Monday, December 29, 2008

More of the Unexpected

Before V came along, I could never have imagined how sweet and fun she is. I would never have been able to know how she loves to connect with giant hugs and kisses, how she clicks her tongue to try to get me to play noise games with her, or how she clucks and squeals with excitement when she sees any animal. Before they are born, our children are always a mystery and getting to know them is a wonderful surprise.

Yet, as the mother of two other girls, I thought I knew a few things about parenting. Okay, I will confess. I thought I was getting pretty good at it. Ah, hubris is always the beginning of an interesting story.

I thought that if I did the same things that I had learned through parenting my two other kids, everything would work out. I would cosleep without the illusion that a crib would ever be part of our lives (we sold it while I was pregnant!). I would wear my baby in the variety of slings and carriers that I have collected for every occasion. I would be an emotion-coaching, attachment-parenting, homeschooling uber-mama.

After all, I had a first child who was a lot of work for me. I struggled with decisions about how to parent, sleep, breastfeeding, discipline, and educational choices. My second child was certainly plenty of work, but many things were easier. Breastfeeding worked marvelously. She slept though the night, swaddled in a little bundle. She is happily homeschooling and responds for the most part to my new and improved (and since I am always learning, always new and improving) methods of discipline. The kids were getting along well. We had our education and social routines in place. Things were groovy. What did I have to fear by adding another child?

Ha! The gods laughed at me by giving us the gift of a beautiful, healthy, sweet baby who cried from midnight to 6 a.m. for several weeks. I failed to produce enough milk and many, many challenges flowed from that problem. Even now, no matter how cute she is, she nurses an awful lot at night and I can't remember my last decent night of sleep. She wants up and down from the backpack several times each quarter hour. And she is currently enjoying one of my least favorite aspects of her development - the point and scream. She yells, "THAT!" which is her way of demanding whatever strikes her fancy. While I am blessed with a verbal, communicative, and persistent child, it means that she keeps screaming at me even when I calmly explain why she can't have the razor blades and poison and try to distract her. And this again falls under the proverbial category of "not what I expected."

Sunday, December 28, 2008


This from G to Eric this morning: "Accidentally, your alarm clock flew off the dresser, and then it broke, and Mommy put the battery back in, so it works again, but you need to reset it."

She was so deliberate about not accepting responsiblity for any of it. It all just happened. Yet, rather than hiding it, she carefully brought the alarm clock to our attention so that we could address the problem.

It reminds me that there is a difference between blame and ownership. And it's difficult for me to know where to draw that line sometimes. We want our kids to learn to own up to their responsibilities. But I worry that blame will not help them do that. I know that when I receive the criticism-laden blame, I have a harder time facing up to my part in whatever disaster requires my attention. Why should I expect anything different of people with fewer tools to cope with difficult situations?

It's just a reminder of what I can learn if I really listen to my kids, which can be hard considering they are often all yacking at me at the same time!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


The big sisters in our house are finally old enough to really appreciate Santa Claus, old enough to watch the holiday specials with me on TV without being too anxious about the conflict, old enough to imagine Santa as a comforting, kind man rather than an oddly dressed stranger.

Still, as we were settling for bed, G worried. "He's not going to come into our bedroom, is he?"

Friday, December 19, 2008

G on Weaning

"I think that you are too old for mommy milk when you are five...or maybe fifteen."


Since becoming a mother, my life has been overcome by interruptions. Some big interruptions, like that of my career, have overwhelmed me. Some persistent interruptions - I wonder when I will get a full night of sleep again. Some annoying interruptions, which make me feel like I live with a cacophonous flock of Blue Jays.

Today our routine was interrupted by snow. In the Puget Sound, because of the lack of infrastructure to support transporation on snowy days, and because of the lack of experience with urban snow, a snow day is a true disruption. The whole area was paralyzed by slippery roads. Yet, it was a complete pleasure to throw aside the otherwise exciting plans we had in mind, in order to take some time to sled and play.

I guess interruptions need not be viewed as a bad thing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Joke

This one made up by D.

Q: What do you call a crying orange?

A: A sad-suma.

Age 6 is apparently the time when puns finally make sense. G still says things like "What do you call a horse who eats? An eating horsey moresy silly pie."

And then we laugh because no one can resist laughing when that child starts to giggle. No one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


A skeleton walks into a coffee shop. He orders a latte and a mop.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Long Live The Stick

It's official. The stick has been inducted into the Toy Hall Of Fame. This is not THE STICK, a plastic, animated, noisy, computer-generated, character-driven, expensive, or rare toy. This is the stick, the one you find in your back yard at any moment. The one you pick up at the park. The one the dog chewed on. The stick.

I don't know about you, but this kind of thing makes me look around the house and wonder what all of the other crap is doing around here. We have toys and more toys. And the kids have an appetite for more toys. Will the grandparents have toys when they come and visit? Will I buy them something when we go to the store? Can they look through that toy catalog that came in the mail and let me know what they want on their wish list?

Still, sticks are more interesting. G collects sticks. She has dissolved in tears because I wouldn't let her bring sticks in the house or home from the park. Recently, we walked over a mile through our neighborhood and vicinity, and she collected an armful of sticks, which she carried home. It looked like a bundle of firewood under her arm. And she was tired on the way home, but wouldn't drop a single stick. She proudly displayed them on the front porch and still plays with the ones that didn't blow away in the wind.

