Kurbis Pie

Strangely, Thanksgiving always reminds me of Germany due to our quest to try to celebrate it when we lived there for a bit.  From the vault--a look at our pre-children lives.  Seems a lot longer than five years ago!


There's apparently a German custom that, on your birthday, you're supposed to bring cake and cookies and champagne for your office colleagues rather than have them treat you. Sort of like grade school, with alcohol. In that spirit, we decided that Greg should have a little champagne reception at his office in honor of Thanksgiving (well, really it was to provide a distraction so he could leave early to go to dinner). In the great tradition of our Pilgrim foremothers, I decided to bake cranberry orange muffins. Okay, not exactly traditional fare - but easier and more portable than turkey and stuffing. Besides, I figured the Germans wouldn't care. Greg, however, insisted on pumpkin pie for his office on Thursday.

After searching long and hard and high and low and becoming just a little weary of this wonderful holiday before it even started, I found cranberries, muffin tins, and what the guy told me was a kurbis. (There should be a little sideways colon over the "u", but I'm thankfully back to an American keyboard, so use your imagination). Kurbis means pumpkin, in case you're not up on your foreign fruit vocab. I mean, it should have meant pumpkin. It really looked like a squash to me, but my phrase book is surprisingly deficient on gourd varietals so I was in no position to argue.

I couldn't find a pie tin, but found a torte pan that seemed like it might do the trick. Well, my first-ever from scratch pie crust worked, but only because the kurbis did turn out to be a stringy squash that baked up bright, neon orange instead of rich pumpkin-y brown. It actually tasted okay (not like a pumpkin, but not bad), but even let-them-eat-muffins-me couldn't let the Germans have such misconceptions about American cuisine. Ya gotta represent, y' know? I decided to write off the squash torte and focus on the muffins.

Later that night, Greg arrived home, bearing 4 cans of canned kurbis. Apparently the grocery store next to his office rivals Sam's Club in size, and they had the elusive fruits - canned, no less. There was much rejoicing. Then, I looked at the can. Kurbis und honig (honey) und some other word I didn't know. Hmmm. A disgusting combination, but it beats a squash. Then, we tasted the contents of the can. Turns out that the mystery word was "vinegar." We were the proud owners of 4 cans of pumpkin pickled in honey vinegar.

I don't know what eating this would do to a person, let alone an entire society, but the German diet may explain a small degree of the discontent that made Germany's last 100 years what they were. Needless to say, Greg's colleagues went without pie and now probably believe that we sit around and watch that crazy NFL football and eat muffins all day. So sue me. Pie drama aside, both of our Thanksgiving celebrations were merry and bright.

In other news, my German lessons at the Goethe Institute started today. Even though I repeatedly told them (in English, of course) that I couldn't speak German and was an absolute beginner, they were very German and insisted on giving me the placement test. Diplomatic relations were re-established when they decided I didn't have to take the test after all. Staring blankly at the test for a few minutes, then asking where to sign my name proved much more effective than any discussion. Hmm. I'll be back in school every morning for 4 weeks. I'm a little bit leery because I haven't studied since law school (well, let's be honest, since before law school), but am looking forward to the days when I might be able to leave the house without my dictionary. That thing gets heavy after a while.

In sum: our boxes arrived at last; we do have some friends and are regulars on the weekly curry night circuit; Greg is working hard, but still no weekends; and let me know if you need some pickled pumpkin to put in the stockings of the not-so-good this year. We've still got 3 cans.

Good Night Already

Trying to find a toddler's sleep sweet spot is harder than pinning down the Holy Grail. Too much nap, and she's up babbling past 11:00 PM. We listen to her process her day on the baby monitor, then, inevitably, her door opens and her little p.j.-encased feet pound down the uncarpeted hallway. She periodically visits us downstairs. "I'm having trouble," she announces, before requesting food, water, stories, assistance with the potty, back rubs, a story, or a playmate. After a long day providing all of those things, I am done. I hiss at her to go back to bed. Greg's sometimes a softie, though (especially on nights when he's worked late and hasn't seen her all day), and gets her snacks as I seethe.

"Drop the nap," our more experienced friends have advised. But no nap, or too little nap, and, well, it's ugly from about 4:30 onwards. U-G-L-Y you ain't got no alibi UGLY. Every step is agony, every word is whined, she can't follow directions, and she can't self-direct. There's yelling and tears. She has me looking up boarding Montessori preschools on the no-nap days. So I'm she's we're clearly not ready to drop the nap.

