Paternity Leave

The truth is I fantasized about Joe’s leave for weeks beforehand. The more my knees buckled under pregnancy, the more I dreamed of the Prince Charming arriving by white chariot/stroller. Was there any situation that wouldn’t be readily fixed by the addition of two handsome hands? I doubted it. All I had to do was have the baby, and paradise would arrive.

In the very last weeks before the baby came, I found myself deeply done with my current children. I’m not sure if that’s part of the rapid hormonal heart-shuffle before a new baby arrives but the way room in my heart was made for a new child was this: I became very satisfied with the extent that I had raised my current children, and I was ready to pass them on to better hands. Anyone’s hands, really, so long as they were open. Had a boarding school for preK called at that point, I probably would have sent them. “They love carrots,” I would have scribbled on the submission form as I cheerfully waved goodbye for a month, or six.

After Alma was born, of course, my true feelings re-appeared and I was overwhelmed with pride at how amazing and incredible they two were. Was it too much to say they were the best humans to ever exist? my addled brain wondered. No, it was not.

In a bizarre, nearly other-worldly, turn of events, Joe was able to take eight weeks of paternity leave from his job after Alma was born. It was the longest amount of time Joan and Lux had ever had with him in their lives. It happened as a result of Alma’s birth, but really it was a way for us to parent in a way we hadn’t before, and a window of time to regain our balance after the disruption of a new baby.

It absolutely flew by for all of us.

As I look back over it, a few thoughts occur to me about what we learned/loved/lost…

learned: stop the interrupting starfish

Have you heard the joke about the interrupting starfish? Ideally no, because the gist of the joke of is being interrupted. It’s a hardy-har-har refresher on how annoying that is. On paternity leave Joe and I realized we were raising a fledgling stock of interrupting starfish, and frequently we weren’t even bothering to correct them. We would look at each other over their heads, one of us biting our lip mid-story, and shrug. Most of our weekly conversation seemed to happen over dinner, at which point I was too tired to deliberately pause the interrupters, and anyway, my ear seemed more tuned to their pleas than Joe’s voice.

On his leave, because we were together so much more and noticed that the interrupting had become a serious and troubling habit, we got our game back. “Dad is telling me a story.” “Shhh I’m listening to Dad.” “Dad was talking.”

They still interrupt, but now they’re accustomed to us stopping them immediately, and there’s no eyes-wide-brimming-with-insulted-tears. Just finished conversations.

learned: the home office doesn’t work

Oh the home office. Long have I fantasized about the perfect life, with Joe somehow working at home, and interacting with the girls all day. It seemed so plausible and perfect. Then Joe actually did try to work at home and it drove us both crazy. I really couldn’t stand the sight of him typing away at the computer, headphones in place, as noisy chaos built around me. “Go ahead darling, get some work done.” Five minutes later…”Hello?! I could use some help here!”

And it made no sense to the girls. They couldn’t tell when he was working, and when he was open to being recruited for a game or going outside.

We quickly realized it was far better for him to be out of the space for a couple hours. And me handling the situation myself, chaotic as it was. I stopped day dreaming about home offices, and started appreciating all he got done while he was away. Then he came home, and I got to take a break.

loved: it’s just as blissful to coparent as you’ve imagined 

That said, when Joe was home with me, not trying to work, but home with me for more than just a weekend, it was wonderful. It felt like we had kids and we were dating again. We took shifts with the girls. They did adventures outdoors. I napped with Alma. We made lunch together. I said things like “I can’t help with that because I have no free hands, but Dad can!” We lounged over our coffee cups. We did errands with just one or two children at our heels. We got deep into conversations and cheerfully shushed the girls when they tried to stomp in. Yes, it was bliss.

loved: kids, they’re fun

What Joe experienced can be summed up as: kids, they’re fun. Joe got to experience the humor and joy of discussing the exact same topic from different perspectives for five days in a row. He got to catch spiders and bring them outside. Go for a walk and stomp on snow piles. Go to a museum, then go to a candy store on the way back. He got to memorize constellations and read good books aloud. The girls become less mysterious: he understood what they meant when they used their strange monosyllabic giggle language. He understood why they had an unexpected meltdown at 5pm, because he saw them sprinting back-and-forth at 11am, and having vehement disagreements at 2pm.

