Saturday, November 28, 2009

I've Come For An Argument

For a kid who can barely muster the nerve to say "good morning" to her own teachers, Bug is weirdly confident about other stuff. Like the fact that I am totally and completely wrong about everything.

"Sweetie, don't crawl under the bed. It's very dusty under there."
"No, it's not."
Really? So that 2-inch thick layer of gray fuzz on the floor? What is that, exactly?

"We can't go outside, it's raining really hard right now."
"No, it's not."
Then why did our neighbor's trash cans just go floating down the street?

"I can't read any more, I'm too tired. I'm about to fall asleep."
"No, you're not."
Kid, did you miss the part when I said, "...down the hill, tumble bumble, pellzzzzzzzzz...."?

"Darlin', you can't wear those stripey purple pants with the starry orange shirt and pink Hello Kitty socks. It just doesn't go together."
"Yes, it does."
If you're headed to try outs at clown college, maybe. But not for lunch at Oma's house.

I actually used to argue with her about these things, which is ridiculous. It was like a Monty Python sketch.
"It's time to go home, bunny."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is."
"No, 'tisn't!"
"Yes, 'tis!!"

Unlike Michael Palin and John Cleese, there is nothing side-splittingly funny about our arguments. The debates would get heated, I'd raise my voice and make ugly, angry faces, I'd realize that I'd let myself get into an argument with a four-year-old and get even madder. Now, I try to just keep going. Distract, redirect, dip into the bag of tricks and see what works this time.

"I made meatballs and pasta for dinner..."
"No, you didn't."
"...and delicious cookies for dessert."
"Oh, yay!"

"Yuck. The cat threw up on the floor."
"No, he didn't."
"I'll just clean this up and we can go to the park."
"Yay!"

Our pediatrician says the Bug doesn't really doubt everything I say, it's just her goofy four-year-old way of striking up the conversation. It gets to me, though. It does. I already doubt almost everything I do, particularly as a parent. So when she expresses doubt in me, too...well, it hurts.

I'm trying to look at this positively: she's not gullible. She doesn't take everything at face value. She's going to question everything until she gets to the bottom of things. That's all good, right?

Right?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Clarity

Hello again from the land of outspoken toddlers and runny nosed babies. Sounds like a fun place to visit, doesn't it? Tickets are free. Donations of wine and mild tranquilizers are welcomed and appreciated. Step right up and enjoy the freak show.

Actually, the freak show has gotten somewhat less freakish. I took several days off last week and I don't know if it was the extra sleep or what but, damn I swear I saw rainbows and heard birds singing just about everywhere I went. That's even weirder than it sounds considering that it's been raining for what seems like the last month.

Some things have been wonderful, like seeing the Bug enjoy school more and more, hearing her excitement about new discoveries in the classroom and seeing her test her strength on the playground. I pick her up from school everyday. On my days off, I take Dos with me and the three of us spend some time playing in the classroom together after the other kids leave for carpool. I love seeing what Bug finds so fascinating about her classroom. "Mommy, look! These are called Lincoln Logs." she says, revealing her new discovery. "This is the reading corner! And we have puzzles!"

On the days I work, I leave the office and go straight to Bug's school. Waiting in the carpool line, I sometimes see her with her classmates on the playground. There's something weird about seeing your child moving through the world without you. It's different than taking them to the park and watching them run and play with their friends. They're still conscious that you're there. They're depending on you. You know they're your responsibility and you're on alert, so to speak.

Watching her on the playground, away from me, running and playing without a care in the world...it's a partial out of body experience. She's part of me, but completely independent of me and growing more so every day. It's wonderful and frightening at the same time. I'm still on alert. What if she falls? What if someone is mean to her? What if she needs me and I'm not there? It's hard not to rush to be by her side just in case but that's not what she needs now. What she needs is to learn to be her own person away from Mom, Dad and little sister. So I sit in my car, watching my little girl grow up right before my eyes.

When it's our turn in the pick up line, I'm reminded again that she's still a little girl. My little girl. She climbs into the car, wide-eyed and smiling at me. She has a new painting or project she can't wait to show me. Her teacher buckles her in and we're off. We stop for smoothies and she begs me to hold her hands while we twirl around the room. The room spins and my eyes are focused on her. Her eyes are shining and she's smiling. We stop and she stumbles into my legs, hugging me. "Mommy" she says, giggling, "you're my best friend."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Give Me a Home

Our favorite babysitter went back to college and I have a niece and two nephews who are college freshmen as of last week so there has been a lot of talk about college and college life around our house lately.

