One and Only

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breakfast in the Pig pajamas

I’m hoping it’s a 4-year-old phase. It started with the Peppa Pig pajamas, a gift for her birthday in April.  Soon after came other, daytime articles of clothing, such as a sleeveless tunic top and a string of mardi gras beads. Then came the music preference, then came the insistence on certain foods.

Is this a One and Only phase?

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the Dress

Her Oma bought her the pajamas.  Maya has been a fan of Peppa Pig since she was about 2 years old.  She wanted to put them on right away and sleep in them of course, which prompted a big stand-off about not wearing clothes, especially pajamas, without washing them first.  But the same pajamas every night?  Meh.  You can always launder them during the day while you’re wearing your regular clothes, and no one knows the difference anyway (except mom and dad, and now mom’s blog followers).  We did give her a lot of resistance about the tunic shirt, until Oma bought her another one in pink, and then she alternated and occasionally threw in another odd shirt altogether.  But now it’s a slightly too-small sun dress with pink flamingos, a hand-me-down from her cousin, that is the garment of choice since almost a month ago when it arrived in the mail.

There were so many other things to argue about, like brushing hair and finishing breakfast and how many small toys she can bring to school, that the dress seemed pretty minor.  It doesn’t help that everywhere she goes, she gets compliments on the dress (a babysitter actually told her that she hopes the next time she sees Maya, she’s wearing the flamingo dress !!!!). But then the pants or leggings began to always be the same, and today she actually started to argue that she needed to wear the same pair of underpants. The underpants? that’s where I draw the line.

On the more trivial side of things, John Denver is her musical artist of choice, and we’ve all grown more knowledgeable about his songbook and biography over the past few months.  Maya’s pre-school class learned “Country Roads” and presented it at the “graduation ceremony” last week.  The video above is the whole thing, so be warned: it’s almost 3 minutes long.

As for food: well, she doesn’t get away with having a One and Only.  I suspect it would be a ham and cheddar sandwich if she could, but she tends to eat less and less of the bread and just focuses on the insides (dry, no condiments, of course!). So I think that favorite may be on its way out.

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a royal windbreaker is acceptable if it’s cold and you’re eating your special-occasion ham & cheddar sandwich cheese-first

She mentioned the other day that the flamingo dress is her Princess outfit.  I pointed out that real princesses have many different outfits, each of which is worn for a different occasion.  This is completely wrong, according to Princess Maya, so I think misinformed Mom will have to wait, either until PM changes her mind, or is allured by some other new dress that comes into her repertoire.

Once again, I have to say that I’m glad I read Peggy Orenstein’s book Cinderella Ate my Daughter while I was pregnant.  Because of it, I know that Maya is right on schedule for her identity formulation stage and that the Princess outfit and other insistences will fade away eventually. Right now, I’m just glad she doesn’t have (or know about?) the mass-produced Disney Princess dresses.

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Catch Up

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showing off big-kid skills at the playground

I’m trying to pretend I didn’t notice how long ago my last post was.  But it’s hard to deny that since the last time I wrote in this blog, all three of us have turned a year older, another season has fully arrived, and Maya has outgrown most of her clothes.

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the birthday girl sips her tea

In summary, we’ve been busy!  In early April, we took a family vacation to Seattle and Victoria, BC.  Maya had her first train trip, her first ride on a large boat (the Victoria Clipper), and her first ferry ride.  We celebrated her birthday with a tea at the Abkhazi Gardens in Victoria. Weather cancelled our boat ride back to Seattle AND our return train from Seattle to southern WA, but we managed.

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Multnomah Falls

Recent weekends have involved trips to Dayville, overnights at Oma and Pops’ house, Maya’s first live play (a children’s theater production of Mulan), and some excursions around the area for hikes and picnics. And then, there’s the ever-present playground.  We live two blocks from one, and now that she’s gotten to the stage at which the parent can sit quietly in the background, reading or talking to the other parents, it’s become a good outlet for all of us.

As for the other two birthdays: well, mine fell during a Dayville weekend and I got my fill of friends, fun, and even cake. Bo was out of town for his, which is another story for another time.

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typical Dayville activity

When I reflect on where we were a year ago, geographically and socially, I am amazed.  Maya has come a long way from the shrinking flower that she was in Colorado. And we adults are doing better, too.  I still don’t fully understand the attraction of the Front Range, but I guess I won’t ever really need to, now that we are back in a place that feels more like home to all of us.

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picnic on Whychus Creek

The Boss

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Ready for school in summer dress compromise: leggings, socks, and sweatshirt

Maya and I were swimming at the local pool, hanging out by ourselves in the deep end (my former disdain for waterwings is utterly gone, for they allow us to hang out in the deep end!), and Maya declared, “Now it’s time for everyone else to go home.”

