Saturday, May 30, 2009

relaxing with friends

We had a good friends over this evening, his wife is studying, so needed the kids out of the house. I love to relax with parents who I know well, while our kids play. The kids entertain each other and we parents can expertly keep a conversational thread, punctuated with calls for help, questions about the universe, wiping noses, and cutting food into chunks, of course, but two experienced parents can keep thoughts on point, and have a satisfying exchange, whereas a non parent gets bewildered and frustrated by the interruptions.

Geekygirl was thrilled to have her buddy over to play; L is a few months older and they have known each other since birth. She is clearly relaxed in his company. When we called the kids in to eat their chinese takeout she she was completely naked. When I asked her to get dressed she returned clad only in a silver puffy vest, sans underwear. A little persuasion got her into her cinderella undies too, but that was as dressed as she wanted to be. The evening ended with the now traditional couch bouncing fest, and the house looking like, well as if four kids had run riot in it for two hours while their parents drank wine.

It is amazing how four kids can take a house apart! After saying goodbye, Geekygirl sad to see her friend go, "I am so sad L is leaving because I love him so much" she said adorably, I got them to bed then began clean up. Puzzle bits, instruments, teeny tiny princess shoes, vehicles, stuffed animals, dolls clothes, sunglasses, and strange plastic shapes I have no idea we even owned but may have been part of my breast pump, many of these items covered with teeth marks that could belong to a dog or a toddler or possibly both. I finally cleared the floor. And started to wonder, do we need less stuff, or more storage? I suspect the latter, and a trip to Ikea in the near future!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poop on the potty!!!

I know, it is a parenting cliche to be so excited and delighted about this milestone, but when you have two kids pooping in diapers, getting one of them out is a real cause for celebration.

I was starting to worry that geekygirl would be pooping in her diaper until she went to college. According to her preschool, she is perfectly potty trained, dry in underpants every day. But our little secret was that this smart little girl, who at three years old has an incredible vocabulory, can write her name, her brother's name and those of several Disney Princesses and can perform simple addition as long as the numbers can be found on her fingers, had never, not once ever, pooped on a potty.

I had prepared the sticker charts that were so successful with pee pee training, put out jars of lollipops as an incentive to "go", and tried to be low key and low pressure about it at the same time, but to no avail. She would keep coming up with different desired prizes when she goes poop on the potty, "An Angelina Ballerina tutu" "A Belle costume with white goves" (well she calls her "Bear" for some reason, but I know what she means). But still, every single day she would request her diaper for her poop.

"I'll poop on the potty when I'm ten, Mummy" she would say. "Will you get me doll house furniture for my sticker chart when I'm ten?".

I was starting to believe this would be the case, when I fell upon an article in parenting magazine. Now I don't actually subscribe to the magazine. It gets delivered to me every month for some reason, maybe they are hoping I will sign up, or maybe I'm getting a delivery intended for a paying customer, I"m not sure. I have religiously put it straight into the recycling for months, not because I have anything against the publication, just that I have very little time to read, and if I'm too tired for my Scientific American or my earnest sociological tomes probing a women's role in the world, I go straight to the bottom of the literary barrel and read Us magazine.

But on Sunday, before recycling it, I decided to save any pages with pictures that might make fun cutting out for the kids. And I came across an article describing solutions to our exact (and no doubt very common) problem. A pee pee potty trained child who requests a diaper for poop.

They suggested something that had not occurred to me: Getting a jar of candy, and rewarding yourself publicly and with great celebration for every poop in the potty. So on Monday morning Geekydaddy and I gave ourselves a gummy bear. Geekygirl was profoundly interested. On Tuesday morning, again we got our gummy bears and Geekygirl helped us pick them out. On Tuesday evening I knew she needed to poop, since she didnt go on Monday. One of my concerns had been that she would wait and wait, and get constipated, forgetting to ask for her diaper, probably worried about the pressure to switch to the potty. Geekydaddy earned himself another gummy bear that evening. "I'm going to have a pink gummy bear when I go poop on the potty" Geekygirl announced. However it was time for Geekygirl to go to bed. I was about to get her in her nighttime diaper, assumings he would then poop. But "I need to go poop" she told me. "Come here and get your diaper on then" I replied. "No, Mummy, I'm going to poop in the potty", she announced. And of the tromped, closing the bathroom door behind her.

