If the shoe fits…

In late August our little family trooped off to the kids’ shoe store at the mall.  We were there to get Tadpole a new pair of shoes.  His last pair (awesome bright yellow ones that look like dump trucks) were starting to fall apart, and we wanted him to have new ones before the new school year.

We’ve been to this store before, and have always shown Tad both the purple/pink/sparkly section and the blue/brown/orange/superhero section, and avoided labeling them by gender.  As feminists it’s important to Roo and me to not close off gender options for either of our kids based on their sex.

In the past Tad has generally opted for shoes from the “boy” side of the aisle.  He has dearly loved a series of vehicle shoes–he had ones that looked like fire trucks a few winters ago, followed by race trucks followed by the current dump trucks.  But he did pick out a pair of purple sandals a few summers ago and wore them until they fell apart.

This time around, Tad’s first stop at the shoe store was a pair of light saber sneakers that not only lit up, but also made light saber sound effects.  I told him that they seemed very cool, but that we wouldn’t be buying them because his teacher would not be thrilled if we sent him to school with shoes that made noise.  Tad was disappointed, but soon picked out a pair of blue and green light-up sneakers, tried them on, and seemed satisfied.

blue shoe

But the he started chatting with a little girl on the other side of the store and she showed off the pink and purple light-up sneakers that she had picked out (coincidentally the same model of shoe as the blue-green ones in a different color scheme).  Tad reported to his new friend (as he tells anyone who asks) that his favorite colors are “pink and purple and magenta and gold.”  Then he turned to Roo and me and asked, “can I get the pink and purple ones?”

pink purple shoe

My heart sunk.  I was filled with conflicting thoughts and feelings:

  • I love my boy and am proud of how thoroughly himself he is.
  • But he is about to start at a new school, bigger and less sheltered than his cozy little preschool.  We don’t want our sweet boy to be teased by his new classmates.  Plus, he could potentially go to this school for 9 years.  Will he want his 7th grade classmates to remember him as the boy who wore pink sneakers?
  • Our whole family will be starting relationships at this new school.  We’ll already stand out as a two-mom family.  What assumptions will people make about us if our boy also shows up in pink and purple light-up shoes?
  • What if he decides in a few weeks that he doesn’t want these?
  • But our principles mean that we should support Tad wearing what he wants to.

We explained to Tad that some people might tease him about the shoes because they incorrectly think that some colors are just for some people.  He insisted that he still wanted the pink and purple ones.

Roo and I held a whispered conversation about how to handle our dilemma.  Roo had a very wise idea–to buy both pairs.  The store was having a “buy one, get one half-off” sale, so it wouldn’t be a huge difference financially.  And this way Tad could decide each day which pair he wanted to wear and how much gender-bending he wanted to do. Roo and I thought about how we all make decisions every day about how much of true selves to show, and how much to compromise in order to avoid standing out.  Neither of us have been boys, so we don’t know how to navigate these gender issues from that perspective.  But we have been girls and women, and so we have experiences every day in making decisions about how much to fit into the appearance that is expected for our gender.  Some days I shave my legs because I like how it looks/feels.  But on other days I do it because it’s easier to not worry about getting funny looks.  And there are other times when I decide that I don’t want to shave and am okay with potentially standing out.

Tad proudly wore his brand new pink and purple shoes to day camp at the Y the next day.  He came home in tears reporting that other kids at camp had made fun of his shoes–and that staff had joined in.  I felt so sad for my little boy and furious at the camp staff.  I was sad but not surprised that the other campers had teased him.  Kids Tad’s age are exploring a lot about gender and trying to make everything follow simple rules–“girls do ___” and “boys do ____.”  But we had hoped that staff would protect my son rather than joining in the bullying.  Roo spoke with senior staff and they promised to look into the issue, but they couldn’t make it never have happened.

Still, Tad wore his pink and purple shoes to his first day of kindergarten.  He told us that some kids had laughed at him and had told him that his shoes were girls’ shoes.  We repeated our family’s “party line” which is that anyone can like any color.  For the next week or so, Tad wore his blue and green shoes.  Then, a few weeks into school, he tried the pink and purple ones again.  He came home saying that a few kids had teased him, but that he had told them that anyone can wear any color.  We emailed with his teacher, who told us that she had not seen many problems, and that she had been impressed at the way Tad stood up for himself on the few occasions when she saw some teasing.

Now Tadpole wears his pink and purple shoes to school almost every day.  I’m so proud of him as I watch him walk into school each morning–my little boy in a sea of older kids, his blue shark backpack on his back and his pink and purple shoes on his feet.

 

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Filed under Gender, Parenthood, Tadpole, Uncategorized

Full

Apologies for disappearing again.  I miss this space, and there are the beginnings of numerous posts in my drafts folder and just floating around in my head.  But I’m finding it difficult to fit in time for writing these days.

My life is full of so many good things–a job that I like, a spouse who I adore, these two longed-for kids.  And yet that same fullness means constant scarcity–there’s never enough time or energy for everything that I would like to do.   Time at work means time spent away from my family.   I don’t spend nearly enough time connecting with Roo.  I cannot simultaneously give my attention to both kids at once.