The fact is that my kids will happily ignore the piles of toys, and spend hours outside playing with rocks and sticks. We have a mud pit in the yard specifically left untouched by any concept of landscaping, just so they can dig and make a huge mess. And they will go out with shovels (in dresses, of course), turn on the hose (in the rain, no less), and dig dig dig. And dig some more.

And so, my recommendation for next year's induction for the Toy Hall of Fame is mud.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I haven't written about the results of the historic election which occurred the other day. It's not because I didn't have anything to say. But I really didn't think anyone wants to hear it among the cacophony of other opinions.

Yet, how can I say nothing about the election of the first black man in history to hold the office of President of the United States? How can I ignore the fact that the election of anyone other than a straight white Christian man is WAY overdue? It may not be the role model that my girl children were craving, but it's a good thing for everyone without a doubt. It will definitely change the world for my children in a positive way. The fact that President Elect Obama's policies and positions all basically resonate with me is a tremendous bonus, and I wouldn't have voted for him without that threshold.

To my surprise, I feel full of hope as a result of this election. I am hopeful that Obama can change the world for the better, hopeful that he inspires those who may have felt marginalized in the past, and hopeful that others are hopeful as well.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Homeschool Bliss

These are the days that affirm my homeschooling choice. The kids rooted around the house, collecting art supplies. Then they started creating their own masterpieces, completely based on their own imagination and personal vision. They enjoyed the tactile experience of doing without caring so much about the outcome. They felt proud of the results of their efforts without any external validation from me or anyone else. They mixed colors and mediums and created with abandon. Some of the time while they worked, I read an ancient history text to them. They listened and asked the occasional question. Some of the time we listened to foreign language lessons. Some of the time we listened to music. Some of the time we were quiet. In the end of the day, we had a pile of mixed media art and a messy table.

It's not often that we enjoy these perfect days with the sun streaming in the windows and nothing to do but enjoy the pleasure of learning and creating. I can't always block out the external forces that impose self doubt, boredom, pressure, and overwhelm.

But if we enjoy such a lovely time once in a while, then I feel lucky.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Well, it finally happened. And it wasn't as bad as I feared it might be.

V is our one year-old pro at getting up and down the step by our back door. She turns and goes down backwards - smoothly, confidently. Not only this, but she has synthesized the information and can apply it to other scenarios. On the changing table, she turns around, slides a leg over and tries to make her escape mid-diaper change. On the bed, she insists that she dismount each morning, while I hold on to her to protect her from falling the distance that our too-tall bed offers her.

Unlike the other kids, she is a stealthy waker, and she wakes up raring to go. She literally pops up from a nap and crawls in whatever direction she is facing before she is fully aware of her surroundings. And she doesn't yell out or cry in fear when she is ready to wake. She just gets up and gets moving.

So, I listen carefully to every snort and sniffle on the baby monitor because I want to get there before she falls off the bed. Yes, this is the only downside I have discovered to living sans crib. But the fact is that since I never got any of my kids to nap in a crib anyway, the safety of such napping is purely academic in our family.

Back to my original declaration - it finally happened. I heard her wake, make a tiny peep and then the heavy breathing that means she is on the move. I ran up the stairs. As I was just outside the door to the room, I heard a thud. But no tears. I opened the door to see her stunned and sitting on her bum on the floor at the foot of the bed. Realizing her accomplishment, she grinned with delight.

"It's a good thing she landed on her bottom!" exclaimed D, who was on my heels to run up and receive her waking sister. "You got out of bed by yourself!" she cheered her on.

This is not going to teach her to be more cautious in the future.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hazards of Bedsharing

G woke up, looked at me bleary-eyed, and proclaimed, "I'm not sleeping here again! It's all wet," with an air of disapproval. Too sleepy still to realize that she caused the problem and it wasn't just a defect of my bed.

I vacillate between wishing that she would find sleeping in my bed (even on nights when she doesn't have a pee accident in the bed) to be undesirable....and enjoying the fleeting years of closeness that make her love me so completely that she wants to be with me day and night.

My sympathy for her and her sisters - who all want more nighttime parenting that anyone wants to give - comes from my memories of being alone and afraid at night when I was a kid. I remember the terror of a dark room, the processing of anxieties that poke at a person only in the quiet of night, and the stalling of bedtime to avoid the loneliness. So, who am I to argue that they should be shut into their own rooms alone all night?

I know that someday G will suffer through a nightmare at 4 a.m. without waking the whole family and crawling into my bed to help her feel safe. I know that someday she will probably quietly swallow her fears and maybe even lose sleep over things that worry or scare her. And I'll be sorry that she won't be able to find the complete solace that she now finds under my wing.

So, for now, I accept the musical beds, the pee accidents, the sleep disruptions, and the several small bodies cramming themselves into my bed. Because at least now I have the ability to make everyone feel safe at night.
Homeless man on bus,
I wish I could help, and that
You could take a bath.

Monday, October 13, 2008


G is working on preschool now. We haven’t spent a ton of time doing traditional academic things with her because she isn’t that interested in sitting and doing them. Instead, we focus on reading books together (and she will sit and listen to anything, including history texts and Shakespeare), physical activities (like dancing, pony riding, swimming, and hiking), and just playing together.

But lately I have felt the pressure to have her know her shapes, colors, letters, and numbers like all of the other preschool aged kids. Something about turning 4 this month makes me want to be more serious with her. I realize this is silly because it’s not like she needs to pass some test. She can learn these things just as easily at 5 or 6. But, I continue to bow to my self-imposed pressures to achieve things that culture expects.

