Pajama day
I organized piles of papers, I ate french toast at 10am, I lied around on the floor with my two kids, I watched The View for the first time. I stayed in my pajamas the entire day. I applied no make-up or hair products. I put Charlie down for his quiet time when his baby brother went down, and not according to the clock. I stared at the wall a little. I tried to think of things to do.

It was bliss.

I have another day of it tomorrow.

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My memories of Chrismas are from age 8 and up. I really don't remember being a toddler or preschooler on the holidays, even though I have a lot of memories from this age. So I never really know what to expect on the holidays with little kids of my own.

Skip the next few sections if traditional, domestic bliss bothers you.

I remember waking up early on Christmas morning and kneeling - no, lying - down at the top of the stairs so that I could peek and see what Santa had brought. No matter what it looked like downstairs, it was always glorious and festive and the best thing in the world. I loved Christmas.

We would tear open presents before eating breakfast. Then we would leave the paper mess in the middle of the floor and eat pancakes or waffles, famished. Everyone in the family loved Christmas; I think that is what made it so great.

My mom would play the piano and we'd sing Christmas carols, even though she was the only one who could really sing. My dad would read the Christmas story from the Bible. My sister and brother would come home from college and stay for the day, bringing me huge Bert and Ernie cookies or an oversized stuffed animal or something along those lines. My mom would cook a huge, delicious feast while the rest of us sacked out on the couch, watched TV, and played board games all day. I loved everyone being there together.

* * *

Our Christmas this year was different in so many ways. We had to wake Charlie up at 8:30 so that we could open presents together before Will's first nap. He came down the steps sleepy and out of it. He was happy to see his new bike, but also a little clingy and uncertain.

Charlie quickly got into the spirit of tearing open presents, and often said, "is that one mine? is this one mine? is it mine? is it? is it?" And I cringed just a tiny bit because I hate the idea of Christmas being all commercial and raising a kid who just expects stuff. So we gently reminded him that other people have turns, and that we can stop and slow down to enjoy the present most recently received.

There was no Christmas story - the boys are too young and I don't know where to begin.

My family is all out-of-state, so that made me a little sad. No Scrabble or Monopoly or Balderdash. (Just wait until the boys are old enough. I am totally raising them to be game guys. Take that, hubby.)

But still, it was a happy day. The four of us were all together, there was snow on the ground outside and it was peaceful and warm inside, we all had days off and time to cuddle and do nothing. And, Jerry was so thoughtful - he got me my first pair of sexy pajamas, that both revealed the lovelies while concealing the mom belly. I felt spoiled, but in a good way.

And then Charlie started acting extremely sassy, apparently thinking that Christmas means the children are kings for a day. And with all the excitement and overstimulation, Will would not go down for his second nap, so he fussed and arched his back, and it took forever to get him down.

Then we made a huge dinner (my part: homemade croutons. Hubby's: everything else. Hey, I was in charge of naps.)

All in all, a wonderful day.

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What daycare providers talk about when parents aren't around, Part II
yummy Christmas fruitcake
I belong to a few daycare provider support groups, if you could call them that. I log on, ask my question for the day, and receive tons of answers from people who have been doing this way too long. They are experts, and I love them.

The topics vary from day to day, but are along the lines of: Baby won't stop crying. Parents won't pay me on time. Is this child ADD? This child won't eat. How do you teach the alphabet? Time-outs are not working. Need craft ideas. Are these tantrums normal? Do you teach manners at this age? Feeling frustrated, want to quit. How to get kids to nap in same room?

In December, that all changes. I see things like: Did your families buy you a Christmas gift? Feeling underappreciated. What did you recieve? Gift etiquette. This parent never acknowledges me.

Let me back up. I keep reading articles like this on who to tip at Christmas, and how much. Garbage collector ($10-$30 each). Newspaper delivery guy ($10-$30). Massage therapist - up to one session's fee ($65). Hair cutter - the cost of one visit ($60). When I read these guidelines, I think they sound so unrealistic. If I added up all the recommended tips for people who provided us services this year, we would owe about $200. We can't afford that, and we don't tip all those people above and beyond the normal tip amounts (except the garbage guy. He is different. Another topic alltogether.)

But when it comes to the person who wipes your kid's nose and applies butt paste to their special place, some kind of appreciation is in order. The recommended $25-$75 isn't necessary. Not that I would turn that down, but the monetary gift isn't the point.

