Tag Archives: stay-at-home

from the eyes of a toddler

One of the great joys of having a kid is watching them discover the world around them and how they fit into it. I watch the gears in C.’s brain move, oiled and quick, with many ah-ha! moments. The first time he walked, he hyperventilated with joy — deep breaths, face all smiles. His imagination shows itself when he opens my glasses case and balances it on his head and says, “Hat!” or when he bites a tortilla filled with hummus into a shape and says, “Horse!” or when he points to scribbles he drew with blue sidewalk chalk and says, “Seahorse!”

Here is his latest discovery: What happens when he blows into an inch of milk. He watched the bubbles grow and grow and grow until they spilled over the edge.

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Oh I know it’s cliche, but this 20-month-old just keeps getting funnier and sweeter and more and more fun. Lately, he surprises me by saying things like, “Papa drive blue car work” (after A. leaves the house in the morning) and, in the evening, when I tell him A. should be home soon, he says, “Wait driveway?” He’ll throw his hands up in a funky dance and make monster noises and then say, “Mama, do it?” In the car yesterday morning on the way to a coffee shop, C. said, “All over the place,” and I said, “What’s all over the place?” and he said: “Mountains” and I looked out at the Sierras on my left, white on the top, and B Mountain on the right. Last week was the first time he said, “Mommy. Love mommy.” And then later, “Mama, hold my hand.” Melt.

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routine: a love-hate relationship

C. and I have fallen back into our daily routine since returning from vacation. I love being home, but, after a week, I’m already dreaming about how to shake up our quiet days. I love routine and I hate routine. C., however, thrives in it.

We’ve been spending the mornings reading Ezra Jack Keats and picking the final sweet green grapes off our dwindling vine. By mid-morning, we leave the house — we meander to the library or music class so C. can run around with the 2-year-olds who yell and giggle hysterically at a fly buzzing in the room. Yesterday, we swam at a friend’s pool, and C. blew bubbles and smiled when I laid him on his back on top of the water, his rounded belly like a half sun coming up over the horizon.

But when it’s just the two of us at home, mostly in the late afternoon when my energy slips, C. has been digging into drawers and pressing buttons — including mine. He turned on one of A.’s machines in his shop, and scraped his middle finger. He pulled my curling iron out of a bathroom drawer and dragged it across the house to an outlet. He was quiet for much too long, and I found him sitting on the carpet in my bedroom, his thumb pressed in my deep purple eye shadow, his lips and tongue sparkling with powder. I left him on the patio for a moment while he worked on a paint-with-water print — a photo of a boy driving a tractor — and I returned to the paint cup at his lips, his elbows bent, water stained down the front of his shirt and pooled at his feet.

The highs are still pushing 100, so I stay inside while C. naps, catching up on the news and emailing friends. I’m slowly working my way through Dr. Zhivago. But I’ve been feeling a bit antsy, a bit crabby, a bit cooped up. I’m quite sure it’s the routine — and my lack of projects — and feeling sluggish in the summer desert heat.

So I keep reminding myself: This is life as a stay-at-home mom. And this is a special time.

And I remember to cherish certain moments with my 19-month-old, like last night, after dinner, while the sun set, and C. and I drew with thick chalk on our patio — he said he was drawing “A’s” and “ovals” and then he pointed to some scribbles and said it was a helicopter. “A helicopter?” I said, my eyes a bit wide, “Really?” “Uh-huh,” he said, very seriously. “That’s really cool,” I said. “I like the propeller.” And he looked back down at his drawing and smiled proudly.

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italian dreaming (and practicing)

Ever since I read Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love, I’ve had a burning desire to live in Italy. (Yes, I loved both, so sue me.) I’ve visited a few times — Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terra — but this was 15 years ago and the trips weren’t long enough to absorb the culture.

When I think about Italy, I dream of stone kitchens, homemade bread and long dinners with wine. I dream about delicious espressos and walking among ruins. I dream about stone churches in bustling squares and women leaning out of second-story windows over flower pots. I dream about the blue ocean, and visiting nearby islands.

