Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Goodbye August

Well, August is nearly over. These last four weeks have felt like a year. One month ago we were sitting in the stinky apartment on Grattan Street. We had no furniture. We had no daycare. The cat wouldn't come out of her litter box. Every day was foggy and fraught with angst.

Now the days are sunny and unseasonably warm (77 degrees!). Our new apartment is filled with books, furniture and a new twin bed for Benny. I also bought a dinette set two weeks ago for our teeny dining room. Ron and I still sleep on an air mattress and Benny's old crib mattress is serving as our couch, but we've made great progress.

Despite these triumphs, I'm glad to see this month in the rearview mirror. Nearly everything is set up, except for our California driver's licenses and long distance on our landline. Benny's first week at the Dinosaur School has been difficult. On Monday, Benny got upset every time I tried to leave. He wouldn't let go of my hand unless I was holding him. After a half-hour of this, I told Benny I would be in the school's little kitchen. I spent the next half-hour hanging out there, sneaking crackers and reassuring Benny whenever he popped up to check on me. Finally I told him I would stay until lunchtime and he was OK with that.

Tuesday was more difficult; I needed to get to work, but Benny kept crying whenever I tried to leave. I finally had to leave him crying, which was very difficult. San Francisco has a nice light rail system, and ordinarily I'd enjoy taking the train to the financial district. But this time was no fun. I was glum all day.

Wednesday was better. Benny played with his trains and ignored me when I said "Goodbye." That's my boy! I was much more chipper at work that day. Ron brought him to school on Thursday and Benny was fine with the departure. But then one of his teachers called. (She'd been calling my cell phone every afternoon., telling me some heart-rending story about how Benny missed us. Thanks, lady.) He'd been crying on and off all day.

And this morning was no better. Ron took him in again and called me two hours later at 10:15, very upset. "I'm just leaving the school," he said. "This has been a sucky morning." Benny had cried and cried until Ron simply couldn't stay any longer.

I'm due to pick Benny up in an hour, but that should be no problem. No matter what had occurred during the day, Benny is always calm and cheerful at pickup time.

I guess this school has been one transition too many for Ben. He's handled Ron's absence, the move to San Francisco, two apartments and a new daycare with aplomb. But this second daycare is obviously too much for the little guy. I'm so glad this is a holiday weekend so we get three days at home together.

I'd planned to stay home the next week, working on a freelance project. But one of the editors at the Business Times is eight months pregnant, and her doctor just put her on bed rest for two weeks. So I'll be going into the office full-time for the next two weeks. The managing editor knows about Benny's woes (he had helped console me on that awful Tuesday), so he'll understand if I come in late some mornings.

The school's teacher just called. Apparently Benny was great all day -- quit crying as soon as Ron left. I'll have to call Ron and put him out of his misery.

So hopefully next week will be better. In fact, I have high hopes for the month of September. We know where we're living, what we're doing and how to make a left turn on Geary. Our wireless Internet is working again now that I've quit putting our laundry basket in front of the modem. Look out, San Francisco!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Benny and Mommy

Here's Benny and me walking in the Marin Headlands last week. The second is the two of us making birthday treats for Ron.

Benny in San Francisco

Living Larger

Here are some pictures of our new apartment.

Monday, August 20, 2007

In the Wide World

With all the transitions my little family has made recently, a big one has been relatively ignored – my return to working outside the home.

My nervousness about returning to the office had been preempted by the whole day care issue. Why fuss about my wardrobe and the paper’s new software when chances were good I wouldn’t be in the office at all? But Reema’s “Princess School” has worked out for Benny, and he will go there until the Dinosaur School returns from summer break on Aug. 27.

So off I went on Monday, Aug. 6, to the city’s Financial District. After four years at home, I was anxious to return to the newsroom. I missed the routine and sense of purpose of an outside job. I wanted to have picky discussions about topics other than apple juice or Thomas the Tank Engine. I wanted to be part of the Wide World, moving and shaking (in a non-seismic sense, I hope).

It turned out that the Wide World is a bit smaller and goofier than I remembered. Take today, for example. I started with a high-level conference call with a major utility company so some mid-level manager could tell me about his school volunteer work. I felt a bit silly -- after numerous phone calls with the communication departments and Written Requests to High Places – to be asking questions like, “So, um, did you like the kids? Did they do a craft project?”

As for other intellectual stimulation, picky discussions abound about such topics as “did you see that weird pigeon on California Street?” or “Why does the newsroom vending machine throw our beverages at us, so that the can sprays soda when we open it?”

Still, it’s good to be out and about. I work in the newsroom three days a week this month. Then I stay home freelancing for six weeks until an editor goes on maternity leave. Then I get four more months in the Wide World again.

It’s a great setup, really. The Dinosaur School called last week, asking if we’d like to up Benny's schedule from three days a week to five. We pounced on the opportunity, which gives me even more flexibility (and hopefully, more earning power).

