Maria enjoying dress up at school

I drove downtown today to head to an appointment to tour the YWCA in hopes of volunteering there in the future.  I got thrown back in time as I drove down Spring Street towards the heart of downtown.  I had taken that route for eight years – four of them with my daughter to and from daycare at Bright Horizon’s at Grant Hospital and two of them with my daughter and son.  

I had placed my daughter in the Grant daycare because it was directly across the street from my law firm.  I still remember those first few months of dropping her off at daycare, age three months old.  It devastated me to drop her off in the morning because she always cried – always.  The daycare providers tried to console her but unfortunately they had lots of other screaming babies to console (although I would always unreasonably expect that my sweet baby should get all of the attention – not those other babies).  What made it worse, too, was that I would go over in the mid-morning or early afternoon to see her, and she would be crying when I walked in the room.  

This pissed me off beyond belief.  I would remain calm and pick her up and try to talk to the girls about different ways to calm her down.  They would listen in between feeding other babies, burping them, changing their diapers.  I was yet another neurotic parent telling them how to do their job in their eyes, I am sure.  Heck, they were only making $8.00 an hour to take care of my child for eight hours – what could I expect?  I always felt bad for not speaking up more about the hourly wage that these gals were making; it is such a travesty that the women and men who watch over our children and care for them while we are off at work make the same or less money per hour than a valet or grocery store bagger. 

I never have come to terms with leaving them at daycare while I go off and work.  I still feel conflicted when I think about my choice to retain a career.  There are nights when I watch a certain scene of a movie or read a story on-line, and a flood of emotions come over me and I feel like I am the worst mom ever and I think my children will grow up to feel abandoned and lonely and despondent.  I don’t think that will ever go away – subside, yes, but never vanish forever. 

Maria grew into her own at the daycare, and of course, was the little munchball that everyone wanted to hold and play with through the day.  So, it got easier to some extent.  She still was never the type to jump up and down for school (and still isn’t) but at least she was not crying hysterically everyday when I left.  Now, I take her to her new school closer to our house (she started there in September 2009) and she begs to return to that old school because it was so much fun and she misses her teachers.  So, I guess it wasn’t the dungeon that I always made myself feel it was when I left her in the morning.  

It is funny how the same routine consumes you day in and day out, and you feel like there is no way that you will ever forget the monotony of it all.  How you will never forget the devastation and loneliness and sorrow that encompassed your entire self as you tip-toed out of the infant room trying to calm your little one as she sobbed for you to stay.   How you sank deep in your chair at work bombarded with thoughts about whether you were doing the right thing, how your child would be affected by your decision, what you could do to make it better. 

But then they get older and they are less fragile, and they enjoy interaction with friends, and you see them developing, and they say something that is so heartfelt and so enlightening that you think “they are coming along just fine….” 

My darling, happy daughter in her Mexican dress

And those moments from the past, that heartbreak from the past, that confusion from the past, does subside greatly and you feel hope rising up.     

My goofy, muffin-loving son

Snow Day!

The university closed Tuesday due to the incredible snow fall and ice accumulation. I woke up at 5:30 due to my darling son who has decided that 5:30 am is his new time to rise. You can almost see him popping his tiny head up, rubbing his eyes, and opening his mighty mouth. Indeed, I am quite sure that is his routine before we hear our morning serenade of: “Maaaaaammmmmmeeeeee; Oh, Maaammmeeee.” I dragged myself out of my warm nest of a bed and told him to go back to sleep. “Rock, mommy?” I scooped him up and pushed his head onto my shoulder and firmly stated “five minutes, Mario, that is it.” Yeah, I might as well be saying “blah blah blah blah blah.” He had what he wanted and I knew he was sporting that devilish smile as we headed to the rocking chair.

After ten minutes of rocking and thinking to myself “this is the last night of this – tomorrow he is crying it out!”, I put him in his bed and trip back into my nest. Five minutes goes by before I hear “Maaaaammmmmmeeeee” again.  The irritation and anger I feel at that moment compares to how you may feel if you were getting your eyelashes pulled out or getting run over by a semi truck.  I get up, stomp to his room, and put him in bed with me. It was no use. He was wide awake.

By 6:30 am, we are all eating pancakes and eggs and watching Little Bear. Maria’s new favorite morning activity is to cook pancakes and eggs, and yes, she actually prepares everything to cook them. She gets the bowl out, the mix, the eggs, the milk, and the oil. She stirs it up as much as she can (she has counseled me on numerous occasions that I need to buy an electric mixer so that we do not have to do it by hand!). She prepares her plate and mine, and we all sit down together (Mario finds our pancakes absolutely repulsive – the first bite he takes immediately causes a cringe on his face and a regurgitation into my open hand). After breakfast, we get all bundled up in our snow gear and head outside.