The benefit to working on these things with her is that I also get to remember how fun it is to discover the world with a preschooler.

“Mommy, in the book about Froggy, why does his face turn….what is it…yellow?” she asked about the book where the frog forgets to put on his underwear.

“Red. His face turns red,” I explained. “When people are embarrassed, sometimes their face turns red. Froggy was embarrassed that he forgot his underwear.”

Skepticism on her face. “Faces don’t turn red when people are embarrassed. Is that just for frogs?”

Ah, the literal interpretations of a preschooler. True, faces don’t turn crayon red. And the collision of literal interpretation with imagination. It doesn’t even occur to her that frogs don’t wear underwear.

And like a clever preschooler, she is a good problem solver. In working on our shapes, she just cannot seem to remember the word “triangle” for some reason. Don’t ask me why. We have sung songs, cut shapes, drawn pictures, read books….that word just doesn’t want to stay in her brain yet. So, when asking her about shapes the other day, I asked her to identify a triangle.

“What shape is this?” I asked.

“Um….Rectangle?” she guessed.

“Rectangle has two short sides and two long sides, right? So, do you think this is a rectangle?”

She shook her head no but still couldn’t retrieve the word.

“Do you want a hint?”

She nodded her head yes.

“It starts with a T.”

“T-rectangle?!” she giggled.

At least she has a sense of humor. That passes whatever test we would want to apply this week.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008


Inspired by a few friends, we have tried elimination communication with baby V. She has used the potty pretty much every day since she was about 11 weeks old. It's not a big deal, as she just goes when we put her on it, which we do with each diaper change. I have a little potty at the diaper changing table and I let her sit on it when her bottom is bare between diapers. It's apparently a natural thing. I say that because it's been sort of effortless on our part. We probably save a diaper or two a day by doing it this way. I am certain that if we put more effort into getting her to the potty - giving her pottytunities as the EC folks would say - she would go there more frequently and would hold it for those pottytunities.

And this routine has been very comfortable for us. Yet, as we all know, what becomes a comfortable routine must change.

Lately, she is a bit reluctant to use the potty for me. She wants to stand instead of sit. But more importantly, she is loathe to let me diaper her. She rolls and crawls away, like a little bucking bronco trying to avoid lasso of a diaper.

After a few of these diaper wars, a dim bulb starts to glow in my tired brain. Hm....maybe she wants to go without diapers. Sure enough, when I put her down on the floor with her bare bum, she is delighted. She crawls around and laughs and claps, showing her approval. Mommy finally figured me out.

Being diaper free is another step in the regulation of elimination needs, and so I am comfortable with the concept. But I have only bothered with this as a potty training method with walking, talking children in the past. I will give the EC folks another nod on this one because I think that my other kids were probably trying to tell me the same things when they were her age. I called it the diaper rodeo and I remember their disdain of getting diapered. They eventually caved to the forcible diapering. Oh, my. I feel badly about that now. It just never occured to me that there were other options.

Putting aside this particular load of guilt, and moving back to the present, little nakey butt V was just the other day crawling around the house while I clean up after dinner. Suddenly, she started crying and crawling to me, grabbing my legs and pulling herself up as she is wont to do when she needs to be picked up. Of course, this happens at the same time that I was trying to help her older sisters resolve some sort of conflict, which is a common experience in our house - baby needs something and is expected to wait a few minutes while the older sisters demands are met. All because she doesn't have the words to argue!

As I reached down to pick up suddenly hysterical baby, I notice that she pooped just as she reached me. She stood up in it just before I picked her up. After a quick wash in the sink, with baby still hysterical, I remembered the advice from EC parents. A "miss" (failure to get products of elimination into the potty) is the perfect time to put the baby on the potty because there may be more where that came from.

So, I took her to the toilet, put her on the potty seat, and sat on a stool facing her to hang on to her. And our little 11 month old baby sat and pooped in the big toilet for the first time. Hooray!

Being a seasoned parent, I know that this is by no means the end of diapers. The road to bladder and bowel control is a long and winding one. But it is a reminder that I need to be more agile.

Frankly, it's very easy to put a diaper on a baby and call it a day. It's easy to do a lot of things that become routine to us. Unfortunately, it's incumbent upon us to change the routines regularly and often without notice while we adjust to the growing child's changing needs. So, now I need to think about ways to work diaper free time into our overfull fall schedule.

I must think of a way to put this on my resume to show the intuition and mental agility I have gained as a parent. Unfortunately, these skills are currently dulled by sleep deprivation and mild anxieties. But someday when I can sleep and not worry about failing to meet the needs of my children in some unknown and as yet undiscovered way, I will be sharp as a razor.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Why do I not have
A tidy, organized home
Even with more space?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Time Together

There are two typical reactions that I receive when people find out that we homeschool.

Reaction #1: Obvious, but not overt, disapproval. Pursed lips. Strange questions. Quizzing my kids as if to determine whether they are embiciles because they are not exposed to classrooms that seem more familiar to the disapprover.

Reaction #2: Generous, almost adoring, praise. Followed by, "I could never do that!" The implication quickly turns to, "I am so happy to send my kids off to school so that someone else can deal with them because they make me a little crazy!" People often go on to explain that they don't think they could have a harmonious home if they had to be teacher and parent.

Clearly I prefer the latter reaction to the former! But I do find reaction #2 to be sort of funny, and maybe not completely informed. It's not that I expect everyone to homeschool. I completely respect the fact that many people have no interest in what I do, and I can't blame them. Sometimes I wonder why I am doing it!

