Curses

This morning walking out the front door, the strap on one of my shoes broke. “Oh shit,” I said.

“Oh shit!” a tiny voice right behind me immediately echoed.

Upon hearing this anecdote, My Better Half groaned “ohhhhh shit. Wonder what else our little sponge repeats.”

A fieldwork widow

The spring semester has wound down, and My Better Half™ decided after much deliberation to accept an offer of summer archaeological fieldwork. Normally this wouldn’t even be an option, as the typical fieldwork schedule is 10 days away, 4 days at home, repeat. If you’re lucky. But this year there happens to  be a project within driving distance of where we live, so every morning he reports to the office at 5 a.m., commutes from there to the site, and then returns home at the end of each day.

I’ll do my best to contain my enthusiasm. Because despite the extra income which is helpful necessary, this still presents many challenges. Here’s just one of them: his 5 a.m. start time, for instance. If the Dawdler Toddler would actually go to sleep when we put her to bed at 8:00 p.m., My Better Half™ would stand a chance at up to 8 hours sleep as long as two additional conditions are also met:

  • Baby also cooperates and sleeps through the night (which has yet to happen, ever).
  • Fairy Godmother pulls her weight and relieves us of the nightly household work of packing lunches and doing dishes and putting away laundry and shuttling Dawdler Toddler back to bed after each and every attempt to delay bedtime.

All in all, this means on any given night, My Better Half™ can expect to get somewhere between 0 and 6 hours sleep before reporting for highly physical labor. And once I’ve slept in til Baby’s natural alarm at 5:00 a.m., I get to get the kids up, clothed, fed, and loaded in the truck for daycare drop off before I report to work, only to repeat all that in reverse at the end of each day, exhausted.

Maybe I’m just cranky because I’m dreading the rest of fieldwork season unnecessarily. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t yet had any coffee. Or maybe it’s more that last night presented what I know to be a typical case study. We were up 4 times between 9:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. with Baby, who was uncharacteristically fussy and inconsolable. By the time Baby finally got up at 5:20 a.m., desperately needing a diaper change, I discovered that we had no diapers. None. Not in the house, not stashed in the back of his sister’s closet, not in the diaper bag, not in the truck. So poor Dawdler Toddler also got to wake at an unnaturally early hour to start her day, because last I checked Child Protective Services doesn’t look too kindly on me leaving my kids at home to dash to the store to grab diapers. This may be just the kick in the ass that I needed to change my outlook on adjuncting to note how accommodating it is in allowing for co-parenting and equitable division of household duties. Or maybe it will just make me hate fieldwork more than I already did.

A Public Service Announcement

The following are incompatible:

  • Trying to catch up on sleep at any opportune moment while living in a household with
    • a Dawdler Toddler who invents every excuse under the sun to delay bedtime (because that’s what toddlers do)
    • a 7 month old who refuses to sleep through the night for no good reason whatsoever

– while also –

  • Trying to relieve My Better Half™ of many parenting duties so as to permit him blocks of uninterrupted time and focus to write a dissertation.

The following are also incompatible:

  • Trying to escape the soul-crushing pressure to finish a dissertation so that one can have free time again (aka, sleep, attend to the monstrously long honey-do chores list so our house does not fall down, and for the love of all that is holy, relax for the first time in months years)

– while also –

  • Knowing that ‘free time’ should really be defined as the pressure of “hurry up and get a job, goddamnit!”

And, finally, the following are also incompatible:

  •  Trying to predict whether one will be able to find childcare on such short notice should one accept an offer of seasonal archaeological fieldwork

 – or –

  • Deciding to turn down said job offer in order to avoid bringing in a chess master to calculate and predict the matrix of childcare solutions such a job would require, with the hopes of finding another part-time job that may never materialize

Those who attempt to reconcile these incompatible goals report side effects including sleeplessness, restlessness, frustration, stress, loss of patience, and an inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Bringing children & work together every day

Yesterday, at least at my workplace, was Bring Your Child to Work Day. It was also, at least in my job, Bring Work to Your Children Day. Aka Thursday. Aka my telecommuting day.

I think when you say ‘telecommute’ a lot of people picture some kind of tech startup employee who works from cooler-than-thou hipster coffee joints all day. In my case you should envision me surrounded by the detritus of toddler & baby toys trying to respond to emails with one hand while nursing and shushing Baby with the other, sipping room temperature coffee all day (so as not to burn Baby when he inevitably flings his hand into the mug sending its contents all over my applesauce and GoGurt-encrusted jeans). I’ve telecommuted one day a week ever since the nearly 3 year old Dawdler was born – and it was fine when it was just her. Now my telecommuting day just feels so overwhelming. It’s impossible to compartmentalize anything. I’m trying to work while also pick up the ever-growing clutter around the house, I’m trying to put away laundry amidst work and a crying Baby, and I’m trying to convince the toddler Dawdler to shuffle off to daycare so I can focus on only two things at once, with the ability to give neither my full attention.

