August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lena has these really specific bedtime routines with each of us. (Us being, me and my parents.) Pops reads Beatrix Potter stories. Nana snuggles and reads Cat in the Hat. Mommy yells at everyone to go to bed. I mean, just kidding, but not really. Nana and Pops are too easy with Lena at bed time. It is all about scaring her into staying in bed and falling asleep. And by all that I mean I’m the last snuggler, giver of ‘just one more hug’, and fetcher of ‘more ice please’.

The result of our different roles means that we all discover new things that Lena does at different rates. The other night, while the lights were out and I was snuggling for ‘just 10 more minutes’, Lena recited almost all of Cat in the Hat, and I didn’t even tell her to go to bed and be quiet and I think I stayed there for almost thirty minutes until she fell asleep because I was just so amazed that she could do it. Cat in the Hat is kind of a long book! And she had it down. I was amazed and then tired and I forgot to tell anyone, so the next night, after Nana’s turn to snuggle (I know I know, Lena is spoiled) Nana comes in the TV room where I’m sitting, and says, “Did you know Lena can read all of Cat in the Hat??”

This is not reading at all, I know that. It’s reciting, but I got started thinking about the reading bit because Aspen volunteers for the Durham Literacy Center, and it’s been amazing reading and hearing about what she’s learning and teaching there. It’s incredibly inspiring and also heartbreaking, how do kids slip that far through the cracks that they get to adulthood and can’t read. Can you imagine not knowing how to read? Almost all of the things that have inspired and changed me can be attributed to words.

But here’s where the policy stuff comes in, and the importance of early childhood education comes in, because if I was working two jobs to support us, and we didn’t have the amazing support system that we have that allows me to read to my kid every single day, literally. We even read a book on the way to school each morning. (Nana drives.) If we didn’t have this, Lena wouldn’t grow up to love books, and cherish reading. The thing about learning and listening and reciting, is that Lena’s not only getting that “reading” is good, she’s learning tone, inflections, cadence. She’s going to be a fluent reader, because she’s already a fluent reciter. That was one of the most surprising things, to hear in the car this morning these beautiful emphases on certain phrases of Curious George. It was amazing. And the thing is that anyone who’s EVER had a class even in COLLEGE where someone has to read something out loud, knows that fluent reading is not to be taken for granted. Seriously. Introduction to poetry was painful for that reason.

In conclusion, read to your kids. It’s good for them. But it is time for bed, so go to bed too.


Starting to pay off

June 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

Last night, Lena let me read Charlotte’s Web to her.

I had forgotten how much I loved this book.

The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell–as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay in the great loft up overhead. And there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep.

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

I grew up with this book and I haven’t opened it or even thought about it in years. And last night, taking off the worn jacket and beginning to read it to Lena, I can’t describe the familiarity of the words to my ear, my wonder, piqued again by these small heroines, and noticing that Lena too, is listening quietly. Here is one of those moments, so whole and tangible, when Lena gives me so much more than motherhood. She’s taking me back. I can’t describe what children’s literature means to me. I grew up reading. Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume. Hatchet, The Giver, Cheaper by the Dozen, Walk Two Moons, I could go on and on and on down to Archie comics that I read every morning while eating cereal. I loved to read, and I still do, and Lena is reminding me how enchanted I was by these books. How much I loved and craved stories, the worlds that these authors created. How much I learned from them.

Although, I was saddened to learn that in the most recent versions of Are You There, God, It’s Me Margaret the elusive “belted sanitary napkins” have been changed to “adhesive sanitary pads”. Not the case when I was growing up, and until I got my period I was still quite under the impression that I too would get to have the little pink belt attached to my…well i think the logistics were still a little unclear at the time.

To Lena,
Thanks for keeping me young.
Now go to bed.

When you’re not around

May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Every morning around 9, I drop Lena off at daycare, go to work, and return around 5:30 to pick her up and take her home.

Do you know what happens between 9 and 5:30 each weekday? Nothing, right? Lena’s just at a glorified babysitter’s, right?