Grinch and I have been talking about our own journeys to college, being away from home, going wild, feeling lost and free at the same time. We've talked about how my sister, a single mom, must feel, sending her daughter 444 miles away to go to university. How hard it's going to be not to have her daughter around, to not be able to protect her, guide her, have fun with her.

Grinch is already twitchy about the idea of sending the bug away to college. You should have seen how we hovered over her pre-school when first started there. She was only gone for a few hours, two days a week, but we sat in the parking lot and waited just in case she needed us. I got weepy just thinking about next year, when she'll be in school *all* day! Five days a week! How are we supposed to just drop her off, drive away and not see her for....ohmygod months?!

It's a good thing we have 14 years to think about all this. Which, given how quickly the last four years have gone, doesn't seem like that much time at all. Ohmygod.

I don't worry about Dos too much because she's still so baby-like that I have a hard time imagining her ever growing up. She'll just be my baby forever and we'll leave it there. K? I'm trying to avoid a full-on emotional meltdown here, y'all.

Bug has overheard all this college chit-chat and has started asking questions. "What's a college? What's a professor? What's tuition?" With everything, we're straight forward and honest which is pretty easy to do with a subject like this. (Drowning and dying came up recently. That's a whole 'nother post.)

We've talked about studying hard, choosing a school, joining clubs and making new friends. I thought I was doing pretty good until "...and we'll take you to your dorm and help you get everything you need and...."

"What's a dorm?"

"That's where you live when you're away at school."

Her eyes filled with tears and her mouth turns down. "But I don't want to live away from you and Daaaaaaddeeeee...."

I made my sweet girl cry. I feel like a jerk. Oh! But she loves our home so much, she loves Grinch and me so much she never wants to leave! We're awesome!

"Aw, bunny... You don't have to go away to college. You can stay at home. You can stay at home for as long as you want." She's smiling again. Giggling.

Wait...did I just tell her she can live at home forever? I did. Which is OK with me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Still Here

Well, there it is. Proof positive that I suck as a blogger AND a mommy. I haven't updated in weeks and I didn't wax poetic about my bug's 4th birthday to the internets. Since I've turned 40 I've learned that I suck at a lot of things. When I was 20, I thought I was awesome at EVERYTHING. 20 years makes a big difference.

So yes, the Bug turned four and I can hardly believe it. (I waxed poetic privately. Just because it didn't happen on line doesn't mean it didn't happen. ) We're probably giving the kid a massive complex because Grinch and I keep staring at her. We don't expect her to spontaneously burst into flames or give us the winning lottery numbers, though that would be cool. (The numbers, not the flames.) We just can't stop looking at her because....well...she's four.

"Are you sure?" Grinch asked me as the bug and dos giggled over one of her birthday presents.

"Sure of what?" I asked.

"That she's four."

"We must have miscounted."

"How'd she turn four?"

(counting on my fingers) "2006, 2007...yeah...that's four years."

"She's a little kid. She went from a baby to a little kid, like...." Bug's ears perked up at this.

"I'm not a little kid! I'm a big girl! I'm four! Four, four, four!" and off she hop, hop, hopped like a bunny, hugging her new dolly.

Our little girl. Our baby bug. She's four.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Different is Good

"Is she a good baby?" a friend asked after the Bug was born.

"She is. She's a good baby." I told her. I wasn't sure what she meant by "good baby" but I meant that Bug was cute, nursed well, let other people hold her and didn't cry without reason. Don't get me wrong. She cried. Lordy, lord did she cry. I cried, too. Big, heaving sobs of "This sucks! I want my life back!" and then she started sleeping through the night and I no longer felt like gray matter was seeping out of my ears. Things got better. We figured each other out. I stopped trying so hard to be The Perfect Mom and concentrated on being a really good mom to my little girl.

I was dumb enough to think everything would be exactly the same the second time around. Everything was different from the start: Bug took her time getting everything in place before she would think about being born. Dos came five days ahead of schedule and nearly made her entrance in the hospital parking lot. Bug barely made a peep during the first few diaper changes. Dos screamed bloody murder, to the point that a nurse poked her head in during one diaper change to ask, eyebrows raised, "Is everything ok?" Bug looked around, wide-eyed with wonder on her first ride home. Dos clamped her eyes shut and screamed for 5.5 miles. In rush-hour traffic.

Bug slept through the night on her own at 8 weeks. Dos finally gave it a try at 8 months and didn't care for it too much. She was over a year old before she slept through the night on a regular basis. I don't think she's all that fond of sleeping, but she does it reluctantly because she knows a whole buncha fussin' isn't going to get her much more than a cursory pat on the back and another stuffed bunny tossed in her crib. There are only so many bunnies one kid can take.

