Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Maggie

Dear Maggie,

This morning you did something really special for my little Alyce. As you've seen over these past two weeks, Alyce feels really sad when it's time for me to leave her at school. She cries for a very long time, holding on to me as tightly as possible, hoping that I won't leave. I know she likes kindergarten, but saying good-bye and starting a new day at school is tough. But this morning you made a really big difference in Alyce's day when you asked if she'd like to hold your hand and walk into class together. Immediately Alyce's tears stopped and she nodded her head and reached out her hand. The two of you walked into Room 4 and never looked back. Today was a special day.

I know it's been tough for you to say good-bye to your Mama, too. I remember last week when I saw you crying before school. It's hard to let go of people you love, even if it's just for the day. But your empathy this morning made a real difference to my Alyce. Today the two of you walked into class together, older and braver than you were when you arrived at your new school just two weeks ago.

Thank you, Maggie. You made a real difference for me, too.

Alyce's Mama

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A new year (again)

Sorry for the mix-up. For those of you who read this blog through Google Reader or some other such contraption, you were delivered a half-finished post last night. Think of it as a preview. Or maybe just the consequence of a full day of cooking and celebrating the Jewish New Year with good friends. By the time last night rolled around, I was toast.

So, let's try this again. L'Shanah Tovah, everyone! As someone who loves fresh starts, I adore the extra new year celebration that Judaism sneaks in. Another chance to think about old and new goals, another excuse to bake. This Rosh Hashanah was extra special for me this year, because it marked the first time that ringing in the new year felt like a holiday to me. I'm a convert to Judaism and no matter how much I've studied, and no matter how many new habits I've embraced, it takes time to reprogram my internal holiday schedule. I've always loved Rosh Hashanah in all its autumn glory, but this year the day felt special. I spent the day baking and cooking, preparing for friends to join us for dinner. Alyce made taped a new year greeting on the door. There were babies, food, and many wishes for a sweet year ahead. Not a bad way to spend a fall day.

And there was food. I made this challah, and I think it was a personal best. I substituted about two or three cups of whole wheat flour, and the results were a slightly more wholegrain bread that was still light and airy. For dinner, along with the apples and honey traditional to Rosh Hashanah celebrations (the honey helps everyone to usher in a sweet year ahead), I made this chicken, which I adore. I did learn, however, that I shouldn't overcrowd the chicken trying to fit it all in one cast iron pan (took longer to cook and didn't get as crispy). And for dessert we dined on these brownies and some peach and apple crisp. The company made everything worth it, especially the chance to help baby J celebrate his first Rosh Hashanah.

It should also be noted that Alyce enjoyed the traditional Rosh Hashanah gift of her first Barbie doll (well, it might be a tradition one day). Alyce and Barbie had a lovely day together (pictured above). I think they were fast friends.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

But first we had to move a turtle

I was working away from the house yesterday (and by working I mean writing job applications), and I called home around lunchtime to see how things were going. I figured they would be finishing up lunch, maybe reading a book before Shira's nap, or even watching Cinderella for the tenth time this week (it's due back at the library tomorrow, so you can't blame a girl for cramming in an extra viewing or six). But no, they were trying to figure out how a large turtle ended up in our fenced in backyard.

He wasn't a small turtle, this one. And no matter what they did, all he wanted to do was climb into our house. Unfortunately for him, turtles aren't the best stair climbers, and so he ended up on his back more than once, or just pacing back and forth along the edge of our house. Is there anything more pathetic? He was frantic, poor turtle. I could hear Alyce in the background informing Matt that she could touch the turtle and not to worry. I could also here Shira shrieking with excitement. It's not everyday you discover a turtle. Usually we just find cats.

Matt did the logical thing: he turned to google for help. The internet told him to either just leave it alone or take it to a stream somewhere. But there were a couple of problems: I wasn't keen on sharing our backyard with a turtle and our overly eager children (no offence, turtle), and we also worried that maybe this mystery turtle was someone's beloved pet. Maybe that's why he seemed so concerned with getting inside our house, you know, because he was accustomed to HBO and a jacuzzi tub. What to do? And yes, I actually considered posting signs in the neighbourhood. And this is how we have three cats, because we are suckers for an animal face.

