Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sleepless in Hub City

I hate bedtime.

As a kid, I hated going to bed. It was unfair, going to bed when all sorts of interesting stuff was still going on. As a teenager, I couldn't wait to stay up all night. When I was single, living alone, I hated falling asleep. My bed would be covered with all manners of things:books, tea cups, drawing pad and pencils and I'd fall asleep to the TV. Now I can't wait to sleep. Even a nap would be nice, but to actually put on some jammies and hit the sheets would be heaven. Clean sheets, even more so.

But now I've been blessed with a little one who, guess what? Hates to go to bed.

I think I probably spend 10-14 hours a week putting her to bed. At this point in a conversation I usually get a multitude of advice:get a bedtime routine(got it), have her take a nap, not take a nap, have quiet time before bed, punishments, rewards, etc. But the fact remains, it takes her a long time to fall asleep and she needs help with the process. And you know what? It's ok.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that not every problem needs fixing. And bedtime appears to be a big problem for parents. How do I know? Besides all the books, magazine articles and t.v. shows about the issue, it almost always works its way into conversations with other parents. "So, what time does Sally go to bed?" they ask innocently. Then they start telling me about their own trials getting little Timmy to sleep, or what their routine is. And you know what I notice? Whether there's tears and yelling, or threats, or bribes, or routines or just laying in bed and telling stories, everybody seems to tell me the same thing-it takes an hour or two. Granted, some nights she's asleep in 10 minutes and some nights I'm thinking we might as well order a pizza and watch the Late Show. But mostly it's an hour or two.

Sometimes, we need Dada's help. But mostly when it comes to bedtime, she wants Mama.

Some nights, I will confess, I think dark thoughts about keeping her in her room, locking the door and letting her scream herself to sleep. We are not "Cry It Out" people. Or I start to get angry, thinking of all the other things I could be doing, say laundry or writing an article for the co0p newsletter. Or, gasp, having some time to myself. None of that is conducive to helping my high-energy kid relax and fall asleep. Though I am a slow learner, I have come to realize that the best thing for her and I is to accept that this is going to take a while and appreciate what I have-some "girls only" time with my youngest daughter. Parenting takes time. So we brush our teeth, get into bed, get out of bed, have a snack, a drink of "icy cold water with ice cubes", back into bed and have a "real story" (printed) or a "pretend story"(made up out of my head). Sometimes both. Sometimes a song. Much as I pine for the day she puts herself to bed, I also want to delay the inevitable, to stretch out this time, when she stills needs me so much that it takes my slow breathing to slow down her own and she drapes her legs over mine and finally relaxes into sleep.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

And so, we labored a bit...

Labor Day is here, officially Summer's End (I've been reading Louisa May Alcott's "Little Men" and find that my English is that much more proper afterward).

Sally and I went hiking through the Rutgers Gardens with friends and saw many fine specimens, including the woods, the vegetable gardens and a new water garden that's in the works. Also, but not least of all, several brides and their entourages, one of whom Sally stalked and continued to peep at from behind branches and garden sheds to get a good look at. She really did look like a princess, and when she kissed her prince, Sally cheered.

We went back to their house, the friends. They provided pizza, we brought wine and cupcakes. Actually, that'd make a fine blog name, Wine and Cupcakes, wouldn't it? Kids played, adults talked like adults, with only minor incursions from the children. It was a damn near perfect end to Summer. And we still have Sunday and Monday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

These Halcyon Days

Summer is coming to an end. School is starting soon, the weather will cool, we'll have football and leaves turning colors. But for now we're in the lazy days of summer, trying to wring out every last drop.

Sally has been playing 'most every day with the little girl next door. At 3 and 3/4's, she a wisp of a thing, a little sprite with flashing brown eyes and a mischievous grin, who likes to egg Sally on and then play innocent, little one who's been assailed by older, bigger Sal. Hubster is not fooled. Of course, our girl has been known to push or kick back when she's feeling put upon, even though she (should) know better. "I try to be good, mama," she says, with pleading eyes, "please don't punish me. I promise I won't do it again." Hmm.