It’s nearly impossible to give my full attention to anything at all anymore, least of all myself. I get it, it’s a mom thing to never have any time to myself, but for crying out loud, I’ve got to find some time for myself. At my cubicle, I’m occupied with work. At home, I’m occupied with the kids. And during the rushed commute in between? I’m trying to slough off the day’s work and get into parenting mode with no space for my own occupations in between.

I have turned to working out before to solve this problem and decompress. Before I had kids, I went to the gym every night right after work before I got home. Now that just seems unfair to My Better Half. Right now, he has the responsibility of getting the kids up, dressed, fed, and off to daycare (and in the case of Baby, full-time parenting some days of the week), on top of adjuncting and trying to write and make dinner and. And, and, and. So it feels awfully selfish of me to tack on an extra couple of hours to his days to stop off at the gym for myself. When I explained this to someone, they said “oh! So that’s just mommy guilt! You gotta shut that sh*t down.”

Please don’t ‘just’ that. That ‘just’ you threw in there implies that it’s all in my mind, that it’s ‘just’ a small problem, that it’s insignificant. Baby is now 7 months old and I’ve never managed to get in a single workout or find any regular routine of time for myself since he was born. That doesn’t feel insignificant. Sure, it’s true that this is just a phase, as my mom says. But it doesn’t feel temporary living in the midst of this phase.

So until I can sort this out and/or afford a gym membership, you’ll excuse me while I carve out time for myself at the bottom of this bag of Pepperidge Farm Molasses Crisp cookies. It’s ‘just’ one bag. A week.

too smart for her own good

My 2 year old, aka the Toddler Dawdler is very clever.

A little too clever. I give you two case studies:

 

    • Sometimes I sit in the back seat of our car with her and her baby brother to keep either him or her, or sometimes, though rarely both, reasonably calm. However, whenever I don’t feel like sitting back there but she insists, I reply with “I can’t. Sorry! That seat is ALL wet.” “Why is it wet?” “I don’t know, but it just is, so I’d better sit up here because this seat is all dry.” “Yeah, good idea!” This worked without fail. Until the other day. The Dawdler got into the car before any of us. She likes to climb in from the passenger’s side (her carseat is on the driver’s side) and as she climbed across the seat to her carseat, she exclaimed “Mommy! I checked! This seat isn’t wet anymore! You can sit here!” Oh, brother.

 

 

    • She declared at dinner last night “I’m done! I’m going to go wash my hands. And then I’m ready to go get ICE CREAM!” Uh, hon? We aren’t going to get any ice cream. My Better Half echoed the same sentiment and then followed with “But we do need to go to the store to get milk.” Her: “Okay…” “…and ICE CREAM!” Sigh. I take her to the store, and explain as we’re getting out of the car that maybe we can grab some ice cream while we’re at the store but that we are not going to an ice cream shop. We’re walking around grabbing a few things and she impatiently turns to me in the cereal aisle and says “I WANT TO GO GET ICE CREAM!” I repeat that maybe we can get some in the frozen aisle in a few minutes. We get to the frozen aisle, and she makes a bee line for the ice cream. She declares she wants chocolate to which I tell myself OH HELL NO, LADY, I’m not staying up with you til 11:00 tonight. So I shuffle her along to the popsicles and pull out some frozen fruit bars to show her and she says “I wanna HOOOOOOLLLLLD it” which is her way of pissing on something to mark it as hers. We get to the checkout, pay for our items, including the popsicles, and as we’re walking out, she turns to me and says “I want to go get ICE CREAM!” I tell her, “Sweetie, we just got popsicles, that’s what we’re going to have, that’s what you picked out.” Her: “Okay.” Followed a few minutes later by: “but that’s not the same. That’s not ICE CREAM!”

 

She’s a stickler for the truth, that one.

Unfiltered Thoughts: Halloween Costume edition

I like to say that I suck at coming up with Halloween costumes. And I do, but every once in awhile I have a good idea. It’s just that it comes at the wrong time. In this case, either 6 months too late or 6 months too soon, depending on how you look at it.

What is it? We take the top off the bike trailer, thus transforming it into a convertible. Whoever is the cyclist (me or My Better Half™) dresses like a horse, and the Toddler stands in it as a Roman Gladiator. Or, I suppose Katniss Everdeen, if you want a more contemporary analogy.

