Saturday, March 31, 2012

A letter to my future self

Someday, when Elle is grown and gone-- or simply doesn't want to spend time with her old mama any more-- remember this letter, read it, and believe it.


Dear Me:

I know you, and I know you well. Someday, you're going to beat yourself up about not being "in the moment" enough with Elle. You're going to remember only the days and times where you counted the seconds until bed/naptime, because you were tired, or Elle was tired, or you just wanted to get back to reading that book, or whatever. You're going to weep and wail about how you were too busy to just be, at the time in Elle's life where there was nowhere else she'd rather be than with you.

Future Me, stop it. Right now.

You did fine. Were you tired sometimes? Sure. Did you look forward to the evenings you had to yourself? Absolutely. Were you busy around the house and worried about what to feed Elle for dinner and thus not playing with her every second? Sometimes.

Does this mean that you ignored your daughter, or that you were a bad mother, or that you should have thousands of painful lingering regrets?

Hell no.

Remember all the times she sat in your lap and you read together? Remember when you laid on the couch and she piled blocks on your back, laughing hysterically when you knocked them off? Remember when you'd be sitting on the floor playing with her and she'd tickle the skin on your lower back, and you'd wiggle and "shriek," and she'd laugh so hard she could hardly catch her breath? Remember the walks, and the playground visits, and the nights you sang lullabyes to her in the darkness of her bedroom and she sang along, not getting all the words but always matching you on the held notes at the ends of the phrases? Remember how she'd tuck her head onto your shoulder, humming?

It's humanly impossible to spend every moment of your non-working life laser-focused on your child. What's more, it's not healthy to do that; you don't want to raise an entitled brat (hopefully, Future Me, you haven't). Don't beat yourself up over it.

Don't look back and regret the time you didn't spend with her. Look back and cherish the time you did.

Past Me

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Operation Bunny

A while back, Elle settled on a lovey. Say hello to Bunny, who was a shower gift from a friend of my mom's.

(And let me say: THANK GOODNESS her lovey is something I was able to find a duplicate of.)

Elle had a wide variety of possible loveys in her crib: two soft dolls, a sock monkey, a Piglet, a little blanket with ribbons on the side, a sheep, and a Pooh bear (original flavor, not Dis.ney, thanks). I know, I know, stuff in the crib is hazardous. I waited until she was older and mobile before I put anything in there, really I did.

Bunny beat the competition, and now Bunny is who she holds on to as she's falling asleep. I have to give Bunny a kiss every morning, sometimes even before I can kiss Elle. If she wakes in the night, she reaches for Bunny (I can see it on the video monitor) and he helps her soothe back to sleep.

Bunny is the shit, clearly.

Bunny is also starting to look a little less than fresh, so I decided to order a backup. (Which I should have done a while ago, but I really did wait until I was sure.) Since the tag was still on Bunny's tush, it was simple; thanks to Amaz0n, I had Bunny #2 within a week or so (free super saver shipping rules, people. Rules.)

The idea is that I'll switch out Bunny #1 for Bunny #2, then wash Bunny #1, and start rotating them more regularly so that, hopefully, Elle never realizes that Bunny is part of a set. The key was to do this when Elle doesn't realize that the newer, perkier Bunny #2 has taken the place of the beloved elder Bunny-- in other words, at night, when I'm putting her down in the near-dark. Eventually, both Bunnys will be fairly equally loved, and it won't be a concern, but the initial switch-- especially when the initial switch should have probably taken place some time ago-- is tricky.

Strangely enough, whenever I tried to switch out Bunny, it's like she could sense it-- I somehow had a little toddler glued to my side. This, from the toddler who normally chugs around the second floor without any concern for me or my whereabouts, other than checking up on me if I get too quiet. (She does this when we're on the first floor, too-- just like I'll go looking for her if I'm in the kitchen and I don't hear anything, she'll come into the kitchen looking for me if I'm not making any noise. Each of us likes to keep tabs on the other, I guess. Although in my case, it's to halt the path of potential destruction and/or the Toddler Death Wish.)

So Bunny #2 spent a couple of days in the medicine cabinet, until Monday night. Elle was busy moving diapers from her changing table to my bed (don't ask, it's a thing she does, along with pulling great armfuls of clothes out of her bureau and depositing them in my room) and I was able to make the switch.

As best I can tell, nothing was amiss in the love affair of Elle and Bunny; she cuddled him and fell asleep after her usual 15-20 minutes of unwinding.

In the future, Bunny will get rotated on a more regular basis. Bunny #1 is going to get a lovely bath, and I'll have to find somewhere to keep the Bunny-in-reserve.

I'm telling you, this is like a strategic spy mission or something.

