Patriot’s Day

Today is Patriot’s Day in Boston. I’m a big fan of made-up holidays, so I have a certain fellow-feeling with the day, tempered only by the fact I don’t get it off. Boston has an excellent tradition of “historic” holidays (usually revolving around some Revolutionary war thingy) that just HAPPEN, though sheer COINCIDENCE to be on the same day as something even the historically ignorant might care about. For example, amazingly Evacuation Day (a holiday for state workers) MIRACULOUSLY always occurs on St. Patrick’s day. As for the coincidence of the Boston Marathon, the earliest baseball game of the year (the Red Sox ALWAYS have an 11 am home game on Patriot’s Day) and the recreation of the Battle of Lexington… well, let’s just say it’s three great tastes that taste great together.

You can tell which companies are Massachusetts companies vs. which companies happen to be headquartered in Massachusetts based on a) whether this is a holiday on the calendar and b) if it’s not, what percentage of people show up for work that day.

My sons’ preschool is a true Massachusetts institution. I work for a global company. This means, of course, that there’s no preschool but I have to work.

I’d actually been waiting for a day like this. I knew one would come. It was very wrenching for me to pull my sons out of the care of a woman they called Abuela – grandma – who had cared for Grey since he was 8 weeks old. But the round trip commute was not possible. I knew that putting the children in daycare in our community was a good long-term solution. Still, I kept my eyes open for just such an opportunity. See, Abuela doesn’t believe in taking vacations or holidays or nights and weekends. She’s taken kids 3rd shift, for days at a time, and over weekends. I knew she’d be up for taking the boys (assuming she had slots) on a day that preschool was closed.

I called her to ask and the joy in her voice was apparent. She’d missed me. She’d missed the boys. Their friends had missed them too. When I asked if she could take them for a day, she sounded super-happy. I felt happy too, this morning, retracing the steps of my habitual commute. I thought about it. The length of time I spent doing that commute ties with the most durable pattern I’ve ever had in my life. For six years I tread those roads, with minor additions, changes and modifications. I’ve only ever lived in one house for six years… all other places I’ve had shorter tenures. I slipped right back in to the habit. It was hard to even think about the fact this was now exceptional, it felt so ordinary and at-home. The glorious brisk, bright morning seemed to make the familiar path into a dance of spring.

As the boys and I walked up the steps to daycare, I thought about the differences in them. Grey has become obsessed with Star Wars — an obsession given to him by his new preschool compatriots. His reading has come a long, long way. He’s asking complicated vocabulary questions. If Grey has changed incrementally, Thane has changed radically. He’s ceased being practically deaf. He’s started talking (oh has he!). He walked up those stairs on his own feet for the first time today. Heck, I pretty much never even put shoes on him when I was bringing him to Abuela’s, since the ice and snow were disincentives to asking him to walk himself. As I waited the (long, familiar) wait for the door to open, I wondered if he’d remember her. Two months — nearly three! — is a very long time when you’re not quite 18 months old. Would he run in? Rejoice? Be afraid? Turn away?

The door opened. Grey ran in with hugs and “I missed you!”. Thane stood at the door, and then pelted in too, to be picked up by a woman who loved him and held him close — happy to see him, marveling at how he’d grown. Then she put an arm around me, too. “I so happy to see you!” And she was. And so was I.

For lunch, the boys likely had Abuela’s rice and beans which is “So delicious. You would love it mommy. It’s not like YOUR rice and beans.” (Hey, I’m trying.) She’s probably noticed that Thane talks non-stop and screeches a lot now. Grey is likely borrowing Pablito’s DS (assuming Pablito’s parents don’t have Patriot’s Day off, which you never know). Isaiah is probably teaching Grey something fun and inappropriate. (Grey: Isaiah knows about EVERYTHING. ME: Don’t I know it!) I have heard that Devin pitched fits for weeks after Grey left, because he missed him so. (This is entirely one-sided. Grey was like “Devin who?”)