They become less stressful: they all three got to wake up late, leave late, and stay late because they were having fun, and none of that mattered because no one was trying to get anywhere anyway.

lost: and yet, even with all that help many things still went wrong… 

There were some nights when I become convinced that Lux and Joan had eaten nothing but candy and cookies for the last week. I tried to recall the last green thing they had eaten, and failed. Lux went to ballet class without her hair in a bun and she was the only lonely kid whose parents forgot it was Parent Watch week. I missed my six week postpartum check-up. I told my pediatrician I ordered a Vitamin D supplement for Alma and that was a lie. I still haven’t ordered it. Even though we were both on-duty all day, we often collapsed on the couch after bedtime just the same. The capitalist in me frowned at the fact that with twice the labor working at the same job, we ended up with double the exhaustion. “Bedtime” actually just means they are in their room with the door closed–still chatting, still playing, not tucked in whatsoever.

 

 

What to Pack for the Baby

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This is just a silly easy post to write! But it’s still useful to keep a list around.

What we packed for Alma for her six-week-old vacation: 

a sun hat (mostly useless, poolside umbrellas were a must)

a swim diaper (ended up keeping her out of the sun/water altogether)

two blankets (one warm, one light)

diapers (forgot wipes and bought them there instead)

single-use packets of formula, a bottle, two pacifiers

a warm sweater

two carriers, one nice, one form (see below for detail)

a scarf to drape for nursing privacy or block the sun or for warmth

fun summery clothing inherited from her sisters!

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I like to use a form carrier, like the becco or ergo, in airports. You can leave it on through security and my girls often napped in it right up until we sat down on the plane. They ask you to take it off before takeoff.

And I like to use a sakura bloom silk sling, especially in restaurants or going to events, or generally when I’m not trying to lift children/grocery bags/walk long distances.

Alma’s hotel sleep style:infant_vacation

Mostly she slept like this on our bed because I found the condo crib too deep to be useful–all that bending over and reaching! She is the first baby of mine who likes swaddles, this is my make-shift way of swaddling her. A week after taking this photo, I realized I could simply tie the aden + anais blanket and skip the binder clip altogether. At a second hotel I didn’t even ask for a crib, and used a couch cushion as her bed.

Flying with Alma, I remembered how delightful it is to fly with a baby that age, compared to say, a nine month old. They just curl up, nurse, and keep you company. Of course I had my corner seat to nurse in, with Joe and Joan as my bolsters (Lux was across the aisle, with strangers). I have nursed from a middle seat, with strangers on both sides, it is doable but it’s awfully nice to have a row with your people, if available.infant_vacation

No matter what seat you are in, bring one of those airline pillows that don’t actually do anything for adults; the ones you can buy in any airport gift shop. They work so well for infants. It is my favorite thing to rest her head on that instead of my balanced elbow or propped arm.

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Do you have a favorite lullaby to sing? Would you tell me its name, if so? I’d like to build my collection, write them all down on a post-it note and stick it over the couch. Quote more poetry. Hum more tunes. Alma May, born December 29th at 11:30pm deserves the very best.

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quotes from a few online essays I loved lately…

“My mom is nothing but love and comfort and happiness to me, and she found even the smallest ways to make us girls feel loved: turning down our covers at night, always playing music, or popping our towels in the dryer to warm them up minutes before our baths were over. Those are the kind of simple, happy memories I want my own kids to have of home.”

