Monday, January 30, 2012

Bittersweet, but mostly sweet

MB and I would never claim to be perfect parents, but we strive to be consistent. If we tell Nico he has to eat five carrots before he can have a treat, he can't have the treat after four carrots. If we tell him he'll get a timeout if he bellyflops onto the dog and he does it anyway, he has to go to timeout. Sometimes, though, the need to be consistent collides with Nico being two. One night when MB was working late, I asked Nico if he'd like some chicken and sweet potato fries for dinner. He chirped, "Eat some chicken and fries!" so I got them ready while he ate a banana. Once his dinner was on his plate, predictably, he didn't want it. He ate one fry and then played with his chicken while I sat next to him and stewed. Then I realized how stupid it was to be outraged over a toddler's eating habits and turned him loose to play with his toys. Life's too short to fret over uneaten chicken, right?

Another thing we're big on is asking Nico to try new things. He doesn't have to like or clear his plate of every new food, but we want him to try a bite before he refuses it. He doesn't have to go down the slide at the park if he doesn't like it, but it thrills us when he gives it a shot. We really work to find a balance point where we're not pushing him too far too fast but instead are gently encouraging him outside his comfort zone and teaching him that it's okay to take chances because we've got his back. Maybe we're putting too much thought into this considering how young he is, but my gut tells me it's the right approach. We're kind of making it up as we go, but isn't everyone?

This article made the rounds of my Facebook friends' walls a few weeks back and though I don't find my single child particularly challenging, it was good to read that having multiple kids isn't always harder than one. A particular passage really resonated with me:

To become a mother, I had to learn how to care about someone more than I did about myself, and that was terrible. But who I am now is something more terrible: the protector who can’t always protect; the one with arms that are designed to hold, always having to let go.

Dear mother of only one child, don’t blame yourself for thinking that your life is hard. You’re suffering now because you’re turning into a new woman, a woman who is never allowed to be alone. For what? Only so that you can become strong enough to be a woman who will be left.

When I had only one child, she was so heavy. Now I can see that children are as light as air. They float past you, nudging against you like balloons as they ascend.

Only a few evenings before the article made the circuit, I was nearly overcome by despair as I lay in bed thinking about the fact that Nico will be grown and gone in such a short time. That's the goal, of course, to raise a capable and grounded child who can stand on his own two feet as a fully functional adult. But it breaks my heart all the same, to think of my sweet boy leaving, maybe moving across the country and only coming to visit a few times a year. I'll deal with it and survive it and learn to be strong enough to be left. In the meantime, I figure the best thing I can do is try to enjoy my time with Nico as much as possible.

The library where we go for Nico's 0 - 24 month story time also has a Monday morning program for kids ages 2 - 5. We didn't have any plans today other than library time, so I thought we'd stay for the toddler program and see how Nico liked it. He usually needs a few tries at a new experience before he enjoys it, so I didn't have huge hopes. Really, though, it was pretty great. I let Nico decide his own level of involvement and it worked out well. The librarian passed around a touch bag with a stuffed toy inside, and Nico put his hand inside with mine. She read a story about an owl being frightened by bumps in his bed that turn out to be his own feet under the blankets, and Nico sat with the older kids to listen. She had the kids act out the story by sitting in a circle with their feet tucked under the edge of a sheet, and to my surprise Nico sat down and tucked his feet under, too. (He didn't stay for the acting part, but I was thrilled that he tried it.)

