Friday, May 28, 2010

5 little irkies

I'm following up on Jessi's latest post, and listing five things that irk me more than they should:

1. Leaving all the kitchen cupboard doors open. It looks messy and I always bang my head on the corner of one of the doors. This drives me crazy, but I have to admit, I'm just as guilty as the other grown-up in the house of doing this. I guess I should have made it a New Year's Resolution or something.

2. Peeling those little stickers off of every damn piece of fruit I buy at the store, especially the things that come already bagged. When I get a 3 lb bag of Fuji apples, why does every single one of them have a sticker? I can read the bag just fine. Ditto oranges.

3. Dirty socks on the floor instead of the hamper. The worst is when they are on the floor right beside the hamper. Tell me, how hard is it to open the lid?

4. Anya's inability to pay attention to where her feet are going. I know she's just 2, and I love this child more than life itself, but she has a way of lying on the couch and shoving her feet into my side, and stepping on toys and books and game pieces on the floor instead of around them that makes. me. crazy.

5. Stepping on globs of cooked oatmeal that have traveled from spoon to child's clothes to the floor. It's cold and squishy and totally gross.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

long day

It's the end of a long day. Not a bad day, really, but a long one. We're having minor sleep issues here. Namely, the kids get up too early and usually don't nap (even Anya) so they are really tired and cranky by the late afternoon. We've tried black-out drapes and earlier bedtimes, but have been unsuccessful with both. It seems that waking up with the sun, even when the sun rises by 5:30am, is just something we have to accept this time of year. Today this was worse because Daniel and Anya went to bed late last night after attending a birthday party. The party was fun and well worth the late bedtimes, but they still woke up at the crack of dawn and refused or were unable to go back to sleep, so they were extra tired and clingy and grumpy all day. On top of that, the weather was nasty part of the morning and then later in the afternoon, so we were kind of cooped up inside most of the day. In between rainstorms, I took the kids to a nearby park with a splash pad (think sprinklers on crack), where Anya slept in the stroller and Daniel wore himself out so thoroughly that he fell asleep at 5:00 and couldn't be roused for nearly an hour.

It was good that we got out of the house this afternoon and all, but 5:00 naps are the worst. Bedtime for Daniel was an absolute fiasco. It took 30 minutes to convince him to drink some milk and eat a piece of bread. He badly needed a bath, but hung on my leg sobbing for another half hour that he was too cold and tired for a bath before I took his clothes off for him and made him get in the tub. He got his own pajamas on and then whined he was too tired to walk himself to the bathroom - all of about 6 feet away from where he was standing - to brush his teeth. Once that was finally accomplished, I lay down with him in bed for 20 minutes he suddenly had a second wind and got up to play Candy Land with Stuart and Anya while I made a lame attempt to practice some music I have to learn by Thursday but probably won't.

Sigh. This is just how it goes sometimes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

little happies

Thanks, Jessi, for this idea...

This here is a list of little things that make me disproportionately happy.
1. New underwear. I get the cheap 3-packs of Hanes at Target, never anything fancy, but it's so nice to pull on new underwear that isn't yet stretched out and fraying and raveling at the waist. Don't you agree?

2. The sight of a little kid wearing sunglasses.

3. Choosing plants for the community garden plot that we will hopefully not neglect this year. I came home from the farmers' market with several different kinds of tomatoes and four kinds of hot peppers. Salsa-rific!

4. To that end, #4 on my list is pulling weeds. You know when you pull up a weed and you feel the dirt give a little and the whole root comes up instead of breaking off at the stem? That is a deeply satisfying feeling.

5. Sun tea.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

in the country

Madison is a busy place. It's not a big city, but at any time of day you can hear the noise of traffic, sirens, lawn mowers, trucks, kids down the street, the neighbors chatting over the fence. Most of the time, I like the feeling of being in the middle of things, knowing I can get to the store or farmers' market or library or what-have-you in a few minutes by bike or car. But every once in a while, it is nice to be in the country where the noise of the city is absent (I wouldn't say it's quiet, but it's certainly a different kind of noise) and there is plenty of space and open air and the only fences are there to keep horses in their pen or rabbits out of a garden.

