Thursday, October 29, 2009

if you give an elie a cracker

I never really got the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It was in the reading anthology the first year I taught first grade and I found it sort of silly. Cute, but silly. Who was this mouse anyway? Why the hell did have such a litany of needs that had to be met?

And then my daughter turned two. And I realized the book is brilliant.

Bedtime conversation at our house:

Eliana: Mama read one more? Mama read Little Bear, chapter three, Little Bear Goes to the Moon?

Mom: Okay, Eliana. But that's the last one! We have to go to bed. It's late.

Eliana: Okay, Mama!

Mom: The end. Okay Els, it's time for, Rock-A-Bye Elie and your criblet.

Eliana: Eliana need one more. Just one. How about a little I Spy.

Mom: (Choosing her battles, weighing the challenge of a melt down, remembering how short I Spy is). Okay, Elie, but that's it. Really.

Eliana: (Hopping off my lap triumphantly to go to her book basket and find I Spy). Where's Baby? Baby and NightNight wanna hear I Spy.

I roll my eyes and smile at the same time and drag my tired-ass body out of my comfy chair to retrieve the crew.

Mom: I spy a toothbrush bunny just for me! Okay (quick scoop into the arms), rock a bye Elie on the tree top....

Eliana: Elie want a Barney song. Actually, Elie need a little snack. A cracker please. Cats cookies, please?

Mom: Elie, I will get you a cracker, but then it's songs and night night, okay?

Eliana: Okay, Mom.

Mom: Here's your cracker. Be careful. Sit up. Chew....I love you, you love me...

Eliana: Elie needs a little milk. Soy milk. Actually almond milk.

Mom: Eliana, I will get you some milk but then you have to settle down, okay? (The way I relentless use the word 'okay' during all this bugs the hell out of me because it is such an empty word in this situation. Bugs me and makes me chuckle at myself in equal amounts).

Eliana: Almond milk! That's really good. Maybe a little water? Actually, an apple.

Mom: (Who can't deny her child food, ever). Eliana, I will get you a little water and a small piece of apple, but then it's, Night Night I Love You and that's it!

Eliana: Eliana's song. Night Night I Love You. This is Eliana's song.

Mom: Yes, this is Eliana's song.

Eliana: And Baby's and Josameen's and Mary's and Night Night's too.

Mom: Yes, it's everyone's songs.

Eliana: And Eliana's.

Mom: Yes and Eliana's.

Eliana: Apple please, Mom? And a little water?

Mom: (No more dialogue, shuffles defeatedly out of the room wondering how many nights she can let this go on because it has all become so habitual on either end).

Eliana: That apple's juicy, Mom! That's a red one?

Mom: Yes, that's a red one.

Eliana: That's a green one?

Mom: Elie, sit up, chew it up and settle yourself.

Eliana: This fish tank work, Mama? Needs batteries? (She begins to bang the plastic fish tank that's been attached to her crib since she was born against the bars, I wonder again why I don't move the damn thing because perhaps we could shave at least this little bit off of our routine and perhaps cut the whole shebang down by five minutes).

Mom: I love you, Eliana. Settle yourself.

Eliana: Barney song?

Mom: I already did that one, honey.

Eliana: Baby Beluga?

Mom: I did that one too.

Eliana: Let's go fly a kite?

Mom: Eliana, I did all those songs. It's time for Night Night I love you and that's it.

Eliana: Rub my back?

Mom: (head resting in my hands on the crib bars, so tired I'm barely able to sing)
Night night my Elie, night night my love, night night my Eliana Celie Kessler....

Eliana: And baby Josameen and Mary and Baby and Night Night and Anabel and Hippo and Puppy....

Mom: And everyone! Night, night my love. Good night you guys, sleep tight, love you....Night night everyone.

As the door closes softly behind me, I take a deep breath, smile really big because, really, the whole thing is so damn funny. Homegirl can talk like it's nobody's business and how well do I remember using all those same stalling techniques to get my parents to linger longer in my room before bedtime. She's smart. And she thinks she's outsmarting me. And she kinda is because I just let her do it, night after night. I guess that's just the kind of mama I am.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

fall is in the air

I remember growing up and really wanting the sweater vests and wool skirts that we're billed as back-t0-school wear. The problem was, it was always too hot to wear anything thick or itchy. Fall was a season I just didn't really get. School started up in the fall, but other than that, it just sort of brought in winter, without a whole lotta hoopla.

My daughter, bless her little harves-ty heart, will not have such a problem. Eliana is super jazzed about all things fall (or, more precisely, all things Halloween). Luckily for us, our mountain town knows how to do up autumn in all her splendor and we've been able to spend the weekend hopping from one pumpkin patch to the next, hayrides, face paint, and cider making to keep up with the best of them.

