The Tale Of Shopping At Walmart Before A Snowstorm

I barely survived Friday.  JDubbs forgot to bring Jax’s snowpants to school, our heater went on the fritz while the temperature hovered around 25 degrees, Baby H was bitten on the nose by an acquaintance’s two-year-old at a holiday singalong–all before ten o’clock.  In and of themselves, this could have been enough to make me put on Christmas movies for four hours straight while I regrouped and pinned perfectly decorated homes that I will never be able to duplicate on Pinterest.  However, JDubbs was back after being gone for two days and I had had a decent night’s sleep, so I was taking chaos in stride a bit more serenely than usual.  Baby H was fine–although she is still sporting terrible red marks on either side of her nose–and I assured the mother that these things happen, which they do!  I have been the mother of a very pushy and physical boy for too long to blame a contrite mother for an accident.  So even in the face of baby abuse, I was still feeling good about my day.

I should have cut my losses and gone home.  Instead, I pressed my luck to the point where no healthy mother should go, compounding slushy weather with tired baby and overstimulated preschoolers and rolled it all into a ball of insanity called Shopping At Walmart Before A Snowstorm.  Oh, yes, during the holidays.  Brilliant maneuver, to be sure.

It all started with baby poop noises.  All well and good that H does it before we go into the store, I thought since I loathe public bathrooms.  I climbed into the back of the van, leaving John Denver and The Muppets singing Christmas carols to entertain Jax and Em.  I pulled the baby out of her car seat, laid her blanket down on the floor and started getting her undressed while humming along to Christmas Is Coming and keeping an eye on Jax’s snowboot which could plop down on Baby H’s head with one enthusiastic kick.  I grabbed the diaper and wipes out of my bag and stripped the baby down.  My knees were starting to get a bit wet from the residual snow that the kids tramped into the van with them, so I hurried to open the wipes and get this over with. To my shock and dismay, the entire package of wipes was frozen solid from being left in the van overnight;  I couldn’t even scrape one off the top.  Not that I would put a frozen wipe on H’s butt–I had visions of that kid from A Christmas Story with his tongue stuck to a flagpole and wondered what I would do if the baby’s bum met a similar fate.  Since this was a very messy endeavor, I started rummaging through the diaper bag for anything I could wipe her with, and while distracted, H took the opportunity to slam her legs and feet into the dirty diaper, soiling her pants and fleece booties.  Shit.  Literally.  Everywhere.  Now the baby was flinging poop near and far, trying to grab at her filthy toes, and I still had nothing to clean any of it up with, plus my knees were soaked in earnest and the water was traveling up my jeans like a puddle.  Jax and Em were singing at the top of their lungs and I was starting to sweat.  I finally found a burp cloth and used that to clean up the mess, found a pair of pants for H, but no socks.  Shit again.  It was really so frigid out that I couldn’t consider taking the baby out into the parking lot with nothing on her feet–I was guaranteed to be stopped every two feet by disapproving grandmothers and tsking strangers.  Then I remembered that Em had refused to put her socks back on after the singalong and had just put on her boots, so I had a pair of her socks in my pocket at the very moment.  Perfect.  Em’s feet were warm enough and H would not get frostbite.  Problem solved, baby dressed, kids still bellowing but we were getting out of the car so Christmas carols were soon to be forgotten.  Moving on.

 

We climbed out of the van and I kept Jax and Em next to me while searching my pockets for my keys.  The parking lot was a slushy, disgusting mess as only a New England parking lot in December can be, and of course, in the seven seconds I required to locate my keys, Jax took the opportunity to knock Em over into a slush puddle, in her white leggings.  Em started to wail, Jax tried to deny any wrongdoings, I hoisted her up to assess the damage.  Not only were her pants not salvageable, she was soaking wet.  Back into the van, back into the diaper bag where I didn’t even bother to search for a new pair of underwear with the kids still potentially capable of running into the parking lot.  She could go commando in her backup pants, which, I realized, were a full size too small.  Deciding clean pants that were too short were better than unwashed Walmart pants, I grabbed them and dragged my three into the store.  I did stop to give money to the Salvation Army Santa, however, because I definitely could have used a bit of good karma right then.