Probably unsafe. But you gotta admit, it’s a good one! Remind me of this in about 4 months, would you?

 

 

 

With that kind of budget

I just asked some creative friends for ideas on maximizing a small space – we’re moving Baby #2 into Baby #1’s Toddler’s room & need to get creative to fit both beds in there and still have any space for storage.

After I describe the situation (we’re in tight quarters – a very small 2 bedroom and the bunk-bed solution that I keep finding online won’t work because Toddler is only 2), someone sends me a link.

To a $3400 toddler murphy bed.

Yes. Thirty four hundred dollars.

Aka Three THOUSAND four hundred dollars.

Look, chica. If I had $3400 I’d be using it.

  • For an interior designer to solve my problems with the kids room.
  • Or movers to haul our crap to a bigger house.
  • Or a babysitting account so we could go out to eat at a non-kid-friendly restaurant or see a movie more than once in a year.
  • Or a month’s worth of alcohol 😉

So angry I could…

The parenting issue that has given me the most grief so far is that my precocious, sweet, active little girl is.

A biter.

There. I said it. I know, I know, it’s normal, age appropriate. Oh for f*ckssake. I just got another incident report from daycare while I was typing that.

At first I thought “not my daughter! How could this be?!?” She doesn’t bite at home, and, being the first born, doesn’t have anyone *to* bite anyway. She is not aggressive, she is highly verbal & communicative, and at home, when she asks for something she can’t have, she tends to work out her anger & frustration through fist-pounding tantrums & the accompanying wailing.

So it was totally mystifying to us to hear that she’s been biting. Repeatedly. So much that I’ve had to leave work to retrieve her from daycare because she’s been released. Repeatedly. Like 2-3 times a week.

It’s usually the same. Right before a nap (read: tired), wanting a toy, she lunges out & Mike Tyson’s someone. Okay. It’s not thaaaaat bad (I hope) but still.

At first, I would get to daycare all concerned – is the other child ok?? I’m SO sorry (and embarassed). They would say she’s fine, the other child is fine, and you don’t need to apologize. When it kept happening, I turned to the trusty interwebz and found it’s totally normal, not to worry. When we saw the pediatrician for her 15 month checkup she told us the same thing. Still, it kept happening. I wasn’t worried about it as a behavior anymore, just what it was doing to my good standing at work to be ducking out all the time. I can’t overemphasize how big of a pain in the ass this is. For weeks now, I’ve had to tell my boss ‘so sorry!! Gotta get her. Again.’ I’ve missed more work than I am capable of calculating.

As the weeks wore on, daycare no longer would say “no need to apologize!” It turned into more of an exasperated we need *you* to take steps to address this okay? attitude.

What am I to do? I have said to my friends & family, why should I have to apologize to daycare for completely normal, age-appropriate behavior?! I’m not here when it happens. I’m not the one watching her at those moments. I’m not going to preemptively drug my kid with Tylenol because ‘maybe she’s teething?’ Yeah. Right. Because pretending teething is the cause is going to help correct a behavioral issue. I understand that there are expectations on how she is to behave. And there are rules she must follow. And that you need to be able to protect the kids here from being hurt.

But I am paying you, daycare, to meet your responsibilities too. To take care of her, which doesn’t just mean keeping her from eating glass & running into traffic. It means helping her to understand boundaries, and learning what is expected of her. Is she just supposed to automatically know? It means teaching her what she can do *instead* of biting. Y’know, like “NO biting. Let’s try ‘F*CK OFF YOU DILLWEED! Or can you say ‘NUT UP OR SHUT UP YOU SISSY ASS?'” It also means getting to know her, taking the time to be patient with her most exasperating toddler behaviors, and, knowing that her toddler behavior includes biting, so knowing that it’s important that you take the time to keep a close eye on her when she is tired & frustrated so that you can proactively intervene and prevent the bad behavior. Look, I know there’s 8 other kids. But you claim that part of the problem is that her behavior is a danger to those 8 other kids, so how about investing that little bit of extra attention her way at those times?

I’ve tried to be patient with daycare. I’ve tried to be both non-apologetic and empathetic towards the perspective of the other kids’ parents. In fact, just yesterday my friend’s Facebook status was all about how upset she was that her daughter had been hurt by another child at daycare, and I was just far too ashamed to weigh in amidst the “WHAT THE F*CK? Bullies CANNOT be tolerated” bullsh*t. At this age, we aren’t talking about “bullies.” We’re talking about children who are too young to be able to communicate effectively, who don’t yet know how to share, and who are headstrong and bent on getting their way, come hell or high water.

