12/31/09

Real-Mom Resolutions

It’s that time of year, people. The time when if I were still working for a health web site I’d be crafting headlines like “New Year, New You” and “Be a 10 in 2010!” The time of year when regular gym-goers curse the well-intentioned hordes that inevitably descend on the Stairmasters. Until March, when the gym empties out again.

Well, this year I’ve decided to make REAL resolutions. You know, ones I actually WANT to achieve and maybe have a real shot at? Here goes:

Leave my children alone. What? You were expecting me to say spend more time with my kids? I already spend nearly every waking hour with them, people, and some of the sleeping ones! And I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that our offspring often behave better when Mom’s not breathing down their necks.

Case in point: Riley will be happily playing in the Exersaucer — until he catches sight of me. Then it’s nonstop screaming and whining until I spring him loose. Similarly, Miles will amuse himself quite nicely with a book or toy in the next room, then when I walk in he’ll suddenly start acting up.

Eat more. That’s right, no carrot sticks and crash diets here. Don’t you remember, I have a built-in diet and exercise program? Besides, as an astute commenter once pointed out, mommy meltdowns are frequently caused by the all-coffee diet. You’re so busy attending to everyone else’s needs, you don’t take time to meet your own, such as food. That means protein, people, not cookies or the crusts of your kid’s PB&J!

Be nicer to my husband. This list just continues to shock and confuse, doesn’t it? I KNOW, me too!! But now that I’m (sometimes) getting a full night’s sleep and 3 meals a day, I have a new perspective. It’s easy to let civility slide when you’re in postpartum survival mode. It’s easy to snarl, “Get back to me when you’ve grown a PERSON inside your body!” when your hubby complains of a headache or a man cold.

But come on now, you’re both on the same team, right? And you must like SOMETHING about him if you made a baby with him. So I guess it won’t kill me to be a little more pleasant to C. now and then. (I just KNOW these words are going to come back to haunt me!!)

Stop sweating it. You know how sometimes someone can be inexplicably rude or mean to you? And you let it ruin your day and go over and over in your head why that person said or did that and what you did to provoke it and how you should’ve responded? Yeah, I’m going to stop doing that. It’s almost always about THEM, not YOU. Like that woman in yoga class who gave me the evil eye for putting my mat in “her” spot? Namaste, lady. You can have it.

Give myself a break. OK, this is where I get clichéd. But it’s true; I am SO much harder on myself than anyone else. Most moms I know are. So instead of focusing on the times I’ve lost my temper or fallen short of perfection, what I’m NOT doing, what I SHOULD be doing, and how I could be doing everything better, I’m going to try to give myself credit for what I AM doing. Like keeping 2 children clothed, fed, and alive day after day, for starters.

What do you think? Can I keep these up? Or will I be lunching on lattés and cursing the slow old lady in front of me at the grocery store by March? And what are YOUR New Year’s Resolutions? Do tell!

P.S. O’ THE WEEK: Another resolution, which wouldn’t fit neatly into this list, is to seek out new blogs to read regularly. No letting the media pick the “top mom blogs” for me. Here’s one, for instance, about a mom-to-be who quit her reporter job and is trying to simplify her life: Little House on the Southern Prairie. Fascinating!

12/28/09

Comrades Amidst the Chaos

Anyone else in a post-holiday funk, or is it just me? The presents have all been opened, the new toys are scattered throughout the house, the relatives have gone home, hubs is back at work, the cupboards are bare, and the laundry’s piled up again. Oh, and school’s still out. Back to real life.

The thing is, we actually had a very nice Christmas. Words cannot express how wonderful it was to be in our own home and not have to travel. We hosted some friends and family, but that wasn’t even stressful because it was just a few people at once and our overnight guests only stayed for a few days.

And also, because our basement is finished now, we have a whole extra floor/guest room/playroom. (Good thing = more space. Bad thing = more room to clean and for kids to get into trouble. Now my 10 m.o. has TWO flights of stairs to climb at break-neck speed.)

Some holiday highlights:

– Miles frantically cleaning up his room on Christmas Eve so Santa wouldn’t think he already had too many toys.

