The peregrinations of twins and their mother, practicing

The thing about the statement that doing something repeatedly and expecting to get a different result is the definition of insanity is, that it renders many of parenthood’s tasks not just irritating, tedious, or frustrating, but mentally discombobulating, too. In my experience, one of the requirements of parenthood is a willingness to do something over and over and over again, because that is what it takes for a baby or toddler to learn. And learning to give that, with patience and love, is definitely a growth opportunity for me. The twins have learned that they don’t have to stay in their beds, and that on the other side of their bedroom door is the laundry room, and on the other side of the door at the far end of the laundry room is our bedroom.

This new knowledge has created new challenges around bed and naptime. Tonight I put each of them back in their beds so many times I lost count, but it had to be something well over ten. And that’s a minimum of twenty peregrinations across a pitch-black bedroom chanting our bedtime mantra, “It’s time to relax and go to sleep” while simultaneously promising myself, inside my head, “I will not step on/trip over/crash into my child, I will not step on/trip over/crash into my child, I will not step on/trip over/crash into my child.” I didn’t. And eventually, the twins went from getting up in order to find me or leave the room, to merely sitting up in bed howling; and then they acceded to lying in bed crying with vigor; and then, eventually, they reluctantly acquiesced to alternating whimpers and less pointed crying; and then, there were periods of quiet; and finally, they slept, though Emily continued to have that post-sobbing catch in her breath for a long time after she’d succumbed to the pull of slumber.

The second time I came out into my bedroom where Hazel was, extremely patiently waiting for me to read her a book and snuggle with her, Joanna started crying again. Hazel said, “Just ignore her.” Sadly, the cry was too prolonged and anguished for me to do that. It took a couple more tries. But then we read four “Little Bear” stories, after which I carried her into the kids’ bedroom and put her in her bed.

So in this instance, persistence is not evidence of insanity, but the result of necessity and mother-love, not a bad combination.

I managed to practice this afternoon for a while after I helped Hazel do her piano practice. I have the morning off tomorrow, so I will fill it with more practice: not exactly restful, but the result of necessity and musician-love, an equally fine combination.


Gig, zoo, naptime

Tonight we did a fundraiser concert for the orchestra I’m currently playing with. We performed Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”, Vivaldi’s “Spring” Violin Concerto, and the first movement from Holst’s, “The Planets”, crowd pleasers all. Though I’ve heard the Mozart and the Vivaldi in particular fully one billion times, they are still fun to play and to listen to. I also got to meet a few new people through this gig, including a cellist who’s moved into the area recently. The conversation we had in the break helped enhance my enjoyment of the music, because sharing our stories with each other brought back the time when I couldn’t play due to an injury I sustained the summer after my second year of grad school. I limped my way through the rest of my Masters, but having not got a clear answer or help, stopped playing for a while after that. I was scared I’d hurt myself so badly I’d never recover. Ultimately, I met someone a while after I’d moved out west who helped get me back on my feet, and the joy of reconnection with music then was quite precious. It helps me to remember that when I’m feeling burned out or tired. I am so grateful to be able to play, and to be able to make music with such great friends and colleagues. I know that I am sometimes a broken record on that subject, but having a job that I love so much is a great gift.

The day was good, too. We went to the zoo this morning, and after shuttling around with the stroller to see a few animals, we found a spot where we could let the twins out to see the few farm animals they’ve got. The area is very toddler-friendly. When they’re a year older I think I’ll be able to walk around more freely with them, but until we can have a conversation, even if it’s a bit rudimentary, I don’t want to risk letting them roam in displays where in the blink of an eye they could be under a fence and into the water. I explained that to Hazel, and she asked, “But why?” I said there’d be a whole rigmarole, I’d have to jump in after them, they’d get wet, I’d get wet, we’d all be unhappy, not worth it. “Oh,” she said.

When I was a kid in St. Louis, I remember an occasion on which someone’s kid somehow fell into the carp pond at the Japanese Garden. The dad jumped in to rescue him, and it turned out that the water was very shallow, no heroics required: the kid was standing up within a couple seconds of falling in. But I’d rather not experience that myself.