I’ll go and pick them up after work, and I’ll practice my Spanish some more to attempt to keep the rust from forming. We’ll chat and gossip a bit.

Before, my last words when I left were always, “Hasta manana” (see you tomorrow) or “Hasta el lunes” (until Monday) or variations on that theme. This time, and every time now, I do not know until when that “hasta” is. Grey has decided, this last week or so, that he has three grandmas. I wrestle with the evident truth of this. She and I share a love of these children and a common history, but little else. Not even a common language. On the other hand, that is so much. Of course I include her in my Christmas cards, keep up with her daughter on Facebook, the easy things. But how can I honor her grandmahood, and my sons’ love of her, while the realities of my life march on? All I’m sure of is that the attempt must be made because there are few things more precious than someone who loves your children and whom your children love — related by blood or not.

Three cheers for Marmee!*

My mom has come out to visit. I know Holy Week might seem an odd time for a pastor to be a continent away, but Spring Break coincided with Holy Week this year and she is also a teacher, and so she came! My father is coming out in a week or two. My mother-in-law is coming out towards the end of April when I am going to FRANCE (and Amsterdam) for WORK with an agenda that has a bullet point for WHITE ASPARAGUS SEASON. This whole work thing is going fantastically, if you ask me.

Anyway, it’s sort of feast or famine with help for us. For reasons I’m still attempting to work out, our relatives are less inclined to visit us in February? Why on earth do people not feel downright DRAWN to New England in February? The mind boggles.

But it’s been awesome having my mom around. I sometimes feel guilty for how hard it is not to take my mom’s time and help for granted. Like of course she’ll make me my favorite cinnamon rolls. And of course she’ll get up with the kids so I can sleep in. She’s my MOMMY. She’ll take care of me FOREVER. And then I think about 27 years from now, when I’ll be where she is now, and wonder if I’ll be so gracious. It’s a sobering part of parenthood to remember that everything you expect from your parents, your children should have a right to expect from you. Do you hold your folks and yourself to the same standard? I hope my husband and I can live up to the ones set for us!

She took the kids on Sunday, after church, so my husband and I could be cultured dilettantes. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, courtesy of a neighbor who gave us tickets. We wandered the dim remains of The Secrets of Tomb 10A and marveled at the items which have traveled so very far through time and space to arrive before us. We ate overpriced pastry at an artistic table and drank cappuccino and no one interrupted us. Then we had dinner in Cambridge, followed by an evening of gaming and hanging out with friends. We didn’t get home until late. It was AWESOME.

I think a little more concerted attention, as well as the final arrival of his in-process molars, has really helped Thane. He’s developed a deep and abiding love of apples. You wouldn’t think such a little guy with so few teeth would be able to eat an entire apple, leaving nothing behind, but you would be wrong. “Appa! Appa! Appa!” Happily, it also keeps him occupied while a grownup type person cooks dinner. It will be interesting to see if he’s permanently leaving the “Cling to mom’s leg and weep while she prepares dinner” stage behind, or if he’s just taking a hiatus with it while he has Grandmama to shower attention on him. He has started talking a mile a minute. I was trying to remember if this was 18 month old standard, or if it’s Thane-specific. The nice ladies at daycare comment on it nearly every day, though, so I’m thinking Thane specific. One of his favorite phrases is “E-I-E-I-O”, which means exactly what you think it means.