But the fact is that I am not doing anything too amazing when it comes to getting along with my kids. There is no magic anti-conflict formula that we use in our house to maintain the harmony. I don't have particularly docile kids - on the contrary! We have plenty of disagreements and discord. Yet, we are together most of every day. Day in and day out, we spend a tremendous amount of time together. We have classes and play opportunities and such, but we still have to come back and spend most of our time together.

Because we are together so much, we have a great deal of incentive to work things out. We must deal with our conflicts the same way that adults have to work out conflicts with close coworkers or spouses. We cannot live in misery, so we must find a way to get along. Necessity, is after all, the mother of invention.

This is actually one of the reasons I love homeschooling. It forces us to be the best people we can be to the people we love most. It brings us closer, and helps us to work on our problem solving and interpersonal skills in an intense way that school kids (and their parents!) rarely get to learn. The lessons I have learned from muddling through conflict with my kids could fill a graduate level management course on corporate conflict resolution.

When I finally get enough sleep, I bet I will actually be able to use these skills consistently and successfully. Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shakespeare Explained

“Mommy, can we get Shakespeare down off the shelf?” D asked.

“Not right now,” I replied. “We are about to go to the park.”

“What’s Shakespeare?” asked 4 year-old E, our friend who is joining us for a trip to the park. This is, of course, a typical reaction from most 4 year-olds.

“Shakespeare writes stories,” explains 3 year-old G.

“What kind of stories? Stories like Thomas?” asks E, referring to his favorite Thomas the Train character.

My kids pause. Who the hell is Thomas, they wonder. D tries again. “Do you know the one called A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”


“How about The Tempest?” D continues.

It’s time for the parents to explain. “Shakespeare was a man who wrote a whole bunch of famous plays that actors perform on stage at the theater. He did it a long, long time ago.”

“He wrote poems, too, Mom. Don’t forget that.” D does not let anything slip by.

G then tells E the story of The Tempest, which we saw a few weeks ago at a local theater. I forget that not all 3 and 6 year-old who both have Shakespeare action figures and know his plays. “There is a ship and a storm and everyone falls out of the boat. Then there are is Ariel and the people on the island and the monster, only he didn’t look like a monster….”

I spent the better part of the week feeling inadequate because I wasn’t getting to all that I wanted to get to academically with the kids. So, the fact that my 3 year-old knows Shakespeare’s plays well enough to share some plot boosted my lagging spirits.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In Defense of Career Mothers

I am in the awkward position of feeling defensive on behalf of someone I really don't like. While I am a strong supporter of the democratic party, and I believe that the Presidency must go to Obama if we are to have a happy future, I find myself feeling irritated about the media coverage of Sarah Palin.

Yes, I think her a hypocrite (who does not support women's reprodutive choice or medically accurate sex ed, but who has a teenage daughter who is pregnant and who made the choice to keep her baby). Yes, I think her a conservative menace. But I am so disappointed to hear so many people questioning her ability to do the job of Vice President based on the fact that she is the mother of small children. And I have argued with some of my best friends (who I both love and respect) about it.

I think that for those of us who both (1) make the choice and (2) have the privilege of staying home with children, it’s easy to ask the questions about Palin’s ability to juggle her career and her children because we live a life where we can’t really imagine taking on the awesome responsibility that Palin seeks to take on without somehow screwing up our lives and the lives of our families. But the fact is that there are oodles of woman out there with powerful professional careers and small children. They use their resources and communities to care for their children, either with nannies or extended families. There are just as many women who have no choice but to work hard – two or more jobs – to support their families and they use professional childcare or extended family in the same fashion. I do not question their choices or obligations to their careers. These are their choices and/or burdens to bear.

I do wish that every woman (and man) with children at home had the ability to choose whether to have a professional career or not. And that's one reason I support women in positions of power. I think that women who have lived through the often difficult balancing act that happens with motherhood and career are more likely to create policies that support families. And that is change I support.

But to ask the question of a woman who is up for any job of this nature, we are already questioning whether she can do the job because of her gender. And that is something I cannot support. There is no reason to assume that Palin cannot use the same resources that other parents use to care for children (i.e., another respected family member or professional childcare provider).

One dear friend shared the comment that it devalues what we do as mothers to not ask how Palin will juggle mothering and national politics. But I don’t think that it devalues anything I do to assume that she can hire someone to do the same for her own kids.

By way of comparison, as a homeschooling parent, I don’t feel devalued when people send their kids to school. I love the choices I make, and I feel privileged to make them. I don’t believe that everyone should make my choices and I don’t begrudge others who turn the care of their children (educationally or otherwise) to paid professionals. I fully support those parents in making those choices because I trust that they know their families best and themselves best. I trust that they will make the decisions that are best under the totality of the circumstances.

Yes, there is a biological connection that women have with their children that makes a nanny or other care provider a different ball of wax. However, there are plenty of mothers who do not feel the biological pull of that connection very deeply and feel the pull of their careers more deeply. If they were home carting kids around all day, they would not only be unhappy but would most likely not serve their kids as well as a nanny who loves the job. Just as a multitude of women do not find it a joy to sit down and give a reading lesson to a 5 year-old, there are many who do not have any interest in breastfeeding, diapering, dirty fingers all over their clothes, and Raffi recordings.

