Monday, November 29, 2010

Deep Breath Monday

I'm so thankful that it's Monday again. We had a wonderful holiday long weekend, and it's likely that Thanksgiving might take Halloween's top spot in the holiday hierarchy, but four days at home (read: no preschool) can have its difficult moments. I've been trying to write about these moments all weekend, but I've found myself in a bit of writer's block. I write and write and then I read back and realize that I sound a bit like a twit, as though I'm the first person struggling with an almost three year-old who will "DO IT MYSELF." Writing about whining and meltdowns just didn't feel right this weekend, so instead I'll share my favourite moments of the long weekend:

Pie. Specifically my new favourite pie: Raspberry Peach Almond.

Alyce and Shira in their turkey hats.

Making challah for the first time with Alyce. She was a most excellent kneader. (I added an 1/2 cup of honey since I didn't put in the raisins.)

A world-class foot rub, courtesy of Matt.

Bundling up the girls and walking downtown for a slice of pizza.

My Sunday NYT that threatened not to arrive, but in the end came through. Modern Love is quickly becoming what I turn to second, after first checking out the real estate section (you know, since I'd hate to miss my opportunity to find the perfect co-op at the bargain price of one trillion dollars).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies.

The Lottery. As a Canadian, I'm new to the charter school debate, but I'm becoming quickly engrossed in it. Listening to school officials and parents trying to negotiate the terms of education, with a heavy dose of union politics, had me in the first five minutes.

Have a great week everyone! I've super busy preparing for my mum's arrival on Thursday, followed by Alyce's third birthday on Saturday. Oh, and then throw Hanukkah into the mix, and we've got a full week. But not a bad way to start of the month, no?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Week on my iPhone

It's been a good week and I have photos to prove it.

First, Shira enjoyed her first swing!

And then it got cold.

Finally, Alyce and I made challah together for the first time. It was wonderful afternoon.

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Not Yet Available in Stores

Alyce modeling the traditional turkey hat. Unfortunately they are not for sale at this time.

I hope everyone has a full belly, a warm seat on the couch, and sleeps well tonight. Happy Thanksgiving, my new American friends!

The Thanksgiving Salmon

Good morning! Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm still pretty new in these parts, so it doesn't intuitively feel like a holiday today. But I'm loving all the excitement. Canadians like thanksgiving but they like it a lot less energetically. It's always on a quiet Monday, though many people have their big dinner on the Sunday. Families get together if they don't live too far apart (maybe drive an hour or two). There are pumpkins and turkeys and pies, for sure, but the preparations are low-key. It's a nice afternoon.

There is very little that is quiet or subtle about American Thanksgiving. It's placement on a Thursday changes everything right from the start. If Thursday is Thanksgiving, then we might as well take Friday off too and make it a nice long weekend. And since Thursday and Friday are now a holiday, we should probably take most of Wednesday off, in preparation. I've heard, though not experienced first-hand, that airports are at their busiest on Thanksgiving, with people traveling across many states to spend the day with their family. And the internet? Completely filled with recipes, preparation schedules, craft projects and table settings! I follow a lot of food and cooking blogs already, but it seems that everyone, foodie or not, is contributing to the Thanksgiving excitement. I love the giddiness that comes through all these posts. If this holiday isn't intuitive for me yet, I'm still pretty excited. If we end up staying in the U.S. I think this will quickly become my favourite holiday.

So in honour of new traditions (but not in honor, that's just weird), we will watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on TV and decorate our turkey hats (you'll want to come back tomorrow for the full hat details), and eat pie with friends. Since we don't eat meat in our house, I will be preparing the traditional Thanksgiving salmon. I'm still deciding between this recipe or that one.

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dear Adviser: It's Not you. It's Me.

It's been two days since I emailed* my thesis adviser and told her that I was leaving my Phd. To be honest, I didn't say "I quit." It was more of an "I'm going to take a year and pursue other opportunities and then reassess" kind of an email. Should I feel a bit weaselly about not just coming out with it? I don't, after all, have any intention of returning to my dissertation. I don't think I do, at least.

No, I don't want to return to my PhD. I don't enjoy it and I want to move forward. But I'm learning that it is really difficult to turn away from it and not look back and try to grab hold of one little piece, just in case. This shouldn't come as much of a shock, especially since I started this quitting process months and months ago and here I am still going on about it. To you. On my blog. No one could ever accuse me of making a snap decision here. Some days I wish I had been a bit snappier about this whole thing.

