Ack! My mom reads my blog!

Just kidding, I'm glad you're reading. And I've been meaning to tell you for ages that after your visit last March, Mallory will occasionally cup her hands and take a little slurp of water after brushing her teeth and say "That's how Grandmom showed me to do it."

And any friend of Aimee's is more than welcome to leave (positive) comments whenever she wishes.

So. When I grow up I want to be a Speech/Language Pathologist.

That may seem to be out of the clear blue sky, but it's kind of been in the back of my mind for many many years. When I was in junior high, after reading One Child by Torey Hayden, I thought I might like to be a child psychologist. And one day when I was a junior in high school I suddenly thought that hey, I should totally be a neonatologist. And when I was a freshman in college I took a Psychology course and thought that I should look into being a developmental psychologist, doing research with infants and small children. Why I did not pursue any of these options is frankly beyond me. I was trying to follow the call of Literature, I guess. Stupid Literature.

Then when I started back to work after Mallory was born, I was having trouble pumping enough breastmilk to satisfy her and I started searching all kinds of websites for advice. And I discovered that there were actually people who make their living by helping mothers to breastfeed. (They would be called Lactation Consultants.) And I thought, hm, now there is a worthwhile thing to do, and I looked into what it would take to become an LC and was kind of daunted by the requirements (lots and lots, as in thousands, of hours of volunteer work). But then I actually had to hire an LC after Phoebe was born and I appreciated her so much that I started thinking about it again. And THEN I discovered that there is a certain discipline of Speech/Language Pathology that specializes in infants with feeding difficulties. So I think that's what I want to do.

This career appeals to me for a number of reasons. First -- It's an actual standardized recognized career, with a name and with a certification attached, so I could find a job anywhere in the country. (Because someday we might move. You never know.) Second -- It's one of those "up-and-coming" careers with lots of job opportunities, because of the growing number of premature births, plus the growing number of children with developmental delays such as autism, and so forth. Third -- It pays pretty well, at least as well as what I'm doing now. Fourth -- At the end of the day I could say, "I helped this child," instead of "I built an html email which will be deleted unread by 90% of its recipients" which is what I say at the end of the day now. There's a word for that -- "Job Satisfaction" perhaps (okay, so that's two words).

The bump in the road is that I would of course have to go back to school. It's a 2-year Master's program, plus I think a certification exam, plus there are 15 or 18 hours of undergraduate prerequisites I'd have to fulfill (because I didn't take stuff like Statistics in college). And I don't know how we'd afford for me to go to school. But the way I look at it -- I'm 34 years old. I'm going to be working for what, 30 or 35 more years? I should do my best to make those years fulfilling, right?

Anyway, we'll see.

Just Finished Reading:
All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, And Only Slightly Enlightening Headache by Paula Kamen

Paula Kamen has had a severe headache for 15 years. Fifteen years -- the same headache! And she wrote a book about it! Imagine that. I'm someone who calls in sick when I have a cold! (Well, I used to be before I had kids. Now I call in sick when they have colds.) Over those 15 years she has seen many, many doctors, most of whom see her for a few minutes and then prescribe yet another drug which doesn't work, but does cause debilitating side effects; she has also seen any number of "alternative healers" who give her advice about "tuning into her body" and avoiding dairy and refined sugar. Nothing helped. Her book is an examination not only of her specific problem (which she handles with much more grace and humor than I ever would) but a critique of the American health care system, big pharmaceutical companies, and a society which has been slow to acknowledge chronic pain as the serious, disabling health problem that it is. And, since her "pre-headache" area of expertise was feminism, she also examines how doctors and people in general treat women with chronic pain differently than men. Women, for example, are more likely to be referred to psychologists for pain (under the assumption that they're in pain because they just can't cope with their lives), or to be brushed off by doctors who assume they're exaggerating their symptoms.

Of course, since I started this book, every time I get a headache I get all freaked out and worry that it's not going to go away. So far I'm fine.

