Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cycling Mammas and kiddos

I have been wanting to get back to cycling regularly.  I stopped (again) because I was helping my mom pack every day, which required a 45-minute drive to where she lives.  So I would drop off the kids at school with the car, and then head out to my mom's house.  The kids got out of the habit of biking, and so did I.  I live in one of the most bicycle-friendly towns in the US, and I spent years commuting to work and doing all my errands by bike, so it's been really frustrating for me to spend so much time driving.

I've been inspired by a few things to start biking again, one of them being a book I read In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist, by Pete Jordan.  I really enjoyed this book, although the organizational structure of the chapters was sometimes a bit confusing and incoherent.  That's because it was partly, but not exactly, chronological, especially since it mixed the author's story with the history of cycling in Amsterdam, and therefore shuttled back and forth a lot between past and present, and didn't always stay chronological in the present, either.  Like I said, a bit confusing.  But still really good, and really inspiring about how cities could be planned a lot better in the US.  I was also surprised by the amount of anti-bicycling sentiment there has been at various points of time, even in a city that is known world-wide for cycling and the cycling lifestyle.

The last few days, I've been working on getting the kids back into the bike trailer, but it's not the easiest proposition.  Part of it is that they're outgrowing it.  For the moment, they still fit, but it's getting tight.  For some reason, I thought they'd get too tall for it, but elbow room is actually the current issue.  It's a bit squished in there, and they like to read while biking, which is even more of a problem.  So I'm looking into other options.  My husband is against my ideas, saying I won't bike enough and it will just be more stuff sitting around in our garage.  I get what he's saying, but I hope to prove him wrong.

My idea right now is to get a cargo bike - the type I'm looking at has an extended rear frame with a platform that kids (or adults!) can sit on and that saddlebags and cargo can be strapped to.  There are two brands I'm interested in: the Xtracycle and the Yuba Bikes Mundo.  They both have child seats that can be attached, and safety bar attachments as well, but all the attachments start getting expensive, and I'm not sure how long we'd use them.  I discovered that children under 4 need to be in a seat or a trailer, and I'm also not sure about using this bike in the rain (which the trailer can handle), so my current tentative plan is to try to use the trailer through the winter, rack up as many miles as possible, and then reconsider in the spring after the rainy season.  And then, we'll see ... I hope I can surprise both my husband and myself and make cycling a major part of my lifestyle again.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nice times in Davis

It's been a nice weekend!  Friday night we got a babysitter, the kids' swim teacher, and it went so well!  It's the first time Turtle didn't cry when we left.  We went out for happy hour/dinner, and then to a bluegrass concert with a bunch of people and it was really fun.  Although it was a late night, for me at least.

Saturday, we ate at our local food cooperative after doing our grocery shopping there, and met some friends for lunch who moved out of town but were back for the day to take care of their house.  Then we came home and I cooked all afternoon.  I made Soupe de Poissons , stuffed eggplant a la bonifaciene, and almond flan with chestnuts (just FYI, all my recipes are from a cookbook I bought in Corsica, the ones I linked to are just the best (or only) ones I can find online).  We had friends over for a really nice dinner on the patio, the kids played, we enjoyed a pastis aperitivo, and after dinner we sipped genepy around the firepit.  It was a nice relaxing evening, and I even had time to mostly clean the kitchen, so I didn't wake up to a huge mess the next morning.

The next morning, I called some friends to see if they wanted to get bagels, and they already had some at home, so I biked over there with the kids in the trailer and left my husband at home for a morning alone to do whatever he wanted (he slept and then worked).  We spent the day puttering around the house, letting the kids bike in the yard, attending to chores, and just generally lazing about.  While the kids were napping, my husband proposed taking the kids to see their first movie, so after they got up, we explained the concept of a movie theater, had a quick dinner out, and went to see Planes.  They actually did really well for a little over an hour, then they really lost their ability to sit still.  Luckily there was almost no one in the theater, because Turtle is not capable of speaking quietly.  Quite the opposite, actually.  I'm not sure I would recommend the movie - it was a bit long and boring for the littles, and I suspect doesn't have enough of an original plot for older kids, but I don't know.  It was a good first movie, in general.