– Miles opening each present and wanting to play with it immediately. He seemed to like everything he got, even things he hadn’t asked for, and didn’t notice the things he HAD asked for that were missing. ( A motorcycle at 3? I don’t think so!)

– Miles and my dad attempting to read the directions to some new toy and M. saying, “Grandpa, I didn’t know you speak Spanish!”

– My niece singing Rudolph with his nose “like an iPhone.”

– Riley in his cute Christmas outfits, clapping during the school pageant, climbing over the piles of wrapping paper and boxes, and playing with his new toys. (A laptop for a baby? Really?!)

I realized one of the things I liked best about this holiday was having company. Having people around to share the craziness of my daily life with 2 small children.

People who will go into the fridge and grab a juice box without waiting to be served, people who will wipe your baby’s nose for you, people who don’t mind screetching and shouting and balls bouncing off every surface. People who respect nap schedules, don’t care if the catering is provided by Costco and the local pizza place, and understand why the festivities have to end by 8 p.m.

It’s comforting to have comrades in the midst of the chaos. And now that everybody’s gone home and it’s just me and the boys, it’s a little lonely around here. Good thing we have 90 thousand new toys to play with. Note to people who gave us toys with a bazillion tiny pieces: I’m coming for you. I know where you live!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Quick, before they’ve had time to take inventory, hide some of your kids’ new toys and bring them out later, one by one. Heck, if you want to hide them for months and pass them off as Easter presents, I won’t tell!

12/24/09

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays, everyone! From my family to yours, with love.

Riley’s celebrating his first Christmas with his own video:
“The Little Drummer Boy.”

12/21/09

Joy to the World, the Baby Slept!

Joy to the world, the baby slept!
He slept right through the night;
From 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.,
He let mama and dada sleep,
He let mama and dada sleep,
He let mama, poor mama, and dada sleep!

That’s right, people. Riley slept through the night for the FIRST. TIME. EVER. In his nearly 10 mos. of life, that’s an unprecedented event. (Except for that one time he had a fever and slept for 7 hrs. but that doesn’t count.) Not only that, but he’s done it 3 nights in a row.

It’s almost as if he KNEW I was at the end of my rope. Either that, or it was letting him cry for 45 min. straight the first night. Here’s what happened: I reread Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. I really can’t recommend this book enough. It’s not light reading, but you don’t have to read it cover to cover, either. You can dip in and out as needed.

The book reinforced what I guess I already knew: that at 9 mos. old, Riley does not need to be waking up 1-4x/night. In fact, I’m doing him a disservice by responding to him, because I’m not allowing him to get the rest he needs. Also, Weissbluth is a bit of a nap nazi. So for 3 days straight, I made sure Riley was down at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and in bed by 7 p.m. And it WORKED!!!

I don’t think it’s so much that the book was a miracle solution, but rather it’s due to a combination of factors, including stopping nursing, his age, and giving him more food. (I switched from 6 oz. to 8 oz. of formula at night and 1 jar of baby food per meal to 2.)

Anyway, I don’t need to tell you the thrill I felt when I heard him stirring — first clue something was different: he was cooing, not crying — and I looked at the clock expecting it to say 3 a.m. and it said 6:24 a.m. I immediately woke up my husband to tell him the good news! 🙂

I also don’t need to tell anybody who’s ever suffered an extended bout of sleep deprivation what a HUGE difference an uninterrupted night’s sleep makes to a person’s wellbeing. I was a ball of Christmas spirit the next day! Adding to my festive mood was the 16-inch snowfall (!!) we got. Made all the more wonderful because it happened on a weekend and Daddy was home to shovel it and take Miles out to play in it for hours!

Meanwhile, I policed Riley’s naps, got the house in order (including going through the foot-high stack of mail on the counter), organized and uploaded all the pictures and videos, displayed the Christmas cards, put away laundry, changed sheets. You know, all those things you don’t have time to do during the week with 2 hooligans underfoot. Also, C. prepared almost ALL the meals. Heaven! Of course, his fancy-schmancy strawberry French toast and tuna melts are going to be a tough act to follow, but whatever.