-Amelia’s interview on DesignMom

A few years ago, before we decided to start a family, I once feared that when a baby entered our lives I would somehow forget everything I learned about cooking because all my energy would be used to keep a tiny human alive and breathing. I’m happy to report this is not the case. In fact, I’ve discovered the opposite to be true. I’ve remembered how to cook, relying on the muscle memory of peeling and chopping and seasoning and putting meals together, gravitating to tried and true staples rather than trying new dishes with questionable outcomes.”

-Remembering How to Cookby Nicole Gulotta

“Make coffee/drink coffee, inhale/exhale, walk outside/feel your feet on the earth, open the book/read the pages, get off the internet/be present in your home.”

-Jodi, Happy New Day, Practicing Simplicity 

“So 2015. You seem like a year of sunlight extended hours and while I know the tan is worth it, you aged me with your lines of wisdom and your creases of grace. I look in the mirror and see so many things staring back. But mostly, a woman who is changing, a family that is growing, and a savior that is gracious indeed. ”

-Mary Beth, Wishing You Good Cheer, Rosemary Wild

 

 

lie low, sweet chariot

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There’s a handy chart that appears in many of the age-defining slim volumes written by Louisa Ames Bates, a psychologist and parent-help-yourself-er. (“Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender” “Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful” “Your Five Year Old: Sunny and Serene”)

It looks like this:

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A rather serpentine creature, this curvature of behavior fortune-telling has been on my mind lately as I watch both girls simultaneously hitting their half-birthday this month become something wildly infuriating and unpredictable, just every now and again. On a Tuesday evening, but not on a Thursday. A terrible Friday morning, but a wonderful Saturday afternoon.

I think all parents stop fearing that seemingly unpredictable creature: the public tantrum, once they consistently identifies its wingmen. Fatigue, malnutrition, overindulgence. They’re not really that unpredictable; thus the resigned look you may spot on a mother’s face at the grocery store. She probably knew going in that this would happen, but she weighed her odds and pressed on.

But instead there’s another unpredictable, one that is firmly tied-up in development, where you truly feel that the child you have this week is a different child than the one you had last week.

As an old myers-brigg junkie I can tell you that Joan is a feeler. Perhaps safe to say a sensory feeler. She processes everything she encounters by how it feels to her. We went to The Good Dinosaur over Thanksgiving. She must have burst into tears five or six different times. Almost every time I was mystified by what had upset her. “That boy wasn’t being nice,” she sobbed into my hair. “He misses, <sob> his family <sob>,” after the main character had said the same and sighed in a somewhat-downhearted manner. Not just reactions, but nearly instantaneous responses to what the characters portrayed on screen.

I honestly think her suppressed-weep outbursts may have improved the movie going experience for our fellow audience members, adding drama and depth to many moments they otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.

It’s not only the talking pictures though. I have looked over, mid-book to find her quietly weeping, like after the Wild Things asked Max not to go—so famously: “Please don’t go. We’ll eat you up, we love you so.” I emphasized to her, “Max is going back to his mom! For dinner!” which soothed her not at all. She reads the illustrated character faces like paragraph descriptions, catching the slightest odd or sad expression and drawing them out. If a character looks hurt, particularly if an animal character looks hurt or slightly frustrated, the alarm bells begin to ring.

Lux still remembers when I laughed so hard that I cried at the dinner table, because Joan was retelling an extremely not-sad-scene where Pooh had hurt feelings. She couldn’t get through the retelling because she would tear up and begin snuffling, mid-sentence. It was a nearly endless loop sequence of “He said that <sob>, he said that he didn’t like it <sob>” that went on for several minutes as I tried to nod sympathetically. I failed.

But this is the real live person, the actual psychological foundation developing of a side of her that I’ve been enjoying for most of her life, albeit in a more endearing infantile way–her sweet, tender, feeling nature. The one that makes her enjoy cuddling or big sweeping impromptu hugs. The one that prompts her to say “I love you all day and all night mama. I need you forever.”

