Monday, February 27, 2006

The Bitching Hour

'Round here, the bitching hour is more like 2.5 hours, and it begins, almost without fail, at 4:00. That's when Hazel, who is still tired enough to nap daily, but refuses to, starts getting punchy -- literally and figuratively (poor Violet). And it's when my limited supply of patience and good will towards my offspring starts flagging.

I used to make sure I was always home for the bitching hour. My take on it was, it's easier deal with tantrums, whining, etc., in the comfort and privacy of our house. But then I realized that part of what made the bitching hour so bitchy was being stuck inside, with Hazel loopy and ready to burst into tears at the slightest injustice, and me short-tempered, behind in my tasks for the day, and desperately in need of a latte.

So these days, the bitching hour is when we get out of the house. I try to schedule doctors appointments, playdates, library time, or bike rides, for the late afternoon -- and it works. Getting out, getting some fresh air, and doing something, anything, seems to be far better for our souls than sitting around our little house, growling at each other, and counting the minutes until bedtime, or the next time-out, whichever one comes first.

Here's what works for me in exercising the bitch from the bitching hour:

* A trip to Starbucks. I know, it's evil, but it's good coffee, dammit, and we all love the Maple Oat Nut scones. We used to walk down to the local coffee shop, but the older lady who owns/runs it looks at my tired, rumpled, running-out-of-gas little ones like they're the fruits of the devil, and once asked me if I ever spank Hazel.

* A walk, either to the park across the street, or, in the event of rain, just a walk, with umbrellas and rainboots and lots of puddle-jumping.

* A trip to the library. Our local branch is within walking distance, and has an amazing children's section, complete with floor pillows, kid-sized tables and chairs, and computer games.

* A playdate. I don't mind hanging out with other people's exhausted kids nearly as much as I do hanging with my own.

In the event of extremely inhospitable weather, an illness, a hangover, or any other really good reason for not being able to get your ass in gear and get moving, here are some suggestions for ways to exorcize the bitch from the bitching hour at home:

* Caffeine. Make yourself a good, strong cup of coffee, or tea with milk and sugar.

* Slow down. Do yourself a favor, and stop trying to get stuff around the house done. Just stop. Leave it for tomorrow.

* You time. Take five minutes alone, even if it means putting the baby in the crib and letting the toddler get away with murder, and do some deep breathing. I myself am what's called a "shallow" breather, and I find that taking a few minutes to breathe deeply and slowly, is amazingly relaxing.

* Bake cookies. It's hard to be mad/grumpy/sad when there's cookie dough up in the house, right? Let the kid/s jump in, and crack the eggs, measure the flour, etc. Sure, they'll make a mess, but the payoff is huge.

* "Yes time." Put on a good CD, your comfy pants, and just say "yes." Your kid wants to give her stuffed animals a bath in the kitchen sink? Yes. She wants to strip down and draw on herself with (washable) markers? Yes. Put stickers on the dog? Yes. Play with the vaccum/cordless phone/computer? Yes, yes, yes! Sometimes, just hearing you say "yes" to things you would normally forbid is enough to help your kid through the bitching hour.

And if none of this works for you? Well, then, please, share what does. 'Cuz I'm running out of ideas, and at 2:40 p.m., the bitching hour is almost upon us.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Vaction Roundup

Our trip to Southern Cali last week was short and sweet. There was quality time spent with family and friends, delicious food eaten, and lazy afternoons spent... lazing. And eating. And lazing some more.

The trip far exceeded my expectations, considering that Violet and I spent the eve of our departure at the Urgent Care clinic, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia, a double ear infection and a touch of pink eye. We almost didn't make the trip because of her sorry state, but the doctor assured me that as long as she took her antibiotics and stayed hydrated, she's be just fine. And she was. I realized on this trip that I've spent the last 3 years of my life as a mother earning Violet, and her happy-go-lucky, mellow, sunny disposition.* Karma, thy name is sweeeeeeet.

Hazel pulled some form of bedtime bullshit every single night, which led to her and her Papa enjoying some one-on-one time together, watching the men's Olympic speed skating finals. At 10:30 on a Tuesday night. She also visited the preschool where her Nane (my mom) is a teacher, and was awestruck by their... lawn. ("OOOoohhh, they got grass at Nane's school, Mama! It's so nice!") There was some talk about Dente, and how he's not coming back, but it was quickly forgotten when Uncle Kyle mentioned that the hunt is on for a new puppy. And as ever, Hazel basked in the warm glow of attention showered on her by her grandparents, great-grandparents and uncles, who are only too happy to tickle, cuddle and otherwise love her up.