I've been experimenting with shortening her nap: yesterday was one-and-a-half hours, but I heard her chatting away in her bed as I brushed my own teeth around 11:00. That's a problem because she didn't want to get up for preschool. She buried under the covers when I opened the shades, and I felt like I was trying to pry a teenager out of bed (albeit one with purple pacifier. Please God, may she not still have the pacifier in high school). Today, I woke her up after an hour and 15 minutes, and she exhibited the worst of both scenarios: a train wreck who refused to go to sleep.
I hear her up there now moaning, "Mooom-my. I'm having trouble!" And I think I'm going to forego trying to craft a conclusion to this post (because there clearly isn't one, yet), and pour myself a glass of wine, and go to bed myself. Maybe leading by example is the way to go here?

Homemade Halloween, Part II - The Elvish Curse

All good Halloween stories have sequels. You can read the first installment here.

The tutu! Who knew they were so easy to make? (Certainly not anyone who buys one from these people!) It was my most successful craft project ever, which isn’t saying much, but it really did look nice even by a more discerning standard. Flushed with success, I turned my attention to ladybug wings. And that’s when my craft karma flew the coop. (Or the Elvish pox kicked in.)

To sum:

- Five minutes into project ladybug wings: I realized that recovering feather-trimmed angel wings was a terrible idea. It took a surprising amount of brute force to rip off the original covering. When I’d finished, it looked like I'd sacrificed a flock of chickens in my living room.

- Next lesson: using red tights instead of dyed-red pantyhose was also a mistake that I might have anticipated. Tights. They were indeed. I could not get them to stretch over the wire frame. I tugged, I pulled, there was inappropriate swearing. The wire frame and my Halloween can-do spirit were getting bent out of shape.

- I enlisted Greg’s help. I love him too much to divulge how he got the red tights to stretch over the frames, but suffice to say, he loves his little ladybug very, very much.

- I cut and glued itty bitty elf boots together in 15 minutes. They took one night to dry. And just five seconds to unravel when placed on itty bitty feet.

- Realized Rosie’s first Halloween costume is in serious jeopardy. Bought cute elf hat on Etsy.

- Refocused on pointy boots. I dug out my sewing machine--itself a Herculean task, as it had been buried under the boxes we are going to unpack someday in the basement. Re-learned how to thread it. Sewed itty bitty boots together.

- Machine appeared broken. Remembered 8th grade Home Ec. teacher talking about ‘bobbins.’ Re-learned how to make a bobbin. Sewed boots together again. Cursed choice of slippery material and despaired over itty bitty size. Finally finished boots.

- Why were there still feathers everywhere?

- Tried boots on baby. Realized that I’d cut the foot openings too small even for my little elf. I could not face the sewing machine again. I cried.

- But Halloween drew nigh. It was time to try swimming on the other side of my gene pool. My mother's family may not have passed along the sewing gene, but my father, and his father before him, believed in the power of duct tape. I busted open the too-tight seams and hemmed them with silver duct tape. Et voila. I had elf boots that fit. I rejoiced.

- Lesson learned: in the future, we will go straight to duct tape.

So, after a week where meals, laundry, cleaning and recreation fell by the wayside in the name of homemade Halloween costumes, my kids were finally outfitted. Buzzy loved her ladybug get-up. And Rosie? She kicked off her boots in minutes. Her hat fell off after the first block of trick-or-treating. But she twinkled up her little grin and said something along the lines of “mamamamadadadababab”, which I’m pretty sure is Elvish for “I love you.” (More likely, she was wondering why chicken feathers still adorned all of our clothes. Or perhaps expressing a desire for a costume purchased from Target next year.)

Homemade Halloween

Gripped primarily by insanity and a bit by remembrances of Halloweens long past, when my mom took my sister and me to Minnesota Fabrics to look through the pattern books, I decided to make Buzzy and Rosie's costumes this year. Buzzy considered a puppy, a butterfly, an princess, a ballerina, a kitty, and a teddy bear before settling on a lady bug. What do those things have in common? Tutus, of course. When you are a freshly-minted three year old girl, even a Storm Trooper costume would require a tutu. As for baby Rosie, we decided to work with her ears and turn her into an elf.