Grinch and I fretted and lamented the differences between Bug and Dos. We questioned everything we had done, I, had done during my pregnancy. Wondered if genetic anomalies, chromosomal aberrations, even brain damage could explain her apparent unhappiness with seemingly everything. We fumed and cried, cursed and raged. What was wrong with this baby?

Then one day, it hit us: nothing is "wrong" with her. She's just different. She's a healthy little girl who has her own personality, her own likes and dislikes, her own quirks and curiosities. She's not Bug, she's Dos. All new. All ours. Ours to figure out, to learn from and enjoy.

She's different from her sister in another obvious way: I used to rock Bug to sleep, singing campfire/Beatles/Johnny Mercer medleys. When I tried to lay her in the crib, sometimes she'd wake up, clamp her arms around my neck and cry as I pried her off. Dos nurses happily until she's calm and sleepy but hates to be rocked almost as much as she hates my singing. I stand with her cribside, swaying to the music and patting her back. She pats my back, leans in for a kiss or three, then dives for the crib, clasping a bunny to her chest. I hear her cooing and giggling as she falls asleep.

She's different from her big sister, alright. What a great thing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Bare Facts (or "The Naked Truth)

Ok, OK! I'll post something. You people are slave drivers! I swear.

I haven't posted anything lately because I've been in a bit of a funk and looking back on my blog, it seems like one long whine with a few giggles in between. I've been waiting for something funny or happy or silly to happen so I could write about it. But funks, especially those that seem to permeate the family unit, are not especially conducive to episodes worthy of funny, happy or silly blog posts.

I could tell you about my run-in with an idiot in the grocery store parking lot who insisted on calling police because she was sure I had scratched her car with my shopping cart. That doesn't seem so much funny as infuriating.

Hmmmmm.....

Ah, here's a good one:

Nudity. It's gotten quite popular in our family. At least among the under-four set. Bathtime is particularly joyful because of all the pre- and post-bath nudity required. Did you know that if you're naked, you're supposed to run around the house, screaming that you are, in fact, naked? Try it. From my observations it really adds to the experience.

Here's a chance for me to explain to my non-southern friends the difference between the common English word "naked" and the southern "nekkid." "Naked" is used to describe someone who is not wearing any clothes. "Nekkid" is used to describe someone who is not wearing clothes and is doing something they ought not to be doing. Variations on "nekkid" include: butt-nekkid, stark-nekkid, nekkid-as-the-day-you-was-born and nekkid-as-a-jaybird.

Giggling children who are running around the house without clothing would generally be referred to as naked. The bug prefers to pronounce it "NAY-ked!" Dos goes for the more modern "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEheeheeheehee!" Both pronunciations must, MUST come at a precise volume of about 120 decibels, or roughly the same volume as a fire truck siren.

Grinch and I haven't followed the girls in their naked example. Their running around naked and yelling about it is cute. Our running around naked and yelling about it might be seen as psychotic.

There's only so much nakedness we can support around here until everyone gets reliable control over their bladders. So the naked party usually only lasts about 10 minutes or until someone pees on the floor. Then diapers and pajamas go on, paper towels are dispensed and wet hair is combed out. The volume decreases considerably and giggling goes down to tittering or snickering at least.

There is always the promise of future nakedness, much to the bug's excitement. "Mommy," she whispers as she snuggles my shoulder, "I can't wait to take a bath again so I can get NAY-ked!"

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

I never expected to be a mother. It's not something I was raised to do. As a little girl, I didn't play house and I didn't carry around baby dolls. I played "Love Boat" and pretended I was a famous businesswoman who Gopher fell in love with on a cruise to Acapulco. I had high aspirations, obviously.

I didn't take Home Ec in high school. My sisters took it and it sounded like fun: baking cookies and cake and learning to sew. I expected to take it, too. When I brought it up to my counselor, she looked over her glasses at me and said, "But you want to go to college, don't you? Don't waste your time with home ec. That's a class for...for girls who won't be going to college."

In fact, I was steadfastly against having children until about two years before I became pregnant. Working years in retail will turn anyone against children. I watched too many temper tantrums unfold in the toy aisle near my cash register, saw too many parents reduced to red-faced, sweaty messes as they juggled bags, checkbooks and screaming children.

My own mother didn't seem to like being a mother very much so there wasn't much to interest me in joining the ranks.

But here I am. I'm a mother. I'm not the first. I'm not the best. I'm not the worst. But here I am.