The kids and I were in such a place for just a couple of hours today. My friend Pat owns some farmland (several acres, maybe 50) with her partner out in the country. It's not very far from Madison (less than 20 miles), but far enough to feel rural and quiet. We went ostensibly to help her plant her garden, but it was really an excuse for a visit and a chance for Daniel and Anya to experience some hands-on agriculture.

We spent a good two hours out there with Pat, and the only actual gardening that got accomplished was planting a single row of beans knocking some malicious-looking bugs off the asparagus plants. Pat could have done all this herself in fifteen minutes, I'm sure, but I don't think she minded having us there. Daniel was marginally helpful; he put in a row marker and held the hose and helped count out the bean seeds for planting. Look, he even has his own garden gloves:

Anya...bless her heart...was eager to participate, but she's got a little ways to go before she understands how this works. She kept dropping the beans in the wrong place and scooping more dirt on top than we needed. We finally told her that it was very important she dig in the corner of the garden plot a few feet away from the bean row.

The highlight for the kids was playing on an ancient toy ride-on tractor that Pat's partner unearthed from the toolshed. Pat can't remember if he bought it at a yard sale or rescued it from a dumpster, but either way, this tractor has seen plenty of use. It's so old and rusty Daniel could only manage pedaling if it was pointed downhill, and the steering was a disaster. Anya had to be pushed and guided the whole time, but it didn't thrill her any less.

I think if Pat doesn't mind, we'll go back next week and see if those beans made it up out of the ground!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

conversations with anya

(This morning, in the middle of a 6a.m. game of Candy Land):

Anya; Mom, do you love Stuart?
Me: Yes, I do.

(Then later, at breakfast):

Anya: I love you, Stuart!
Me: Do you love me, too?
Anya: No, just Stuart. I love Stuart and Daniel loves mom.
Me: I think Daniel loves Stuart, too. Daniel, do you love Stuart?
Daniel: Yeah.
Anya: I just love Stuart. Not you. And Daniel loves mom.

But I know that's not true. See, the more your kids yell at you, the more they love you, right? Because my kids yell at me all the time, so they must love me a LOT.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

and sometimes there is poop on the rug

Our living room rug was perhaps the most foolish purchase I have made. We picked it up at IKEA when Daniel was itty bitty enough that we were counting his age in weeks, not even months. It wasn't expensive, it's the right size, looks okay with the increasingly shabby furniture...but there is one problem. It's white. Not bright white, but more like a soft white or maybe ivory. At least, it was. In the four years since, our poor rug has been repeatedly baptized with every possible beverage, snack and bodily fluid you could think of. It has also endured the careless gestures of enthusiastic young artists wielding colored markers (which are washable, but only to a point) and several accidents involving homemade play dough. I chose this rug because at the time I liked it and thought it fit the room, but so many times since then, I've said to myself "What was I thinking?"

Today, for example. I had just finished scrubbing away lines made by a blue marker, and I muttered "Maybe I should just get a new rug." Not 15 minutes later, the kids decided it was Naked Time (they periodically doff their clothes and chase each other around, squealing with laughter). Daniel is fine for Naked Time, since he has finally learned to answer the Call of Nature by going to the bathroom. But Anya is not even close. Several months ago, she liked to wake up between 5:00 and 5:30am and request to sit on the potty, but usually nothing happened, and eventually the novelty wore off. She is extremely resistant to potty-training, in fact, and if you know Anya, you'll understand me when I say that it is really best NOT to push this and let her decide when she is ready.

Please, please let her be ready soon. Because most of the time, Naked Time goes without major incident, but today, as if on cue, right after I contemplated replacing that awful rug, she pooped on it. I didn't see it happen because I was in the kitchen trying to get dinner ready, but I heard her whimper, "Mom! I pooped!"