That last one is particularly tricky.  Tadpole is a whirlwind of arms and legs and impulsivity.  He’ll sit still if we’re reading books together, but otherwise is in almost-constant motion.  He’s always exploring and testing–what will happen if he does a headstand in the Ikea chair?  what will happen if he sticks his finger in his sister’s mouth?  And Sprout is an explorer as well.  Her crawling is fast these days, and she pulls herself to standing, which means all sorts of non-baby-safe items have to be relocated to higher ground.  If I focus on one kid, the other is invariably getting into mischief behind my back.  Roo and I are constantly putting out fires, which means we haven’t found the time to do proactive things like putting up baby gates or relocating non-baby-safe items to higher ground.

I hate that one-on-one time with little Sprout is so scarce.  I savor the few moments I have with her during the week–snuggling as she nurses in the morning, making her giggle when I blow raspberries on her belly as I change her into pajamas at night.  But I miss her during the day,  and I wish I could spend more time focused on her.  I love the age that she is (10 months), and I’m aware of how quickly she’s changing.  I only have 4 weekends with a 10-month-old Sprout before I’ll have an 11-month-old one.  That’s only 8 days, and somewhere in each of those days I have to find time for things like grocery shopping and laundry.

Tad’s growth and development isn’t as rapid or as obvious, but this start of kindergarten is an important time for him too.  I want to be sure I’m present to him as well–which is hard when I have to be constantly vigilant to be sure the baby isn’t swallowing pebbles or destroying Tad’s artwork or…

I miss  the slower-paced days of the summer, when I was the only one who had to leave the house before 8:30, and we were all home by 4:15 most afternoons.  Instead of the go-go-go of our current mornings and evenings we had a few minutes to read books on the couch in the morning or to all sit on the porch together before dinner.

I remember with longing the lazy Fridays that I got to spend with Tadpole when he was little.  I worked four days a week, which meant that I had a whole day to focus on Tad.  We went for toddler-paced walks around the block and did storytime at the library and spent entire afternoons watching road construction.  Plus, I had time to start on weekend chores during his nap.  I’m committed to my current job through July of next year, but am wondering if I can find something with a four-day work week after that.  It feels unfair that Sprout (who already has to share our attention with Tad) doesn’t get this kind of focused attention during the school year (though she does have it with Roo during the summers).

I am very lucky in everything that I have–a job is satisfying and that pays well (even if it takes up more time than I would like), two amazing kids (even if it seems impossible that only two children can create the messes that they do), a cozy house (even if it requires endless cleaning and maintenance).  My life is full-to-overflowing and that brings both intense joy and deep-down-in-my-bones exhaustion.

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End-of-summer update

Sorry for disappearing there.  It has been a crazy month.  We were out of town for two week-long trips and one weekend trip in the last four weeks.  First was our annual week at the beach with Roo’s family (posts about previous years here and here).  Then a weekend trip to New England for my cousin’s wedding.  And then we spent a week at my parents’ cabin on a lake in New England.

We just got back from that trip last Sunday.   A co-worker asked me when I returned to work if it had been relaxing, and I found myself laughing in her face.  I’m glad we went, but it was definitely not relaxing.  Balancing everyone’s needs was hard work–Tadpole has lots of energy and does best when we are out and about a lot, but Sprout does best when we’re home for her naps.  And Roo and I prefer to have some downtime to do things like lie in the hammock and read, but it’s hard to find time for that.  The cabin is lovely but rustic and not at all baby-proofed, so it was hard to put the newly-mobile baby down anywhere.  A week with a wiggly newly-mobile baby who cannot be easily put down is not a relaxing week.  And then there was the bit where Sprout woke up at 5am almost every morning, (and usually woke up her brother as well).

However, it’s a beautiful area, and we had some great adventures.  We went swimming almost every day and used multiple boats (motor boat, kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard).  Tadpole made friends with all of the people staying in neighboring cabins, learned to drive the motorboat, and became a more confident swimmer.  Sprout discovered that she hates her life jacket but made lots of friends with strangers on the airplane.  Roo read a lot and fit in a lot of swimming.  I got to see an aunt and cousin who I haven’t seen in years and jump off a rope swing.

Now we have a somewhat-gradual transition back to our school-year schedule.  This week Roo scrambled to get her classroom set up amid a hectic meeting schedule and Sprout started back at daycare.  Tadpole was at camp this week, and then he starts kindergarten on Monday!  For some individual updates:

Sprout

Her hair is now several inches long, and it still sticks straight up!  Our baby has changed from a mellow, go-with-the-flow newborn to a spunky, determined almost-nine-month old.  She insists on feeding herself, and completely refuses any baby food purees.  As in will not open her mouth and even grabs the spoon and forces it away.  She has started crawling for real, and pulling herself up and even climbed up a few steps the other day.  Her stubbornness plus her motor skills plus the fact that we haven’t really started baby-proofing mean that we’re in so much trouble!!! She has also developed some separation anxiety.  On the one hand, it’s nice to feel like we are special to her, and that she notices when we’re gone.  On the other hand, this coincides with her returning to the daycare where she hasn’t been in two+ months, so the timing is not ideal.

Tadpole

Tadpole continues to be alternately charming (like when he climbs onto my lap and snuggles in to read a book, or when he sings lullabies to his sister) and smart (he was keeping score during a game the other day and correctly added up 100+100+100+5+5 in his head) and infuriating (like when he licked the baby right after I asked him not to lick the baby).  He has recently become an entrepreneur; he has been going door-to-door selling his crayon drawings to our neighbors both at the cabin and at home.

