Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reining him in

Okay, I'm just going to go ahead and say it: I'm beginning to think that those oft-maligned kid leashes aren't such a bad idea.

I've been wondering about this for a while, actually. I've heard them described with disdain for years, and I'll admit I had a negative visceral reaction when I saw a child in one at the library a while back. In her column this month, the editor of Real Simple magazine pokes fun at the harnesses, reasoning that "not all ideas that can be easily explained are good ones; leashes for children come to mind.") As the mother of an almost-two-year-old boy who loves to run away from me at every opportunity, though, I now beg to differ.

Picture me running a quick errand with my toddler. I take him out of his car seat and head into, say, the pharmacy. I just need to pick up a prescription, so I don't want to pull out the stroller and strap him in--particularly because he generally hates being confined in the stroller. (And because the aisles of our old CVS are so narrow the stroller might not actually fit.) Instead, I either hold him or, preferably, hold his hand and walk with him through the drugstore to the pharmacy counter, where I must then dig one-handed in the diaper bag for my wallet, awkwardly wrestle my HSA debit card from its place in the credit-card lineup one-handed, and sign my name twice (once on the receipt, once on the prescription pick-up sheet) without letting go of Nate's hand to hold down the paper. If, at any point, I have to use my left hand, Nate takes off, oblivious to my pleas that he stay beside me.

In other words, I'm beginning to see the value in somehow tethering him to me.

I haven't done it, of course, because I'm the kind of person who cares far too much what other people think of me, and I don't know that I could deal with the stares that my leashed child would elicit. (Even if he were wearing one of those cutesy "I'm a cuddly animal backpack with a long handle" contraptions that fool no one.)

I'm wondering, though, how it is that the kid leash became so universally mocked. The obvious answer, of course, is that we use leashes for dogs, and so harnessing a child seems akin to treating him like an animal. And maybe that's right. But hear me out: No one thinks twice about seeing a toddler in a stroller. I mean, aside from some hard-core Montessori folks who would want a child restrained only when required by law or for obvious safety (e.g., in a car seat), or some hard-core babywearing types, like Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Away We Go, people don't have a problem with pushing a small child around strapped into a seat. And neither do I. We have and use a stroller, whenever it makes sense and Nate will tolerate it.

But a child in one of those kid harnesses actually has more freedom to move and explore than a child in a stroller. He can stoop down to touch the grass. He can pick up sticks and leaves and acorns. He can turn around to look at anything he pleases, without his view blocked by a stroller seat. Honestly, there's a part of me that thinks Nate might prefer the toddler leash.

I'm hoping and praying this period of impressive mobility (seriously, people constantly comment on how fast he is) coupled with a tendency to wander, is short-lived. Nate is so good at following most instructions--throwing things in the trash, putting away toys, cleaning up spilled food--but his curiosity just gets the best of him when I need him to stay stationary in public. I'll probably just stick to putting him in the Ergo carrier when the stroller is impractical and I know I'll need both hands. But my hat's off to you, kid-leash inventor. Maybe it's not such a bad idea, after all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The loss season


For the longest time, I didn't think all that much about miscarrying. I mean, I thought about it all the time at first, obviously, but before too long it sort of faded into the background. Such are the benefits of already having a child to take care of; Nate takes up most of my energy, anyway, so there wasn't a lot of time to dwell on what we'd lost. (I shudder to think of the state I'd have been in if I'd lost my first baby, after waiting so long for him.)

Fall, though, as much as I love it, always seems to bring me a hearty dose of melancholy, and this year it's got an extra helping of wistfulness in tow. All of a sudden my friends who got found out they were expecting this spring, right around the time I did, are hugely pregnant and approaching their due dates. I still associate September due dates with my expectation that Nate would be born around September 22nd. October dates, too, make me think back to Nate's birth, since he stubbornly hung out in my womb long enough to flip the calendar page. It's November that's giving me pause.

