We are all doing better over here. The Beaner is adjusting to the school routine, I am coping better, and Al isn't having to work such crazy hours anymore. I think we're all feeding off each other; as one of us improves, so do the others. It's a nice trend, spiraling upward rather than downward.
Tonight the Beaner tugged me out of my office chair at exactly 8:30 and announced that it was time for me to put him to bed. He instructed me how to snuggle him properly ("you can put your arm around me now" and "I need to snuggle your neck. Can you open up your neck more? Try turning that way."), told me how much he loved me, and was out by 8:41. That's my kind of bedtime routine!
Al and I have been talking about how the bedtime routine seems to go much more smoothly when the Beaner gets an adequate amount of playtime with us. This is where the connection to the downward vs. upward spiral comes in; when I was falling apart and Al was working all the time, the Beaner didn't get the kind of face/play time that he obviously craved, and it showed up in him being more difficult. Him being difficult made things more difficult for us, which make things more difficult for the Beaner, etc. We've been doing our best to increase the amount of quality time we spend with the Beaner, doing the things *he* wants to do, because it makes life better for all of us.
I can't remember if I mentioned it here or not, but we figured out pretty quickly that having Aura come later so that the Beaner and I could eat lunch, play a bit, and just have some uninterrupted time together after I picked him up from school was a Good Thing. I'd originally wanted her to come from 12:30 to 6:30, but Al thought 6:30 wasn't necessary, and noon would help me out more. As it turns out, it helps me more (on the days that I don't have a noon meeting, at least) to have the time with the Beaner. He feels more secure, more loved, less abandoned. He's much less likely to cling to my leg and say, "I don't like Aura" when I announce that I'm going back upstairs to work if he has my full attention for 30 or 40 minutes before Aura comes.
Today was a noon meeting day, but I felt like we really made the most out of the 15 minutes we had between the time I picked him up from school and the time I had to run upstairs. It was drizzling/sprinkling out, so we each had umbrellas—which meant I couldn't carry him home the way I usually do. Instead we walked side by side, occasionally holding hands.
The Beaner's umbrella was slightly larger than mine, and he found it unwieldy to hold the umbrella and my hand at the same time, so he asked if we could switch. I said yes, and then immediately regretted talking myself out of bringing my camera with me when I left to pick him up (why would I need the camera? I thought, when the idea of bringing it occurred to me). I ended up taking a snap of him with my cell phone, and then asking him to wait outside on the front step while I ran in to get my 10-D. He then proceeded to be a total ham with the umbrella, mostly refusing to lift it so I could get a shot of his face (but in a way that was meant to be funny, not petulant).
When we went inside, he pulled out the Let's Cut Paper! book that Kristin and Donna gave him as a present last night and said he wanted to play with it. (Interestingly, I'd flipped through the very same book at Tony & Maria's house last month, and it was the reason why I bought a pair of kid-sized safety scissors for the flight back from San Francisco on Sunday: It planted the seed in my head that perhaps the Beaner would enjoy cutting things up.) I told him that I had a meeting at noon, and his scissors were all the way upstairs, so we couldn't play with the book until the end of the day. He was a bit sad, but as I was promising him for a second time that we'd play with it at the end of the day, Aura came in and distracted him a bit. He did walk over and put his arm around my leg for a second, but when I didn't make an immediate dash for the stairs, he let go.
[This is getting rather long and will probably be totally boring to the non-parents—and maybe to the parents, too—but now that I've started down this road I want to finish the whole boring thread.]
At the end of the day my biggest priority was getting some food into my stomach; I'd gotten stuck upstairs when the Beaner and Aura started baking muffins in the kitchen at about 3:30 or 4pm. (I don't come down during working hours unless they're out or they're having quiet time.) I remembered on the way downstairs about the scissors, however, and returned to retrieve them.
The Beaner bounded up the stairs from the basement wearing a half crown/half jester hat that Aura had made for him, and I showed him the scissors. He got very excited, and we set about looking for his Let's Cut Paper! book together. I got him set up with a picture of a dog and some directions on how to cut along the gray lines, and then I got out the ingredients for dinner. I was making the low-fat bean and cheese quesadillas that we'd sampled at Trader joe's the other night, and they were pretty easy to assemble and cook, so I had time to help the Beaner with his cutting as I worked. It ended up being the perfect mix of play time and productive time, with me being able to stuff some much-needed nourishment down my gullet, and the Beaner's quesadilla being ready right when he started to get bored with the scissors.
As it happened, Al came home just as the quesadilla was delivered to the Beaner, and his own was ready shortly thereafter. We all went down to the basement to eat and play. After a little bit, Al suggested that we play Guitar Hero, which I haven't had a chance to try at our house yet, despite the fact that we picked up a second guitar a couple weeks ago. The Beaner said he wanted to play, and Al said, "let Mommy play first." He said, "no, I want to play first." I argued the point for a second, then decided it didn't matter that much to me. I wasn't done with my dinner anyway. "You want to go first?" I asked. "YES!" he replied. So I adjusted the strap for him, and set him up.
Al reminded me that in order to do the tutorial, you had to use the wired guitar, not the wireless one. I said, "well, just play a real song, then." Al picked Heart Shaped Box, and the Beaner got the hang of rocking out (if not hitting the notes at the right time) immediately.
When the song was over he graciously handed the guitar to me so I could have a turn (Message in a Bottle), and then I gave it back so he could play again and I could take the dishes upstairs. I could hear them down there playing with the tutorial (Al switched the inputs so the Beaner could use the wireless guitar) while I cleaned up, and that's when I realized it was only 7:15pm. Normally we're rushing to get the Beaner up to the tub at closer to 8pm after going out to eat, running errands, or making dinner. I called downstairs, "hey, why don't you go play with your squid [another gift from Kristin and Donna—I need to post the video of it swimming around the tub last night to Vimeo] in the bathtub now, and then you'll have time to play some more when you get out!"
The Beaner agreed, and he and Al marched upstairs around 7:30 or so... where the Beaner proceeded to remove his clothes and place them on top of the laundry pile all by himself. (The Montessori education is totally paying off!) He also bathed himself (Al washed his hair), got out when he was done, and retrieved his towel by himself.
Which brings us to a little Calliou, a little Overhaulin', and the tug on my sleeve at 8:30. He got his fill of face time with mom and dad, and he went to bed happy. That, and the fact that the Red Sox just won game 2 of the World Series, makes me happy.