All done.

Not to brag, but sleep was something I was always good at.  According to my mom, I was a natural from an early age.  With talent comes responsibility.  I needed a lot of sleep, and I usually got it one way or the other.

I was apprehensive about parenting because I knew my sleep intake would take a hit.  Of course, it did. With Buzzy, we went through bleary-eyed days.  I consulted the sleep canon of Ferber and the No-Cry people, and eventually we worked it out so that we were reasonably well-rested. Buzzy even, God bless her, adapted to our late morning life style and slept in from time to time.

Then.  Then came Rosie.  You've seen Nightmare on Elm Street?  Ha!  Freddy Krueger is no match for my daughter.  Rosie loved to cozy up and snuggle, but woe to the person who dare lay her down.  We'd rock and sooth 'till her crazy curly eyelashes slooooowly dropped, only to have them pop open just as her body relaxed.  Bleary-eyed days turned into grimly-exhausted weeksmonthsyears.

After she turned one, I tried cry-it-out, modified, then not-so-modified.  You've seen Poltergeist?  Yeah.  Nothing compared to the screams coming from her room.  She screamed 'till she was hoarse, then kept going.  (Did I mention she has a bit of a temper?)  I read the attachment theories, which are lovely and all, but a bit impractical if you have another child or want to shower from time to time.  Nevertheless, I tried it for a while.  My child is so attached I think she would crawl back into the womb if she could.  After some deliberation, I decided that full-on attachment parenting wasn't the answer for me.  Turns out, I need a little space. 

She didn't sleep through the until she was 21 months old, which means I've gone over a year and a half without real rest.  You've seen pictures of how the presidency ages people exponentially?  I look like I've been running the entire G8 since the day she was born.

After my recent weeks of regular sleep, I started to feel more human again.  Household tasks, like packing lunches and making dinner and even throwing in a load of laundry, no longer made me weep.  I even organized a closet and wrote a blog post.  Were there no heights to which this mommy could not climb?

Alas, it was not to be.  It could be her teeth (again), her stomach (again), the phase of the moon (again), the fact that she's entering the terrible twos, or God-only-knows (again).  But, she's taken to screaming every time she approaches her crib.  My patience, however, is gone.  I've been letting her scream (after ascertaining that, despite appearances, no one is sticking pins into her and that she has a clean diaper).  Something may well be wrong, and she may be trying to tell me something, but she's going to have to save it for her future therapist, because I can't do it any more.

Boo (hoo) Halloween

Halloween, when I was a kid, meant a home-made costume.  It meant a trip to Minnesota Fabrics, fittings and pins, and "hold still!"  It meant that we had some of the cutest costumes in our classes, but that I had an eight-year-old's guilty envy towards classmates who had store-bought costumes (which, come to think of it, echoed my feelings towards kids with store-bought birthday cakes.  I knew mine tasted better, but those gorgeous frosting roses were enticing).

As I've grown into mothering a bit and found myself responsible for how our family celebrates holidays, I've developed a real aversion towards holiday juicing.  It seems that mid-September through January is one giant festivus marked by store-bought, blinking tablescapes, inflatable lawn decorations and too much cheap candy.  Bah. Humbug.

I also realize I'm a total lunatic.  Accordingly, I don't care or judge what other families do, decorate, eat or wear.  We even enjoy driving around to gape at everyone else's lawn decorations. Then I enjoy breathing a sigh of relief and walking through my rather Spartan Indian-corn bedecked front door.

Hmmm... as I type this, I realize I may be less a humbug and more just lazy.  But, let's stick with the principled stance.

Not surprisingly,  I fall into the homemade costume camp.  I don't sew, so it's a bit challenging and I save my energy for babies too small to know what they are wearing or children old enough to somewhat appreciate it.  All that to say is that I bought a used costume for Rosie this year off my mommy list-serve.

Last year, Buzzy was a home-made ladybug.  As she took off her wings, she declared that next Halloween, she would be a kitty.  We smiled and tucked her in.  A couple weeks ago, I asked what she wanted to be this year and she looked at me like I'd forgotten her name.  "A kitty."  Specifically, as it turned out, "A pink, brown and white kitty with a tutu."

