Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Preschool Visit Number 1

Last Saturday I attended an open house for the preschool down the road from here as a possibility for F in the fall.

While I was there, I didn't like it.

On the way home, I really didn't like it.

The more I think about it, the more I really, really don't like it and there's no way that she will be attending.

First of all, my daughter is very quick. She's adorable and precocious and she learns everything very quickly and with little effort. I'm sure that at some point she will hit a rough patch with some subject that is a challenge, but right now, it's all go. I have little doubt that she will know how to read a year from now, and it isn't because I'm pushing her. She begs to learn.

And normally, she's quite social as well.

Something about the preschool classroom, though, made her uncomfortable. It wasn't that she wasn't interested -- she was fascinated -- but it was almost like it was too much for her to take in at one. So many things on the walls, so many activities to choose from, so many toys, so many...so many....

It would have been great if one of the several teachers came over, got down at her level and engaged with her. She was shy. She was hiding behind my legs and squeezing my fingers so tight there was a circulation issue, but she was smiling.

Instead, all the attention went to the bright, adorable little girl who jumped right in the midst of it, sitting in the laps of her prospective teachers and making silly faces at her father from across the room.

It was understandable that this other little girl got lots of attention -- she deserved it! But so did F.

Also, F already knows, at the age of 2 1/2, everything they are teaching these 3 & 4 year olds.

  • They learn a letter a week; she knows all her letters, upper and lower case.
  • They practice shapes and colors; she's known those since she could talk, which was early.
  • They learn how to wash hands and be polite, she already (mostly) does those things on her own, and is ever now learning to say "excuse me" if she needs to interrupt.

None of these things are bad, of course, and I'm sure she would have a blast just playing with these other kids in their igloo made of empty milk jugs and child-sized hair salon. The toys were awesome! But why should I pay money for her to spend many hours a week at a place that is going to be well below her level?

There were other issues too which I won't discuss here, But when I came home, my helper Miss Julie, was less than surprised.

In fact, she may have said "I told you so."

I still plan to visit the public preschool to see if it is any more exciting, but I'm not optimistic. I continue to go back and forth about whether to send her off to school.

I'm beginning to wonder though, if I should stop worrying about whether I should homeschool F. Maybe I already am homeschooling her and I just need to embrace it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Well, it's that time of year again. Resolution time.

Last year I had some pretty serious resolutions. First, I was going to give couponing a try. After spending Christmas break watching a few episodes of Extreme Couponing, I just couldn't resist. Here I am a year later and I must say, it's pretty neat.

Not only did I stick with it, but I think I've actually been fairly successful. On a normal shopping trip (granted, my shopping trips are very much longer than they used to be) I can expect to save about 1/3 of what I would otherwise spend. I am aware of a couple of lingering issues that someone with a more Type A personality would probably have figure out by now, such as how to remember what the lowest expected price is likely to be on a given item (sure, it's a good price, but is it the BEST price?) and when should I ignore the sales and go full-on generic. With practice I can identify the best price of milk, different breads and a handful of produce items, but here in the modern world there are way to many grocery choices to keep all in my head. Similarly, I've experimented with a few generics and drawn conclusions, but I can count them on two fingers.

Alka-Selzer can be bought store-brand for less than half the price, with no obvious quality issues (and is an excellent treatment for alcoholic overindulgence). Also, cold cereal is better generic (although it's tough to find generic organics).

I keep waiting for a smart-phone app that will help with this kind of tracking but I've yet to find one that is as simple as I imagine it should be (is that how I will make my first million?!).

My other resolution was more complex. Between the in-home office with employees coming and going, my part-part-time job, two babies, a large house in need of cleaning and upkeep, a decidedly UNhandy husband and the possibility of moving to Texas in the next couple years, my life is pretty complicated, logistically. My second resolution was to streamline as much as possible and become more self reliant as a household. Organize, routinize and simplify was my mantra.

Honestly, I'm not sure how far I've come on that one. Part of the problem was that my goal was for the household, but I was the only one working toward it. It well nigh impossible to organize, routinize and simplify other people, and in most cases, it is quixotic to set goals on behalf of someone else. On the one hand, I don't feel any less dependent on other people (hired people, that is) than I did previously, but on the other hand I have a deeper understanding of how the conflicting dynamics of my life work together and occasionally clash.