Thank God that Google enables the easy mooching of others' creativity. A quick search assured me that tutus don't require sewing, which was fabulous. Despite coming from a long line of excellent sewers, my forrays into that domestic art always ended in lots of swearing and threatened violence. Google also told me that the ladybug wings could be constructed with wire hangers and white pantyhose dyed red. I wasn't too concerned about outfitting my baby elf. She had the ears and the grin. A cute hat and little pointy shoes, and I could call it done.

Off to the fabric store, where I bought the tulle and some silvery material that looked like they could be elf shoes. I dashed into the craft store and found a set of angel wings--wouldn't recovering them be much easier than trying to form old wire hangers? And Target had red tights - much easier than dying white pantyhose, right? And maybe Rosie needed a little, simple elf dress after all. I went to a fourth store and procured the felt.

"It's for my baby elf," I said to the clerk, excited by how crafty my purchases were making me feel.

The clerk appeared to be already in costume, sporting a Renaissance dress. She said something, but I didn't understand her.

"Excuse me?" I asked.

She replied, again, indistinguishably, then sighed. "I was speaking Elvish," she said. "Well, trying anyway. I asked what kind of elf she was going to be."

"Oh! Oh. Um. I don't know. Just an elf!" I wondered if I'd heard her correctly, and thought that maybe it wasn’t a costume after all.

"A Christmas elf?" she persisted.

"No. Um. Not Christmas. Just a general sort of elf." I said, aware that the line behind me was growing longer and less patient.

She looked disappointed in me. "You know, there's folklore about different kinds of elves. You should take a look."

"Okay! Will do! Thank you!" I grabbed my bags from the Elvish-speaking lady and left before she could put a pox on me.

It seems I didn’t move quickly enough. . . .

[To be continued.]


I parked, and debated throwing a coat over the two car seats in the back. As I entered the waiting room, I wondered if the other women could tell I had children. I was attending a workshop at Pulling Down the Moon, a holistic fertility center. Across the hall, there was another, more conventional fertility center. Even at 10:00 on a Sunday morning, both offices were busy, but the halls were whisper-quiet. The baby want was palpable. I tried to tread softly.

I was there at the invitation of my friend, Jenny. A writer who also wants to be a mother, Jenny holds journaling workshops to help those who are struggling with infertility. She wanted me to observe her teaching style, and I, a poor journal-keeper at best, eagerly agreed to sit in on her class. I hadn't anticipated the desperation in those rooms. I had forgotten.

Greg and I tried for a long time to have a baby. I was always healthy as a horse and not needed nor wanted much in the way of doctors beyond the usual check ups. But, after our carelessness didn't result in baby, we started counting days. Then, I cut out caffeine. My disappointment every month grew. Soon, it became desperation; the 28 days we had to wait before knowing again stretched interminably, yet I was getting older all too fast. Finally, Greg insisted we go to the specialist, and I--who had nary a cavity--was, despite my desperation, still somehow sure the doctor would laugh at us and tell us not to worry, that I still had plenty of time and things were fine. And I was wrong.

The imminent fertility specialist poked and prodded, and then exclaimed, "Whoah. Oh, boy." Which is not what you want the imminent fertility specialist to say when he is gazing at a screen of your parts previously unseen. Turns out, I harbored a fibroid tumor that was, to the best of my English-major understanding, acting as the mother of all IUDs. The imminent fertility specialist said that my fibroid (such an ugly, ugly word for an ugly, ugly thing) would require abdominal surgery to remove.

When I didn't get pregnant right away, I started to feel like my body was holding out on me. With the official diagnosis, I felt complete betrayal. I recalled grocery shopping with my mother when I was little. She had pulled a can off the shelf, then nearly dropped it in distaste. "See that?" She pointed to a swollen seam in the tin. "That bulge means these tomatoes are bad. You should never buy a can that looks like this." Silly as it sounds, I felt like that spoiled tomato sauce. I felt like Greg got stuck with a bad can.

I scheduled the surgery but researched alternatives. One book suggested that my fibroid was the result of blocked creativity. Great. I was unknowingly complicit with the fibroid. I wallowed in this for a while, wondering if the universe was trying to protect my unborn children from my lack of self-awareness. More guilt. I am good at guilt. I wondered if my fibroid represented all my guilt? This compounded the guilt.

