Seat for One

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Getting on the airplane without wipes or overnight diapes. Getting me settled. Needing only worry about my bathroom needs. Sipping my coffee and actually tasting it, not hearing a request for a chocolate chip cookie at 8:15 am. A bag of books, pens, trail mix and journals. This is what it is to travel alone.

I’m headed to Texas to spend the weekend with my two sisters. We have four kids between us and they will all remain behind with our husbands. Not one of us specifically had the idea to go away for a weekend. We missed our mother, sometimes desperately, sometimes as a matter of fact, and it seemed that going away would be a good way to strengthen the bonds between us and spend some uninterrupted time talking about her. We wouldn’t need to make dinner or do laundry. We could swear, watch silly movies and drink wine late into the evening without worry over bedtime routines.
Elisabeth is the butter and salt in the kitchen of my life, staples I can’t go without for long if I want to make anything worthwhile. Loving her, indeed is like wearing my heart outside my body. It can be simultaneouIMG_7516sly exhausting and exhilarating and always vulnerable. Our highs are so high—snuggling with her small body in her warm bed as soon as she wakes up, having her tell me that if she “go’ed away that she would miss me”— and our lows are so rock bottom low. We were in that dark place yesterday in the Monuts parking lot, me trying to wrestle Elisabeth into her car seat because she is screaming, raging for a reason I couldn’t understand. Twenty minutes later she was a normal being again, calmer but I was an exhausted shell. No energy even to stop for gas and desperate to pee, all I could think about was getting home.

And less than twenty-four hours later, I’m on a plane. Headed away. Before we boarded, I was in and out of the bathroom in two minutes instead of ten. No child’s hands to attempt to reach into an adult size sink. No wiping someone else’s bottom. No stuffed animals to juggle in addition to luggage.

I resolve to eat slowly this weekend, to taste my food. Maybe to walk slower. To write and work out each day. To care for only myself. It’s time that no one gives us. Like power, time must be taken. No one gifts away anything of real value and time is not different. We, moms especially, must intentionally take it, here, there, everywhere, anywhere. Grab it in snippets of minutes or in chunks of days. Our love for our children and families may be bottomless but our energy, livelihood and patience are not. Time away rebuilds the bits of me that have been slowly sanded away by stress, worry, shouting and silent anger.

The best? At the end of the weekend, I will be ready to return. Ready and likely eager too. In fact, I’ll want to get back. My life, while not perfect, is a dream one. I have a loving husband who is a partner in the parenting of our child in all ways. This is rare and I have it. How did I get so lucky? My child is healthy, there is work that I love and a cherished, restorative home in a community that fills me. Getting back to that, getting back to her, with fresh eyes and rest will be as breathtakingly appealing as getting away was just a few days earlier. It always is for me.

“Most problems are like that. When we prepare for them and get used to them, they’re not problems anymore. They’re merely the way it is.” Seth Godin says here. I think mothering is like that. I know there will be problems: break-downs, falls, swear words, sickness and tantrums. I can’t anticipate them but I can prepare for the stress of them with regular self-care. Elisabeth isn’t an infant but I need this time away now more than ever. Maybe you do too. Find a seat for one for you too.

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Valley of the Dolls

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I say “no” to my only child. It’s hard sometimes but I do it. When Elisabeth asks about a doll though my answer, albeit not right away, always turns into a reluctant “yes”.

Toy store dolls, immaculate and untouched in sharp plastic boxes, are not the “yes” dolls. Elisabeth finds her dolls eking out an existence alone in one of two huge wooden bins at the TROSA store before they come home to us. They are thrown in casually with stuffed lions, Sponge Bobs, elephants, cheap plush sharks, Tony the Tiger and other predators. Legs are bent at awkward angles but frozen smiles and wide eyes are resolutely in place. They are seldom clothed which, for me, adds to their desperation. Always naked, little girl dolls. These dolls are one of the cheapest things at TROSA: 50 or 69 cents. The price is one of the worst things but also one of the best: their low cost makes them easier to save.