In the end we decided to take Mr. Turtle (as I was calling him) to the park down the road. Matt was just getting a box when I spotted our neighbour, a young girl, playing in the street. Long story short (not really), Mr. Turtle was actually Squirtle the Turtle, and had escaped from her backyard. The upside? They are now reunited. The downside? She just keeps him in a kiddie pool in her backyard, so chances are good that he will show up in our backyard again soon. These neighbours are not the most considerate (and did I ever just hold myself back with that word choice), and I'm annoyed that they aren't looking after their pets, but at the end of the day I'm happy to reunite a girl and her turtle.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Uncharted Territory

You'd think I was done talking about my boobs. Alas, no.

I'm not here to go on about breastfeeding debates today, though. I'm here to ask for your advice. Shira has entered an entirely new aggressive phase in her approach to breastfeeding. I call her Milkzilla. It goes something like this:
I want milk. It's been ten minutes. No, I want it faster. No, that's not fast enough. It's been another ten minutes. I want more. I'll tackle you if I have to. Is that my sister on your lap. Oh, no she doesn't. I'll just smack her down until she gets her three-year-old bum away from you. There, ok. I'll have more milk then. I'm done now, but don't move since I'll be back in ten minutes for some more. Alright, then. Hey wait, I want some more now.
I could go on. Shira certainly does. All day long. Alyce never behaved this way. She loved nursing as much as any baby, but at this age she seemed content to nurse before naps, after a bump or fall, and first thing in the morning. Shira is sixteen months and I expect that there is a lot contributing to her attack on my boobs. First, she's not talking yet (except for calling Mama), and I think she's frustrated a lot of the time. Maybe she's nursing her way through the frustration? Second, she's been teething hard for a month and since nursing cures all, I imagine that it makes her mouth feel better. Third, breastfeeding is the one thing that belongs to Shira and nobody else. She competes with her big sister all day long for toys and attention, but the boobs are hers, and hers alone. It might be her way of showing the world that I belong to her, as she navigates her place in our family.

Really, Shira. There's no need to worry. I'm always here. Now please, just for this morning, please enjoy some milk in your cup. Oh right, you do not accept substitutes. I forgot.

Have any of you had experience with this? Once I return to work she'll have limited access to me during the day, but I have no intention of weaning her any time soon. Any thoughts?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Regrouping on a Monday

For all the chaos in our life, we had a great weekend. We had the best dinner and visit with a good friend and her new (to us) love. Isn't it just the greatest feeling, watching two people fall in love? And lucky for Alyce, this family also includes two kids, one, a girl, is Alyce's age, and her brother, an adorable six-year-old who melted my heart. They both melted me, but the little boy reminds me so much of my brother (who is almost eight), it made me a bit heartsick (Vancouver is so far away). Alyce and her new best friend will see each other again this weekend, as we scored an invitation to her birthday party. We also had a dinner with my dad's side of the family in honour of my grandfather's recent visit from Europe (he lives in the Canary Islands). We don't see each other very often which can make for some awkward initial conversation between all the (now) adult cousins, but nevertheless it's always good to see them. Somehow we all grew up. As in, we're getting old(er).

I have no photos to show of these adventures because I was either having too much fun, or chasing The Children, or both. But I do have evidence from the spontaneous pantry-emptying, cake baking session at my Mum's house on Sunday (ingredients: dried basil, cinnamon, sugar, sprinkles, flour, and water). This is one of Alyce's most favourite hobbies, but it was Shira's first time joining in the fun. She took her work very seriously. Not so serious was the impromptu roll down the hill when we picked up Alyce from school today. That last photo is Alyce dramatically ignoring my request for a grin. My heart broke for her again this morning as I dropped her off at school and she sobbed and sobbed, begging for me to stay with her. It's been two weeks, and while she clearly has a good time throughout the day, the idea of Kindergarten doesn't always impress her.

So it's the nineteenth Monday that I've been looking for work, which is depressing, but I'm trying to use today to regroup, to set an optimistic tone for the week. Sometimes I need to act the way I want to feel and this is one of those weeks when I need to act first. I know that I have a lot to offer an organization and I know that I'll find work. But it's hard to build momentum when everything feels like it's standing still. So like I said, act first. This week I'll act: I'll continue to apply for interesting positions, follow-up on as many applications as I can, and maybe shower every day.