Grey is just full of awesome. I LOVE LOVE LOVE 4 years old. He’s so much FUN. The imagination is off full tilt. The knock-knock jokes rise to new levels of zany. He’s solicitous and loving. He’s finally ceasing to NEED the naps that he dropped nearly a year ago, so is less tired. He remembers everything, and we start to get precious glimpses of his life without us. [DIGRESSION: including the fact, which we’d completely missed, that they don’t heat up his lunch at preschool. They do for Thane, so I ASSUMED they were warming Grey’s lunches of soups and casseroles which all were designed to need heating. But no. Cold spaghetti. Cold potato casserole. Cold everything. NO WONDER he didn’t eat his lunches. I wouldn’t like cold macaroni and cheese either! So after a bit of foaming at the mouth followed by a bout of self-recrimination I took the blessed opportunity of another grownup in the household to run to Target and buy thermoses. Star Wars themed. Because I pay attention to the patter, which now has a strong, if ill-informed Star Wars bent. “Did you know that Annakin cut of Dark Vader’s head?!?!?” /END DIGRESSION] Grey plays these wild, imaginative games with other kids. Yesterday one of his friends came over and they disappeared and were playing games with shifting rules defined by parameters grownups can’t possibly imagine. Delightful. With me, in the blessed space cleared by mom making dinner, Grey and I turned into Annakin and Luke Skywalker, with Thane playing a surprisingly convincing R2-D2. There were laser noises and epic light-saber battles up the stairs. Even Thane got into the laser-noise action, bopping around saying “pew pew pew!”

And after the truly epic deluge of the last week, today the sky has emerged washed clean. The lawns are greening up. The forsythia is out in shocking yellow to color-deprived eyes. My hyacinth waft perfume on the afternoon breeze as I return to my home in daylight. I will not be TOO cold in my Easter dress this Easter, for possibly the first time EVER. And the Easter Bunny has brought some fun stuff for two little boys. I’m in an Easter spirit and frame of mind, this Good Friday.

Anyway, there – sans thesis statement of unifying theme – is what’s up with me lately. How about you?

*Bonus points if you catch the reference

Changes afoot

Part of the reason I’ve been so tongue-tied here lately is because there’s been something big going on that I haven’t — couldn’t — blog about. When so much of your thoughts, imagination, pondering and wondering are caught up in something you can’t write about, it’s hard to generate much for the things you can write about. So, without further foot-dragging, here’s the news.

I’m leaving my job for a new one.

Like this - I never could do these
Like this - I never could do these

What? You don’t think that’s earth-shattering? That’s because you’re not the one doing it. I feel like I’m doing one of those puzzles where there are 9 slots with 8 tabs and you have to reorganize them to make a smiley face. I’ve been working at my current company for 7 and a half years. I was 23 when I came. I was employee #6. I’ve watched every stage of development and invested my energy, enthusiasm and imagination. I and my coworkers have grown into adulthood together, and started families. It’s really hard to leave. But I am ready for some new challenges, opportunities and growth. And I have been offered a fantastic new position, which I’m going to take.

I think this is good news for me and hopefully for my family. I suspect, however, that it is bad news for you. Changing jobs requires lots of energy. I’m expecting to go into this position and spend my days working really hard. I’m looking forward to it, actually. But one of the places that new energy is going to come from (let’s be honest) is right here. Now, I’m not DROPPING the blog or anything crazy like that. I just suspect that the posting frequency (and possibly length) will go down significantly, at least for a while.

And one of the huge changes, which probably deserves it’s own post because by huge I mean completely ginormous, is that my sons can’t stay in their current child care environments. That commute does not compute. So (and I have to tell Grey this weekend!) I’m pulling the boys out of Abuela’s, their beloved daycare provider. I’m super-duper-uper sad about this. I also feel terrible about leaving her with open slots. Happily, it occurred to me that maybe I could use my Blog powers for good (instead of for potty training updates), and I made her a website: Rubertina’s Daycare in Lawrence Mass. If you HAPPEN to know anyone who needs fantastic childcare in the Lawrence area, I can hook you up.

I have a few weeks before I start, so I’m not going to make you go cold-turkey on updates. But eek! Adventures ahead!

Daycare woes

Sometimes I really, really wish I was the kind of person whose mom lived down the street and mother-in-law lived two blocks over. Back when I was seventeen, I decided I was going to be Adventurous when picking my college. Although raised in Washington State, I flew to the Nutmeg State to be educated. At the time, not counting Great Uncle Walter, my nearest relative was my sister who was attending college in Minnesota.


I’ve been trying with no success to get home ever since. But you see, college was good. Great, even. And I met this GUY. And then he proposed to me, and got a job (as a programmer in 1999! Ah, 1999. What good times.) in Massachusetts. And somehow we just never left. And now my nearest relative (of the kind who’s good for babysitting duties) is my brother in grad school in Princeton. An improvement, but….

My daycare provider has had terrible luck. The most memorable period was the calendar year when she had breast cancer, knee replacement surgery and her mother died. I feel like I’m missing one there. And then there was the (completely unfounded) accusation that she’d hurt a kid, which kept her closed for two weeks. It’s not all on her side — when I go on a business trip or get sick, just how are the kids supposed to get to daycare in the opposite direction from my husband’s employment?

Anyway, at the end of September, she explained that she was going to the Dominican to push through some immigration paperwork for her niece, whom she’s sponsoring. (She’s a citizen.) This was going to take a few weeks. I froze up in fear as she announced this. But not to worry! Her niece Lisa, who had been helping out all summer, was going to keep daycare open for the private clients (eg: me). Phew. And maybe she’d be home sooner than expected, if all went well. I should mention that in Grey’s entire lifetime, she’s never taken a single DAY’S vacation, if you don’t count chemo as vacation, which I don’t.

LAST week, it wasn’t Lisa who was there in the morning, but Titi. Lisa works a night shift job and the combination of the two jobs plus the long commute was too much. So Titi was taking the last week off before my daycare provider comes home.

Then. Oh then. Word comes in that Abuela is hung up on immigration issues for another week (they’re immigration issues — God only knows how long they’ll take!). And Lisa is out of the picture. And Titi doesn’t have any more vacation. So couldn’t I find someone else….

Gah. No. That’s the problem with my life. There isn’t someone else. I gulped.

Have I ever mentioned I have the best mother-in-law in the world? I called up. “I need a big favor.” I said. “Sure!” she replied, injudiciously not asking WHAT first.

Four hours later, she had tickets to come up for two weeks (in case immigration issues taken even longer than the week extra). I’m sure we would’ve made it work without this. I would’ve put Grey in preschool full time and found SOMEONE who could take an infant. I would’ve flown my dad out. Something. But this situation means that I get a kitchen renovation, babysitting AND fashion consulting all at once!

Crisis averted… until next time!

Hope shes getting some beach time in while shes down there
Hope she's getting some beach time in while she's down there

The flashing lights

I had one of the scariest 5 minutes of my life on Thursday. I have failed to mention it because, well, I went camping and it faded into the background.

It was a typical last-day-of-the-week when I finally headed out the door to go pick the boys up from daycare. As I turned onto their street, I saw the flash of lights ahead. No big deal. There’s always quite a police presence in Lawrence, and daycare is right next to an ambulance dispatch facility, so lights and sirens are extremely common. As I got closer, though, I noticed that the lights were largely blue. And that there were a LOT Of blue lights.

Closer yet, and I discover the entire block is sealed off by cop cars, lights blasting. Six or seven cop cars. Sealing off the block where my sons are in daycare. I start to panic but reason that it’s a long block — it could be anything.

The closer I got, though, the closer to daycare the center of the action seemed. By the time I got to the barricade, I was in full-out panic. I thought of all the horrible things it might be: a drive by shooting, a terrible accident, a murder. It could be my sons. They could not be ok. I hastily parked the car and ran (in unseemly for running shoes) to the nearest police officer I could spot. I explained to his back (he was watching ahead) that my SONS were up the street at the daycare. He waved vaguely at the other side of the sidewalk and told me I could walk to get them.

About halfway up the street, I spotted their daycare provider, on her front porch with all the other gawkers. She waved at me, dandling Thane on her knee. I took a deep, deep breath of relief. My boys were ok. Shaky, I went to claim them. She had no idea what was going on either. I nervously escorted my sons back down the block to the car, hoping that the fact the police hadn’t shooed the passers-by meant that they weren’t expecting a shootout anytime soon.

My hands shook as I clipped them into their carseats. I momentarily contemplated taking a picture of the fuss, but decided that was dumb. Police don’t block off entire city blocks for parking infractions.

One of the strange things about our modern era is that you never know what will make a big stir. The cops arrest one guy in Cambridge for (they say) throwing a fit and it makes the national news for like a week. 10 cop cars barricade a block in Lawrence, and it might disappear from the record without mention ever being made. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find out what all the hubbub was about.

I did finally find out. A teen mom and two male thug/accomplices went to her baby-daddy’s house and drew a gun on him, threatening to kill him if she didn’t give her the child, who she then made off with.

    Police said a woman, 19, showed up at her ex-boyfriend’s Canal Street home Thursday night with the three men.

    “Give me my kid or they’re going to kill you,” Santiago allegedly told Elvin Rosado, as two big men loaded and pointed guns at him and a friend.

She lived in the house the police were surrounded. Apparently they were waiting for her? (What fugitive from the law is like, “Gee, there’s a jillion cops surrounding my house. Guess I’ll go check my mail and and then see what they want!”) It ended not-tragically, with her showing up at the police department with the child in tow.

It was serious. There were deadly weapons involved. A child was in danger. But it wasn’t a drug bust or something that makes me scared for the neighborhood.

It also comes close. I’ve seen that child’s toys in the trash on the curb on Mondays, as I walk to daycare. I’m quite sure I’ve seen the kid, even if I don’t remember. (On nice afternoons, the entire neighborhood is usually out on the front porch.) And it’s very hard to get over that moment where you wonder if your children are dead or in danger, and whether you’re 15 minutes too late to save them.

I’m very, very grateful this was a false alarm, and hope never to come so close to any alarm again.

What I spend my brain cells on

Usually at lunch I head across the bridge to daycare. It’s maybe a mile and a half. Four stoplights. It takes longer than you think it should, but I get to daycare in under 10 minutes, spend 15 minutes with the boys and head back. It’s a nice interlude in my day.

On Monday, they closed the bridge for repairs. I can’t really argue. It needed it. The bridge was built in the 1800s and is made out of a metal mesh. You can see under your tires to water — by design. It wobbles when you cross it. It’s hardly confidence-inspiring. It will probably be closed for a month. Right now I have a great view of the construction and there is a very large hole in the approach to the bridge. Your stimulus dollars at work.

This is all well and good, but it makes that trip to daycare longer. This is compounded by the fact that the NEXT bridge up the river is ALSO under construction and has been for ages. This I consider to be bad planning. Finish one first THEN move on to the next bridge.

So what do I do at lunch?

My options are:
1) Walk to daycare. Tempting in the nice weather. Will take longer than the budgeted amount of time.
2) Drive to daycare. I’m trying various alternate routes to see which one is least obnoxious.
3) Use lunch to go check out preschools. This is probably what I should do instead of hanging out with my three year old peeps.

I keep deciding to do one. Then changing my mind. Then changing it again. I have half an hour until it’s time to go, and I still have no idea which one I’m going to do!

I’m working on this query that has so far taken 25 minutes and isn’t done yet. (Which would be why I’m working on it.) I wonder if it will be done before it’s time to go! Working on performance always takes forever because every time you test it, by definition it takes a long time!

I walked. It was lovely. It’s about 15 minutes each way. (You can still cross the bridge on foot.)

And the query took 38 minutes and 33 seconds. While it was running I rewrote it. It now takes less than three seconds. I could probably file it down further if I spent some time on it.

All done now

I called daycare this morning, and the other kid is fine. He got back from Mexico Saturday. So they didn’t bring Swine Flu back. The boys are at daycare and I am at work. I still can’t figure out whether I was totally justified or completely paranoid. I suspect that when this is all said and done it will look like one or the other, but we don’t know yet.

What he must eat

I’ve learned a lot by sending my sons to a daycare where many of the families are served by public services. In my white, middle class, privileged world we might get suggestions on what we should do for our children from our pediatrician, or Oprah, or our parents. But in this other world, there are all these mandates that come down from on high to try to help less educated, poorer people treat their children appropriately. Frankly, when you’re on the receiving end of these, they sound bossy. You wonder if you’ll get in trouble if you don’t follow them. It’s as though there are far more rules there than there are in my world.