And they are being saved. By us. As Elisabeth’s doll collection increases, my hesitation grows but ultimately my “yes” comes down to the same thing: How can I say no to a naked, little girl baby in an unsafe place? These dolls, naked and alone, seem like all the girls in the world who are abused and abandoned.

IMG_6847We don’t have space for endless dolls and sometimes I wonder if we’re in too deep already: will they get enough love? In our home, though, Elisabeth makes sure there is enough. She spends time with her rescues, murmuring soothingly. She offers bottles, blankies, beds and milkie even, from her own tiny nipple. I draw a hard line, though, at these babies staying in the car by themselves or remaining behind alone on the front porch. From time to time, I’ve even curbed Elisabeth’s yelling by simply telling her it scares the babies. The dolls are happy though to remain in her single parent, imperfect family. I think they accept Elisabeth’s mistakes and see that she tries hard and wants to do what’s right. Best of all: she’s actually present in this home. They can count on that.

A woman was a child was a baby once. All the lost girls in the world had to have been loved then, even if briefly? But if that is true, it almost doesn’t matter if they all seem to land anyway in the hard purgatory of TROSA. Let me say “yes” then to this small kind of heaven, our home, and help them heal from the wrongs suffered from this hell of a world which doesn’t do well by our girls and even worse caring for the broken women those lost girls become.

Last week, Elisabeth found a new doll with a clunky, hard battery pack. “No,” I said quickly. “She’s scary.” “Why?” Elisabeth asked. I was thinking of Talky Tina but that was too much to explain. I did say that batteries could make the doll talk and that was a little creepy. As we headed out, Elisabeth said she didn’t want that doll. “Why?” I asked. “Because she’s scary,” Elisabeth said. My influence crops up at unexpected times and in this moment, her response felt like more than I could take. I explained Mimi had allowed me to see a movie when I was small which had a talking doll that had scared me. (Forgive me, Mom, I know that’s not exactly what happened). But this doll didn’t even look like that doll, I argued in favor of another baby that I hadn’t really wanted in the first place. Elisabeth seemed satisfied and handed over her 53 cents. We went home to wash up this new baby, find her clothes and come up with a name.

It’s hard to love the inner voice that compels me to do work which offers a reluctant “yes” to these dolls. But they are not hard to love. I swallow and say, “yes, come,” a little more firmly this time.

A #bedtime story: #toddlers version

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Note: I wrote the bulk of this right after Christmas but finished it today.

Getting upstairs last night was a struggle. It isn’t usually but Elisabeth wouldn’t go on her own so my husband had to pick her up and carry her upstairs. She cried the whole way. I heard her banging the baby gate upstairs (“what baby?” I think to myself as I head upstairs) and see her angry and sobbing while my husband pulls the curtains in her room. “Gate open,” she cries repeatedly. I open the gate and sit there, waiting. She comes over, red-faced and desperate. “Gate open,” she says. “It is open, Star,” I tell her. She goes down one stair on her bottom and turns around to look at me. “Mama” she says with a look of utter despair. “Let’s go into Mama’s room and do a puzzle.” I suggest. In an instant, she’s calm and seconds later she and I are on the bed with her bedtime puzzle.