I'm trying. It's hard. I don't have great examples to follow and I wasn't trained to do this. There's no pay check, no big jackpot. The payoffs come when you least expect them: a midnight nuzzle on your neck as you carry a sleeping child to bed. A messy kiss after a shared surprise ice cream cone. Feeling your baby grow heavy on your shoulder as she shudders, sighs and gives in to sleep. The sunlight on your child's hair as she runs happily through the park, her giggles ringing in the air. The fistful of dandelions offered to you as though they were a bouquet of roses. Watching your children hug each other tightly, then open their arms to invite you in.

There are payoffs, sometimes so small, that if you blink, you might miss them.

Here I am. I'm a mother.

Thank goodness.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tag Team 101

When Grinch and I decided to do this goofy tag team parenting schedule, we were surprised by the number of people who told us it couldn't be done. People who had never worked an overnight schedule. People who weren't dependent on two incomes. People who didn't even have children. They all told us we were looking at certain failure. A co-worker said we'd be lucky to last six months. Others gave us less than a week.

Nearly four years later, we're more than glad to tell them they were wrong, wrong, wrong.

It CAN be done. It's not always fun and it's not always pretty. Get a look at me after a painfully short nap and you'll understand just how un-pretty it can be. But it CAN be done.

Here's what you need to make it work:

-Team work. You both have to commit to this plan and be in it for the right reasons. If one of you isn't sure why you're doing this or isn't enthusiastic about the tag team concept, you're not going to weather the ups and downs very well. And there will be a LOT of ups and downs: the normal ones associated with having a child and the new ones that are unique to the tag team.

-The Right Partner. You have to be able to trust each other implicitly. Grinch and I had been together nearly 20 years before we took on the tag team schedule. We knew each others strengths and weaknesses. We also knew we could depend on each other to do the right thing, be the adult, be dependable and put our child first. If you're with a man-child, princess, stoner or general knucklehead, this is not going to work out for you. You might also want to reconsider having a child with this person, but that's a whole 'nother subject.

-Supportive employers. They may surprised by your choice and doubt your ability to make it work, but if your employer is willing to work with you on your schedule, that's a big part of making the whole machine click. Give them plenty of advance notice that you want to do this. Don't spring this on them as you're walking out the door for maternity leave.

-Experience. If your tag-team schedule requires one of the partners to work odd hours and you've never worked odd hours before, it's going to be 500 times harder than you ever imagined. I've worked late night and overnight schedules on and off for nearly 20 years. I've managed it well, but I've seen other people who just can't do it. You don't want to find out that you're not suited to the overnight shift when you've structured your family's life around it.

-Help. Grinch and I were committed to doing the tag team 100% on our own, no help whatsoever. It worked great for us at first, but it was pretty exhausting. I recommend having some kind of help at least one day a week, just to ease your load a little. That help can be a sitter, a meal delivery service, yard service, or a friend or relative who comes over just to hold or play with the baby while you do laundry or chop vegetables. After Dos came along, our tag team hours changed and we had to hire a sitter three days a week. It's drastically increased the amount of time we're able to spend together as a family and gives us a little more wiggle room in the schedule. It was hard for me to accept help at first, but it really has improved things for us.

-Dedication. If you're going to do this - do it. Don't try it for a week and give up. Plan on doing it for six months at least. After six months, sit down with your partner and talk about how the tag team is working for you. Make some adjustments if you need to and try it for another three months. If it's still not working, think about what else you can do to fix things and come up with a Plan B. Try three more months. After baby's first birthday, take a good look at how things are going. If it's working, then have another slice of cake and toast your tag team. If it's not working, have another slice of cake, toast your hard work and dedication and move on to Plan B.

When someone hears about our schedule, they usually say, "Wow, how do you do it?" "It's hard," I say, "but it's worth it." And that's the truth. It is VERY hard. News flash: life is hard. But you keep going and you keep learning and doing the best you can for yourself and the people you love. Things get easier and new challenges come along. If you do it right, you have some great teammates beside you, cheering for you every step of the way.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Le Freak, Boutique

Just before Dos was born, a co-worker gave me a gift certificate to a fancy-schmancy baby store near my office. Correction: not "store." Boutique. La-dee-dah.

On the day I planned to use the gift certificate, Bug got a stomach virus and when she wasn't spewing all over the place, she was sleeping deeply on my chest and very pregnant belly. Not exactly perfect conditions for shopping at a boutique. By the time she was better, I was in the hospital, birthin' Dos and didn't exactly have time for boutiques.