Travelling alone with both girls, one on foot, the other in the sling, Hazel's booster seat, our huge, uncooperative suitcase (overpacked by yours truly) and a shoulder bag o'tricks was a bit of a challenge, but luckily I forgot the exact location of our car when the bus dropped us off in the long-term parking lot.

No matter how long we're gone, no matter where we are returning from, coming home to our tiny, cluttered house and our sweet Zoe-dog always feels so good.

*To be sure, Hazel is a wonderful, miraculous creature. She also is, was, and likely will always be a high-needs baby/toddler/preschooler/kid. Not that there's anything wrong with that... but my obviously, my experience with Girl #1 serves as a touchstone in my experience with Girl #2, and the two experiences, so far, have been like night and day. Is it a classic case of first baby/heir being difficult/scary, while the second baby/back-up kid is easier/whatever, or is it a prime example of the theory that one's personality and character is encoded from birth? You decide. I don't have time. I haven't even unpacked yet.

To see the week in pictures, go to the Flickr badge at left.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


My mom called this morning with some sad news from Southern California: the family dog, Dente, a huge, sweet Saint Bernard, died last night. He was only eight years old, and though large breed dogs typically do not live past ten or twelve, it does seem like his time came a little too soon. Poor ol' guy. He went peacfully, though, all warm and cozy, snoozing while my stepdad watched T.V. My stepdad did what he could when he realized that the noises and strange breathing coming from the dog were signs that something was very wrong with him. I don't think I would have had the presence of mind in that situation to massage my dog's heart, or try breathing in his nose, as my stepdad did, but in the end, it turns out that Dente's number was up. We will miss him.

As time would have it, the girls and I are gearing up for a trip to my mom and stepdad's house this coming Monday. Just this morning, Hazel and Mike and I were chatting about Dente, and how much Violet would love playing with him, because she is a huge sucker for dogs. She flirts with dogs on the street, and grunts loudly (barks?) as they approach her, in a bid for play. Violet would have loved big, soft, too-lazy-to-get-up-so-go-ahead-and-sit-on-top-of-him Dente.

At three years old, Hazel has no concept of mortality. I wasn't sure whether or not I should tear the lid of that can of worms for her. Ultimately, I decided it may be preferable to have a discussion about death at home, following hot on the heels of the one we'd just had about Dente and Violet, and give Haze a few days to digest our conversation, before heading down to a now Dente-less house. Over lunch, after we'd exhausted the topic of what she did at school today, I broke the news as gently as I could. I explained that last night, Dente's body had become very sick -- so sick that it could not work anymore, and that he had layed down and gone to sleep, and that he would never wake up.

"Never?!" Hazel asked.

"Never again," I confirmed.

"Because he DIED?"


"Because his body got sick and tired?"

"Right. He was very old, honey."

"Like a flower dies when it doesn't have enough water?"

"Um... sort of like that."

"Like a marker dies when I don't put the cap on?"

"Um... well, it's --"

"Because it doesn't work anymore!" she chirped. "The marker doesn't work and Dente died, too. Can I have a lollipop?"

I let the subject drop with that, and was generally pleased with it's overall tone. Hazel was clearly stimulated by the discussion, as opposed to frightened by it, and although I couldn't really tell whether or not she GOT it, I wasn't about to press the issue. It was a few hours later, at rest time, that Hazel, who had clearly been mulling the concept of death over internally, as is her custom, popped the big question.

"Mama, am I going to die?"

I totally panicked. If you held a microphone to my stomach, you would have heard it drop to the floor like one of those cartoon anvils. She caught me totally off guard.

"N-No," I stammered. "Um... well, not until you are very, very old. In a really, really, really, REALLY long time."

"But I'm not sick!" she pointed out.

"No. You're not sick. You are very healthy and you are going have a long and wonderful life."

Thankfully, that satisfied her, and that was as far as it went. ((BIG EXHALE))

"I am sad to miss Dente," she said.

"Me, too, Hazel."

We hugged it out, and she layed down to watch 'Max and Ruby', and that was that. I'm sure it will come up again in the next few days, but for now, I feel like Hazel's introduction to death was a relatively healthy one.

A recent re-reading of my favorite zine quoted author Sarah Vowell quoting a tombstone (which was quoting someone else): "It is a fearsome thing to love that which death can touch." And that pretty much sums it up, I think.

We'll miss you, Dente.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hazel & Violet Wish You a Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winter Olympics? (Snort)

Ice skating is for squares. It's all about gymnastics, baby!

Hazel's weekly class at our local community center is the highlight of her week. She is getting more and more adventurous and confident in her skills -- today she mastered the balance beam and the hands-free somersault all by herself. She was so thrilled.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Hangover Says: You were up all night.