I still marvel at this place after weekends like this. It all feels so simple and wholesome. I love that feeling. It's a feeling I'm discovering a little later in the journey. I think it's one I'll work hard to cultivate and help grow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


It was a special and unique weekend for our family. Eliana and her daddy had lots of q.t. together to do things like this:

While mama and her friends had lots of q.t. together to do things like this:

photo by nici

photos by casey

Why our family doesn't make choices like these more often is beyond me (but not at all because I'm not even skimming the surface of how hard it is for me to leave Eliana, still, of how much mama guilt I have when I work all week and then leave on the weekend, of how long it took me to decide to stay two nights, or how many conversations with Casey). Moving along. Jeff loved his alone time with his girl. He got some rockin' projects done around the house. He seemed rested and content when it was over.

Els loved every minute of her time with dad. Of course she was on her best behavior and didn't pull any of the multiple snarky tricks she pulls on me with frequency. I've heard this is the blessing of being a mama. She kept calling me, "Dada" the first hour I was home and clearly didn't seem too fazed by my absence.

And then there's me. Busy, ailing, big bellied at 13 weeks me, with ten thousand more blechy pregnancy symptoms than the first time around. And while it was a bummer that I couldn't enjoy a fat steak dinner, I could be still and present in my body in it's wild, altering state of upheaval. With my girlfriends. Without anyone asking for anything or needing to sit/stand/crawl on my lap. I wasn't interrupted. I wasn't asked for things multiple times. I could do exactly what I wanted at any moment.

When does that become so novel?

So thank you, honey, for being such an incredible dad. Thank you, girls, for making me laugh hard and slow down all at once.

And thank you Eliana, for being such a funny little lamb, willing to share the love.

Monday, October 12, 2009

almost made it

Another favorite Elie-ism these days is the way she shouts from the backseat, "Almost made it, Mommy!" when approaching a familiar destination. Her words rang true in my mind this evening. As we were winding down after another day, I was thinking about how manageable it all really is (a thought I haven't been having much lately). Let me back up.

Even though my husband has been gone for five days, I've had help. My mom was here and her presence was extremely calming and reassuring. She left and I was able to drop Els off with her Grandparents yesterday evening so I could go to a much needed yoga class. Today I didn't have students at school, but instead had to "professionally develop." I dropped Eliana off at Caroline's and spent my morning reading children's literature at the Book Exchange. Even managed my first latte in months which gave me a little extra spring in my step for my decadent day. I then made my way to the mall -- a place on general principle I abhor -- to return some shoes to Gymboree that my mom had bought for Eliana. Apparently they gave me some decent store credit and I managed to get Eliana a gorgeous little velour hoodie, matching leggings and a monkey shirt, all in her favorite orange hue. Inspired by buying my hand me down kid new duds, I wandered into the Children's Place. Next thing I knew I had a bunch of super cute cozy things, all marked down to like two dollars, for my girl. Dang. I could get into this. Shopping for my kid when she's at daycare. Flipping through racks like it's something I have the time and money to do with frequency.

As I made my way through my lunch at my favorite bakery, I thought about what it would be like if I was a lady who could shop and lunch and linger languidly in book stores while my child was happily doing watercolors and feeding the chickens at, "Hippie Poppins" place (a very funny, and sort of appropriate one local dad dubbed Eliana's daycare provider). I stopped by Casey's with chocolate dipped macaroons and took Lucy on a much needed long walk. I could not only be good to myself, I could be a good friend and dog owner to boot! Nothing felt rushed. I never felt exhausted. It was a pretty great feeling.

In fact, the whole time Jeff's been gone, I've managed to feel pretty balanced. Tuckered out for sure, but I haven't had my usual, nagging, when-the-hell-is-he-going-to-be-home feeling. Haven't spent large amounts of time marveling at the plight of single moms.

As we were reading books tonight, I felt pretty damn proud of myself. I was still as in love with Els as ever, enjoying every last moment. During our bath I had made her crack up in the most delightful way, again and again. I had managed to feed my child who eats like a bland bird an entire orange and a handful of carrots in the tub. Over The Runaway Bunny, I shoved the last big piece of banana into her mouth, determined to get some food of color into her little belly, determined to have her sleep with replete satiation. "Too big," she said and I ignored her continuing, "...if you were a fish in a trout stream, I'd be a fisherman..." when barf. All over my leg. All over Baby and NightNight. And before I can get a grip, another massive heave, all over the chair, all over the floor. Orange and chunky and freshly, almost digested. And then one more time for good measure on the way to the toilet. Yup. I made my kid hurl.

I'm a bit of a shell-shocked first responder. Once I realized that she didn't have the stomach flu, that it was indeed her very functional gag reflex working overtime, I gathered myself for some quick and furious cleaning. She had already moved on and was yammering away on the potty. When we settled back into her bed, all clean and changed she said, "Remember the banana, Mommy?" and I shook my head and smiled. I had to push it. My luck. My decadent day. My perfect girl and her fruits and veggies.