 

We headed straight for the bathroom where I laid my jacket on the ground for the baby to sit on and told Em to strip out of her pants.  Jax started running around the bathroom like a maniac, waving his arms and singing Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat! as loud as he could.  Ignoring him for the more pressing problems, I helped Em out of her boots a nanosecond too late before I realized she didn’t have any socks on.  I am pretty sure I could have been physically ill as I looked at her bare feet on the wet, dirty, slushy, Walmart bathroom floor.  Swallowing my bile, I urged her to continue getting undressed as I tossed her dirty pants into the trash, which of course caused a freaking scene.

 

“Why are you throwing them AWAY??  Those are my FAVORITE pants!”
“No, they’re not, you’re fine.”
“Yes, they ARE!!”

 

Realizing I was wasting precious moments arguing with a three-year-old, I told her I would buy her new pants.

 

“Just please put these on and get your boots back on so we can get off the floor!”
“No, I have to go potty,” and she scurried across the entire bathroom with her too-small emergency pants around her ankles and NO SHOES ON and locked herself into a stall.  Cue shudder of repulsion.

 

Jax was now ricocheting back and forth from the mirrors to the hand dryers, continuing with his song.  Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat!  Please do put a penny in the old man’s hat!  “Jax, please stop singing, this is a public bathroom.”  If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do!  “Jax, you need stop right now or we’re–” If you haven’t got a ha’penny then GOD BLESS YOU!  GOD BLESS YOU!  “Jax!  ENOUGH!”

 

Did I mention that during all this, the baby had crawled off my jacket and was not on her hands and knees on said disgusting bathroom floor?  Oh, yes.

 

Scooped up the baby, swatted her brother, helped wiped Em’s butt and got her in her boots, got my jacket off the floor, forced the girls to both wash their hands, all to the increasingly loud chorus of God Bless You!  God Bless You! which, if your kid is going to drive you batshit crazy, at least he’s not quoting Eminem or something.  I’ll take that as a win.  And at least nobody came into the bathroom to witness chaos personified.  So what if I wanted to go bathe my children in bleach when we got home, and was cursing the memory of John Denver and those blasted Muppets?  So what if it wasn’t my best parenting moment, or human moment for that matter?  Just get me out of here!  Where the hell are the snowpants?  Em lost her hairclip?  Jax has no idea about the meaning of Christmas and is demanding an Iron Man action figure?  Come on, universe!  My baby had had her nose practically bitten off hours before and I am still trying to be nice to people!  Doesn’t that count for something?  Forget the snowpants, where is the wine?

 

Needless to say, we put a little extra money in the Salvation Army Santa’s bucket on the way out.

 

Baby H
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Wild & Precious Life

When I was in my twenties, I had a t-shirt that said No Regrets.  It became my mantra as I transitioned from a college girl who thought she had life figured out to someone who had the opportunity to lead a life that was riskier, but reaped infinitely bigger rewards.  The summer before I packed my life in the backseat of my car and moved to California, No Regrets repeated itself over in my head and I had it written on a sticky note on my bedroom mirror.  I also had a quote from The Secret Life of Bees alongside it that read, “Regrets don’t help anything, you know that,”  and so with that in mind I decided to be brave enough to take control of my life and make it the one I had always imagined.

I was introduced to another quote by Mary Oliver though Kelle Hampton’s blog, and ever since it has resonated with me regarding how I want to live my life and how I would like to raise my children.  I bought a beautiful print of it here and it hangs in Jax and Em’s room so I can remember to shape their lives that way every day, to remind them to live life in a way that inspires happiness and wonder. Lately I’ve even started to consider getting it as a tiny, trailing tattoo somewhere on my body, maybe even around my wrist as a bracelet, so I won’t forget to keep that sentiment in mind.  I could always just get another sticky note–that would be much less painful–but somehow I’d like a permanent reminder to savor life and make the right choices, even if they are difficult ones.  And in a symbolic way, wouldn’t it make sense if that realization is a little painful?