The program ended with the kids making a little owl puppet out of a paper bag. Nico hasn't shown much interest in coloring or playing with Play Doh yet, so we haven't really delved into the arts and crafts. He was game to make an attempt, though, and fetched his small rectangle of yellow paper, his larger rectangle of brown, and his glue stick from the middle of the room. When asked to retrieve a black crayon from the tub, he dumped the whole thing on the floor, but he did help me pick up the mess. I let him hold the crayon and guided his hand to make circles for the eyes and smaller colored-in black circles for the pupils. He smudged glue onto the backs of the cut-out pieces and patted them into place on his lunch sack. Once the puppet was done, he was not so sure about it and initially protested when I made it say hello. But then the librarian sang a little owl song that we were all supposed to act out with our puppets, and he decided the puppet was okay after all. He had me sing the song over and over on the way home while he made his puppet hop up and down and flap its wings and lay down to go to sleep. My favorite part was when he held it up and announced "Owl. Mama built it!" I suppose it's kind of uncool to have your day made by a few scraps of construction paper and a lunch bag, but I am okay with being uncool.

Lately, parental consistency and two have been colliding a lot at naptime. After all the new experiences at the library Nico was super tired but mightily resisting nappage. After back pats and cuddling and playing songs on his Scout dog failed to induce slumber, I put him in his crib with the hope that he'd be sleepy enough to drift off on his own. Instead, he sang and chattered away to himself for a solid hour while I read blogs on my phone and pondered what I should do. Make him stay in his bed for the full two hours he should've been sleeping, even though he obviously wasn't going to sleep? Or collect him, put on our jackets, and head to the playground on a rare 58-degree January day?

Sometimes consistency is overrated.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The breath is the fire

The breath is the fire

As an adult I have grown out of most of the once-overt symptoms of my ADHD, just as my teen-years specialist predicted I would. I stopped taking Concerta when we started trying to conceive Nico and very luckily never needed to resume treatment. One thing I still have, something I definitely view as an asset, is an immense capacity for multitasking. At home and especially at work, I can bounce easily from project to project, holding several threads at all times. When I'm at my best it's exhilarating, and I skate along the knife's edge gleefully juggling chainsaws and machetes and live chickens. Even at rest, my brain kind of whirs along. It has always amazed me that I can ask MB as we're going to sleep, "What are you thinking about?" and he can honestly answer, "Nothing." I'm never not thinking about something, or several somethings, and it's always been this way.

I remember once when I was about eight years old, my dad set up our tent in the backyard and we had a practice camp-out. With the excitement of the adventure, I couldn't sleep. I told my dad I didn't know how to fall asleep and he advised me to just lie still and not think about anything. It was a mystifying concept. Not think of anything? I'd never done it. I tried and tried and can still recall one perfect moment of utter blankness, which startled me so much that I immediately started thinking about it. The closest I can usually get to not thinking is to think "Don't think! Stop thinking!" which is about as relaxing as you'd imagine.

Other than when I'm asleep - when I'm usually busy having vivid action-movie-style dreams - my best bet for finding moments of quiet and inner peace is to go to yoga class. I've been practicing yoga off and on since college, and I keep going back to it. Part of it is that my body just seems to really like yoga - I'm strong and flexible in the ways that work for yoga, and I like the calm of it. I did a weekly yoga class during my entire pregnancy with Nico and it was often a challenge to focus and not sit in a pose going over my grocery list or what we still needed to do for the baby's room. I went back for six months or so after Nico was born, but ended up dropping yoga in favor of cardio boot camp in the interest of getting the most bang for my once-a-week gym visit buck.

And then, almost exactly a year ago, a new-ish power yoga studio about three minutes from my house had a week of free classes and I went to one. It was my first real experience with Ashtanga yoga and it was one of those cliche-inspiring big-life-moment things, literally the best yoga class I'd ever been to in my life. I worked my ass off and sweated buckets and my body detoxed so hard that I felt like I had a hangover the next morning (to the point of waking up craving a breakfast egg biscuit and sucking down Advil and water all day). I felt awful and it was awesome. I went back two nights later and did it again. This yoga, it's work. I'm so busy just keeping up and keeping track of what we're doing that I don't think about anything for an hour and fifteen minutes, nothing but the breath and the flow and probably how bad my quads hurt. I love the practice and I love the people just as much. There are a few skinny girls with tiny boobs and pert yoga butts, but there are also girls my age with post-baby bellies and middle-aged men with soft middles. The owner and main instructor is one of the most kind and cheerful people I've met, but never in an annoying way. There's not a lot of chit-chat before class, but there's something great about fighting through some never-ending Warrior series and having the entire class let out a burst of relieved laughter along with you when the instructor finally says, "And…down to high plank."