Can that be counted as a success? Probably not, but I did manage to clean out two closets, so there.

So. Onward and upward, eh?

This year's resolution is incredibly boring, so brace yourself. I want to be a better housekeeper. I want a clean-ish house that I have done myself.

P will likely hate this resolution. He thinks that it is a waste of my time to clean and he would much prefer I just hire someone to come do it, freeing up my time to do more work for our family business, take the kids to the park, or lie on the couch eating bon-bons.

Seriously, that man would be delighted to see me eat bon-bons. I'm blessed, what can I say?

As penny-pincher supreme, I can't let myself do that. (Plus, I have a nagging voice inside saying self reliance, Self Reliance, SELF RELIANCE!!!).

In 2012 I tried subscribing to Fly Lady's house cleaning system but it made me absolutely nutty and I had to quit. In my short time as a mini-fly-lady, though, I learned some valuable tricks:

1. If you notice something that can be done in less than 30 seconds, do it RIGHT NOW. No excuses. No regrets. Yolo?

2.  Be on a schedule. This makes it less important for major tasks to get completely finished. Obviously, the goal is to finish tasks completely, but perfectionism is not a good thing and it is better to chip away at a problem than to put it off until the end of time because you can't finish it in one sitting. If you can't finish it this week, no big, this time next week you'll be able to pick it right back up again.

Here's my schedule. I've divided the house into 6 sections, leaving one day a week open for things that got missed or other big projects.

Sunday: Laundry Room, Hallway, Stairs. Take out the trash.
Monday: Dining Room, Drycleaning.
Tuesday: Spare Rooms, Spare Bathroom, Office Hallway and Mudroom.
Wednesday: Wash Stone Floors.
Thursday: Nursery, Nursery Bathroom, Drycleaning.
Friday: Catch Up, Big Projects.
Saturday: Master Bedroom and Bathroom.

So far, I've had this system in place for about a month and it's going ok. I'm optimistic.

Will 2013 be the Year of the Clean House?

Only time with tell.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You're Singing It Wrong.

With the visit of my mom and sister last week, the usually female dominated household that P and Ulrich von Dog must tolerate became even more so. We did lots of hanging around, wedding planning (WOOT LITTLE SISTER!!), baby snuggling and nail painting. Seriously, that's pretty much all we did, other than cook, clean and do laundry.

Very liberated, my binder of women.

And it was great.

One of the rare outings ventured was a trip to our adorable local cinema (two screens, home made cookie and hot tea refreshments) to view Les Miserables.

Ever since I emerged from that hushed cinema with the vestiges of Anne Hathaway's performance lingering in my mind like the mascara that tears smudged down my face...I can't get it of my head.

That was last week, and still it's there. Why does it linger? Is it my inner tragic revolutionary? Is it my irrational fears of not providing adequately for my children and being left alone with nowhere to go? And haircuts?

Is it my habit of belting out my emotions in song, while the world provides a seamless chorus? Probably.

Whatever the reason, a fly on the wall in my house today would have seen the following scene:

Me: barefoot, pants cuffed, up the the elbows in rubber gloves and toilet cleaner, trying to ignore the complaining infant in the playpen who is living up to her own "LES MISERABLES" by teething painfully.

Toddler: blond hair half fallen out of a french braid her older sister attempted, following me with her own scrub brush "helping" me clean, narrowly avoiding the ingestion of said toilet cleaner.


*The streets are supposed to be full of strangers, not the trees. Trees full of strangers would be alarming indeed.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Last week around this time I was waiting anxiously sitting around the house waiting for P to come home with a car full of my Mom and sister. Dinner was all cooked (tamale pie, etc) and the babies were fed and clean. We were just...waiting.

Bored, I turned on the Food Channel.

Over the course of the next hour I watched, among other things, my first ever episode of Paula Deen.

My impression?


The only reason I kept watching it was that I was fascinated by how little content there actually was in the shows.

Paula Deen, I guess because of her diabetes situation, claimed to be cooking healthy food. Of the three dishes she served, one was one was loaded with hidden sugar, one was loaded with fat and sugar and one was a plate of carbs.

At one point, she held up a slice of rich banana bread slathered with cream cheese, sliced bananas and topped with honey, and said "Now, wouldn't you feel good about giving this as a snack to your children, with all that fresh banana in it?"