How are you preparing for your week?

P.S. Shira's red t-shirt is just one of the many shirts I found packed away in my Mum's basement last week. It seems that my parents collected t-shirts for me when we traveled through Europe when I was very young. Today's t-shirt comes from Venice, where my parents traveled to on business when we lived in Florence. They saw the canals and ate delicious pasta, and I got this t-shirt.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I wasn't quite so gracious

Find the rest here.

I've mentioned before how Amber Dusik's blog, Parenting. Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, is sort of a window into my soul daily life. When I read her most recent post on the perils of falling asleep when one joins young children to play on the floor, I was simultaneously spraying coffee out of my nose laughing, and hanging my head in just a little bit of shame. Just the day before I was laying on the living room floor reading some newly acquired library books with Alyce, when the reality of that morning's 5:00 wake-up hit me hard. It was one of those tireds where nothing could get in the way of me passing out right then and there.

Nothing except Alyce, that is.

I closed my eyes and fell asleep for 47 seconds, and at first Alyce was all sweet, reading me a story and giving me bear to cuddle with. I applauded her efforts. And then I made my big mistake: I thought I could convince Alyce to steal away thirty minutes with me in bed upstairs (Shira was already sleeping, luck duck that she is). Come on, Alyce! We could snuggle in my big bed! You could read books!! Mama could rest!! It will be a fun game!!! I believe she truly had the best of intentions, but she's three, and in my tired stupor I acted as though she were a solid twenty years old. When she declared that it wasn't time to sleep, but time to play princess, I think I actually started crying. I'm a grown woman.

I actually tried to fight her on the details. No, Alyce, just let me rest of five minutes! Can't you just play in your room? Why are you trying to murder me? (I didn't actually say that last one, but we all know it's a valid question.) Dusick embraced the sweetness of her children, and most of all, she realized that she wasn't actually going to get rest. Me, not so much. Instead I was annoyed that my three-year-old couldn't appreciate my need for some sleep.

I've never claimed to be perfect. Sometimes I am quite the parenting fool. You and me, both. Right?


Friday, September 23, 2011

Ten reasons I need to get back to work now

1. Because I need to pay rent. This is an important reason.

2. The employees at the local Starbucks have recently worked together to draft some legislation requiring that I stop referring to their coffee shop as "My Office."

3. I need a good reason to stop wearing That Old T-Shirt and Those Yoga Pants, because sheer will isn't quite enough.

4. My marriage is good. My marriage is strong. But even my marriage needs for me not to spend every waking moment with my husband. I think he is also drafting some legislation requiring that I finally find a job already, and that I stop referring to our home as "That Place I Never Leave."

5. Again, rent.

6. Because I'm pretty sure I'm eating/baking/eating my way through the pain of constant disappointment. I really need some co-workers upon whom to unleash my baking addiction.

7. I'm ready for a new challenge, especially now that I find myself in unknown, non-graduate-school territory. I've spent so much time giving thought to where I fit it, and now I need to give these thoughts some action.

8. So that we can begin saving for that vacation that we desperately need. And by vacation I mean without The Children and not to visit family. We love all of you, but we need some time away from life. Current vacation dreams include: England/Scotland, NYC, anywhere with a warm beach, anywhere that is not our house.

9. Even Alyce and Shira are sick of me. Actually, no they aren't. They would prefer to have me at their disposal every hour of the day to play princess, dress-up, hopscotch, and to nurse (Shira, that is). And for tea parties. And to randomly yell at me when I'm not bending to their will.

10. Because it's time to move forward.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

But she was so small

Do you ever have one of those nights when all you can do is think about how much your children have grown? Where you can't believe that it's been sixteen months since she looked like this, barely able to fill out a teeny tiny little shirt? Remember that? Me, too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I will get a job, I will get a job

This is an important lesson to remember when you’re having a bad day, a bad month, or a shitty year: things will change. You won’t feel this way forever. Sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones your soul needs most. I believe you can’t feel real joy unless you know what it means to fail. — Kelly Cutrone, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside 
Thanks to Krystyn at Curly Braces for passing along this important message. She also started this little project called The Hope Revolution, and by little, I mean incredibly huge. Some people do really amazing things. She's inspired me to leave my own little note for someone today.