My parents, of course, are right now rolling their eyes as they read this: when I was a little kid I was a devotee of falling into any body of water they said I couldn’t get into. There is a picture of my sister pouring the water out of my Wellies after I’d fallen into a stream we’d stopped by when we were out for the day during a trip to Scotland when I was six years old. Still, a zoo display, in front of masses of people, seems worse, if only from the embarrassment angle. It’s all in your perspective, I guess. There is a line in the “Goon Show” (a BBC radio show from the 50’s), the sole utterance of a character named, “Little Jim” that goes, “He’s fallen in the water!”. This was repeated with some frequency in our household. This may or may not explain some things about my weird sense of humor and interest in somewhat arcane art.

Anyway, to get back on track, we spent a couple of hours at the zoo and then came home for lunch. Despite falling asleep in the car on the way back, the twins were by no means interested in participating in anything so boring as a nap. Neither of them fell asleep nursing, so after I’d read to them, nursed them, sung to them, and read to them some more, I was faced with the prospect of applying two reluctant toddlers to their mattresses and trying to get them to stay there. After I turned out the lights in order to accomplish this, I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t step on, trip over, or otherwise bonk a twin who was roaming around in the room. Consequently I went, very carefully, from bed to bed, putting them back down while they wailed and gnashed their teeth (I presume). Miraculously, after I’d replaced each of them in their beds a couple of times, they stayed. And then it was just the usual matter of soothing, patting, murmuring, persuading. They did go to sleep. And Hazel had quiet time. And I chatted with a friend on FB.

This weekend is quite populated with rehearsals and practicing, but it will also be gorgeous weather, so I am sure there will also be gardening, going for walks, and having picnics. I am looking forward to it.

Twins’ explorations, rehearsal

A new era has begun. This morning as I lay in my bed, contemplating whether or not to wake up I heard furtive footsteps. I was not yet in the mood to interact, so lay still with my eyes closed, waiting for Hazel to go straight downstairs (as she usually does, to hang out in the bathroom playing games on Ted’s phone while he showers). The footsteps stopped. I stayed quiet and still. After a minute or so the pressure started to build, and I wondered what sort of trick she was playing. I admired, inside my head, her patience, her ability to wait me out. Then I heard, in a piping little voice, “Mommy’s!” which is what Emily says when picking up something she knows belongs to me.

!! I sat bolt upright and saw the twins standing at the foot of the bed, smiling at me.

“Mommy!” “Mama!”

They came trundling over and I lifted them up for a morning snuggle.

This is a first, preceded by only one occasion when Joanna came to the door of the laundry room to find me. Ted had heard one little cry on the monitor downstairs. He came up, Hazel came out from the kids’ room, and we had a nice morning family convergence in our room.

There are, of course, consequences and following events. Tonight, I got home just in time to read a book to the twins and then do the singing/reading bedtime routine with Ted. The twins were seriously wound up, making a circle up and over Emily’s bed to Hazel’s, down to the floor, over to their bed, lather, rinse, repeat. Joanna is usually quieter than Emily, but when she gets the midnight crazies, she giggles and laughs wildly, and will try anything Emily does. It’s so fantastically cute to watch that we haven’t yet tried to stop it, but of course they wound themselves up even further with all their antics. It was then a bit of a challenge to get them to lie down and attempt to go to sleep. After I’d put Joanna down and hugged Hazel goodnight I thought that Emily’s voice was not quite where I’d expected it to be. And, lo and behold, she had climbed up onto Hazel’s bed. I picked her up, rocked her, and put her back in her bed. Ted was getting Joanna calmed down again, so I snuck out and went downstairs (I have a massive headache tonight, and wanted to take something for it). Ted came down a minute later, but at an outburst from Emily went back upstairs again. Turns out she was all the way into the laundry room, followed by Joanna. So they have now learned that they don’t have to stay in their room. Here goes…..

We got (part of) a new piece tonight. It looked entirely un-sight-readable, but turned out not to be too bad. Quite enjoyable, in fact, including a couple of whopping Bartok pizzicatos, which I always enjoy.

The most challenging rehearsal, in terms of my own personal scheduling anyway, has been eliminated, which fills me with a joy that is, if not quite ineffable, is at least rapturous in nature.

lots of rehearsals, dreaming of my alma mater, Elliot Rodgers

This is the second day of six nightly rehearsals this week. There will only be four next week. Mozart, Vivaldi, and Grieg tonight. Fun, but I am tired! I was on family duty or working from 9 am to 10 pm with no break. *phew* Juggling family, performing, teaching, and me-time is always a bit of a trick, but some weeks it’s more challenging. This is the first time since I went away for a week that my kids won’t see me for almost a week of nights in a row. So this afternoon instead of having Hazel do quiet time by herself, I asked her if she wanted to chill with me in my room while the twins napped. She agreed enthusiastically, and we snuggled, played games, and read books. That was nice.