I hold on to these little bits and pieces in case I've made the wrong decision, which makes all of this about the scariness of trying something new. If I tell my adviser that I'm leaving and never turning back, then my choices today become awfully real. But I think there is more to it than simply needing a back-up plan. This is about pride again. (and, of course, shame). I've spent years attached to my identity as an academic, as a soon-to-be Dr. Professor. I research and write and publish and go to conferences. I am a specialist. These last two years that we've been here in the U.S, even though I wanted to quit, even though I've often been very unhappy, I still held on to that piece of myself. If I could stay connected, even just a little, to that part of my identity wrapped up in a PhD, then I could maintain some semblance of order.

The important people in my life know where I stand now (though there are still some friends I haven't had the chance to talk to yet), and they have all been so incredibly supportive. I haven't written much about it, but my parents really took me by surprise with their reactions. They both seemed genuinely happy for me. And where I expected my friends to judge me, they instead asked me excited questions about what I might do next. And Matt, he's been listening to this for years (bless him). As much as I look up to my adviser, we have always had a distance between us, even when I lived full-time in Toronto. We've never had that student/mentor relationship that you see in all those ivy-covered movies. Telling her is difficult, but not scary. What made writing that email so difficult was the finality of it all. I was a graduate student, and she was my teacher. Seven years ago I asked her to work with me on a project, and now I'm severing that relationship in an unnatural sort of way. Until I sent that email I could still rely on that relationship to hold together what felt like a vital part of myself.

It's final. Alright self, on to something else.

*I realize it seems incredibly lame to give this message over email, but we live in two different countries right now. I don't think I've ever called her on the phone in seven years. But, it still is kind of lame. I'm owning the lameness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Too Sleepy and Neurotic to Post Today

I've spent the night trying to write about how I finally sent an email to my thesis adviser to let her know that I'm leaving my PhD. But I haven't been able to focus, with one eye watching When Harry Met Sally, and the other eye on my email to see if she's replied (not yet, by the way). I've decided to give in to my urges and just sleep on it.

Sweet dreams everyone! May everyone wake up in the morning to an email they've been waiting for.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Oh Yes I Did

Last night I was telling Matt how my friend Sheena, waiting for her baby to arrive, was going to see the new Harry Potter. I guess he could hear the longing in my voice, especially after a trying day, because the next thing he was offering me an entire Sunday afternoon to see Harry Potter and do whatever else might make me happy. Even if he wanted to rescind, I don't think I would have heard him, seeing as my grin was taking over my entire head, threatening the reliability of my hearing. I was kind of excited.

So after a morning with my girls, and a trip to the very last farmer's market of the season, I headed out the door for my afternoon date with Harry Potter. I was leaving quite early in order to get a ticket, and between the thirty minute driving time to and from the theater, I was going to be gone for five hours. This was slightly monumental.

Alyce never took a bottle, and so I was tied very closely to her during that first year (she was so stubborn about her preference for boobs that when she started daycare at thirteen months, she wouldn't take a single sip of anything all day, waiting instead for me and my personal milk supply to pick her up). I loved breastfeeding Alyce and so I never actually minded not being able to spend much time away from her, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't have enjoyed an afternoon to myself some days.

With Shira our situation is a bit different and I needed to work away from the office a few mornings a week. Matt stays home with her most mornings, and at first he and Shira would head over to my office and I'd try to nurse her, but it was difficult to get the timing right. So Matt tried giving her some expressed milk and after a couple of weeks we had success. As much as there are times when I don't love sharing her, I know Matt loves being able to feed her sometimes. And I'm not going to bad-talk some of the freedom this allows me.

So back to me and my afternoon, shall we? I bought my ticket, bought some lunch that I ate while reading a book, ran a few errands, and watched Harry Potter from the inside of a vat of popcorn. This was a day for the history books. Thank you, Matty.

p.s. Harry Potter was fantastic. It was beautifully shot and just flew by. But there was such a sadness about the story this time, and some very realistic violence, that I can't imagine taking a little one to see it. All day I've been trying to figure out what the best age is to introduce Harry Potter to Alyce (the books, not the movies). Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Drunk Dialing

We've all been there. Come on, fess up. Perhaps you overindulged one night and all of a sudden you're reaching for the phone and dialing your ex's number. Or that new crush you've had your eye on. Or, gasp, your boss.