Now that I’m feeling rested and festive and grateful, I’d like to extend a sincere thank-you to all my faithful readers and commenters out there. Seriously, you don’t know (or maybe you do!) what a boost you give me. It really is like having a virtual community of moms who are in the trenches with you. Hugs all around!

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Writer and mom Holly Bowne shares 20 Tips for Savoring the Holidays. I commented that some days my gratitude list includes only “babysitters” and “wine.”

12/18/09

In All Honesty…

Spoiler alert: serious post ahead. Believe me, I’d love to write a light, upbeat entry about my “Seasonal Activity Disorder” flaring up again and our Christmas tree debacle. But it would take more energy than I’ve got right now.

Besides, I took a quiz on Oprah.com that told me my true destiny is to be an “adviser” and an “equalizer.” I took that to mean I’m here to help other moms in any way I can and show people that if I can do this motherhood thing, then any idiot can.

Except sometimes I can’t.

I’ve half-joked about quitting being a (mostly) SAHM and about my ongoing quest for optimism and balance. Though some (such as my spouse) might disagree, I do try to look on the bright side of disasters and not dwell on the ugly parts of life. I’m all for honesty, but I prefer to leave the all-cards-on-the-table confessional stuff to the Dooces and Anne Lamotts of the world.

But you know, sometimes motherhood isn’t funny or light. Sometimes — a lot of times — it’s the hardest f@#$%?!ing thing I’ve ever done in my life. And the scariest, too, because there are 2 human beings dependent on me for survival and I can’t quit or call in sick. EVER. For the REST OF MY LIFE.

There have been plenty of days I didn’t want to get out of bed and/or I didn’t want to go to sleep at night because that would make the morning come sooner. And then I’d have to get up and do it all again. There have been plenty of days that I cried when my husband left for work.

I’m not a big believer in medication (maybe because both my epidurals failed?!) especially the mood-altering kind. I did briefly seek help from a therapist, but since I believe my current state of mind is situational, not chronic or chemical, I eventually stopped. Besides, who has time to fit one more appointment into their schedule?!

One thing that does really help me is knowing that I’m not alone. I’m lucky that I have several close friends, family members, and neighbors who keep it real and help me out whenever they can. When a friend told me she nearly got divorced following the birth of her second child, I was grateful for her honesty. When a blogger I follow confessed she’d made “The Call” to her husband one day (as in, “Get home IMMEDIATELY if you care about the safety of your children”), I thought, thank God it’s not just me.

And when my writing students share essays about miscarriage and postpartum depression I admire their bravery and think about all the people they will touch with their words. (And they do, because many students have gotten their essays published and received heartfelt responses from readers.)

So I’ll admit here that I have been having some really bad days lately. Behavior issues, sleeping issues, teething, the holidays, too much sugar, not enough exercise or help — all the usual stuff but all at once and without a break. There was one day in particular I really thought I was going to hurt somebody. REALLY HURT THEM. So I dumped the baby in his crib with some toys and put Miles in his room with a baby gate across the door. And I walked away.

And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing.

Everybody was fine. In fact, Riley had a blast. He was probably thrilled to have his brother off his back for 30 min. And even Miles, aside from calling mournfully down the stairs every few minutes, was fine playing by himself.

I related this anecdote to the kids’ pediatrician the other day. And you know what she said? “I’m so glad you did that.” And then she went on to ask if there was any way I could get some more help. It might be tough, but I’m going to work on it. Part of me wants to pretend that I’m a perfectly competent mom and writer who juggles it all by myself with grace. After all, I know plenty of people who do. But I am not one of them. And that’s OK.

READ O’ THE WEEK: Author Claudine Wolk sent me a review copy of her perfectly titled book, “It Gets Easier! … And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.” It’s part “Girlfriends’ Guide” and part “What to Expect” with a healthy dose of humor and practical, real-world tips.

I think Wolk really hits her stride in Ch. 10: “How Did I Get Into This Mess?”, Ch. 11: “What is a Housewife & How Did I Become One?” and Ch. 12: ”The Most Frustrating Job on the Planet.” Unlike other books that gloss over the working vs. staying home topic in a couple of paragraphs, Wolk goes deeper into the real issues.