I often find myself feeling differently than I think most of my “stay at home” peers feel because I feel like I am letting my kids down sometimes by not having a more prominent career, for which I am trained. I worry about the example that I set by having a law degree, a license to practice, a really good track record as a lawyer, and abandoning it because I couldn’t manage both it and parenting as well as I wanted to. I say, “Rock on!” to those women who do maintain their professional careers and raise children. I say the same to women (and men) who put careers aside or on hold to care for families.

Still, I deeply respect those who lead the way for my daughters to be able to do whatever their hearts desire when they are adults. And I wring my hands continually about the fact that I am not one of those women leading the way, despite my qualifications to do so.

I simply believe that until we ask men the same question as a matter of course - how will you balance career and family? - it makes me angry when we ask it of women. It devalues father’s roles in their children’s lives to assume that a mother at home with the kids is sufficient to balance out an absent father. And it devalues the professional accomplishments and professional talents of women to assume that they will not be able to meet the obligations of their jobs because they have children.

Women ought to be able to choose so many things for which their choices are limited, and one of those is whether or not they can handle a powerful professional position.

Since Palin does not support a woman’s right to choose, I don’t support her. But I do despise the media coverage that questions her qualifications as a politician because she is a mother.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Good Sign

I am all up in arms about politics and gender discrimination and gender roles in society. I want to write something about it, but it's just too much to say and I am drowning right now with other things. However, I hope to get it down soon.

While I am boiling with my irritation over these things and hand-wringing about the example I set for my kids by opting out of my very professional career track, I have one small light.

The other day G said, "Doctors are always women, right?"

Bless her little heart. Yes, all of our primary care physicians that she has ever know have been women. And so she extrapolated her personal experience to the world at large, as little kids are wont to do (which reminds me of the value of having a diverse group of people to expose children to even in the earliest years).

When I explained that even men could be doctors because gender is not a job qualification, I think she believed me, but was a little skeptical that men could actually do the work of being doctors because in her opinion women are much better at caring for others.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another Not What I Expected Revelation

There are so many things that we don't expect when we think about becoming parents. Living in a family where little kids were always around and being an experienced babysitter, I had a huge advantage in this department. I expected things like spit up, crying, stinky diapers, tantrums, sleepless nights, worries, fevers, spills, and stains.

And I am pretty good at anticipating things. I frequently find myself thinking things like, "Yes, it's okay to let her play with your hair now that she is a tiny little baby, but how will this tugging feel when she is a robust toddler?" Or, "If I let her take that stick inside, she will bang it on every surface to test the sound and I will have a headache and a bunch of stick marks on everything." I understand the need to be a few steps ahead of the kids developmentally and strategically.

But here's something to file under "things I did not anticipate" as a parent.

I did not anticipate spending 20 minutes in a public restroom staring at the wall and not talking to my kid while she uses the potty. (Nor did I anticipate the number of times I would do this.) I did not expect hauling all of the kids and their stuff up the hill a second time for another potty adventure with another kid a mere 20 minutes after the first visit.

I'd like to end with something lame like, "It goes to show you that crap happens." However, I won't be that lame tonight. I will merely add that my kids learned the fun in potty talk on the same day they spent half of the day touring the public restroom at the local park. They spent the whole drive home insulting each other with potty words (which sound like a blur of nothing to me, but included things like
"doo doo" and "underpants"), followed by fits of giggles. G laughed so hard that she gave herself a wicked case of hiccups. Even V, who couldn't see anyone's face and doesn't yet understand potty humor, laughed herself silly.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


"Mommy, thank you for driving the no-traffic way," says G.

"You're welcome." I have tried hundreds of times to explain that I don't actually ever choose to drive in traffic, but the traffic just gets in our way sometimes. She struggles with the idea that the rules of the road dictate where I am going. She must think me awfully powerful, I decide, to be able to go where I want without regard to other cars.

She frequently also complains that I am driving the traffic way and asks me to drive on the wrong side of the road.

But this is new. "Mommy, why are we always the last car?"

"Even though you can't see them, there are actually cars behind us," I explain.

"No there aren't!" Incredulous.

The classic example of "it's a matter of perspective."

Just like my parenting journey. I find myself daily hauling around a baby who needs to be rocked and bounced to sleep, who puts everything into her mouth (sand, dirt, razor blades - it's all fair game to her), and who has secret radar which wakes her up if I try to leave her sleeping in bed. And because I have done it all before, it seems like hardly any trouble. In fact, I feel like taking just one kid out for an errand is easy-breezy.

Had I not experienced this whole thing twice before, it wouldn't be so familiar, so business as usual.

Of course, I am still adjusting to getting spit up on ten times a day. The other kids didn't do that!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I have a girl who has been in love with horses since she could identify them. Don't ask me why. I didn't even take riding lessons as a kid. Being an animal lover in general, I can understand. Horses are pretty amazing, strong, powerful, smart.

I grew up with friends who had horses, and so I had both the ability to get to know them a little, and the ability to observe how much work and expense they are. And while I didn't ever catch horse fever, I can say that one of my favorite memories is falling off a horse. So, I can understand my daughter's passion.

Still, she's six years old, and her passions sometimes evaporate overnight. And with drama, dance, choir, piano and plain old lessons intended to teach her core subjects like math and language arts, I can't imagine inserting a horse into her urban life right now!

So, I hatched a plan. I thought that if she would only understand the work of caring for a horse, she might be deterred. Maybe if she could see how really huge and powerful they are, she would feel a little more cautious about wanting to put her little body atop one. Heck, the smell alone might scare her off! I took her to a horse show so she could see for herself a little slice of horse reality.