By my calculations, the baby we lost would have been due on Thanksgiving day. When I initially calculated it, the timing seemed perfect--a day to thank God for all He's given us, and in particular this latest little blessing. When I miscarried in early April, I didn't think about the fall. I just needed to get through the pain of the now at that point, and some ever-hopeful and obviously naive part of myself thought it was entirely possible that I'd be pregnant again by my due date. (To be honest, that part of me is still hopping around inside, fingers crossed and eyes shining. My jaded side wants to kick her and have a margarita. Or three.)

It's officially fall, though, and as the magazines and catalogs and cooking blogs gear up with an onslaught of lovely autumnal decor and harvest-time food, my thoughts keep turning to what we should have been expecting this season.

I worry that it will color the rest of the year, which isn't fair to Nate, to David, or to myself. It isn't fair to my brother-in-law and his lovely wife, who are expecting their first, long-awaited child next month. (And honestly, my excitement over their baby is actually helping right now. Between shower-throwing and advice-giving and equipment-lending, it's like I still have a baby project, sans heartburn, backaches, and the immediate promise of sleep deprivation.) I'm praying the cure to my funk will come, at least in part, from planning plenty of activities to celebrate what really is my favorite season. There's an arts festival to attend, an anniversary and a birthday to celebrate (our sixth; Nate's second), a Halloween costume to plan, a girls' weekend to relish, a farm to visit, and probably a dozen other fall-centric activities I'm dying to drag Nate to this year. There'll soon be a tiny niece to snuggle and coo over. We'll be fine. But still.

My mother asked us to come down to Georgia for Thanksgiving, but I can't deal with the idea of spending my due date in the same place where we discovered my miscarriage. Not at all. Better to have my own Thanksgiving feast to focus on, at home, where I can make sure I'll be too busy with table setting and turkey roasting and potato mashing, hopefully, to dwell too much.

And, I promise, I'll still look around my table and smile with gratitude, even if there are tears in my eyes.

{Image credit: thealwaysgentleman.tumblr.com via Diana on Pinterest.}

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Let's talk about my birthday! And my hair! Because those things TOTALLY go together.

Today is my birthday. Yesterday I was feeling slightly angsty about the whole "another year older" thing, because these years, they are really piling up now, but today I've been refreshingly nonchalant about it. Perhaps it's because, as per usual on one's birthday, I woke up feeling exactly the same as I felt yesterday, and not suddenly all arthritic and possessed with a need to eat dinner at half past lunchtime. (Although, ironically, our dinner reservation tonight is at a positively geriatric FIVE PM. So maybe the joke's on me.)

I'm feeling particularly spunky because yesterday I had all of my hair cut EVEN SHORTER, of you can believe it, and can we discuss how happy my short hair makes me? I mean, on its best days I used to love my longer hair. If it wasn't raining, or windy, or humid--which is to say, practically never--and I worked hard at blow-drying it with a round brush, it looked pretty cute. I'd made peace with the fact that it won't lie straight or turn under at all, and so I did this sort of flippy-out thing and for quite a few years I kept it mostly the same out of deference to a growth pattern that baffles even the most unflappable stylist. But it took forever, and if there was even a whiff of moisture in the air I'd step outside and see my hard work demolished in a span of mere minutes. Y'all, I kept a combination round-brush-hair-dryer thingie in my desk at work, so that I could RE-flip the ends at the office on bad-weather days. It was a lot of effort, is what I'm saying.

And while I don't think my short hair is the most adorable or stylish thing ever (on ME, that is, because I see other women all the time who have short cuts that are positively darling), here's the thing: With my old haircut, the significant effort far outweighed the typically mediocre results. Now, I put in very little effort, and the results are consistently JUST FINE. And they're fine regardless of the relative humidity level, which is HUGE.

So, anyway. Short hair= win. And now even shorter hair=bigger win.

In other WIN news, David bought me two very lovely and delightful birthday presents:

This sweater that I really wanted from Garnet Hill.



And this dress from Boden that I am wearing AS I TYPE THESE VERY WORDS.


We are a "send me specific gift ideas" sort of family, which I dislike in some ways, but it does make it easy to get precisely what you want, so I'd send David links to both of these items. He called me from work the other day to tell me that the dress was backordered for, like, eight weeks, which made me COMPLETELY UNREASONABLY upset, as I'd had visions of this dress with a chunky necklace and boots and I needed to make my fall SAHM fashion dreams come true.