Elisabeth chocolate pictureLater, I tempt Elisabeth into laying down by laying down myself and reaching for her comforter. She’s in a big girl bed now so we both fit in, barely. I rest my head on her pillow. Elisabeth edges up the bed and and yawns. She lays down and pulls the comforter close to her. As per our custom, I ask Elisabeth what she is feeling grateful for. “Christmas,” she says this 28th of December. “Great,” I say. “What else?” “Santa Claus,” she says without hesitation. “Nice, and what else?” I ask. The third answer is the usual answer “Going to Aunty Caroline’s house,” she says. [I’ve explained the idea of “grateful” as something that makes you feel good or that you are happy about. I think that must be why Aunty Caroline’s house is always in there although we haven’t been there since April.] I tell her that I am grateful for our breakfast with Papa at Monuts. She says, “the new Monuts,” and a brief discussion on the new vs. the old Monuts ensues. “Stay,” Elisabeth suddenly says to me after a moment of quiet. “I’m here, ” I reply. “Stay,” she repeats. “I’m here,” I say again, not wanting to tell the lie of “I’m not going anywhere.” She seems satisfied and closes her eyes. I do the same. I feel her feet rubbing up against my legs and remember that I had forgotten the last part of our ritual. “I love you,” I say, opening my eyes. Elisabeth is looking at me. She doesn’t yet know the answer to this last piece of our nightly ritual so there is only silence. I close my eyes and know Elisabeth has snuggled closer, feeling her breathe warm my face.

I’m beginning to think Elisabeth is more like a feral animal than a drunken bipolar troll. She’s impulsive with big emotions that flash hot and cold. The raw honesty, though, is sometimes blinding. It’s so unusual in our daily life. Conversations that adults have can go on for hours and never really reveal anything. There are double meanings, hedged words. Metaphors that go unnoticed, fruitless wishes for someone to read our mind or offer up a raise, praise or permission. With toddlers, you know exactly how they feel. They say what they mean. It can be uncanny.

A big girl bed now, not a crib. A bed where I hope Elisabeth will be until her teen years. She won’t always want me to lay down next to her. It’s almost 2015 but where was 2013? Wasn’t its just a muggy June afternoon when we came home from the hospital with her buckled into a seatbelt, wearing a snuggly hat? It’s all so far gone. And yet I know I can still preserve it by being in these bedtime moments, and others, as fully as I can. So I’ll take the struggle of getting upstairs now, as I think of the future struggles. Bedtime struggles suddenly seems mild.

Highs and Lows

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I mentioned last week at Outside The Mom Box Facebook page that I really appreciated one mom’s observation that living with a two year old is like “living with a bipolar drunken troll”. That so rings true for me. One minute Elisabeth is high as a kite, happy, charming and relaxed. The next minute, I head to the bathroom and suddenly a tidal wave of dismay of such astronomical proportions hits the mood. “No Mama, no peepee!”. Why is me going to the bathroom such a trauma? Such is the brain of a 2 year old apparently. Two weeks ago though, it was me reeling from an extreme high and a bottom down low.

Screen time for Elisabeth is limited to watching a video of herself and/or her friends doing something (hunting for eggs at her birthday party or jumping around at The Museum of Life and Science). It’s worked well so far. But it’s almost Christmas and since I have been reading _How The Grinch Stole Christmas_ since mid-July, I figured it was time to dust off my beloved Grinch DVD. No Jim Carrey for me; it’s classic Boris Karloff all the whole way. I asked Elisabeth if she’d like to see the movie of The Grinch. Of course she said “yes”, not knowing what she was agreeing to but tuning into my excitement and the novelty of being able to look at the computer. I hit “play” and started mouthing the words, practically jumping up and down with pleasure. She watched mouth open as the Whos trimmed their trees and the Grinch plotted evil. At one point I started reciting the words aloud, totally unconsciously, and she put a fast stop to that, “No singing Mama,”. I shut up then and watched silently, tapping my foot.

My heart sang with pleasure. This was one of those moments that I imagined I would have with my child. She and I curled up to a warm computer watching one of my all-time Christmas movies. It was sweet and wonderful, a Hallmark card ready for printing.

The next day we went to Durham Central Park‘s opening of Mt. Merrill. It was rainy so we didn’t walk. I pulled into the parking lot and saw Wool E Bull’s party van. So did Elisabeth. ” Wool E. Bull,” she said. “Yup,” I said. “When you see the Wool E. Moe-Bile, you know Wool E. is close by.”  “No Wool E. Bull,” she said. “Oh no, I think he is here,” I said. In hindsight, it seemed so clear we were destined for disaster. I’m always happy to see Wool E. so I didn’t see any red flags. Although I should have.