One side benefit of major abdominal surgery is that it hurts too much to navel-gaze when it's over. Two months later, we got the go-ahead to resume our efforts. And I got pregnant on our first-but-really-hundredth try. Buzzy hit the scene nine and a half months later.

So, I am one of the lucky ones, both because I got my baby, and because, compared to many who sat in the waiting rooms and paced the halls, I got off so very, very easily. I know this. And therefore I had no standing to do what I wanted, which is to tell everyone there not to blame themselves. By all means, do the yoga and cut the caffeine and take Jenny’s excellent seminar, but do not feel guilty.

I didn't say anything, of course. But, as I push my double stroller through crowded grocery aisles, I am conscious of my good fortune. Even though Rosie still wants to eat at least twice every night, and I grumble as I stumble out of bed, I hold her milk- and sleep-heavy body for a couple of extra seconds, breathing in my blessing. I half-laugh through gritted teeth that I signed up for this when Buzzy breaks down in hysterics, pushing me away because, "I want Daddy. I like Daddy best."

Yes, I signed up. Those women and the whisper-quiet halls reminded me again how lucky I am to be so sleep deprived.

Back to School

So, September. Last year, at not-quite two, Buzzy wasn't eligible for most preschools in our town, but I wanted her to have a constant in her life when the baby arrived, so I found a Mothers' Day Out program run by a Baptist church that met two mornings a week the next town over.

I guess it's not surprising that the Baptists went for full immersion from Day 1. On her first day, she met her teachers, all of her classmates, and the world without mommy all at once. She was crying when I picked her up--and not because she wanted to stay, but more because she couldn't keep it together for one more minute. She was in tears at every pick up for the next five weeks. Just when I was ready to pull her out of class, she settled in. Buzzy eventually ended up enjoying herself, most of the time, but I never thought she wholeheartedly loved it, and I always wondered if I was wrong to keep sending her.

This year, I looked for something closer to home. We were lucky enough to get a lottery spot at a lovely preschool run by the Presbyterians. They eased her in slowly. First, just she, Greg and I went in to meet the teacher and see her new room. Her first morning of school lasted only an hour, and only four of the eight children attended at once. When her first full morning rolled around, she had already grown attached to her teacher and the felt board. At pick-up time, the other children ran to their mommies, hugging their knees and brandishing their artwork. Buzzy glaced up at me and returned to the felt board. I couldn't get her to leave.

What a difference a year makes. We're both older and more experienced. I think we're also better suited to the kinder, gentler introduction. It's a wonderful feeling knowing that she loves school, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. But I sort of miss the knee-hugs.

There's No Place Like Home. Really.

I grew up outside Chicago in a green and leafy suburb. Wheaton boasts a cute downtown, friendly post office employees, tight zoning restrictions and a ban on overnight street parking. The first time Greg visited my hometown was the Fourth of July. As we ambled over to Main Street to watch the parade, he looked around at the kids in patriotic hair bows and the families who'd left lawn chairs along the curb to stake out their spots, and he said, "You grew up in Disneyworld."

My current address, outside Washington DC has, shall we say, a slightly grittier feel. At least, our neighborhood does. We're off a main drag that's home to a couple of gas stations, used car lots and a 7/11. I'm somewhat hopeful because a yoga studio just opened up where Curves used to be. That seems like gentrification, but I really do miss the restrictive zoning and overnight street parking ban.

Several of my friends have stayed in or returned to Wheaton to raise their families, so when I visit, it's easy for me to fantasize what my life would be like. There would be friendly chats at the Jewel, the grocery store where you always run into someone you know. On Thursday summer evenings, my girls could run on the lawn at the town band concert. I would be able to see the doctor and dentist without waiting nine months for an appointment, and there probably wouldn't be huge waiting lists to get into a decent preschool. I wouldn't have a neighbor who (illegally) parks a rusty white van with flat tires on his unkempt property. There would be no bus fumes on my daily walks. And the babysitting would be fantastic: adoring grandparents, plus an evangelical college chock full of women who have pledged not to drink alcohol, many of whom are training for their elementary education certification.