Just a little bit more summer

Fall is happening, and I am over the moon about it. So many of my favourites happen in the fall (Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving, Halloween, my birthday (!), wool, cool air, pumpkins, back-to-school) that this time of year makes my heart burst. The official start of the season is this week, and I thought I would offer just one more shout out to summer. The end of our summer found us heading north to the camp of some very good friend. They offered us a trailer to rest in (since camping in tents isn't quite Matt's thing, or in his words, the next time I'll sleep in the great outdoors is when I'm buried in the ground. Charming, isn't he?) and were the loveliest of hosts.

I met my friend Liz at a mom and baby yoga class when Alyce was six weeks old. We were living in the west end of Toronto, and I was feeling a bit isolated after having a new baby in the deep of winter. I remember stuffing Alyce into the biggest snowsuit I could find and heading to a class where I hoped to reacquaint myself with my body, and just maybe meet some new friends. It was one of my better decisions. A whole group of us ended up getting along and meeting once a week to walk around the park, but even better than that was my getting to know one woman in particular, Liz and her baby Simon. Simon had me at hello, and Liz and I immediately hit it off. We were both in some relationship with academia, we both enjoyed good food and good coffee, and as it turns out now, we both want to be midwives. Liz is currently breaking ground as a midwifery student in Toronto, and she's keeping a place warm for me.

Like I said, Liz was a good decision. Have I ever mentioned that she flew to Delaware with a four-month-old baby to be there with me when Shira was born? Yeah, she's that kind of person. It turns out that she's also the camping kind of person, and I'm so glad we took her up on the offer to join them for a night at camp. Liz, along with her husband Chris, introduced the girls to their first lake, their first campfire, and most importantly, to their first roasted marshmallows. It was lovely.

This has been a strange summer. I thought I'd be working, getting used to a new job, but instead I found myself looking for work all summer long, without any success. But with this unexpected time has come extra visits with good friends, and I'm always grateful for that.

P.S. If anyone is interested, Alyce's ruby red sparkling camping shoes are available at Target. Oh, Target, I miss you so.

Photos by Chris.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our week so far

Applesauce. Delicious. Everybody is a winner. But there are still thirty pounds of apples in my kitchen. Back to work.


Going through some old boxes at my mum's this week, I found my old tutu. She's feeling the magic.

Shira's been nursing. The usual.

And everywhere I turn in this house, I find another princess. Please, send help.

And your week?

Monday, September 19, 2011

On boobs, breastfeeding, and not breastfeeding

Yesterday, for the first time since 2007 (with the exception of a few short months when I wasn’t nursing Alyce during my pregnancy with Shira), I wore a grown-up, sexy, underwire-supported bra. Fancy, I know. I’m nursing Shira a lot less (only four times a day) and I figured that I might not want to wear one of my old nursing bras to the job interview that I expect I’ll one day have. Amidst the sparkles and the neon yellow choices, I made my purchases, happy to once again give some well-deserved support to my nursing boobs. They’ve earned it.

As soon as I tried them on, I knew. I love my nursing bras and if I’m fortunate enough to have more babies (yes, please), I’ll run to the local pregnancy shop and buy myself some new nursing bras. They are comfortable and easy to use. Amen to that, since learning to breastfeed is difficult enough without having to wear an uncomfortable bra. But, wow. A real, live bra does wonders for your cleavage. I hadn’t realized just how, umm, low things had gotten. Do you know who else hadn’t realized? My husband. Because the look on his face when I walked downstairs yesterday morning, wearing my new bra under my shirt, was worth all the effort.

He blushed. It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.



I never imagined how much my life story would be populated with obsessing over my breasts, making sure that they work, and that the right people get enough of them (there is a lot of competition in this house over who gets priority access). Sure, I expected a preoccupation with their size between the ages of twelve and fourteen, but I didn’t expect this. I thought only teenage girls (and boys) gave such thought to the habits of breasts.