Like coming to grips with all the chores that accompany new motherhood. And how your marriage will change. And how neither working or at-home moms have a easy choice or often any choice at all. (She points out that working moms have TWO f.t. jobs.) In fact, Wolk’s is the most thorough and respectful discussion of this topic I’ve read.

This book deserves a place on the bookshelf alongside the other titles about this life-changing, gut-wrenching journey we call motherhood.

12/15/09

Ready, Set, Run Errands!

I don’t know about you, but I can be in and out of the supermarket, pharmacy, and liquor store in under an hour and usually still have time to get gas. IF I don’t have my kids with me, that is. Everybody knows that with a kid or 2 in tow, your time-to-errands ratio goes WAY down. You’re lucky if you can get through Trader Joe’s in an afternoon.

I was reminded of this today when I attempted 2 seemingly simple errands with both kids.

First, our departure was delayed because the baby refused to take his morning nap. After one failed attempt, I gave up and got everyone bundled up to go out. First stop: Staples. I had to make some copies and purchase some packing materials. On the way there (5 min. from my house) Miles announces he’s hungry. I fish a couple semi-stale peanut butter crackers out of the diaper bag and hand them over.

We park, I hoist everyone out of the car, and we trudge into the store. There’s a line for the copiers, which I stand in while holding Riley, who is getting heavier by the minute. It’s as if someone swapped his diaper with a bag of sand. Miles grabs some scissors and markers off a display stand and goes running off with them. I wait and wait and wait some more. Until I realize I’m in the wrong line. Back to square one.

By the time I’ve made my copies and paid, my biceps are burning from carrying my leaden tot and Miles has coerced me into buying him candy by putting his sticky mitts all over it before I realized what he was doing. Riley has lost a shoe, so we retrace our steps throughout the store and parking lot before finding the errant shoe in his carseat.

Second stop: post office. A couple weeks before Christmas, we’re asking for trouble, but I have no choice if I want my packages to get there in time. As we swing into the parking lot, I see a line out the door. Abort, abort! We’ll never make it out alive and home in time for lunch. I make a U-turn and head for another branch a little farther away.

We park, I hoist everyone out of the car, and we trudge into the post office. But not before checking that the baby has both shoes. There’s a line, of course. I keep Miles busy by letting him drop the Christmas cards in the mail slot 5 at a time. He’s done in no time, and begins to amuse himself by pulling his shirt over his head. My arms are growing weaker. Seriously, how much does this baby WEIGH? Did the hat and mittens add an extra 10 lbs?

Next stop: the gym. Before the carseats are even buckled I know it’s not going to happen. The baby’s whining and rubbing his eyes; Miles is complaining he’s still hungry. It’s not worth it. Besides, I’ve already done my arm workout for the day.

We desperately need groceries, since the only thing in the house resembling baby food is an aging sweet potato in the bottom of the pantry. And the craft store’s calling, since we ran out of garland halfway through decorating the Christmas tree. But I’m no dummy. I know enough to quit while I’m ahead.

Besides, on a day when the boys are at school and the sitter, I can breeze through every store in the mall and STILL have time for a cup of coffee on the way to pick-up. Just time me and see.

NEWS O’ THE WEEK: I learned from one of my Twitter friends that many Target stores are starting to stock fresh food. I’ve long thought they were the cheapest place to buy all sorts of groceries, including organic stuff and baby food, so I’m super-psyched about this.

12/13/09

We Are Family

It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means… Dashing through the airport, sitting in traffic, waiting for a plane to go or a bus to come or a train to go or a car to run. (Apologies to Dr. Seuss.) All to visit FAMILY. Because that’s what you do this time of year, right?

Well, this year we opted out. For Thanksgiving anyway. We stayed home, hosted nothing, visited no one. It wasn’t an easy decision, but for the first time, I realized that we — just the 4 of us — well, you’ll have to read more at TheBump.com to find out:

12/10/09

2009 (Gag) Gift Guide

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that I am a lousy gift-giver. Occasionally, I come up with an amazingly perfect, personal, creative gift, such as the year I got my mom a customized antique locket from Etsy containing pictures of her grandchildren. Alas, I cannot sustain that level of gift-giving year after year.