I’m thinking of Beth Ann Fennelly‘s poem, “First Day at Daycare”, and epigram that says, “My daughter comes home smelling like / another woman’s perfume”

This morning, Lena and I went for a walk on the greenway behind our house, and Lena stopped to look at a dead cicada on the ground. She stopped me to say, “Ooh, Mommy, look at this.”
“Yeah,” I say, “That’s a cicada,” thinking that I am imparting some great knowledge onto my daughter.
“Mr. John told us about cicadas last week,” Lena says, so matter-a-factly it just tugs at my heart.
“Really?” I say. “Did he talk about the music they make?” Mr. John is the music teacher. That much I know!
“Yes,” Lena responds again. “They go buzzzzzzzzzzzz.”
That they do, small one, that they do.

I started to explain the life cycle, because goddammit I can teach my kid something too, but she was already on to the next fallen twig from a tree, twenty feet ahead of me.

L is growing up. Overnight, it seems. Every morning is a new unexpected emotion, or phrase. I pick her up from school and she is a fountain of what she did that day, or what her friend’s did. She’s this catalog of who is sick, who is on vacation, who’s parent picked them up or dropped them off that day.

And I’m just me. About twenty paces behind this whirlwind of a kid at any given time. Sometimes she lets me catch up. I get glimpses of who she is becoming and where she’ll go. And then she’s off again. And I couldn’t be more thankful for every moment I spend with this kid.

The difference

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes when Lena gets out of the bath, she doesn’t wait to be toweled off and instead runs into my room and jumps, soaking wet, onto my bed. I chase after her with a towel, giggles ensue, and soon she’s wrangled back into the bathroom to brush her teeth. Casualty: my bed, wet.

Last night, she escaped, I stood helplessly in the bathroom with her towel as she started running towards my room, waiting for the inevitable, when out of NOWHERE, (well, not really nowhere, he was in the hallway, it’s not like he apparated from Greensboro to save the day) Alex LEAPS across my room in one bound, grabs Lena by the middle in MID-JUMP and passes her to me to dry her off.

She’s giggling hysterically, and I, am dumbstruck.

“How…how did you do that?”

To which Alex replies,

“That’s the difference between the person that stands there and watches their child get eaten by the shark, and the person that saves your child from the shark.”

I think that was a not-so-subtle comment about my parenting skills.

First trip to the dentist

February 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lena had her first trip to the dentist today. It was awesome. She was awesome. I was awesome.

Okay, back up. I started out by getting Lena a book about going to the dentist. Unfortunately, it was a Dora the Explorer dentist book, but nonetheless, we read it at least three times a day every day this weekend. And then we were ready. Lena was excited. She was looking forward to it even. I left to go to work this morning and Lena said to me, “And when you come back, we will go to the DENTIST!”

Hell yeah kid, that’s what we’re going to do.

The time finally comes and we get there and I am impressed. The lighting is really nice, they have this great fake tree that goes from floor to ceiling with really pretty hearts and birds hanging from it. There are two Playstation stations, tons of books, tons of toys, and Lena is happy as a clam.

They call her name, (“Just like Dora!”) and we head into the X-ray. Lena remembers that Dora had the X-ray, but Lena wasn’t quite ready to sit in the chair by herself, and they didn’t really want me to sit there with her, you know, X-rays and all that. So the dental assistant suggested that we do the teeth stuff first and the X-ray stuff last. Lena is super excited about picking a toothbrush, and when she sees the chair she says, “That’s the chair that goes up and down!” And the dental assistant says, “That’s right!” And I say (to myself), “Hell yeah, we get an A for being prepared!”

And then it goes downhill from there. Lena climbed on the chair, but wouldn’t sit all the way back, would NOT lay down. And then she wanted to go home. Like, crying running away, wanting to go home. And we coax and cajole. And I’m thinking to myself, “I bet they see it all here, but how bad of a mother will I seem when I start hardcore bribing my kid/manhandling to get her in the chair, because we are NOT leaving here without check in the ‘Success’ column.” And the Dentist comes out and says to me, “We can reschedule if you want, but in my experience this will just happen again.” And I was like, “Cool, let’s just do this.”

So I put on my mom hat. I muster everything I learned from How to talk so your kids will listen and listen so your kids will talk, I put on my stern voice. I hug her, I tell her I understand, and then I start counting to ten.