I can't ignore the anger that comes out on these boards around Christmastime, and it makes me sad. There is urgency in their typed voices: "what did you receive?" and, "I can't believe I got stiffed again." I can't help but think that the issue is not so much the Christmas present or lack thereof, but the fact that some providers feel under-appreciated all year long, and that anger comes to a head during a time of supposed generosity.

I have received things like candles and chocolates and gift certificates, and I appreciate them. In the two Christmases of doing this, a couple parents did not get me anything at all. But I didn't care, because in both cases I felt totally appreciated by them. A gift would have felt like excess. I think Thank you goes a long way.

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Done whining now.
All right. Two posts of whining, and I am officially snapping myself out of it. Sorry for that.

I am looking straight into ten uninterrupted days off with my kids, hubby, and kitty. Days to rejuvinate and celebrate Christmas. So on a positive note:

Jerry: Charlie, why don't you go play in the other room?
Charlie: No, mommy is in there. I don't like her.
Jerry: That was mean.
Charlie (walking over to me): Oh mommy, I sorry. I love you. I love you all my heart.

Will crawls over to me, uses my arms as handles and pulls himself to a standing position, and gives me a big, wet, open-mouth kiss on my cheek. Aw, sweet stuff.

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I hired my manny.
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Awhile back I posted about whether I should hire a manny to help with my daycare. He came over today so that my existing daycare parents could meet him and I could let them provide feedback before I made my decision. And the timing was perfect because I needed an extra set of hands to help with our Christmas crafts.

Ohmygosh. He was awesome. When the kids ate their breakfast and there was a rare quiet moment, Ken spotted a broom between my fridge and the wall, and started to voluntarily sweep under the table. When the kids giggled at the new sight of a tickly broom, he used its bristles to tickle their toes. And when the kids brought their dishes to the sink, he rinsed the bowls and put them into a sink stack. Later, I helped adhere little inked handprints to paper, and Ken followed along to help them add glue and glitter.

At one point, Charlie wanted to tattle on someone, so he said the following: "Mommy asked Mikey to stop running in the house, and he is running in the house, Ken."

Um, I am still in charge here.

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Please, stop hugging.
I never thought I would have to say this to another person, let alone, a child. After all, I am a lover (see my meme). I am totally cool with personal contact, and firmly believe our world needs more hugs.

But sometimes, enough is enough. I watch a daycare boy who, let's call him Cassanova, will not stop hugging everyone. He is a very sweet two-year-old. He has never had a tantrum, never thrown a toy or hit anyone, hardly cries, and does exactly what I ask of him the first time I ask. Amazing. And yet, I have to have one-on-one meetings with his parents.

He will not stop hugging everyone.

In the beginning, the problem was actually sort of dangerous. With a huge, enthusiastic, Cool-Aid smile, he would go to each of the kids and bend down a little so that his arms were level with their waists, and he would squeeze. The smile and gesture said please be my friend, I will love you forever. Each of the kids would let out an uncomfortable scream and push him away, or else burst into tears. But that wasn't the dangerous part.

The dangerous part happened when I turned away for a moment. And when I turned back around, he had that friendly smile on his face while he held a pillow. A pillow that was held firmly in place on top of my baby Will's face. While he pressed down. Hard.

I almost lost my mind. My baby could have been suffocated. He received an immediate time-out and a firm talking-to. His parents were notified at pickup. Between the three of us, we echoed "be gentle," and "no hugs - just pats."

But although he has had no access to pillows and baby Will is always within one inch of me now, I swear the problem is worse.

Like this morning when Lucy arrived, she burst into tears when she saw his friendly face. "No, no Nova," she said. I was the only one in the room who knew why she was crying. Her space had been violated by him one too many times.

And whenever Charlie sees him, he uses a gruff, Darth Vader voice reserved only for him. Nova comes within a foot of Charlie, and Charlie says, "No, Nova, I want my space please." But in the raspiest, most unfriendly voice ever.

Mikey, whenever he is gently patted by Nova, will totally shrug his shoulder away, sometimes using such force that Nova falls down. I have to remind Mikey, he was being gentle. Chill.

The little 22-month-old just runs and says nooooo sometimes when he sees him.