She is now big enough to walk from our front door to the little-girl-next-door's door by herself, with me watching from the porch. It tears my heart a little to see her first efforts of independence. Maybe Hub is used to it, being home with her all day, but I'm still coming to terms with her going to the bathroom by herself, shouting "Privacy!" or pouring her own glass of milk.

This play has led to us being on more familiar terms with said neighbor. I don't think she's ever known what to make of us. I say "her", although actually they're a "they". It's just that her husband is ever at work and is almost a mystery to us, although he seems rather ok. In any event, she runs the roost. And run it she does. She always seems to be busy doing something-cleaning, planning the addition to their house, running her sideline business. I'm lucky if I can work my 8 hours and then not pass out before dinner. H spends a lot of time doing stuff with Sally and managing our lives, but he is minor league compared to what this chick does in a day. "Does she ever just play with her kids?" I ask one night. "Sure," he replies, but not convincingly, "but not often." And so Sprite has spent an awful lot of time our domicile and loves it. Especially because we a. don't freak out too much about messes and b. are just as happy to dole out goodies as actual, "healthy" food. Nothing too terrible, it's just that in our universe, really good, homemade cake is considered a health food. Now cake mix-that's a sin.

Today both imps came with me to the market via little red wagon. First we hit the thrift store, although by Saturday it's been pretty picked over. Each girl found a small "My Pretty Pony" and I found 2 lavender shirts to add to Sally's quilt material. I'm making her a "T-shirt" quilt out of squares of pink, fuchsia, purple and lavender for the winter. Hopefully, we'll have her radiator fixed by November, but still it'll come in handy. Then we stopped at the farmer's market for 2 tomatoes and a watermelon. I made Hubs' amazing vegetal soup with the golden broth for dinner. Yum. When we got home, girls put on their swim suits and we busted out the slip-n-slide. You can't get much more down home summery without moving to Iowa and making a Jello salad for the church social. With pineapple in it.

I feel like this August is going on forever even though it's officially September and school is just around the corner. But tonight it's 75 degrees at 11:30 pm and humidity that can only be described as "wringing wet." Somewhere out over the ocean is Hurricane Earl and I wish he'd bring a little rain this way and dispel some of the mugginess. Sally went to sleep after 2 cartoons, several handfuls of cheese crackers, 2 drinks of water, 1 trip to the bathroom and a small fight. She's a fierce little thing. When everyone had calmed down a little, she sidled up to me and said, 'Lets just talk a little 'bout our day first." So I asked her what her favorite part of today was and she said, "Spending time with you." And my heart melted a little bit more. At this rate, I won't have much left. And she asked me what my favorite part was and I said, "spending time with you." And she squealed and hugged me and we smooched and all was forgiven, even the kicking when I turned off Troll Girlz. Eventually her breathing evened out and she stopped squirming and slipped over into sleep. I love her to pieces.

Summer is almost over. We've had trips to ice cream store in the wagon full of girls, hikes in the woods, swimming in the pool and lots of playing with friends. Kindergarten starts in 10 days, whether I'm ready or not.

Hubs is playing poker, I'm alone with the cat and the computer. Somewhere, elder daughter is out there living her life. She may come over on Sunday, always a happy time. Life is enough at this moment, just enough.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why I hate people

Our new office building exists on the boundary between the hospital proper, the campus if you will, and the barrio. It's cool and the gang as there's really not much happening during daylight hours that doesn't happen all around our great city, although last week around supper time we saw a hooker leave a bar and go into some guy's apartment. That's always so instructional for the kids.

Anyhoo, yesterday at lunch some co-workers were discussing their bravery in actually leaving the "campus" and going down the street, into, not away from, the barrio to a fried chicken joint. And some person of darker than peach coloration made a comment to Blondie McWhitegirl, my co-worker, who had to tell us all about it over lunch. Whatev.

But then they had to start talking about who was shot one street over or what other terrible crime goes on in my city. And, because I can't SHUT UP, I decided to mention a terrible murder recently in suburbia. Four teenage boys beat an Indian man(East, not Native) to death in front of his wife and kids. You know, just to point out that bad things happen to and of good white folks who don't live in cities.