I think the same rules apply to blogging about your almost three year old after a full day of whining. An ENTIRE day of it. It was one of those "I have reached my fill and it's still four hours before her bedtime" kind of days. I am weak and vulnerable right now and I might say something I'll regret later. Because I love her to pieces but today was lo-ong.

So I'll leave you instead with this delicious (pre)school photo that came home this week. Because it's hard to be annoyed when you see this:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Lab

Yesterday I arrived home to witness the 46th cat fight of the day. Lucy had Pomegranate cornered, but in the end he used it as an opportunity to nap.

May your weekend be filled with many naps!


A Hard Day

I'm afraid that Friday is letting me down. It usually has such promise as the lead-in to the weekend, but Friday is just not holding up its end of the deal this week. It's been a rough day.

One day my husband and I were casual friends with an eye on each other. Then we became us, Danielle and Matt, and we spent ninety-eight percent of our time enjoying getting to know each other (the other two percent was firmly dedicated to our studies). Next we were married. A warm day in June, in my mother's backyard, just a handful of our favourite people. Hands down, a fantastic day. One of the greatest.

Neither of us had been married before, so we just have figure all this out as we go along. You know what else we hadn't done before? Be parents. Talk about a learning curve. I think someone may have once said that it would be useful if children came with instruction booklets (I think maybe a lot of people have said this). Honestly, I'm just not sure how useful these books would be. If they are anything like Ikea instructions, where you always end up with extra parts after putting together your new bookcase, the kids might not fare so well. So we learn as we go, relying on each other. Lucky for us, we laugh a lot. All four of us.

So on a day like today, when things are a little tough, I remind myself that while we are not experts at marriage and parenting, and that's ok. We are us, Danielle and Matt and Alyce and Shira. Quite the foursome, don't you think? We do.

Lucky for Friday, it is almost Shabbat, and so this day will be turning around any minute now, I can just tell. There are sunflowers on the table, risotto to be made, wine at the ready. I knew in the end that Friday wouldn't really let me down.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Four Needles Too Many

You wouldn't know it from looking at her, but we'd just returned home from her six-month vaccinations. She had some mean words for me and her pediatrician at the time, but after some grocery-therapy at Trader Joe's, Shira seems to have overcome the trauma.

Well, maybe not completely.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The anatomy of quitting

Have you ever given much thought to quitting? I'm sounding a bit like a broken record, I know, but deciding to quit my PhD is kinda a big deal for me.

Jess, over at Sweet Amandine, suggested that I check out an old This American Life from 1995 that tells different stories about quitting. And I'm so glad that I did. The prologue introduces us to Evan Harris, a woman who takes quitting very seriously--so seriously, in fact, that she published a book about it (and would have probably written a great blog, if blogs existed in 1995. Did blogs exist then? I don't think I knew what email was in 1995).

Harris breaks down the anatomy of a quit so well. First you think about quitting (say for two years), followed by more thinking (another two years). Then you quit (done and done. Well, sort of. Have I mentioned that I haven't yet told my supervisor?), and then you finish off with the post-quit stuff. Right now, for instance, I am enjoying what she calls a quitting euphoria. At times I also find myself stuck in a bit of a "quitting ennui", where I begin to question my decision to quit and review each decision leading up to Quit Day. But mostly I'm riding the euphoria, and enjoying it immensely: I have a bounce in my step, a smile on my face, and I've even grown fonder of the cats.

In her TAL interview Harris suggests that "quitting is about being willful." I love thinking about quitting this way. Quitting doesn't have to be wrapped up in shame over past actions, but can be infused with movement forward. Since this is all about me, let me rephrase: I'm realizing that I don't have to keep talking about why I'm leaving my graduate program. I can instead talk about what I can do next. Because I want to.

Can you hear my shoulders working their way down from my ears?

If you are interested, Harris describes some of the quitting thoughts here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Calling All Siblings

Until I was twenty-six I was an only child. That's a lot of years of just me. Sure I had a big extended family and was blessed with great friends, but at home it was all me. My housemate at university (herself one of three siblings) was forever impressed at my inability to share a washroom. I married another only child, and then came Alyce, our only child! We had this down, the three of us. This all changed quite dramatically when Shira was born. You might think that all those months of pregnancy might make the transition a little easier, but no matter how much we imagined our growing family of siblings, nothing really prepared us for Shira's arrival as Sister to Alyce. Or perhaps we were even less prepared for the arrival of Alyce the Sister.