After a trip to G Street Fabrics, some how-to Googling and minimal swearing, I produced a cat costume. With her school party tomorrow, I tried her ensemble on her tonight.  She looked adorable.  Until she burst into tears.

"What's wrong, honey?"  I thought maybe I left a pin in somewhere.  But the problem was more elemental.

"I don't want to be a kitty this year."

"Oh.  Um, what would you like to be?"

"A princess," she wailed.  "Or Annie."

Hmmm...  one grandmother gave her a Disney Princess Belle costume for her birthday (ahem, the one who NEVER bought her own children store-bought costumes) and the other grandmother bought her an Annie costume for her birthday.  Buzzy is sort of musical-obsessed, and Annie is latest in the line-up.

Halloween, when I was a kid, meant I had no idea that I could change my mind after the trip to the fabric store.  I, however, assured Buzzy that she could be whatever she wanted for the school party, for a costume party on Saturday, and for Halloween itself.  She was worried I'd be sad, but I promised that she would not hurt my feelings one bit if she didn't chose the kitty.  I wasn't lying, either.  But--remembering the perfection of those frosting roses on my friends' birthday cakes--I do question how to foster an appreciation of original and creative things when the alternatives are so enticing.

Well, here's what I do know, at least:
(1) I should have focused my energy on Rosie--she's destructive, yes, but generally still amenable to my clothing choices, and
(2) I should have made Buzzy watch Cats before busting out my sewing scissors.

Happy Halloween! 

Four (Otherwise Known As the Birthday when I Abandoned All of My Principles).

If you ask Buzzy how she's doing, she'll enthuse, "I'm FOUR!"

Four years ago, I asked family and friends to go easy on the pink. I rolled my eyes at the Disney Princess Industrial Franchise. I envisioned wooden toys lovingly hand-carved, and one shelf to contain all of them. I planned to feed her whole foods, with sugar limited to an occasional treat.

Three years ago, Buzzy ate her first piece of home-made cake on her birthday. Her toys still fit on a couple of shelves. Pink crept into her closet, but there was nary a Disney character in our home.

Two years ago, Buzzy chowed down on cake and ice cream, and asked for seconds. We bought more storage for the playroom to contain a variety of plastic toys.

One year ago, Buzzy invited friends to celebrate her birthday with her. She devoured cake and ice cream, and licked the frosting off the candles. Her toys spilled out of the playroom, and we started finding My Little Ponies behind the sofa cushions. She only wore pink and purple.

One week ago, Buzzy invited her entire class, playgroup, and assorted family friends to her fourth Princess Birthday Party, which she'd been planning in detail for over six months. She wore a pink Belle costume, polyester and sparkly. There was a bouncy house, a face painter (who came with the bouncy for thirty bucks), a pinata, a six-foot square plastic sign of Belle, Cinderella, Snow White and one of the new princesses whose name I do not know that read, "Happy Birthday, Princess!" There was a conventional grocery store-bought cake with Crisco frosting and light-up princesses on it. 

And there was one very, very happy little girl. . .

And a mother who realized that it was worth eating a little crow to see the look of absolute joy on her daughter's face.

Four Months Later, Or

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

1) I grew a toddler, so, yeah, the vacation's over.  Rosie started walking (of sorts), so I've got a dainty-gaited kamikaze stepping about, launching herself from the sofa and trying to do pull ups on the countertops.

2)  The toddler started chatting.  She has no use for the "L" sound.  Normally, this wouldn't be a problem for a couple more years at least, except she also developed an affinity for a little stuffed Elmo doll.  Or, as she calls him, "Homo."  She was very popular when we vacationed in lovely Rehoboth Beach, home to many a rainbow-flag bedecked store.  Whenever Rosie dropped Elmo, she cried, "Uh-oh, Homo!"  Oh, the distress in her voice, when poor Elmo hit the street.  Oh, the number of times he fell.  I was both horrified and mortified, as only the mother of a toddler can be.

3)  Buzzy turned, as she would tell you, "three and three quarters."  Which means, as she would tell you, that she knows a lot of things.  Sometimes she thinks she knows more than her mama.  So, that's been fun. 

4)  Buzzy encountered Mean Girls for the first time.  Greg dropped her off at a summer program she attended for a few mornings each week, and reported that two little girls had run up to embrace Buzzy upon her arrival.  But the tides turned by lunch time.  When I stopped by the Brown Room to take her home, she was mopey.  I asked her what was wrong, and she quavered, "Chloe said I couldn't play princess with them because I wasn't wearing a dress." 