We discussed for several minutes when the new person, who happens to be quite white, herself, says, "Well, don't you think he must have done something to provoke them?"

Up to know I had come to think of this person as a really sweet individual: she's soft-spoken, professional, tastefully dressed. "Why would those boys do something like that? Don't you think they must have been provoked?" I try for a split second to think, well, she has teenage boys, maybe she's trying to make sense of it all, and I can't. Because she looks at me again and says, "He must have provoked them somehow. Dontcha think?" Dontcha, huh? Dontcha just think that those poor, brave white boys must have been just pushed over the edge by some random, maybe some dirty remark by that, man, that foreigner. That dirty camel jockey, that sand monkey. I mean, wholesome white boys don't just KILL people. For no reason. Why if they did that they might also rape unconscious girls at parties and do drugs and kill small animals. So, don't you think it just might be possible that that dirty, filthy, ignorant, job-stealing, curry breathing, towel-headed wop had it comin'? Dontcha?

Cause that's what I hear, as I give you my best concerned but neutral social worker face and go "Erm". And try and figure out how tanned and permed I'd have to be to pass as someone from say, Guyana.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Swingers

We have friends who have an open marriage. And we don't really care. I mean, go bang a thousand people in one weekend. Whatever trips your trigger. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever polishes your knocker. get the idea.

We like them. Really. They share a lot of the same attachment parenting values that we have. Which is nice. And you can have an intelligent conversation with them about stuff: politics, music, food and wine, I don't know what all, but you can really talk to them and it's not all "So, how 'bout those Jets?" or "Nice weather we're having."

The problem, for us, is that they, especially the husband, manages to bring up sex into every conversation we ever have. And as we see them more and more, the conversation grows more, um, detailed. As in, how many hours a week he masturbates, or the shape of his wife's pudenda. And I think because husband and I are pretty tolerant and try to pass for hip, we let it slide. But I really DON'T want to know how or when he masturbates, or what lube he uses, or what porn he watches when he does it. And yes they want to sleep with us. And we told them, thanks but no thanks.

After a while it's not even uncomfortable, just tiresome. I like to flirt, but I feel like I have to be on every time we're together, to watch what I say, to monitor my responses. Was that a normal response, or will he think I'm coming on to him? It makes me twitchy. Seriously, this guy has (or says he has) so much sex that I'm tired just thinking about it. When does he work? Or have time for anything? And that's my point. I'm tired. At this point I don't care if he was talking about the Jets, Jesus or Jackrabbits, it's become tiresome. I guess we'll have to talk about it. Or perhaps I can come up with some equally annoying topic every time he brings up sex-I'm thinking Jesus again.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Community Garden

I was going to join our community garden. For $15, you get a plot of land, say 8'x8' (but none exact) to plant whatever your heart desires for the growing season. All together in a fenced in enclosure to keep out the deer and includes a water source and some gardening implements of destruction. I was all set, ready to stake my claim, when somebody beat me to it. It seems it's easier to get a pre-WWII, rent-controlled loft in Manhattan than to get a plot in the community garden hereabouts.

So, for one more summer I'm gardening in pots. I have 2 carrots, 3 lettuces, an errant tomato that's growing out of a lily pot (don't ask me how that got sprouted) and various and sundry herbs. It may be about all I can handle. Although I really wanted those 64 square feet of earth, I probably wouldn't have given it the time that it needed. But a few stragglers in pots I can manage. Things around my house are kept best if they don't require much attention and aren't easily broken.

I wish I could say the same thing for relationships. You know, just keep it on a windowsill where it'll get sun in the morning and try to water it every few days. Maybe some fertilizer when I remember. But people aren't plants. They require constant tending. And can be broken, too, especially if you're not gentle and/or act like a bull in a china shop when it comes to people's feelings, which just maybe I do on a regular basis. Which is at least part of the reason why every so often Husband and I look at each other and go, "Where are all the people like us?" Because finding folks and making friends is work, especially if you're past the age of 5. Take our daughter. She has no compunction about walking up to a random child and going, "Hey, wanna be my friend?" And do you know, a lot of the time they do. Wouldn't that be a great way for adults to behave? "Hey, I like you. Wanna to be friends?"

