School Dazed

I don’t know what happened to the month of January, but I blinked and find myself already one week into February–and struggling with yet another new routine. The big change is stemming from the fact that our wonderful nanny is getting to be very pregnant with her third child, due in early April.

I’ve more or less been in denial about the fact that she’s having a baby, although she and I have talked several times about what she wants and needs. Two weeks. That’s the amount of time off she wanted to “rest” after the birth. And then she asked if I wouldn’t mind dropping baby off and picking him up at her house for awhile until she got into a routine with the new baby. Ummm, that’s it? There’s a reason this woman is absolutely amazing.

But my brain can’t totally process this plan. If I remember correctly, it was like a full month before I stopped feeling some uncomfortable pulling and pinching every time I sat down. I started going into contingency planning. What if something happens and she ends up having a preemie? What if she has to have a cesarian? Or worse. What if the baby needs to stay in the hospital for awhile after birth? And then I started to just feel guilty. Do I look like an unreasonable employer for only giving her two weeks off before I dump my kid on her for 10 hours a day, five days a week–even if that’s what she asked for?

I decided I needed to figure something else out. I toyed briefly with the idea of looking for a short-term nanny, but the more I thought about it, the more complicated it seemed. Going through the nanny solicitation/screening process seemed like a nightmare. And I was pretty sure that I’d end up paying even more than the ridiculous sum I spend now every week for full-time child care. But more than anything, it sort of felt like we would be cheating on our nanny in some way, shape, or form. I mean, what if we liked the new person as much as our awesome nanny? I wasn’t ready for this kind of love triangle. So, I decided I’d seek out some day care facilities.

The last time I looked at day care facilities I was eight months pregnant and freaking out over the fact that most places wanted $100 to just turn in an application to maybe get on an 18-month-long wait list. And then if we were lucky enough to get in, we could pretty much kiss $18,000 or more away a year for the privilege.

But I was desperate in a different way now, so I started calling around. I soon found out that my child is at an awkward age–on the older side for toddler care but still too young for pre-school. So, as I was searching for some place to start bringing my kid in March, I was finding that (1) options were limited for the timeframe and (2) I was already running into the application deadlines for the fall preschool season. I found myself rushing to fill out preschool applications before Feb. 1 deadlines and I hadn’t found any place for my child in the much nearer term. Crazy.

Experts suggest that parents look at at least three different facilities before making a decision. Despite all the phone calls and appointments I made, my kid ended up at the one and only place I actually physically looked at. I consider the Petite Academy–which despite its lovely sounding name has no French affiliation, sadly–a hidden gem in this city. I think most parents would hesitate to look at it because they think it’s in a bad neighborhood because it’s on the wrong side of Georgia Avenue. But there’s really no neighborhood to speak of around it. The  facility sits behind the city reservoir on a main corner of a hospital megaplex that includes Children’s National Medical Center and the VA Hospital. For us, the bonus is it’s less than a mile from the house, so traffic isn’t a bear and I can total see myself taking the dog for a walk to pick up baby once the weather gets a little nicer.

To me, the building seems pretty nice; the classrooms are large, and there’s a good amount of fenced-in outdoor space. It also appears very neat and organized, even if some of the furniture is a little worn from enough kids toddler-handling it. Everything is expertly labeled, as well, down to a little red bag with my kid’s name on it that they hand me at the end of the week with all the stuff I need to take home and wash. And I get a progress report every day the details everything from what he enjoyed doing that day down to the number of diaper changes. Plus there are security check in/out codes for parents dropping off/picking up, so it feels like no one is just going to walk out with my kid. Because, let’s be honest, that’s the last thing I need to be worried about while I’m at work.

It would seem that everything should be great. I not only found a place that I find acceptable, affordable, and convenient, but they also had no wait list, so I was able to enroll my kid a month earlier than hoped. While that kind of stinks for my nanny, who just got her hours cut (I’m still feeling guilty about that), I have something lined up for my child whenever her baby decides to make his entrance. But mornings like this morning make me wonder if I’m even doing the right thing.

I can’t explain the mini heartbreak I had when my kid started crying as we turned into the day care parking lot. And then he clung to my leg, crying harder, as I tried to walk inside. There were full on tears as we hung up his jacket. And I could hear his shrieks and screams all the way down the other end of the hallway as I left. I know better than to hang around and try to make him feel better about me leaving, but, if I’m honest, I feel like absolute shit when I finally got back in the car.