And being aware of my more practical, um I’ll avoid the word “cold”, personality for awhile (ENTJ) it’s very helpful for me to know how different I am. To know how bizarrely cool and detached she might find my approach to the same stories, if she could put words to it. Of course she will eventually put words to it. I understand emotions but I’m not overcome by them. They don’t sweep me off my feet. In particular, sympathy, or the attempt of people to garner sympathy for themselves or their story, is always greeted at my mental door with a firm handshake of pragmatism.

I hope by the time she can put words to it, I’ve figured out how to convey how much I respect her approach (definitely not by collapsing into laughter at the dinner table–working on that!). And how lucky I feel to learn what I can from her rich, reactionary, arms wide open style along the way.

Third pregnancy is

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Third pregnancy, first trimester is: I wake up feeling nauseous and it stays with me. I’m feeling so tired and overwhelmed by the girls. I feel like Lux must be bored with me all day, and has nothing to look forward to every day. I hate making food. The smells in the kitchen gross me out. The trash and the fridge both smell awful from a distance. I feel so tired at night that I’m sad. I’m so tired that I feel darkly about how the day has gone. Joan wakes up so grouchy that it immediately discourages me when I encounter her. I feel surrounded by women who are making things and creating; and I’m just making a baby. And feeling sick the whole time of it. And that’s how the sentence rings in my head: just making a baby.

but then, finally, second trimester:

Third pregnancy is your midwife telling you to just skip the next appointment.

is feeling a little dismal about the lack of attention you’ve given your body in between babies. Like it’s the closet that didn’t get sprucing last spring. Like it’s the shoes that are cracking when you really need them. They’re still yours, but you think maybe you could have treated them better.

is your friends who “are done” joyfully trying to give you everything and anything baby-themed in their homes.

is not thinking about being pregnant once all day, and then thrilling at a tiny kick.

is being happier about how your oldest reacts to the news than anyone or anything else.

is knowing more women who are fighting infertility than you’ve ever known. Feeling like the one with a sandwich in a room of hunger. Wishing you could share. Wishing you could fix it. Wishing pregnancy was infectious via hugs.

is wondering how soon I should ask our beloved sitter how she feels about three.

is grinning when you get an email from your doula because it’s the only thing you’ve done for this one of your kids in weeks.

is your four-year-old, at a dinner party, loudly whispering “your belly looks really big” at 16 weeks.

Third pregnancy is laughing at how clueless you feel about how much your life will change soon. And how it doesn’t matter.

photo by Lux
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exposure

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I was so astounded by Sally Mann’s essay in the newspaper on Sunday. It seemed to touch on everything important–family, art, modernity, privacy. I loved that it arced back to when she published a book of family photographs in 1992, and then detailed forward to now, revealing so much about her experience. The act of publishing intimate details of one’s family life is dramatically more common now than it was then. But we’re all still wondering whether it’s a good idea, and if not, why?

Much of her experience circles around the simple fact of her children being naked and her photographing them that way. It beamed across the pages to me, as these days I am hard pressed to get the girls to put on more than underwear. I struggle to take photos of them that aren’t too revealing, and it feels over-censored to me, much of the time.

It was about presenting art and love to the world and getting a very mixed response.

And it was so beautifully written. I’m still thinking her writing about photographing her husband:

To be able to take my pictures, I have to look, all the time, at the people and places I care about. And I must do so with both ardor and cool appraisal, with the passions of the eye and the heart, but in that ardent heart there must also be a splinter of ice.

And so it was with fire and ice that Larry and I made these pictures: exploring what it means to grow older, to let sunshine fall voluptuously on a still-pleasing form, to spend quiet winter afternoons together. The studio’s wood stove was insufficient but he had two fingers of bourbon to warm him. No phone, no kids, NPR turned low, the smell of chemicals, the two of us still in love, still at the work of making pictures that we hope will matter.

I’m going to watch this old Art21 documentary (free, streaming online) with Joe tonight and request her new memoir coming out in May.