So I ask you, as I ask myself, my favorite question:

Wild & Precious Life

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She’s From Boston

A few thoughts about yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon:

I grew up a half mile from the Boston Marathon route, spending every Patriots Day cheering on the countless individuals, and later some incredible friends, who ran the route from Hopkinton to Boston.  Until this year, in fact, I didn’t realize that Patriots Day wasn’t a national holiday, even though I’ve lived all over.  To me, the day was such a celebration, a town-wide block party, that I didn’t realize the entire country wasn’t enjoying the same kind of spirit and fun that I was privileged enough to experience every year.

When Jax was six months old, JDubbs and I took him to cheer on the runners at the marathon, and the only reason we haven’t been back since is because of subsequent babies and the distance.  We have taken the kids to cheer on the runners of the Covered Bridge Half Marthon, and JDubbs is training to run it himself this year.  In seven short weeks we will be spectators there ourselves, with homemade t-shirts and posters, waiting near the finish line for our loved one to complete his amazing accomplishment.  Last year he ran a 5K, this year a half marathon.  Who’s to say that in a year or two he wouldn’t be training for the Boston Marathon itself, with my family there on Boylston Street to be the first to greet him when he finished?  It’s things like that that have been bothering me all night: that the victims of this attack were families just like mine, waiting for loved ones just like JDubbs, reveling in one of the best days of the year.  One of the best days to be from Boston.

I taught at the high school in Newtown, Connecticut.  I know that community and their pain.  I went to college forty-five minutes outside of New York City during 9/11, and had classmates, roommates, and friends who were thunderstruck as terror struck their city.  The husband of a dear friend was in the second tower that day; thankfully he survived.  Now it is my city that is feeling the pain of an attack, and no matter that it has been nine years since I called Boston my home, to me it always will be, and I feel the significance of this event deeply.

Every time JDubbs and I drive down 93 South, I get a giddy, elated feeling whenever Boston’s skyline comes into view.  I always turn to him and say, “Don’t you just love Boston? Doesn’t it feel like we belong here?”  Since JDubbs is a chameleon and can feel at home anywhere, he just smiles and indulges me, knowing that indeed Boston is a great city, but that it is unlikely that we will ever live there again.  One of my biggest regrets about that is that my kids won’t know what it’s like to say, “I’m from Boston.”  To know what that means and how that defines you, how other people all over the country know without explanation what that means.  Tell someone from New Mexico that you’re from Vermont and they’ll say something like, “Isn’t that in Canada?”  But say you’re from Boston and they have a visual–mostly from movies like Ted and Fever Pitch–but they know.  I’m proud to be from Boston, proud of my city and how its people responded to this terrible crisis, how passionate, strong,and brave everyone has been in the face of this danger.  I’ve always known that and been proud of it, and after yesterday, the whole world knows it, too.

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The Painful Details

There are some memories of pregnancy and childbirth that I know will fade over time.  Even though I will strive to remember them, I know I can’t help but forget, and that is as it should be.  There are moments from each of my labors that are still very vivid in my mind, and I want to write them down before I forget.  These are not moments of my babies being born, or the sweet time we spent in the hospital getting to know each other, or any of that.  This is just me and my labors.  A very unique situation each, and worthy of their own post, because they were long, difficult, exhausting, and not at all insignificant.  And without question, memorable.

With Jax, how I lost it when JDubbs left to get lunch and he came back to me in a full-blown panic attack, clutching the railing of my bed, sweating and puking, begging for an epidural.  How I was so hot that I insisted on lying directly on the linoleum floor with nothing between me and all those germs but my hospital gown.  How the anesthesiologist came in to give me the song and dance about how he could accidentally paralyze me and found me on the floor, trying to internalize some of the cold.  How I told him to continue and said, “It’s okay.  Go ahead, I’ll be down here,” and how he had to have me sign the don’t-sue-me forms on an exercise ball.  How when he came back hours later because my epidural button wasn’t working and he said, “So, how are you doing?” and I said, “Fine, except I want to rip out my uterus,” he looked at JDubbs with raised eyebrows and said, “Dramatic, isn’t she?”  Oh, anesthesiologists.  Always good for a laugh.