I don’t know how long my kid cries for after I leave. His teachers keep telling me he’s doing well. Today’s big accomplishment was that he released his death grip on his sippy cup for half the day, which was a marked improvement. And when I pick him up, he’s usually fine right up until the point where he realizes I’ve come to pick him up. And he starts crying all over again. He’s not even two and he’s clearly making me pay for dumping him off at this place all day.

But what really makes me sad is that this is all because he misses me. Really misses me. I guess I didn’t realize how much time we spent together before. I mean, I still worked and he still spent significant time with his nanny. But with my new job being a more traditional work environment, we have gotten pretty far away from our old routine, which I will admit I totally loved as well. Now, if I take him to the gym daycare for an hour on the weekends, he screams. Six months ago, he was there four or five times a week and loved it every time.

He misses me. And knowing that makes me miss him more than I already do.

I realize that he’ll get used to the new routine and there will be less crying and more fun for him. And I realize that he’s going to be pre-school aged before I know it, so this is good practice. Really he’s only six or eight months away from that, so this is just temporary.

But I still really miss him.

 

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Day of the Dog

It was just before the holidays that I started to really take stock of my child’s vocabulary. Honestly, I was starting to get worried that he was behind in his language skills. Of course that would’ve been totally normal given that he’s being talked to in three languages on any given day. But still. I was worried that he was noticeably behind.

As it turns out, he’s progressing like any mono-lingual kid at this point. And by that I mean he’s totally soaking anything and everything in. While not everything he utters is intelligible, at 20 months, he’s really trying to repeat (to varying degrees of success) everything that is said. And that is really fun–and a little scary when you actually start to realize all the adult language that you are still using even though you don’t think you are.

But the coolest thing for me this week was that baby now has two words in two different languages for the same object–that object being our dog. Baby’s second word after gato (cat in Spanish) was chien, or dog in French. And that’s what he’s been calling a dog for months now. Until this week when we went to the dog park. As he was running around, chasing all the various mutts, he started yelling out, “Doggies! Doggies!” It floored me because no one in our house says doggies. I suspect it’s something he’s picked up watching television at the nanny’s, but I can’t be sure.

But the interesting thing to me is that, at 20 months old, he understands that doggy and chien mean the same thing. Althought it sort of seems like he’s using doggies to refer to multiple dogs and chien to refer to a single dog. (As an aside–that’s the other thing that’s new in terms of development for him; he can now pick the image of a dog or a cat out of a book or off TV.) But all the same, I’m fascinated by the fact that he’s somewhat grasped the concept of a synonym.

I don’t know if that represents a major milestone in multilingual development or not. I clearly haven’t ready enough books to make me knowledgeable about what I should be doing much less an expert in doing it. It does seem like it should be. But even if it’s not, it’s cause enough for some age-appropriate celebration around our house.

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The $40 Beer and Other Tall Tales

After the exciting New Year’s Eve that I had, the thing I was most look forward in 2012 was a first New Year’s brunch at  a relatively nice place. (Cloth napkins, please; that’s all I’m asking.) So, I made plans to meet up with my husband’s cousin, her husband, and their son who is also toddler aged. I figured if I couldn’t enjoy a night on the town, I could at least enjoy a couple of festive mimosa and an overpriced plate of eggs before strollering home for nap time.

New Year’s Day started out just great. Baby and I slept in, then we went to the gym, where he had a great time in the baby-sized ball pit and I had a less-than-great time sweating it out on the treadmill. We had a wonderful walk downtown to the restaurant, and luckily there was no ridiculous wait.

And that’s pretty much where the fun stopped.

I’ve been totally embarrassed by my child before. The incident that first jumps to mind is sitting in a financial planner’s office this fall. As we negotiated what to do with the 401K I needed to do something with following my layoff, my kid turned from a little boy into a goddamn monkey. He was literally climbing all over the guy’s leather chair, pulling documents off his desk, playing with a model car that was clearly not a toy, highlighting the wooden table in his office–you name it, he meddled in it. The crowning moment was when my child discovered the mini golf sculpture, replete with a real sand trap. Before I could sign my life’s savings over, my child had a fist full of sand and had chucked it across the guy’s office. And if I thought it couldn’t get any worse, my kid took a dump in his diaper that stunk up the place to the point where the financial planner had to open the office door and let some fresh air in.

