Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sure, they look innocent enough.... Posted by Hello

But these are actually agents of mass destruction. Who would have thought that creatures of such small size and with such limited fine and gross motor skills would be able to systematically dismantle any room they're occupying?

My house, it is a mess. Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 27, 2005

January 28th, 1985

When I was a melodramatic teenager, I used to fill in the block on my calendar for January 28th with black marker.

I'm much older now, and the January page of my calendar remains unmarred. Still, this year I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that my father died 20 years ago.

His death (6 weeks after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer) tore a hole in my heart and my life that took many, many years to mend. In its place is the scar tissue: sadness and regret that my father did not live to see me grow up, marry, and have children; that my children will never know him; that I never had the chance to know my father as an adult. I'm scared that my memories of him will dim as I grow older; even now I have to strain inside my head to hear his voice.

It will be my duty and privilege to keep my father's memory alive for my children. Right now, he's a photograph on the mantel to them. "That's Mommy's daddy," I explain to Sean. I'm pretty sure he has no idea what I'm talking about.

One of the most profound lessons I learned at age 15 is that once a child experiences a loss like the death of a parent, it takes a long time to feel secure again. My father's death made me realize how tenuous life is. Is there any way to explain death to Sean and Allie without making them fearful that something could happen to their parents?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life*

In the plus column of the stay-at-home balance sheet, I enter the following:

--More time with the kids (to state the obvious). The sorest point of the working/family life equation for both Jeff and me is the limited time we currently have with Sean and Allie. With me staying at home, we know that one of us will be with them most of each day. And speaking selfishly, I am eager to be able to spend the happier portion of the day with the kids. By evening, I am tired and easily annoyed, and the kids are prone to dramatic temper tantrums elicited over the slightest insult. Dinnertime tends to be a battle of wills, and bedtime, as I have chronicled here, is just painful. When I'm staying at home, I'll still have to contend with the toddler equivalent of sundowning, but at least I will have had several hours of prime happy child time before that. Right?

--No-rush mornings. I equate our mornings to string theory---you know all those strings that supposedly vibrate wildly at the tiniest level of matter? Well, I feel like Jeff and the kids and I are kind of like that---vibrating hither and yon in our rush to get up, get showered, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, comb hair, do makeup (one of us, at least), find and put on shoes, bundle up in 12 layers of winter gear, gather bags and toys and food, head out the door, and battle traffic to my sister's house and then to work. Throw in meltdown management and diaper emergencies for extra fun. Jeff's mornings are much more stressful than mine; he drops the kids off at Kathie's, and the route from our house to hers to the train station is quite circuitous. His commuting time has almost doubled from what it was before we had kids.

So, Jeff and I are both looking forward to a much more relaxed morning routine. And I welcome the opportunity to avoid being in such a rush that I grab the first tube of cosmetic goo I see and slather it all over my face, only to realize after about 2 weeks of doing so that I have been applying eye cream, not moisturizer, to my entire face.

--A cleaner house. The chaos to which we've become accustomed is stupefying. Although I dislike housework and don't plan on engaging in it too deeply, I will find it deeply satisfying to pick up all the clutter and keep some of the cruddiness at bay.

--In general, greater domestic tranquility. That's not difficult to achieve, is it?

*Hmm.... The last three post titles have been quotes from other sources. Lazy writer! Next time I'll pull together something original.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

What, Me Worry?

When I am staying at home with the kids, I worry, among other things,

--That I won't be good enough. I don't want to be just present in my kids' lives; I want to be thoroughly engaged. I want to be creative and resourceful and compassionate and kind. And funny and entertaining, too. What if I'm not up to that challenge? What if staying home brings all my parenting flaws into sharp relief, with damaging consequences?

--That I (meaning the non-mommy parts of Suzanne) will disappear. Not long after Sean was born, my mother-in-law said, jokingly, "When you become a mother you lose your identity." I know that the context and tone of that statement were not serious, but it has really stuck with me. Although I am proud beyond measure to be Sean and Allison's mother, I am much more than that.

--That I'll be bored, that the sum total of my existence will be reduced to endless stretches of days like this. [Edited to add: I don't know why this link doesn't work; if you're really interested, go to the November 6 2004 post.] [Edited again: It works now. Thanks, Anne, for the HTML troubleshooting!]

--And, thus, that I will lose my mind.