How I had insisted on keeping everyone out except for JDubbs for almost all 24 hours of my labor, except for after their “failed attempt at forceps,” with no epidural, when my mom snuck in while they were preparing my for my c-section, and I cried and held her hand and was so glad she was there.  How I felt silly for not asking for her sooner, and how she had had to pull over and throw up on the way north because she was so absolutely worried for me.  And then, when in the operating room, when I felt so nauseous, I was certain I was going to throw up in my little oxygen mask and choke to death on my own vomit and no one would notice because they’d be so distracted with the surgery and the baby and I would be flailing around with my arms tied down, unable to get their attention.  That’s what 24 hours of labor will do to you.  Delusional.

Now, with Em, I will remember how I had to insist to the OB on call that I needed to come in, that I was bleeding and that it was not normal, even though she assured me (without seeing me) it was.  How after several hours and much anxiety she said, “You sound anxious,” and I said, “Well, I am anxious,” and she finally said, “Well, come in, then.”  How I drove myself to the hospital and called my friend Tricia on the west coast because it was 11:15 at night and no one would be awake, and since I was 3 weeks early, we didn’t want to wake anyone up for a false alarm.  How the triage nurse and I had a good laugh about how I was probably overreacting, and then when she hooked me up to the machines, she kept saying, “You don’t feel those?”, meaning the epic contractions that were working their way across the paper like plateaus, minutes apart.  “No,” I said.  “I just had a baby 18 months ago.  I know what contractions feel like.”  And how she had left to get the OB and I had shrugged, unconcerned.  How the OB that I had spoken to on the phone was suddenly very interested and eager, and how none of us could believe I was four and a half centimeters dilated, without any pain at all.  How she told me I had better call my husband and wake him up, because this baby was going to be born very soon.  How by the time I called my husband and then sisters (one of whom had to go over to my mom’s house to wake her up because she wouldn’t answer her phone), I was already 5 cm, and then 5 and a half.  How the doctors suddenly decided that it was a good idea to get me prepped and ready for surgery before JDubbs arrived, so that all he had to do was get into his sterile ensemble and meet me in the OR  for the actual incision.  How I had a good chat with a much nicer anesthesiologist about the origin of Em’s name, and told him of my fear of suffocating on my own vomit.  How I had another panic attack, this time on the operating table, insisting to the nurses that they absolutely MUST move my legs for me, that they were bothering me so much and that they need to move them right this very second or I would most certainly die.  This after a spinal, when I could not, in fact, feel my legs at all, but I was grateful all the same when they humored me.

And so far, with Baby H, the longest, most dramatic labor in history.  How I had driven myself to the hospital again, because I was 7 weeks early and this time there would be really no need to wake anyone up to watch our kids when I was going to be sent home anyway.  Oh, in a snowstorm.  How JDubbs woke up to warm up the car and brush off the snow, and how I paced around and watched him, without helping.  How when I arrived at the ER to be taken to the birthing pavilion (the only way you can get in at night), the woman at the desk said, “Are you in labor?” and I said, “Oh, no,” with a dismissive wave of my hand.  I couldn’t be in labor.  It was too early.  I could tell she wanted to say, “Well then, why the hell are you here?”  How instead she asked if anyone had driven me and the look on her face when I said I had driven myself, in a snowstorm.  How she asked if I needed a wheelchair and I said, “No, that’s okay.  I’m not in labor,” and how she had assured me that it was a long walk and maybe I should take one, just in case.  I’m sure she made a Facebook status update directly afterward about the stupid, delusional people who come into her ER, taking bets on how long until I was admitted.  Which wasn’t long.