I chuckled.  “Are you the boss of the pool, Maya?”

“I’m pretending to be the boss of the pool,” she replied.

Then we laughed, and as jokes tend to do, this one persisted.  Within the next couple of days, I asked Maya if she was pretending to be the boss of: the school, the park, the skating rink, the library, the house, the weather, the dinner table, me, her dad, our dinner guests, and the space-time continuum.

We chuckled, and we laughed.  It was a good joke!  I passed it along to some friends and family.

The problem with jokes is that they get stale. And while some jokes can be a light-hearted way to draw a person’s attention to bad behavior, I guess that doesn’t really work with three- (ahem! almost four-) year-olds.

“Are you pretending to be…” became withering.  No more laughing, no more chuckles. But the Boss? she lives on in her full glory.

If anyone has any suggestions, I’m ready to hear them.

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Nine hours later, summer dress still on in 40-degree weather

Home Office

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my workspace

Ever since we set out on this new, adventurous chapter last summer, people have been asking me “how I like teleworking.”

There are two answers:
1. It sucks.
2. It’s great.

Both of these answers are always true at the same time, but sometimes one dominates the other, and that usually dictates my response.  Now that the topic of “working from home” has become a widespread joke, thanks to last week’s hilarious viral video of the live BBC interview with the political science professor that accidentally ended up including his whole family (I won’t post a link out of sympathy– as if my failure to do so could save that poor family from additional embarrassment!), the moment seems right to clarify my thoughts on telework.

I’ve learned a few things over the past six months.  For one, you can only telework by the seat of your pants for so long.  As in, a few days maybe.  After that, it no longer seems adventurous to be hunched over a hotel desk, calling the front desk asking for another late checkout so you can finish whatever you are doing, or sidling from picnic table to picnic table in the campground, looking for the perfect wi-fi spot.

For another thing, it’s really hard to work with a small child in the house.  Poor Professor Kelly got the worst of this principle, but most teleworkers know that as soon as you have an important phone call with a boss or a customer, or are leading a web training session, that is the time when there will be a catastrophic failure in your office door lock, or a deafening crash followed by screams and sobs will emanate from the next room, or the smoke detector will go off (okay– only one of those things has actually happened to me).  Other than these dramatic examples, there is just the household noise in the background: happy kid, singing kid, whiny kid, persistent kid, kid discovering the principles of percussion instruments made from household objects.  I have big noise-reducing headphones that I requested when I worked in the office because of the talkative guy on the other side of my cubicle wall, but now I use them mostly to block out this domestic noise. But– and I suppose this is a mom thing– it took me a long time to realize that putting them on and leaving the crashing and whining for dad to deal with was really the right thing to do.

The family situation leads to another point, which is that I couldn’t do this if I didn’t have so much autonomy over my schedule due to the nature of my work and my boss and co-workers’ flexibility.  Here’s my typical schedule: start work at 6am (or earlier, if I get up earlier) and work until Maya wakes up.  Take a break to help feed and dress her and get her out the door with Bo and off to school. Return to work until 11:00, then break to swim laps, pick up Maya from school, and have lunch with the family.  Then back to work for roughly 4 hours, or however much time I have to get to 8 hours; I’m usually done at 5 or so.  But this daily schedule changes based on how early or late I wake up in the morning, how late Maya sleeps, whether I have a meeting or other event that day, and whether I feel like I have enough time to squeeze in the swim session. I post an update to my online calendar each morning so that my co-workers can see what times I am on the clock that day.  This flexibility is one of the biggest factors in making telework great– and in making it terrible. It’s nice to be able to help get Maya ready for school, to pick her up, and have lunch with the family. But I sometimes feel like I’m constantly doing the calculations in my head, on how many hours I’ve done, how many more I need. Some days the family just needs more of my time and attention, and when I’m home, I can’t just ignore this, because I’m right here.  It may overall be good that I’m home, because I can give that attention and the family benefits– or maybe it’s bad, because then I feel the stress of the conflict between giving attention to work vs. giving it to the family.

Finally, I think the best reason to get a fulltime telework gig is because there’s someplace you really, really want to be.  It’s because your beloved family farmhouse is languishing with no one to live in it, or the oceanview house of your dreams has somehow become available to you.  It should always involve a space with a wonderful office with a door you can close, which you spend the time lovingly setting up with everything you need because you know you’re going to be there for a long time.

As it turns out, we won’t be in our current location for very much longer.  I expect I will have another announcement about that in a month or so.  For now, I have it pretty good.  And I have some clear principles to think about as we plan for the next stop on the adventure.