Turns out that I think about boobs all the time. Mostly mine, but sometime I think about the ones that belong to other women, mostly other mothers. I get phone calls from friends wanting to talk about them, I have books on the shelf teaching me how to feed my babies with them, and many a blog post makes reference to them. And then there is all that time I spend watching Mad Men, wanting to hand out awards for Most Impressive Defiance of Gravity to all the women on that show. They sure know how to wear a sweater. (Joan, I’m looking at you.) Sometimes, though, I don’t give enough thought to boobs, like when I realize that I’ve been out all day long with only one side of my nursing bra done up. 

I love my world populated with breasts. And as someone who has been nursing for the better part of four years, most of my boob-related conversations have something to do with breastfeeding. I am addicted to breastfeeding. I loved nursing Alyce, and I still love nursing Shira. It’s been one of my favourite things about having young babies and I could list a hundred things that I love about it. Instead I’ll give you this many: babies are warm tucked in bed with you while you breastfeed, they have chubby little fingers with which to poke you (yes, in the boob) while they enjoy a meal, breastfeeding makes all most of their problems disappear, and it’s easily accessible. I know that breastmilk is the absolute perfect food for my babies and I’m more than impressed that my body knows how to make this perfect food. But breastfeeding is not all about the glory. Sometimes it’s really hard and annoying, and here’s why: in the beginning it can really hurt (like the kind of hurt that involves blood and blisters), babies eventually grow teeth and mine have always liked to test them out on my nipple, just to see what happens (I get really mad, that’s what happens), and breastfeeding is not always conducive to working outside the home, especially in countries with crappy parental leave. (U.S.A., I’m looking at you.)

I happily call myself a breastfeeding activist. I think all mother’s should be encouraged to breastfeed, and encouragement means more than just a nurse or doctor suggesting that it might be a good idea at a prenatal appointment. I could list a hundred things that mothers need to support happy breastfeeding, but instead I’ll give you this many: mothers need to see other mothers breastfeed, access to non-bathroom like places to nurse when they are out of the house and want some privacy, reliable access to board certified lactation consultants, and extended parental leave. And one more thing: they need to live in a culture where breastfeeding is normal, where mothers aren’t asked to leave public places or given the stink-eye for feeding their baby. Mothers need our support. They need your support.

But do you know what else mother’s need? Choice. They love choices. I love breastfeeding and I want everyone to love it as much as I do (yes, I actually mean that), but if a woman chooses to feed her baby formula, for whatever reason, that is her choice. Do I want her to have had access to as much information about breastfeeding? I sure do. But should she be ashamed of her decision to feed her baby formula. Absolutely not. Motherhood is hard work. Let’s not add shame to the mix.

Catherine Connors over at Her Bad Mother brought our attention this week to a debate going on over at Babble, regarding Babble's decision to allow formula advertizing on its site. Critics have declared that such advertizing stands in the way of breastfeeding and as such should be removed from any responsible discussions of parenting. Connors points out that that such a call to remove formula ads insults a mother's ability to view these ads as advertizing, somehow tricking mothers into believing that formula is the best choice.  "I’m a grown-up, you guys," Connors reminds us,  "I know what commercial speech is. I am capable of parsing information from advertisers. I am not stupid. I can make up my own mind." Demonizing formula feeding demonizes those who choose to feed their babies formula, and no matter what anyone says, demonizing formula demonizes the mother who feeds it to her baby. There is no separating the sin from the sinner here. Calling on Babble to remove all formula ads is harmful to mothers because it shames them. As Connors writes:
It shames working mothers who have to bottle feed because they can’t be with their babies all day and it shames mothers who are unable to breastfeed and it shames mothers who truncate their breastfeeding relationship with their babies for the sake of their mental health. It shames any mother who has paused and wondered, even for a moment, whether things wouldn’t be easier for her, whether she mightn’t be better able to cope, whether she mightn’t be happier (because isn’t a happy mom best for baby?) if, maybe, just maybe, she didn’t breastfeed. It shames any mother who regards the method by which she nourishes her babies as her personal choice.
I haven't loved my own experiences with formula companies. I was furious that my name was given to a formula company after the birth of my first daughter, resulting in a free sample can being mailed to my house. I think we need to stand up against misleading formula advertizing.  But I don't think they way to promote breastfeeding is to shame mothers away from formula. I love the community of mothers I've found online since having my daughters, and I've often relied on their conversations while learning how to parent my kids, or just to have some company on those days when the hard work of being a mother feels especially hard. There is such a population of intelligent, thoughtful, and hilarious parents out there. Let's give less room to shame and more room for reminding each other that children are awesome and ridiculous.

