Vacation booked

We've booked a vacation! Out of the country! With friends! Countdown begins, so excited, a lovely thing to think about instead of daycare transitions and home repairs and relearning to balance work.

And joy of joys, United airlines and their fleet of changing table-free planes will not figure into the itinerary. Which brings me around to this letter, and the truly fabulous graphic reference linked at the end.


I getchew!

I getchew!, or I Get You!, is MZ's favorite game. She runs a bit ahead of us, looks back, says I getchew! and starts hauling, shrieking with laughter the closer we get.

Here, MZ in action with
Pugawug, who may be playing a different game altogether...

[Cute little video taken down while I figure out why youtube f*s up my layout...]


Nineteen Months Old: Paydat

Dear Miriam,

I wonder if when we look back, we'll think of this as the month when you began to confound us again. Not since you were a newborn have you presented so much surprise and confusion. You want up, except you want down, you want acqua (oh, yes, you're quite the international), but then you don't. You have found your scream and you use it liberally. And you are talking so far ahead of us that we can't possibly keep up. Paydat? We have no idea, but you say it a lot, especially about toys. We thought perhaps it was a conjunction of Play with this, but you say those words, too, so really, we have no idea.

You can also tell us how old you are, or were, until a day or two ago. Dragging you around from daycare to daycare, you must have heard me say it a bajillion times. So I shouldn't have been surprised when you beat me to the punch with Teacher Paula: 18 months... old, you said, with that delicious pause mid-way through. And you've been saying it since, although now we're trying to bend your ahead around the concept of nineteen months.

I think the day care search went well, but we'll know better next month. Each day I would tell you that we were going to play with kids and who we were going to meet. During the trip to each spot, you would sit in your seat and recite Meet X, play with kids. Then we'd go in, you would investigate with healthy curiousity for about 15 minutes, and without fail you'd spend the rest of the visit on my hip, holding tighter than a koala. But as we left, you would say Thank you and Bye-bye X and if a place made an impression, you might say Meet X again the next day.

We looked at several places, from co-ops to chi chi pre-preschools, and finally arrived at a Spanish immersion in-home care provider whose warmth felt like a snuggly blanket after so many Eh reactions. A week after we visited the place, I found myself telling people I'd decided, before I'd made my de rigeur pro/con table, while Daddy was still away in India. So it seemed the decision was made, I was trusting my gut. Yet I've spent the last three mornings awake and obsessing from 5 AM. MZ, I know this will be good for you, two days with kids in a small, free-form, play-focused environment with loving care providers. I know it's the perfect antidote to all the 1:1 adult attention you receive from your large and loving tribe. But don't ever think I made this decision lightly, it makes me cry to think of how much I will miss you, of the confusion you will experience as you grow used to this new place, of the moments I won't get with you at this delightful age.

Because while you are capricious in the extreme, you are also delightful in every way. You are exploring language and your physical capacity and the world around you. You are teaching yourself to run and jump and throw. You have opinions about everything from what to eat to what to wear to how you want to be held (This way you insist as you shift yourself in our arms) and you are beginning to assert yourself even with other children (you stared a boundary-pressing 3-year old down the other day, without even glancing at me for support, much to my delight).

You scream when you're excited or bored, a high-pitched girly scream that I often cannot resist repeating back to you. You speak full sentences with a curious Jersey accent then fall into jabber. You ask for help when you need it, at the top of stairs or when filling your own spoon with yogurt or soup becomes tiresomely slow. You holler Hey, Mommy from across the room and smile widely when I respond in kind. You're a veritable greeting committee on the sidewalk and people actually stop to chat with you more often than not.

I can't believe someone else is going to enjoy these days with you, and that their relative emotional distance is a feature and not a bug. While I'm excited to begin Work again, the work of raising you has become my dream job.


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Enjoy your fiery pit of hell, be-yatch

What is it about one parent's hell that brings out the smugness in others? And why would anyone mess with parenting karma anyway?

MZ, Auntie D and I tried to go out to dinner tonight. MZ had been asking for Auntie D, she had been missing MZ, and I have been relishing my trips out of the house. So after music class we trundled off to the local sushi joint, where MZ had had such brilliant success with miso soup only weeks ago.