ART for the Day
Mispronunciations by Mallory: First off, Mallory couldn't even say "Mallory" until...February or March of this year. She said "Wowee" instead. She may be the first child ever who could spell her name before she could say it. Other gems: For a long time she called Chris's studio the "bivio" and the TV the "teevawee." Music and movies are still "yoovic and yoovies." She had problems with the l sound for a while ("I yuv you," she'd say), and then for a while when she finally got that, she'd overcorrect and say, for example, "I liked eating logurt lesterday." She says "part" and "pell" for "smart" and "smell." And lately, she likes to ride her cooter in my in-law's curdlesac. (I'll leave that one for you to decipher.)


My dog is a plumber

Today Mallory asked me if she could go into outer space. "Sure, " I said, "but you'll have to become an astronaut first." She wrinkled up her nose and said, "Can girls be astronauts?"

I said of course, but I'm wondering why would she think they couldn't? I'm hoping the reason is benign -- for example, because Buzz Lightyear is an astronaut and he's clearly not a girl. We've certainly never told her there were limits on what she can do as a girl, and I don't think she would've heard that at school or even on TV, not in this day and age.

In fact, I don't remember ever thinking there were things I couldn't do because I was a girl, and I grew up simply decades ago. The Free to Be album really sunk in, I suppose. (I should let Mallory listen to that...it would be a nice change from Sesame Street and Yorrie Berganer (that's Mallory-speak for Laurie Berkner). My problem is that I decided what I wanted to be at a very young age and stuck with it way past the point of practicality and now here I sit, chest-high in student loan debt, with a Masters in English and a job in web design. And I actually think I know, now, what I want to be when I grow up, but it's going to require a few more years of school, which is a bummer because a) I don't like school and b) I don't have the money for school. Sigh. Advice to the young: Listen to your parents when they tell you that you shouldn't major in English. They're not just killing your buzz.

PSA for the Day: Do not buy Kaboom Bowl Blaster toilet cleaner. It's this powder stuff that's supposed to foam up in your toilet and magically scrub away all the ick and grime and residue. It doesn't work. And not only does it not work, but it also releases a fine powdery mist when you pour it, which mist enters your nasal passages and eyes and stings like the devil. Bad stuff.

ART for the Day:
When my mother-in-law gets Phoebe down from her high chair after lunch and says, "Phoebe, look what a mess you made on the floor!", Phoebe toddles off to the broom closet and fetches the carpet sweeper. How exciting to think that I might have a little cleaner! This doesn't happen at my house because of our dog, who is more than happy to clean up after the children's mealtimes.


Working, Mothering

I "worked from home" last Friday, and indeed will either work from home or be off work completely every Friday through the end of the year, thanks to an accomodating boss and my clever hoarding of my paid time off. This allows me to stay home with the girls and gives my inlaws, who watch them the other four days of the week, a day to themselves which I'm sure they sorely need.

On the one hand I'm grateful to my accomodating boss and my abundance of paid time off which makes this arrangement possible. On the other hand I kind of resent the fact that I have to hoard my time off and negotiate working from home. (I'm supposed to be "discreet" about it.) The company I work for, which I shall not name, has been good to me in many ways, but they are really behind the times as far as bringing family-friendly options to the workplace. I have a web-based job, I don't physically need to be in the office building on most days -- why can't I work from home whenever I choose? And why must I still report to work at a certain time and clock in a certain number of hours before I can go home, five days every week? Studies have shown (studies which I am too lazy to find now) that productivity increases when workers are allowed freedom over their schedules, are allowed to telecommute, are allowed to work compressed workweeks. There's nothing magic about the 8-hour day. People should work until they're done and then go home.