After our usual cookie stop at Daisy Cakes, we walked down Foster Street. It’s winter market now so thereIMG_1141 aren’t any vendors lining the street. But we could hear the shoos of kids coming from Mt. Merrill, the glorious new play structure at DCP. As we started to cross the street, Wool E. Bull turned around and started walking toward us. Like the best mascots, Wool E. just seemed to materialize before our eyes. Had he been standing there all along? I didn’t know but before I could race with my happy child toward his furry face, I heard Elisabeth scream. I have honestly never seen her look so frightened. “No Wool E!” she screamed and after an odd little hop of fear, she started running in the opposite direction. Nothing fazes Wool E. so he veered off his path and headed toward a group of other kids. I picked Elisabeth up and tried to reassure her that Wool E wasn’t around anymore. She believed me but when we were at Mt. Merrill, she still looked around for him, muttering “No Wool E.”

My husband and I were married at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Wool E. was a witness at our wedding. He’s practically related to us! To have my own child who has seen Wool E. before be so terrified of him filled me with mixed emotions. And less than 24 hours after our blissful Grinch experience, no less!

Living with a toddler means living with the knowledge that the unexpected is usually what happens. These two experiences reminded me of that. When Elisabeth was a baby I know things were going to change but it was usually predictable change: sleep, nursing, poop, etc. Now as a toddler, things with Elisabeth can change on a dime, in an erratic and seemingly nonsensical way. I guess this is one of the learnings about parenting: the high’s can be so filled with joy but the lows can really be quite low.

Here’s hoping your holidays are joyful, merry and filled with lots of bright highs!

Turning Around

Shortly after Halloween, we turned Elisabeth around. She’d been resisting the car seat for about a month by then when it finally occurred to me that maybe she was just growing up. Who wants to get into a car and face backward after all? At some point I knew that we’d need to turn her around but I’d held off as long as I could. Now it seemed the time had come. And it had. And we did.

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Elisabeth in her cat seat headed home from the hospital. If this looks unsafe to you, you’re right! Sadly, I didn’t know any better.

When Elisabeth was about 3 months old, we’d traveled from home from Whole Foods with her car seat unbuckled. My sister Caroline and niece were with me at the time. I’d went into the back seat to get her out and I saw that she was just sitting there, completely unsecured. I think that I started to cry. It was that incident, the fact that we’d moved car seats and that she had fallen a few days earlier that prompted me to head to the North Durham EMS station on Milton Road to get the car seat checked. In those early days I remember being besieged with guilt for failing her on many fronts which now, with hindsight, seem to less “failings” and more lessons that all new moms need to learn.

I hadn’t known of this service before (this and other local resources are listed here at Outside The Mom Box) so unlike most other parents, I went there with baby in seat. They were wonderful, even after I teared up again when they told me that her carseat wasn’t secure at all. They explained to me and while installing the car seat hadn’t been my new parent task, I blamed myself. So when I asked when I needed to turn the car seat around (I at least knew that happened sometime), the older female EMT explained the usual weight and age benchmarks but she added a cautionary story about babies she’d seen with broken necks, fractured skulls in car accidents. “Those are big deals,” she said. “Broken leg or being maybe a little uncomfortable because the kid’s legs don’t have to stretch, not so much.”

I took her words to heart. Elisabeth faced backwards for almost 2.5 years of her life. I thought I’d have to switch her sooner when she traveled in the car facing forward in Germany during our trip this summer (no car seats for toddlers have the option of being backwards) but she didn’t notice the difference when we came back here. The words of that EMT had been seared into my brain. But last month, Elisabeth would dawdle forever getting into her car seat or would resist so hard that I’d have to force her little body in just so we could get the two miles to school, I knew that we needed to make a change.