The three days in the hospital with horrific contractions, thinking every time that she was about to be born and how all the things the NICU doctors and the OBs had told me were going to become very real–failure to nurse, breathing difficulty, apnea… These things haunted me and made me think I would never sleep again, that I would simply watch my baby and wait for her to stop breathing at any moment until she was 15.  Maybe longer.  How I called JDubbs and made him come back to the hospital one night because I was certain that there was no way in hell they were going to stop these contractions, and then once he arrived, they stopped.  But I slept better for him being there.  How my girlfriends rerouted my last girls’ night from a restaurant to my hospital room and brought me gossip magazines and candy and fruit and kept my mind off everything.  How my (medical malpractice attorney) college roommate called from Disney World to tell me all the things I should be saying to my doctors, things I should be demanding, and how she was so right.  How absolutely terrified I was to go home to just have to come right back, which is exactly what happened, only not right away.

How I am now 37 weeks and 5 days–more pregnant than I ever was with Em–and have been back to the birthing pavilion 3 times.  How I am now 3 cm and am constantly contracting, but nothing impressive enough to the doctors to end this extended period of anxiety and exhaustion.  How JDubbs has been so good to me–telling me to lay down, go take a bath, making me dinners, letting me sleep in, doing laundry–because he knows I will need all the energy I have soon enough.  9 more days at the most.  And then my labors will all be over, forever.  There will never be another little baby for us, and the thought that may have made me a little sad at the beginning of this pregnancy is now nothing more than a contented acceptance that this is where our family ends.  Where we are made complete.  And seriously, after this last labor, who would want to do it again anyway??

To all my babies, for all my stretch marks, for all the sleepless nights, thank you.  I would gladly do it all again, for each of you.  But I’m so glad I won’t have to!  And now, enough reminiscing.  I’d like another birth story, please!  Baby H, that’s your cue!  Time to move on.

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March Musings

I’ve been thinking a lot about the choices I make in parenting lately, from the words I use to the toys we buy (especially now that I have a Disney Princess-aholic on my hands).  How I am prone to over-analyze every aspect of my role as mother and am trying to tone it down a bit.  How something as simple as word choice and language impacts my kids every day.  How I have a hard time instinctively letting them play on their own, always trying to structure them or give them something to do, when in reality, they are just fine without me.  Better, probably, because their brilliant little brains can think of a thousand awesome things to do with an empty egg carton and I have to go on Pinterest to think of one.  I don’t think it hurts them that I am so willing to be their playmate or am staving off their boredom–I just don’t know how much I’m helping them, either.  Things to consider and work on, as always.

I read a great post from Moving Smart a while ago; it was my favorite one from the blog hop and I meant to bring it up here and never did.  Well it’s an extremely well written post about how we impart not only information to our kids, but also our opinions; how in our efforts to educate them we may also be over-informing them by attaching meaning to things without letting our kids experience them for themselves.  We project adjectives onto experiences or judge a food or a movie without considering what the child may have been thinking before we opened our big mouths.  So quick to educate, so quick to inform–what if my interpretation impairs a particularly magical moment that I didn’t even know was happening, and by throwing in my two cents, I took the shine off, or the sparkle out, or labeled a soup ladle a soup ladle, when in reality it was King Arthur’s sword freshly pulled from the stone?

Or like that scene in The Lion King, when Timon, Pumba, and Simba are all sharing what they think those twinkly things shining down on them from the night sky are, and Pumba’s ideas are dismissed as insignificant and Simba’s ideas are laughed at–it makes me wonder, have I done that to my kids today?  Have I labelled something as scary, silly, insignificant, useless, when to them it was mystical and mysterious only minutes before?  When I tell them that a star is a ball of gas millions of miles away, am I erasing all the future possibilities for folk tales and fables and fairy tales to weave their wondrous way into my child’s heart?  Am I over-educating them in an attempt to share the world with them?  Very likely, knowing me.  It requires a balance to teach and yet not tell, and although it is precarious, it is attainable.  Not that I know–I’m just musing over here.