Except that this time, after sharing a bench with us and asking for miso soup by name, when I tried to put a bib on her so she could eat said soup, she melted into a screaming mass of toddlerhood that was horrific and paralyzing to behold. When I tried to take her out of her chair she screamed to be left in. When I left her in, she continued to scream. So I rushed her outside, as the tray clattered to the floor, where she screamed to go back inside. Not just cried, but screamed, a piercing sound that I would do almost anything to stop. Especially on a cold, windy San Francisco evening.

Finally she calmed down and I brought her inside at her request, and she commenced screaming again when we got to our table. Out we rushed, and I was pretty much sure that they were going to need to box up dinner, wondering if they would give me my wine in her sippy cup to go.

There was another woman outside with her toddler, and they gave it their best to distract MZ. When their second adult came outside, I asked if they wouldn't mind going inside to summon Auntie D. They did, but before she could get outside, their third adult arrived, looked right at me and said, "You brought the wrong food." Um, what? I think I made some light reply about that changing every day, and she looked at me smugly and said, "Oh, well I have food I bring just to restaurants. He never melts down."

Okay, one, I have never heard that, and would be willing to try it out, but the Right food changes every freaking day for toddlers, it's like number 2 or 3 on the Toddler Code right after No! And two, how is your smug all-knowingness helping what is clearly a distressing situation for me and my kid? Did you notice that she is screaming? Are there not 150 better ways to offer assvice? Has your toddler really never melted down? Because mine hadn't before tonight, and I really have no freaking idea what to do right now, and when it happens to you, I'm betting you won't either. And it will happen to you, if not now then when they're a teenager. Because the First Rule of Kids is that they are their own people and they will not be controlled.

Coincidentally, I watched a preschooler melt down last night and wondered what I'd do if it were me. Evidently my usual nature was on vacation because tonight I had zero backup plan. I actually tried reasoning with her, because speaking calmly gave me something calm to do. But rationally discussing options doesn't work particularly well with a child who refuses to say the word Yes, so I was pretty much ass out.

Ultimately I went inside and got her some food, assuming that although it was 20 minutes before her normal dinner time, she was hungry. She wolfed it down and asked for more, so maybe that was it, but Auntie D also said she was farting up a storm while she held her, so maybe it was gas. Or maybe it's the five teeth I can feel poking through, or the accompanying diaper rash, or the fact that her Daddy is out of town. Or maybe it's just that she's a toddler and she was done and at that moment screaming was the only way she could remember effectively communicating her displeasure.

In the end, she recovered enough to pour enough yogurt and miso soup on her that I removed her shirt altogether and brought her home in her snapped-up denim jacket. Needless to say, she was not wearing a bib.


A Mother/Daughter Moment

I don't have a lot of expectations that I will be best friends with my daughter. I didn't go into it that way. After all, I'm one of three daughters and you can't be best friends with all of them. We're close, but not Go Shopping All the Time close. Not We Call Each Other Every Day close.

I rarely think about our relationship past the next few weeks or so. I consider this whole thing such an inexact science, expectations seem fraught with well, expectations, and I know I'm making this up as I go along. I try never to think of adolescence at all except to wonder if I will be working solely to pay private school tuition in the city.

So I was delightfully surprised tonight when I came down the stairs, while MZ was having dinner with her Bubbie, and she pointed at my shirt and said Cute. Bubbie said, Doesn't mommy look pretty? and she said, clear as a bell, Cute.

I was going out to dinner with some mom friends. I was not wearing capri cargo pants and Keens. I was wearing makeup, and shoes with heels, and a new shirt that has sat in my drawer for several weeks while I decided if it was really me.

Suddenly a whole world opened up to me. Maybe some day we would be best friends! Maybe no day would be complete without a phone call, maybe we would shop and lunch and have pedicures.

I'm more of a banh mi girl than a tea-at-the-Ritz lady, I shop mainly under duress. And I hate the phone. But I do love me a good pedicure.


Choose life

It's been a busy, busy couple of weeks, with life taking the place of blogging. Casa Robmaliam has experienced one too many life cycle events this summer, and I'm getting emotionally strung out, waking at 3-4 AM nightly in a whirlwind of panicky thoughts. I have an idea that blogging about it will help me organize these thoughts, but really, I have to organize my days because right now midnight blogging doesn't hold a lot of appeal. Unless I want to try just going to bed at 3-4 AM to see if that stops my night waking...