If I thought that experience was humiliating, I had another thing coming at this brunch. We sat down, ordered a drink, and then placed our orders. I went for some mussels steamed in some beer-infused cream sauces with spicy sausage and a cold, crispy beer; I ordered baby some sliders to share with his cousin and fries. After about 15 minutes of playing with cars, whining started. And then I got angry face. And then the crying started.

In the span of the next 20 minutes, I pulled out a light saber (or thats what I call this toy that has a globe on a stick and when you press the button a bunch of lights spin around), fruit snacks, a toy phone, a toy remote, crayons, and raisins. But the crying wouldn’t stop. At this point, the best thing about the restaurant was that it was loud as hell and I don’t think the table next to us could hear my child fussing majorly over the din of other diners conversing and plates being cleared.

So, baby and I went hand in hand to the bathroom to check on the diaper situation. Turns out the diaper was not an issue. But the crying had turned into hysterics and I soon found myself three more times in the bathroom over the next 15 to 20 minutes. (Seriously how slow could this service be!) I tried everything–diaper change, timeout, pleading, and finally begging. I was starting to completely look my grip on the whole situation. I know it’s bad when family follows you into the bathroom to find out if you’re okay. (Ummm, no, but I can’t tell anyone just how close I am to completely losing it.)

After an eternity and a day, the food arrives. My child is absolutely sobbing. In the high chair. In my lap. Standing next to the table. He’s just a blubbering and snotty mess. I pull the plug.

I ask for the check and a couple of doggie bags. I shovel a couple of mussels into my gullet and whole-heartedly try to package up the rest of them with the intent to actually enjoy them when I get home. I get them all in the box and realize (1) the box is cardboard, so I’m going to end up with a soupy mess in my stroller despite the box inside the box packaging and (2) even if I could get a plastic bag to wrap up the box, the box still won’t close. So, I think I pretty much threw my hands in the air and got the funk out of there. My bill (with tip) was close to $40. The only thing I actually ingested was an Amstel Light.

Thank god I had a 45 minute walk home in 35-degree temperatures–after a $40 beer, no way in hell I was paying for a cab–because it took me that long to cool down. Honestly, I was furious. I wasn’t necessarily mad at my kid (although maybe I was a little bit), but I totally felt cheated out of not only $40 but a nice day with family. I mean, how often do I really get out? And it was brunch, for god’s sake!

I’m sure it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was somehow, on that day, at that time, nearly devastating for me. Which is why I felt like not only the world’s worst mother but a total ass the next morning. I retrieve my child from his bed in the next morning to find his entire face crusted in a snot mask. He was clearly sick. And he had clearly been telling me the day before that he didn’t feel well. And I clearly all but cursed him out for acting up.

I can say with certainty that the idea of having to remove not just a but my hysterical child from public was a huge parental fear of mine. And it happened, despite my efforts to the contrary. (I just thank god it was with family and not my husband’s boss.) But I lived to see another day, if not another mussel.

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The New Adventures of the Old Me

When ringing in the new year, it’s only natural to think about the new people we could become. But the problem I have is that I can’t just think about one thing I would change for the better in the year ahead; with every new year I feel like I need an extreme life makeover.

And this is why I can’t just pick one simple resolution. I have to choose multiple resolutions. Usually because I start out with one good idea and then it leads to another and then I’ve got something that looks like a weekend honey-do list rather than a simple resolution.

But the good thing about having so many is that you don’t feel quite as big of a loser when you fail to keep your resolutions or just sort of half-ass them. Because you’ve set such big expectations that even in falling short across the board, you’ve at least moved the needle on your life in a good direction.

While 2011 certainly had its challenges, one of the good things I took away from it was that I had a lot of time for self development. I wrote a lot (although nearly not enough in my book); I tried a bible study group; I volunteered for a leadership position; I raised a lot of money for a great charity (and ran 10 miles as part of the process); and I reevaluated my career path (the one good thing about getting laid off). So, in a way, it a productive if not ideal year.

While I had a ton on my plate, and sometimes it totally was too much, I felt better about me when I was that busy. And a lot of the things that I accomplished forced me to slow down and be a little more reflective than I might have been otherwise. So, my challenge in 2012 is to figure out how to sustain some of that momentum so that I end up a less frazzled, more content person. Here’s my roadmap to learning not to sweat the small stuff:

  1. Be more patient (with husband and dog, husband especially)
  2. Unleash my inner entrepreneur!
  3. Drink more water (glub, glub)
  4. Read more for fun (and some above a grade 3 reading level)
  5. Thank god every day

Yes, I realize that these five resolutions are all over the map. But the way this grab bag of resolutions makes sense is that each one speaks to a different facet of my life and the whole package is a better me. There’s one resolution that deals with family, another with my professional aspirations, a third that addresses health, another focused on leisure, and the last one is about spiritual enhancement. To me, those five things seem like the main ingredients in the recipe for a more fulfilling life. So, here’s to making all this happen in the year ahead. Cheers!