I do recognize my wistful fantasies for what they are. While it might be easier to find a good babysitter, real life would be much the same there as it is here--and even more difficult in some ways, as our recent trip confirmed. Greg came with us to Wheaton, but worked in his firm's Chicago office every day. One morning, he boarded the express train along with a daddy who was with his two girls, around 7 and 8 years old. As Greg settled into a seat not too far from the family, he heard the father explain to his daughters, "Men are naturally superior to women. For instance, in athletics, men outperform women in every single sport (except some equestrian events, where women ride male horses). But that's okay, because girls are more organized and are better at keeping house."

You really can’t go home again, even when you go home again. My dreams of suburban bliss burst upon hearing about Greg's commute. The views expressed by that man do not represent those of Wheaton or all its citizens. Chauvinism is alive and well everywhere, and in today's crazy political climate, I'm more likely to hear that kind of conversation in DC than anywhere else. But, he tainted my daydream. I can't stop thinking about those two little girls who may believe their only hope for equality lies in equestrian events.

Ernest Hemingway described his home town of Oak Park as having "wide lawns and narrow minds." Twenty miles west, Wheaton's lawns are perhaps wider. And, apparently, there's at least one idiot who could give Oak Park a run for its money on both counts.

Oh, Captain! You're Home!

We left off in April, with visions of Sugarplum fairies dancing in my aching head due to Buzzy’s infatuation with The Nutcracker Suite. I had to do something to make the music die. But what? People who say that toddlers should be ‘redirected’ from unwanted behavior have not met my daughter. Buzzy is easily the most persistent person I know, including the man who calls every week asking if I want to receive daily delivery of the Washington Post and then feigns surprise when I threaten to cancel my Sunday subscription if he calls one more time, precarious state of the newspaper industry be damned.

I hatched my plan. She’s persistent, yes, but she’s also still shorter than me. One day, the Nutcracker DVD and CD mysteriously got lost high up on top of the TV. The next time “screen time” rolled around, I knew I had to distract her with something that had all of her favorite things: children in the cast, dancing, singing, and brown paper packages tied up with string. You guessed it. I pulled out the big guns: The Sound of Music. It had it all (plus some disturbing stuff about the Third Reich that we sidestep by simply skipping from song to song.)

Given Buzzy’s history, I was prepared for her to embrace the new show. But the degree of her passion exceeded my expectations. First, she pretended to be Gretel and sang “So Long, Farewell” as she scooted backwards up our staircase on the way to bed. Then, she sang and scooted every time she went up our staircase. Then, every time she went up any stairs at all. I had to pick her up to avoid being trampled. You may have seen us at the mall? I was the mother with a toddler who was writhing in her arms and shrieking, “I’m Little Gretel. I’M LITTLE GRETEL.”

By late May, we had the stair situation under control, but Buzzy branched out. She stopped responding to her own name, insisting we call her “Gretel.” (“’Gret’ is my nickname,” she sweetly informed me.) She renamed us, as well. Greg, of course, became “Captain.” I am “‘ Fromine’ Maria.” Rosie, the baby, is “Marta.” (Marta in the movie is actually older than Gretel, but Buzzy overlooked the age discrepancy—presumably because Gretel has more lines).

My and Marta’s names usually fall by the wayside, but Buzzy has simply stopped calling Greg “Daddy” altogether. She races to the door when he gets home yelling, "The Captain is home!" The Captain seems tickled by his new moniker. She calls him “Captain” to everyone else, too, prompting one new acquaintance to ask me in which branch of the military Buzzy’s father served.

While hearing Buzzy try to yodel is always entertaining, I don’t know how many more times I can take her trying to hit the high note in “Do Ray Mi.” I’m also worried we might get a visit from child services. As I left the house last week, I heard the babysitter ask Buzzy, “Um, exactly how often do you watch The Sound of Music?” Buzzy replied airily, “Oh, I see it when the Captain is home.” The truth is that she watches a couple of scenes a week, at most—although the CD is usually on in the car. My goal is to be ready with a new movie the day she eyes her curtains and goes for the safety scissors.

Death by Sugarplum Fairy

It was an impulse check-out of our library's copy of The Nutcracker Suite late November that started things off. Though Buzzy doesn't watch much TV, the ballet was one of my childhood favorites, and I added the DVD to our stack of books. After watching for 15 minutes, Buzzy was obsessed. She watched as often as we let her and cast the family in her living-room productions--insisting on choreography and stage blocking as true to the original as she could manage. She preferred to dance all the roles, simultaneously, but called on Greg and nine-months pregnant me to fill in for some of the corps.