I now have six months of sisterhood under my belt (and not the grassrootsy, feminist, activist kind. That's a story for another day). Six whole months. So I'm sure you'll all agree that these six months qualify me to teach a class at the local birth center on preparing for life with a second child? You bet it does!

That's right. In January I will begin teaching a class for expectant mamas, papas, and only children to help prepare them for the world of the little sister or brother. I was eager to take on this new task because I love pregnant bellies, new babies, and families. I love the energy that quietly hums in the background of an expanding family (though for these families who already have one child, this energy is bit more in your face). I was excited to get my toe in the door of prenatal education. But now I am wondering: what was I thinking?

Lucky for me, I am a researcher at heart--just think of the books I can read between now and January! And of course, I have two excellent research subjects.

But what I wouldn't give for some advice on how to begin. Are you catching that hint? Anyone? I know there are some fabulous siblings experts out there just dying to comment on my blog. I'll be waiting, pencil at the ready.

Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Only Two of Us Pay Rent

Over the summer we moved into a house that could probably fit inside the borders of a postage stamp. Two adults, two young children, and three cats. We left a house with three bedrooms and an enormous playroom for a tiny two-bedroom house. Why would we do such a thing? Because the old house was evil and this one is not. We rented the old house (unseen) when we first moved here from Canada and it was dirty, falling apart, and in a neighborhood with the personality of moldy cardboard. It was surrounded by highways, making it impossible to walk anywhere at all. Dirty and isolated? What a dream home for a family with an eight-month-old baby!

I'm sharing these details of evil house in order to give you some idea that when I complain about the tiny dimensions of our current house, I do so with a big smile on my face. We rent this little place from the university and it is well maintained. It also has a wonderful backyard and is minutes to campus and the ever-important library and coffee shops. We can walk down the road for ice cream, the paper, or just to walk. I love it. A lot.

That being said, we struggle with the space. When Matt and I first moved in together we lived in a one-room attic apartment in Toronto. First it was just me and Matt, then Pomegranate joined us, followed shortly by Hille. It was a tight squeeze for sure, but there was still space on the floor between the furniture. Oh, how I miss that space between furniture! Because now every inch of that space is filled with children and their stuff. Books, blocks, works of art, dollies, monsters, tiny chairs, and stickers are everywhere. We tidy the house at least twice a day and then we blink and this happens:

At times it feels a little out of hand, and I can feel Matt's skin start to crawl. We both start brainstorming about how we can fix all this chaos, imagining wonderful storage solutions and innovative ways to somehow make the cats clean it all up, but I actually don't mind it. Don't get me wrong, I would love the opportunity to walk through the living room without stepping on Dora and I am very attached to the grown-up space of our bedroom (no Alyce, you can't play in there). But I love how the girls have changed the geography of our living space. If Alyce didn't have the freedom to play around the house, the world would be robbed of my favourite treats:

There was a time when you couldn't enter a room without finding at least one of Alyce's babies, usually freshly diapered. Sometimes I would pick a blanket off the floor only to find that yet another monster was fast asleep in a nap, again, usually freshly diapered. Then there is my second favourite: the fridge door chaos. There are usually so many papers, paintings, and letters on the fridge that opening the door inevitably leads to 65 percent of the paper falling on the ground. This is usually followed by quiet cursing and a desperate search for the magnet that rolled under the fridge. But it makes me smile in a way that I don't think a single, neatly presented drawing would do. I can't wait to frame and hang a few important pieces in our house over the years, but I hope the artwork tornado stays on the fridge for a little while longer.

How has your house changed for the better since having children?

I hope everyone is having a good weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Six months

Happy six months, little Shira.

Shame and other feelings

Having come to this place where I am finally ready to admit that I am not going to finish my PhD has involved some pretty severe navel-gazing. How could it not? Part of what has stood in the way of my admitting that I want to leave academia is Denial. I denied my feelings in favour of what I thought were better, prettier feelings, and I hoped these new feelings would lead me right into a completed dissertation. If I had actually gazed at my navel (which wouldn't have been too hard to do since I was pregnant twice in the last three years) I could never have tricked myself with those so-called feelings.

What I really felt was shame. At first I thought it was run-of-the-mill guilt for not completing something I had started. For the tuition money borrowed in my undergraduate and Master's degree. For stressing out my mum those times I crumbled under the pressure of my abusive Sanskrit professor. Mostly for the money (sorry, Matt). But I've recently realized that my guilt over student loans didn't cause that dark, panicky, sweaty feeling I got everything I considered leaving school. Sure, I wonder how loans will get paid, but deep down I know that it really doesn't matter. Somehow, even if it takes decades, I will repay those loans. After all, it's only money.