And today!  We biked to swim practice, then downtown for a bagel sandwich for lunch, across to the square for some ice cream, to city hall to pay our utility bill that was due today (oopsie), and now home to get ready for a nap.  Goodness, three-year-olds like to visit public restrooms - we went to the bathroom at every one of those places except the ice cream place.  I'm a single mom tonight, so I hope the rest of the afternoon and evening goes well, too.  Almost time for a nap!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Big kids!

Yesterday I worked my butt off getting big kid beds set up for the kids while they were in school.  I had to disassemble the cribs and cart them out.  They're in our living room right now, I need to move them into the garage in the hopes that a friend and/or my sister will be needing them in the next year or so.  Then I brought in the pieces of the new beds.  They are solid wood bunk beds that my brother had in his room when he was a kid, but I have them set up as two separate twin beds.  It took three trips to the hardware store to get all the hardware I needed, since we had lost it in the last 20 years.

I also took a trip to IKEA for bed slats, mattresses, and mattress covers and a trip to Target for bedding sets, since we have basically nothing for twin-size beds.  Then home to assemble everything!  I also had to rearrange the furniture in Tadpole's room, since the bed would not fit where I had imagined it.  Turtle had asked for a red bed, but nothing at Target was really red except just solid red sheets, which I got as a back-up set, but I wanted something a bit more exciting for his regular bedding.

Here are the photos of the rooms and the kids ... they were SO excited!

Tadpole saying "CHEEEEEESE!"

Both kids taking a photo in Tadpole's bed

A couple views of Tadpole's new bed - I love her room

Now we've migrated to Turtle's room - he is a happy little kid

And a couple pics of his new bed and his room:

Their rooms are so nice and comfy and cozy now.  I never bought any special bedding for their baby rooms - it was all so expensive and I knew we wouldn't use the comforters and quilts etc.  Everything they had was mismatched and purchased second hand or on clearance, and I didn't mind at all.  I actually found quite a bit of cute stuff.  But now I know they will use this stuff for years, and they actually care more now, so I was totally ok with getting the matching bedding sets.

Turtle has been sleeping on the futon in his room since we got back from Italy at the end of February, so I put a pool noodle under his fitted sheet and he had no problems.  I was really worried about Tadpole, who has only spent a few nights out of her crib and generally falls out of bed whenever she does.  I used a pool noodle in her bed, too, and put a comforter and a quilt on the floor next to her bed.  Luckily, no falling out last night!  I'm not sure how I'll know when it's time to get rid of the noodle, though!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Addiction and withdrawal

This post is not about me, although perhaps I am a bit addicted to chocolate and decaf coffee.  No, this post is about Tadpole, who has been addicted to her pacifier since she was a wee little thing.

When Tadpole was little, I believed (and possibly still do) that being dependent on a pacifier was better than sucking one's thumb, because a pacifier could at some point be taken away, while a thumb is there more or less forever.  I felt like even though we were probably creating a future problem by allowing heavy pacifier use, we were at least creating a problem that had a viable solution, and so I went on with my life with that unhappy future day looming over my head, but still, always in the future.

Until here we were, Tadpole is over three years old, and still had her pacifier.  She didn't use it at preschool, but otherwise she had a pacifier with her almost all the time.  Let me rephrase that, actually - she had TWO pacifiers with her at all times.

Honestly, I didn't really have a problem allowing her to keep her pacifier until she decided to give it up on her own, assuming that she decided to give it up at a reasonable age (say, before 5 or 6).  Unfortunately, two other problems developed.  First, she started chewing on her pacifiers, and that was awfully hard on them.  Pieces started breaking off.  She wasn't even getting suction as far as I could tell (so much for the plan to cut holes in them - she basically did that herself, and it didn't bother her in the least).  We threw a bunch away and warned her that any new pacifier that got chewed on would meet the same fate, but that didn't stop her at all.

The second problem was essentially her downfall - she kept leaving her pacifiers lying around (or she would actively hide them), and then have no idea where they were.  That drove me absolutely crazy - I can't tell you how much time I spent looking for pacifiers with a wailing, distressed child who could not remember where she put the dang things even if her life depended on it (and let me tell you, from her point of view, it did).