I wasn't expecting to deal with cliques much before fourth grade, but I said something along the lines of, "Oh, honey, she's being silly.  You can pretend to be a princess no matter what you're wearing."  Buzzy shook her head, crying.  "She said I had to be a BOY and wear BROWN PANTS."  In my pink-loving, tutu-twirling little girl's world, being a boy who had to wear pants was bad enough, but nothing in her three and three-quarters years had prepared her for brown.  She burst into tears.  "Chloe and Abby said I couldn't play with them."

I soothed and distracted and finally got her settled, then fired off an email to the camp director, asking if they could remind the three year olds to play nicely with all of their friends.  Three year olds!  Sheesh.  Apparently, Chloe and Abby have a bit of a history.  And they are on my list.  Forever.

5)  Mostly, though we enjoyed a lazier pace with family and friends.  Lots of beach time, as the sand in the crevices of my car will attest for the duration of its existence.  While traveling with a todder who still doesn't sleep through the night has its challenges, and I am more sleep deprived than I've ever been in my life (which may be why I can't remember more things we did this summer), I'm beginning to see the time when raising my charges may get a little bit easier--at least physically.  Chloe and Abby indicate that other arenas are about to get a whole lot more challenging.

Almost Famous

I am exactly one lost set of keys away from losing it.  This morning, I sailed through the feeding, dressing, "Yes, I'd prefer it if you wore matching socks to school, but it is your choice"-ing, lunch packing, and general maintenance of my charges.  We were even set for an on-time preschool arrival, which rarely happens (if Trinity Preschool handed out tardy slips, she'd have racked up some serious detentions already).  I had the audacity to congratulate myself as I handed Buzzy her lunch bag.  Then I reached for my keys. . . .

There are no atheists in foxholes or among mothers trying to get their kids out the door, but the problem with being a lapsed-Catholic-turned-almost-lapsed-Episcopalian is that you forget the go-to saint in these situations.  (Apparently, St. Joseph is not the guy.  I'm sure he has other talents, but timely key location is not one of them.)  I tore the house apart.  I implored Buzzy to help Mommy find the keys.  I interrogated my 16-month-old to determine if she was responsible.  She denied everything.  I went through the laundry.  I de-cushioned the sofa.  My keys had vaporized along with my cushion of time.

We were seriously late.  Not only was Buzzy missing school, but Rosie was missing her music class--the highlight of her week and my favorite parenting activity.  I searched unsuccessfully and wondered what kind of mother causes her kid to miss school because she can't find her keys.  'The dog ate my homework' carries more weight.        

A frantic hour passed.  My search revealed additional evidence of my parenting and housekeeping flaws: unsorted laundry, stinky kitty litter, stacks of papers to be organized, the teetering tower of books on my bedside table.  I tried hard to stop crying on the stairs.  Why is this so hard? I only have two kids, for Pete's sake.  What is wrong with me?

The kids picked up on my tension despite my super-phony assurances that everything was fine.  Buzzy pretended that she lost her plastic necklace, and she got angry.  "That's not famous," she yelled, causing Rosie to cry.

"What?  Buzzy, that doesn't even make sense."  I snapped at my three year old.

"Famous means nice."  She explained.  Whatever.  I didn't have the energy to set her straight.  "Famous means nice" it is. 

I gave up on the keys.  "Change of plans!" I announced cheerfully in my super-phony voice.  We took a walk.  We bought a fancy coffee for mama and muffin for the littles, and we all watched the water fountain, and we felt better.  My normal voice returned.  "Mommy, you're famous," Buzzy said.  I didn't correct her this time.  Instead, I reflected how thankful I am that we live so close to things like fancy coffee and water fountains, and that it wasn't raining today.  We ate the lunch I packed for Buzzy as a picnic and returned home.  I stuck Rosie in her high chair to eat a little more before her nap.  As I picked up her bib from the kitchen table, my keys clattered to the floor.

Buzzy laughed.  Rosie laughed because her sister was happy.  I did not laugh.  But I'm working on it.