No, I was ashamed. I had spent years defending my decision to pursue advanced degrees in the humanities, and now it turns out that I was wrong. All those times that I justified staying in school yet another year was for nothing. If I could hold a PhD in my hand, and point to a list of publications and job offers, then I could show everyone (mostly my family) that I had been right all along. But since I'm being honest here, it was much more than proving people wrong. I was much more invested in proving people right. I had such supporters in all my corners who wanted me to succeed, even if they didn't always understand my reasons for still being in school while they were working actual jobs. They put aside their doubts to help me through years of struggling with another late paper or conference presentation or listen to me complain about not having enough money, all while having no real idea what I was researching. They even asked questions as though it was interesting! I have such great friends.

And let's not forget pride. All the hard work was going to be worth it because I would be Dr. Professor. I would have my fancy degree that would get me a job at a beautiful university (where it would always be fall and I'd wear an adorable, yet professional wool jacket), and I would teach fantastic students and publish books. And now I'm not going to do that. My plan didn't work. And I'm ashamed that I was wrong.

I've been reading Brene Brown's new book, The Gifts of Imperfection, where she writes about the relationship between shame, vulnerability, joy, and most importantly, feeling worthy of being loved and supported for exactly who you are. She could have called the book "It's Really OK to Quit your PhD." Of course she doesn't care about my (lack of) PhD, but she's so spot on about the trouble that comes from trying to be perfect. I've tended to run in the other direction when I see squishy self-improvement books, but when I finished it I finally took a second to realize that I was feeling ashamed just because I was wrong. That's right, ashamed because I wasn't perfect. I had messed up by thinking that academia was what I wanted, when it turns out it isn't.

Yes, Matt, the trouble these last few years was all because I don't like being wrong. Surprised? I didn't think so.

Watch Brown here to get some idea of what she means by shame, imperfection and courage. Until now I've never given a second thought to courage, but now I'm convinced that needs changing.

p.s. Sometimes I can be such a cheesehead (and I don't mean the good kind of cheese, like goat's milk or pecorino). I was just reading the end of my last post, and while it's true, I am excited to explore this new start, less cheese is probably the better way to go. But here I am, less than perfect. See, I'm learning!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's not Wednesday

I'm back in Delaware, home to the world's best airport greeting ever. I don't know what Matt promised her, but Alyce made my year with the hugs and big smile and shouting "Mama, you're home!" It helped make the blow of stopping over in Detroit a little softer.* I wish I could bottle up that feeling and carry it with me through the day. I would keep in tucked in my pocket and enjoy my secret stash.

Canada. I had six days with my family while the rest of reality took place far off in the distance (I heard something about an election. Anyone?). As usual, I was sustained by my mum's delicious food (this trip's highlights were lasagna and birthday carrot cake). I consider it a successful week in eating because I gained back the five pounds I had lost in the weeks prior to my trip. I don't hold a grudge against those five pounds. They were worth it.

I was also sustained by good family. Of course I spent the most time with mum, as I always seem to do, because I just enjoy her company so much. I didn't see enough of my grandmother, and hunting season made it impossible to see my grandfather. And the reason for this visit was to spend some time with my other grandpa and father, who traveled from Spain and Vancouver, respectively. It had been two years since seeing my grandpa and one since seeing my dad, so this was a long overdue visit. There was a lovely mood about this weekend and I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Did I mention Noah, my just-turned-seven-on-Halloween-year-old brother? (Yes, I know. There is quite an age difference between us. It just gives me even more years of experience from which draw my sage advice, from how to get permission to go to concerts before you're really old enough to surviving grades seven, eight, and second-year at college). This weekend I just sat back and watched him be a grown-up kid. As is our tradition, we enjoyed a birthday movie out on the town:

Capturing our smiles after Megamind.

But now I am home, and reality has returned. I feel a bit disoriented, between the flu and the travel. I have struggled all day to remember if it is Monday or Wednesday (turns out it is Tuesday). Of course this is normal after such a week, but I think my confusion is in part a result of feeling such a wash of relief/freedom/grief/elation after telling my parents and family about leaving my PhD. I'll post more this week about the details, but let me tell you this: they didn't care. Well, they cared in the sense that they love me and want me to be happy and healthy, but none of them seemed at all interested in telling me that I was making the wrong choice. While there is tiny part of me still waiting for them to really tell me how they feel, I think I can probably rest assured that they really don't care.