This is a subject that deserves a lot more eloquence than I can devote to it now, but what really angers me about the "mommy wars" is that we're fighting the wrong people. Women shouldn't judge one another for staying at home or for going back to work; women should judge a society that provides one of the worst maternal (and paternal!) leave programs in the world. In Canada and in most European countries, women get maternity leave of a year or more, and can then choose from quality subsidized child care programs when they get ready to go back to work. Here, women are lucky to get six measly weeks, which is often unpaid, and then usually get to choose between substandard day care or spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment for mediocre to decent child care. Family values? Where? So, in a rare burst of activism, last week I signed this petition (and then ordered a t-shirt!) because this is certainly a cause I can get behind. We need to change this system!

A few years ago, my mom asked me if I would stay at home if it were financially possible. The word "No" flew out of my mouth before I could even think about it. Then I felt horribly guilty (still do, in fact). I hate leaving my kids every day. I know that they're safe and happy and well-cared-for (thanks -- enormous thanks -- to my awesome and generous inlaws), but I also know that I'm their very favorite person in the world (and it will be both a relief and a tragedy when that's no longer the case) and that they'd rather be with me if they had their choice. I also recognize that I might lose my mind if I stayed home with them every day. (Although -- because this paragraph needs another parenthetical aside -- I also wonder if that's quite true. As it is now, because I work, when I am at home I'm always trying to do fourteen things at once. Playing with the kids, but also squeezing in laundry and cleaning and cooking and so forth. If I was at home I'd have more time for all that stuff, so maybe our time together wouldn't be quite so chaotic. Or maybe it would be chaotic all the time. I just don't know.) My preference would be to work part-time -- three days a week, say; or even five mornings a week. I just wish we could figure out a way to make that possible, financially speaking.

I have lots more to say on this topic but I, um, have work to do.

ART for the Day
Phoebe's laugh. I can't describe it, but it's the funniest thing in the world.


Planting the seed

Yesterday, because he can refuse her nothing, Mallory's grandfather (Papa) bought her a real honest-to-goodness coconut at the grocery store. Mallory watched, fascinated, as he proceeded to pierce two of the holes in the coconut, drain the milk, and then whack the thing open with a hammer. (I admit that I was fascinated too...I've never seen a real coconut unwrapped, so the speak.) Then he cut off some of the flesh for her to eat. Now, this is a child who lately eats only four or five things (the kid standards -- pb&j, chicken nuggets, cinnamon toast, and ice cream) so I was surprised that she agreed to try it, and not surprised that she didn't like it much. I had a bite too -- it was not too bad, but obviously the sweetened stuff is much better. Especially when residing in my mom's Italian Cream Cake. Most interesting fact about the coconut -- the inside is cold to the touch. This ends your science lesson for the day.

After the taste test, Mallory picked up one half of the coconut and wondered aloud what to do with it next. "Plant it and grow a coconut tree," I said in jest, but you should never make a suggestion in jest to a 4-year-old, because we had to spend the next half hour finding just the right spot in the yard to bury the coconut, and then we had to cover it with special potting soil, and then we had to water it. Then Mallory said, "Now I need to sing to my tree!" and proceeded to croon a variation of the lullaby I used to sing to her (I'll leave it to you to decipher which parts she varied.):

Lullaby, lullaby, rockabye my sweet baby
It is time to go to sleep
Make away with your sweet dreams.
Coconut, coconut, it is time to grow big
Coconut, coconut, soon you will grow big.

Every day my kids do something that make me fall in love with them.

ART (Always Remember That) for the day:

I was not blessed with children who just, you know, go to bed. For both girls, bedtime has always been a long drawn out process of nursing and rubbing backs and singing and lying in the dark thinking to myself, "Why won't this kid just go to sleep already?" I think some would say I'm a softie on this issue (uh, my husband included) but oh well.

Anyway. When Mallory was around two there were occasionally nights when she just wouldn't settle down and I'd give up altogether. I'd say, "Mallory, are you not sleepy right now?" and she'd sit up, slide out of her bed, and run out of her room and straight down the hall to Chris's studio. She'd hold her arms up in a "what-can-you-do" kind of shrug and proclaim, "I not sleepy, Daddy! I not sleepy!"