So head over to the original article here and see what you think. I'd also suggest that you check out the comments, which are for the most part, a balanced conversation with many different opinions--not something you often get when this topic shows up. I've left out so many important issues about promoting breastfeeding versus formula feeding, and this complicated issue deserves so much more space. But I was so happy to see someone calling out this shaming of mothers that I needed to give this conversation some space all of its own.

Plus I just love talking about boobs. Whether you use them to feed your baby or not.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Four things about my weekend

1. Yesterday morning it was my turn to sleep in, so after nursing Shira at 5:40 I returned to bed and let Matt monitor the morning chaos. It was heaven. But even better was when Matt woke me up at 8:15 with my coffee, toast, and the computer in hand. Here, he said, I thought you might enjoy some breakfast and computer time without the children. That's right, he sneaked past The Children on his way upstairs, so not only did I get breakfast in bed, but I go breakfast in bed by myself. It was not Mother's Day or my birthday. I'm sorry, you can't have him. He's all mine.

2. After killing my body with a hot yoga class later in the day, Matt sent me upstairs for a nap. Enough said. No seriously, I slept in and had a nap.

3. This morning, with the help of my good friend Kaylie, I crossed yet another thing off my Life List. It's a small thing, but I've wanted to pick my own apples for years. I have such romantic notions of fall and the idea of picking my own apples sparked big dreams of making pies and applesauce. I have to tell you: picking our own apples was everything I dreamed it would be. Me and the girls met Kaylie at a local orchard between Cambridge and Toronto, grabbed a cart, and spent the next hour getting lost in the apple trees. The sun was brilliant and the apples numbered in the thousands, though we held ourselves back and picked only a bushel each (the internet tell me that a bushel equals around 42 pounds of apples!).

Now I have plans to make a few pies and a lot of applesauce. I will use the the recipe and canning instructions from Simple Bites (it never lets me down), and for the pie crust, I'll use Martha Stewart's recipe for pate brisee . It's been years since I made pie crust from scratch and I haven't tried Martha's recipe before, but some of of the people I trust most follow Martha's instructions on this, so I feel confident that it's the way to go--see here and here for some other pie crust inspiration. I'll return with some evidence of my apples later this week.

4. Alyce wore her princess gown while she picked apples. Of course she did.

How was your weekend? Did anyone attend an apple festival? The last time I attended one I was pregnant with Alyce. I can't even begin to comprehend how fast the time goes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Are you all preparing for the weekend? I expect it will be beautiful (thank you, fall), and I'm celebrating with some apple picking on Sunday (and knocking something off my list at that). For this afternoon it's just me and Shira cleaning house. I've kicked Matt and Alyce out to the library and park so that I could wash the floors and bathrooms. I've got Shira set up in her high chair colouring while I scrub. Cleaning the floors makes me happy. The bathrooms? Not so much, but it needs to be done (especially when one's mum is coming over to baby-sit this weekend).

A few interesting things from the week:

A cookbook club. Mine is already in the works, thanks to some good friends who like to eat as much as I do.

A birthday celebration fit for a cat. Trust me, this is worth the crazy.

I'm still waiting (impatiently) for my copy of Design Sponge at Home.

Another blanket I would like to knit.

The zucchini bread I just made (it's still in the oven), though not for the first time. This one's a keeper.

Hope you have a delightful fall weekend! And for those of you on Canada's East coast, I hope the storm is kind to you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wee One

You might think with all this talk of school, that wee Shira has disappeared. But she's still here, growing, chasing her sister, and indulging in some celebratory ice cream (we all rejoiced in a good first day of school). She's changing so much lately, playing with her own babies, tucking them in the baby crib, marching around the house with favourite things in hand. She's not talking yet (except for calling Mama all day long, which I adore), but we can all see the understanding behind her eyes. I look at Shira and I see how she takes us all in, watches our every move, and then usually snuggles in for whatever ride we're on that day. 