Old Habits

A thousand years ago, when I used to be a lawyer, I'd dash into Starbucks for my caffeine fix and sometimes see them.  Mommies, enjoying a latte, glancing at the newspaper while their little one chewed a scone or slept in a stroller.  "Who are those women?" I'd wonder, as I calculated how many tenths of an hour I'd have to make up in exchange for my coffee break (.4).  "What lives they must lead.  No deadlines, no stress. . . ."  Then I would grab my coffee, which I drank without sugar to avoid standing in line for condiments (.1), and hustle back to the office.

Fast forward.  I've scuttled my career and have kids in tow.  But I still gaze at those women sipping their coffee, flipping through the paper  checking their iPhones, and wonder about their lives.  Because my trips to the coffee shop look a little different. 

Today, we had no adult food in the house and I hadn't eaten when I picked Buzzy up from preschool at 1:00, so I planned to grab lunch, and pick up some bread and milk at the local coffee shop/bakery/wanna-be hipster hangout.  But before we left preschool and its Lilliputian potties, I asked Buzzy if she had to use the bathroom.  She said no.  I asked if she was sure.  She was.

At the coffee shop/bakery, I ignored Buzzy's whines for a cookie, ordered soup for myself and a scone for the kids, and sat us all down.  To protest my cookie veto, Buzzy repeatedly threw her coat on the floor and picked it up.  When that grew old, she announced she had to go to the bathroom.  I strapped the baby into her stroller, and we navigated the crowded shop. 

"I have SO MUCH POO!" Buzzy's three year old voice piped clearly.  The crowd of hipsters parted like the Red Sea.  She wasn't kidding, either, and sat on the potty for the long haul.  She would have settled in with the Times if she could read.

After five minutes, I had to ask.  "Honey, are you done yet?" 

"No! I have more poo!" she said in a voice that carried well past the thin door separating us from the seating area.  Rosie wasn't happy about being stuck in the stoller in the bathroom stall and started to wail.  I began to wish for reading material of my own.  Fifteen minutes later (.3), we finally left the bathroom. 

My soup was stone cold, and a family of three was now sharing the other end of the table.  They were all reading quietly--the father was halfway through Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, and the mother had something that looked equally serious.  Buzzy, mood much improved after camping out in the potty, started chattering to Rosie.

It must be shared that Buzzy has the innocent and unfortunate habit of calling Rosie 'pussycat'.  (We traced it back to Rosie's love of cats and Buzzy's book of nursery rhymes, which includes one about a pussycat going to London to visit the queen.)  Actually, it's no secret after today. 

"How's my little pussy?" Buzzy called to the baby in her high chair.  The family of three looked up from their books in unison. 

"Is my little pussycat hungry?" She shoved part of the scone in her sister's mouth.  "Does my little puss want more?"

Time to leave the cold soup and to get my loquacious preschooler out.  Halfway to the door, I realized I'd forgotten the bread (upon which my grand dinner plan of grilled cheese sandwiches depended), so I quickly returned to the counter to buy a loaf.  In lieu of lunch, I also bought a cup of coffee.  I still drink it without sugar to avoid standing in line for condiments.  Sometimes, .1 of an hour is just too long.

Simply Irresistible

Rosie's climbing stairs, cruising between the sofa and the very pointy-cornered coffee table, and trying to pull up on everything from the cat to random strangers' legs at the library. This baby took her sweet time deciding to move, so we're relieved to see her motor around--and, hey, if she makes some new friends while doing it, all the better.

The unexpected fall out is that Buzzy is jealous now, over a year after Rosie hit the scene. None of her projects are safe, and Rosie needs more attention to avoid injury (see, e.g., climbing stairs; the very pointy-cornered coffee table). Sometimes, Buzzy plays the baby--complete with potty accidents and acting 'naughty', then pleading, "But, Mama, I'm just a baby and don't know better!" Other times, when I have to tell her 'no', Buzzy morphs into a teenager. She slams her bedroom door and yells, "I don't want to hear any more. Just stop!" I am shocked at the ferocity of her three year old temper. Of course, we are trying to curb her tantrums, but she has me fearing for the teen years already.