Yesterday my stand partner was another graduate of my alma mater. Possibly inspired by that circumstance, I dreamed about my college last night. The accommodations were rather extremely more plush in my dream than in reality, however: each dorm had its own extensive pool room with ranks of individual endless pools, for example.

I do sometimes dream about going back to study with, or at least play for my college teacher. I can’t, as he passed away quite a number of years ago. I grieve his loss whenever I wake from a dream like that, so this morning I woke up laughing at the extravagance of the pools and sad that I’ll never see him again.

I’ve been feeling fairly melancholy of late. I think it’s partly because my sleep hasn’t been that great (I’ve been waking up early in the morning and not getting back to sleep properly), but also partly because the horrible things that have been happening (are always happening) lately. Here is a good piece (one of many) on the recent killing of six other people by Elliot Rodger due to his anger that women wouldn’t sleep with him. There are some good comments after the posting, one of which I want to highlight here (bolds mine):

We will always have narcissists and angry people in our society, but whether they see women as the enemy and their rightful victims, whether they see violence as their answer du jour, is pretty much up to acculturation.

Violent crime in general is declining. We’re actually getting better at this overall, but violent misogynist extremism seems to be something of a blind spot. And a hell of a lot of women are sick of that blindness and are clamoring for the terrorism that makes up part of their daily lives to stop.

I am very tired of society advising girls and women to “just be smart” to avoid getting harassed, raped, or killed. It is not our responsibility! Nothing about me matters, not my age, my brain, my body, my profession, my connections, my philosophies, or my wishes, if a guy decides he has the right to attack me. None of that will save me. None of it will justify a change in action on his part, in his mind and in others’ minds. I can attempt to live with the societally sanctioned degree of caution, but it will not keep me safe.

I will never forget the occasion on which I was taking the train from my college in the Midwest out to the coast to spend the summer with my then boyfriend. I was sitting in a dining car reading, and there was a group of guys at the far end of the next car playing cards. One of them came over and started talking to me. I tried to indicate total lack of interest, telling him I really just wanted to chill and read my book, but he persisted and persisted. I didn’t want to go back to my seat, because I didn’t want him to know where it was. Eventually he said, “A lot of guys would think you’re a bitch, but I don’t.” What I can’t convey adequately was his tone of voice, something that combined a sneer and a come-on. What he meant, of course, was, “You’re a bitch, but I still want to f**k you.”

I get a lot less attention now that I’m over 30 (quite a long way over 30, of course ), but the very fact that I have a large chest has always seemed to justify commentary when I’m out in public. It’s not a compliment! It’s harassment, plain and simple. It’s designed to create an unequal relationship, and does not recognize, let alone honor my right to consent, respect, autonomy.

Hours after Rodger’s attacks, a man in LA shot at four women who refused to have sex with him. When will we be safe? When men and boys are no longer trained to believe that girls and women owe them anything at all, no matter how much they want (or don’t want) their bodies.

clearing out junk, improving the garden, good rehearsal, financial conversations

Today Ted and I rented a truck. Our intention had been to dig out the weed farm in the front, but in order to get the most out of the truck, we cleared a bunch of stuff from the old garage/shed in the back. We also cleared some miscellaneous crap from the back yard. Next, we need to weed whack the back yard, rent a metal detector to make sure we’ve gotten rid of all the nails etc from the basement clearing and construction of the studio, and then the yard will be not pretty but safe for our kiddos. You can’t see that much of a change in the yard yet, but we know that the shed is in better shape, and that makes all the difference.

I can’t wait to be able to play with the girls back there. I love the front garden, but the sidewalk just doesn’t have the area available that the back yard will. And this summer we can do outside potty training for the twins, let them run around without diapers, plopping them on the potty when appropriate to teach them about what it’s for. And that makes me think about how amazing it will be to no longer be changing diapers! I’m getting ahead of myself, though.