After three weeks, we pried her fingers off the library's DVD and bought our own copy. Greg had a business trip to Germany before Christmas, and came home with a genuine nutcracker doll. Unfortunately, Buzzy was dancing the part of naughty Fritz that day, and promptly threw it onto the ground. (Since then, the nutcracker doll has gone through too many superglue surgeries to count.)

Tchaikovsky's music accompanied us everywhere. Baby Rosie kicked along to Act I in utero, and calmed to it after her birth. On Easter Sunday, The Waltz of the Sugarplum Fairy blasted from our car stereo as we raced to church. I realized something had to be done to preserve my sanity.

"You know, honey, The Nutcracker Suite is sort of a special Christmas-time show," I tried. "Let's put it away until Christmas comes again." Buzzy was incredulous. She insisted it was a dance for all seasons. I had to get crafty, or pull rank. I did both.

To be continued....

Summer Look

Shirt accessorized by Popsicle drips and smudgy handprints. Shoes that empty sand all over the kitchen floor. A sparkly flower tattoo finishes the look. My look. The look I just wore proudly, if somewhat obliviously, home from the park and the grocery store. (I feel that the key to pulling it all together is to keep the two year old with you at all times--it's when you run out without the kids that it really raises eyebrows).

There was no Malice Aforethought.

Let me preface this by saying that my mother cut my hair when I was little. (You see where this is going already, don't you?) I remember sitting on the tall, black stool in the basement draped in my father's shirt. I remember my mother saying, "Now, sit still." I don't, however, remember wiggling.

Fast forward several decades and a few more years for good measure. I am the mommy now. And I have a little one with a wild, exuberant, blond, curly mop. Buzzy's hair really would be her crowing glory if it weren't so often full of Play-Doh, sand and the remains of lunch. Gorgeous as it is, it's too long. I know this because her pigtails fall down by lunch time, and contain whatever she did or ate that day.

Because sedating one's toddler to cut her hair is generally frowned upon, the various professionals we've called upon for a trim haven't done a great job. Tonight, after washing out the yogurt and blueberries she had after dinner, along with a glob of peanut butter she had for lunch, I decided to try my hand at it. "How hard can it be?" I remember thinking. Remind me to abort whatever mission I'm about to undertake the next time I think that.

Buzzy promised not to wiggle. We even practiced sitting still. I brought out the good scissors (and, oh, how her eyes widened when she saw the sharp, un-child-safe blades). I combed her hair. I pinned up half of it. I snipped. All was well. I snipped again. And agai--SHE MOVED! Mid-snip! In one split-second, she took her chin-length bob to a layered look. I took a deep breath, steadied her and my shaking hand and snipped again--just as she twisted around, asking if she could play with the curls on the floor.

I finished as best I could and tucked her into bed with wet hair, fighting back tears of remorse. She was blissfully ignorant. When she saw the piles of curls on the floor, she said, "You did a good job cutting my hair, Mommy!" Oh, sweet girl. I wish everyone would judge the job by the amount of hair on the floor rather than by what remains on your head! I honestly don't know what awaits in the morning, except for a fairly certain trip to the barber.

Baby Stammtisch

Rosie thinks she can talk. She babbles from her playmat: snuffy snorts, grunts, chortles and gurgles, and excited squees. She's not terribly particlar as to her conversation partners--lately, she seems to enjoy debating her hands. She's gained enough verbal and physical control over them to direct her thumb into her mouth. Another regular to these discussions is, of course, the Baby in the Mirror. Baby in the Mirror gives as good as she gets, and kindly stops talking when Rosie, mid-conversation, drops off to nap. I don't always grasp all the nuances of Rosie's chats, although sometimes her desires are strong enough to break the language barrier. I clocked her last conversation at over 30 minutes. Can't imagine where she picked up her chatty ways, but our resident gabby girl better watch out when her baby sister replaces those squees with actual words.

Bad Behavior.

It was the end of a busy week. Buzzy's cousins had visited, and we'd all had a wonderful time, but their absence Friday morning left her out of sorts. Her behavior alternated--one minute, mopey and whiny, the next, manic and crazy with bad behavior. Note to the parenting police: I know I should say, "inappropriate behavior," but you should probably stop reading now because things are only going to deteriorate.