--That I won't be able to resume my career at the same stage at which I am leaving it. It's not like I'm some big muckety-muck in the publishing world. But I have a nice job with a fair amount of responsibility, and I don't want my decision to stay at home to set me back to the level I was toward the beginning of my career. I guess anyone on the Mommy Track fears the same thing.

Lest you think I'm just full of doom and gloom about staying at home, my next post will cover some things I'm looking forward to.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Wow! What a great surprise. I just return from battling the hordes at the grocery store (in this particular neck of the Mid-Atlantic woods, three snowflakes on the ground = impending apocalypse), log on to my computer, and see that I'm Michele's site of the day! And here I thought it would never happen to me....

Thanks so much to everyone who has left me such kind and encouraging comments so far. I'll have a lot more to say about my upcoming transition as the weeks progress. Now, I have to run---must get back to my other job as Nap Officer!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Hurry Up Please, It's Time

I gave my notice at work yesterday.

Almost 3 years after becoming a mother, I've decided to stay at home with the kids. It's actually something I've contemplated ever since I became pregnant with Sean. After my maternity leave with him, however, I couldn't imagine staying at home with a baby. My baby, in particular. Sean the infant was, how shall I put it, a rather unhappy camper. At the end of 4 months of tending to what seemed to be ceaseless crying (his and mine!), I welcomed the respite of work.

Once I returned to work, Allison arrived in short order (yes, I know, VERY short order), and her infant self was equally crabby, albeit at a different time of day. Sean's crankiness occurred during the day, and Allison's flat-out colic was on full display from 8:00 to 11:00 every single night. By the time my maternity leave was over, the colicky period had played its course and evenings were much more manageable. This time, I wasn't especially enthusiastic about resuming work.

So I started mapping out a plan. How would we manage financially if I stopped working? Although in my current position I manage the editing and production of a journal, before that I was a copyeditor. In addition to editing during my day job, I also did quite a bit of freelance editing. And that seemed to be the answer: I could stay home with the kids and freelance part time.

Jeff and I spent a lot of time sorting through the logistics, and we think we're going to be okay. Things will be a little tight, but I'm not too worried. (Famous last words.)

I've been paying a lot of attention to recent blog discussions on day care, and choices, and judgmentalism. I've always been a wee bit sensitive and defensive about my decision to work, especially because none of my friends continued working after having children. Yet in making the decision to quit my job, I'm not changing my opinion that there is nothing wrong with being a working mother. If you are loving, if your priorities still focus on your children, if you can obtain nurturing child care, then your children will be fine.

Jeff and I have been extremely lucky in terms of child care---my sister Kathie watches Sean and Allie. She provides home day care for a few other children, and has more experience with caring for children than I'll ever have. Knowing that she loves my children and that their days are spent in a warm, caring environment has helped assuage some of the inevitable working mother's guilt.

Our plan now is for my sister to watch the kids 2 days a week; on those days, I'll work (assuming I can regain some clients, that is!). For now, it's business as usual. I'll keep working until the first week of April.

I wonder how I'll like staying at home? I have a few specific concerns, which I'll write about in another post. Mostly, though, I'm excited about this upcoming change. Any words of wisdom from those in the trenches?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Our company has left, and as always I'm sad to see them leave. Jeff's parents and his sisters stayed with us this weekend. I really enjoy their visits, especially because Sean and Allison so clearly adore their grandparents and aunts. When they were all leaving, I think Sean was overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle and by the prospect of saying goodbye---he wouldn't even give anyone a hug; he just looked at them out the window as they packed the car and drove away.

After they left, he asked me no fewer than 20 times, "Where Nana and Granddad? Where Aunt Natalie? Where Aunt Jamie?" Each time I had to give the full explanation: "They had to take Aunt Natalie back to school and then go back to their house." If I didn't include the first part, he'd correct me: "Mommy, they had to take Aunt Natalie back! THEN go home."

A rational person might ask why he continued to ask the question. But as I've discovered, to the toddler mindset rationality is a concept that lacks resonance. So I just answer the question.

I had off today, and it was one of those almost-perfect days that make me feel I am the most competent parent with the most charming, well-behaved children on earth. To top it off, right before bathtime Sean was helping me put new sheets on the bed as Jeff got changed after work (by "helping", I mean that he sat on top of the bed and put the pillowcases on top of his head like a cape). At one point, he exclaimed, "We're best friends!" Pointing at each of us, he said, "Daddy, Mommy, Allie, and Sean. We're best friends. I love you!"