I feel as though I have returned home to a different life, and I'm excited to explore.

*Detroit, I have nothing against you personally, only against taking two planes in one afternoon with a five month old baby. Just so we're clear.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Breaking News: Finally

As in, finally, I told my mum. I said, "Mum, I'm not finishing my PhD." And then my insides threw up.

My mum was just lovely. I could tell she was a bit sad for me, but mostly because she could see how much I upset I was to tell her. She knows how hard I can be on myself and she's very understanding. After 33 years, she's got that part down.

I'm in the middle of a busy day of visiting family so I'll write more later. But I wanted to show off a bit about how much I've matured. See?!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thank you, flu shot

I had plans. Big plans. And then the flu knocked the wind out of me. Tuesday morning, around 4:30, the flu announced its presence in our house and we've not been the same since. The stomach flu kicked our butts. Except for Shira, that is. While she was a bit sick on Saturday, by Tuesday she was all support-team. She spent hours and hours in bed with me on Tuesday, cheering me through the pain. Thanks again, Shira.

Then I did what everyone recovering from the stomach flu should do: I flew to Canada to visit my mum. And yes, I'm going to tell her.

So to all four of you, my apologies for all the quiet over here! But we're feeling much better now. And for those of you in Toronto area, enjoy the beautiful rainy skies!

p.s. Oh, and I'm not really mad at the flu shot. I usually have very good luck with these sorts of things. But I'm not feeling that generous this week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Almost Three

Have you ever had one of those weekends where you feel like a very different person by Sunday night? On Friday I was the mother of a two year old and by Sunday she was almost three.

Delighted by her new fairy princess costume.

As I mentioned yesterday, Matt had to go out of town for the weekend at the last minute. Since we don't have any family around it was just me and the girls for most of it. It’s often just the three of us, though rarely am I a single parent from the moment Alyce wakes up before six until long after bedtime. I was both looking forward to the time spent at home with them on a lovely fall weekend and dreading those inevitable moments during the day when my patience would wear thin. Fortunately, at five months, Shira is still easy-peasy (that is, until she started projectile vomiting while the three of us are out for dinner. That was a good time). The only Shira-related dilemma that comes up for me sometimes is breastfeeding with Alyce around. Shira is reaching that point in our nursing relationship when the conditions must be JUST SO in order for nursing success. We must be on the bed, snuggling, and I must not be reading (a new development I'm not thrilled about). There must not be any other human or cat around to distract her, and never, not ever Alyce. How could she possibly be expected to nurse when the coolest, most fantastic big sister is right there?

The culprit

On the other hand, Alyce is, shall we say, more energetic? There is a lot of running and skipping, insistence on doing everything by herself, and then of course, the ongoing potty training. She’s two, after all.

Not so fast. Alyce has always been a chatty kid, so it isn’t a spike in vocabulary that made her seem older to me this weekend, as is often the case. It’s the way she is speaking that made the little hairs stand up on my arms, and making it hard to deny that her third birthday is just around the corner. All of a sudden she’s become thoughtful, deliberate and careful (sort of). She has become very aware of other people’s feelings, and while she has always been the nurturing sort with her various dollies and monsters, now she’s looking after us too. I’ve really noticed her looking after Shira when she’s upset, or telling me that’s is ok if I’m having a bad day ("It's o.k. Mama, you can just go to bed and have nap!" If only it were so easy some days).

I'm also seeing it in the way she's taking on new tasks so carefully now. It's not just about keeping her distracted while I'm trying to get something done around the house. Now I have an assistant who watches for a few minutes and then jumps in, directing traffic and bossing me around. You see, she's now a professional laundry folder, leaf cleaner-upper, and baby whisperer. I could see a new depth of pride in her accomplishments as she helped me this weekend.

But I enjoyed my almost-three year old most when she quietly asked me if she could dress up as a fairy princess for trick-or-treating. She was all set to be another scary spider, but I had noticed all week that she was lingering a bit longer on princess stories and accessories. All of a sudden she wasn't this tiny human I could dress up--she was a tiny person who understood what it means to make-believe and what she really wanted was to spend the day as a fairy princess.

So a princess she was.

Photo courtesy of Alyce, who seems determined to learn how to do everything all in one weekend.