We met with an old, dear friend who knows more about horses than anyone I know (more than anyone in the world, I sometimes wonder), who could give her the firsthand reality check. We watched huge horses jump giant obstacles in sweltering heat. We meandered by horse stalls, stepped over piles of horse dung, and watched other people comb and wash their horses. After a long, hot, stinky day at the horse show, we headed home with what I hoped would be a more realistic perspective on horses.

Exhausted, the kids all fell asleep in the back of the car on the long drive home. And I heard D talk in her sleep like she often does when something is really heavy on her mind.

"Oh, the horses are beautiful," she murmured.

I think my plan backfired. When she woke up, she asked when we can sign up for riding lessons.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Introducing Table Foods

When it was time to introduce table foods to D, we had to wait until she was 10 months old because of various viruses and a nasty diaper rash. Our doctor recommended we avoid introduction of new foods when her body was resisting other invaders. By the time we introduced the foods, she insisted upon eating only things she could feed herself and only foods she could easily eat with her fingers. With gusto, she ate peas, beans, lentils, tiny bits of avacado, and rice. While I didn't really intend to offer jarred baby food, D decided for herself that she wasn't in need of such.

When G was old enough for table foods, I was ready for something to entertain her so I could sit and eat a meal myself. She's crawling outside on the deck and eating leaves, I thought, so why not give her some food to eat? Apparently leaves were more interesting to her. She turned her head, resisted all of my offers of tasty bits of food. When she was cajoled into putting something into her mouth, she GAGGED dramatically. At around 10 months of age, she suddenly became interested in eating table food and willing to try. The gagging ceased, but she insisted only on perfectly smoothly pureed foods that she be fed with a spoon. Since I already raised a baby without commercial baby food, I just pureed my own foods. It's actually super easy and they don't eat much at a sitting, so it's not much work.

V is now 9 and a half months old. She has been interested in grabbing my food for some time. She reaches her little head up from my sling to try to get a drink from my glass of water. But she would also eat sand if I let her. Recently I started offering some table foods because it seemed like a reasonable time and she may as well eat food instead of sand. Sure enough, the gag reflex is so strong that she gets very little down. However, she is delighted with the pleasure of giving it a try and just keeps on trying.

The other day, I noticed a little something in the diaper that was not her usual mama's milk stool. I wonder what she is ingesting in enough quantity to show up here, I thought. Maybe I should make more for her. Upon closer inspection, I was able to identify what she ate. Paper. Still had the writing on it. The next day? Grass. Forget about all of those peas, avacados, and rice she tosses all around the house. Paper and grass make it past the gag reflex.


Sunday, August 3, 2008


There are few things that feel more luxurious to me than a soak in a big, hot tub. So, while we agonized over everything we did at the new old house, and while we looked for ways to shave the cost repeatedly, and while we did give up and sacrifice some of the items on our wish list, we kept the big tub in the master bath. After two weeks of being in the house, I finally cleared enough space to get to the big tub and took a soak today. Ahhh..... It was like a morning at the spa. A morning at the spa in which one has to walk to the end of the hall and dig through piles of laundry to find something to wear.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

10 Remodeling Discoveries

1. A really big kitchen sink holds a really big pile of dirty dishes.

2. You can lose your kids in a big house.

3. Brand-spanking new walls, floors, and cabinets provoke more anxiety than I had anticipated when I watch my kids run their grubby hands around, spill water throughout the house, and bang toys on things.

4. I am allergic to dust.

5. Children cannot resist running and yelling through a big empty house.

6. I can thank my lucky stars that V is not serious about crawling yet.

7. Unpacking takes just as much time as packing did. Perhaps more.

8. Construction dust gives me a little OCD.

9. I really did miss some of the things that I did without for a year. Others not so much.

10. The cat apparently cannot remember how to use a cat door.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Are you ready for another?

I get this question all the time lately. "Are you ready for another?" They are looking at and referring to my kids.

I pause. Are they serious? Can't they see my hair sizzling? That's because I am fried. F. R. I. E. D. I am so tired I can hardly put sentences together sometimes. Like a patient recovering from a stroke, I struggle to locate simple everday words filed in some recess of my brain locked down from lack of sleep and overloaded by meal plans, homeschool lessons, and schedules.

My kids are sassy, bouncy, mischievious people, with seemingly endless needs and requiring intense emotional energy from me. They are sweet and fabulous, but they are a lot of work. And only two of them are truly mobile. I have no idea how I will manage being pulled in three directions simultaneously. I know that I will - but I don't know HOW.

There was a time when I was only committed to one kid. I thought, let's see how this one turns out before we impose ourselves on another. What if we are really no good at this parenting thing? What if it's just too much work? Turns out we are reasonably good (though with a constant improvement to be made) and it is too much work, but it doesn't matter because somehow what needs to get done does indeed get done. This does not include a great deal of cleaning or having a tidy home. But it does include lessons and nature walks and snuggles and cookies.

"Another?" I nearly choke on the word. "Three feels like a lot."

I guess I have learned not to say never. But don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

First Impressions

Three year-old G's reaction upon walking into the local Value Village for the first time in her memory:

"Hm...Smells good. Nice music."

(Were you to smell the place and hear the 80s pop music over the scratchy speakers, you would see how funny this is.)