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self directed

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Greetings from the planet In Transition. At last I’ve sketched out a map for this murky land, after all we seem to find ourselves here every six months. First comes palpable and nearly omnipresent frustration from your scholar. What worked in the past does not work for them any more, what they used to say yes to, they say no to, how easy they used to be pleased, and now for awhile, they are not pleased at all.

Then comes the actual change: maybe the physical dexterity, maybe the abilities that seem to arrive out of nowhere. Joan had been fighting her diaper for weeks, constantly taking it off, crying when I put it on. I began to dread anytime I had to change her diaper. Finally I pulled out the kid’s potty and started giving her jelly beans if she went pee on it. The allure of the treat and the physical ability fell into place like Mars sighting from the moon. Now I see she’s on some sort of self-directed potty training tract. Simultaneously, she learned to climb out her crib. “I practiced her and showed her how,” was what Lux told me. If I return to the room after putting Joan down for a nap, I find her wandering around instead of sleeping, quietly rearranging toys. The girls have been staying up until 10pm with this new thrill, giggling in each other’s beds, sneaking over to each other whenever we leave the room for more than five minutes. They both use the kid’s potty we keep in their room, trooping out to proudly tell us when they’ve used it. Joe’s and my uninterrupted evenings together seem distant and forgotten.

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And then, after the child has finally settled into their new state and acts as if days have always been such as this and they’re both sleeping and smiling again, then comes your exhaustion. A fresh wave hits right after you’ve bravely mastered the storm, after you’ve wisely let everything fly out the window, let all your habit doors bang open, the bits where you held on and simply tried to steer forward….and now: you’re tired.  But it’s over. And though your normal appears from the fog a bit more slowly than theirs, it will return again soon.

Fix-It

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I received an email titled “Our Fix-It Diaries” and thought: YES. Because it’s been the theme for the past few weeks. First, shoes to the cobbler to sew up and clean up. I don’t know how I manage it but I always pick the most pessimistic cobblers. “This is just a do-our-best and see what comes of it job.” “No, I wouldn’t count on that one coming out matching.” “I’ll fix it but it won’t last forever.” 

I recommend not calling a cobbler if you need a new campaign statement any time soon. Sweaters in otherwise good shape except for tiny holes that threaten to widen. I tried to leave a sweater to get a little hole stitched up at the dry cleaners and she told me I should just do it myself. I wanted to say but didn’t say, “Would you tell a male customer to do that?” Was there something about the way that both girls were clinging to my ankles that made me look at loose ends for something to do with my hands? Sigh.

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Packing away things. Pulling old friendly things out. Remembering how lovely it is to wear a warm sweater with jeans and no coat. The coat stage is coming, but the-just-sweater stage always reminds me of how you actually see sweaters advertised. You get to be warm and not look all buttoned-in. Whistling to myself the passing wish that I had a brand new winter coat and a brand new winter hat. What do we think is the best winter hat trend this year? I would say: mono-color with furry pompom on top. Yup. Forgive me if I’m officially 12 months behind trends. It takes me awhile to warm up to them. haha.

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There was a lull in the land where I forgot what I wanted to do during nap time besides stay utterly and absolutely silent. It’s ironic that I can’t find the words to describe how much chatter fills my day except to say that sometimes people stand near me for  minute or two at a street corners, waiting for the light to change, and then turn to me and ask, “is it always like this?” Yes sir, it is always like this.

I just sat here for three minutes trying to come up with a way to describe Lux’s vocal companionship right now… The image that comes to mind is this tank at the aquarium filled with sting rays that we visited last week. The sting rays have had their stinging-rays trimmed (“Just like your fingernails,” the guide crowed to us), and so denuded, circle the tank like a rapidly flowing tributary of soggy pancakes, bobbing up every ten seconds or so, to brush against your hand. If you move your hand too much they sense the vibration and slink off course ever-so-slightly, and then eagerly swim on, only to circle back a minute later. That’s the best visual my weak brain can muster of my three year old’s conversation in my life right now.