How much do we not know as new moms when our babies are small? The plus is now, it’s less frantically trying to figure it out before disaster (imminent for sure) strikes. The first year was all about keeping our collective heads above water so we could both float in our sea of uncertainty. The second year is more about paying attention, to yourself and your child. Learning what to watch for. Anticipating what they might be looking for and needing. So far this third year feels centered around developing skills to tackle the stubborn pushback your toddler is doling out, sometimes unconsciously (“what schedule?”) and sometimes deliberately.

Almost every time Elisabeth gets into the car now she says “turned around!” like it happened yesterday. The novelty will wear off but for now, she seems excited. Elisabeth is a real small person who actively adds to the conversation. She’s glad to be treated seriously, like a kid, not a baby. And while it might take me a bit to catch on (where is my toddler group?!) when I do, I no longer avoid an action due to fear. One of “developing skills” for sure!

Hitting Joshua

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One of my biggest hot buttons with Elisabeth is when she is hurtful to someone or some thing. Often it’s our oldest dog, Baci. Soon after Elisabeth turned two, she started to become aware of the power differential among our dogs and how that applied to her. I never really got the expression, “she saw red,” until I caught Elisabeth trying to pull Baci’s tail. But before dinner a few days ago, Elisabeth was tired and starting to lose a grip a little. I could see the exhaustion and impatience unfolding but we were headed inside in a few minutes so I thought we’d stick it out. Until she started waving a plastic shovel around and hit Joshua.

Joshua, a beloved neighbor who shares everything with Elisabeth, is about 5 months younger than she. Good natured and patient, he takes her grabbing his own toys away from him in stride. Perhaps this is all the more reason why I went from bored to livid in about 5 seconds. It’s not the first time Elisabeth has hit Joshua and while it wasn’t exactly an attack, it was deliberate. The first time this happened, I was literally struck dumb. It seemed impossible. I couldn’t believe that my child would deliberately hit another child.

This time, however, I remembered what I had read to do when your child hits or injures another child: I turned to Joshua and asked if he was okay*. He started to cry and even wobbled a little closer to me. His dad came over and comforted him. I turned to Elisabeth. I told her that she must never hit anyone, ever and asked if she had something to say to Baby. [She has started saying, “I’m sorry,” periodically when she knows she has done something wrong so I thought I would give her the opportunity here.] But Elisabeth was silent as she stood there holding the shovel. I told her we were going inside and she started to cry. I apologized to Baby’s dad and we left.

We talked a little bit about what happened over dinner. I suggested we bring some muffins over to Joshua and family if we saw them after dinner. We dropped the muffins on the porch with a note.

Until two days later when Elisabeth and I went outside after dinner. She has the toddler habit of talking out loud to herself, just whatever is on her mind. It’s just fascinating to listen to. I usually don’t have the opportunity to capture any of it. But this time I did. This is what I wrote down:

Elisabeth: (wandering around the corner of the house) “There is where I hit Joshua.”

Me: “How does that make you feel?”

Elisabeth: “It’s not good.”

Elisabeth: (pause) “With this shovel.”

Elisabeth: (pause) “No tweaking no biting no hitting.”

Elisabeth: (pause) “I’m sorry Joshua.”

Elisabeth: (pause) “I waved it around. It’s not good to Joshua or Gina.”

Elisabeth: “That’s not good.”

Elisabeth: (pause) “Or Caleb or Richard.”

(LONG Pause)

Me: “What else do you have to say about that?”

Elisabeth: “I’m sorry.
I say, I’m sorry Joshua.”

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…with one of Joshua’s toys, as usual.

And then it was over. Elisabeth started chalking and I showed my husband what I had wrote down when he came out. “Wow,” he said.

With my background, it’s hard for me to put hitting in perspective. Elisabeth’s stream of consciousness processing above helps, though. Domestic violence abusers don’t take responsibility for their actions. She may only a little over 2 years old but Elisabeth clearly knows what she did was wrong. I doubt this hitting incident will be the last. Toddlers aren’t known for their mediation skills. And we sure are still in the thick of toddlerhood here.