The reason I thought of this is because suddenly Jax has begun labeling things as “scary.”  The idea of being scared of the dark has come up in a few books or TV shows, but nothing that I thought particularly resonated with him.  In the book Beyond the Rainbow Bridge that we received from the kids’ school, it talks about why Waldorf schools use real, unedited age-appropriate Grimm’s fairy tales rather than the softer, edited (ahem, Disney) versions.  It says,

“In a true fairy tale as those collected by the Brothers Grimm, human beings undergo trials and suffering and accept that deeds are a part of proving oneself worthy of the reward at the end of the path…They confront evil and overcome it.  Children experience the greed of the wolf and the evil of the witch quite differently than we adults do.  They experience these qualities more as archetypal pictures about life, but do not identify themselves personally with the suffering.  They trust that there will be a happy ending or that good will triumph over evil.  Such stores strengthen the moral lives of children….This strength and guidance will help them to deal with the challenges life brings to them.”

I think it goes back to what Gill from Moving Smart was talking about–the power of suggestion, or providing too much information.  Movies have music to create anxiety or build suspense.  Stories are read with emphasis. Adults are so quick to supply preschoolers with their emotions when they are upset, rather than allowing them to give voice to their own emotion —What’s wrong, Johnny?  Are you okay?  Did that SCARE you? when in reality the idea of being scared never crossed Johnny’s mind.  Now suddenly he thinks, Oh, crap, balloons popping are scary?  Well, does that mean balloons are scary?  Does that mean clowns are scary?  Now I hate clowns!  Man, I use to really like them, too.  We put the idea in their head–stars are balls of gas, clowns are scary–and we can’t take it back.  The innocence and wonder of childhood are gone.

Maybe that’s why I am so keen to keep my kids at the Waldorf school, because they not only understand this notion (and bring it to my attention), they guard children’s innocence as fiercely as other schools guard their IPads.  Because yes, I want to keep my kids in a blissful little bubble of happiness for as long as possible.  Is it going to last very long?  Nope.  Are they going to have to grow up eventually?  Of course.  But can I hope to foster the joy and simplicity of an early childhood spent at home with mom in the backwoods of Vermont for as long as I can?  You bet.  And if I can keep my heroes noble, my witches evil and vanquished, my kids’ spirits nourished, their curiosity piqued and their anxiety at bay for a while longer in the process, even better.

I just have to figure out how to make that happen.

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Preschool Peer Pressure

As the winter continues and the temperature hovers closer to zero than to freezing more often than I’d like, my children and I are forced to spend more and more time indoors.  With that comes a sort of routine and inevitably weighing the benefits of getting my kids in their gear to head outside, even for a trip to the store, versus whether we should just suck it up, eat frozen chicken nuggets and Motts apple sauce for yet another day in an attempt to stay warm and close to home.  I’d say we’re about 50/50 and when it doesn’t seem unnecessarily cruel, we usually head out for at least part of every day.

This leads my train of thought to next year and the inevitable preschool dilemma because I imagine having to get our butts in gear and out the door by a certain time 2 or 3 days a week.  Jax will be 4 in October, which means that he still has two full years after the current one before he enters kindergarten when he will be nearly 6.  I’m happy with that situation for many reasons, but the most selfish is that he gets to stay home with me again for another year.  The older he gets, rather than looking forward to the days when he will be shipped off to school and disciplined by someone other than me, I instead feel panicky at the thought of entrusting his precious self to someone else.  Someone less than ideal.  Remember, I have been a public school teacher in my former life, and I know that all teachers have their faults and weaknesses.  Our kids will be public school kids, and I’m lucky enough to live in a town where the public elementary school is stellar.  I went in there the other day to inquire about their preschool program, and I could not have been more pleased with my first impression.  So that is not the question at hand.