In the meantime, comic relief abounds between the storms. Somewhere, Buzzy picked up the phrase, "It's not fair." She uses it whenever she doesn't like something. "Mommy, it's not fair that we're having tomatoes at dinner." "Mommy, it's not fair that I have to get dressed." "It's not fair that it's raining." Life isn't fair a lot when you're three. Especially when you don't have strong grip on the meaning of the phrase.

Luckily, most of the time, Buzzy tries hard to be a good big sister. In fact, she'd like me to let her feed, dress and bathe the baby. ("It's not fair" that I don't--but, in these parts, mis-matched three year olds get indulgent smiles, but mis-matched babies just have lazy mothers.)

One task she does take seriously is accompanying Rosie up the stairs. Buzzy likes to crawl up a few steps ahead of her, glancing backwards to make sure Rosie is following. She calls it "assisting" her sister, but she pronounces it "resist."

"Mommy, can I resist the baby?" Freudian slip or three-year-old vocabulary mix up?

Personally, I can't resist either one of them--but I'm keeping a close eye on both.

The Heavy

I went to update this blog and, for one full second, could not remember its name.  A signal, perhaps, that I should post more frequently get more sleep.  At any rate, before my memory lapse, I set out to post about how sucky it is not to be the fun parent.

I am the heavy.  I am the reason there is no sugar cereal and very limited TV.  I am the reason for a reasonable bedtime, a quick bathtime, and "For God's sake, calm down", "Sit down when you eat", and "I didn't hear 'please'".  I am the one who insists on sweaters and mittens, and stainless steel bottles filled with water.  That gross organic peanut butter you have to stir the oil into?  Yep.  Greg's a Skippy man--the organic health food stuffed in our cupboards is all my doing.

I know they love me.  This is not a bid to hear that, or reassurances of how I hold their world together, blah, blah, blah.  Got it.  Believe it.  But: there is no denying the light in Buzzy's eyes when they fall on her father.  Her spirit lifts.  Even Rosie is under his spell: craning her neck to spot him when she hears heavy footsteps and calling everything "Dada."  His secret?  When he is around them, he is in their world completely.  No eye on the clock or stove, no fingers itching to log on to Facebook. 

He's been swamped at work and hasn't seen the children awake for a while.  We visited him downtown for a half hour today, as he ducked out of the conference room for some fresh air.  I had thought that Buzzy had been having a good day--we'd snuggled, we'd read, she'd danced and colored.  But, when she saw Greg standing outside his building, glee overtook her.  On our block-long walk to grab a milkshake, she clung to his hand.  At Potbelly's, she climbed on his lap.  When it was time to say good-bye, she pitched a temper tantrum on the sidewalk, "No, Daddy! Don't go back!  Don't go to your trial!" [Point of clarification: he's a lawyer preparing to go to court, he's not actually on trial himself.]

On the car ride home, I tried.  "Ooooh, look!  A crane!  I wonder what they're building?"

"Something sad."

I tried again.  "I spy, with with my little eye, something pink."

She retorted,  "Well, I spy with my sad eye something sad."

Okay, fine.  I channeled my inner Mister Rogers.  "It's okay to feel sad, honey.  It's hard to miss Daddy."  I let her wallow in it for the rest of the ride.  And then, even though I really had to go to the bathroom, I stopped at the park on the way home.  Her mood improved as she mucked around in the damp sand.  We managed to have a decent dinner and bedtime, but I didn't light the gleam in her eye.  The magic in her day was contained to that stolen half hour with Daddy.

Mommies are supposed to be calm and wise and unflappable.  They are not supposed to say "suck" outside of the context of nursing.  But, she's asleep, and I am tired, and let me just tell you that, sometimes, being the heavy really does.

Winter Adventures

It snowed.  In DC, it doesn't matter how much; the mere prospect of a few flakes is enough to close schools and, well, the federal government, too.  So you can imagine the chaos when close to a foot fell in a couple of hours that overlapped with rush hour.  Folks were stranded in traffic for up to eight hours on trips that usually took them 45 minutes.  Live wires, downed trees, no power, cars abandoned on the roads, even thunder and lightening.    

There are times when Greg and I gripe at our 'urban' bungalow's proximity to an ugly stretch of a busy road.  Two days ago was not one of those times.  Greg hopped on the Metro, walked two short blocks, and was home in 15 minutes.  Our power remained on.  He shoveled.  Buzzy built a snowman.  And dumped a container of sequins over it.  Who needs a corncob pipe when there are sequins?