(Sidebar: Don't you hate it when you KNOW that you are having a completely unjustified emotional reaction to something very minor, and you STILL can't stop feeling the way you're feeling? This happens to me all the time, and it just adds insult to injury. I feel like if the intellectual side of my brain totally GETS that I'm being crazy, it should be able to whip the emotional side into shape. But no.)

But! David gave me a box to open this morning and it contained both the sweater AND the dress! And he keeps telling me that there are MORE presents to come, which makes me practically giddy. (I'm SPOILED SPOILED SPOILED and I totally know it, but gifts are totally one of my love languages and David loves to buy things for me, so this just really works for our relationship.)

Anyway, to sum everything up. Hair=short. Husband=generous. Birthdays=awesome. You=really glad this post is over.

Photo sources: garnethill.com and


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Preschool Dazed

My son is not even two years old yet, and I'm fretting about school.

Perhaps it's indicative of my Type A personality, or perhaps it's just that we live where we live. (At the playground last summer, when Nate wasn't even one, I had other mothers asking me whether I was sending him to preschool that fall.) Regardless, it's taking up a fair bit of my mental energy right now, because I'm worried about, you know, getting it right. In preschool.

The first question, of course, is whether to send him at all next fall. Three is a pretty common age at which to start preschool, and Nate will, indeed, be three next fall. But the state age cutoff for starting kindergarten is five by September 30th, and so many of the preschools have a three-by-the-30th policy, and Nate's birthday is October 6th. Less than a week later. And so we're faced with the question of whether we'd rather he be pretty much the youngest kid in his class, or the oldest.

I'd initially hoped we could just postpone thinking about this issue until closer to age 5, when he has some preschool under his belt and we can see where he is intellectually, emotionally, and socially. I'd sort of figured that we could, if necessary or advisable, give him three years of preschool.

The more I think about it, though, the more it seems like we have to give this some serious thought right now. First, if we send him to a traditional preschool program, what is he going to think when all his classmates are going to kindergarten the following fall, and he's going to stay out for another year of preschool? Second, we're considering sending him to Montessori school, where the kids spend three years in the same Primary classroom, with the third year being the kindergarten year. If we go the Montessori route and start him next fall, we're pretty much making the decision now that he'll be the youngest kid in his class.

There is sort of another option, I guess, which is to put him in a twos or 2.5s program, although those programs are very popular around here and hard to get into.

If we do decide to send him next fall, assuming he can do a threes program, the next question is whether to send him to a play-based or a Montessori school. The Montessori schools, in addition to being crazy expensive, all seem to meet five days a week. Five days a week just seems like a lot to me, and there's not an option to attend for fewer days. At the same time, I love the Montessori philosophy and think he could really thrive in that environment (and, actually, that almost any child would thrive in that environment). We can figure out the money; if we decide it's the right fit for him, we'll just make it a priority. I just don't know whether either of us will be ready to be apart for hours every day.

(That's the other thing that's so frustrating. I'm thinking about these things an entire year ahead of time. But the preschool fair is next month, and applications are due in January and February, and the Montessori schools take applications on a rolling basis--i.e., now. And at $100 a pop just to apply, I feel like I don't want to send a bunch of applications willy-nilly in case we decide to go that route.)

The third issue is whether we want to send him to our parish preschool. The parish just opened a preschool this fall, and I'd initially assumed we would just send him there. There's a Montessori-based religious education program involved (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), but the bulk of the program is not Montessori. I feel like, unless we decide to send him to a true Montessori school, we should support the parish school, and I've always loved the idea of having more areas of our life be tied into our faith community. They are using the September 30th birthday cutoff, but I'm pretty sure that if their threes program isn't full next fall, they'd be glad to take Nate.

Of course, the biggest problem with all of this is that it forces me to consider the fact that my precious tiny baby is continuing to get bigger and bigger and all too soon will be in school, all day, away from me, and will one day leave me altogether. This, my friends, is wholly unacceptable. And unavoidable. With my boy at age not-even-quite-two, I'm not ready to think about it yet.

Maybe I can just scrap the whole "going to school" idea and homeschool him until college.