One flush later she appeared, so happy and proud. Gummy bear well and truly earned. We started a sticker chart right there and then, and this kid who would hold it for days has already earned three stickers. The haste in which she is accumulated them sent me scrambling to toys R us at lunch, to buy the requested doll house furniture, and while there I couldn't resist buying an extra gift, a plastic doll house sized "Belle" in her own carry case with a selection of different outfits and ridiculously tiny shoes, because I am just so thrilled that this day I though would never come without the intervention of child therapists has finally happened. Only two more stickers to go, and I'm crossing my fingers that this is it! One down, one to go!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Give me gin and tonic

Some weekends are longer than others. I'm speaking metaphorically and literally. Today was a long long Sunday, and we have a whole extra weekend day left. This is memorial day weekend, like a "bank holiday" back home. I love the weekends, I love to spend time with the kids. But I also love to go back to my nice quiet office on Monday morning. Work is demanding, but not in that "now, now, Mummy now" way that small children are. If I need to have a difficult conversation with someone I can plan and time it. If I don't want to be disturbed I can close my door. I can say "it is not a good time, can we deal with this tomorrow?". Baby boys backing into your lab with board books you've already red ten times today don't respond so well to that.

For some reason I woke up in a foul mood, which was worsened by my attempt to microwave the much anticipated weekend breakfast of hot oatmeal (according to the instructions) and ended up with a besplattered microwave, superheated cereal, and crying hungry children. This caused a curt exchange between geekydaddy and myself (he was in charge of breakfast), which dominoed into a tantrum from a geekygirl. I could see how worried she was by our cross words, we almost never fight. Our sniping precipitated a closed, fearful look on her face, which almost melted my crosspatch mood, then the moment passed and the inevitable meltdown ensued (dropped fork, insistence on replacement with new fork rather than wiped clean floor retrieved fork). I lost my usual mummy zen cool, and retreated into the shower, from whence, cleaner at least, I attempted to start the day over.

Our mission of the day was much anticipated. Buy new couch. Any reader who has been to our house can attest that this day is long, long overdue. Our couch is the one that Geekydaddy and his roommate bought for their bachelor pad on Russian Hill in 1994. Almost everyone we know, (and plenty of people we are barely acquainted with) has spilled a glass of wine on it. Most of our friends have slept on it. Sometimes together. More recently small children have wet their pants on it and used it as a trampoline. It is a dear old fixture, it is still comfy, but it has become an eyesore and an embarrassment. Old friends know and forgive it, but newer friends sit on it gingerly, suspicious of its stains.

The mission was initially thwarted, which worsened my mood. I knew that this window of opportunity might not happen again, financial and temporal stars perfectly aligned for purchasing of large items. All the stores we planned to hit were not open until noon, which we deemed too close to nap time to be achievable . Geekydaddy had the intelligent idea of sending someone out on reconnaissance instead. I suspected this was an excuse for him to escape from the house of toddler insanity, but he proposed that I, of the two of us the one with the better eye for interior design (for a scientist and an engineer that isn't saying much), perform this task.

I pounded the pavement of ninth street, past sad, shuttered windows with "final sale" sprayed across them. I found a few of the discount furniture stores still in business, and very eager for mine. Took a few pictures, made some selections, and headed back. I'm a ruthless shopper since having kids. Dither and leave at your peril, you may never seize the will to shop again.

On the way home I swung by Whole Paycheck Market, to pick up fish for dinner, and noticed an organic tonic water sample. Intrigued as to how anyone would break into the tonic water market, I swigged a glass. It was actually very good in an "agave puree hand, picked Peruvian quinine" kind of way (you I"m kidding, this is exactly what is said on the label). "Delicious. But it needs more gin", I thought. So I picked up a four pack and headed home.

Naptime over and kids in that post nap window of amenability, we whisked them of to SOMA SOFA's , where Geekydaddy approved my couch choice and the kind and desperate sales folk allowed the kids to bounce on a variety of furnishings (shoeless, we are not complete barbarians) while I feverishly panned though fabric swatches, trying to find something attractive and also washable.

Back home, with the fabric samples blanketing a series of stuffed animals laid out like disaster victims across the living room floor, we selected a nice gold/yellow for the couch and a modern circle design (wishfully named "Martini Hour") for the accent cushions.