(I can't call this post "What You Once Were Isn't What You Want To Be Anymore", cuz Patti beat me to it).

Last night, for the first time since Violet was born, I went out and tore it up, child-free. It felt fabulous to put my cute new wrap, carry a purse (no diapers! no leaky sippy cups!) and wear earrings without fear of Violet ripping one through my earlobe.

Patti and I left our men to mind the chillen, and went to see Jeff Tweedy perform a solo show at The Fillmore. He was great, of course -- better than great, actually ((swooning)) -- but for me the highlight of the evening was spending time with my good friend, drinking stiff jack n' cokes, gossiping, giggling and otherwise disrupting the hardcore Tweedy/Wilco fans ("Ssshhhhh!")

We reminisced about our rock n' roll pasts, shows we've seen, bands we've loved. Going to a show used to be a weekly event for me: I'd put on my hipster best and head out for a night of good -- and sometimes not so good -- music, over priced -- and sometimes way over priced -- beer, and rampant cigarette smoking. These days, I'm more excited about who sleeps through the night, and who learned to play peek-a-boo, than I am about who's playing Bottom of the Hill, or who's got tour coming up. I've pretty much fallen off the hipster radar, and I'm cool with that. The fact that I got my tired shit together enough to stay out past midnight, combined with the fact that I am nursing a nice little hangover this afternoon, is enough to make me feel like I haven't completely sold out.

This morning, Hazel asked, "Mama, how was your date with Patti? Did you see Wilco?" And I said yep -- and it rocked.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Self Portrait at 30.

February 3, 2006.
Today is my 30th birthday.
Thirty! Three-o!

I've been looking forward to turning 30 since I was 12. It always sounded like a nice, round, solid number -- the magic number. The perfect age, the age of comfort and reason, at which I would finally become the person I was meant to be, living the life I was meant to live.

I'm not sure if that's the case, today, but I'm still pretty excited about the prospect of embarking on a whole new decade. My Thirties. It sounds very grown up. You can't mess with me now, I'm an adult! I have experienced no sense of dread or ennui about turning 30. On the contrary -- I feel like turning 30 is a sizable accomplishment, if for no other reason, than that I've made it past my 20s, which were kind of insane.

The last year or so, I have been feeling a slow but deliberate internal shift of my thoughts and energy, focusing more inward, and less outward. I am much less concerned about what or how people think of me, and much more focused on how I feel about myself, and what I'm doing with my life. It's stunning to me how much time and emotion I've wasted over the course of my last 30 years, caring about how other people perceive me, and what they think may about what I wear, how I live, who I am. My next 30 years are not going down like that.

I do not have a list of things I want to accomplish "before" -- before I turn 30, before I turn 50, before I die. But if I did have such a list, you can bet that becoming a mother would have been at the very top, no doubt (above "become an astronaut" and "find my real parents," even). But if you'd told me 10 years ago that at 30 I'd be married, living in the 'burbs, and a full time mother, I would have told you that you'd been rubbing up against the crazy tree. At 21, 22 years old, the thought of doing what I do now was horrifying -- just completely beyond my sphere of understanding. But here I am, just a few years later -- and I love it. Most days. I feel like I'm doing a lot with my life, raising my two girls up to be strong and intelligent women. I feel like I made a really radical choice, in forgoing "work" in order to be here with them, and make our home a peaceful place to grow and root and be. More than anything else I've done in my life so far, motherhood has changed, inspired, and humbled me. What a difference a few years can make.

There are still a million things in my life that I want to do. If they happen, great. If not, I'm sure that other wonderful things will have happened instead. I want to go back to college -- and finish this time. I want to travel with my husband and my girls to Africa, southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the parts of Europe that I missed the first time around. I want to learn to play the drums. I want to finish The Satanic Verses. I want to own a house and paint every room a different color. I want to live somewhere that gets snow in the winter. I want to eat fruit fresh off the tree on a beach somewhere. I want to learn to knit/throw pottery/insert craft here. And I feel pretty confident that I will, at some point, do most, if not all of those things. Not so much because I'm a goal oriented person, but because I am a hardcore hedonist, who likes to to bum around the world, lazing about, reading and eating and daydreaming with my family. I'm a grown-ass woman, and I can admit that the things I really want in life are pretty simple.

When I think back to my 20th birthday, it seems like eons ago. I was so different. I've lived three lifetimes since then! Ten years from now, who will I be? What will be different about me then? What will the same? I don't know. But it's exciting to think about. I'll get back to you in 2016.