The next day, I was determined that the girls get out there and enjoy the winter wonderland.  We bundled up.  Then we had to go to the potty.  Then we bundled up again.  Approximately 50 minutes after the process started, we headed outside. 

"Sledding" consisted of me pulling Buzzy in a sled up our unplowed street while wearing Rosie.  We finally found a teensy-grade hill, but Buzzy seemed a little hesitant.  I forced her down a couple of times; she said it was fun but she was ready to go home.  Then she freaked out because a couple of random snow clumps were in her sled.  Then she insisted on taking off her mittens.  Then the sled ran over her bare hand.  Then we came home.  The end. 

Happy Birthday Epiphany Baby!

Every new year's eve, I'm struck by how silly our measurements of time are.  Someone decided the year would turn at the end of December, but (as I often reflected while picking through slush in my heels trying to catch a cab on NYE) they really could have just as easily picked the end of June.  Aging, too, seems arbitrary to me.  I fully expected to feel the weight of that extra digit when I turned 10, but it felt exactly like nine had just the day before.  And we all know 3 year olds who act like 18 year olds 30 year olds who act like teenagers.  At any rate, I never assigned much value to turning a year older, unless it got me a license or a drink.

Rosie, however, seems to be taking her upcoming first birthday very seriously.  She'd been coasting happily for the past six months, still waking up twice a night and not terribly interested in solid foods or moving.  I was so enchanted by her smiles and habit of clapping after I feed her that I sort of forgot that she was supposed to be crawling and pulling up on furniture and wrecking Buzzy's projects.  But, a couple weeks ago, she finally started to accept the responsibilities incumbent upon a big one year old girl: chowing down on real food, crowing loudly, and scooting across the floor on her bottom.  We've been forcing our little drunk sailor to stand to build up her leg strength, and today she lolled against a bench and said "hi!" clear as day to one of my friends.  She loves to wave (albeit, backwards) and clap.  She loves to call for, "Da, da, da!"  ("Mama" is reserved for emergency calls to get out of the crib, but I'm frequently so close by that she does take me for granted, the little stinker.)  She's started putting random things in her mouth and has quite a temper when I fish them out.  Toddlerhood is five minutes away.

Much as I'm curious to see who this little being is, I've enjoyed her sweet babyhood so much that I hate to see it end, but that silly calendar tells me that it's time.  Happy first birthday, Rosie, and many, many, many returns of the day. 



I'm trying to ignore how those numbers remind me of a binary code (not that I'm sure what that is, exactly, other than it has to do with computer programming), and instead concentrate on shiny, fresh starts and new beginnings. I kept thinking I'd get a few minutes of time to reflect on the past year and to prepare some resolutions for the year ahead. Or, if not full-fledged resolutions, at least time to think of a word for the year--that seems to be the trendy thing to do these days. But, as I close out 01.01.11, I have no word, no resolutions, and no conclusions from the past year. Wiped out from growing two littles into functioning people, I seem to have no time and even less inclination for my own self-improvement these days. (As my flabby tummy and disorganized house attest.)

As I type, however, I'm also gazing into a room containing a little, squealing, insomniac baby who is playing clapping games with her daddy and successfully avoiding bed time. She's not crawling yet, and shows no interest in cruising, but she did sprout a tooth. Occasionally, we (lovingly) refer to her as "Swivelbutt" because she moves in an ever-widening circle anchored by her Pampers. In the past few weeks, she's really become a little person, interested in table foods and trying to carry on conversations and pull the kitty's tail. She seems to be a slow bloomer, which I am trying not to worry about. 

There will be time enough for cleaning out closets and taking Pilates. I resolve not to miss the squeals or the chance to nuzzle soft cheeks or kiss the sweet spot right under her ear. As for the three year old--she wants very little to do with me, especially when Greg (or, 'Godfodder,' as my Nutcracker-obsessed girl has been calling him for the past month) is around, but I resolve to try to enjoy her little-girlhood, and to not sell her to the circus. And to sneak kisses as much as I can (even though she already wipes them off), and to read lots of books to her, and to let her give credit to the whole wide world for teaching her things (even though it was mostly me and a little bit of Dora.) And that will have to do.