Especially with the men in my life. Do you know how hard it is to buy for my husband? He’s so picky about his apparel I couldn’t DREAM of buying him something he’d actually wear. The Nike watch of ’07 is still a sore subject. Even when he sends me a link to the exact thing he wants, it still somehow goes awry. (It said “unisex,” I swear!!)

[Sidebar: have you noticed the disturbing trend towards “practical” gifts once you’re married? “Honey, let’s get a new garbage disposal and call it our Christmas present to each other this year, OK?” NOT OK!!]

For your convenience, I’ve compiled a list of thoughtful gifts that you and your loved ones will TRULY cherish:

For moms:

Privacy.
If a working lock for the bathroom door is not feasible, give her the gift of letting her do her business solo without talking to her through the door. Imagine, an entire shower without someone coming in to ask where the red sippy cup is or flushing the toilet and scalding her.

For dads:

Space.
Let him watch the whole game by himself without talking to him about the suspicious-looking crack in the ceiling or the state of your 401k. Allow him to drink his coffee before asking him if he remembered to put out the recycling and what you should get his mom for her birthday. Don’t hand him a crying baby and a whiny toddler before he’s even fully in the door from work. At least let him turn off the engine first.

For grandparents:

Satisfaction.
As in, give them the satisfaction of thinking you are taking their advice – or at least considering it. When they say, “We used to put you kids in playpens” or “Give the baby a bottle of water when he cries at night” or “Don’t give in to those temper tantrums; show her who’s boss,” just smile and nod. Bonus points for throwing in a “Why didn’t *I* think of that?”

For babies:

Access.
Every parent knows the more dangerous the object, the more a baby wants it and the longer and more happily he will play with it. So let him have your germy keys, those sharp kitchen implements, and the dog’s filthy chew-toy. He’ll be in heaven, and you’ll be on standby with the Purell, ready to call 911 if necessary.

For toddlers & preschoolers:

Independence.
Imagine an entire day where your child gets to make all his own decisions. The striped shirt with the plaid shorts and Elmo rain boots? Why not! Waffles and M&Ms for breakfast? Sure! A 4-hour Dora marathon? Go nuts! What’s the worst that could happen? Cavities? Public ridicule? A nuclear meltdown? You’ll live. Of course, MY son has been known to ask to drive the car, play in traffic, and drink Red Bull, so you’ll have to draw the line somewhere.

I see these gifts as a win-win for everyone. They cost you nothing (except possibly your pride) and you don’t even have to wrap them. Any way you look at it, they’re way more festive than a new muffler for the minivan. Here’s wishing you & yours a happy, stress-free holiday!

PICS O’ THE WEEK: “Snow angel? More like snow DEVIL!”









“Check out my disco stroller!”

12/7/09

One Card Short of a Full Deck

Has there ever been an object so fraught with conflicting emotions as the Christmas card? First, there’s the frustration of staging the perfect picture if you send photo cards. And if your family includes small children and/or pets this seemingly simple task could take WEEKS before you capture that elusive shot where everyone’s looking at the camera and no one’s crying, running away, or picking their nose.

Then there’s the anxiety over ordering the cards, the tediousness of updating your address list, and the anger you may feel after standing in lengthy lines at the post office behind people who are taking their sweet old time perusing the stamp choices as if they were touring the Louvre. It’s a friggin’ STAMP, just PICK ONE!!

Then, ultimately, there’s the joy experienced by the people who receive your cards. That goes without saying. At least they BETTER be filled with joy after all that effort.

I wish I could delegate this tiresome chore, but I’m what some people might call a control freak. Personally, I prefer to think of myself as having high standards, but whatever. Sticks and stones. Besides, you’re asking for trouble if you give up the reins. Here’s a cautionary tale I borrowed from my friend L.H.

Her husband was in charge of the cards this year. Apparently, he looked only at the design, not considering the type of paper, flat versus folded, coupon codes, or the quantity they needed. So when my friend found out the staggering sum he’d paid for them, she nearly choked. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t considering the joy in the recipients’ hearts.