The gift certificate has been sitting in my purse for over a year now. I finally got a chance to go to the store last week and, oh my, yes it is a boutique indeed. White walls, white floors, white shelves, and expensive white towels, sheets and blankets. You can tell that people go there BEFORE they have a baby because no conscientious parent would haul a barfing, pooping baby or grabby, sticky-handed, crumb-faced toddler into a store like this. Sorry, boutique.

The boutique had such beautiful things. I think I touched every blanket they had and they were all as soft as a baby's skin. I shook the rattles and squeezed the stuffed animals. I may have even nuzzled an organic cotton bunny. All heavenly. I fell in love with a palm-sized, wooden rattle/music box that played "Alle Meine Entchen" so sweetly I almost cried. I tinkered with every toy car and train, thumbed the pages of nearly every book.

I jealously eyed the staged nurseries. Everything matched so carefully and precisely that it looked like page in a design magazine. Hearty cribs with delicate linens. Porcelain night lights and decorative plates, hand-painted with lambs and bunnies. I thought back to Dos and Bug's room, with the 20-year-old hand-me-down crib and Ikea bed covered in mismatched sheets, no door on the closet and books haphazardly stacked on the shelves. Am I a bad Mommy because I didn't paint the room pink when Bug was born? Are my girls suffering because I haven't spelled out their names in pastel wooden letters over their beds? Would Dos sleep better if she had a $75 scent diffuser by her crib? I had to pull myself away before I felt the need to tear up my Mommy card.

Then I rounded the corner to the strollers. Not just any strollers. The Lexuses and Mercedes of the stroller world. The strollers were sleek and gleaming. They had cup holders perfectly sizes for venti soy lattes and BPA-free bottles. These strollers were ergonomically designed and built the the same material used in car and airplane production. They had ports for ipods. One had speakers. I think I drooled a little as I reached for the price tag on one of the strollers.

Have I mentioned before, or has it made itself apparent that I am budget-minded....some might say "cheap"? Yes, well, I *do* gasp and go gog-eyed when I see a $1999 price tag on a stroller. Unless it pushes itself and teaches my child three languages there is no stroller on earth worth $1999.

I backed away from the strollers and started looking at the price tags on other things. A matching set of 600 count crib linens? $210. A cashmere romper? $98. That dear little music box? $54. I knew that I would never be back in this place again. I wanted to make the most of my gift certificate and go home to hand-me-down kids' clothes and second-hand stroller. Back to the homemade bedtime mix CD on our creaky old boombox. Back to my giggly girls who didn't seem to care if they weren't wearing designer clothes or any clothes at all for that matter. Better access to tickly ribs and armpits.

I left the store with a small bag of fun odds and ends, all of which are going in the girls' Easter Baskets. I think they'll like them as much as the very non-boutiquey candy I bought for them at Target.

The girls' room doesn't have a theme other than "comfortable." I didn't put a whole lot of thought or money into a design concept. I don't worry if their toys are organic or free-trade as long as they're smart and safely built. Their room doesn't smell like lavender and fresh-baked cookies. I'm not a boutique kinda mama, I guess. That's ok. I think my girls love me anyway.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Erin Go Blah

My, my, my, but I do prattle on about myself don't I? "Me" this, "I" that, "Me, me, me!" Yes, welcome to the Heather show. You have one of the best seats in the house. Do be careful not to get pelted by a dirty diaper, won't you? Snacks and cold drinks are available at intermission.

A few months ago, in a fit of openness and insanity, I told a dear old friend that I had a blog and gave him the URL. He's been a regular reader ever since, even though he says the writing is "too Irish" which I think means that I moan a lot about how bad things are. Which, ah yes, 'tis true. I promise you, though: I am not blogging hunched over a pint of Guinness. I prefer Harp.

It is almost time to roll out the Irish ancestry for real. St. Patrick's Day and all that. I have some Irish flags and a green girly headband for the bug that I got on sale after St. Patrick's Day *last* year because it was on sale for half price. Full price was $1. Have I mentioned that I'm cheap? In a good way, of course.

My parents used to hold a St. Patrick's Day party every year. Dad, with his very Irish name, seemed to feel obligated to really Irish it up this time of year. He wore a horrendous green blazer, shamrock bow tie and leprechaun shoes. He took pride in his special "peat bog punch" which was basically bottles upon bottles of various clear liquours poured into a punchbowl, mixed with limeade and green food coloring. I drank a full glass of it when I was 10 and promptly passed out under the buffet.

My brothers and sisters and I used to look forward to the party, not just for the free booze, but because we got to eat cocktail food all night, stay up as late as we wanted and watch my parents friends get drunk and walk the wrong way out of the yard. Correct way: up the path to the sidewalk. Incorrect way: down the steps, next to the fence where the neighbors vicious dogs waited to snarl and snap like hellbeasts. Nothing funnier to a pack of heathens than to see tipsy middle-agers scared right out of their loafers.