Ten minutes, several rags, and a lot of Lysol later, you can't tell. Or if there is a stain, it's no worse than the ones left from the long, frustrating period when Daniel was figuring this all out, or the particularly stubborn brown splotch from the Thanksgiving my parents and brother came to visit and they ALL broke coffee mugs...yeah, I think it's best to leave the rug where it is until this particular phase of childhood is past. But whenever Anya decides to potty train (and like I said, I am leaving this ball in her court), I may reward myself with a new rug. And I'll be sure it's not white.

Monday, May 10, 2010

preschool parents and privilege

Daniel is taking to preschool like a duck to water. Today he was so eager to go, he wanted to leave a whole hour early, which would have been ridiculous, but still, you've got to love that enthusiasm. What I like about it - other than the fact that Daniel loves it, of course - is that I am really clicking with the other kids' parents.

This was not the case at the Y. Daniel really enjoyed his preschool enrichment classes there, and the teachers were (are) wonderful (one is a friend of mine)...but come time to pick him up, I just hated waiting in the hallway with the other moms and dads. At first I tried making conversation with a few of them, but that was so awkward, I eventually gave up and lived with awkward silence instead. I'm sure I looked like a snob for not talking to anyone, but there are times you know better than to force it, you know? Occasionally, I got lucky and would run into my neighbor, whose son is Daniel's best friend, but our timing was often off, and that didn't happen too often.

But at Daniel's current preschool - wow, what a difference. There are a few parents I actually look forward to running into, and today one actually arranged for our kids to play together next time the weather is nice after school (though judging by the dismal forecast, that could be a little while.) I'm sure this has a lot to do with the demographic. Because of its location, this preschool has several students with parents in grad school or otherwise connected to the University (I don't want to reveal exactly which preschool it is, for our own privacy), and I would guess that only about half of the kids in Daniel's class are caucasian like him. This environment of diverse and educated people, this is where I am comfortable. Many - not all, but many - of these people are parents who are still in the early years of making their careers and finding their professional place while raising small children. I so get that.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the privilege part. (By the way, yes, I know that higher education is considered a privilege and that the academic population is only diverse to a point because there are whole swaths of people who do not have access.) But raising kids on a grad student budget is really hard. I wouldn't know from experience, actually, because Stuart dropped out of grad school and got a Real Job about a year before I got pregnant with Daniel, so the whole grad school/mama balancing act was more an issue of my time and ability to focus than a family budget problem. Still, I know what it's like to live in a little apartment that may or may not be roach-infested and work like a dog for a 3-digit paycheck every month in a field that takes a full 5 minutes to explain to anyone who asks and have no idea if you'll be able to find gainful employment upon graduation.

(Come to think of it, I had a miscarriage two years before Daniel was born when we were both grad students. Had that pregnancy had a different outcome, perhaps I would know exactly what it's like. Well. Water under the bridge.)

Certainly, there are families at this preschool who are regular ol' middle class folks like us with white collar jobs and a mortgage and all. But still, I feel a little self-conscious when I drive up to the school in our nice car to pick Daniel up, or when I admit that we're joining a pool this summer (which is more expensive than swimming lessons at the Y, for example), or when I say something about our back yard (because that reveals we own a house). Just because I am at a point in life where I can afford these things and another parent can't (yet) does not mean they will judge me for it, because that's silly and I should get over it. Right?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

conversation with a four-year-old

(Today in the car, en route to Target)

Daniel: Why are the clouds so dark?
Me: Because they're so full of rain, the sun can't shine through very well.
Daniel: But what if they were made out of salad???
Then I guess they would be green, wouldn't they?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

symphony soup

Yesterday the kids and I were invited to attend a special concert by the Madison Symphony Orchestra called "Symphony Soup!" The event is really for young elementary school students (and there were busloads upon busloads of them filling the Capitol Theatre at the Overture Center downtown), but orchestra members were able to invite guests, so a friend of mine in the violin section got us tickets.