Tonight was the first rehearsal for the next gig. It was fun. My stand partner graduated from my alma mater (14 years after I did), and is a cheerful, enjoyable person to sit with. She’s a very strong player with a good sense of humor. You can’t beat that!

After I got home, Ted and I did some Excel spreadsheet financial calculations. He and I have always been able to talk about finances well, and I’m very grateful for that. We’re pretty much on the same page, share values and aspirations. In fact, we’ve had to rein ourselves in, as we also have similar tendencies, but we’re learning together and getting better at being responsible and thoughtful in our allocation of our resources. Of course, the advent of the twins caused us to throw out our 5-year projections, but in a year and a half our need for childcare will significantly reduce, and we’ll be able to get back to some of the goals we had before.

And now, we need to be equally responsible, and thoughtfully go to sleep. Tomorrow he goes back to work and I go back to teaching.

great day, friends, awesome nanny, gardening, challening bedtime, love

Today was one of those marvelous spring/summer days during which things flow without much scheduling and naturally weave in and out of productivity and fun. Our kids slept in, a huge bonus, until almost 9 am. Our friend D arrived with his two kids about 45 minutes later. We had breakfast, all sitting around our kitchen table. Then we went outside and the kids played, the adults talked, and I got some plants in the ground. This all took place under a brilliant blue sky and in warm sunshine.

In the middle of the day my nanny and I met to talk about long-term scheduling. Between my teaching schedule, her school schedule, and our changing family schedule, it’s a complicated picture, not something we can easily sort via email or in the five minutes we have for conversation on the days she’s working. So now we have a Plan A, and a Plan B for the fall, once Hazel is in school, and then once the twins turn 2.5 and are able to go to preschool. These plans take into account both of our professional, personal, and fiscal needs. We have a very strong relationship in which we each trust each other to flex, to set boundaries, to say how we feel and what we need. That is worth its weight in gold. I will forever be grateful to her, not only for the loving care she provides my children, but for our relationship and her friendship. I am so fortunate.

While the kids were still napping Ted left to pick up a rental truck so that he could then go get a Craigslisted picnic table. Hazel got up, and she and I made a plan for the next couple hours that started with planting some more flowers together. We went upstairs when we started hearing Emily in the monitor, and she very gently woke Joanna up. While I played with Emily, Joanna rested peacefully on Hazel, transitioning from sleep to alertness. Hazel told Joanna she loved her, and then told me she loved me. That was one of those moments of sweetness I want to keep in my heart.

We met Ted outside when he got back with the picnic table. One of its seat boards is missing, so after we had dinner Hazel and I dropped Ted and the twins at the grocery store and went off to buy border stones for the front garden and a six-foot long 2×6 with which to fix the table. We got an 8-footer, easy enough to saw down to size and screw into the seat. I’m not sure how much money we actually saved, given that there were picnic tables at Home Depot for $99. Ours was $50, plus the $11 car rental, plus the wood to fix the bench. But then, $30 is $30, and an amount of money we can spend on something else we need.

Before we went off to run those errands, Hazel reminded me of the second part of the plan she and I had made, to paint her face. She wanted a rainbow kitty face, which I gave her, with several pauses during the procedure for her to go and check progress in the mirror. Her nose was a rainbow, and the whiskers were a rainbow, too, with a pink moustache and black-outlined grey chin. Very fancy. At the Home Depot an employee did a perfect double-take, complete with single raised brow and disbelieving countenance. “What on earth is that? A rainbow tiger??” We laughed, and I gave him the thumbs-up. Hazel was delighted.

When we got home, we did the first part of the bedtime routine early so that we could go upstairs and fold a bunch of laundry while the kids played. We felt very virtuously productive. We even got the kids down a bit early and had some time to look forward to. Yeah, we fell into that trap. We forgot the cardinal rule: don’t count on down time until your kids are asleep, and not even really then. We initially went upstairs at 7:30. We stopped folding clothes at 8:20 to put the kids to bed. We got downstairs (the first time) a bit before 9:15. The last kid went to sleep/became quiet just a few minutes ago, an hour and fifteen minutes later. And it was a hard hour and fifteen minutes, including serious crying on the part of all three kids, Hazel coming downstairs, Hazel crying, “Mommy, I need you!” repeatedly, etc. The last time I went upstairs I gave her five minutes of snuggle time in her bed and told her I wouldn’t be coming upstairs again. She started to complain when I got up, but I told her that I really needed some downtime, needed to be alone, and that I was confident she could calm herself down. And she did.