But today was the bombshell that “I’m just going to be honest. Lots of parents are very upset…” So here’s where we got handed the bottom line: if she doesn’t stop biting in 2 weeks, she’s getting kicked out. I still am reeling.

How is this even? WHAT THE F*CK?! Other parents are upset? OTHERS? Newsflash to them: cause it’s a total joyride to feel like you are totally trying work’s last reserves of patience to be having to leave all the time with no notice to meet the 30-minute pickup deadline. It’s not at all frustrating to feel like I’ve little to no control over my otherwise decently-behaved toddler who never exhibits this behavior at home. And it’s a pride-filled moment to hear that my daughter is USING HER INCISORS TO ATTACK OTHERS like some chimp chewing off some lady’s face. What happened to an understanding that kids-will-be-kids and part of being a toddler amidst other toddlers means that they will sometimes fall down, get scuffed up a bit, get dirty, and, yes, get hit and bitten and scratched. Lest you think the shoe is always on the other foot, my daughter has been hit and bitten herself, and have I gotten all up in daycare’s sh*t about how they failed to protect her? No. And parents? I’m sure you would agree that routine is critically important to your toddler, right? You may have noticed that inconsistencies and deviations from routine are upsetting and difficult for them to manage. Inconsistencies like, oh I don’t know, how different teachers are there on different days and at different times, so maybe, just maybe it’s within the realm of possibility that some teachers are better able to monitor and prevent my daughter’s toothsome attacks than others? Yet I’m the one facing telling my boss tomorrow that perhaps I may need to take just a few vacation hours unexpectedly in the coming weeks – like, I dunno, ALL OF THEM? –  until I can make alternate arrangements for my toddler’s care?

I’m so angry I could bite someone.

A Candy Hangover

Last night was probably my last Halloween spent doing anything other than trick-or-treating for awhile. Next year Baby will be well past 2, and she will undoubtedly demand tromping around begging for the good stuff. After all, her first solid food was actually Peppermint Patty, given to her at four months when we came home from my BFF’s wedding with mini York Peppermint Patties in hand, much to My Better Half™’s dismay startlement. (Yeah, I know, that’s not a word).

At any rate, Baby dressed up in a hand-me-down teddy bear outfit, but only for long enough for us to take this picture.

halloween-candy-crying

As you can see, she HATED wearing a costume. So we took it off and she just handed out candy to the 4 or 5 trick or treaters we got in regular clothes. Even though she’s cute in a costume, she’s much cuter when not crying, so no costume it was. And that’s fine with us.

But here’s something to make your trick-or-treating tummyache better. Don’t lie, you know you stole some Tootsie Pops out of that bag!

 

In Which I Gain 7 lbs in One Week

In addition to being sick, it has been too goddamn hot to set foot outside my front door. So I’ve not been going for the daily walks I so look forward to once summer is over. The September equinox may have signaled fall’s arrival to the rest of the country, but here it just means that in another month or so I might be able to part the blackout curtains that are drawn all summer long. Which, here, is at least 5 months long, give or take. (Please take, by the way. TAKE IT AWAY. I daydream that some southern hemisphere equivalent of a Nordic god will come and throw his reins around the sun and drag it kicking and screaming right where it belongs: safely underground until further notice. Or maybe Vermont since I hear it’s not all that sunny there? Maybe they could borrow it for awhile…) I get that I should expect it to still be this hot since I live on the surface of the sun but I am just over it. Every year I reach my breaking point, and this year, as always, it comes in September when it should not still be 107 (as it has been all week). I would be shaking my fist skyward as I say that but that would mean I’d have to expose my incredibly fair, delicate skin to even more sun damage. Where fair and delicate should be read as “formerly fair & delicate but now permanently sun-damaged and prematurely aged.”

In addition to being too sick and wiped out to brave the heat to get exercise, I’ve also been too wiped out to make multiple meals, which means we’ve been meal planning around Baby. Bad idea, as she has grown quite picky. Proper meals of a protein and vegetables – grilled chicken with vegetables, a lovely salad with fish – are all out of the question. She won’t eat any meat at all, nor most vegetables. She’s an utter carbitarian. A fruitivore. This means that our menus for the past week have looked something like this:

  • Mac’n’cheese
  • Spaghetti
  • Stuffed shells with pesto
  • Grilled cheese
  • Quesadillas
  • Leftovers of all of the above, served with sides of fruit and cheese

On top of everything else, now I’ve got another issue to tackle this week: our dryer seems to be on the fritz. All of our pants seem to be shrinking…