One of my New Year's resolutions is to make it to Saturday yoga classes as often as possible now that I don't have to work every weekend. I went yesterday for the intermediate / advanced class and had my ass handed to me by a tiny, intense guest instructor. At the beginning she asked us to set an intention for our practice and I picked "peace," hoping I'd be able to let the hamster off the wheel and just be present in the moment. Then I was too busy sweating and trying to keep up with her to think about anything else. The thinking fired up again at the end, as I lay in corpse pose failing to be quietly at rest. And then, as if she could see me thinking, the instructor leaned over and adjusted my shoulders, repositioned my head, massaged my temples, and tapped me lightly in between the eyes with her finger before gliding off to fix someone else. We're all a work in progress, it seems.

Reading:  I'm With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet

Playing:  a mix I made for a friend years ago

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Weekend of win

Weekend of win

We had a weekend of actually being social, which we don't do often enough. Nico and I were invited to the children's museum by one of our playdate mom / kid pairs. It was a good trip, though I had a really hard time tearing Nico away from the rice bin and its assorted toy front loaders. Next time I might make him go through the rest of the exhibits first, but it's going to be difficult since he remembers the rice bin is there. I did, after two aborted attempts, get him to play in the water room with the other toddler for about half an hour. I felt kind of like a jerk before that because they'd invited us and given us guest passes, and then Nico didn't want to run around with his buddy, he just wanted to scoop rice, all day long. I try to let him direct his own experiences as much as possible in these kind of situations but come on, kid…don't be rude!

I recently reconnected with a once-close college friend via facebook. He and I had coffee a couple of weeks later, then MB and Nico and I met him for dinner one night, and then two Wednesdays in a row he went to a wine tasting with MB and hung out at our house afterward for games of Settlers of Catan. This past Saturday his fiancĂ© was in town, so they both came over for dinner and assorted…social games? Blokus, Boxers or Briefs, and Mexican Train dominoes. What do you call those? They're not board games, but just "games" sounds kind of suggestive. Party games is kind of shady, too, plus it implies more people than four. Table games, maybe? It was a lot of fun and we're already looking forward to the next time we can get together.

Sunday was low key - some errands by myself and then lots of football. On Monday, Nico's library story time started back up after the winter break, so we went to that and then had a playdate with a different mom / kid pair. The last time we went to their house, Nico cried on my lap for twenty minutes before he'd even look at the other kids, but this time he was cheery and friendly from the minute we arrived. He played nicely with the other kid's toys, ate his lunch with gusto, and even helped me pick up before we left. Socialization success! And then this happened about three minutes after we departed:


Overall, it was a pretty kickass weekend.

Reading:  (just finished) How to Get Divorced by 30:  My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage by Sascha Rothchild

Playing:  this NPR tiny desk concert, over and over:

(the second track is my favorite)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012




I finished my first book of the year last night, the enjoyable Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick. In the previous two books (especially the second) I often found protagonist Nora gratingly shrill and stereotypically teenage-temper-tantrummy, but she was MUCH better in this one. Cliffhanger ending, though, just like the second book. Be warned.

Did I ever tell you about my favorite book from last year? I don't think I did. It was The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. She wrote the Mercy Falls werewolves trilogy (Shiver, etc) which I liked quite a lot until I read The Scorpio Races. Maybe this is stupid to say about an author I totally don't know personally, but I feel like this was the book she was meant to write. The wolf books are entertaining - I really liked the first one, thought the second was so-so, and then liked the third one enough that it made me want to go back and start over - but this one, my God. It's wonderful. Highly, highly recommend. After reading the library's copy, I bought it in hardcover for myself which I never, ever do and then got it for my sister for Christmas.