It is very sad. My new rule is that he has to ask for a hug, and the other person can say yes or no. If they say no, he has to respect their space. But he can hug me anytime. Anytime. After all, I want him to feel accepted here. But today after I received the ninth gentle hug and the fourth very painful one, I found myself saying, "no more please. Let's just go play now."



All right, already.
Here's my meme.

Things you may not know about me
1. I broke a bone or sprained an ankle every year of elementary school and one year of high school. My teacher in sixth grade asked me if my initials, A.P., stood for accident-prone. I told her they did not.

2. I have a green dot on my left arm, called a blue nevis mole. When I was young, I got sick of kids asking me what it was, so I made up a story that I tripped on the vacuum cleaner and gave myself a hickey. Later I said it was a partial tattoo, partial because I chickened out and didn't get it completed. Later I looked up the medical definition of my special dot, and told people, truthfully, that it was "a conglomeration of blood vessels formed at the surface of the skin.” Shockingly, that brought about no reaction. Perfect.

3. I used to be a right-wing conservative, and then I went on a European study tour where I studied European politics, and became an extremely happy, I-finally-see-the-light liberal. My parents would say things like, “those Europeans brainwashed you,” but after 18 years of Rush Limbaugh, three months of the other side of the coin was enough for me.

4. My sister and brother are 16 and 18 years older than me, so for most of my childhood I just lived with my parents. It used to piss me off beyond reason when people would say, "oh, you are just like an only child" because my sister and brother were such huge influences on me. I credit my sister almost 100% with my positive self-esteem. She constantly told me how cool it was that my bright orange hair made me different. My brother is mostly responsible for helping me become a writer. He read my 4th grade novel like it was the best thing ever, told me which parts to work on and which parts showed potential.

5. I got my Master's Degree in Public Policy so that I could be a legislative analyst. Instead, I wipe noses and put people in time-outs all day. This blog is my adult time.

6. I used to be a cheerleader, and this is really embarassing to me because they represent the opposite of what I believe a woman should be. That said, I was a clutsy (see above), totally dorky 8th grader, and cheerleading was the very first thing I was ever decent at, and although I was shy, I loved performing. So it brought me out of my shell. Anytime I have a new group of friends or workmates, I work hard to make sure this fact does not come to light.

Things I want to do before I die
1. Go back to Europe, this time with my husband. I would love to revisit all the places I saw in 1996: Amsterdam, Krakow, Prague, Budapest, London, Berlin. I am not big on museums or famous landmarks (and don't ask me to name any of them), but I love windy roads, canals, coffeeshops, clubs, train stations, and for some reason, city buses and trains.

2. Live debt-free.

3. Watch my boys grow up, get married, and have kids. Man I hope they live near us. I cannot believe I just said that. What am I, sixty?

4. Move with Husband into a small bungalow-style house downtown. In a city. Either Seattle or Denver or somewhere else, depending on where our kids live.

5. Create something that will make us lots of money. I have an idea, but it's a secret.

Things I cannot do
1.Give up sugar completely

2.Be a saver (of money, calories, time, whatever). So boring.

3.Arrive on time anywhere

4.Go a day without watching TV

Things I can do
1. I am a great sleeper. I can sleep anytime of day, anywhere. I can sleep deeply for 5 minutes, hear a peep in the house, jump out of bed and yet, feel refreshed. I'm like a cat.

2. Snap a decent photograph.

3. Potty train children.

4. Raise kids to be nice to each other. :)

5. Love. I am a good lover. I love deeply.

Things that attract/ed me to hubby
This list would not be as interesting without first briefly telling the story of how we met. It was at Kinko's. I caught him peeking at me over the rim of the copier (no he is not 4' tall - these are the big copiers). The next day, same thing - this normally reserved guy checking me out somewhat boldly. A week or two went by and we had the Kinko's Christmas party - an extravagent bash held on a nice college campus and where, for some odd reason, all the employees brought their own flasks. Jerry and I were the only two who were like, what the hell? He sat next to me and we started talking. And as he talked, I remembered the many, many, many checklists I had made as a child titled something like Qualities My Future Husband Will Have, and I held my breath as I checked off one, then two, then three items. First the unimportant ones like blue eyes and cute and nice bod, and then the more important ones.

1. He writes (!!!!!)

2. He had interesting things to talk about

3. He was shy, understated, modest. I had a feeling we were in our own world.

4. He had a dry sense of humor and made me laugh

5. He made me feel attractive and cute and yet... he was not overbearing in any way.

Things I say most often (at this point in my life)
1. Get your finger out of your nose

2. Be nice!

3. Can you say that without whining?

4. 1, 2, 3....