Last Friday morning, we left for my mom's house and I vaguely remembered that she left the house while eating a snack and I meant to run in and grab some pacifiers, but alas, with all the last-minute things, I forgot.  She spent the whole day without pacifiers, which was sort of ok until the drive home, and then she wailed for the entire 45 minutes.  When we got here, I went to look for her pacifiers to put her down for a late nap, and could not find a single one.  I looked all over the house, which had been cleaned that day (by the professional cleaners, which meant it had also been thoroughly straightened by me, so there wasn't stuff lying all over the place as usual).  ZERO pacifiers.

So.  We decided it was time, cold turkey.  She'd spent the whole day without and skipped her nap, so she'd be nice and tired and probably sleep through the night.  My husband bought a few backups in case things got really bad, but it went ok.  She slept all night, and was definitely sad about the pacifier situation all weekend, but I managed to distract her each time, plus it was a busy, crazy, fun weekend so it went mostly ok.  She even got on skype and told her grandparents in Italy that thieves had stolen her pacifiers (I'm not totally sure where she got that story, but I'm ok with it).

And then ... today ... OMG.  She woke up from her nap wailing and weeping and gnashing her teeth, my little daughter who always wakes with a smile.  Tears ran down her face and she rubbed her eyes and her runny nose and most especially her mouth.  She rolled on the floor and flailed her arms and legs and threw herself back down every time I picked her up.  It seemed like she was going through a really strong physical withdrawal - she kept pulling at her lips and rubbing the back of her hand across her teeth and tongue and wiping her face on the couch (causing lots of brown lint to stick to her face, which was covered in snot from her runny nose).  It took me about 45 minutes to calm her down, the first half of which she didn't even want me near her.  It was rough.  I've actually never seen her like that, and I'm a little bit worried about her having an addictive personality (maybe I should talk to the doctor at her 3-year appointment this week?).

During this time, I called my husband and asked him to come home from work early (it was only about 14 minutes early, really).  Tadpole finally calmed down with a graham cracker snack, and we explained that her pacifiers were all lost and that she was a big girl and didn't need anymore.  We also have been playing up the fact that she's going to get a big girl bed (hopefully tomorrow, if I can get the right size bolts and get to IKEA to get a mattress and some sheets and then get the cribs taken apart and the beds put together for both kids in time).  So ... I hope this was the worst of it.  I am crossing my fingers, because I hate seeing her like that, but I just know it's for the best.

On a side note, it is SO sad taking apart my little ones' cribs.  I just want to cry.  Sometime I wish I could have another one.  Sigh.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Potty foibles

I didn't want to bribe my kids to get them to use the potty.  I felt that it was something that was a normal part of life, that they'd be doing for the rest of their lives (or at least until they're in diapers again when they're old), and you shouldn't be bribed for doing something that is an everyday, normal thing.  I also just don't want them to start expecting a bribe anytime they do anything I ask them to do.  Or throwing a tantrum if they don't get a treat any time they do something they're supposed to.  I can't even tell you how hard it is sometimes when Turtle is throwing a fit and I just want to say "PLEASE, just get in the car and I'll give you a cookie when we get home".  It would make my life SO MUCH EASIER.  But I don't do it.  Because I know what will happen.

But anyway, after months of leaving potties around and asking a million times if they wanted to go potty and getting no results whatsoever, we let them run around naked a lot earlier this summer.  Turtle figured out pretty quick when he needed to pee, but he still didn't want to use the potty and started fighting us when we asked him to wear underwear.  The final straw was when he started asking for a diaper just so he could poop in it.  Which I know, it's not abnormal to do that.  But I wasn't sure if, with the right incentive, he could easily make the switch to the potty.  I figured that by offering a cookie, he would take to using the potty if that's what he really wanted, and if he really didn't, he could give up the cookie, and no big loss.

So, we introduced a small cookie for peeing and a big cookie for pooping.  With Turtle, it's worked great.  He almost never has any accidents.  We use diapers for naptime and overnight, which is fine.  He also switched to using the toilet instead of his little potty, with no special attachments, almost immediately.  Tadpole is another story.  She continues to have accidents, sometimes several per day.  She's not as motivated by sweets, which is also ok.  She's getting it, in her own time.

One side effect to the cookie reward is that Turtle often wants cookies more often than he is able to produce anything, and that is frustrating to him.  It hasn't gotten out of hand yet, but when he needs to pee, he'll often declare he needs to poop, too, in the hopes of getting a bigger cookie.  The other day, we were at the table and he said to me "Mama!  I have to pee!!!!" and we rushed down the hallway to the bathroom.  On the way there, I heard him talking to himself, saying "I'm going to poop, and then I'll get a BIG cookie!"