I am excited and nervous about his transition to kindergarten.  He tends to go through a phase of testing limits whenever he starts in a new place.  I hope his teacher is able to set firm limits with him (which usually helps him settle down), and I want her to still love him even if they get off to a rocky start.  His teacher last year did a fabulous job with both of these things, but the one the year before really didn’t.  Fingers crossed.

Roo

Roo is getting ready for another school year.  She’s at the same school where she’s been for a number of years, but taking on a few new challenges this time around.

Me

I’m doing well.   My not-so-new job has been frustrating lately.  I continue to really like my co-workers, and the sessions that I have with clients have felt productive.  But I’ve also had a huge number of clients not showing up for their appointments lately.  I’m trying to remember that my clients have been assigned to this particular program because their lives are crazy and chaotic and they aren’t good at showing up for any kind of appointment.  But it still makes it hard to feel excited about coming to work some days.

I’m sad about the end of summer and of the more relaxed schedule that we’ve been able to have.  I’m not looking forward to hurried mornings and to not having time in the evenings for more than cleaning the house and packing all of our lunches. But I am excited about things settling down a little bit.  I haven’t gone running or to the climbing gym in several weeks, and haven’t been able to make many plans with friends because of all of our traveling.  So I’m looking forward to getting back into all of those things.  And I really like our regular old every-day life–early-morning snuggles with our fuzzy-duckling baby, bedtimes with the big grown-up boy, Friday night dinners out and Sunday evening dinners at home.

So that’s the news from here.  How are you?  Does your life change with the new school year?  How is that transition going in your family?

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School Choice

“So where will your son/daughter go for kindergarten?” is a frequent topic of conversation for fellow city-dwellers who we run into on playgrounds and library storytimes.  It can be a tricky decision.  Even among urban school districts, our city has unusually horrible schools.  They are known for dismal academic performance and high rates of violence.  Friends who have worked in the city schools report stifling bureaucracy, unsupportive administrations, and many student who aren’t able to focus on schoolwork because their basic needs aren’t being met.  Because of this, middle-class families in our area tend to avoid their neighborhood schools.  Most of them end up at religious schools, charter schools, or private schools.  Other families move the surrounding counties as soon as their children approach school age in order to attend better-performing public schools there.  We’ve watched the parents of Tadpole’s friends who have older siblings go through the process of deciding where to send their kids.  They generally went through a few stressful months, but eventually landed somewhere that they are happy.  We weren’t sure what we would end up choosing, but tried to have faith that we, too, would end up making a decision that we were happy with.

We did know ahead of time that the Catholic school route wouldn’t work for us.  We met a family recently that raves about the Montessori-based program at a nearby Catholic school. The school seems progressive in many ways, but it still has a Religion class, and I’m just not comfortable with Tad being taught the Catholic church’s position on women, theology, or his family.

After crossing the Catholic school off our list, we were left with exploring charter and private schools.  There are a growing number of charter schools in our city, including several nearby. They often have more flexibility in terms of curriculum design and opting out of at least some of the crazy testing. These schools also tend to have more-involved parents. However, the demand for these schools is high.  They all accept students based on lotteries, and tend to get many more applicants than they have spots.  At one school that we toured, we were told there were 22 spots in the kindergarten class, 16 of which were expected to be filled by current students’ siblings.  And they expected to get about 150 applications!

We’ve known plenty of families whose solution to the school dilemma is to move to the surrounding counties. But we love our neighborhood.  We love knowing most of our neighbors. We love the farmer’s market down the street in the summertime.  We love living in a community that is racially and economically diverse (which is something so rare in this city and in this country).  We love our cozy house and decent-sized yard–both bigger than we could probably afford in the county.  And even if we wanted to, the idea of packing and moving with a newborn felt impossibly overwhelming.

We spent this winter and spring in a whirlwind of school visits and school applications.  It ended up being helpful that I was unemployed, because I’m not sure how we would have managed it all if we were both working full-time.  The private schools’ application process felt like we were applying for college, complete with essays and interviews. And we wanted to tour a number of the charter schools, so that we would be prepared on the off-chance that Tad got into one. At the end of the whole process, we were left with the following options:

Our Neighborhood Public School:

There is a public elementary-middle school just a few blocks from our house.  It would be fabulous to be able to walk to school and to have all of Tadpole’s classmates living nearby.  But it didn’t feel like a good fit for us, for a variety of different reasons.

I don’t put a huge amount of stock in standardized test scores.  But when I checked on ONPS’s test scores, I found out that only about 40% of its students passed the very basic level of the tests.  That seemed concerning.  And then there was the time when I saw a big group of high-school-aged boys hanging out on the playground smoking something that wasn’t cigarettes…at 4 in the afternoon.

In addition, I used to work at a different public school nearby. It was one of the better-performing schools in the city, and it wasn’t a horrible place at all.  The teachers were generally enthusiastic and engaged.  Yet the kindergarten classes always made me a little sad.  They were full of 25+ children doing worksheets at little tiny desks.  There was no dress-up area or sand table or anything for engaging the children’s imaginations. These schools also include a huge emphasis on standardized testing.  One year, the school where I worked was required to do 8 sessions of “benchmark” tests, two days each session.  With 180 school days in a year, that meant that almost a tenth of the days were devoted to testing, which doesn’t leave much room for actual learning in between.