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Hello, 2012!

So, it’s New Year’s Eve. And I’m in my slippers and planted on my couch and its not even 10:00pm yet. My glass of wine is within reach, there is leftover takeout in the fridge, and I’ve got Season 1 of Parenthood on tap for the rest of the evening.

It’s a far cry from New Years past. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t entertain a few notions of taking my night up a notch. The most ridiculous one involved me putting on a sparkle outfit, replete with sequined mini skirt, tights, and heels, and having a candle lit dinner with my 18-month-old child. (It’s almost embarrassing to admit that.) Luckily I came to my senses and ordered Chinese instead.

Although it would be nice to be sharing tonight with someone who doesn’t eat at 5:30pm and call it lights out by 8:00pm (at the latest), for the most part, I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do. Yes, I know I’m lame, and I’m okay with it. But on the plus side of not paying out the you-know-what for a night on the town and then making sure I get my money’s worth out of cheap champagne (only to regret it the next morning), I am left with a few hours to really take stock of what 2011 was all about.

Since I wasn’t going to hear it tonight, I decided to look up the words to Auld Lang Syne; I never really knew what the words were even though I’m pretty sure I’ve belted out the chorus like it was my job before. I always thought the message was to not let your past be forgotten, but it turns out that the song really asks a question–whether or not it’s right that old times be forgotten. So, really, it assumes that we do forget, but it doesn’t really tell us whether it’s a tragedy or a blessing. And if I’m going to do my own year in review, I think I’m left with a similar question.

It was a long year. And an oftentimes lonely year. And sometimes just a really hard, total meltdown-worthy year, as I’m sure my mother can attest since I called her at a number of low points in 2011. All of those old times I would certainly like to forget.

But then there were the awesome parts. My baby grew into a little boy this year. So, there were a lot of big firsts to be had–first crawls, first steps, first words. We also had a lot of wonderful adventures along the way, some as far as Europe and some as close as the baby pool in the backyard. And those old times I wouldn’t trade for anything. In fact, it hurts my heart to know they’re gone.

So, with just a few minutes left before midnight, I think maybe the song says something totally different. I think what it means is that every year has its ups and its downs, things we’ll remember for ever and some we wish we could completely undo. We don’t have to relive it all or forget it all; instead we can choose what memories to keep dear and near to us and let the others just go. And so as I head into 2012, I think I’ll just take the good with me and leave the rest in 2011. Auld Lang Syne!

 

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Why It’s Never Appropriate to Interrupt a Breastfeeding Mother

There’s not much not to love about Target. It’s my go-to one-stop shop for everything from diapers to anti-mom jeans for $14. But this morning as I was trolling through my news feeds I found one thing not to like: It’s seemingly inconsistent policies on how to handle breastfeeding mommies.

So, today’s news story has a familiar plot line: Breastfeeding mommy starts nursing in the store. Store employees ask mommy to do something–cover up, move to a different location, or stop breastfeeding all together–out of a so-called respect for their other customers. But rather than just rant to her friends about it, the most-recently offended momma is mobilizing other mommas from around the country for a flash-mob nurse-in at Target stores next Wednesday, Dec. 28.

But what I want to know is what employee actually wants to be the person who says something to a breastfeeding mom about what’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to breastfeeding? Let’s just ignore the fact that breastfeeding in public is a protected right. There have got to other disciplinary or corrective measures for employees to take that would ultimately be more beneficial to the store than harrassing a breastfeeding mother. What about teen shoplifters? They probably need to be followed around. Or what about the weirdos who trash the family restroom? That certainly could be better monitored. I just don’t get why it would even cross someone’s mind to even interrupt a breastfeeding mother. Obviously she’s cool and comfortable with whatever she’s doing, wherever she’s doing it, so just leave her alone.