Mom and Dad's party hosting days are long over and I don't think we'll host one either. The last party we tried to hold was a disaster of epic proportions. There was no booze, the food I made was ok but uninspired, Bug spent a lot of time crying and when I tried to comfort her, Dos would cry so until we A) get these girls in party mode or B) win the lottery and buy a bigger house so we can hide messes and crying children from our guests I'm swearing off party hosting. I'd LOVE to attend yours, though.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Snakes, Ducks and How I Roll

"She has a strong maternal instinct."
Used to describe thoughtful, warm, caring women who are always going out of their way to tend to people, especially children. Women described this way always seem to be baking something, tidying up and smiling while tending to their offspring's every need, no matter how unpleasant. You see this phrase next to airbrushed photos of mama ducks with their ducklings and silk-skinned, topless mothers nursing their new babies.

.::.

"She has no maternal instincts."
Used to describe the woman who locked her child in the car while she went to gamble away the rent money in a smoke-filled casino. Or worse. This phrase is illustrated with photos of snakes and mug shots of women who have done regrettable, horrible things to their children.

.::.

Is there a middle ground for maternal instincts? Because while I literally would stand in front of a speeding freight train to protect my children, I don't exactly love tending to their every whim, especially when some of those whims come at 3am, accompanied by feces.

I do not smile through my toddler's tantrums. I have been known to tell her to "can it" on more than one occasion.

I do not relish the thought of changing the baby's diaper. While it is an opportunity to see her perfectly adorable bum, it is also occasion to see her face turn purple with rage because this baby HATES diaper changes.

I do not love it when strange children come up to me on the playground and try to engage me in a discussion about their newest plastic gee-gaw. It makes me uncomfortable and I often end up asking them, "Is your Mommy here? Why don't you go find her."

However.

I do love painting pictures with the Bug and giggling with her at nap time. I am happy to hold her when she is frightened, upset, sick or just needs a quiet cuddle. I know when she needs space and when she needs to hold my hand.

I chase Dos around the house on my hands and knees because, even though it shreds my kneecaps, it makes her laugh and that's priceless. And I change her diaper, even though she tries to claw my face off when I do.

I race to catch anonymous toddlers who wander away from inattentive parents and nannies at the park. They aren't my kids, but they are someone's and need to be kept safe from harm.

I'm not a snake. I'm not quite a mama duck, either. I'm just a mom, trying to figure all this out as I go along and finding that maternal instincts aren't always instinctive.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Smile

I see one of my co-workers on a regular basis, but we don't often have time to chat. When we do, the conversation always centers around our kids. He has a little girl who is 4, going on 24. Her attitude is legendary and he always has a funny story about her.

We were chatting recently and he asked, "What about you, how're your girls?'

I paused for a second to take inventory. "They're great." I said.

"You always smile when you talk about them." he said.

"I do?"

"Yes. Is there always something to smile about?"

"I guess there is. I just can't believe how lucky we are. I still can't believe they're mine."

It's true. As hard as things have been, I am lucky. It's so easy to forget when I'm feeling lousy and stressed out. When both kids are crying and it's probably my fault that they are. When I haven't slept when my husband in weeks and I can't remember the last time I saw my friends. When all of that piles up, everything seems awful and I often roll my eyes and groan, "Kill me now."

But when someone asks, "How're things?" and I say, "Great!" It's true. I'm not covering up or glossing over things to paint a rosy picture. Things really are pretty damn good. Everyone is in good health, the girls are thriving and growing. We have good jobs, food in the cupboards and a home in a friendly neighborhood. Our families and friends are supportive and caring. Frankly, sometimes I think I have it better than I deserve.

Things ARE pretty damn good. It's easy to forget.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Connect: FAIL

Saturday morning, 5:53am ET.

I'm at work and my phone rings so insanely loud that my co-workers and I jump. The number on the caller ID doesn't ring a bell. Not our area code so I know it's not Grinch, hospital or police department calling about him or the girls. Gravelly voiced and rushed, I answer, "Hello?"

A sweet, child-like, Canadian voice tones: "Can you talk or is Ted there?"

I figure it's someone's who hates her best friend's boyfriend/husband. My husband isn't named Ted. She must have the wrong number. "You have the wrong number." I rasp.

phone closed, back in purse.

Then the lightbulb goes off over my head. That wasn't a wrong number! That was Jen! Freaking Jen and Tonic called me! A blogging rock star called me and I hung up on her. Idiot.