PE-Focused Charter School

We got into one of the nearby charter schools.  We toured it twice, and seriously considered it.  Like most charter schools, it seemed to have a lot of involved parents.  The classrooms were bright and spacious, and our active boy would love the focus on physical activity.

But the teaching techniques seemed fairly traditional–it seemed like the kindergarten would still include a lot of time sitting at pint-sized desks.  And we weren’t sure how welcome our two-mommy family would feel.  One piece of our decision was the fact that the principal described with pride the school’s Chick-fil-A fundraising night. This wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for us, but it contributed to our feeling that it wasn’t the right fit for our family.

Funky Held Together With Duct Tape School:

Tad was accepted at a funky little private school, which we also seriously considered.  It’s a small school, and has a philosophy of “project-based learning”.  There are traditional classes in English, math, etc.  But the students also explore topics that interest them through a variety of creative, inter-disciplinary projects.  I attended a fabulous elementary school with a similar teaching philosophy, and thought Tad would flourish there.  Our curious kid would love to spend weeks thoroughly exploring something he is interested in, and this would be a place where he could do that.

Tuition is about half of most of the bigger private schools.  But there is also less financial aid available.  And part of the way they keep tuition so low is requiring each custodial parent to do 40 hours of work for the school a year.  There are a few ways of fulfilling these hours in the evening and on weekends, but finding the time for 80 hours of work still seemed daunting.  And the school isn’t very conveniently located for us.  Also, the facilities seemed very cramped and shabby.  We weren’t sure that our antsy, active kid would do well in a tiny classroom.

Progressive Traditional Private School

Tad was also accepted at one of the large more-traditional private schools in the area. It has some great progressive values.  The teaching style is more traditional than FHTWDTS, but it would be a high-quality education. The facilities are amazing. Tad would get to learn to play an instrument starting in 3rd grade, and would start Spanish in kindergarten.  The annual tuition is daunting (like the price of a car!).  We qualified for substantial financial aid, but were told we were on a “financial aid waiting list” because they gave financial aid preference to returning families.  This meant that future years would be expensive but probably manageable.  And my parents agreed to help us to cover this first year, if we decided this school was the right fit for us.

Our decision

I wrestled a lot with the ethical questions involved in our decision.  In terms of abstract politics, I felt like we ought to send Tad to our neighborhood school.  How are the dismally-performing schools of our city going to get better if all of the folks who have the wherewithal to send their kids elsewhere do so?  There are lots of critics of charter schools who complain that it’s not fair to siphon off the families with committed and involved parents, leaving the rest of the schools behind.  This seems like a legitimate concern.  And I have ethical questions about the other options too.  I was excited about a lot of things about PTPS, but I wasn’t sure about sending my kid to a school that the vast majority of families couldn’t afford (and that we could only manage with help from my parents).  In the end, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to send Tad to ONPS.  And once that was off the table, it seemed like there were moral issues with any of the other choices, so we should just pick the school that felt right for our family and our kid.

We decided to go with Progressive Traditional Private School.  We were worried about affording it (even with financial aid and some help from my parents).  But none of the other schools felt quite right, and we were excited about the opportunities that Tad would have.  We paid our deposit, told Tadpole our decision, and attended a welcome event for new families.

And then, last Tuesday, we got an email from another charter school.  Another student had withdrawn, and Tad had been offered a spot from the waiting list.  This school, which I’ll call Hippie Charter School, has a similar project-based philosophy to FHTWDTS.  But it seems more organized and together than FHTWDTS.  The kindergarten at HCS is play-based, meaning that there are structured lessons in various subjects, but also time for kids to learn through playing with blocks, dress-ups, etc.  The school is in a fairly convenient location, and has a number of hippie families from our neighborhood. It is racially and socio-economically diverse and works hard at welcoming many different kinds of kids and families.  And of course the price (free!) is appealing.  We had had some major unexpected expenses in the few weeks after accepting PTPS, which made us even more aware of the financial sacrifices that it would take to make things work at a private school, even with financial aid.

Roo and I spent about 24 hours freaking out about the idea of changing our plans and being scared of making the wrong decision.  And in the end, we decided to go with HCS.  It feels like a really good fit for our family.  And Tad says he wants to go there, “because they have puppets in the classroom.”  So now we’re finally settled.  Just like the parents who we’ve seen go before us, there have been several months of chaos and stress, followed by finding a school that we’re excited about.

What are the school options like in your area?  How did/will you decide what is right for your family?

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These days

When Tad starts at his new school in the fall in the fall (long post on that hopefully coming shortly), it will be the last big transition for our family for the foreseeable future (knock on wood!).  There is less fodder for blog posts without the drama of the TTC process, losing my job and looking for a new one, and welcoming a new baby.  But I hope to still use this space to help me be present to the life I have now, the one that I’ve been working towards for so long.  