But I do take away two things that feel important to me. One is a reminder of how my history influences my thinking and behavior with my child. Tracy Cassels talks about this over at Evolutionary Parenting periodically (here’s one good article) as does Daniel Siegel in Parenting From The Inside Out. So crucial for parents to be aware of. I forget it periodically. The second is that while Elisabeth may not be able to say “I’m sorry,” in the moment, she can say it later and mean it. That is so important to me. Hearing her process out loud is oddly reassuring. It feels developmentally appropriate and right on so many levels.

It’s hard to know how best to respond in any given situation. As a mom, it feels like there is even more at risk than there might normally be. Maybe next time I will do something differently. Or maybe Elisabeth will. We’ll see.

*Apparently you are supposed to attend to the injured child before addressing the incident with your own. Not sure if this helped or hurt but I gave it a try.

The Good (Enough) Mother

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IMG_5103The image above is my daughter drinking from her water table. The good news is that I had *just* filled up the table. The bad news is that she likely would have drank it even if the water wasn’t fresh. In case you were wondering, yes, she’s been drinking bath water too. But I’m not going to sweat it.

Perfect isn’t going to happen with me. Rationally I know that I can’t be flawless. But occasionally, and more often than I’d like to admit, I shoot for it. I make an amazing nutritious dinner, vacuum the house and change the dogs’ water during nap. I wash Elisabeth’s hair more than once a week and attempt to comb it immediately afterwards. I wait for my husband to start talking about his day before I dive into mine.

Most of this doesn’t last longer than a few days.

But I’m not going to aim for perfection or even “excellence” as a mother. Perfection is the enemy of “good enough”. And damn, I want to be a good enough mom before I want perfection…for many reasons, not least of which is good mental health. But I also don’t want my daughter to see a “perfect” mother. Someone who never fails publicly, admits she made mistakes, reverses her position on anything and then wonder why she, aka the star of her mother’s universe, doesn’t measure up. Perfection is the silent killer of trying new things and admitting they didn’t work. And I always want my child to try new things. At 2 years old, she is truly “the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more,” and I want that boldness to continue. Perfection will tamp it will down and lock the door.

And here’s something else about perfection: even if the attempted pumpkin bread does turn out delicious this time, something else will inevitably happen next time or the time after that to throw a curveball into the batter. Because that’s life. We can’t control everything, even our wishes or our child’s. You can be the mom who dreams of pushing your child on a playground swing only never to do so because he hates it. You can be the parent who does all the research on an issue and your child blows it all out of the water because there is no one else like him in the world.

So, what do I do about this silent enemy, perfectionism? I make it up as I go along. I try something new and see if it sticks. I adjust my standards and take a breath. I come to terms with hair washed once a week because that’s who Elisabeth is right now. And unless we have a lice epidemic, why force her to submit to this if I don’t have to? I’m trying to let go of non-essentials, practice gratitude for everything that I have and go to bed early.

Most of the time.

And when I’m not making it up, I mentally mull over judgement calls all day long about whether or not it’s worth telling my daughter “No!” or cautioning her against something. She who remembers mine and my husband’s words, as your child does too. Is my “no” about me and my perfectionist tendencies or is it really what’s best for her? Most of the time, my “no” seems to be the former. Like when I’m hustling to get her into the car and she’s watching a cat crossing the street. My “no, we don’t have time for that,” is about ME. It’s my fault we are running late because I shouldn’t have tried to make cookies, do another load of laundry, and clean up the toys on the floor before we left the house. That’s the crazy-making and anxiety-inducing behavior behind perfectionism.

Every day we are teaching our babies something. And the unreal thing is that it is often invisible. The invisibility factor makes mothering all the harder. So let’s not create more work for ourselves, moms. Let’s give up the pursuit of perfect for good enough, do the best we can, and love everyone around us.

Toddler Napping…Or Not.

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About a month ago Elisabeth started rejecting afternoon nap. Since then the precious rest has become arbitrary, like a complimentary dessert at the end of your meal when you hadn’t expected it but had been secretly wishing for a hit of sugar.