With four wheat thins in her belly, all processed and Nabisco-y and nutritionally void, I started in on my songs. She sang along, "...Up to the amosfeer, up where the air is clear!" I could only beam with pride. My little good-natured chicken. My little love bucket. We almost made it. Another day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Babies are all the rage in our house these days. After ten or so months of not nursing, Eliana now gives her babies, "A little nurse," bringing them up to her chest, patting them on the back and then asking, "That better?" Um...I have this odd hunch that she's picked up on some of my hormonal changes and perhaps is reminiscing about the good ol' days. When they're not busy nursing, Eliana just loves taking care of her babies. She changes their diapers, sings to them, pushes them in the stroller, and sways them back and forth when they cry (her little hips moving just as a daughter of mine's should).

We had a lovely weekend with my mama in from Cali. It snowed (!) on Thursday night, so we had lots of cozy, quiet adventures in the home with the babes. Baby still takes first place, but Josephine (aka, "Josameen") and Mary are steady in holding up the rear. I'm so thankful that she enjoys this kind of play because I often wonder what we would do otherwise when stuck in our little house for days on end. Books are great, her art supplies suffice for a bit, legos are cool, and of course Barney continues to rule, but really, it's Baby and her entourage that bring out the most creative, imaginative Eliana. I wasn't a dolly kinda girl (I pretty much spent most of my childhood playing "Fame" with my sister -- we were all showstoppers and legwarmers and didn't have much time for inanimate objects between rehearsals), so this is all sort of new to me. But I love it! I love seeing how I mother reflected in her, and also getting a little window into her world away from me. At the home daycare she goes to, she's the oldest one and has a bunch of "baby" buddies. She has new songs she comes home with and new little stories about who is sad when and why. Caroline, the lovely caregiver, says Eliana loves to play this little mama role and kind of takes care of the little ones. Or at least talks enough for all of them...

And my how can my girl talk. She has an appropriate response for everything ranging from, "Cool!" to, "Sure, " to, "Actually...." It's still pretty wild when I realize how small she really is because it seems she can articulate just about anything she needs at any time. She was so sweet and inviting with my mom, her ability to express herself making her that much more accessible. We had brunch today at Jeff's folks place and there was something so beautiful about watching these three generations around the table together.

I am tuckered and awed and so thankful for a quiet weekend after another busy week. My bedtime seems to get earlier by the day and that is simply fine. There's only so much hustle a girl can shove into her week and I seem to get all my go-go- go's out from Monday to Friday. If this wild ride is to be sustainable, I've gotta take it easy when the days open. So dusting powder on Baby's bum, "Sounds great!"

Monday, October 5, 2009

in a day

I'm sitting here, exhausted, settled, listening to the steady hum of the dishwasher. I keep contemplating putting music on, but there's something strangely meditative about the noise. Music might make me indecisive, I might move from one thing to the next too quickly. And that's not what I need.

I think back on this full, full Monday and all the bits and pieces that compose a day. The wild conversations I have with Eliana when she replies to my ideas with a, "That sounds great!" (with the same enthusiasm as Tony the Tiger on the Frosted Flakes commercials) or a, "That's a good idea, mom!" She is such a conversationalist, with a memory or song or reference to go with every occasion. "Remember Amy and the pinata? Pinatas are a game. With prizes. And treats. Not scary. Fun!" (This monologue comes up often, as Eliana continues to make peace with the pinata she saw when we were on the coast in August. It was shaped like a little girl. It was decapitated. It was mildly traumatic -- but we're working through it.)

Her vast bank is open and accessible, everything a connection to something else, a continuous piecing together of the puzzle of her life.

I'm attempting to see things this same way. The key to maintaining this nutty schedule of mine is to stay open to each moment. Each question or need from my students or colleagues or husband or daughter. Each request or discomfort I have in my changing body, this new yet familiar state of growing another human being. Every anxiety or ache or frustration or craving, something that has to be met head on, or else they'll all snowball and I'll end up annoyed and hungry, whiny and bitter. It's certainly a challenge. But it seems to be getting easier and easier.

That's not to say there isn't extreme exhaustion or longing. Like when my daughter wakes up at my in-laws again because we've been taking care of PopPop while Nana takes a much deserved break back east and says, "Elie wanna go home." And I can't take her home because we have to race out the door to the daycare because it's Grandparent's Day and I have to be totally on my game, looking my best, shaking hands and sharing accomplishments. My heart screams with frustration when she asks her simple, honest request, all guilt ridden and heavy. But then I explain it to her. "No, Els, today you get to go to Caroline's. You get to see Fiona and Joaquin and paint pictures and play playdoh. And mama has to go to the school to teach the kids and read books." She didn't protest, didn't affirm, just willingly got in her big girl sneakers and hoodie, ready to roll with it.

Like we roll with our busiest season, our family's reentry into the working, scheduled world.
Fall has finally settled into the valley and the days are growing chillier and shorter. We enjoyed one of our last farmer's markets last weekend and my sister-in-law managed to capture my daughter in all her clown around glory. Again, always one to savor the moment and not get too caught up in ridiculous expectations.
How do they continually manage to teach us so much?