Roo is off for the summer, which means things can slow down a little.  Mornings are less hectic since we don’t have to all be out of the house by 7:30, and we’re all home by 4:30 most weeknights.  Last night Roo was at a meeting, leaving me home with the kids.  After dinner, Tadpole spent a long time working on turning a toy car, scotch tape and some cups in to a “garbage truck”, while Sprout made use of her new army-crawling skills to investigate every corner of the playroom (and locate every choking hazard on the floor).  We also spent some time on the front porch in the unseasonably-cool weather.  Sprout and I rocked on the porch swing, and she stared intently at each car that went past.  Tad served me many cups of imaginary tea while discussing all he learned about animals at camp that day.  At bath time, Sprout giggled every time she looked up and saw Tad.

Every day isn’t like this, but I want to hold onto the ones that are. 

 

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The view from here

This post has been percolating for months, as I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about my experience with breastfeeding so far.

In the beginning breastfeeding was really hard. It was uncomfortable–I said to Roo at some point that it felt like having a vacuum cleaner permanently attached to my nipples. For the 5+ weeks that I had thrush, it was really painful. I had a hard time with positioning the baby, and it often required various tricks to get Sprout settled in to eating (bouncing her while feeding, taking her clothes off so she wouldn’t fall asleep, etc.)  It was incredibly exhausting to be the main one able to feed the baby when she wanted to eat fifty times a day.

Before Sprout was born, I imagined that one of the big advantages of breastfeeding would be being able to feed the baby while in bed and half-asleep. It turns out that I’ve never done this! So far I’ve been too exhausted for it to feel safe. There have been multiple times when I thought I was holding the baby, only to realize that it was just my body pillow. There was even one night when I woke up and couldn’t tell for a moment if I was sitting up in the glider in Sprout’s room or lying on my side in bed! So that piece hasn’t happened, but it’s still far easier to just sit down in the glider, pull up my shirt and latch the baby on than to go downstairs, turn on the lights, make up a bottle (with only warm milk, since that’s all that Her Highness will deign to drink), etc.

Nursing in bed hasn’t happened, but somewhere along the line other aspects of breastfeeding shifted (as I had been told they would). I finally cured the thrush. The other kinds of discomfort lessened. Both Sprout and I got better at making this work.  The baby didn’t need to eat quite so often, so I started to have a little time in the evenings for more than feedthebabyfeedthebabyfeedthebaby. When I wasn’t so exhausted, the time I spent feeding Sprout felt cozy instead of suffocating. During maternity leave, breastfeeding was convenient. I remember back to our early days with Tadpole, when we had a checklist by the diaper bag in order to be sure we had packed everything (bottle, nipple, formula, water, bib, etc.)–and I remember some disasterous outings when we had forgotten one or the other of these items. But with Sprout, I just needed to be sure she and I were in the same place, and maybe bring a nursing cover-up. I was still the main one getting up with the baby at night, but that made sense–I could often get a nap in during the day, while Roo had to be functional at work.

Since I went back to work three months ago, the convenient-inconvenient balance has shifted again.  It continues to be helpful to be able to breastfeed Sprout in the evenings and on weekends.  But I’m also pumping three times a day on weekdays while I’m at work, which is decidedly inconvenient.  My new job is with a huge organization, and the first few weeks involved lots of trainings and meetings, all at different locations and with different instructors.  This meant having to explain my situation again and again, and to find the “mothers’ room” in each of five different buildings.  Fortunately, everyone was very nice, and the conversations were not as uncomfortable as they could have been.  It’s definitely a plus that my new employer has a commitment to supporting breastfeeding, and that these “mothers’ rooms” exist.  But it took a lot of extra work to figure out the location of each one, whether there was a special access code or card needed to get in, whether there is a sink nearby, etc.  The only building that doesn’t have a space for pumping is the building where I am most days, but I have my own office there.  It’s a tiny space (in fact, it used to be a closet!), but it’s all mine.  I had a few awkward conversations with co-workers who were concerned that the “do not disturb” sign that I had put up meant that they had offended me, but they were sweet when my boss explained the situation.  So pumping at work has gone about as well as it could have, but has still been uncomfortable. It’s a pain to find enough times during the day to pump.  I hate washing pump parts over and over and over, and it can be awkward to wash them in the communal bathroom sink.  It has also been tough to synch my pumping with Sprout’s needs since she’s still not on a very consistent schedule.

And despite all of the pumping that I’m doing, it’s still not quite enough to keep up with Sprout’s needs.  We try to send her to daycare with more milk than we think she’ll take, but that sometimes means sending in a bottle or two of formula.  I think I might have been upset about this if Sprout were my first kid, or if I’d had a different experience with Tadpole. I had to make some sort of peace with formula, since it nourished my son for the first year of his life.  Sprout has already had far more breastmilk that Tadpole ever did, which makes me less worried about giving her the occasional bottle of formula.

So I’m not pumping because I believe it’s essential for my baby to get nothing but breastmilk.  Then why am I doing continuing to do it? When I’m anxiously trying to figure out where to fit in a pumping session between work meetings or when I’m explaining to the socially awkward man leading our computer training course why I need certain breaks or when I’m washing my pump parts for the fourth time in a day, I start to wonder how much it would matter if I stopped pumping.  It would be helpful to still be able to breastfeed during the day on weekends, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I only breastfeed in the morning and evening.   It might even be good for Roo’s and Sprout’s relationship for her to give the baby more bottles.  I told myself that I would stick it out until Sprout was six months and then re-evaluate.  But I seem to still be pumping.