My lovey was a blanket (we didn't even call them "loveys" back then, did we?). When she realized that the only time I was sucking my thumb was when I touched the blanket, it got "left at Nana's," and while I waited for the postman every day for about a week, eventually I simply forgot about it

We'll see what kind of run Bunny has. Right now, he's on top of the world.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just keep swimming

The other night in the tub, Elle got very carefully on her stomach, balanced herself on both hands and one foot, and started looking over her shoulder to watch herself kick with her one free leg.

I'm not very bright, so I had no idea what this was about. "What are you doing, sweetie?" I asked her.

"I swih-ing, mama! Swih-ing!" She was swimming.

Periodically, she'd put her mouth in the water and blow bubbles, getting better at it over the course of the bath. She worked very hard on this swimming, only taking a break when I convinced her to sit down so I could rinse her hair. Every so often she'd say to herself, with great satisfaction, "swih-ing!"

Her last swimming lesson was a few months ago, but clearly they made an impression.

Monday, March 26, 2012


One of the things about being a mother that is still remarkable to me is that sometimes the only thing that can make Elle feel better is me. Me!

That still boggles my mind.

Sometimes she just wants to just sit on my lap and watch a cartoon. The cartoon itself isn't what she wants; she wants the closeness and the cartoon, together. I've noticed this happens when she's a little blue-- toddlers can get blue, too. It's not always meltdowns or cartwheels; sometimes they're in the middle, just like us. Sometimes they're just a bit down.

It's distinct and separate from when she wants to sit on my lap and read-- those are much more active sessions, where she brings me a book, then turns around and plops down in the crook of my crossed legs and we read the book together. (Sometimes I read, sometimes she "reads," sometimes she just flips the pages.) She'll often do this over and over with numerous books. This is obviously something she enjoys; she's not doing it (just) because she needs the closeness.

The other morning, she had to wake up far before she was ready, and just like I would be, she wasn't happy about it. She was kind of weepy, actually, which is unlike her. Most mornings when I wake her up, she pops right up and is her Elle-tastic self within a minute or two; I figure those are days where she was pretty much ready to get up anyway. Days where she's moany and weepy, I suspect she still had a bit more sleeping to do.

Anyway, this other morning nothing was making her happy, and she was sitting in her crib, legs splayed, not wanting much of anything to do with her milk or Bunny or anything other than expressing her woe at the general universe. I was pottering around doing getting-ready things, but I finally just went over and picked her up and kissed her and talked to her.

As soon as I was holding her, she was fine. I didn't put her on the changing table right away, either, which was a good case of mommy instinct. We talked a bit and cuddled, and by the time I put her down to change she had most of her equilibrium back.

Sometimes, I'm what she needs. It amazes me. It's a privilege.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's like they know when we're about to lose it

Monday night, when I picked Elle up from the sitter, she was sweaty and tired and crabby and crying. She'd had at least one major meltdown at the sitter's already, and had another minor one while I was chatting with the sitter. We headed to music class, hoping for the best, but it was not to be-- for the first time, we left mid-class and headed home. (The soundtrack to the drive home was "Toddler Howling," which is not going to be in anyone's top ten anytime soon; it has no beat, and you can't dance to it.)

When we got home, the howling continued intermittently, including a major full-bore balls-out meltdown while I changed her diaper and got her in her onesie for bed. (My neighbors probably thought I was using a cattle prod.) I actually started laughing at one point, because what else can you do, really?

We got back downstairs and I asked my screaming, blubbering, snotty mess of a daughter if she wanted a snack. She did, indeed, and suddenly the hot mess turned into a happy, chatting toddler who devoured most of a cereal bar and a pile of grapes, and even signed/asked for more grapes (it sounded like "moah gaes," but I knew what she was asking for because she was signing "more" and pointing at the grapes on the counter.)

Seriously, she looked like a cherubic Gerber baby sitting there in her onesie-- tousled curls, rosy cheeks, chubby thighs, seriously eating the grapes by carefully placing each piece on a spoon by hand, and then eating it from the spoon. She could not have looked more stereotypically darling.

And fifteen minutes earlier she'd been a bright red fountain of screaming snot and tears.

For the record she then went to bed and slept like a log. I had a tired, hungry toddler.

But I find it hilarious that somehow they know when you are Just Done, and manage to flip the switch just in time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A very random, train-of-thought kind of entry

I've started looking for a play kitchen and a little table and chairs set for Elle. I think the table and chairs set has a slight edge in terms of priority; I'm also not sure how I'd fit both into our main living area, and while the basement can eventually become more of a play room than it is, she's not yet allowed down there (and won't be for a while; it's basically a toddler death trap of wires and unachored bookshelves, not to mention a furnace). So I'm thinking the table and chairs will be more useful, even though she immediately gravitates towards the little play kitchens at both the library play room and the church nursery.

(I can also just get her some play food, which she can play with on the table, and that will keep her pretty happy for now.)