And at seven, she climbs onto my lap, puts her legs around me (“Like a tree!”), lays her head back into the dentist’s lap, opens wide, and starts to laugh. Chocolate toothpaste, it’s funny. It’s funny when the dentist said she was going to count her teeth. And when she said it was time to “paint your teeth” Lena thought that was downright hilarious. And she did a great job. I held her hands the whole time, and was just thinking how freakin’ proud I was of my kid. She listened, and she wasn’t really afraid, exactly, she just didn’t really want to do it, but she did, and she was awesome. Plus there was a prize at the end. And then we did the X-rays. When we got to the room Lena just climbed up on the chair without even being asked. And the put on a “heavy blanket” and, you guessed it, that was silly, and she laughed. (I got one too, also amusing.)

And, for the record, Lena has two sets of two teeth that are fused together! Crazy! Although it looks like the permanent teeth will come in just fine. And we’re a good brusher. And we don’t drink too many sugary drinks. Because I’m a Chapel Hill mom, dammit. No processed foods, ever.

Jk. So we don’t have to brush teeth tonight because they painted on the fluoride stuff, and they were also like, “No crunchy foods” but then Lena was all, “I want some goldfish” and I was like, “ehhhh” and then I had to decide whether goldfish count as crunchy foods or not. And I went with…No. Because they’re not like, hard to crunch, you know? I mean, a carrot is crunchy. I could see a carrot rubbing off the fluoride stuff. But goldfish are sort of…soft crunchy. Who’s with me?

I’m so in love with this kid you wouldn’t believe. She is, simply, amazing.

Defying logic

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lena wakes up in the morning, calls for me, I get out of bed, take her out of her crib, go back to bed, and Lena follows and lies down next to me. She wiggles for a little bit, snuggles, and then she gets bored, and she sits up, and she says, “I’m going downstairs, alright?” And I say, “that’s fine.” And she says, “Okay.” And on her way out the door, she says, “Mommy, you will make the sun come up?”

She’s started saying it recently, because a while ago, when she didn’t want to go to bed, she’d ask why she had to, and I’d say, “Because we have to go to sleep, so the sun comes up in the morning.” And I’ll be darned, especially when it’s overcast in the morning, this kid does not think the sun comes up until my ass is out of bed and downstairs. I bet it’s what she tells herself if she wakes up in the middle of the night. She sleeps through the night really well these days. Look at this kid. Defying logic.

My friend Charlie also gave me this book, recently, it’s called How to talk so your kids will listen and listen so your kids will talk. L is having some tantrum issues, some not napping issues, and it’s hard, dealing with this little bundle of emotions. So I’ve started reading this book, and it’s really cool, I haven’t finished it yet, but it seems to come down to this.

Defying all my logic, all my emotions, there are some times, when all Lena needs, is a lap to sit on, a hug, someone to come to her.

And yeah, we have a lot to work on, I have a lot to learn about parenting, and communication, but sometimes all you need is that pause, that calming exhalation of breath. A, you can do this, and a, come here, Lena, come here. And sure enough, she comes. Tired, cranky, hungry. Too tired and cranky to eat, and she crawls into my lap. And I’m there for her.

Look at me, a parent, defying logic.

proud mama

March 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

There are times when it’s really hard to keep a straight face. When Lena’s about the throw a tantrum and her whole face screws up and her mouth opens really wide about a second before she lets out this really high pitched scream…oh my gosh I just want to laugh so hard. And when I’m trying to tell her not to do something and I say, “are you listening?” and she says “no” and I say “do you understand?” and she says “noo?” mimicking my question intonation, looking up at me quizzically. Man that kills me.

So here we were this weekend, looking at these neighbor’s chickens in their backyard, and it’s time to go home for lunch. And Lena says, “No! More chickens!” And I’m all, “Let’s go” and she’s all, “no”. repeat 10 times, and you get the picture. And there’s this little fence around the yard, but you can bypass it and go down through the woods to get a closer look at the chickens, so as I’m walking away, threatening to leave her, Lena pulls out her pacifier, throws it through the fence, and then starts running through the woods to the back yard saying “Go get buddy!” (She calls her pacifiers “buddies” her word not mine.)

And I’m supposed to be angry. I’m supposed to be like, no, don’t do that. And I do. I yell at her and say that we aren’t supposed to do that and it’s time to go home, and Alex steps over the fence and gets the pacifier and we head home.

But secretly, I have never been more proud of her. Dude, did you see that? That was like, PROBLEM SOLVING. that was like, how can i get myself over there, OH, i’ll THROW SOMETHING that I have to later RETRIEVE. That was smart! That was real time thinking Wile-e coyote style. Man I am a proud mama. I can’t wait to see what other tricks she has up her sleeve.

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