One reason why I’ve continued is that I really enjoy re-connecting with Sprout through nursing on the weekends, after missing her so much during the week.  I’d like to be able to do that for as long as I can.  Another reason for pumping may be an attempt to compensate for the guilt I feel about all that I can’t do for Sprout.  Having a full-time job and another kid keeps me from devoting as much time and attention to her as I would like, but pumping is something I can do for her when I’m away from her.  In addition, I’m proud of the hard work that Sprout and Roo and I put into building the nursing relationship, and I’m grateful for the luck that enabled it to work out this well.  I’m aware that the time when I have this kind of relationship with Sprout is short, and I don’t want to miss out on any of it.  As much as I yearn for consecutive nights with uninterrupted sleep, I imagine that I’ll be sad when I have no more middle-of-the-night snuggles with a limp sleepy baby.  I hope to never be one of those older women who accost frazzled, sleep-deprived new parents at the grocery store with exhortations to “enjoy every minute”, but I also know that I’ll miss aspects of this time when my kids are older.  My feelings about breastfeeding seem to be part of that perpetual paradox of parenthood (especially early parenthood)–it’s ridiculously hard and exhausting, but also so sweet.

 

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Filed under Breastfeeding, Parenthood, Sprout, Tadpole, Uncategorized

6 months!

Little Sprout turned 6 months old on Saturday so I thought I’d do an update of how we’re all doing, six months into becoming a family of four.

Sprout

Our baby is petite (10th-15th percentile at most visits so far), but still has delicious cheeks and thighs.  She has an adorable little fuzz of light brown hair.  Roo is hoping she’ll be a brunette (like Roo), rather than another blonde (like me and Tadpole).  She has a funny little smile with her tongue sticking out, which we see a lot of.  She also has a crazy maniacal grin with her mouth wide open, which she saves for things she gets really excited about (like the sight of her brother).

So far Sprout is a mellow baby, and is very tolerant when a nap or meal doesn’t come right away.  This is helpful trait in a second baby!  As much as we try to protect her schedule, it’s often thrown off by other things we have going on.  She is very patient with discomforts of various sorts.  A few weeks ago she had an allergic reaction to penicillin (which she was taking for an ear infection) and spent about 72 hours coverd in hives.  Poor baby!  But even then, she was only mildly fussy.

We’ve also been amazingly lucky that she sleeps well.  From early on (and without any sleep training), we’ve been able to put her in the crib and she’ll just…go to sleep!  It’s just in the last few weeks that she has started to cry when we tuck her in, but the fussing doesn’t usually last long.  I’m not sure how we got so lucky!  (And I’m a little nervous about jinxing things just by writing this!) She goes to bed around 7, and then I get her up for a dream feed before I go to bed around 10.  She’s still waking up once in the middle of the night to eat most nights, and I’m very ready to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.  But I actually prefer the nights when she wakes up to the few instances where she has slept though the night, because when she doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night she is up for the day at 5am!  If she wakes up in the middle of the night, we at least can both then go back to sleep until a more reasonable hour.

The other night we had the first instance where we put Sprout down on the floor, turned around, and came back to find her in a different place than where we had left her!  She has figured out how to log-roll over and over across the floor to get around.  This is both exciting and terrifying.  Up until now we’ve enjoyed a window where Sprout was young enough and Tadpole old enough to each be left unsupervised for a few minutes while I ran upstairs to get a new diaper, went into the kitchen to stir the dinner, etc.  It is going to be less and less possible to do that with Sprout.  Thinking of this has made me grateful for the age gap between our kids–I’m not sure how parents manage when they have more than one kid who needs constant supervision.

Sprout has been grabbing for our food and staring intently at us as we eat for a while now, but we just started feeding her solids a week ago.  Part of the wait was because we wanted to be sure the crazy allergic reaction had settled down.  But part of  it was that we knew just how much work is involved in adding in solids–finding the time for an extra meal, the massive messes, etc.  I’m glad we finally started, though.  Sprout LOVES solids!  Our mellow baby is a fierce eater, and the sight of a baby spoon with some carrots on it gets the crazy open-mouthed smile.  I don’t know what percentage of the food is making it into her belly versus being smeared all over the place, but she’s certainly enjoying the experience.

Tadpole

It’s hard to believe that these are Tadpole’s last few weeks of preschool.  We’ll all be sad to leave the small friendly community that we’ve been a part of for the last three years.  Tad has recently been having more meltdowns than usual (including a half-hour long sobbing fit because we asked him to bring his water bottle in from the car), and I think he’s having lots of big feelings about this transition. This summer he’ll go to a few day camps (mostly at Roo’s work), and then he’ll start kindergarten in the fall!

He’s currently obsessed with sharks and other underwater animals.  We’ve let him order (used) books as his reward for getting a certain number of stickers during his morning routine, and he has chosen about five different shark books.  We read them over and over, and he stores up every bit of information.  He can tell you all about whale sharks versus thresher sharks versus mako sharks.  He knows about shark anatomy and feeding habits and habitats.  He has also taken to drawing underwater scenes with a variety of different creatures.  It’s interesting to watch our kid develop and to see how much of who he is seems to well up from deep inside him, rather than being the result of Roo’s or my influence.  Both Roo and I love to read fiction, and we often bring home some of our favorite kids’ stories from the library for Tad.  He has enjoyed some of our choices, but for most bedtimes he chooses to read more nonfiction, mostly about animals.  If I were reading these books on my own, I would find them horribly dull.  But it’s hard not to enjoy Tad’s excitement about learning new things.  And it is fun to have a shared store of knowledge.  I once mentioned that the cookie cutter shark (look it up) gave me the heebie-jeebies.  So now one of Tad’s favorite things to do is to whisper “cookie cutter shark” to me, or to pretend to be a cookie-cutter shark taking a round bite out of me.  It’s a fabulous game.