That’s why I do the Christmas cards myself. So maybe it took me several hours of searching online to find a deal. And even longer to figure out that company’s photo editing software and get the picture looking just the way I wanted it. And maybe I feared the deal was too good to be true so I ordered some back-up cards from another website just in case. Some might call this making extra work for myself. I call it doing things right. (Aren’t you so glad you’re not married to me??)

I never even used to SEND Christmas cards. I didn’t think anyone cared, so why add another time-sensitive chore to my holiday to-do list? But then my friends started having kids, and we started having kids, and before I knew it I was sticking antlers on my baby’s head and propping him in front of the fireplace shouting, “We need more light! And fix his two strands of hair!”

And I have to say, I do love receiving all the cards with everyone’s cuties on them. We hang them up on a ribbon and talk about who’s who and how much they’ve grown. And what the heck that family’s deal is who sent the cards on the 98-lb. metallic cardstock with opaque vellum envelopes. Are they TRYING to show off? Hee, hee…

PRODUCT LINKS O’ THE WEEK: I ordered my first (free except for shipping!) batch of cards from SeeHere.com and they are perfectly nice. My back-up batch was from Snapfish.com. Last year’s cards were cropped off-center, so I complained and they gave me a bunch of credits for free prints. This year’s card came out great.

BLOG LINKS O’ THE WEEK: Here’s a mom who risked a broken nose to get the perfect shot for her holiday cards. Also, McMommy is hosting a Holiday Card Spectacular and she wants to display your cards!

12/2/09

The Pain of Parenthood

Are you familiar with “the fishhook”? That’s the term C. and I coined for this little maneuver of the baby’s where he pries open your mouth with his tiny fingers and pulls REALLY HARD on your bottom lip. When you’re nursing him or trying to get him to sleep next to you at 4 a.m., for instance. It’s even more painful when his fingernails need to be cut.

That’s not the only injury I’ve sustained since becoming a mom. Not by a long shot. And I’m not the only one. I know a grandmother who got a black eye during a scuffle over a hairbrush with her grandson. That kid REALLY didn’t want his hair brushed.

Besides perforated lips and black eyes, caregivers of small children run the risk of:

Pulled hair. One way to keep my baby from log-rolling off the table while I’m changing his diaper is to tickle his face with my hair. He loves this. Unfortunately for me, he’s got lightning-quick reflexes and an iron grip. Just think: if I lose a clump of hair during each diaper change, it won’t be long before I’m looking into those Paris Hilton clip-on hair extensions.

Pinching, scratching and/or purple nipples. I don’t know what it is about my baby, but he likes to keep his hands busy while he’s eating. So if he’s not doing the fishhook or trying to turn my nostrils inside out, he’s probing my body for handfuls of flesh to squeeze. REALLY HARD.

There was a passage in my new favorite book, Dadditude by Philip Lerman about “the purple nipple” that had me in hysterics. Basically, his son wouldn’t go to sleep until he pinched his dad’s nipples. And the dad LET him because that was the only surefire way to get the kid to sleep! It’s so true; you do what you have to, and sometimes that means a purple nipple or two.

(Speaking of nipples, I’m not even going to go into the pain and suffering lots of us experience with breastfeeding. That’s a whole other post…or 20.)

Head butts. Is there any parent out there who hasn’t experienced the searing pain of a child’s surprisingly hard skull cracking them in the nose or under the chin? I’m flinching just thinking about it.

Board-book paper cuts. So much worse than the regular kind. Brought about when an overly enthusiastic young reader turns the pages too quickly during storytime.

Burns. “Mommy, try my oatmeal and see if it’s still hot.” Sure, and why don’t I lick the George Foreman grill while I’m at it? Burns also may be incurred while testing the temperature of bath water and making sure your flat iron is turned off.

Obviously, this list only scratches the surface. (Pun intended.) From “carseat elbow” to feet punctured by stepping on Legos, the list goes on and on. It’s a wonder any of us survives till they hit kindergarten, isn’t it?

PIC O’ THE WEEK: “My Mommy ordered the Maclaren hinge guard, or as we like to call it, the severed-finger saver! You can, too.”

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