It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Curse of Bland Appetites

Have I mentioned that I hate cooking? I'm not very good at it, either (a nice confluence, I suppose, and if I were more introspective I’d examine the direction of causality here).

For starters, there's my technical limitations. I can whip up basic stuff, but any recipe that requires multiple steps and juggling of multiple cooking temperatures and times exceeds my skill set. A quote from a local newspaper columnist made me laugh because it could easily describe me: "You don't cook. You heat things up!" For Jeff and me, a typical dinner is baked chicken breast, rice, and steamed broccoli. Yawn, I know. And of those three items, I eat the chicken, plus a raw carrot.

Which brings me to another stumbling block on the path toward culinary sophistication: my impressively limited palate. I know I've complained about Sean's pickiness, and I really can't put myself in the same class as someone whose only acceptable dinner options currently are 1) oatmeal, 2) noodles, and 3) a baked potato. That said, I have always been a picky eater: I don't like any fruit except apples, and I eat about three vegetables. It's hard to find diverse recipes for the types of food that I like. Oddly enough, though, I love to read about food: cookbooks, restaurant reviews, recipes---even if they discuss foods I dislike, I enjoy reading them (except sushi; I just can't get behind that at all.)

Point the third: Jeff is picky, too. He definitely likes a broader array of food than I do, but he also prefers that his food be prepared simply: no sauces, no cheese, as little co-mingling of foods as possible (stir-fry is okay; stew is not). He's about as far away as you can get from being a food snob (for someone like me, that's not a bad thing at all!). His basic philosophy toward food is utilitarian: he feels that it should involve as little effort as possible to prepare. This goes a long way toward explaining why we can get away with eating cereal and sandwiches for dinner more nights than I care to admit.

I've felt a slight spark in the cooking department because Allison has such a hearty appetite. For her, I get to fiddle about with some kid-friendly recipes that Sean would never deign to consider. Even Allison, though, is prone to fickleness. She sometimes accepts what I prepare and other times refuses it. If the rejected food is something I've spent some time cooking, I am supremely irritated.

Here's my long-term goal: When the kids are older and Sean's eating habits have improved (I am optimistic that they will, darn it!), I am going to cook a reasonably nutritious dinner for all four of us four nights a week. There. I've committed it to writing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

There's Hope Yet

As it turns out, my fear that Allison would spurn books forever may have been slightly premature.

Allison is very active, as I think I've mentioned once or twice. Whenever I'd try reading to her, she'd wriggle out of my lap, grab the book from my hands, and either throw it or bang it on a nearby flat surface.

Just in the past week, though, she's taken an interest in having me read to her. She'll bring over a book and put it at my feet, sit down, and wait, more or less impatiently, for me to read it to her. Right now, we're concentrating on the Sandra Boynton canon. She isn't interested in any other books---she'll toss those aside derisively. If it isn't Pajama Time or But Not the Hippopotamus, don't bother.

In other ways, she's showing surprisingly refined literary taste. Sean's been enamored by Caillou: The Birthday Party, a dull, charmless book that's even more dull and charmless than the TV show. So we read it over and over again, or we did until Allison shredded it. Now there are brightly colored pieces of glossy paper scattered about the upstairs; somehow I find that kind of satisfying. Maybe I should let Allison loose on some other uninspired children's books....

Sean's taking the destruction of his book pretty well, perhaps because we've already told him we'd buy him another copy.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

So Advanced

I leave the room for a few seconds and come back to find that Sean is already surfing the Web. Did you know there are no hits on Google for

xdwwkjmjjjjjjhhhdjjdjuuuuuuuuuujnjjjjjjjjjjjxjjjxjjm,;;;; ;;;;;;;;;;;;


Friday, January 07, 2005

The Couple That Snarks Together . . .

Just finished watching the extended, super-duper-long version of Return of the King (one of my Christmas presents to Jeff). We love The Lord of the Rings trilogy, honest. But the movies can get a bit ponderous in spots, and we find that a series of well-timed snide remarks makes the viewing experience that much more enjoyable.

Jeff and I work well together that way. I can't say we're especially clever, but I love our inside jokes and completely disrespectful allusions to other movies. During one of those Frodo-reunites-with-the-gang scenes, for example, with the Hobbits cavorting and erupting in joyous laughter, Jeff begins mimicking the maniacal laughter scene in Austin Powers. Ha! Dr. Evil and Frau Farbissina in Rivendell.

Okay, it was more funny in person, but still.

Happy weekend!

