change in diet in addition to the extraordinary amount we have been spending on food since Pumpkin has become an "eater", made me reconsider what we are doing at home. For the past few weeks we have been eating similarly to our vacation, and while it has been cheaper, I am feeling the effects.

Grains don't seem to bother me until they are processed into something like bread, and then I get really irritable and crabby and I am hungry (or I just think I am) all the time. Dairy is another matter. Yogurt and kefir are fine, but other dairy has been making me feel crummy. I'm tired, run down, feeling pretty lazy, and just a little mushy.

I do think that while there are no major signs of food intolerance in the kids, there are some new behaviors with the new diet. Both kids have been waking in the night lately - Pumpkin woke up a lot when we were away so I am really glad to be home and have Honey here to help out. It was hard when I was the only one doing night and day duty. Peanut has been having a ton of temper tantrums - we had a week of at least one or two huge ones every day (which never happens for her) until we asked preschool to cut out juice at snack and give her water. Then they stopped. There has been lots of whininess and clinginess from both kids as well as what seems to be an insatiable hunger from 9am - 1pm. Constant asking for "something else". Yeah, there are lots of other things going on so it is hard to point to one specific thing, but I have to try to see some patterns in order to make a change.

So starting this coming week, I'll be going cold turkey on the diet front. I'll do a week of a pretty bland detox, followed by a modified GAPS/Primal diet. I'm not planning on including any other family in this - they can continue what they are doing. I'm just hopeful that getting my mind and body back in fighting shape will help me be calmer and more focused on what I need to do with the family. Once I can focus, I'm sure there are some simple things we can do to help everyone be nourished and happy.