The answer, Mrs. Deen, is yes, I would give that as a snack. But not because it is anything close to healthy. I would give it because it is delicious and my kids deserve a treat every once in a while.

If I want to give them fresh bananas I give them fresh bananas.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

She's Not a Bully, She's Just...

She's just...an enthusiastic defender of private property. She defends her private property from you, and she defends your private property from you, too. Specific ownership is not a distinction that she acknowledges.

I assume this enthusiasm with fade with time, and if it doesn't, I'm she'll grow into quite an asset to Team IRS.

On the one hand, yes, there may have been a stroller incident recently that took us all by surprise, but really she didn't intend to hurt the kid. She was just wrestling the stroller out of his grasp and his head happened to be in the way. No harm, no...oh wait.

Some harm, some foul?

And on the other hand, I have some darling photos of baby K virtually buried under the piles of toy offerings F left around her in the baby swing. Just today, when F spotted the baby nomming on a corner of a precious Pooh stuffed animal, she gently removed it from K's tiny hand and said to me "She doesn't want to play with this. She wants to play with that ball." Dutifully, F presented the ball to her baby sister, who didn't even notice the swap.

Obviously, both of these situations must change: F has to learn to share and be gentle, and K will start to NOTICE and CARE when her toys are moved around (at which point I suppose the whole process starts again).

In the mean time, I think F needs some new friends. Bigger ones.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Self Knowledge

F and I had a particularly difficult play session today at a new friend's house. It was a very small house with a very large number of children under the age of 2, accompanied by their mothers.

I should have known the lookout wasn't good when she got no nap, but in a habit born of necessity, I just kept on track with our plans for a day out.

At just 2 1/2 years old, F is struggling with some serious demons known to the rest of the world as "sharing," "care," and "gentleness". These three are not her friends, and she makes that quite plain. She is also the oldest in the group (and baby K is the youngest).

By the end of our visit, the tally was high:
  • 1 newly walking little boy had been hit over the head with a toy baby stroller, 
  • 1 crawler had been run over with said stroller, 
  • 2 eardrum-splitting tantrums had our attention and 
  • the baby hostess (in this case a *tiny* 15month old) had been shoved into a wall after territory dispute regarding a chalkboard).
We were only there for an hour and fifteen minutes.

(Side Question: Does anyone have advice on how to teach a child how to peacefully interact with other, particularly younger, children while also keeping up with a 6 1/2 month old? I find that holding an infant inhibits my otherwise cat-like reflexes that are in high demand when object and elbows start being thrown.)

 Needless to say, F was reprimanded and we even left early as a punishment. After a silent care ride home, she suddenly engaged me in conversation as I untangled her from her car seat.

"What I do at party?"

"You need to sit on the potty?"

I'm still learning how to speak her language, and right now "party" and "potty" are the same on the ear.

"No, what I do at party?"

"Oh. Well, what did you do at the party? You tell me."

I can never tell with F if she is asking me a question because she actually wants me to answer, or just as an opener for her own thoughts.

"What I do at party?"

She actually wanted me to answer.

"Let's see, you played with a baby and a stroller. You did some puzzles and wrote on the chalkboard and had a snack. But you also hit your friends and screamed and cried, and you pushed Lucy down. It was very bad. You have to learn to be nice and polite, otherwise no one will want to play with you."

Honestly, I was totally exhausted. It's amazing what a toll this type of thing can take on one's energy level.

"F, do you want to watch a movie?"

This was me caving to my exhaustion. I just couldn't face trying to make dinner with her underfoot.

"Yes....No. I just want to hide for a minute."

This is truly remarkable because a) she never refuses an movie watching opportunity and b) what's with the hiding?

"You want to hide somewhere?" At this point we'd made it into the mudroom and I removed her coat and tiny snow boots.

"Yes. Can I hide in your room?"

"You can hide in the nursery, is that okay?"

"Shew." (translation: "sure")

I opened the door to the main house, and she soberly scampered (is that even possible?) into her own room where she remains to this moment, reading to herself quietly on the couch.

We all have bad days. She doesn't want to share, and really, who does? But I hope this concept of removing herself from the chaos and recouping with some quiet time alone, sticks. And I wish more adults had the ability to recognize when they just need to go hide for a minute.