Tad is still crazy about his sister.  He comes running into her room as soon as he hears her wake up from a nap, and he has lots of silly nicknames for her.  He also often sticks his head in her lap so that she will pull his hair–and then complains loudly about the hair pulling.

Roo

I think Roo is very ready for the school year to be over.  She has had a good year in terms of interactions with her students, but a couple of her co-workers have been behaving really strangely.  I think she is excited (and a little nervous) about being home with Sprout all summer.

Me

I’ve been at my new job for almost three months now. It’s going well overall. I don’t have very many clients yet, which makes the days feel long, but I think things will pick up soon.  I’m doing good work (or will be doing good work when there’s more work to do!) and helping to support my family.

One thing that I haven’t been able to figure out is where I can fit in exercise in our new life.  At my old job, I worked 11am-8pm one day a week, which meant time to fit in a run after Roo took Tadpole to school that morning.  So I usually was able to go running once a week, go to the climbing gym in the evening every week or two, and maybe fit in a family walk on the weekends.  But my new job is 8-4 every day, and I’m responsible for taking Tadpole to school on my way to work.  The only way to fit in a run in the morning would be to get up at 5-something, which just feels like too much.  It’s hard to exercise in the evenings because I don’t want to waste the little bit of time that I have with the kids, and after their bedtimes it’s hard to find the energy to do more than clean up the kitchen, pack lunches, and maybe watch a little TV.  Weekends are hard because they tend to fill up with family activities (and I’m not good about setting aside time for me).  I’ve managed to go running on the weekends every two or three weeks, but I miss going weekly.  I have been making it to the climbing gym on a weeknight (leaving after dinner but before the kids’ bedtimes) about once every two or three weeks.  Maybe in the summer when it’s light out later I could go for an evening run?  Or I may be able to fit in a morning run during the summer when Roo is able to take Tadpole to camp.  I know that I feel much better both physically and emotionally when I’m going running every week, so I’m working on figuring out how to fit it in.

Logistically, having a second kid has made our lives much more complicated.  Coordinating two drop-offs and two pick-ups each school day can get a little hairy.  And adding one new family member has somehow resulted in about four times more dirty dishes and about seven times as much dirty laundry.  It has meant less sleep and less down time for Roo and me (because there’s almost always someone who needs our attention).

Despite all of this, I’ve found the transition to life with two kids has been less overwhelming than I’d thought it would be.  I think there are a variety of factors that are responsible for this.  Sprout’s mellow personality makes a huge difference (especially in contrast to Tadpole the “frisky fritter”).  One other big difference is that we’re not adjusting to life as parents.  For me, the jump from non-parent to parent-of-a-newborn was a huge transformation.  The jump from parent-of-preschooler to parent-of-preschooler-and-baby just isn’t the same kind of fundamental shift.  Even in terms of logistics, adding a new task to the system (packing two kid lunches instead of one, for example), involves an adjustment to the system, but not creating a new system altogether.  And some routines that we have already created (like taking turns sleeping in on weekend mornings) continue to be very helpful.  Also, the fact that we have done this before helps a lot.  There are many times a day when I remind myself that we somehow survived this particular developmental stage once, so it’s likely that we will again.  And we know more about who we are as parents–there’s lots of big-picture parenting philosophy stuff that we already have negotiated.

So that didn’t end up being so short after all–there’s a lot to catch up on when I don’t post very often.  Overall, we’re doing well.  Happy, exhausted, frazzled, excited.  We’ll see if I still feel this way in a few more months when Sprout becomes more mobile, and both kids are running in opposite directions, Sprout is trying to swallow the tint pieces of Tadpole’s toys that litter the floor, etc.!

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This is it

A few weeks ago we sent in the official notarized form asking Big Scary Fertility Center to destroy to remaining vials of sperm that we had stored there.  This is it.  We’re done with TTC.  It’s an incredible relief to not be in the midst of that struggle.  And I’m so grateful that we are walking away with the family size that we wanted. It didn’t happen the way we’d pictured or in the time-frame we had planned, and there are still scars there (especially for Roo).  But every day I feel grateful that we have Tadpole and Sprout, (even when they are both screaming at the tops of their lungs simultaneously as they were tonight!).

Of course, like lots of bloggers before me, finishing TTC means trying to figure out what the purpose of this blog is.  After some drama-filled months (pregnancy! job layoff! new baby! new job!), things have settled down quite a bit.  There are (knock on wood) no more big changes in our future.  So what do I blog about?  I enjoy writing about the little daily joys and struggles that fill our lives now. Writing about them helps me to be more present to them now, and I hope will help me have a record of this fleeting time for the future.  But I’m not sure how interesting those things are to anyone else.

