January 2011 Update

I can’t believe it’s been four months since I posted to this blog! I wanted to do at least a monthly update, but the weeks and months just fly by. They retired the theme I was using (why?), so my header is different. I don’t like it, but I don’t really have time to change it, either. Martin and I were counting how many words Oona knows the other day and remembering that I kept track of all Shea’s first words here on Bustopher Jones, so I need to at least make an effort to do the same for Oona. First, the latest (in case anyone still checks this blog from time to time):

Shea turned 3 in December. We had a party for him at Head Over Heels gymnastics. My crappy photos are here. We bought an SLR (a Canon Rebel – mistake?) when Shea was born thinking we’d be able to take great pictures, and all our pictures are pretty crappy. I guess part of the problem is lighting. With indoor lighting and a flash, pictures just don’t turn out that great. But I need to take a digital photography class before these kids grow up because it kills me how many of our photos turn out blurry. That gymnastics place was very well lit, but the kids were moving fast. Maybe our camera just isn’t fast enough. Sigh. The kids had a blast, though. Head Over Heels is an amazing place for adults to play as well as kids. We’re a sucker for the expensive birthday parties, too. Each year I think maybe we’ll just do cake and a small dinner with family and then we go all out. But they only have birthdays two times a year! And because Shea’s is in the winter, we can’t have his in a park.

Shea started preschool last September and loves it. He never cried or even looked back at us as we were leaving him. He’s the kind of kid you can just drop off at a stranger’s for a playdate and he’ll be fine. (I did that last week. Not a stranger, but a kid he had only met once before. He wasn’t upset until I came back to get him three hours later. He wanted to stay longer.) School is only three mornings a week, which has made the transition easy on all of us. And that way he comes home and spends the rest of the day with the nanny and still gets Spanish two days a week.

Speaking of raising kids bilingual/trilingual – oy vey! It’s so difficult to get Shea to speak in French or Spanish, even though he understands everything. I find it’s mostly my fault because when I get tired I lapse into English without even realizing it. But I am making more of an effort to force him to respond to me in French. He can say, “Maman, je veux … s’il vous plait” no problem and he is finally starting to say “Maman, tu peux … s’il vous plait?” (“Mom, I want … please” and “Mom, could you do … please?” He knows the nouns, it’s the verbs we really need to work on. I went through our French flash cards yesterday (which I rarely do and vow to start doing more often), and he knew probably 150 of them. We’ve applied to the French school, but we really can’t afford it. We’re going to see what financial aid they offer us, and if it’s too little, wait to see if we win the lottery before kindergarten (kindergarten is the latest they’ll let them begin.) The whole school dilemma keeps me up at night (send them to so-so Berkeley schools? Move to an all-white super boring suburb in the boonies that will make my commute to SF miserable but where there are better schools? Get a full-time job and use all my income to pay for private school tuition? Send them to Catholic school, which we could afford? I don’t like any of the options.) Back to the bilingual thing – I need to buy a couple books and read up on strategies.

Oona is not as outgoing as Shea, at least not at this age. She’s not shy at all, but she likes her mama and doesn’t want to be held by strangers. If I’m around when the nanny is here, she’ll cry for me until I leave the room, then she forgets about me and is fine. This, of course, pleases me to no end since Shea couldn’t have cared less if I dropped him off for the week with total strangers when he was Oona’s age. Oona is also a thumb sucker. I haven’t discouraged it, but I suppose I’ll have to at some point. She sucks her thumb when she’s tired or unhappy. I’m still nursing her, and she’ll want to nurse if she falls and hurts herself, so I guess it’s a comfort thing. I don’t plan to nurse her much longer. She’s almost 17 months (shit, and I still haven’t taken her for her one-year photo!!), and my plan was to stop at 18 mos. I’ve been so good about taking them to get their pictures taken, but the last few photos I scheduled got canceled because Oona had some huge scratch on her face. I need to take her next week.

Once Shea started school, I limited their classes to one at a time. So we did gymnastics over the summer, music during the fall, and now we’re doing swimming. They love all three, so we just rotate. This is the first session Shea has been in swim lessons on his own (I watch from outside the pool in case he has to get out and pee, but I don’t go in.) He loves the water. The teacher keeps telling me he is “amazing” and “fearless,” but the truth is that if we had kept him in those underwater classes at Petite Baleen, he’d be swimming on his own by now – in fact, probably a year ago. But it was a 35-40-minute drive and they don’t have child care like the Berkeley Y does, so I had no one to watch Oona while I went in the water with Shea. Anyway, I think if we keep up these lessons, he’ll be swimming before he’s 4. He’s going twice a week right now. Oona goes once a week to the baby class, and she’s fine being dunked under water, she can blow bubbles and kick her feet, and she LOVES to play and splash around.