5. Honey, when are you coming home?

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Charlie: Mommy, I don't want to get small and go into your tummy again. Cuz, I scared of your food.

Charlie (playing at the table): [bang, bang, bang]
Jerry: Um, Charlie, how old are you again?
Charlie: Three.
Jerry: You are too old to be playing at the table. When you're three, you can act nice at the table.
Charlie: Oh. I be two again?

During the daycare...
Charlie: Lucy, will you sleep with me? And cuddle with me? In my bed?
Lucy: Yes!!
Oh my.

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What I want for Christmas
I just spent the last three hours searching online for the perfect husbandly Christmas gift. Not only does it not exist, but if it does, it is too expensive. So I started to get bored, and wander. And I found a bunch of nice things for me.

Husband, if you are out there and have decided to finally read one of my blog posts, here is my list.

Godiva chocolate covered strawberries
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I've been on my pre-diabetic diet for a week, and I've done great. Really. I am so proud of myself. So let's celebrate. Not only does the chocolate contain some protein in the milk, but the strawberry has fiber, cancelling out a carb or two.

Gap wide stripe hoodie
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Perfect because: a) I work with kids all day and like to be comfortable; b) this has stripes; c) it zips both ways. Not sure why that is important, but I like it.

Faith slipper
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Because when I answer the door to those daycare parents, I need to look somewhat serious about my job, while also feeling extremely comfortable. These will do the trick, and I get to feel cute too.

Kisses bandages
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I seem to hurt myself a lot. These will totally help.

Orgasmitron head massager
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We went to a party once where they had this, and man, it was a conversation starter for like 2 hours. But that's not why I want one.

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Because I have never, in all of my very sexy adult life, owned one of these. It is time.

Eye-soothe tension-relieving mask
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I don't really want this. But can we make fun of her for a minute?

Kama sutra dice game
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Married 8 years

Velour pants
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Mmmmm. Comfy.

Candy bra
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Requires no explanation

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Charlie's alternate use of toys
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"Look, mommy! A crane!"

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The best engine pulls... Jergens?

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Um, that's a straw.

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"Look, mommy! Train tracks!"

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Man stuck in ball.

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Would you hire a manny?
A couple months ago, I finally brought on my sixth child, making my daycare legally "full." Now one of my daycare kids has a new little baby sister, and she will be joining our daycare in a few months. That will put me over on my numbers.

I have stressed about this for some time. I don't want to let anyone go. I like all of my daycare kids and their parents. But I don't want to have so many kids that I am frazzled and snap at the children. I want things to still be fun and for us to have circle time without total chaos.

So I must hire a helper.

Awhile back, I posted in my Want Ads, and all the replies I received were from mothers wanting to bring their kids along. Sure, they could change other kids' diapers, but they would also have their own kid in toe. One even went so far as to say, "I must warn you, my daughter is very clingy and needs to be held most of the time. I demand that she never be away from me."

Um, seriously? And I am going to pay you for that?

So I posted another Want Ad, making it clear that a daycare helper could not bring along their child. My goal, after all, is to improve my adult/child ratio. Also, I couldn't afford much, so I hoped for a college student.

I received a reply from such a college student: nineteen years old, had five little sisters whom he helped raise, loved children, was available when I needed him, was excited by the wage I could offer. We made an appointment to meet in person. He was humble, shy, sweet. He came over one day to meet the kids, and they flocked around him like he was a S'more. He threw footballs to three of the kids at once, and they practially fought over him.

Then my mom and dad, who were in town at the time, weighed in on this. I could not hire a male, they said.
"Why would a nineteen year old man want to work with children?" My dad asked.
Later, he rephrased the question, but asked it again.
And again.
"Um, dads like working with children, and they are men. Why wouldn't a man like to work with kids?" I asked.
Then my mom agreed, and my husband too.

My mom reminded me that statistically, men are more likely than women to sexually abuse a child. And besides, it was a little odd that a guy would want to work with children, I heard for the twentieth time. And while I know I can do an FBI check, those only reveal crimes that have already been committed and prosecuted, not unknown ones.

And a little nugget of doubt was planted in my brain. And I began to imagine what it would feel like if something were to happen to these kids who I am responsible for. I argued that this helper would never be alone with the kids; he would work next to me as an extra set of hands.