Six year-old D's reaction:

"Things are not very expensive here!"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Little Help From Our Friends

I have always been the independent sort. My mom tells me I was walking at 9 months of age (which I am pretty sure meant I didn’t crawl long enough and which accounts for some sensory integration problems that plague me to this day, but let’s not go that direction with this story). When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in my room reading or writing or just being alone. I moved away from home and don’t see family all that often. I didn’t do much by way of study groups in college or even in law school. I lived alone after only one year of living with roommates. I have generally always made my own plans, done things my own way, and limited the time I spent worrying about what other people think about it.

And then I become a mother, and the lives of people who stayed in their hometowns surrounded by extended family and childhood friends suddenly made sense to me. I now envy those friends who have mothers who live next door and who watch their kids once a week. Those people who are super tight with their roots now seem wise.

For a variety of reasons, I am where I am, trying to recreate the village that it takes to raise children. My chosen sisters are my village. And my neighbors lend a hand as well. They rally round when I ask for help and I cannot begin to thank them because they have saved me from certain disaster repeatedly. (And by disaster, I mean when the mommy just can’t cope and everything falls apart at the seams.) From running errands to staying with my kids while I went to the hospital to see my husband, from food deliveries to cleaning the kitchen, friends have made life work for me when I really needed support.

All of the kindness of my friends has gotten me thinking about the village concept. The fact is that everyone knows to rally around a family with food and favors when a baby is born, or when a family member is hospitalized. Yet, there are times, when that baby is 18 months old and tearing the place apart, the older kid has the stomach flu, dishes are piled in the sink, things are tough at work, the cat vomited on the rug, and it’s just too much. But because we are overwhelmed by the pile of responsibilities and worries in those moments, we don’t even reach out to ask for help because it seems impossible.

But on that same night when getting dinner on the table seems a monumental task, your neighbor made a pot of spaghetti to feed an army, and puts half of it back into the fridge because her family didn’t eat it all. Then she dumps some of it into the trash in a few days because they never do end up eating it. And the fact is that your neighbor or your friend across town would have happily helped with dinner or anything else if only they had known you needed it.

Absent some sort of psychic ability to know when our friends and neighbors need help, all we can do is ask them to let us know. Now that I have been on all both sides of this common story – the giver of meals and support, the receiver of meals and support, the silent sufferer who could really use meals and support, and the person with extra food that probably won’t get eaten – I have resolved to do a couple of things.

First, I am offering help when I know someone might need it. When a friend has a baby, I’ll offer the meal train. When someone is really struggling with work, I’ll call and see if she needs help.

Second, I am just going to do what I can when I can manage it. I don’t always have the capacity, so I’ll do something when I do have capacity. The other day I dropped off some muffins for a friend who helped me out with food several times. She didn’t know it was coming, and I just left it on her doorstep. I wish I could know when she really needs help and whisk in and take care of her troubles. I wish I could show up in the middle of the night and rock her baby when he wakes so she can get some sleep. But I can’t do those things. So, I brought her some muffins.

While maybe what she really needs is someone to pick the toys up from the living room floor, I hope the muffins will make that job a little easier this time. If nothing else, muffins can remind her that I am here if she needs me. That’s a one size fits all type of gift.

Monday, June 16, 2008

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We have been living in a rental house now for almost a full year while our house is being remodeled. It has been a test of our courage, our emotional fortitude, our endurance, our decision-making skills, and our wallets. Finally, we are looking at the final weeks of construction.

I am practically salivating over the idea of being back in our old house, with our old neighbors and ample space, not to mention the updated appliances and newly configured layout. While this rental house has been very good to us, I am anxious to leave it and nest in the house we have been planning literally for years now.

Yet, there is one thing that I do not look forward to with great enthusiasm (other than paying the bills for the construction). In order to move back into the house, we have to PACK and MOVE all of our stuff again. Ugh. I shudder at the thought.

Right now I am trying to figure out where to begin. It seems that as soon as I pack up something, it will suddenly become incredibly necessary. I packed up the food processor, which I had not used in months this weekend. The very next day, I realized that it would have made the potato pancakes I had planned for dinner a lot easier to cook. I know that as soon as I pack up the mixer, I will have an urgent need for frosting. At least I know enough to make packing the kids' toys one of the last jobs. Could you imagine how valuable a doll would become the minute one of them found out she was packed in a box in the recesses of the basement?!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

At least I remembered to feed the kids...

Eric was away for a three day seminar this week. That leaves me with three kids and a cat all day and all night. Our regular sitter is out of town this week as well, so I keyed myself up to be on top of everything.

Figuring it's only a few days, I expected to manage just fine. Not that I don't miss Eric's company as well as his help at home. But an able-bodied person ought to be capable of managing for a few days without a partner, right?

Yet, when I am the only responsible adult around the house, I find that I get a little anxious about the pure volume of work to be done. I don't feel comfortable letting the dishes pile up, for example, because I know no kind person is going to wash them for me. It's all up to me. The thought is more oppressive than the work itself.

So, when Friday morning rolled around, and I knew it was my last day without peer support, I felt both proud of myself and relieved. Everyone had been fed and cleaned as appropriate. I took out the trash and the diapers for the diaper service. The sink was free of dirty dishes.

Strangely, the cat spent a lot of extra time with me on Thursday night and Friday morning. "How sweet," I thought, "She must know that I could use some extra support."

Wrong. I went downstairs to feed her and found that the night before, I had dumped the food and medicine (which she takes for a kidney problem - another story entirely) into her bowl and left the spoon on top, failing completely to mix it up. Being the finicky creature she is, she couldn't bring herself to eat any of it in that condition. So, she had spent the entire evening and morning trying to tell me to hurry up and take care of her food. She had nary a thought of consoling me!

