Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back to work? We're on it.

For the past several weeks I’ve been on a mission to “rebalance” as we say and add significantly more writing and paid work to my life, while remaining the primary care-giver in our household. Not surprisingly, I’ve found this a challenge and I’ve got a few things to say. Ready? Here we go:

I take issue with the idea, supported by a surprising number of people, that it’s possible to work and take care of small children simultaneously. My guess is that the people who say this have either a) never worked or b) never taken care of a small child. Yes, you can try to work while your children wail and do everything in their power to get your attention (Calvin finds that biting the inside of my thigh is particularly effective) but I challenge you to do anything worthwhile-- writing, for example-- under such conditions. Distracted does not begin to describe it.

And still some will argue that children can be taught to sit contentedly, reading or teaching themselves multiplication tables while the parent works. To be fair, these people are often the mothers of newborns so they have, technically, taken care of a small child. One who sleeps 90% of the day and can’t rise to a sitting position much less climb to the top of a bookcase. I find that these women tend to have a tenacious grip on their notions of work-life balance. They are like kayakers paddling down a placid river, afraid that the great roaring they hear around the bend might be a bit more of a drop than they expected.

It’s Niagra Falls, but don’t try to tell them that.

Soon, they too will understand why recordings of crying babies have been used as an interrogation tactic on political prisoners. There is a part of our brain whose biological function is to react to the sound of an unhappy child. Numbing that part of your psyche is possible but it comes at a price. As far as your state of mind, the overall quality of your thoughts, you are like a person who is trying to speak after receiving a shot of novocaine. You may be intelligible, but the drool and rubbery flapping of your lips will detract from your air of professionalism.

Which is all to say, I have come to the decision that we’re going to put both kids in part-time care, while I build up more work and that this is a good thing for them and for me. It ain’t cheap. But neither is the alternative, if you think about it in terms of the hourly cost of psychotherapy. I love love love LOVE my children and am prepared to lie down in front of enemy tanks or fist-fight with grizzly bears to protect them-- not to get histrionic on you-- but I have faith that this is the best plan for us all. I want them to have the best of me, when I'm with them and I can't stretch that kind of single focus over the whole week without getting a bit brittle.

Check back with me in a few weeks and I'll report on how UNBELIEVABLY successful I am at transforming the balance of work and mothering! Or whatever.

Calvin at table, and an innocent bystander

Oh, Scott, Scott, Scott!! When will you learn not to stand next to Calvin's high chair when he's eating... You may as well make a smoothie in the blender without using the lid.

I'm trying to be cute here because actually I find the mess crazy-making. Food on the floor, the walls, the table, the counters. And don't even get me started about the food caked on Calvin himself. You can see for yourself.

Pak Skip and Nanu Joyce, back in town!

I think Dad had been in the house for all of five minutes when this was taken. He was already festooned in children and spent pretty much the rest of his visit like that, as did Joyce. A good time was had by all!

One locally sourced rubber chicken

For years now I have walked by the window display at our local Five-and-Dime store and said to myself, "One day, I'm going to buy one of those rubber chickens." I don't know, there's just something marvelous about this throw-back of a store keeping company out here with the yoga studios and tony restaurants and keeping the rubber chickens right in the front as if they were the very thing you might want. Yes the store is full of unnecessary plastic junk but they carry a couple of hard-to-find items that are actually useful like mitten clips-- ever try looking for those? Well, look no more! They have 'em at Balich 5 & 10! And they also have reporter notebooks which fit my purse exactly and help me preserve the illusion that I am actually going to jot down nuggets of genius at random moments during the day. And yarn. And sleds. And measuring spoons!

And they have, as I said, rubber chickens hanging upside down in a row in the front window like China Town, only plastic and they still have the heads on. So I finally went in this past week and said, "One rubber chicken, my good man!" or something to that effect, and the very nice owner got out his ladder and fetched me down one. I felt that self-congratulatory warmth that suburbanites get from supporting local, family-owned businesses, and now "Robbie" is part of our home. It's hard to remember a time when he wasn't here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fantastic Hair Day

Calvin woke up from his nap the other day with this wonderfully bouffant hair-do. Later in the day he acquired a couple of red divets in his forehead when he landed face-down on the prongs of an electrical cord. Ouch. At least he didn't lose an eye.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Hollywood kiss

Nellie's parents are our good friends, so they know Calvin comes from a decent family and has only the most honorable intentions toward their daughter.

Overheard: Poor, friendless Oobleck...

Here's a textbook example of how maddeningly slow I can be to catch on, and the incredible patience Audrey is developing to deal with that.

To understand this exchange you must know two things: 1) oobleck is a cornstarch and water mixture that makes a cool liquid-solid, and 2) some of the kids in Audrey’s preschool have really weird names.

Audrey [while riding in the car]: Mommy, I played with oobleck at school today!

Me [exuding enthusiasm]. That’s wonderful honey! Is Oobleck a boy or a girl?

Audrey: [short pause] Oobleck is not a friend, Mom.

Me [exuding feelings of deep sorrow and concern] Audrey, that’s not very nice. Everyone at school is a friend.

Audrey: No! Oobleck is NOT A FRIEND!

Me: But why? Why can’t Oobleck be your friend? Which one is Oobleck, anyway?

Audrey: [totally exasperated] Oobleck is WHITE, in a BOWL, Mom. You play with it.

Me: [contritely] Oh. I see. Sorry.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

And the final word goes to...

No surprises here: Audrey. For outstanding performance in the role of contrarian, nay-sayer and all-around Refusenik.

Here's the excerpt from the award ceremonies in case you missed them:

Scott: (tucking Audrey into bed after a particularly contentious bedtime): Good night, Audrey. I love you. Sleep well.

Audrey: I won't!

In a supporting role leading up to this star performance, Audrey responded to the gentle suggestion of our GPS to turn left by saying, "No! We will not!"