No matter how utterly exhausting this all is, I really wish they'd stay little for just a bit longer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Our house, after school

We made it.

The whole gang of us showed up at her Kindergarten class at 3:30 yesterday. Alyce didn't see us right away because she was too busy listening to her teacher and lining up against the wall with her backpack. But when she did spot us she ran over immediately, throwing caution and classroom rules aside, and landed in my arms for the most intense hug I've ever experienced. She didn't say a word for a two or three minutes, just hugged. I could feel all the tension of the day, both good and bad, melt away. I was so very proud of her.

We celebrated the only way Alyce knows how: ice cream. Then slowly, very slowly, we learned about her day. Did you know that she's not allowed to go in the jungle (the woods around her school)? Did you know that she ate lunch at a big table with her friends? And that she walked in a long line to visit the school library? I'm glad to know these things.

Thanks, everybody, for all your good thoughts yesterday. I needed all of them.

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Day

I was kidding myself thinking this wasn't a big deal.

Not that I wasn't excited for her, and not that I didn't do a zillion things in preparation for this morning (more on that later), but I quite successfully ignored that pit in my stomach warning me that this was a big deal. It's enormity smacked me in the face this morning as I found myself crying, standing outside a classroom door, listening to my little one sobbing on the other side. SOBBING. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start this story last night, where I found myself on the couch watching the finale of True Blood while sewing a bunch of felt hearts.

I got the idea last week that it would be nice to send Alyce to her first day of Kindergarten with some extra love in the form of tiny felt hearts, and of course I didn't start this ambitious project until last night after nine. I might have started around eight, but instead I spent an hour puttering in the kitchen packing Alyce's lunch and snacks for today. Should it take a person one hour to make a three-year-old's lunch? Probably not. But should I send strawberries or melon, or both? And will she be able to open her new sandwich box all on her own? And is turkey and applesauce and a muffin really enough for snack? I know what you're thinking: snap out of it. But last night all these decisions felt huge. I made her a packed lunch for years at daycare, but something about the big-kid lunch at Kindergarten sent me over the edge. B when it was finally time to make the hearts I was comforted by the knowledge that both Eric and Alcide would be on television with her for an entire hour. It helped. I couldn't wait to give them to her in the morning. My big girl was going to school!

We've been talking a lot about school over the past few weeks, and last week she met her teacher. We got the backpack, the lunch bag, the new shoes, some new clothes. We were set. So it was no surprise that she woke up a little excited this morning. I was excited right along with her. I excitedly gave Alyce her new hearts, sewn with love by the woman who gave birth to her, and after a quick glance she threw them on the floor. Instead she wanted to make pancakes.

I got over it. I made pancakes.

We had a lot of time at home before school this morning (as happens when you start the day on the wrong side of six), and we coasted along as usual: breakfast, getting dressed, some Dora with her sister. A few different times she would get quiet and tell me that she didn't want to go to school, but the rest of the time she was her usual bouncing-through-the-house self, declaring that she would a great student. Again, I should have sensed that it was coming. I should have known that the bounce in her step was just buying some extra time before her realization (and mine) that school was really happening, that it was no longer just talk. Sometimes we can be so silly.

All morning I kept asking her if she wanted to keep one of the hearts in her pocket. That way you can keep it close, I said, and know that Mama is thinking about you. And every time she just shook her head. Eventually she agreed that she'd keep them in her backpack, just in case she needed them. She might have even rolled her eyes. We said good-bye to Papa and Shira and headed out the door. Walking from the car to her classroom door I couldn't stop smiling at how ridiculous she looked with her big backpack. How could this tiny creature of mine be ready for school? Wasn't she just living inside my uterus? There just has to be more time between uterus and Kindergarten, right? I could feel the collective shock of mothers and fathers all around me, as we all quieted down long enough, above the background noise of new clothes and new friends, to realize that our little ones were about to take a really big step all on their own.