So here I am. The dishes still need to be washed; the rest of the clothes still need to be folded; the diaper pails still need to be attended to; Ted and I still need downtime. But at least it’s only 10:30.

And the day was wonderful. I got an email from our friends with whom we had that fantastic 35-years-later reunion last week. The warm fuzzies are mutual, and we can look forward to getting together again. When I close my eyes tonight I can picture all the groundcovers and flowers we got into the earth, and anticipate seeing them grow.

In fact, the last productive thing we did tonight was to go put a beer-baited milk carton out in the garden next to the marigolds Hazel gave me for Mother’s Day, and which we saw today had been munched by snails. We also put milk carton sections around the two plants, hoping to stop further predations, and hoping that the plants can recover. Hazel was so sad to see them today. She had been so proud to bring them to me as a present.

I love my munchkin.

Positive Discipline in action, parenting meeting, gardening, nuclear-powered twins

It’s been a difficult period with Hazel. She’s been whining non-stop, and we haven’t been consistent in our response in a positive way. In fact, the biggest consistency in our response has been irritation or anger, alternating with attempts and understanding. So, tonight we spent half an hour reading the first chapter of, “Positive Discipline” and then conferred about it. Later in the book (we’ve started it before) the author suggests trying one new thing at a time, which seems like an awfully good idea. This week our one new thing is going to be removing ourselves from the situation when we’re too upset to process or be respectful and productive.

“I’m too upset to talk about this right now, Hazel, so I’m going to take a few minutes to calm down. When we’re both able to use regular voices and kind words we can talk again and come up with a solution.”

A few takeaways from the first chapter that have struck me each time I’ve read it are as follows.

    Making your kid feel worse in order to do better is not helpful in the long run (or short run, either, really). But my inner child, who can be fairly vindictive, often wants to do that when I’m feeling especially overwhelmed and/or angry. So stepping away from the situation will help me get to a better, more adult place.
    We think we have to solve the problem right at the moment it’s occurring. But often in that moment we’re in a fight-or-flight mindset, and not able to think or process calmly. We’re more likely to say things we regret later. After all, it is not necessary to rub our children’s noses in their mistakes, or attempt to shame them into better behavior. We can problem solve in a more cooperative way when we’re not in the middle of the conflict.
    Discipline teaches compassion and self-reliance. Punishment teaches obedience and rebellion. We have to keep remembering what it is we want to teach Hazel (and ourselves). And that is not blind obedience to the iron and arbitrary fist.


Today when I was practicing I realized that I’d missed a tempo change in the first movement of one of the pieces for this concert. There is, in fact, quite a difference between a tempo in the mid-60’s and a much faster one of 152. Heh. I’m glad I caught it today. It does make the movement more fun.

This afternoon I went to lead the second parenting group meeting of this series. Ted didn’t come, because our nanny is sick. The topic was sleep. Side-topics that came up included alone time and partner time, as well as childcare. Already, the group members are looking at and to each other instead of me when they share, which is great. I’m excited to see their community forming.

Before I went off to that meeting I visited a nursery to get some more groundcover plants. We’re going to put in Lithodora diffusa at the back of the garden, under the climbing rose. We’ve seen it at a couple of houses in the neighborhood, and it is beautiful and striking. There aren’t that many genuinely blue flowers. These are vibrant and will provide a nice thick anti-weed barrier as well.

Tonight the twins ran around like nuclear-powered wind-up toys. Joanna doesn’t usually achieve the same volume as Emily, but she was giggling and squealing quite impressively with delight as the two of them climbed off and on of one of their toddler beds. This morning I rearranged their room, since leaning way over and reaching far out in front of me to lay a 24-pound toddler in her bed has started to challenge me too much. All three kids liked the new position of the beds, and in the twins’ case that lead to a certain amount of bedtime hijinks. We breathed a sigh of relief when they went to sleep, though it took a visit upstairs on Ted’s part before that occurred.

Ok, dishes await, and then bed. Having spent an hour this afternoon in conversation with a bunch of new parents about sleep, I think I shall attempt to put my money where at least my mind, if not my mouth is, and not wait until I’m drooping and wearing to hit the sack.