The question is, Why are all preschool programs for 4-year-olds three days a week?  This is going to be Jax’s big transition to going somewhere alone, without me.  We all know where I’d LIKE him to go (ahem, Waldorf school, cough…) but where I’d like and where we can afford seem to be divergent roads in a yellow wood.  I am looking for somewhere in which I will entrust my son for the two years preceding his kindergarten year.  I am now realizing that almost every program is either for three or four days; does anyone else think that that is too much too soon?  Where is the baby step?  Or did I miss that step this year when he was three, when I was supposed to put him somewhere two days a week other than foster our relationship at home?  I don’t think either of us are ready for that.  Mostly me.  But maybe a small part of him, too.

This Saturday we went to a birthday party with probably close to 20 kids, and preschool was a hot topic discussed while arranging play mats, easing kids in and out of the bouncy house, and dishing out snacks.  All of the children present who would be three next year are going to a 3-day preschool program except for Jax and one other boy.  In a way I feel like I have to explain myself and admit that I’m not ready to send him away for three days next year.  No, we don’t have a school picked out yet.  No, we’ll probably do something a little more unorthodox (a.k.a. piece random shit together).  I want to hold off for 3-day preschool until the year before he goes to school.  Now, please note that my friends are the least judgmental crew I could have asked for, and if I told them I was going to home school Jax for the rest of his life, send him off to military school tomorrow, or send him to a local co-op, they would be more than supportive.  Just as I think it’s perfectly acceptable for them to be sending their kids somewhere a few days a week, they understand that it’s what works for our family not to.  But I felt a bit conflicted–everyone else’s kids are going somewhere, why not Jax?  What am I afraid will happen?  That he’ll learn too much?  That he’ll grow up too fast?  No and no, he’s already pretty smart and also thinks he’s the big kid of campus at our tiny little Waldorf school.  Nothing bad would happen if he went somewhere for 3 days a week next year.  So what’s holding me back?

I think one of the reasons is that I am nervous about letting go, but not because I want to keep my kids under my wing forever.  I just have very high standards for what I consider appropriate play and what I would judge a suitable playroom for my kids for that many hours a week, and those standards aren’t the norm.  I am terrified to send him into a traditional preschool, which so closely resembles a kindergarten room, and have the experience be negative and thus put a negative spin on school in the future.  That’s why I love the Waldorf school so much–it feels so much more like a home, like an extension of a beautiful, peaceful, non-academic/low pressure playground where the balance between play and learning seems to be seamless.  It doesn’t really have an academic connotation at all–that’s all under the overt radar.  I have always hated drilling children and didn’t do it in my classroom; what if a different preschool smothers the flame of his love for learning and letters and reading by overdoing it, or not doing it well?

Is this a problem that I’m going to have to face at any school, in any situation?  Absolutely.  Most parents I talk to think I’m crazy.  If I put it off traditional preschool for a year and direct his exuberance and excitement to places other than the traditional school setting for a bit, do some of you understand why?  Because I’m crazy and a bit of a micro-manager?  Yes.  Because I’m lucky enough to be home with my kids, and I’m just not in a rush to see it end?  That, too.  Call me crazy, but even on the most hectic of days, I just straight-up like being home with them.

And before you call me a hypocrite, yes, I would send Jax to the Waldorf nursery school in a heartbeat, and yes, that is three days a week.  But I am so on board with their philosophy and their manner of discipline and play that I would feel more than confident that his needs were being met and his self was being nurtured in a way of which I would approve.  Am I being a crazy, nit-picky mom who says, It’s Waldorf or the highway for preschool?  Maybe, for now.  Is that in Jax’s best interest?  Maybe not.  But as one of my friends pointed out today, we can mostly blame ourselves for the flaws in our kids’ personalities, be it co-dependence, arrogance, fear, or the like.  Of course by “flaws,” I don’t mean to say there’s something wrong with our kids–everyone has something in their personality they have to work on (for me, it’s obviously over-analyzing even the most mundane of decisions)–and kids are no exception.  One huge reason I want Jax to go to preschool is because he is the most egocentric, I-am-the-most-important-thing-in-the-universe, praise-driven first child on the planet.  He needs to learn patience and that not all adults are here to worship him.  He has to figure out that he will not get praise or rewards or accolades for every teeny step in his development.  Is he going to learn this from me?  Heck no!  I’m the one who made him that way!  I will praise and worship and love this kid like he is the coolest thing since sliced bread, because to me, he is.  It’s not my job to teach him that reality (well, it is, but in smaller doses).  I need him to be around other adults and kids and to learn the nuances of sharing, friendship, cooperation, and patience.  But does he have to be gone three days a week in order to learn it?  I thought that doing Morning Garden one day a week this year was a good first step–apparently I’m already a year behind.