The snow was too light to make a snowman but I found a plastic sled and the kids took turns getting pulled down the front yard hill. Mario popped up after one run and yelled “Mommy, go Stauf’s get ice water and muffin?” I thought Maria would poo-poo it because she likes to stay near home but she agreed (with a little cajoling involving hot cocoa and a muffin for her). I held Mario on my right hip and pulled Maria on the plastic sled. By the third block, I felt as if I had just been in a WWF wrestling match – my body ached completely! Maria could see the pain in my face and got out of the sled, pulled it behind her, and walked the remainder of the way. Why do I try to be Superwoman all the time? I ain’t 20 any more….!

Maria trying to help mom pull Mario (Mario wanting nothing of it!)

We got our ice water, hot cocoa, bran muffin and black russian bagel and plopped down at a table. I love that my kids love Stauf’s – it is a refuge for me and I enjoy that they find it to be the same for them. They will sit in their seats for a half hour eating their muffin and bagel, looking at the pictures on the walls, watching the people, and even talking to me! It is a piece of heaven. After Stauf’s, we walked back home (Maria walked the whole way home again!) and I decided it was time for a little day care. It was close to 11 am and I knew they would not nap with me. And, I wanted a little Mary time before the night came (I fought guilt all afternoon about this decision but that is a whole other blog entry). I dropped them off at school and headed back to Stauf’s to catch up on email and fund-raising for my boards.

Before I knew it, 3 pm hit, and I decided that I would try to take them sledding at a local park with a nice sized hill. I loaded up the sled, their snowsuits, and sped to the daycare. The entire way to daycare, I debated whether to actually take them or not because I knew the hill would be full of kids and I would have Maria and Mario and a sled and just little ol’ me. But, what the he–. Life is too short.

We headed over to the park, threw on our bundles of clothes while maneuvering and squirming around in the car, and trekked it to the hill. There were quite a number of people there already and Maria immediately withdrew. “Why are all these people here. I don’t want to sled here.” We tried a little side hill at her request but the snow was too thick and we barely moved. After that lame experience, she decided to work with the crowd. We headed over to the hill and began the climb up. I held Mario and the sled and she climbed up using the blue and white striped rope that the City must have installed to help with the climb. Maria impressed me with her climbing skills and determination. I had to help her up a few times, but she got close to the top each time and if it wasn’t for the ice, she would have done it alone. I told her her to chant “I know I can do it” each time she got down, and after telling her that, I heard her whispering it as she struggled up the hill.  My girl. 

Maria and Mario after a sled ride down Wyman Hill

The first ride down the hill was all of us on the “Flyer” – an old school wood sled that I think my dad gave us back when Jon and I were dating. We barely fit on the sled, and we flew down the hill after a push from a man who I am sure got a kick out of me trying to handle M&M, the sled, and the ice up the hill. But we hung on, and when we finally stopped, we were all smiles and laughs. Mario turned around and pleaded “Again, mommy?” I looked at Maria wondering if she would want to brave the hill for another run (Maria and exertion do not typically get along). But, to my amazement, Maria was already heading toward the hill. Again, my girl.

Maria found a girlfriend who asked her to go sledding with her and I got a glimpse of Maria playing with her girlfriends in a few years. Ahh, I had visions of me and my Cincy girls when we were 10 years old and taking advantage of our snow days. We did about 7 runs before we called it a night, and I must say, my winter blahs flew away for the remainder of the night. Of course, those winter blahs flew back with a vengeance the next morning when I stepped outside and slipped onto my rear while taking out the trash (the cuss words were spewing out so fluidly that I amazed even myself) but heck, with this weather, I will take an evening  of bliss anyday.

Monday morning blues

Back to work and school tomorrow.  Ugh. 

Maria on Monday morning: pre-dressed stage

The kids will inevitably pitch a fit in the morning when we announce that it is time to get dressed.  “I don’t like school, Mom! I don’t like my friends. I don’t like the food,” announces Maria in her dictatorial fashion.  Mario then has to chime in because his sister has expressed her views.  “No school, mommy.  Stay home!”  Monday morning consists of constant bickering back and forth between me and them. 

“Maria, please stop hugging your brother – he is not in the mood.” 

“No, Ria. Get off” as Mario digs his nails into Maria’s arm. 

“Owwww, mom, Mario is scratching me!”

Mario laughs like a crazed maniac.

I run over and grab him off of Maria (it still floors me that she does not simply punch him right in the face as she is twice his weight but that would need some exertion on her part, which is not her strong suit).  Mario runs in his room, and slams the door. 

His new experiment lately is to try to get himself dressed.  Unfortunately, he always comes out with a t-shirt pulled up on his waist and nothing on his top so he looks like a little hippy girl ready to sing some Joni Mitchell.  When I tell him that I have to dress him, he yells “No, me do it, Mommy!” and runs away.  Meanwhile, Maria is in the background shaking her head, smiling and remarking “that Mario is a silly boy!”  Such the mother hen, she is.  

Maria refuses to let me in her room because she wants to surprise her dad and I with her outfit, which lately has been layers of three shirts, one sweater, and two pairs of pants with a barette clipped haphazardly in her tousled hair that she refuses to allow me to comb (I have given up on that battle long ago – let her have tangled hair, who cares?!).  Once she dressed herself, she seems resigned to head to school and usually ceases the whining. 