He sat on the potty, and said "First, I'm going to pee", and he did.  Then he said "Now I'm going to poop, so I'll get a BIG cookie!", and he tried.  And tried.  And I started getting a bit concerned, so I asked him if he really needed to poop or not.  And finally he looked a bit disappointed and said "Fine.  I guess I'll just have a little cookie", and gave a big sigh as he hopped off the toilet.  I could barely contain my laughter.

(Just FYI, I do plan to mention to the doctor his over-willingness to try to poop in exchange for a cookie at their 3-year appointment next week).

(Also, all the dialogue was actually in Italian, I just translated it into English).

Monday, August 12, 2013


My mom moved last week.  It was such a huge effort.  The last two weeks were pure hell.  We had 2 or 3 charity pick-ups (I've lost track), two trash pick-ups, and countless hours packing, sorting, and cleaning (we found THREE dead mice in the garage).  I ended up spending the night on Wednesday before the movers came, totally unexpectedly, since we were still packing up until shortly past midnight and then up at 5:45 the next morning, luckily since the movers showed up at 6:30 instead of 8 as confirmed.  After spending the night in the same clothes I'd worn for two days and putting my contact in two cups of water because I had nothing with me, my mom's cat bit my finger when I tried to get him in the carrier to spend moving day at the vet, so I had to go get antibiotics.  Then the movers did a crappy job, so my sister and I spent Friday loading up cars and transporting stuff to the new place.  We forgot a few things.  Nothing important, I really hope.  We were supposed to be out at 5pm on Friday, and I drove away with the last load at 5:30, just as the new buyers were pulling up.  The cleaners were still there - 20 years of never cleaning your house can have a brutal impact.

I have such mixed emotions.  I'm happy my mom is in a more manageable place, but I'm worried that she still won't be able to manage it - the cleaning, the organizing, the finances.  She's extremely irresponsible.  I'm angry at my mother for having her priorities so screwed up that she couldn't keep the dream house she and my father built together, due almost entirely to her irresponsibility.  On the other hand, it was way too HUGE for one person to live there, even if they could afford it.  I am angry that all the work fell on me, that I nagged and badgered for weeks to start packing, and that she never did a thing unless it was under my direct supervision, which led to these last few weeks of horrible screaming fights and stress for everyone.  And then I feel so sad for her.  She's like a child, all alone, no husband, no parents, no kids because she's driven them away, and few friends.  It's just a rough situation.

I'm also just sad for myself.  I have so many memories in that house.  My dad built the gazebo, and my husband and I were married in it.  The master bedroom has old etched glass windows that were in my grandparents' house in Pittsburgh, PA, and which my mom moved with her everywhere until installing them in her dream house in such a way that you'd have to destroy the walls to get them out.  It had a beautiful library with built-in bookshelves and an oak ceiling, my favorite room in the house, and I'll miss it so much.  But things look good in general - my mom's new neighbors seem awfully nice, and she has one friend who already lived in her new neighborhood.

So anyway.  I have my life back.  I'm so happy to spend more time with my kids again.  I'll write about them soon!  More time for my garden, I hope.  I'm taking the CBEST and will look into substitute teaching this fall, to see if I like teaching.  After I ran my last half-marathon in mid-July, I think I've laced up my shoes only once or twice, so it's time to get back to exercise, too.  And baking bread and cooking yummy fall meals.  I'm looking forward to a visit to our local Apple Hill (on a weekday, weekends are nuts up there in the fall).  And more crafting time, too.  I have so many projects in mind, mostly sewing, either quilted items or kids' clothing, but other stuff, too.  We'll be setting the kids up with real beds soon.  If I can get some good projects going, I might sell some stuff on etsy, too.  I have lots of ideas going on right now, and it's nice to be able to consider them again!  On the other hand, my house is also full of stuff I took from my mom, so I know I have quite a few days of sorting, organizing, re-packing, and getting rid of stuff in my future.

In the next couple weeks, look for me to be posting regularly again.  I hope.  There's still a lot to do around here, but life feels pretty sweet right now.