And on the dot of 6.00pm we cracked that organic tonic, poured in a generous dollop of Bombay Sapphire and a slice of lime. It tasted sublime. I should have had one for breakfast.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pretty Mummy

Lately I have been getting called "poo poo head" a lot. Which is preferable to being hit, but still I'm not too delighted with this. I'm all for creative nicknames though, so I asked my daughter what she thought I might like to be called instead, and she came up with some good ideas, one of which was "pretty mummy". Since then, every time she wants to make a point, she has been using that moniker instead. A great improvement and much better for my self esteem.

Until today. I do daycare pick up, so every evening we all come into the house, and we have a routine; Geekygirl closes the garage door with the magic button and runs upstairs. Orangegeek the cat slips into the garage and pees on the car tires, and I chase him ineffectively around the garage for a while until he decides to head back up to the house, then I stagger up the stairs with Geekybaby (now such a large lad that he needs to be renamed Geekyboy, or Geekylinebacker), balanced on one hip, and the lunchbags, my laptop, and my purse giving ballast on the opposite shoulder.

Geekygirl usually changes into her pink tutu, her pink and orange swimsuit, or her pink sleeping beauty costume as soon as she gets home. She is big on pink these days. Some feminist Mums I know get oddly angry about pink. I've seen long emails on our parent group requesting advice on how to stop little girls gettings sucked into the Disney marketing pink machine. Personally I don't have the energy, and besides, I quite like pink. I think us feminists should reclaim it and make it our own.

I, after starting the kids dinner, letting the dog out and feeding the cats, change into my "I'm relaxed and I'm home" gear; slipper socks, tatty grey sweatpants and an old blue sweatshirt with native american symbols embroidered on it that I bought in Bryce Canyon when we camped there back in July 2002, and got caught in a freak snowstorm. This evening when I reappeared in the kitchen so attired I heard "But Mummy, you are not pretty". I looked down at myself and realized the truth in that statement. Comfy, but really not pretty. I've let myself go.

Maybe it is time for me to get myself a nice comfy tutu to change into when I get home from work. Or at least some pink sweatpants and a spangly sweater!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Culture clash

We found a more Californian use for the lovely "soft boiled egg with soldiers plate" that Grandma bought.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

California Dreaming

The geekyfamily had been contemplating leaving the golden state. A potential career opportunity for me had us considering upping sticks and moving east. Ultimately the job fell through, and the move is not going to happen, but in considering it, we meandered conversationally through many different future scenarios for our lives. Who's career ascent will we follow? What kind of a community do we want to raise our family in? How far away from our extended family can we be?

For now we're going to carry on being a San Francisco family. Last year, after years of yearning after the pictures in "better homes and gardens" we finally bit the bullet and had our little backyard landscaped into a city oasis, and it would have been a shame to leave before we got a chance to enjoy it. While considering this other job, I was offered a great new position at my existing company, so the sting of this other position closing up is not so bitter.

I think we could have done it and been happy, left San Francisco behind as a chapter in our lives. I expect one day we will.

One day back in February when I first became aware of the job I considered, I took a day off with the kids and took them to the exploratorium. I drove back, climbing high through Pacific Heights with the sky azure and the bay glittering behind me. A ridiculous picture postcard day, made more ridiculous by the fact that we just have so many impossibly beautiful days here.

I moved here in 1996. My hair was long with a thick platinum streak. I dressed from thrift stores and had my belly button pierced. That afternoon I felt the twenty five year old I used to be looking at this woman in her Toyota Prius, wearing a worn overwashed Banana Rebublic T shirt and jeans, peering in the rearview mirror at her happy sleepy kids. I felt the intervening years between her and me fly past as the car efficiently powered up and coasted down the hills that I had staggered over between bars and clubs in unsuitable heels, then jogged up and down the next day in an attempt to shake the hangover. I felt so fortunate for the life that has happened to me here, and I'm glad that we will be staying a bit longer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


We had a little kiddy pantomime going on this morning, while geekydaddy and I hurriedly tidied the house for our house cleaners. Past disasters mean that we have quite the routine; hide coffee ground filled cafetiere, since past attempts of theirs to clean it have resulted in breakage or lost bits, ditto any expensive wineglasses. Empty dishwasher, otherwise come home to find mixture of clean and dirty things in it, and take down recycling, trash and composting, otherwise come home to find it in all the wrong bins (despite clear instructions on trashcan lids in Spanish, English and several other languages). The effort is worth it for the lovely clean house to come home to once every two weeks.