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So besides absolute silence for one hour which falls upon my ears like a soft flannelly manna from heaven–I had a breakthrough yesterday which was: bars of chocolate. I think I forgot about them all summer. And now: they are back! In all their faintly caffeinated glory.

Photos from picking zinnias and finding pumpkins at Parlee Farms two weeks ago. It was raining; it was glorious. Thank goodness for things like child-backpacks. I’m not exaggerating when I say this situation would have been a disaster if Joan had been wandering on her own in the mud. If you go, stop at Dream Diner on your way home.

Two girls to a room

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I get a kick out of the girls sharing a room. We moved Joan into Lux’s room when she was 8 months old, I wrote a little bit about that here. Even when they are keeping each other up at night, even when one of them wakes the other up pre-maturely in the morning. Sometimes the night ends with both of them grousing in their beds, egging each other on, louder and louder. I like it. Remember in grade school, what was the great uniting power ? A common enemy. Nothing to build sisterhood among two humans of disparate age and interest like grousing about the same thing.

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There’s power waiting to be taken in having a small space. Anyone can do it. You begin to take joy in every bag of things you decide to give away or throw away. The good stuff shines through. The girls have a small cabinet of additional toys, but their chief choice items, the ones they point at and ask for, are on this shelf. Having this stuff be out of their reach is as un-Montessori as you can get. Maria would shiver at the sight. I wish it wasn’t the case, but I also find that the act of requesting something causes them to value it a little bit more.

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Note above my system for the girls’ clothes, on the top shelves. It’s one tub to every six months, with an extra tub for shoes and winter gear. Be sure to label them, and give yourself a month or two after they grow out of things before you pack them away. The time helps you truly evaluate the stuff and what kind of shape it is in.

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Of the things on the wall, the maps get the most attention. Though when Lux was younger, she adored that Rifle Paper Co. alphabet poster (I just checked to see if it is still available, it’s not, but my goodness does Anna Bond have some good ones these days!). My older brother, who works in South Sudan, visited recently and pointed out that we need a map of Africa. He’s right! Both of our current maps came from Joe hounding etsy for vintage school room maps (they are not cheap. they are so worth it.) The New Yorker cover is a recent resurrection of a Saul Steinberg drawing combining several of Lux’s favorite things: skeletons, ballerinas, and mice. We are happy to change things out as the girls have new interests. Joe often places nice wrapping paper behind a print as an easy and cheap mat job, and we frequently use Ikea frames.

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I’m happy to have these photos to document this tiny phase in my family’s life! I’m sure the place will transform in the next year, perhaps even in the next six months. The room I shared with my sister as a kid is so etched into my visual memory, I treasure those images. I want to remember Lux looking out her window for the moon each night, I want to remember finding Joan with a pile of toys in her crib in the morning, donated by her benevolent sister, I want to remember Lux telling me that bunny lives in Mexico and her hunting for all the “x” letters on the map, I want to remember their matching cribs and orange-striped sheets and how content they were with them.

 

How it’s going with the help

An update on how it’s going, since I began hiring a babysitter for three hours a week. It sounds so minor as I type that. Seriously, three. hours. But as you might have read, it was a process to even get there. I found (using a one month subscription to sitter city), hired, and had a great girl for about six weeks, and then she had to quit for another job with more hours. As one often does. However she found a replacement for herself, one who is just as sweet natured and kind and they transitioned so smoothly that we barely hiccuped. Both of them are former music majors, devoted musicians, and they have the sweetest spirits.

After I remind Lux on Tuesday mornings about what’s coming up, she looks forward to the afternoon with the babysitter and is always pleased when she arrives. Joan is never pleased but supposedly she does not cry for longer than five minutes, though she absolutely screams when I leave. That would have ended the whole deal with the first child, but with the second there is a sense that all with be well. Plus there is that glow of reminisce and affection with which the three of us greet each other when I return.