A. is half Italian — his mom is from Orsogna and moved to the U.S. when she was seven. She is the youngest of five, and she speaks Italian with her brothers and sisters. In their New Jersey home, above the stove, hangs the sign “Cucina.” When we visit, she asks C., “Dove la Cucina?” and he looks up and points to the sign. When A. makes C. spaghetti, he’ll say to him: “Mangia la pasta.”

Around the time C. was born, my MIL brought us Italian CDs. They’ve been sitting on our bookshelf, uncracked (I thought I’d have time on maternity leave, silly me).

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But C. has had a fever since Friday and this morning it was a scary 104.2. The nurse at the pediatrician’s office told me to give him fluids and meds — and keep him cool and inside (it’s pushing 100 today). So I’ve read him a trillion books and we’ve played with trucks and blocks. He’s his usual funny self — he makes himself laugh and says, “Fun-ny.”

But I need inspiration to combat cabin fever, so I pulled out the Italian CDs and loaded the first one into my computer.

C. seemed a bit confused about counting in Italian (he just started counting to 10 in English), but he giggled when I put my hands out and exaggerated the pronunciation. And I had fun learning basic words, like macchina (car) and chiavi (keys).

Of course, the best way to learn is from the natives — like his nonna (grandma). And someday we’ll travel to Italy to show C. part of his heritage. I’m hoping we can live there for a few years so he can be fluent and we can explore Europe, but that’s far away. For now, dreaming — and practicing — keeps me happy while I’m trapped inside on a hot desert day.

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a toddler, books and … tears?

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One of the wonderful things — and curses — of living in the desert is the quiet. So much quiet. The wind is fierce, the air is dry and the summers are hot. This week, the temperatures are pushing 100 degrees — a hint of what’s to come. Our swamp cooler kicks on at random times during the day and I have to park under trees and stretch a shade across the windshield.

There aren’t many toddler classes in town, the city is shutting down its only public pool for lack of resources and it’s getting too hot to go to the park.

That means that C. and I are spending most of our time at home or at the library. At home, we don’t watch TV — and so we read. A lot.

The tiny, shabby desert library is open Tuesday-Thursday and the kids’ section is meager. We’ve run across gems like Jim Aylesworth’s “Little Bitty Mousie” and Pamela Edwards’ “Warthogs Paint” about colors (C. still calls everything “bue”), but I feel like in a few weeks we’ll have picked over the stock.

As I skim through books, I notice that many of them have characters behaving badly, and I gently close them and return them to the shelves. A. and I have read that what you read to kids can influence them in ways you might not realize. Kids don’t have the staying power or ability to comprehend a resolution. They just pick up the bad behavior.

What we didn’t expect was for a book to make C. cry. This is new for our almost 17-month-old: His chin wobbles and he tears up when a book ends with a “goodbye.” He has no problem saying bye to A. in the morning, or bye to me if A. takes him to Home Depot. But a book about a mouse leaving a museum had him crying over the weekend. And a book about boats had him in hysterics yesterday evening.

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playground serendipity

So I’ve been in Ridgecrest less than two months, and I met someone at the playground who has our Tupperware. I mean, really? How does something like this happen?

C. and I both needed to get out of the house Tuesday afternoon, so I wandered over to Leroy Jackson park. It was in the 50s, the skies were bright blue and C. pointed at the ravens flying overhead.

There was one other family there — a woman with short blond hair in Capri yoga pants and a zip-up workout top pushing a girl dressed in pink on the swing. And a very tall man with curly hair pushing an older girl.

When I put my purse down on the picnic table, the man took his daughter to the monkey bars. “Do you want to swing?” I asked C. before hoisting him over.

These days, his round cheeks make strangers laugh. She did.

“Those cheeks!” she said behind big round sunglasses. “How old is he?”

“Thirteen months,” I said.

“And how old is she?”

“Two years,” she said. “Her hair is just starting to grow in.” The girl flashed a smile.

The woman’s older daughter yelled at her from the monkey bars, and she called back, “OK, honey bunny!”

And I laughed and said, “I call him honey bunny too!”