Putting away toys always inspires the kids to dig through the toy bins and find things they suddenly want to play with. Geekygirl found her toy dog leashes (yes I know, not the safest toy, visions of hog tied, strangulated children come to mind, but since she was always playing with the actual dogs leash, I ended up buying a couple, and a stuffed dog to put them on, for play).

Geekygirl is a garrulous child of great imagination. Wandering the house, she chattered away to her imaginary big sister Leah, her baby doll in its carrier and her imaginary dog Budu, represented by the empty blue leash she was trailing around with her. Budu, she described in great detail to me as "not too big and not too small, brown and fluffy and if you step on him he will bite you, but not hard"

Geekybaby had picked up the other leash and was also trailing it around with him as he followed his sister, chattering away in baby nonsense.

I got to wondering, "what is he imagining?" does a 15 month old have a rich imaginary life, already? Does he see in his minds eye a dog attached to that leash, or is he just copying the actions of his sister? Was he trying to tell me about his dog with his coos and burbles? He can understand so much, but without much language yet, his inner life is a mystery to us.

No doubt we could probably pop babies into MRI machines and discover what areas of their brains light up, and figure out how rich their daydreams are. Maybe someone already has. Whatever those findings may be, I think that he is already learning to use his imagination, and we are just going to have to wait a bit longer for him to be able to tell us about it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's day essay

I spent a lovely hour wallowing in a bubble bath this afternoon, while the babies napped, goopy face pack on, glass of rose in one hand, book in the other. Since entering this new world of motherhood over three years ago, I've found myself drawn more to non fiction; books about women, society, work, motherhood. Maybe I'm just trying to find the perfect thesis to validate my choices. Today I was reading "Mommy wars" an anthology of essays edited by Leslie Morgan Steiner, who blogs at mommytrackd. Rather than being about mothers at war with one another, it is tales of individual women and their families, sharing their struggles and their solutions, instead of judging each other. Reading all these different perspectives brought out my introspective side, and I started to wonder, what kind of mother am I?

I"m the kind of mum who makes organic chicken stew from scratch and freezes in in batches to be taken to preschool for lunch.

I'm the kind of mum who feeds her kids microwaved frozen meatballs, mixed veg and spaghetti O's.

I"m the kind of mum who buys foam sheets, glitter and glue and spends the afternoon doing art projects

I'm the kind of mother who blogs about being a mum while her three year old is bouncing on the couch trying to get her attention.

I'm the kind of mum who gets down on the floor to be a human climbing frame for a toddler, dances to the Wiggles, and pretends to be Ariel. Or Aurora. Or Dora.

I'm the kind of mum who parks the kids in front of a Dora DVD so that I can read my book about parenting in peace.

I'm the kind of mum who is on the preschool steering committee, takes time off work to read to the class, gives gifts to the teachers, and spends a lazy day at home when one of the kids is just a little under the weather.

I'm the kind of mum who can only seem to remember show and tell day occasionally, has no spare clothes in my kids locker for accidents, so they come home in trousers saying "school pants" in red marker, and takes them to daycare dosed up with tylenol rather than stay home and miss a crucial meeting

I'm a mum who works full time outside the home at a job I love, and am so grateful to the myriad, nameless, forgotten working women of the past who paved the way for those of us who choose to work and mother.

I'm a mum who is fortunate enough to have fantastic daycare, a supportive employer, and a wonderful husband, and wishes that all women had these options.

I'm the mother of the most gorgeous, smartest and funniest little girl and boy in the world.

Friday, May 8, 2009

the never ending laundry basket

Laundry, the bane of my weekend. Two kids and two adults generate a lot, but I wade through it every weekend, transferring clothes from laundry basket, to ancient washing machine, to equally ancient dryer and then back into their respective drawers, ready to be worn all over again. The kids basket, in particular, always seemed to be fuller than I expexted. How many clothes can two kids dirty in a week?