Now Phoebe has nights when she just won't settle, and when I say to her, "Phoebe, are you not sleepy?" she slides out of bed and toddles down the hall to Chris's studio. Same path, same little waddle in her step. Except all she can say is "Diggum" or "Zhuh!" But she's getting there.


Remembering This, That and the Other

I'm a bit of an introvert, so one of the hardest things about being a mother, for me, is all that interacting I have to do with my children. Especially when it comes to the questions, my god, the questions. You know, to bring up the old cliche, I would be thrilled if Mallory (that would be my older daughter) would ask me something straightforward like, "Why is the sky blue?" Because that is a question that has a rational answer. But Mallory doesn't ask questions like that. Mallory asks questions like these:

1. The Unanswerable. "Mommy, what was that in the road?" she asked this morning as we were driving to my in-law's house. "I don't know, I didn't see it," I said. "But what WAS it?" she asked. "Mallory, I don't know, I didn't see it," I repeated. "But Mommy, what WAS it?" she asked, becoming shrill. "Um....grass?" I said. "Oh," she said. Oy.

2. The Repetitive. Last year around this time (she's now 4.5), every twenty seconds she would ask me, "What's your name?" All day long, "what's your name? what's your name?" The proper response was "Mommy," although she'd sometime accept "Krista." If I tried to be clever and say, "Mortimer" she'd get enraged. If I said, "You know what my name is, silly!" in an effort to be light-hearted, or if I turned it around and said, "I don't know, you tell me what my name is!" she'd get enraged. I finally realized that "what's your name?" was like a conversational tic with her, something she'd say instead of "Um" or "Like" or "Anyway." That didn't make it any less annoying. Now, the question she asks about 37 times an hour is, "Can I go play with Maggie and Lizzie today?" (Those would be her best friends, who live across the street.) She asks this even if I've already said no, or if I've said yes but not until after lunch, or if it's bedtime, or
if we've just come home from Maggie and Lizzie's house.
3. The Spiral into Absurdity. "Mommy, when will the sun come up?" In the morning. "But what time?" Around 6:30. "But when is that?" In about 9 hours. "But how long is that?" Well, it's 9 hours. "Is it a long time?" Yes, but you'll be asleep. "But how long of an hour is nine hours?" It's just nine hours. "But will the sun be hours away?" Um...yes? "But how long is the sun?" What? "Mommy! I mean, how much sun is IN the hour?" Honey, I don't understand the question. "MOMMY!"

4. The Exasperating. "Mommy, is it okay if I sneeze now?"

5. The Heartbreaking. "Mommy, when are you going to die?"

And so on. So far, my younger daughter can only ask one question: "Dis?" But it's coming. I just hope that Mallory outgrows the worst of her impossible question-asking before Phoebe starts up. Mallory has other conversational quirks too, which I bring up to explain the title of my blog. Lately she commands us to "always remember" the finer points of all of her requests. I believe that she must think that we have the short term memory of a blue tang. "I want ice and water in a sippy cup," she'll say. "Always remember to put it in a sippy cup. And always remember that." Last month while driving to the beach, she informed us three times in thirty seconds that she did not want, in any circumstance, to stop to eat dinner. "I dont' want dinner. Always remember that, Mommy." Just to bug her, Chris said, a few seconds later, "Hey Mallory, what do you want for dinner?" Mallory emitted her trademark screaming growl of frustration and said, "Mommy! I DO NOT WANT NO DINNER! Always remember that. And Daddy, always remember that I am talking to Mommy, NOT YOU!"

And the thing is, I do want to always remember that, and so much more. When Mallory was very small, I kept a journal. Once or twice a week I'd record how she was developing -- Mallory stacked three blocks today! Mallory said "Elmo!" Mallory started daycare (a sad one, no exclamation point). But I didn't keep up with it, and now I have a second baby for whom I haven't even started a photo album, much less a more detailed record of how she's growing and changing. So I'm starting this blog, in hopes that it will help me to remember.