I've ripped through the first disc of Daria from Netflix and have almost finished the second. I'm pleased to report that it does stand the test of time quite well. I'm enjoying it very much even as a more or less fully-fledged adult. I'm also watching bunches of football playoff games…am I the only one? Possibly.


My new boss and I have heavily overlapping musical tastes and usually at least once a week he starts rocking out to something semi-obscure that I've loved forever on his computer and I turn around in my chair and exclaim, "Is that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club / the Cowboy Junkies / Regina Spektor?" Last week he called me over to his desk to play this for me, and I have been YouTubing the SHIT out of this chick (Trixie Whitley) ever since. Please listen, I don't think you'll be disappointed:

Reading:  Science Ink:  Tattoos of the Science Obsessed by Carl Zimmer

Playing:  an old mix I found while cleaning

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Dear Nico,

Today, Little Son, you are two. You are a beam of light, a ball of energy, a little piece of amazing. I never knew that I could love so much, that the love I felt for you yesterday, last week, a month ago, a year ago, it was all just the beginning.

Things I want to remember about you on the day you turn two:

You have a delicious, rich giggle.
You have the brightest eyes.
You have a sweet, tiny voice.
You have the softest curls.
You still have one tiny set of chub rolls left on your thighs and a round tummy.
You are a good kid, almost all the time.

You're big and healthy and bright, and I hope fervently every day that I can always say these things. Today is a day to brag, so let me indulge. You know your alphabet, both capitals and lowercase. You can count to ten and identify all the digits 1 - 10. You know all your colors and just about every shape, even the impressive ones like crescent and semicircle and trapezoid. You've started to learn the letters that words begin with, and can proudly tell me that "daddy" starts with D and "mama" starts with M. Your language skills have exploded over the last two months, both in enunciation and vocabulary.

You can play a 2 x 4 spread of Memory on the iPhone. You're getting better at sharing and playing with other kids. You almost always say "please" and we're working on "thank you" and "excuse me." Your favorite toys are trucks, but you're also starting to get into blocks. You love books, which is fabulous. Through you, with you, I'm learning to see the world all over again. And little dude, it is awesome. You are awesome. Happy, happy birthday.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Year of Decluttering II

Last February I posted about my quest to declutter my entire house. I updated the list sporadically through the year and decided tonight to repost the updated version with the hope that seeing it more often will keep me motivated to continue Cleaning All the Things*. I guess my list probably doesn't look all that impressive, but I can already see a vast difference in the house and in my mindset about my belongings. Things still go through the typical cycle of getting gradually cluttered-up and then cleaned up, but overall there is so much less stuff in our living space and it's awesome. The more I get rid of, the more I want to get rid of, which is quite useful.

As before, throwing out includes throwing away, giving away, donating to Goodwill, or selling, so most of the stuff on my list will (hopefully) not be stuff that went to the dump.