"Yeah," my mom said, "but be realistic. You know that at some point, he will be alone with them." And I knew she was right. I would have to run the baby upstairs, or go pee, or put someone into a time out. You just never know.

The most important thing to me is ensuring these kids are safe -- my own, and others who trust me with theirs. But I feel extremely sexist. What would you do?

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Charlie: I want my daddy.
Me: He is driving home from work.
Charlie: No, I want to see him now.
Me: Well, he can't really drive any faster.
Charlie: Cuz he needs more power? In his car?

Lucy [giving very mean look to other daycare kid]: Go away. I crabby!
Me: You can be crabby in that hallway, or nice in the playroom.
Lucy: I nice. I happy happy happy!!!

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Opening and Closing a Chapter
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The night after we returned home from the hospital to watch Charlie's forehead get stitched back together, hubby and I returned home, exhausted and frazzled.

We weren't the only ones. When I went to pick up Will from the neighbor's house, he too was frazzled, except with him, the cause was separation anxiety. Each time I tried to put him to bed, he would wake up screaming, wanting to be held a little longer. After four attempts, I finally took him to bed with me.

Hubby later came in to kiss me sweetly and see if I was OK. Although I felt stressed out, I also felt so incredibly thankful for all that we have. “I love our baby boys,” I said. He smiled at me, then asked: “Want to try for the next one?”

Stunned silence. This coming from the man who made it abundantly clear that we would be done having kids after two. That he felt too “old” to keep procreating like a bunny rabbit. That he -- and I agreed -- wanted our time alone together as soon as possible. That we wanted things to be less hectic, and sooner.

I laughed it off and didn't say anything. I didn't want to jinx the possibility.

* * *

I spent the next two days exploring opposite sides of the fence.

At first: this odd feeling that I should want another child, yet I didn't. I should want a girl, right? Yet I feel complete without one. Three kids would be more fun that two, yes? Yet I feel my life is pretty full of fun already. Peace and quiet, that is what I want.

But then. How cool would it be to be pregnant again? To take each breath and deliver that breath to the life inside me? To literally push a life out into the world again? To see a new face that is both a combination of the two of us, and yet, its own unique being? To give both my boys a new little sibling to look after. A new little sibling that might possibly be a girl.

And then, hours later, the practical thoughts. If we have three, that will delay when I can return to the workforce – the workforce that will give me things like 401ks, pre-tax savings plans, adult interaction, coffee breaks. If I have three children, then as a daycare provider, I would have to let one of my daycare kids go and say goodbye to some significant income, too, as I can only legally watch a maximum of six kids... unless, I thought, I wait until Charlie is in Kindergarten, in which case I don't have to count him and I can have the income of four children... but if baby #3 is delayed until Charlie reaches Kindergarten, then I can't get pregnant for fourteen more months, allowing fourteen more months for hubby to discover a grey hair or feel old and change his mind.

And furthermore... if we have three, we would most certainly need a bigger house, one that is not already bursting at the seams, but we can't move into a bigger house until I have a traditional paycheck that a bank will count as legitimate, and if I get a traditional job then I can't stay home with my third baby and I want to give him or her what I gave my first two.

And the numbers. With three, it will be at least two more years until we are all sleeping through the night, and four-and-a-half more years until we can go to restaurants like civilized people, and two hundred and twenty-five more months until hubby and I can retire, child-free.

But if we have three, then maybe we can have a girl.

Later I go to the library and flip through Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I am not ready to buy it yet. But I skim the chapter on increasing one's odds of producing a girl.

* * *

Later, we are all driving to see Christmas lights downtown. I have a strange feeling that before I let this verbal boxing match continue in my brain any longer, I should clarify something.

Me: You know the other day when you mentioned trying for a third? You meant that, right?
Him: Oh, no, honey. I changed my mind about 30 seconds after I said it.
Me: Did you think maybe you should tell me? Because I've been thinking about it ever since.
Him: I'm so sorry. I thought we were pretty clear about this.

* * *

So, decision made. I was perfectly happy with two before, with only a fleeting question about what it would be like to have a girl, followed by a fleeting feeling that I didn't actually need one. And then I had two days where I allowed myself to picture this family of five, and to plan how to accomplish it. And now the door is closed and there is no more reason to think of it.

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