This proposed legislation in Virginia is one of the most outrageous, offensive things I have ever heard of. From Democracy for Virginia:

It sounds preposterous to talk about criminalizing women who suffer miscarriages, but one Virginia legislator is proposing just that. HB1677, “Report of Fetal Death by mother, penalty” is a bill introduced by John A. Cosgrove (R) of Chesapeake. Cosgrove’s bill requires any woman who experiences “fetal death” without a doctor’s assistance to report this to the local law-enforcement agency within twelve hours of the miscarriage. Failure to do so is punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

I don't live in Virginia, but I think it's important for everyone to know about this. This isn't a partisan, pro-choice vs. pro-life issue. As the amazing getupgrrl wrote:

I have to believe that any woman who's ever lost a much-wanted pregnancy - any woman who's refused to accept the news of an impending miscarriage even though her doctor has pointed out the tellingly slow heartbeat, who's mourned that loss with her husband in the privacy and safety of her home, who's withheld the news of subsequent pregnancies from her family for fear of another miscarriage - would find the idea of choking out her most private grief to Sergeant Friday under the threat of legal prosecution to be completely outrageous.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Oh, As Usual, Dear (or, There Is a Great Big Buffy-Sized Hole in My Life)

I'm not a big TV watcher these days. That's not an especially lamentable state of affairs, except that the only things I'm doing to fill the space once occupied by excessive TV watching are 1) getting my kids to fall asleep, 2) sleeping, and 3) getting my kids to go back to sleep.

This too shall pass, I know. But when the time comes that my evenings can be spent on more productive or enjoyable tasks, there still won't be anything to watch. Not like back in the day---you know, the day when ER wasn't a joke, when The West Wing was still being written by Aaron Sorkin, when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was, well, around.

I miss Buffy.

It's pathetic, really, that I still miss a show that's been off the air for almost 2 years. But I haven't seen anything out there since that comes even close to matching it. No, I don’t have HBO, so no Sopranos or Six Feet Under for me. Yes, I concede that the last season of Buffy was just cataclysmically bad. And yet.

I never descended too far into the online realm of the Buffyverse (it’s kind of scary in there), but my semi-obsession provided ample fodder for gentle ribbing on Jeff's part. Now that so much time has passed since the last show, I'm no longer obsessing. That's a good thing. And maybe Joss Whedon will surface again with another brilliant TV show and equally brilliant writing. Till then, what's a gal to do? Oh, right---fall asleep in my son's room to the soporific tunes on his lullaby CD.

Monday, January 03, 2005

My Daughter, Myself

One aspect of raising children that fascinates me is the ongoing process of personality development. Ever since Sean and Allie were newborns, I've eagerly observed how their demeanors, traits, and habits are unfurling over time.

Sean is the cautious one---he's fastidious, careful, deliberate. He tends to be a little shy, but he's cheerful and so sweet it nearly breaks my heart sometimes.

Allie has catapulted her way through her short life. She's pretty young, but already I can see that she is intense, determined, carefree, fearless. She's a bit of a drama queen (the kicking tantrums have begun already), and, unlike her brother, has a voracious appetite----when she wants something to eat, she walks over to her highchair and shakes it. My mother looks at her in bemusement and says, "She's nothing at all like you, is she?"

Nope, not really. I guess the wishy-washy, shy, reserved gene is recessive.

Part of me is so pleased that I have a strong-willed daughter. I want her to be assertive and confident throughout her life. Yet I also sometimes wonder if temperamentally I am at all suited to raising such a child. Among the many words that do not in any way describe me are "assertive" and "confident."

Are such projections just silly at this point? How well do a 15-month-old's personality traits map to later personality? And why am I more concerned about how I will relate to my daughter as she grows up than I am about how I will relate to my son?

(As usual, I must put deeper reflection on hold as I venture once more into Sean's room to determine the source of the BANG BANG BANG THUMP THUMP THUMP sounds emanating therein. Experience would suggest that Sean may not yet be asleep.)

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Ironically, since one of my New Year's resolutions, if I actually made any, would be to write more frequently, I haven't felt like writing at all. This is partially due to the devastation and horror of the tsunami---my usual whining and navel-gazing seem ludicrous to me right now.

Another reason is that I've been, like, so busy. In addition to traveling, Jeff and I were off all last week (both our companies were closed), and keeping the kids occupied despite the glut of new toys has sucked up all my time.

And finally, I'm just lazy. More later*, I promise!

*Deliberately vague terminology.