Throw Out All the Things
1. a big bag of non-preferred plastic food storage containers freecycled
2. four reusable water bottles freecycled
3. the old gas stove in the basement scrapped
4. non-Vista-compatible flatbed scanner given to MB's coworker
5. the remainder of Nico's powdered baby formula given to my coworker
6. all the expired food that was collecting dust (and guilt) in the pantry thrown out
7. National Geographic subscription allowed to expire (I'm counting this since for years I got the magazine but never made time to read it.)
8. seven eight boxes of stuff to consignment shop
9. leaky exercise ball that I never used because it was always half flat thrown away
10. 90% of the empty boxes from the shelves in the furnace room recycled
11. outdoor trash can full of crap from shed thrown away
12. bag of cat-hair-covered curtains from our last apartment + raggedy old throw blanket thrown away
13. three five boxes to Goodwill
14. one box of items posted on freecycle
15. worm composting bin cleaned out and loaned to my workplace
16. five (!) boxes of books donated to a fundraiser sale for the dog rescue that saved Indy
17. six boxes of stuff + a spare crock pot, dust buster, and rocking chair sold in a yard sale / packed up for consignment / donated to Goodwill / freecycled
18. set of extra (crappy) hand weights freecycled
19. garbage bag full of bubble wrap and packing peanuts freecycled
20. cool but space-hogging never-used owl mug tree set consigned
21. five pairs of too-small / raggedy jeans Goodwilled
22. kitty litter box freecycled
23. basket of expired baking chips thrown out (sadness!)
24. two shopping bags full of lotions, soaps, and other pamper-y stuff donated to women's shelter
25. whole bunch of old earrings passed on to mom and sister
26. four cool (but stored under the bed since JUNE 2004 WTF) Japanese panels consigned
27. two old TVs freecycled
28. giant box of borrowed maternity clothes returned to friend
29. two three boxes of non-preferred kid clothes sold on Craigslist
30. five pairs of old glasses donated to the Lions Club
31. box of wire hangers freecycled
32. old cabinet, spare high chair, and unused tent sold on Craigslist
33. three CD racks and a box of stuff consigned

Organize All the Things
1. Nico's bitty baby clothes sorted by size into plastic tubs and carried up to the attic
2. outgrown Nico jackets, bitty baby items / toys, and bitty baby bedding / swaddlers sorted into plastic tubs
3. currently-too-big Nico hand-me-downs sorted by size into boxes and stacked in the closet
4. outgrown Nico baby gear Tetrised into guest room closet
5. quote obtained for list of small home repair items we can't complete ourselves
6. breast pump and accessories washed and packed away
7. small home repairs done!
8. shed cleared out and organized
9. last of yard sale remnants sorted into three boxes for consignment and one (small!) one to keep
10. one box from bedroom pile sorted and put away
11. hand weights moved into a basket on the entertainment center instead of lying on the floor and serving as dog hair traps
12. breakfast nook / mudroom organized and top of dog crate cleared
13. whole bookcase of college books and notes carried down to new storage cabinets in the basement

14. basement decluttered!
15. gift wrapping supplies sorted and moved from guest room to basement

How many gift bags does one family need? Probably not this many.

16. two shelves on living room bookcase cleared / consolidated to make space for Nico things

17. buffet storage decluttered and reorganized
18. space cleared on top of bookcase for Nico's library books
19. bathroom cabinets purged of all unused and unneeded items
20. one three boxes emptied and removed from Box Mountain
21. all my pre-baby clothes removed from guest room closet and stored neatly in my own
22. guest room bookcase cleared of non-kid stuff
23. two of three bookcases in master bedroom decluttered & that they've been cleared of the useless hoardy crap, I have an ENTIRE shelf empty for more books!
24. After two years and 14 days, I finally framed Nico's hospital photo and newborn footprints. Hopefully it won't be another two years before I hang them on the wall. (Though he shouldn't feel too neglected. I've been married for seven years and still haven't framed a single wedding photo.)
25. busted drawers replaced with nice window bench
26. VHS movies moved into cabinet in playroom
27. third bedroom bookcase decluttered and organized

Decluttering & Organizing Goals for 2012
1. clear out guest room
2. finish clearing  LAST box stack mountain in master bedroom
3. clean out dining room buffet storage
4. reorganize game collection and pare down if needed
5. reorganize / optimize linen cabinet
6. reorganize / optimize / pare down craft supply closet
7. move all important papers to basement filing cabinet
8. buy a new shredder and take care of stacks of to-shred papers
9. hang caterpillar quilt in Nico's room
10. hang diplomas, family photos, art, etc.
11. transition Nico into big boy bed

2012 Consignment & Craigslist Profit: $231

Monday, January 09, 2012

Following Directions

I have to tell you this Nico story because he has this thing he does, and it kills me with cute every. damn. time. Maybe a month before Christmas, I took a quick spin through Goodwill and bought him a half-size farm-themed See 'n Say for the grand price of one dollar.