Martin and I are doing well. Not much is new except we got a kitten for Christmas. We finally put Xeno out of his misery (he had kidney failure) back in October, which left us petless for the first time. So we adopted a long-haired gray and white tuxedo cat and named her Kicha, which means kitten in Polish. She’s still a little afraid of the kids, but she’s very friendly and cuddly to everyone else.

Otherwise we’re just nonstop running, running, running with these kids. I feel like I have less and less time to myself as they get older. I have two days with a nanny and I frequently spend half of those days running errands, paying bills, etc. instead of working on my book because it’s the only time I can do those things. With Shea, I would stick him in the stroller or the car and do my errands with him, but lugging two kids in and out of car seats is a nightmare. Nannies are expensive and so is preschool, so we can’t afford more than two days (at least not on my freelance salary). All of our money goes to child care these days, which is a fine argument for sending out kids to public schools!

My solution to my lack of writing time has been to go up to our house near the Russian River once a month for a long weekend alone. I’ve done this three times now, and I always dread going, dread being away from the kids that long, because I’m so involved with them while I’m here and can’t imagine going that long without reading Shea stories, nursing Oona, playing with them, etc. But once I’m up there (with my breast pump), I love it. I get to sleep in late and go in the hot tub and write, write, write all I want. I drink some caffeine in the morning (which I don’t normally) and then just work through from about 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. with frequent breaks for food and tea and chocolate. It’s usually raining, so I don’t miss going outside. On about the third day I’ll go for a run, but otherwise I stay glued to the couch and work straight through. Speaking of running, my plan is to do the Oakland Half Marathon again in March, but I’ve hardly trained at all. I have another goal due at the end of this month, so until I achieve that, my runs are limited to about once a week.

My end-of-the-month goal is to finish the latest revision of my book. For all those of you out there wondering why in God’s name I am still working on the same book and why on Earth it is taking me so long, well …

1. I have almost no time to work on it, so progress is slow.
2. I am going to revise this book as many times as I have to until it gets published.
3. I’m a slow writer to begin with.

And there you have it. I came back from my last “retreat” all motivated and told myself that I was going to work on it every night for two hours and be done by the end of the month (January). The first couple of nights I had other obligations/deadlines. And then I found that starting writing at 9 p.m. when I was exhausted to the point of wanting to collapse straight into bed after dinner just wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t do it. I was too tired. So I got a little writing done here and there and then I got sick, and I’ve been sick for a week now. Sigh. And our taxes are due at the end of the month for our financial aid app for the French school, so that is a priority right now. Seems like there is always something else that takes priority. That is the challenge of being a writer. I wish I were one of those moms who could get up at 5 a.m. and write before the kids got up, but I already want to collapse by 10 a.m. getting up at 7. I guess I could try, but then I’d never see Martin since he is very much a night owl (Martin thinks going to bed at midnight is “early.” He stays up several nights in a row until 3 or 4 a.m. and then crashes at 7 or 8 p.m. for a couple of nights and starts the cycle over again.) This post is getting really long, and I haven’t even gotten to Oona’s words yet! All this to say that I am still plugging away at the book. It’s just really really hard to make the time AND do things like take the kids to get their 1-year picture taken (that will take half of one of my work days this week).

And now, for Oona’s words. These are all the words she knows at 16.5 mos:

Mama, Papa, Shea, baby, bye bye, agua, lait/milk, arbre/tree, chat/kitty, wow-wow (and the sign for dog), all done, more, truck, joom joom and the sign for car, apple, the sign for banana, hat, no, the sounds and/or signs for duck, horse, cow, elephant, bird, monkey. Chausette/sock, chaussure/shoe, bain (bath) and the sign, “cheese” for food when she’s hungry, cracku for cracker which is too damn cute, boots, up, down, “whee!” for slides and swings, hi!, nigh, nigh (night night), sshh for fish (Shea said the same), light, ball, keys, jacket (if shasha counts), choo choo (train), livre/book, ball, bubbles. I think that’s about it!

And now it’s time for me to say nigh nigh.

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