I’m also not sure what tone to take.  I don’t know how many of my readers are still TTC or are trying to make peace with a smaller family than they wanted.  But I think a lot about any who might be.  Taking too celebratory a tone seems like gloating, like going on and on about the amazing vacation I’m having to the friend whose flight to the same destination was cancelled.  But complaining too much doesn’t seem fair either, given that I know we’re incredibly lucky to be where we are.  And yet, if I avoid both the fabulous things and the hard things about my life, what do I write about?

I’m also struggling with the logistics of finding time to blog.  Our family has settled into our new routines and figured out how to get all of us out the door in the mornings (mostly) on time.  Unfortunately, the secret seems to be doing a lot of tasks (packing lunches, showering, etc.) in the evenings rather than the mornings.  This means less free time in the evening, which means less time for blogging.

I’m still not sure where this blog will go from here.  I’ve found this space useful over the last two-plus years, both as a place to write about my thoughts and feelings and as a place to get feedback from others.  So I don’t think I’m ready to give it up.  I’ll try out some things in the next few weeks/months and see how it goes.  I’d also love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see here, or how you’ve navigated the transition to a post-TTC blog.

In the spirit of trying things out, and holding onto the small moments, here are a few recent favorites:

  • Snuggling with Sprout every night after I give her her dream feed before I go to bed.  Her whole body is so limp and trusting.  I love the feel of my cheek against her soft one, her soft breath against my neck.
  • Sitting at the dining room table with our little family after dinner a few days ago.  Tadpole “helped” me bounce Sprout on my lap, she looked down at him and giggled her funny squeaky giggle, which led to laughter all around.
  • Sprout and Roo working together last weekend to plant some flowers in the window boxes of his playhouse in our backyard.  He took the task so seriously and was so excited about every step of the process.
  • Sprout and Tadpole having long conversations in the back seat that consist entirely of blowing raspberries at each other.

This is our life now.  We’re tired, but so lucky.

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Filed under blogging, Parenthood, Sprout, Tadpole, TTC #2, Uncategorized

Not a fan

Things of which I am not a fan:

Working five days a week  On weekdays I only see Sprout for about an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.  She’s changing so fast that it feels like the kid I see each weekend is a totally different one than the weekend before.  She learned to roll from back to front while at daycare last week, and I didn’t see her do it until Saturday.  It’s hard to only have two days a week when we really get to hang out, and those days are full of chores, laundry, trips to the grocery store, etc.  I know that there are plenty of parents who have this schedule (or worse), but it’s still hard.

Power struggles with Tadpole in the mornings Tadpole was doing better at getting himself dressed in the mornings without a fuss, but lately things have gotten tough again.  Some mornings he crawls back into bed and pulls the covers over his head.  On other mornings it takes a threat to take away some important privilege before he puts on each item of clothing.  We had a reward chart, and that seemed to help for a while, but I think we need to adjust it somehow in order to get his attention again.

Things of which I am a fan:

Weekends  In my pre-kid life, weekends were a time to fit in as many fun activities as possible.  This past weekend we went to one event on Saturday and went to the grocery store on Sunday.  Other than that, the four of us hung out at home, and it was so nice.  There was time to catch up on some chores (I think Roo did 7 loads of laundry!), and also time to just be present to each other.

Sunny days and springtime Our little family spent a lot of Sunday afternoon outside in our yard, which was lovely.  With the cold and snowy/rainy winter that we’ve had, it feels like Sprout has hardly seen the sun!  But this weekend she got to roll around on a blanket in the grass.  And the rest of us did some work in the garden and set up our hammock.  Unlike last year, when Tad appropriated most of Roo’s tools and then did almost nothing useful with them, this time he actually did quite a bit of good weeding.

Our many-gendered boy On Saturday we went to a fairytale festival at the local library. There were a variety of costumes that kids could try on, and Tad went back to the costume booth multiple times and created a variety of outfits for his alter egos, “Princess Jack” and “an armored pirate fairy”.  At various points he had on a tutu, a knight’s hat, a purple princess dress, pirate face paint, armor, fairy wings, and a magic wand.

Familiar routines  It hasn’t taken as long as I thought it would to get back into some of our pre-Sprout routines.  I’ve made pancakes or waffles with Tad on several recent weekend mornings.  And we’re back to our old Sunday nights, which include me cooking a big dish for the week and weekly baths for the kids (yes, weekly).

Watching Tadpole and Sprout together Tad loves to be wherever Sprout is, and is constantly touching her, talking to her and making faces at her.  He is so full of affection for her that he often needs reminders to hug her more gently or to give her a little space.  One of his favorite things (and mine!) is when they have a bath together.  On Sunday night in the tub he gently poured water over her and sang her little made up songs.  And she just grinned and grinned and kicked her legs with joy as she looked up at him.   This is the kind of thing I dreamed about when we were TTC, and it’s magical to have a part of that dream come true.

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April 7, 2014 · 9:23 pm

one year

I’m working on a post about the ups and downs of breastfeeding, but haven’t had time to finish it.  Partly because of the time that I’m spending breastfeeding.

But I miss this space.  And it feels important to remember that a year ago this week we found out that I was pregnant.  Despite the exhaustion and the not-having-time-for-anything, I’m so grateful to be where I am now.  And grateful for all of you who have come along on the long journey to get here.

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