That's when it started. Alyce's excitement turned to holding my hand, which turned to wrapping her little arms around my neck, which is when the tears began. The school bell rang and her teacher called them all into class, just the kids, not the parents. In a panic Alyce started pulling at the zipper on her backpack, twisting her arms around trying to get it off her back. And then I realized. She wanted her hearts. Maybe I just need one in my pocket, she said. She chose a tiny purple heart, put her backpack back on, and started sobbing. SOBBING. All the other kids were in the classroom now, everyone but my Alyce. Her teacher came over and told Alyce softly that it was time to go. Alyce continued to cry, and it wasn't that annoying whiny-cry that kids do when they aren't getting their way. She was doing the ugly-cry, the one that comes from a deeper place. Her teacher took her hand out of mine and led Alyce inside. She'll be alright, Danielle, she said. And I knew she would be, but at that moment my heart broke for Alyce. No matter how much fun she'll have today, and no matter how excited I am for her, that sadness was real. And no matter what I do, I can't protect her from those feelings. Fortunately, there will be other feelings today, too.

Maybe I knew all along that today was going to be big, and that she'd need those little hearts.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I've been a bit down.

It's inevitable, I guess. Looking for work can be a rough business. I know I need to be patient, and I really am trying, but some days I would rather have a tantrum than be patient, and no one can take that away from me.

Did I mention that my husband is also not working (though for different reasons)? And that we're both home all the time? And that I love him very much but that we need some space every once in awhile? Yeah, that too. Poor Children, I think even they have had too much time at home with us. I think I saw Alyce trying to sneak out early for school. Sorry, little one, but school is closed on Saturdays.

But we're all good.  Amidst all the crazy and the sometimes-bored-at-home-ness, we pull through. I'm knitting more, thinking about unpacking those last few boxes (just thinking), and doing some reading (thank you, Tina Fey, for being hilarious). I'm also trying to proactively get my act in gear: less time moping at home and more time at the Farmer's Market (this morning), the Cambridge Fall Fair (this afternoon), and a yoga class (tomorrow). Like I said, we're good.

Except for Shira, who is teething. She's currently accepting donations of frozen melon, some extra-strength infant Tylenol, and a big foam hammer with which to chase her big sister (to help with the stress of it all). I'd include a photo, but she's too angry to even look at me.

P.S. We're fine. Really, mum.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


When Alyce tells me a story I always find myself wanting to capture her, just wrap her up and keep in my pocket for later. She throws her whole self into the telling, using great gestures, faces, and variation in volume. The rest of the world keeps moving while Alyce stands still in time, elaborating on, for example, how Cinderella is twenty years old and now to old for school, unlike Alyce, who is just the perfect age.

She is indeed the perfect age for school. This afternoon we are taking Alyce to her Junior Kindergarten orientation, where she will meet her new teacher and maybe introduce herself to some new friends. Unlike the rest of the world it seems, Alyce doesn't actually start class until next week. We are all very excited about this development, for all the reasons you might imagine (ranging from the educational all the way to some quiet at home). I loved school so very much and I hope with all my heart that Alyce does, too. Loving school helped me get through a lot in my life, even when things (school included) were difficult. Most of all I want Alyce to feel that magic I used to feel when I'd sit in a new classroom, just thinking about all the things I might learn.

Seriously, I'm not making this up. I really did love school that much. I still do. (Career graduate student, anyone?)

Good luck, Alyce!

Monday, September 5, 2011

We paint

What do we do on Labour Day? We paint. And then I dump The Children into the kitchen sink and hose them down. Shira only ingested a few cups of paint (give or take) and thoroughly enjoyed her first real painting day. In fact she liked it so much that she screamed and threw down her little body when it was time to clean up. You, in India, you heard her right? That's my girl, nothing if not an eager painter.

You'll notice that Shira is painting in a white shirt. Smart, no? Alyce and I had painting aprons, but none for Shira. So now I have a sewing project. It won't be stylish, it might not be pretty, but it will be made with love. Speaking of projects, I'm almost (well, mostly) finished the blanket I'm knitting for Shira. I'm using a Purl Bee pattern that is, as promised, very easy, but it takes forever. I am confident, however, that Shira will love it, and then I can get started on their sweaters. With any luck they'll be finished before the end of winter. I've decided on a oatmeal colour for Alyce and a soft blue for Shira. I'll keep you posted!

What projects are you working on? I'm hoping to get a lot done on the blanket tonight while watching Bridesmaids with Matt. I've seen it before and I'm still laughing about it. I think I'd like to be friends with Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig.