Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Right now, Sam is supposed to be napping, but if I were to read back the transcript of what's been coming over the monitor, it would say "Ehhhhh MA MA MA ma ma ma ba ba BA ba ba..." and so on. He's not crying, just laying in there talking, and so I have no cause to intervene. When Sam naps during Charlotte's preschool afternoons, I get all manner of things accomplished. Laundry, dishes, cleaning, homework, baking...I compress all manner of Martha Stewart activities into my fleeting 90-120 minutes. When Sam is supposed to be napping but most patently is not, I get nothing accomplished. It really doesn't make sense. I could just as easily fold clothes and load the dishwasher while he babbles himself to sleep, but I can't, for some reason. I'm paralyzed by worry. I'd rather sit and fret and wring my hands that he's NOT SLEEPING and WHAT'S WRONG because HE ALWAYS SLEEPS SO WELL! Could this spell the END of our GOOD SLEEPER?! Fret fret fret.

So I'm channeling that anxiety into something useful: a mostly rambling blog post! Lucky you!

We've settled into a nice routine. My semester and Charlotte's fall schedule started at roughly the same time, and it was a bit touch and go for a while there. But now we know mostly when we need to be where, and what needs to be done when. I've sacrificed a bit of sleep in order to get all my work done and still spend some time with my children and husband, but I mostly don't feel the effects.

Sam's improving a bit on the crawling front. He still uses his army crawl method, but has picked up a bit of speed. He acts all helpless and stationary but as soon as you duck around the corner to make a cup of tea, he turns on the speed and the next thing you know he's across the room, eating a coloring book. Jeff and I watched Iron Man over the weekend, and the scene where Robert Downey Jr. as the titular character was heaving himself across the floor of his basement workshop, trying to reach his back-up chest piece/heart thing, we turned to each other and laughed. "It's Sam!" we both said. My description of the action-movie hero in the Sam Can Crawl video was very apt.

Charlotte is digging her new social lifestyle. She has new songs in her repertoire and will randomly bring up things from her movements outside our home that occasionally baffle us, but for the most part we get it and are delighted to see how preschool and ballet and Sunday school are helping make our bright girl shine even more brightly. We were having some issues the past couple of weeks where Charlotte would wake up at least once a night in an absolute weeping panic. She'd be panting, wailing, staring around all wide-eyed and frantic, and nothing we did could console her. I asked my facebook friends for advice, and the consensus was that she is experiencing night terrors. Several people mentioned that these can result from entering a deep sleep state too quickly, which in turn is caused by going to bed too late/overtired. So we've started putting Miss C to bed a bit earlier, and also easing into bedtime a bit more, as things could get rushed at the end of the day. So far, this seems to be working.

Now Sam has transitioned from placid babbling to agonized yelling, so my intervention may be required. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nine Years

by Frank O’Hara

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New video featuring Sam "crawling." I use that term very, very loosely.

Sam Can Crawl!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Because my area of interest is nineteenth-century literature, I sometimes find myself reading texts that can only be described as romantic, sentimental, or even maudlin in their emotional intensity. One thing many nineteenth-century texts have in common is an idealized vision of childhood. While this isn't true across the board (the nineteenth century gave us many memorable, fleshed-out children's characters as well), it's hard not to get bogged down in the sappy sentimentality of the angelic child in the pages of these Victorian novels.


"O, Topsy, poor child, I love you!" said Eva, with a sudden burst of feeling, and laying her little thin, white hand on Topsy's shoulder; "I love you, because you haven't had any father, or mother, or friends;--because you've been a poor, abused child! I love you, and I want you to be good. I am very unwell, Topsy, and I think I shan't live a great while; and it really grieves me, to have you be so naughty. I wish you would try to be good, for my sake;--it's only a little while I shall be with you." --Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

My daughter is, I think, I pretty good kid. She's bright and fun and interested in life. But I don't fool myself into thinking that Charlotte's a special, angelic princess, unsullied by life and sinful impulse. Like all other three-year-olds, Charlotte lacks empathy for others, and that is reflected in her self-centeredness. Again, I emphasize that this is normal three-year-old behavior, and I know that it is. The altruistic angel child of Victorian lit is simply a myth, a projection of idealized innocence.
Charlotte's selfish side comes out on occasion, such as when Jeff goes into her room in the morning instead of the preferred parent (me), and Charlotte responds by whining, saying "NO!" and holding up her hands to block out the very sight of him. Or when I'm trying to get her out the door and I need her to put on her shoes, and she moves across the room at the slowest possible speed at which she could be moving and still be considered in motion, like the glass in the windows of ancient cathedrals, seeping slowly downward molecule by molecule. And then when I ask her to please hurry up, she responds, "What!? I'm coming, see?"