For me, the parent in charge of naps most days, the wishing for nap hadn’t been secret at all. I’d desperately prayed about it, wrote to list serves about it, listened attentively to wise “older” parents and discussed (ranted) with friephoto-49nds and sisters. I don’t think any parent would disagree that the afternoon nap is Sacred. No bonbons and soap operas but time that the stay-at-home parent desperately needs. Like most other parents home during the day, I often work during nap, prep dinner or do minimal cleaning. I. need. that. time.

When nap is missing, it feels like my blood pressure is actually rising. I wonder how on earth I can fill the unexpected hours and keep my patience with an overtired 2 year old. Because, make no mistake, Elisabeth is exhausted most days she doesn’t take a nap. She fights sleep sometimes as I used to (still do). There is always one more book to read, another puzzle to figure out. I look at her tight fist rub one sleepy eye and sigh. She is me. To a Tee.

Some moms said to me, “go with the flow,” and “if nap doesn’t work one day, try it again another day.” I tried these things. The day Elisabeth said to me, “mama do something else,” before the scheduled nap, I almost started to cry. Mainly because that sentence felt like such a clear wish to be alone but also because she seemed so grown up. But I went away and found something else to do. I soon saw that I can’t count on that however. Heck, sometimes I can’t even get Elisabeth upstairs on her own, let alone in her room quietly working on books. What then? Other moms said that their very verbal kids dropped their nap when they were her age and asked me if she was also very verbal. She is, I said. They looked at me with a knowing, sympathetic glance. I chalked all of this up to “more information can be helpful” category of parenting in my mind and kept praying.

I’ve wrote before that I really try and take Elisabeth seriously. I don’t use “no” discriminately and work hard to honor her choices as much as I can, within reason. Now that she is so vocal, it feels even more important to do so. After all, she’s working hard to ask a question or make a clear statement, so it seems like recognizing and responding to that is the least I can do. That’s what I’ve tried to do for nap too.  I’ve discovered, however, that approach doesn’t work when Elisabeth is tired. She either doesn’t make good decisions or doesn’t make a decision at all which negates the whole respect thing I’ve been working on. It’s taken a good month but I’ve just realized this. And this realization means I need a new approach to the nap issue.

Yesterday I decided after talking with my friend Jennifer on Monday, that Elisabeth and I would come right home from school or wherever, and head upstairs around the usual time. No more play downstairs; we both agreed that the kids just became more wound up and perhaps that was part of the no-nap issue. When Elisabeth and I came home yesterday, we went right upstairs. Immediately, she says, “no nap, not tired.” I explained that she didn’t need to take a nap but it was quiet time and she needed to be in her room. This seemed to go over okay. Soon she wanted to go downstairs and I repeated the quiet time sentence, adding that (cousin) Gigi did quiet time in her house. Invoking (cousins) Gigi or Ivy Jane usually does work but no go this time. Downstairs I could hear the older dog barking his head off outside, wanting to be let in. I told Elisabeth that I needed to him in and I would be back. She started to cry. I closed the door to her room and left.

By the time that I opened up the backdoor to let the dog in, I could hear Elisabeth singing. The crying had stopped and she was singing Itsy Bitsy Spider. I debate going back upstairs since I did say that I would go back. I decided against it. Five minutes later, the song stops and it’s quiet. No video monitor so I don’t know what’s going on. The silence continued. I could only assume she fell asleep. A nap had been granted.

That was yesterday. Today, I tried something similar. No raucous barking as a means to flee her room but I simply said that it was quiet time and she didn’t have to sleep. I offered Elisabeth’s bear to her. She threw it. I asked her if she wanted to be nakey (a usual sure way to distract and soothe her) and she told me “downstairs two minutes”. Finally, I showed Elisabeth where her water bottle was and left. There was crying. But it was more perfunctory than heartfelt. I lingered in my bedroom for a bit then went downstairs and grabbed my laptop.