Nico knew how it was supposed to work, having one at Grandma's house, but he was completely unable to actually operate it. There were many incidents of rapidly escalating hand-flaps and whining as the toy repeatedly failed to play "The Farmer in the Dell" when told to do so by Nico's fearsome mind powers.

MB coached him with eternal, kind patience. He must've told our child, "Move the arrow so it points to the song, then pull the handle" at least a hundred times. Nico soon was doing exactly what he thought his father suggested -- moving the arrow at random, pointing emphatically to the musical notes sticker with his finger, and pulling the handle -- then getting really pissed when it still didn't work. We realized the problem because he narrates his life constantly and was saying, "Move arrow, point song" each time. So of course he was furious that it didn't work...he was following directions, dammit!

Even now, when he seems to have figured it out, he'll move the arrow to point to the musical notes, stab at the notes forcefully with his finger a few times, and then pull the handle. Every time. And it slays me, every time.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Our hill to die on

MB: Did you see that email I sent you about the Oxford comma?

vbg: No, I haven't opened it yet.

MB: I need to state for the record that I am in favor of the Oxford comma.

vbg: Good. Then I don't have to disown you.

MB: Just to clarify, I'm talking about the comma that directly precedes "and."

vbg: Yes, the comma that is required to be there.

MB: See? We're meant for each other.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Oh, look, it's January 5

Bullet points!

>> We spent New Year's Eve day / night and part of New Year's Day in MB's homeland visiting his extended family. I love these people, you guys. Love them. We had early (amaaaaaaazing) country supper at his grandparents' house on Saturday, then spent the night at MB's aunt and uncle's house, which is my favorite place to stay down there. They're fantastically laid back and hospitable and they just adore Nico. On Sunday Nico got to pet horses and twelve-day-old Rottweiler puppies out in the barn. Then MB's uncle took us to the local volunteer fire department. Nico got to sit in two of the trucks and honk the horn. Best New Year's Day ever? Quite possibly.

>> On Tuesday we had a few friends over for a low-key hang out / play games thing, which was also very nice. I'm so glad we got to see our out-of-town friend Norah 3 times this visit…I miss hanging out with her.

>> Last night I shuffled some stuff around on our bookcases to make room for a few of Nico's new toys, including his little train set my parents bought him for Christmas. He'd been excited about it before but hadn't played with it once since I stowed it neatly in its storage tub under his train table in the playroom. Suspecting an out of sight / out of mind situation, I hoped he'd play with it more if he actually saw it every day. (Plus his train table is currently occupied by this marvel of toy engineering, which he received from BoMB and Nie as an early birthday gift.) Wouldn't you know, it worked like a charm. About 30 minutes after I moved the train set out, he pulled it down from the shelf and he and MB played with it.

>> I found out a few weeks ago that Daria is available through Netflix, so I put the DVDs at the front of our queue and the first one arrived today. I'm eagerly anticipating watching it and also hoping it doesn't turn out to be one of those once-beloved shows that is totally stupid when viewed as an adult (*coughSmurfscough*)

>> I made a quick list of decluttering / organizing goals today, so here they are. Hold me accountable, random blog entry!

1. clear out guest room
2. finish clearing box stack in master bedroom
3. clean out dining room buffet storage
4. evaluate game collection and pare down if needed
5. solve living room lighting problem
6. reorganize / optimize linen cabinet
7. reorganize / optimize / pare down craft supply closet
8. move all important papers to basement filing cabinet
9. buy a new shredder and take care of stacks of to-shred papers
10. hang caterpillar quilt in Nico's room

Reading:  Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Playing:  Decemberists, Mumford & Sons