By Friday night, I was sick and tired all around--sick and tired of Buzzy's attitude, exhausted because I hadn't slept much, and I had such a sore throat and was so hoarse that my raspy whisper had prompted someone at the park to ask me if I was from New York. Greg had to work late. The baby was fussy. We got through dinner, bite by painful bite. Buzzy's bath, unfortunately, couldn't be skipped due to the aforementioned trip to the park. She kept turning on the cold water and shrieking in that piercing, two-year-old key when it splashed her body. I managed to keep from shrieking when it hit me, too, but the baby cried loudly from her bouncy seat in the hallway.

I gritted my teeth and figured I could make it--her bedtime and my sanity were just minutes away. But Buzzy squirmed from my efforts to dry and diaper her. I started yet another count to three, threatening the loss of her beloved story time if she didn't cooperate. Somewhere after two, she kicked her towel towards the baby. "That's THREE! You lost stories!" I roared. So much for remaining calm. Then, out of nowhere, I spanked her (undiapered and bare) bottom.

She stopped, looked at me with shock, then started sobbing. I was horrified. Buzzy had never been spanked. Generally, I don't think it's an effective form of discipline, and I don't approve of doing it in anger. So much for my principles. I stared at my distraught girl in the hallway, wanting to hug her but not sure if I would make her more upset. Then she well and truly broke my heart by coming to me and lifting up her arms for comfort.

"Oh, baby, mommy's so sorry." I murmured. "Mommy should not have spanked you like that. I should have a time out."

"But, Mommy," she said, tearfully, "You're a grown up." Oh, baby girl. Of all the ways to learn that her mommy isn't perfect and that grown ups make mistakes.

The baby continued crying as Buzzy calmed in my arms. I didn't want to leave Buzzy, but she looked at me, wearily. "Mommy, get Rosie." I went. Our bedtime routine resumed, calmly now. After I tucked Buzzy in, and her prayers were said, and we did our "good night, sleep tights", she added, "And, Mommy, try not to spank me again, 'kay?"

I recounted/confessed the events of the evening to Greg later that night. He questioned whether I should have apologized for spanking her. He's not a spanking advocate, either, but pointed out that, "Back in the day, it wasn't a big deal." I don't know. I will never forget her bewilderment that I did something wrong; causing that confusion and shaking her world seemed an injury bigger than the spanking itself. Is two too young to learn that mommies can make big mistakes? However, keeping my "Mother knows best" credentials when I'd spanked her in anger didn't seem right, either. Plus, obviously, I didn't want her to think that hitting was okay. I kept the apology simple and tried to move on quickly. I don't think I'll spank her again, and I sincerely hope Buzzy's a lot older before I demonstrate again how fallible grown ups--even mommies--can be.

Slow Learner

All I want is sleep. But I must finish feeding the baby. Then burping the baby. Baby writhes and wimpers. Try the pacifier--no dice. My pillow calls to me; I'm falling over with exhaustion, but I'm prevented by a tiny little tummy full of agony. She's only happy when completely upright. Envision a contraption that would keep her upright that would not require me to be upright as well.

Burping, burping, still burping. Her body is stiff; she wails when I set her down. Shhh, shhh, sorry baby. Back up again. Pacing, and walking, and I am so very tired. Finally, I can't help myself. I fold that tense tummy into the swing, whispering apologies, and I collapse onto the sofa. She cries--then, we both fall asleep. There's a lesson in there somewhere. . . .

Three Month Love Affair

It's that magical time of night. Buzzy snoozes upstairs, and we turn our undivided attention to Facebook, the laundry, the baby. She gets to be an only child for a couple of hours each evening. They say the second gets shortchanged on attention, which may be true, but I will say that I am savoring her sweet babyhood more than I did her sister's. Partly it's because there's a good chance she's our last baby. Partly it's because we have seen what comes next, and two is tough. But, mostly it's because she's just a doll. It's much easier to enjoy her than to write about her, but I need to record some of this before it disappears into sleep deprived oblivion.