This is what a cold and the graveyard shift does to you, y'all. Watch, learn and be afraid.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Making Valentines


Monday, February 2, 2009

Blah.

Forgive my bloggy absence of late. Everything that comes out of my mouth and keyboard these days seems to have a negative, "poor pitiful me" sound to it and I don't want that. Not anymore, anyway. Not where everyone can see it and roll their eyes at it.

I know I left my happy around here somewhere. I'm looking for it. I may make a new one if it doesn't turn up soon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Care Package

A few years back, a friend who was born and raised in the south moved far north to go to college. I admired her courage and shivered at the thought of long, cold winters and a world without the essentials of life, namely: sweet tea, flaky biscuits and Moon Pies.

After she'd been in Boston a few months, I sent her a care package of things you should be able to find in civilized society: pork rinds, grits, RC cola and Moon Pies. The package was 1/2 joke and 1/2 friendly hug from afar. With internet shopping, she could have probably bought all of those things with a few mouse clicks, but that wasn't the point. The point was, she was a newbie in a new world. I just wanted to make her smile and give her some familiar snacks from "home." (Though, since she's Jewish, I don't know how the pork rinds went over. That was the joke part, I guess.)

I once watched my grandmother pack for a trip to Chicago to see my dear Aunt Mary. She loaded her suitcase with clothing, shoes for herself and cornmeal, grits, Karo syrup, and Moon Pies for Aunt Mary. This was decades before the internet and dependable, timely shipping. When Grandmother and I got to Chicago, Aunt Mary accepted the care package with glee.

When my brother was stationed in England, my sisters and I would pack him elaborate care packages of candy, beef jerky, Bic pens and toiletries. No Moon Pies, that I remember. I don't know how he survived, frankly.

Care packages seem to be a dying art. Anyone can buy anything they want on the Internet, delivered right to their doorstep, any time they want. You can even buy ready made "care packages" on line and send them to a friend with a computer print out greeting card. What the hell is the point of that? That's not a care package! That's just a box of crap you paid someone to put together for you.

Today on Twitter, there was a discussion between friends (you are my friends, Tweeters. pinkie swears.) about food. Ex-pats were talking about food they remember/miss from home. I joked about making care packages for them, but now I mean it. In fact, I've already put one together.

So here's my proposal: tell me what you miss the most about home. E-mail me your mailing address and I will send you a care package. I can't promise anything elaborate or expensive (we're working on a tight budget at Casa Three of 7). If I can't find the item you really want, I'll let you know. I want to say thank you for reading this blog, thank you for listening to me whine and giggle. I want you to give you a hug, even if it comes in a box in the form of cheeze crackers and jujubes. I want to send you a care package.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Asshat

There are moments in parenting that make you feel like the smartest, most entertaining, most resourceful, kindest parent in the world. Gluing a favorite toy back together, catching a child in mid-fall, saying the just the right thing to soothe a sobbing child, occupying a toddler on a rainy day using nothing but Popsicle sticks, glue and construction paper. Those kinds of moments.

There are also moments that make you feel like a complete asshat.

If you play your cards right and work really hard at it, the good moments are more frequent than the asshat moments. But the asshat moments hurt. Hopefully you haven't done anything so awful that it hurts your child physically or mentally, but it hurts you. At least, the asshat moments hurt *me*.

There are simple ones, like the time I got the Bug all hyped up to go to her favorite indoor play center. We got there and the place was closed for a private party. Bug already had her shoes off and was excited about jumping in a bouncy tent. I had to pull her back and tell her we weren't allowed. Talk about taking the wind out of some one's sails.

There are scary ones, like the time I was holding Dos, who was enraged that I'd just changed her diaper. She bucked backwards and right out of my arm. I can still hear the sound her body made when it hit the floor and it makes me sick to my stomach. After four hours in the ER, Dos had a perfectly clean bill of health and Bug was have a grand time in the hospital cafeteria and I was resolved to hold my baby tightly, with two hands, no matter what.

And then there was Saturday night. A new level in ass-hattery for me. I was a major-league asshole to my child. I was frustrated and weary. She was energetic and insistent. I threw away a toy she gave me and stomped off, leaving her alone, wailing in the kitchen. I didn't just take the wind out of her sails. I shredded the sails, pulled the plug on the boat and left her there to sink.

I apologized a short time later and she seemed fine with everything, but I can't forget the sound of her cry. Add that to the nasty look Grinch gave me later, along with the admonishment, "She was really hurt. REALLY. Hurt." and my torment is complete.