And here I sit. Windows open, silence on the monitor except for the single fan in Elisabeth’s room. I write. The crying didn’t last for more than a minute and there was no singing today. It’s been almost an hour and I pause periodically to listen hard. Nothing yet. I keep writing.

Blueberry Picking

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IMG_4712Berry picking is one of those summertime adventures that I always intend to get around to but seldom do. It’s like golf in my mind: beautiful, peaceful but good lord, it takes a stack of time. And I’ve had more excuses the past few summers: being attached to a newborn and then seven weeks away. The summer of 2014 holds much more promise and this June I stead my intention to pluck some blueberries as if it were the only item on my to-do list. As usual, I would have a certain blueberry-lovin’ toddler along for the ride. We invited a few friends and set out Tuesday morning for Architectural Trees in Bahama.

They open at 8:00 but that felt early even though I knew that it would be a hot day so we settled on 8:45. By the time that Elisabeth and I arrived, it was hot but there was a strong breeze. We met John the owner and he explained everything to us (have you ever tickled a blueberry before??). I opted for only one bucket (how much could I really pick myself?) and after washing our hands we set out.

Even though John had told us to go a little further out, I didn’t listen and instead just turned right up the second row. The blueberries were small, perfect and tasty. Elisabeth dug right in, just like one of her favorite books, Blueberries for Sal, while I kept picking and plunking the berries into my IMG_4719bucket. There were blueberries, sure, and they tasted terrific but the bushes were definitely looking a bit picked over so I decided we should venture a little further up. We headed up four rows and struck gold. Each bush seemed to be waiting for us. Clusters of berries on every branch, eight thick. We were in heaven.

Right around this time, we had a few friends join us and I noticed that my bucket was almost full. I couldn’t believe it! You never know quite how things are going to go with a toddler along on a new adventure so I hadn’t been overly ambitious. But Elisabeth was a trooper. We were both getting a little hot and the breeze had definitely died down but we were both hanging in there. The little sprinkler “outlets” every once in a while provided a cool distraction which was a fun plus.

Another bucket was procured. We set out again. But we were slowing. Elisabeth was wanting to be held, a sure sign that she was tired and bored. She was also sticky hot. Somehow that bucket was filled just as we were about on empty. We’d been in the blueberry patch for almost 90 minutes so I chalked that up as a success. When we cashed out ($3/lb..what a deal!) I’d spent all but 75cents of the cash that I had on hand. [Cash or check only for blueberries.] I lugged a toddler, her backpack, water bottle and almost 8 pounds of blueberries back to the car…slowly. We said goodbye to some friends and stripped down. Well, one of us did. I brought a thin dress for Elisabeth to change into (carefully packed in a Ziploc bag underneath the ice in our cooler, an idea inspired by one of my favorite movies, The Seven Year Itch) along with fresh water and ice for her Camelbak and a semi-frozen YoToddler squeezie. I loaded the car back up again cranked on the a/c and took a few last pictures.IMG_4715

<—– One of my bags of blueberries. A few green ones got in there!

IMG_4713A view of the blueberries from our parked car —>

 

More and more I realize that I just never know how something is going to work with Elisabeth but if I really want to do it, we should try it and see what happens. I know sometimes Elisabeth gets excited for an adventure because I get excited for an adventure! And while I may be hesitant to actually make the adventure happen because there are so many things that could go wrong or feel frustrating, if it feels important to me, I need to try it. Next on this summer “try it” list is taking the train from Durham to Raleigh for the morning at Marbles! Who’s with us?

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Help me win $25K to support pregnant survivors!

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Help me win $25K to help pregnant survivors!

My entry for the Wells Fargo Works contest has been accepted! In it, I share my big idea for a childbirth class specifically for survivors of intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault and my “secret mission” to train women from around the country to deliver this important program in their own community.

Now I just need views, votes and shares.
Vote here!

That won’t guarantee me winning but every little bit counts. Would you check out my proposal below and please vote and share?

One vote per entry, per day. Voting ends *June 30*.