We’ve developed a weird little routine, but it’s working. I made Benny two little charts: a yellow one for morning and a blue one for night. I cut Benny’s head out of various snapshots and drew little cartoon bodies showing Benny brushing his teeth or eating his cereal or being tucked into bed. Now instead of Ron and I hustling Benny through our morning and evening routines, he tells us what to do next, frequently referring to the charts.

Ron’s grateful because Benny’s time at Reema’s is nearly over. The twice-daily commute to her house is killing us. We’ve been reserving a City Car Share twice a day to take Benny to Reema’s home-based daycare. Next week he begins at the Dinosaur School, which is a short bus ride from the apartment.

We appreciate City Car Share getting us through this awkward patch, but the evening routine is especially tough. Ron and I pick up the car after work and drive across town to pick up Benny. Then Ron drops Benny and me off at home, drives back downtown to drop the car off again, then takes the bus home. Bleah.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sneaking into the Marina

On my days off, Benny and I frequently take the bus to a lovely playground in San Francisco's Marina district. Ron and I lived in the Marina for most of 2001, and I always enjoyed watching the glossy natives on the weekends as they walked by, pushing their babies in $500 strollers. I even wrote a column about it for the Business Times.

On weekdays, you see the nannies and babies instead. I’m a little nervous about going to the Marina playground, though. I’ve joined a local online mother’s group, and they're very nice and helpful. But they spend a lot of time posting tattling stories about nannies.

“There was a nanny at the park Friday with long, dark hair and a white lace shirt,” a typical post would read. “She was taking care of a girl about 3 years old with blond hair, a pink top and embroidered jeans, and a boy of about 9 months in navy blue overalls and a ducky hat. I noticed the nanny spent a lot of time talking to other nannies and didn’t notice the girl using the slide in an unsafe way. She also delayed too long, in my opinion, before giving the boy the water he requested.”

Well now. Let’s all jump the poor nanny next week and shave her head.

So now I’m nervous about going to the park because I’ll know there will be a post:

“A shifty-looking blonde in a green top and boring jeans was at the park Thursday with a 3-year-old boy in a faded blue shirt and messy hair. She ate the boy’s snack while he was playing on the teeter-totter and spoke on the cell phone for an excessive amount of time.”

At that point, I guess, I’d have to post: “That was me! And that was my son! So I have the right to neglect him!”

Hmmm ... maybe I should just find another playground.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

We're here!

Look below to read SEVEN NEW POSTS about the big move, starting July 22.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Dinosaur School

I woke up a little nervous this morning because today Ron and I were taking the parent tour at the Dinosaur School. The handbook said the child can’t be present at the tour, which seems more than a little weird to me. Benny has always been a part of my daycare searches, both in Michigan and California. It seemed weird to be scratching for child care so I could keep a preschool appointment. But if that’s the way things go around here, so be it.

I wasn’t sure why Ron and I were going anyway – I mean it was just a tour. Last I heard, the Dinosaur School had no openings. But the parent tour was the first step toward getting Benny into a preschool and perhaps I should be grateful it was in August. I’d just scheduled another parent tour at some preschool for Oct. 17.

This was also a chance to test out Reema’s “Princess School” for Benny, our one and only daycare possibility. My first day of work was in five days and time was running out. (I’d already called the Russian Orphanage place and said thanks, but no thanks.)

The parent tour was at 2 p.m., so Benny and I left the apartment for Reema’s at noon. The 43 bus came fairly quickly, that part was OK. But we waited forever for the 71 bus on Haight Street, watching all the weird people, I uncomfortably aware that we were two blocks from the infamous Haight/Ashbury intersection. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and hailed a taxi.

Reema was kind and welcoming. (She knew a basket case when she saw one.) We went to the backyard, which had a very nice play structure and plastic cars and Big Wheels to ride. Benny dashed off without a backwards glance, but I was already sniffling. I didn’t know this woman, I didn’t know the preschool director who recommended her. Why hadn’t I demanded references? Was I totally irresponsible? What if my and Ron’s instincts were wrong?

I rushed out to the 71 bus stop and stood by an empty field between two buildings. It took a while for the bus to come, which was a good thing, because I was sobbing. This is temporary, I told myself. He’s only going to be there a few hours. I’ll get some parent references when I pick him up.

Back at the apartment, I had 30 minutes to change and wipe my face before Ron turned up. He arrived and we zipped over to the Dinosaur School.

What a great school! It was in a big blue house that the organization paid a mortgage on. The children were happily doing a craft downstairs. Everything was bright and cheerful. As the assistant director extolled virtue after virtue, I became more depressed and I’m afraid my mind wandered. The words “possible opening” caught my attention quickly, however.

“Possible opening?” I squeaked.

“Only three days a week,” she said apologetically.

“We’ll take it,” I said.

“It’s Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.”

“Sounds great.”

“Benny can’t start until August 29.”

“Perfect,” I said.

Ron shot me a look that said, “You don’t want to talk about this?” I answered with a look that said, “Are you totally nuts?” In the end, we left with a sheaf of forms, a list of rules, and a semi-commitment to a school Benny hadn’t even seen.

Sounded great.