This past weekend I was transfering little shirts and pants into the kids drawers, and I noticed in my peripheral vision that Geekybaby was trying to particpate. I suddenly realized that I had put the same pair of little jeans into the drawer three times. That is when I figured out that Geekybaby and I had a little comedy routine going on. I put some items into the drawer, and while my back was turned to collect more clean items from the basket, he, behind me so out of sight, would take the clean items back out of the drawer, and as I turned back to the drawer again to put in fresh items, he, behind me again, was putting them back into the basket. He was oh, so pleased to be helping his mummy in her game of 'infinate laundry', that I had to laugh.

At this point the mystery of the childrens enormous laundry pile was becoming clear. This week I inspected it more closely and noticed that it was filled with clothes that had not actually been worn, and tellingly, these were items only from the drawers within Geekybaby's reach. On several occasions now I have spied him happily emptying the contents of his drawers into the laundry.

What with Geekygirl's obsession with wearing only one or two favourite items of clothing, and sneakily removing these from the laundry and putting them back in her drawers, I don't know whether I am coming or going. I'm tempted at this point just to throw them in the bath with their clothes on each night and call it a day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

timing is critical

Last night Geekydaddy was bathing geekybaby.

"when should I get him out of the tub?" he called out

"It's not late, so when he's not having fun anymore" I yelled back.

Five minutes later I hear "Help, bring a diaper. Argh, Oh No. Poop in the tub"

As one of us cleaned up the baby and the other sterilized the tub and myriad bath toys I saaid

"The answer to your question should always be, 'before he poops in the tub'"

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Anger management

We're dealing with a very angry three year old at the moment. Tiny things fill her tiny being with rage. A shoe on the wrong foot, a marker pen that dries up, a dress with sleeves that are too tight, a request to get in the bathtub, and worst of all, getting the response 'No' to a question.

I'm a big believer in the philosophy that it is OK, in fact healthy, to get angry. It is the method of expressing that anger that needs molding by us parents and teachers into a socially acceptable form. Perhaps swearing should not be quite so taboo. There is nothing quite like spitting a satisfying obsenity when you drop a book on your foot. Having to teach my child how to express anger in a healthy way makes me realize I barely know how to do it myself, and usually need to have a large glass of wine before spilling the words out.

We are not there yet with geekygirl, that is for sure. She isn't hitting the booze, thank goodness, instead hitting others is the reaction that we get most often, both at home and and preschool. One particular child, a boy we will call Billy, seems to bear the brunt of her rage at preschool. This boy has been her friend since they were both tiny (in fact I think he was the one she used to bite, back in the toddler class. I guess looking at it in that light we have made some progress). They are fast friends, but as soon as they get upset with one another, out come Geekygirl's fisticuffs. To his credit this little boy does not hit back. The fact that at 3 he is already a foot taller than all the other kids, and if you look at his dad who is over 6 ft and at least 300lb, is likely going to be a bruiser of a kid, makes me wonder why this is the lad Geekygirl chooses to pick fights with. Sometimes she manages to control her hands, but instead brings our her best insults "you are a poo poo head (also stongly discouraged at school, but in my opinion better than violence), or to me and her father "I DON'T love you anymore".

It has been a week of anger, rage and contrition. We had one morning where, because apparently all the clothes in her closet were unwearable (I confess to removing a few tattered favourites in secret in the hope some of the newer, cuter, less orphanage like items would find favour), she walked into the kitchen and hit her dad before he had the chance to even say good morning.

That morning, I think it was Wednesday, was spent mainly in time out, and culminated with a wailing child with no shoes on being plugged into her cat seat and whisked off to school, leaving us parents exhausted and drained before our work day had begun. The exasperation of trying to help Geekygirl control her behavior is thrown into contrast, perhaps too much, by the adorableness of Geekybaby. Now toddling in his robust arm swinging manner, he will enter the screaming mayhem that is our kitchen proffering his shoes to be put on, or a book to be read, full of smiles and giggles and placid tractability.

But we made it through the week, with a lot of time outs straight out of supernanny, where it takes 10 minutes of restarting the timer to get a calm three minutes, a lot of "well I still love you, even when I feel angry". Today we have made a sticker chart, a hitting free day will earn a sticker, and five stickers some kind of fabulous prize, I think an Ariel costume. I'm a bit worried this might be too high a bar though, since despite good intentions, I have been hit (albeit not very emphatically) twice already today. My new idea is to put 6 sweeties in a jar, each day, and take one out for every hit. Whats left can be consumed with dinner. Better living through bribery.