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I get occasional visitors to my office

Before I was boring

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tree hugging

We’ve been hearing all kinds of new opinions from Maya lately.  I assume many of them originate from her schoolmates. For example:

“I don’t wike wedge-ables and I’m never, never, never going to eat them again.”

She’s always been a good vegetable eater, but if she has to go through this phase, then so be it.  Luckily, she doesn’t seem to realize that peas and corn are vegetables.

“I am a pwincess and you are a pwetty king, and daddy is a queen.”

As I mentioned in a post last year, I am prepared for this kind of gender-identity stage, so I just say Okay to these kind of pronouncements and move on.

“I wike macaroni and cheese more than you do!”

This kind of thing drives Bo crazy and he argues with her, saying she can’t know how much someone else likes something compared to her.

Then there are the time-related questions.  She’s still figuring out units of time and how they relate to each other: a clock tells hours in a day, a calendar tells days of a week and the months, and that years are much longer. And when she’s trying to gauge if something we’re remembering happened a really long time ago, she’ll ask “Did that happen before I was boring?”

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we finally live next to a tree she can climb

View

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checking out our new view

We moved about 3 weeks ago.  Our new place is in town and I often walk to Maya’s school to pick her up; we are 4 blocks from the main business district and two blocks from a park with a playground.

 

Our old place was about 6 miles away, in the flats between Bend and Sisters, with sweeping views of the chain of Cascades, from Mt. Jefferson in the north to Maya’s favorite, Broken Top, in the south. I posted a lot of pictures in the few months that we lived there because the view was just so stunning.  Every morning I’d perk up at sunrise and go to the sun room to see if “the mountains were out” and what kind of crazy light glow we were going to see. If the view was impressive, I’d run and get Maya and Bo to come see, and if it was incredible, I’d search for a camera to try and record it.

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I love the idea  of being in the trees, though they do limit the view

 

Sisters is a mountain town and we are now living in the trees– not cute little landscaped dwarf trees or medium-sized cottonwoods, but mature ponderosas.  Some days we’re lucky to notice any light effects from the sunrise, and I have yet to really see a sunset from our new place.

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Sometimes I feel like WE are the view

On the other hand, we now live in a larger, more functional house. We can go days at a time without getting in the car. And we are warm… unlike the last place, this house has central heating and is better insulated. But the day after we moved, someone asked me if our new house has a view, and I had to say No, there’s no view.  Unless you count the trees and the birds and the deer and the occasional car that goes by v-e-e-e-ry slowly so that the passenger can take pictures of the deer out the window.

And that’s good enough.  I’ll give up transcendence for comfort and proximity, maybe even a shot at community.

Two Onlys

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Maya and her friend at Cape Perpetua

We spent eight days on the Oregon coast with our friends, from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day. Maya and their 5-year-old son, also an only child, get along extremely well– on Saturdays, Sundays, and alternate Tuesdays before noon, except if it’s raining.

Okay, I’m just kidding about the specificity, and they did actually play well together more than fifty percent of the time. I think of her friend almost as a cousin; she’s spent a lot of time with him over the past few months, often on a daily basis, playing, eating meals, falling asleep on the couch during nature shows, and so on.  This holiday trip was the first time I realized that they are acting more like siblings.

Not long after Maya was born, I read Lauren Sandler’s One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One.  My decision to have one child was driven by necessity: I was 42 when she was born, and I didn’t really feel economically prepared for her, much less a second child.  I hadn’t really thought through all the negative stereotypes about only children and their parents before then, so reading the book was a wake-up call on that score.  But of course, Sandler’s point is to offer compelling arguments to not feel guilty or inadequate because of one’s decision to stop with one child. One crucial element to her argument, however, is that she and her daughter spent many, many hours in the company of cousins:  sibling surrogates. Good idea, I thought, making a mental note.

Maya’s cousins are close in age but not geographically, and we’ve not done a good job, so far, of getting them together.  So our time here with our friends in Oregon has been her first exposure to constant, day-to-day sharing of resources and attention with another child. On the homestead where our friends live, most of the living is done outdoors, and there are horses, chickens, dogs, cats, gardens, rocks, puddles, trees and all kinds of other fun things for kids to chase, climb, and get into.  What a relief it was to send the kids off to play and gab with the other adults!

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the kids show off in their muscle shirts

Our time on the coast was more structured and we couldn’t just send the kids outside.  They were inside, with a finite set of toys (nearly all of them new).  And suddenly, we started to hear, “NO, that’s MINE! Give it back!”  “Hey, I’m playing with that!” “I’m mad at him. I’m not playing with him anymore.” And I suddenly realized that these kids are starting to act like siblings.  Except of course, in real life, they are both also onlys.

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Sharing! in the big spruce cave