"Merry Christmas, Marmee! Many of them! Thank you for our books; we read some, and mean to every day," they cried, in chorus.
"Merry Christmas, little daughters! I'm glad you began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little new-born baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there; and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?"
They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a minute no one spoke; only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously,
"I'm so glad you came before we began!"
"May I go and help carry the things to the poor little children?" asked Beth, eagerly.
--Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Today, we were all sitting around in the living room. Sam was sitting on his blanket on the floor, happily playing and babbling, surrounded by a ring of drool-bedecked toys. Jeff was reading on the couch, and I was making a grocery list on the chair nearby. Charlotte ran back and forth, singing, cavorting, and keeping up her usual running commentary. Then she paused in front of Sam, reached out, and shoved him over.
Sam, to his credit, was unaffected by his sudden move from semi-vertical to horizontal, as it's something that happens rather regularly on his own. On the other hand, I was horrified. Charlotte has never been an aggressive kid. She never bit, and I can count on one hand the number of times she's lashed out by hitting or kicking. But this was a deliberately malicious move. And she knew it.
"Charlotte!" I exclaimed. "What did you do?" Something about my tone, the cocktail of shock, shame, and urgency, drew Jeff's attention to the incident. He caught Charlotte as she was sprinting for the kitchen. (As an aside, that's something she does to avoid me when she's in trouble for some reason--runs for another room. Another thing she does is close her eyes. While staying put. As though if she can't see me, my anger doesn't exist.) Jeff carried Charlotte back over by me as I repeated the question.
Charlotte, standing in front of me, refused to answer or look me in the eye. Instead, gazing off into the middle distance, she asked, "What are you going to do?"
Now, if she had tacked on "about it" to the end of that inquiry, I would have been concerned. As it was, this question just demonstrated the three-year-old's natural selfish concerns--what's going to happen to me? How will I be dealt with?
I told Charlotte that we don't hit, push or hurt each other, and that if she did it again, ever, to anyone, not just Sam, she would be punished. And I told her how disappointing this was to me, that she would do something on purpose that could hurt someone. One thing I didn't do, though, was ask her to apologize. One of those hippie kiddie-psychologist articles Jeff or I read claimed that forcing kids to apologize actually postpones altruistic tendencies, so we don't ask Charlotte to, although we do try to model apologizing ourselves.


"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"--Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery

Things went back to normal. I righted Sam again and placed him amid his drool-toys. Jeff sat back down, and Charlotte continued playing. As she ran past Sam, on occasion she'd make a point of patting him gently on the head, like a beloved pet, while making eye contact with me, as if to say "See, Mom? I'm a good big sister!"
After a few more minutes, I saw Charlotte stop in front of Sam again. She squatted down and looked him in the eyes and said something, quietly. Then she smiled at him, got up, and skipped away. Not once did she look at me.
What she said was "Sorry, Sam."
It's not empathy, but it's a start.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

So, this happened:

Yep, preschool. This picture was actually taken today. The thing on Monday was just a brief, hour-long meet-and-greet, visit the room and teachers sort of thing. We got all dressed up and donned the brand new Hello Kitty backpack anyway. But today was the real thing, so I took my friend Kristen's advice, printed up a sign, and started a tradition.
Charlotte takes after her mother in many ways, and her interest in school is just one of them. When we casually mentioned the idea of going to preschool almost a year ago, Charlotte heard and latched onto the notion. She never seemed to express hesitation about leaving her parents and home for several uninterrupted hours, something she's rarely done since we've never done daycare. To her, the appeal of a place full of other kids and organized activities and playing with other toys and reading other books sounded pretty much like heaven.
For the last few months Charlotte has been requesting we "do some school" at home, by which she means work in some of the various workbooks we bought to feed her insatiable brain. She's blown through these books at an incredible speed, demonstrating a hunger for learning that was pretty dang exciting. I mean, I don't have to tell you that I'm a real geek for education. I love the idea that my daughter wants to be challenged to learn, too.
Of course, preschool is really more about the kinds of things she actually needs to learn--things like socialization, sharing, listening and following instructions. I'm so excited to hear about the kinds of things she's learning and doing and experiencing over the next several months.
I have more I want to write, but I'm just coming off a terribly difficult week full of looming deadlines and dueling responsibilities and little sleep. I'm off now to study for my German quiz, but I promise I have more coming soon.