Case in point.

I was feeding Thane today (actually, I was bouncing him on my knee because he wasn’t hungry) and I mentioned that I was thinking of starting him on solids. The daycare lady looked relieved and brought me over a sheet she had been given by the folks who control her all-powerful license. It was a rule sheet that said all children 4 – 7 months of age MUST be given cereals at breakfast and at snack (3 tablespoons) and an additional fruit or vegetable at lunch — in addition to fortified formula or breast milk. Must.

What a spot to put my care provider in. Defy her licensers? Defy me AND provide cereal if I decided to wait until 6 months to give him solids? Sneak past me? Sneak past them? Tell me I also MUST follow these guidelines and start him on solids, even if I thought he wasn’t ready?

I can understand why they do it. The folks who promulgate these policies aren’t bad, or even wrong. My pediatrician also says 4 months is a good time to start thinking about solids. I guess the difference is that I am given information and possibilities and expected to use my judgment. In some ways, this daycare provider and women like her are a conduit of information from our government to poor parents, saying “This is what you ought to do in order to raise a healthy child.” I am simply unused to being on the receiving end of those pronouncements, or being told what I MUST do.

In this case, it’s not a big problem. I think Thane is ready for some real food this weekend. I’ll send some cereal and food with him on Monday. But it is still an odd feeling.

The good and the mixed

I had a great parenting moment this afternoon.

Grey sat on the potty, pooping, and reading a book. And by reading, I mean pointing to each word and correctly saying what it was.

Caveats there are that he had pictures for reference, had been read the book several times before, and would often make initial-sound mistakes. (Eg. say it was “swim” when it was really “soar”.) So he’s not reading where reading = interpreting a story one has not read before using letters. It was reading = using letters, memory and context to figure out all the words in an entire book.

At three, I’ll take it.

I got an email from work today informing me that due to an expected foot of snow, work is to be conducted from home tomorrow. This would’ve been awesome news a few years ago. I would’ve made it work a few months ago. But with a very active, nap-averse preschooler and an infant… I just don’t know if I can actually get ANY work done. Childcare, remember, is right next to work. I’m not quite sure what to do — just as much work as I can? Work that night when my husband comes home? Not fret about it? Take the day off?

I had a rough afternoon today — great poop moment aside. I don’t really want to stay home tomorrow, since it is actually significantly harder on me to try to work AND tend to my family.

A farewell to boys

So today I took both boys to daycare. I thought it would be easier to drop Thane off at daycare because:
1) He’s a full month older than Grey was when I first dropped Grey off
2) I’ve known Rubertina for three years now, and have had a good experience dealing with her and my FIRST baby
3) Thane is my second baby. These things get easier with practice, right?

Ha. Wrong.

It’s hard to drop your child off at daycare for the first time. I don’t think it gets easier until they get older, either.

It probably doesn’t help that I read this story about SIDS and how it happens disproportionately to children on their first day being taken care of by someone other than their mom, for reasons which are not yet clear. Also, SIDS risk is highest between 2 – 4 months. Thane is 3 months old. I wish to heaven that SIDS didn’t exist and that the fear of him simply dying while asleep was an irrational one. I’m good and dealing with irrational fears. The fact that it is rational and it happens to sweet, smily, healthy children with no warning while they are peacefully sleeping is, to put it simply, utterly terrifying. We have as few risk factors as possible (no smoking, not premature, Caucasian baby, sleeps on his back, room’s not too warm, no blackets, yadda yadda) but it still isn’t zero.

These are the things that occupy your mind one the first day you drop your sweet, beloved child off at daycare. Or rather, the night before, to the great chagrin of your husband.

Happily, the things I worry about are statistically extremely unlikely. I bet that the drive too and from is riskier — especially in this weather. (On second thought, perhaps not such a happy thought.) I look forward to snuggling that sweet little body close to me tonight!