MZ is doing marvelously, she's speaking in phrases fairly often, and visibly concentrates on her pronunciation when we don't understand her. She repeats words for us, as often as it takes till we get it, finally raising her voice at us the way we grownups are known to do with people who don't speak our language. She's learning Please and You're welcome, and unfortunately, I'm sorry, a phrase Robert and I use too frequently.

On Saturday we visited the toddler farmers market, dubbed thusly for the high toddler ratio, the presence of street chalk and kid-friendly performers, and the isolation from the actual street. MZ is accustomed to being handed fruit as we stroll through a market, but she doesn't really get the difference between the sample containers we choose from and the gorgeous array of produce out for sale. Shortly after she bit into a not-sample tomato, she spied the grapes. She dove for them as I asked if she could try one, but she was faster than me, and seized one before the farmer could answer. I'm sorry, I told him. Not sorry! Not sorry! I heard her exclaim below me.

I'm looking for daycare for MZ, and that is also exhausting. I'm going to take on some paid work, and I would not, could not take away her days with her grandparents, so she only needs two days/week, but I think the socialization will do her good. Or at least I did, until I started looking. So many people said, "Trust your gut, you'll know when you find the right place." But for a week of visits, nothing moved me. Nothing was terrible, they were all just Eh. Do I really have to settle for eh?

But finally I've found two places I really love, and if they can accommodate us, I'll be very happy with either. And proving that gut has nothing to do with objective spreadsheet rankings (because yes, there are those), these two places are wildly different. More on that when I know where we're headed... Posted by Picasa


New Day Dawning

We went out to dinner tonight, just the three of us. Restaurants aren't always relaxing these days, MZ will eat in her highchair but once the meal is over she wants to check the whole place out, and she's always angling for a tour of the kitchen. But tonight we needed a break from the cook-eat-clean routine, which is so much more time-sensitive now that there are three of us.

MZ occupied herself throughout the entire dinner with a bowl of miso soup and a Chinese soup spoon. She fed herself. Yes, she fed her bib and her highchair, too, but she fed herself soup for at least 15 continuous minutes. We were both startled -- physically startled -- when we realized that we'd completed a single, linear conversation in her presence-- the first since she became mobile, I'd guess. It was bliss, rejuvunating, a light at the end of a tunnel of fragmented conversations and fraught end-of-day nerves.

Yes, she had discarded the unwanted tofu cubes on the floor, but that seemed a small price to pay for a little adult conversation in the presence of our adored child.


In Memory of K

I've known I was going to write this post for almost a week now. But it's been hard to get started, not for lack of time, but for fear of getting it wrong. My cousin K died last week. Unexpectedly, at age 47.

K had MS, she wasn't going to live to be 90, but this is much too soon, and much too unexpected. She leaves a devoted husband, two beautiful, confident, poised, smart young daughters, two parents, a brother and the rest of us. It was not her turn.

As last week progressed to her service, different reasons for grief emerged. Through my own shock, my conviction that someone would call to say there had been a mistake, I grieved for her daughters first. They are roughly college-aged, just the age when we girls emerge from adolescent- and college-induced tension with our moms into a sort of friendship built on respect that is the stuff of legend.

Then I grieved for her husband. K was an avid decorator, it's hard to imagine living one second in their home without being viscerally reminded of his loss. She was a collector and a costumer and a person who entered a room with verve and life and a smile that could truly light a small city. How to learn to live without that sparkling energy?

And of course I grieve for her parents. No one should have to bury their child. We spend their whole lives protecting them, keeping them safe from harm. Who among us wouldn't go first, given the choice? To lose a child you have raised and loved into adulthood, I cannot imagine the grief.

I grieve for all of us who won't enjoy K's smile any longer, or her sharp inherited-from-Nana edges (we all have 'em). We were supposed to become the Dingbat Cousins together, proudly wearing our mothers' zaniness. She was my model for raising daughters: her own are so remarkably centered, surely she'd be my go-to girl for the challenges ahead. I'd taken this all for granted till I saw the photo collages her daughters had created for her memorial. Somehow those brought our loss home to me.

Her memorial was a sight to behold. As we drove up to the church, we could see a trail of cars behind us as if for a concert. There were easily 500 people there, a true celebration of a life. I met people she knew in high school, college, from her kids' activities and her own. And all too frequently on this lovely afternoon, I found myself looking around for K, wondering what bright bold hat she was wearing.

K, there's a big ol' hole at the table now. We miss you.