No parent is perfect. I know that. I pray a lot for patience, strength, energy and fortitude. I don't know if God hears those prayers. I don't know what he'd think if I prayed, "Dear God, don't let me be an asshat to my children today."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Easy/Hard

The day to day business of parenting is pretty easy. Diaper changing, book reading, cup filling, baby totin', etc? Easy peasy. It's when you throw in an actual child that things get complicated.

You have to contend with squirming, crying, fussing and cussing. And you think pregnant women are moody? Honey, baby and toddler moods switch so quickly you could get whiplash. Grinch and I often remark to one another, over the angry wails of a certain tot, "Five minutes ago, everything was funny. Suddenly, NOTHING is funny."

And here's a surprise: 3-and-a-half year olds have very strong feelings about things. Very strong feelings that they don't tell you about until it's too late. "nononoNOOOOO! I wanted to peel the clementine! Aaaaaagh!" "Where are my pink monkey pajamas?" In the wash. "WHAT?! I wanted to wear those tonight. Aaaaaagh!" "I can buckle my own belt! Aaaaaagh!" You get the idea.

My best response to these outbursts is to say, "I didn't know that, darlin'. Next time you can (fill in the blank). Next time. Hey! Look! Charlie is chewing on your sister's sock! heehee!" and I go on about my business.

That works pretty well with the bug, but Dos doesn't know anything about "next time." All she knows is that you made her mad! right! NOW! Diaper change: Waaaaaaaaah! Car seat buckling: Waaaaaaaaah! Removal of small objects from her mouth: Waaaaaaaaah! And she, unlike her sister, is a fighter.

My 20-something brothers used to wrestle me to the ground when I was just a pre-teen. I was regularly knocked around by my childhood "playmate". But the pain of being bitten on the shoulder by pointy baby teeth is like no other. And who taught this little angel to slap? Seriously. She has never been hit, never seen anyone get hit, but she can land a slap better than Joan Collins.

I don't know if baby-on-mama violence really hurts, or it's just the indignity getting whalloped by an infant that riles me up so much. Plus, you can't hit back. I go hit the washer/dryer and scream into a pile of laundry instead. If our laundry pile could talk, it would probably repeat some very bad words.

The furniture and the laundry bear the physical manifestations of my frustration and anger. I get it out of my system and go back to the baby or the toddler, hold them close, kiss them, whisper loving words into their ears, sometimes all while they're still wailing about whatever injustice has befallen them. I throw myself back into the fray because parenting is hard, but loving them is easy.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Would you?

Would you be worried if you child's babysitter:

joked about your baby (who, admittedly, cries loud and long), saying, "With her, I know why there's shaken baby syndrome."

told you about your baby's crying jag, trailing off, "oh, baby, you're such a little pill....sometimes."

tearfully told you how she was fired from her former job (not babysitting, but an entirely different field), and included the words, "...and a year and a half later, I'm doing THIS..." (pointing to your living room floor).

while babysitting your child, updated her Facebook account with the words "I went to college for this!?!"

This is a person who is always on time, accommodating to your schedule, gets glowing reviews from other employers and by all appearances is kind, gentle and loving with your children.

There's no reason to suspect any wrong doing of any kind. There's just a feeling that maybe this isn't the exactly the right person for you right now.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

She Is

She is strong-willed. When the nurses tried to hold her in, she forced her way out. She was ready, even if they weren't.

She is opinionated. Give her a toy she doesn't want and she dashes it to the floor, using her newly free hand to grab what she really wants.

She is tenacious. She learned to climb before she learned to walk. She did it so she could reach toys that had been placed out of reach.

She is full of wonder. Take her outside and she hushes, taking in the sunlight, the twittering birds, the buzz of the neighbor's lawnmower. She is wide-eyed and looking in every direction. "Show me more!" she seems to say.

She won't be ignored. If her sister is getting lap time, she muscles her way in. If that's not enough she climbs higher on my shoulder. If that doesn't do the trick, she gets into nursing position. The kid knows how to work the system.

She is tough. She rolls off beds, jumps out of arms, falls while learning to walk and barely misses a beat. She's given of a dozen heart attacks, but just keeps going.

She is funny. She'll roll up my shirt-sleeve to get bare skin upon which to blow a proper raspberry. If I'm laying down, she'll lift my shirt to blow on my belly. She chuckles at her own trick and does it again and again just to hear me laugh.

She laughs and cries lustily and with great purpose. There is something wrong. There is something funny. She can't talk, but she can communicate and she does it with unmatched fervor.

She is my Dos. My do-si-do. My monkey. My cookie. My bunny.

She is one year old today. I can barely believe it. The textbooks say she's not a baby any more. She'll always be my baby. My special baby girl.