“That, and sweet pea,” she said.

“Yes!” I said. “And lovey dovey? I don’t even know where these names come from.”

“I called her ‘midget’ the other day. And then I was like, ‘Did that just come out of my mouth? That’s not right!'”

Now we were laughing.

Somehow it was natural for me to ask her how long they’ve been in town. And then she asked me why we’re here. And we realized our husbands work with each other. And she said, “What a minute, your husband’s name is [insert name]? We have your Tupperware at our house!”

Mystery solved — A. had just been asking me where it disappeared to. He had gone to a party that he said was really fun (I was committed to ladies’ poker night) and had taken a Korean daikon salad. I thought that was bold.

And now K. and I were like schoolgirls babbling and gesticulating and ignoring our kids and she was telling me all about all of the great getaways near here.

“Honestly,” she said, “we’re never here for the weekends.”

Unfortunately, they’re also leaving town in September — for good.

But we still exchanged text messages so I can have a new friend for at least a few months.

“Call or txt anytime and we can meet up for a bit at park or whatever!” she wrote.

“Sounds great,” I wrote. “Would love that.”

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the accidental housewife

I didn’t plan on being a stay-at-home mom/housewife.

I dreamed about it when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. Then I grew up. I got my masters and worked my butt off till I finally found a job I loved and supported myself comfortably. When that happened, I couldn’t imagine not working.

Then I met A., fell in love, got pregnant, had C. and we had an opportunity to move to the desert, where rent for a 3-bedroom house and substantial backyard is cheaper than a studio in D.C.

So I changed mental gears, fairly abruptly. I decided, “A-ha! Here’s my opportunity to write creatively, because there are no jobs in the desert for me.”

What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to find the time. Several years ago, when my dear friend J. had an infant, I said to her, “What do you do all day?” It hurt her feelings, so she remembers and told me in a recent conversation. I don’t remember saying it, but I was clueless, so clueless. And now I get it.

C., who is 13 months, naps at best three hours a day — an hour-and-a-half at a time. By the time I make my coffee and fry up some eggs and clean up and catch up on emails and find a recipe and maybe return a phone call, an hour is gone.

How does it happen? Where does the time go?

So, for this week, I’ve embraced the stay-at-home mentality (even if I’m not particularly good at the role). I went to Home Depot and bought two outdoor plants to pot and put near our front door (I’m pretty sure I killed one in the process.)

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I made a pot of vegetarian chili with hominy (never heard of it before Monday), minestrone from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and carrot soup from Smitten Kitchen. (All three turned out quite well, though I destroyed the kitchen in the process.)

Last night, I roasted a whole free-range chicken for the first time and it turned out juicy and tasty. (Never mind that both of the smoke alarms went off — one of which has a woman who actually says, “fire, fire,” which is very disconcerting.)

I can’t stop thinking about decorating our home — I want to make it cozy for guests who have to travel far to see us, so I ordered an orange throw for the guest room, some vases to fill with flowers and these awesome lanterns (who knew a lantern could make me so happy?).

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I’m really trying to embrace this time I have at home with C. — the freedom and flexibility and not panic that I’m not padding my resume. And not freak out because it’s so quiet.

I’d like to teach myself how to bake bread. And plant some tomatoes. I’d like to set up an easel in our backyard and practice painting on a canvas. I’d like to throw some bowls and pots (I signed up to a pottery class every Tuesday evening starting Jan. 22 at a local artist’s home just up the road toward the mountains.)

I don’t like the term “housewife” — it feels very ’60s repressive. My relationship with A. is not so — he gets home from work and gets on his hands and knees and cleans the kitchen floor. He’s making a bookcase (the third one in a set) so I have a place to put my coveted books. He made me a pork-and-broccoli dinner on Tuesday. We are equal partners.

So, because I don’t like the term, I’ve been in denial that I am just that: a stay-at-home mom/housewife. There, I said it. I’m ready to embrace it — play-dates and all.

Now if only I can make a little more time — ditch the excuses — and be a stay-at-home mom/housewife who writes.

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