I’m just wondering if anyone else has ever had a hard time entrusting their children to others at this age, or was consumed with worry about how the decisions made at this point of their development will impact them throughout their lives.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to think that where and how often and with whom they go to preschool will greatly form who they will grow to be.  So, to me, if my ideal preschool location isn’t an option, is it so terrible to opt for the second best option, hanging out with me?  We plan to enroll him in two separate, one-day classes where he’d have exposure to the arts and sciences in a semi-formal, fun way that nurtures his creativity but keeps it light.  Plus some form of sport, like gymnastics or maybe soccer, and our weekly trip to the library for story time and a craft, and I think we will have created a pretty good preschool-program-for-four-year-olds that doesn’t require me to get up and out the door by 8:00 three times a week or on a blustery winter day if we don’t want to.  Or continue going if he hates it.  Or continue going if I hate it!  We have a whole other year for all that.  For now, I think I’ll just keep with my alternative, hodgepodge preschool format, and pray that one of you is a secret Waldorfian who wants to be a benefactor to one charming yet self-centered little guy who is trying to thrive in this crazy world constructed by his equally crazy mother.  With me over-analyzing every move we make, I can only hope that he develops into someone who isn’t completely neurotic, but even if he does, man will this kid be loved!  And potentially a super mama’s boy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

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The Un-Resolution

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself lately, it’s that I can’t do it all.  Not that anyone ever expected me to, but I have a crazed perfectionist syndrome that is hard to suppress.  There is one arena where I have never attempted to achieve much, however, and therefore, not much can be expected of me.

In college I survived on macaroni and cheese, just-add-water-pancakes, and soda.  Now I lead a life where I’m not supposed to give my kids food that comes out of a can or a box or the freezer?  I do my best, but I’m not sure I can handle that one.  Remember when I had to stop someone at the grocery store to ask what a kiwi looked like?  Or when a stalk of broccoli almost foiled my first cocktails and crafts? For God’s sake, I brought a can of corn to Thanksgiving dinner at JDubbs’s cousin’s house one year as my side dish because I love it.  Really.  Needless to say, I don’t have high hopes for any culinary ventures in my life.  As I say on a daily basis, thank God for JDubbs.

My latest example includes a frozen pound of hamburger meat, a frying pan, and an attempt to make cheeseburgers.  Charred on the outside + raw on the inside + 60 seconds in the microwave = very well done burgers that didn’t taste too bad.  At least to me, but then again, I like deviled ham.  I thought the burgers came out fine, but considering both my children, even Em who would probably eat a rock if I put ketchup on it, gave them looks like this:

and pretty much only ate the bun, I guess I’m better off pulling one of those TGIFriday’s little sliders (that, by the way, are ready in 50 seconds and are delicious) out of the freezer and saying forget this whole cooking cockamamie.

Especially considering that when we sat down to eat, my kitchen looked like this:

Really, was all this worth it?  I think not.  Parents who prepare wholesome, healthy, fresh meals for the children every night without resorting to tying them up or locking them in a closet deserve a medal.  There are some things I’m good at, but cooking’s just not it.  So this New Year’s, my resolution is to cook as little as humanly possible  in 2012.  I think that would be best for everyone involved, don’t you?

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