Seriously, how disruptive could a nursing mother actually be in a Target store? The only people who really linger around, hitting every department and cruising up and down every aisle are moms. I’d venture a guess that the rest of the shopping population goes into Target knowing pretty much what s/he wants, picking up a few impulse buys along the way. Those people are in and out of there in like 20 minutes whereas a mom might spend a good 45 minutes checking stuff out. So, again, why would you even bother saying anything to a nursing mom? Chances are she’s there at least once a week and has spent at least $50 bucks at every pass.

I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s any time that it’s appropriate for someone to engage in a conversation with a nursing mom. Other than for health and safety reasons–hey, lady, that’s going to fall onyour kid’s head!–I can only find one. And that’s to inform, not suggest, a mom that the establishment has a nursing lounge. And I don’t mean a back supply closet with a folding metal chair; I’m talking about a proper nursing lounge à la Nordstroms, where there are comfy chairs and a changing table.

And for those mommas who haven’t made great use out of the mothers’ lounges at Nordstroms yet, here’s what you can expect:

Obviously this is a little plush for your local Target, but I think a scaled-down version would be a fantastic idea. And could there be a better opportunity to showcase some of the products the retailer sells than to have Target for Home furniture in a setting like this? And as far as maintaining the facility, it could be as simple as getting a key from the service desk. Let’s just hope that Target management can recognize an opportunity to turn a bad publicity event into an opportunity to better serve a core customer.

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Filed under breastfeeding, daily life, feeding, infants, lactation, shopping

Yup, I’m Still Human

I’ve had a hectic year. I spent most of it playing a work-from-home single mom. And then in the fall, I became an unemployed single mom. And now in December, I’ve rejoined the workforce as a full-time working, quasi single mom. (Trust me, I’m counting down the days until my husband’s travel schedule has nothing on it–for now.)

My first week returning to an office job was a little rough. My life as a solo parent/head of household only worked because it was programmed down to the minute. Consequently, an unexpected 15-minute delay was enough to practically derail my whole day. So, working through the kinks of a new schedule is fairly painful.

For example, I’ve never been what I call a morning “miller.” I never got up and milled around, drinking a cup of coffee, reading the paper, or watching the morning news before I got going with my day. I have always been a get-up-and-get-out-the-door kind of person. Not possible anymore.

I have figured out that I need to build in a 15- to 20-minute buffer of sorts if I want to (a) actually have a few minutes to speak with my child before herding him out the door and (b) have enough time to deal with unforeseen time sucks, such as missing keys, uncooperative dog and/or child, and major messes (like the extra grande, extra full coffee mug that tipped over, spilling sticky, flavored coffee all over my counter, my stove, my floor, and me yesterday morning).

And I’ve definitely had a couple of why-am-I-doing-this-again moments. The big one was the same morning as the coffee incident. That morning I also tore the house apart twice looking for my office security key (to no avail), the dog refused to eat or leave the back deck to do his thing, and I dropped the brand new roll of tin foil, which of course completely unraveled across my kitchen floor. (Have you ever tried to put tin foil back on a roll? Yeah, not going to happen.)

With all the mini crises, I barely took a second to look at my child much less smile at him. I nearly cried when stopped at a traffic light, I looked in the rear view mirror and he was totally silent, with this look of what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-my-mom on his cute little face. The killer was the dog had a similar look on his mug and had  laid his head down on the crumb cruncher’s lap, almost in reassurance that my craziness, too, shall pass. I totally felt like the worst mom ever.

But the next day was better, so I was reassured that I would figure out a way to make it all happen because somehow moms always do. And by the end of the week, I felt pretty in control of my new schedule and could let myself feel as excited as I wanted to be about my new job.

By Saturday I felt nearly invincible. I had taken my weekday efficiency measures into the weekend. Baby and I went to the gym; turbo shopped in Target, knocking a ton of stuff off our Christmas to-give lists; dropped the dog off at doggy day care; had brunch with our cousins; went grocery shopping; retrieved dog; and was home a little after 3pm. I was pretty proud of myself.

I let the crumb cruncher loose in the backyard with the dog, thinking how lucky we were to have a fenced in yard, as I put away my groceries. How great was it to have a place for him to play where I could keep an eye on him and yet still take care of everything I needed to take care of? Not to mention that I had just powered my way through a super productive day. It was as if life itself was telling me, “You got this, girl,” when it came to dealing with all the craziness of my life.

Almost.

As I was putting away some dishes, I thought I heard a cry. So, I took a closer look out the patio doors. There was the dog pretty much dragging my child across the yard by his hood. Face down. Funny how life has a way of reminding you just how human you are.

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