Mario, however, fights me like the Huns.  He hates getting dressed because he knows that is a step closer to school.  He is no dummy.  I usually have to bribe him with a binkie or a sucker (yes, I am a horrible mother who will deliver suckers to her children to get them to work with her) to get his clothes on him and even then I have to allow him to put on his socks (which are inevitably two different colors and I so so not care. Jon, however, bristles at letting him go to school with non-matching socks. He is two, who cares!?).  Then the fun starts over again.

“Let’s go downstairs!” I yell. 

Maria screams “I am gonna win!” and runs down the stairs. 

Mario flings himself on the hall floor and balls “No, Ria, me win!”  I try to pick him up but he maneuvers his body like a wet noodle; my patience is fading quickly.  I ask Maria to come back upstairs so Mario can win.  Now, this is why I just love that girl.  She does it!  She comes back up and even roots Mario on when he is heading down the stairs “Go, Mario, you are so fast.  That is a good, strong brother.  You are the best!”  Yeah, I really doubt that Mario would be doing that for Ri if he was the older sibling.   By the time we are all downstairs, about one and a half hours have passed.  Mario stomps into the kitchen crying for his binkie and blankie and begging me to hold him still chanting every so often “no school, mommy.”  

By the time we put on our coats, Monday’s poke in the eye has stopped hurting so much and we have resolved that this is life so we may as well roll with it.  After all, how much crying can you do before you realize it won’t change anything?  I should say that Ri and I have reached that resolution.  Mario still has a couple of years to reach it, and he reminds of that every Monday morning. 

Mario on a Monday morning - please leave me alone!

Heading to the Prom at age 4??!

Maria and Mario heading to school

At age 4, she had decided to go to the prom with Logan, a tough lookin’ little guy.  Who asked who to the prom is an unknown question.  She refuses to divulge the details.  I do know from Maria’s teacher that Logan asked Maria if she wanted to go to the Japanese Steakhouse with him some time because it had really good food.   Yeah, Logan asked my girl out to the Japanese Steakhouse.  The first offers I got to eat out were to UDF for a turtle sundae and to Burger King for a Whopper and I was 13.  Times have changed or else I just attracted some cheap guys (actually, I would take a turtle sundae over a steak anyway). 

But wait… am I actually talking about my daughter being asked out on a date and going to a prom at age 4 and not being appalled and wondering about what is happening to this world?  Yeah, I am.  First of all, I am way too tired to try to contemplate whether this is some type of anti-feminist movement at the school and all the little girls are being primed for a life of superficiality.  Second of all, I would guess that half of Maria’s girl friends have asked her if she wanted to go to some restaurant or place with them.  Third of all, Maria and Logan could have cared less that they “went to the prom together.”  They certainly were not standing in the corner holding hands or making out. 

To the contrary, Maria pushed him around most of the time.  

Now, would I have been happier with a dance party themed around loving unconditionally and a discussion about how there are all kinds of people in this world and we need to embrace everyone all the same.  But, that is the trade-off of deciding to work.  I take what I can get at the daycare. 

And the dance was a blast. 

The kids laughed and ran around and gave hugs and got pictures.  They exchanged valentine cards, candy, cookies, bracelets.  Of course, my girl was ready go after 20 minutes or so.  She can only handle so much partying when there is no food.  She kept pulling at my leg and demanding When is lunch coming?  I am so hungry!” 

Now, I say that I am not bothered by the fact that they had this prom at age 4, but I am a little concerned about Maria’s concern in the morning about whether she looked pretty.  This occurs every day – not just prom day – and it is increasingly concerning to me.  Did I ever care about that at age 4?  She is discovering herself and her body, and hopefully, this “do I look pretty” stage is just a part of this discovery.  I have tried to reinforce her entire life that she is a gorgeous, strong, funny, intelligent girl and that being gorgeous is not about having big beautiful eyes or blond hair or wearing makeup, it is about being funny and smart and genuine.  I continue to enforce it with the princess books we read.  “Why did the prince fall in love with that princess?” she asks.  “He loved how she made him laugh and how smart she was.  She had gone to college and become a veterinarian and was so good with animals….” 

She typically responds to my counseling with “I know, mom.  I know…”  Hopefully, that sigh and that response gets embedded in her and she will continue “to know” as she gets older and older. 

And for Mario…. He is way too young to understand that he had a “prom.”  He could have cared less about any of the gals in the dance room.  He ran around with his “guy friends” the entire time, tackling them and yelling at them.  When teachers tried to get his picture, he refused.  When a teacher asked him to be her valentine, he responded “NO!”  He steered clear of anyone from the opposite sex.  He decorated a shoe box to have it to store valentines.  He read valentine’s books.  He got to eat treats, especially Skittles, his all-time favorite.

Overall, a great day.  Their excitement in the morning continued throughout the entire day, and that is a great day for me, too.

Making cookies and valentines for the big day