The Overture Center on State Street is a relatively new and really stunning building, at least in my opinion. There are several theaters, including a big huge hall for the Broadway tours and large symphony concerts, a large hall (Capitol Theatre) where theSymphony Soup concert was held, and several smaller stages and performances spaces, including one in the bottom level that is visible from a large round hole in the floor of the entrance foyer. There is artwork everywhere, clear glass rails and chrome banisters. I can't imagine the cost of maintenance keeping that place clean and shiny, but my, is it gorgeous. Just finding our way to the Capitol Theatre was exciting with spectacular curved white stone steps, shiny elevators, gently sloping floors and gilded ceilings on the way.

The kids loved walking through the building and exploring a little bit. They tolerated the concert. And by "tolerated" I mean that Anya fell asleep in my lap during the first piece and slept soundly through the whole thing and Daniel had his fingers plugging his ears for the first half of the concert, after which he kept saying in a loud whisper "I'm ready to leave now!"...but in the end they both actually sat through the whole thing, and later Daniel admitted that he liked it. Really, you can't ask more than that from a four-year-old, right?

Afterwards I took the kids out for ice cream. We sat by the lake and watched the sailboats and I thought about the music and wondered about their future musical education. They are too young for lessons (except some kids Daniel's age have started violin already, but I want to avoid that whole Suzuki circus, if possible), so I'm just going for exposure at this point. And as far as that goes, I don't even have music playing at home very often. I'm not crazy about the classical programming during the day on our public station, and putting on a CD or finding something in iTunes is just an invitation for Daniel to start playing with the buttons and stopping and starting all the tracks and that drives me crazy. But the kids hear me practice, they hear me sing and hum, and we go to concerts when possible, and I think that's good enough for now.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

back to normal

Stuart took the last few weeks off work, basically the whole month of April. He's been accruing vacation time, we wanted to travel and see our brothers and also spend some good quality family time together (the 4 of us) since the last few years have been so hectic with one or the other being in grad school or taking classes at the it a sabbatical, a time of rest and relaxation. Well, as much as one can rest and relax with two busy little children to keep you occupied, anyway. This is why we were able to have a picnic on the beach at a nearby state park on a Tuesday morning, and go to Milwaukee in the middle of the week on a whim.

Alas, this time has come to a close. Tomorrow, life goes back to normal. Stuart goes back to work, and I go back to paying out the nose for sitters to play with the kids so I can pretend to maintain a sense of balance with family life and "work" life. (I use the quote marks because by the time I pay sitters I'm not even making money, though I hasten to add our sitters are wonderful people and the kids love them and they deserve every cent and probably's just not fair that my career means so little in terms of our finances, that's all).

I admit I'm apprehensive. It was so nice having Stuart at home. We went on little trips to the park together, took bike rides together (which reminds me I still need to get a picture of Daniel on that tag-along bike), and best of all, I had a grown-up around to talk to. I have several friends in town, some of them moms, so it's not like I'm totally isolated, but this is different, of course. And Stuart got a taste - just a little itty bitty nibble, mind you - of what I do at home day in and day out. I still did most of the cooking and cleaning just because I'm used to it and I've gotten pretty efficient. But he at least knows now what it's like to be with the kids all. day. long. through good moments and bad.

Starting tomorrow, I will be doing this by myself again, at least for the ten or so hours a day that Stuart is away at work. I admit I'm having just a bit of anxiety about it. I know I can handle it, but the kids will have to adjust, too. Daniel and Anya are both pretty good about adjusting to change (Daniel especially), but they are still affected by it, and there will be some emotional backlash, I'm sure, and because I am The Mom, I will have to take the brunt of it. It's okay. I can cope. But it will take work. I need to keep us busy enough so boredom doesn't set in. With boredom comes whining, you see, LOTS of whining, and that frays my patience faster than anything. I also need to find my happy place, that mythical, hypothetical spot I go in my mind when things get rough.