Anyway, the only play kitchens I can find available used tend to be the butt ugly plastic ones; the nice wood ones are mysteriously absent from resale. Is this because people love the wood ones and never let them go, or are the plastic ones simply more durable and thus able to be resold? ENQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW.

The kids' table and chairs-- I think I want to buy that new, regardless, because I'm sure they get pretty well-used. I had been thinking of waiting till around her birthday, but I don't think I want to wait that long.

This is why I have thousands of devoted readers: scintillating conversation about used toys.


I toured a child care center week before last-- they offer a preschool program that's highly regarded, and I finally got off my tuchus and got Elle on the waiting list. (Some people put their kids on the waiting list at birth. Elle's chances of getting in are probably pretty lousy. Yet another "good mom" moment for me, coming shortly after I found out I'd missed the application dates for the two big two-year-old preschools in town. Great. JANUARY application for fall entry-- who knew? I do, now.)

This center actually offers care from birth on, but the infant program is tiny and highly competitive. It's apparently generally full of siblings of kids already in the programs, and kids of faculty/staff at the college they're associated with.

Fortunately, the class sizes get larger as the kids' ages progress, so there is a vague hope that Elle will get in-- probably not fall 2012, when she's 2, but more than likely fall 2013, when she's 3. I would be fine with her going there part time, and staying with her sitter a couple of days a week; I think it would provide a nice balance. Not to mention it would help with the cost portion of it.

Because this place? Not cheap. And it's not cheap for a reason. It's awesome. The facility was custom-designed for the program, so there's terrific use of space, wonderful indoor/outdoor balance, great security, lots of kid-sized accommodations... Basically everything you'd ask for in a physical space.

The curriculum is thoughtful and appropriate, and includes religious ed (the affiliated college is a religious one), which I don't mind. The director was lovely. Everything about the facility, including the kids there, felt warm and welcoming and right.

They feed the kids, too, which is nice. The sample menu wasn't exactly how I feed Elle (we don't eat much beef, and never eat pork) but it looked pretty tasty. And the thought of not having to prep food every single day is appealing. ;)

I hope Elle can get in, even on a part-time basis. I'll find a way to pay for it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

You don't know what you don't know

A really common beef in the single mom community is when other partnered parents say something like "Oh, (name of partner) is traveling this week! I know what being a single parent is like now!"

OH NO YOU DON'T. You want to piss off a single parent? Tell them you "get it" because you have two or three days on your own.

(If you have a partner who's gone longer-- i.e. on a tour of duty, or perhaps on a project in another city for a year at a stretch, yes. Then you get it. A few days, though, not so much.)

I actually don't get riled up about it any more. (I used to. I'm pretty sure there's at least one post here dealing with.) There's no point. They can't possibly understand what it's like being a single parent-- just like I can't possibly understand what it's like to be a partnered parent.

All we know is what we know, after all. So when that changes, we have every right to feel discombobulated.

People ask "How do you do it?" I do it because I don't know another way. Partnered parents do it because they don't know another way, and when it changes, of course it's rough. If I suddenly had a partner or someone living with me, it would feel luxurious to be able to run to the drug store once Elle was in bed instead of having to figure out when I can get there the next day.

(Speaking of which, note to self: I should probably transfer my prescriptions to the drug store near me that has a drive-through-- that never seemed important until now. If you have a sick kid, you don't want to have to haul them in and out of a store; bad enough I'd have to take her with me in the car to get the prescription anyway.)

So no, Facebo0k friend with the sick husband who has to handle your child all by your little self for 24 hours: no, you don't understand. But I'm not going to get worked up about it any more; life's too short. Your husband will be better soon and back on the coparenting bandwagon. Maybe he can get a job, too. (Whoops! Did I say that out loud?)

Me? I'll keep doing what I'm doing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fridge Magnets

Elle loves the fridge magnets. Loves them. She can spend 10-15 minutes taking them off, putting them back on, taking them off and putting them in a bowl-- they are apparently endlessly entertaining.

She understands that each of the letters has a name, too, although she still doesn't consistently associate the right name with each letter. She is better at the letter "o" than the others, interestingly enough, so about half or three-quarters of the time, she says "O!" when she's handling that letter. She usually says it in a very satisfied tone of voice, too, as if doing something with this letter is helping her meet some kind of personal goal.

It's pretty funny. I have to say, though, that I worry about how many letters are already under the fridge. I'm guessing quite a few.

What's so funny about this is that she has toys coming out of her ears (less than most kids I know, but still a ton), and it's the fridge magnets that keep her busy and happy for long, long stretches of time.

It might also have something to do with the fact that she (usually) plays with them in the kitchen when I'm puttering around in the kitchen, and she likes being near me. But seriously, you never know what's going to capture the eye of a toddler, do you?

All the fancy toys in the world, and it's fridge magnets.