Very quickly I realized it was just as some of you predicted to me: the babysitter formed her own relationship with the girls. Certainly she is polite to me, but it’s clear she is here to see the girls. I am the facilitator of the relationship, but part of it is about me not being there. And that’s nice.

It did take me a few times to learn that I should not do morning trips with the girls on the day that we have the sitter. A couple of times we arrived home at the same time the sitter arrived. You can imagine—frazzled mom dashes out the door to get her hours, goodbye to abruptly-abandoned children just taking off their shoes. Not good. Far better to have a relaxed morning at home, and then Joan still deep in her nap when Hannah arrives, and Lux coming out of quiet time to have one-on-one attention with this young lady.

The babysitters have proved to me that they can totally handle getting the girls outside for trips to the park (this, even when our elevator was broken for all of August and we live on the 5th floor). And this, even despite the fact that I didn’t thoroughly brief her on the stroller’s peculiar buttons and it collapsed on her when she was simply trying to extend the handlebar. Nice one, Rachael.

And for me! It’s been really, really nice. I have a ban on doing errands during that time. I go straight to a little private library up the street from us (the athenaeum for you locals, the best annual membership you’ll ever do) which has one floor of dead silence and big sunny windows. Actually, I first go directly to a coffee shop and order something, anything really, to boot up my writing spirits, and then I go to the library. I tip-tap furiously in the silent room for two hours (given walking time back and forth, it’s about that) and then head home. I arrive at 5pm, having hopefully prepped dinner in some way earlier in the day, and settle on the floor with the girls, relaxed and reminded how cuddly and curious they are. The day is almost over and we can enjoy the fact that Joe is to arrive in just an hour and half or so.

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I also experimented with early morning care this summer. I signed Lux up for two weeks of “summer camp” which began at 8:30am and let out around noon. It was not that relaxing. Getting her dressed and out the door was such a stress on my morning. Joan still took a morning nap at that point, so I did get two uninterrupted hours, in addition to quiet time later that day. But, as those of you who do this regularly know, they are still on your mind that entire time (I mean, obviously right? Should have seen that coming). Did I put enough sunscreen on? Did she get enough sleep last night? Were those shoes comfortable? Did that girl next to her have a hacking cough? And on and on. One time I called in to say Lux wasn’t up to coming in that day and was asked “Oh does she have hand foot and mouth?” Um no, is that going around? “Yes.” Oh great.

Then I would get her home, and she’s worn out from all the socialization, the going-with-the-flowing that one does when traveling in groups, and she was totally tuckered. Again, another obvious thing, but not something I had factored into the rest of our day. It was like she just got home from work and didn’t know how to decompress. Out of nowhere she would say stuff like “I don’t like her” about Joan, something she had never said in her life. Or like, start kicking her. I felt out of control with the forces that were influencing her. I was also surprised to find that the things she was doing at school were the same as at home: play with toys and books, have a snack, play outside, have lunch, make a craft, get glitter glue everywhere. It’s not rocket science after all. I guess I was caught off guard by that realization but I was also buoyed by it: we do those things too! This is a regular preschool right here, albeit a disorganized and unreliable one that is fresh out of unbroken crayons.

MY GOODNESS I am not typing all this out to make those of you who have something that is working for you begin to doubt it. Please NO. Just a follow up to that drama and a reflection for myself, the grass is greener over at that preschool, they are still the loves of your life and worm their way into every spare tunnel in your head no matter where they are physically, and so on.

To sum: working with a limited budget, I learned that having a sitter who could come to my house and play with both girls and develop a relationship with them together, and come over even when they were sick, is the best fit for my situation. And I learned that three hours a week, though tiny, has a quite an effect.

to commenters: I apologize that comments were broken for a couple weeks! I did SEE your comments, but they did not appear here. All is well again and we are back up and running with Disqus. Thanks for your patience.