I obviously should not have attributed such positive intentions to a cat.

Friday, June 13, 2008


We were reading a book the other day about how to be a good friend. Advice ranged from you need to share to be a good friend to you need to be kind to make people want to be your friend. Tucked into the otherwise sound wisdom on friendship was “don’t tattle.” My kids looked at me quizzically and said, “What’s tattling?”

Apparently it’s time for this tattling discussion because in the same month I have heard it used repeatedly from other people – kids and adults. Most of the people who use the word are those who are, like me, trying to figure out the line between tattling and reporting a problem. Most of those whose kids know about tattling are in school.

The cynical side of me might say, well, if I were a teacher with 30 kindergarteners to manage, I would want a moment’s peace as well, so I would come up with this tattling thing to get them to leave me alone for a minute to think how I will keep them from burning the place down. Fortunately, I know enough teachers to know that there is no government conspiracy to try to quiet down kids.

Still, the tattling thing is consistent with the old “seen but not heard” cultural value around children. While it’s true that they are a lot cuter before they open their mouths to whine or complain, it’s also true that sometimes kids are coming to complain about something that is really important. And if we tell them not to come to us, aren’t we teaching them to shut us out? And then will we find ourselves wondering why they don’t want to tell us about the teenage troubles? This is all not to mention the scary stuff that predators do to kids to convince them to keep dangerous secrets by leveraging the “don’t tattle” rhetoric.

There is no guarantee that if you listen to the complaints of your six year old that you will have a kid who is willing to come to you and tell you about the drug dealer in his high school. However, if we tell our kids that we don’t want to hear their concerns, are we going to be left out later when we suddenly want to hear their concerns?

Regardless of my own desire to stay connected with my kids as they grow older, even during the inconvenient times when they are ultimately pretty safe but sometimes their concerns can be boring and/or annoying, we also have to navigate the social landscape where other kids are being told not to tattle.

Right now, I am going with the working definition that it’s always okay to tell an adult if you feel concerned about something, but that we don’t want to tell an adult about a problem just to make trouble for someone. And when I ask my kids if they are telling me because they are concerned, they generally say yes. Although, sometimes – and this is why I value open communication – they confess to just trying to make trouble.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Identity Crisis Intact

I succeeded in finding a new blog name that satisfies me without having to confront the identity crisis. Being a native of the Pacific Northwest, I figure I can claim that moniker. And since I spend about 75% of my life determining just how much rain we can all manage for outdoor activities and 25% of it soaking up the sun while it lasts, I'll grab the rainy theme.

My quest for a new blog name has only focused me on the fact that six years into this mothering thing, I still find myself adrift on the sea of identity crisis. It's really my feminist ideals which are in crisis. Here I am, homeschooling my three children, relying on my husband for our income, and carrying the lion's share of what is traditionally known as "women's work." And I choose this life.

My feminist ideals are in conflict over this choice. I am making the choice to live this way - that is certain. Feminist ideals validated. Yet, I am choosing to opt out of the profession I am trained for and to only very peripherally participate in a new career, which does not bring me any economic power. Feminist values disappointed.

I can trace back along my path and find the points where I took a turn. No doubt it began when I couldn't reconcile my parenting choices with my legal career, and then again when I couldn't reconcile my parenting choices with my nonprofit management career. So, one could argue that my parenting choices are to blame.

But I argue that my parenting choices are frustratingly inconsistent with the business world primarily because men run the business world.

And they seek to continue controlling it. I am still sore about the race for the Democratic presidential nominee because I think that Senator Clinton was treated unfairly in the media and in other venues. Not that I can complain about Senator Obama's candidacy. It's a far sight better than the alternatives. But I just can't get over my frustration about the unfair treatment of the only woman in the race.

I posit that the most socially acceptable discrimination these days is that based on gender. Yet, I find myself unable to convince most of my friends that women are still all downtrodden and in need of a leg up. I lamented about this to a friend the other day, who reminded me that we all have grown up in a time when we have experienced academic equality. Well, I don't completely buy it. But I can say that the gender barriers in academic life are far less obvious than they were in the past. Which only makes the smack in the fact of barriers related to gender in the workplace all the more a surprise.

Still, the fact is that most people who are able to make my parenting choices have also opted out. I find that I spend a lot of time with really talented, wise, educated women who are also choosing to put their professional lives on the back burner, with their children taking far more of their focus. And while most of those women don't recognize any gender barriers in their lives, I think that most of their lives (and mine) are very much shaped by those barriers because if they could parent the way they wished and still have the professional lives they are capable of enjoying, they just might chose to do that.

Of course, opting out has actually been good for me. I love writing professionally and I intend to do more of it as my kids grow older. I never would have chosen to parent three kids if I hadn't opted out. And I can't imagine my life without any of them - they each bring such a unique joy to our family. I bask in the pleasure of homeschooling more frequently than I cringe under its weight. I am profoundly grateful for every cosleeping, breastfeeding, emotional-coaching, alternative parenting moment. Somehow I don't think I would feel as grateful for the chance to argue with other lawyers for the past six years. Okay, I would be really grateful for the income from all of the arguing. But when it comes to the other rewards, I am far ahead at this point.

If only I could reconcile it all with my feminist values. Oh, who am I kidding? I don't get enough sleep to actually reconcile anything at this point.