Now on our fourth year in this town, we finally have what can be called a circle of friends. Mostly people with kids the same age as ours. We have play dates and outings and talk together at school events and stuff. They're not my call-at-3-in-the-morning friends, but we've helped each other out here and there. And I like walking through town and greeting people. Isn't that odd? It makes me feel a little like my grandparents, but there it is-I like it.

I know security is an illusion. Anything can happen. The economy might improve, or we might have a disastrous depression. I might have poor health or live to be 103. But after being a rolling stone for so many years, I'm starting to see the value of cultivating relationships in my local garden. Last week we, along with most of Highland Park, watched the fireworks. I passed person after person who said "Hi, how you doing?" My kid found her friends and they ran around for hours before looking up in wonder at the fireworks. We even had a bit of a scuffle, when some teenager threw a firecracker into the crowd and several people got up and told him to cut it out-no violence, no arrests, just a "stop being a moron, moron." I joked with my husband that it was like being in Pleasantville.

But this is my security, on a local level. I looked at those faces in the crowd and thought, "Would these people let me starve to death? Or would we share our food in time of need? If my daughter was lost, would they help her out? If they had a problem with me, would they tell me directly?" And I think yes, they would. Because we're not just faceless neighbors who disappear into our climate controlled houses at 5:45 every evening and don't reemerge until 6 the next morning. You can keep your bunker, your ammo, your 15 year supply of TVP and bottled water. I'm betting that the best investment is in the garden I'm cultivating here.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Hubster and I don't really have any family that we are close to, all lovey-dovey and such, outside of our nuclear, 2 girls, 3 cats and each other. When I want to really make myself tight in the solar plexus, I think of what would happen if the littlest was orphaned. We have made no plans for guardianship in our will. Come to think of it, we have no will, mostly because we have nothing to pass on except debt. But the guardianship thing is important. A few years ago, when Hub was still on speaking terms with his bro', before they stopped speaking to us for reasons we can not fathom (Seriously, we did some soul-searching on this...we're not dense, they said they liked us. But return our calls-no), we thought about asking them to be her guardians, if we both should kick it. They're the best parents we know and trust. Now, inexplicably, they don't want to be a part of our lives, and that is a mystery and a shame, but still doesn't solve our dilemma.

The rest of our friends/family are too old,too young, too strict, not strict enough, republican or just plain dysfunctional. We have accepted our limited extended circle for ourselves. The fact that that might affect the offspring is unsettling, for me anyway. But it got me thinkin'. What are we without community? Are we any different now than we were 20,000 years ago when we needed to stick together for warm and to fight off cave bears? Is survival any less crucial now. You live alone, fall and hit your cabeza, bleed to death and are found 14 days later, partially eaten by your cats: it's a risk of living alone. It's why we came out of the trees together and groomed each other and stuff. To better our chances, to accomplish more together than we can alone.

And so we try to expand our little community, in between child-rearing and work and a million other things. We know have a circle of friends that we socialize with, mostly, no all from having a pre-school age child. And so you travel in the same circles, especially in a small town. Hubb and I try not to pick them apart too much later, this one is a hover parent-they're passing their nervousness on to their child. That one is too flaky, and where does her son's bullying come from? One couple is almost completely great, but we do wish they'd keep the sex toys locked up. I try not to be prudish, but I'd like to put off explaining what a dildo is until she's at least 7 or 8.

It's worrysome. If I really ponder on it, it's downright terrifying. Who would watch my kids if we both died in a fiery wreck? We can't even agree on a babysitter for 2 hours let alone someone who'd be in loco parentis for the rest of their lives. I'm starting to wonder if we should be like the president and the vice president-never traveling together, taking separate planes, that sort of thing. I know the chances of us both dying together before the little one leaves the house is small. I also know that crap happens when you least expect it. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. In the mean time, we'll keep looking.