This one smiles so easily, and has already chuckled a couple of times. She has lots of punky black hair that stick up, and ears that stick out (in a very cute way). She thinks she can talk already and coo's and oooh's right along to our conversations. She squeaks a lot in her sleep. She rolled over tonight (already!), for the first time. She still grips an offered finger in her little paws. Her eyes are blue blue blue. Unlike Buzzy, she isn't addicted to her pacifier. All of the doctors have commented on how strong she is, since day one at the hospital right on through to her shots last week. She's growing long, all too fast.

My doctor commented on how very pink she was when she was born, so I think I’ll call her Rosie on this blog. In real life, she's named for my mother--who informed me that her name was actually Rose for a while, until my grandmother changed her mind. (And neglected to inform anyone official, so my mom discovered it when she applied for her first passport and needed a copy of her birth certificate. But that's another story. Needless to say, Rosie works on a number of levels, and the poor child has a rich family history of nuttiness, which you already knew if you read this blog).

At some other time, I will record my battle involving the double stroller and the trunk of my car, the challenges of feeding one baby as the other one strips off her diaper and announces she has to go potty and needs help NOW, and the fun family times reading Those Can Do Pigs above the shrieks of an irate three month old. But, tonight, in the baby's first dedicated post, I will simply say that she's a joy and we are smitten.


“How are you doing?” In the wake of our second baby, everyone wants to know. That, and “are you ever going to blog again?” Well, this is how it’s going, and this is why I haven’t posted since the baby was born two months ago.

This morning, we were preparing to leave playgroup at our friend’s house. As I gathered the detritus of my life (sippy cups, receiving blankets, diaper bags, snack traps full of Goldfish), Buzzy spotted the front door open and darted through it. I grabbed the diaper bag, sprinted after her, and caught her by the hood of her coat on the front porch. As she strained against my grip, I turned to my friends in the doorway. “Bye, Deby! Bye-bye, Jack! Thanks for having us over!” Jack looked like he was trying to tell me something, but I didn’t pause to decipher his two-year-old chatter. We proceeded down the front walk, me grimly explaining to Buzzy just how naughty she’d been to run away. We hit the sidewalk before it dawned on me.

I forgot the baby.

“I forgot the baby!” I exclaimed. Another friend had walked out ahead of me with her son and offered me an out: “I thought you were just going to get Buzzy in the car, then go back.”

Nope. “I forgot the baby!” I gasped again. I turned to Deby, still standing in the doorway, now doubled over with laughter. “Oh, my God! I forgot her! I’ll be right back!”

I buckled the naughty big sister into her car seat, then returned to the house. “Um, does it count that I remembered before I crossed the street?” She was sympathetic, having a two year old and a new baby of her own. I picked up the car seat, where the baby seemed unaware she’d been abandoned.

So, that’s how it’s going. The baby’s been, relatively speaking, the easy part. The two year old is testing limits, pressing buttons and, even when she’s trying to be good, is so curious and fearless that I fear for her safety.

I protest to the Mothering Court of Guilt in my head that, technically, I hadn’t really left without the baby, as we were still on Deby’s property when I remembered her. But it’s a losing argument. This sweet little girl child, this rosy-posy baby who came out so pink and who smiles easily and often, will never get the attention we lavished on Buzzy. She’s the second kid. While I am savoring her babyhood so much more, I take fewer pictures and I document fewer milestones. (Even her first blog post features her older sister.)

So, how am I? Trying to balance a precocious two year old with a precious little baby doesn’t leave a lot of time for analysis, but I foresee a backlog of cases in the Mothering Court of Guilt in the years ahead.

New Year's Day.

2010 snuck up on me. I find myself sans resolutions at noon on the first day of the new decade. Getting through these last few weeks of pregnancy, celebrating the holidays and parenting a two year old with a head cold who can’t blow her nose and wakes up coughing during the night have left me just hoping we survive the next few months.

I am so grateful to be able to be pregnant, and we can’t wait to meet this new child, to find out whether it’s a boy or girl, to discover just how different a person he or she is from Buzzy. But, I don’t do well without sleep. I don’t do well when my house is messy (even though I don’t do well cleaning it, either). I don’t do well when Buzzy doesn’t do well, and of course I’m worried about how she’ll handle it all. It’s easy to anticipate the difficulties that the new baby will bring, but—not knowing this child beyond having his or her appendages lodged in sensitive places of my anatomy for the past 9 months—it’s harder for me to anticipate the joys.

Perhaps I’ll work on the positive thinking piece this year. And showering. Not necessarily in that order.