5/28/09

Not a Newborn Anymore

I’m not one of those “they grow up so fast” people. Usually when someone says that to me, I glare at them with my dark-circled, bloodshot eyes and snarl, “It sure doesn’t SEEM fast when you’re awake for 21 out of every 24 hrs dealing with another person’s bodily fluids!!” This usually wipes the sappy grin off their face and sends them scurrying away to spread sunshine somewhere else.

But just yesterday, I realized my baby is already 3 mos. old. When did THAT happen? Gone are the skinny chicken legs, replaced by some scrumptious thigh rolls. Gone are the teeny-tiny newborn undershirts that were still too big at first, replaced by actual outfits with pockets. (Pockets?! For an extra binky, I guess.) Gone are the sponge baths, 2-hour feeding schedules, and weekly doctor’s appointments. My baby’s growing up so fast!

I definitely didn’t think that with Baby #1. Of course, Baby #1 – who is now a Big Kid – is the main reason why it seems like Baby #2 is growing up so fast. While I’ve been busy baking cupcakes for preschool, planning playdates, and rinsing out Lightning McQueen underwear, my tiny bundle of joy has become not so tiny. He’s smiling, cooing, and (almost) rolling over already!

I have to say, though, I prefer this stage. Angelina Jolie came under all sorts of fire when she referred to her then-newborn daughter Shiloh as a “blob.” But how else do you describe a little, bald, pink thing that just sleeps and cries all the time? I like it when their personalities start to come out.

Both my boys love the “pow-pow-bam” game, invented by my husband. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. You hold the baby’s fists and make him throw tiny punches, saying, “Pow! Pow! Bam!” Bonus points if you pretend to take a punch and fling your head back. This almost GUARANTEES a laugh.

Along with his clothes, Riley seems to be outgrowing some of his fussiness. I am qualifying that statement because we still have our bad days. But he has more alert, happy periods now. And he’s become very active and vocal, as you can see here:
video

As you can also see, he hasn’t outgrown the projectile vomiting one bit!

LINK O’ THE WEEK: File this under “What took me so long?” With no tax or shipping, I figured out that ordering dipes, wipes, nursing pads, Mylicon, etc. from Diapers.com is actually cheaper and faster than driving to Costco. They even carry the generic Kirkland wipes. Plus we get this awesome box to play with!

5/25/09

Life as a WAHM

I’m sitting in a church parking lot typing this on my laptop. There’s a chai latte, diaper bag, and cell phone (on vibrate), on the seat beside me. My 2.5 mo.-old son is in the backseat, sleeping. FINALLY. I have less than an hour before I have to pick up my older son from preschool and I’m damn sure going to make the most of it!

The thing about being a work-at-home-mom is that oftentimes the “home” part is metaphorical.

Many working moms would still be on maternity leave at this point. But when you’re self-employed -- as I am as a freelance writer and writing instructor -- there’s no such thing as paid maternity leave. Before my first son was born, I sent out an e-mail to all my regular clients telling them I was going to be out of commission for 3 months. I set up an e-mail autoreply. I changed the message on my cell phone. When my son was exactly 3 mos. old, I hired a babysitter and started keeping regular office hours again.

This time around, I did none of these things. I was answering work-related e-mails 2 weeks after my second son was born. I accepted an assignment when he was less than 2 mos. old. I feel like he’s still too young for a sitter, especially since I’m nursing every 2-4 hours, so that leaves me with short, sporadic periods of time to work while the baby’s napping. Hence the laptop and the idling car.

Sometimes it’s frustrating. Just the other day I turned down an assignment that required phone interviews because I couldn’t plan on a specific time when I knew it would be quiet. I’ve known some WAHMs who run out to their garage or parked car to conduct a phone call when necessary. I don’t trust the 2-year-old around his baby brother yet. Besides, MY baby’s cries can be heard for miles.

Sometimes it can also feel like I have no boundaries between my home life and my work life. When I had an office outside the house, which I rented with some other self-employed friends, I was diligent about never bringing work home if I could help it. Now, I dash to the computer to check e-mail several times a day. My personal and professional phone number are one and the same. In the evenings, I sometimes work on the couch next to my husband as he watches TV.

Certainly, in some ways it would be easier to leave and go to work every day, as I did before I had kids. Lots of times when I’m complaining about the stress of being pulled in two directions, people will tell me I should get a “real job” or, conversely, that I should “just be a mom” and stop trying to freelance, too.

But I don’t want to choose. Why should I have to pick one or the other when I can do both? I don’t want to hand over my babies to someone else 40+ hours a week. But I’d go crazy if I didn’t have an outlet besides being a mommy. I feel like I get the best of both worlds this way.

Besides, I think the tides are turning in the work world. I see fewer and fewer moms who are either totally stay-at-home moms OR work 9-5 in an office (or more likely, 8-6). Most are somewhere in between -- they work part time, have a compressed or flexible schedule, or are self-employed.

Right now, being a WAHM is what works for me and my family. I’m a happier person when I get to use my talents, interact with other professionals, and earn an income. On a good day, I’m a happy, balanced person. On a bad day, you’ll find me sitting in a juice-box littered car with coffee and spit-up stains on my shirt, typing frantically on a laptop before my baby wakes up and my preschooler needs to be picked up. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

PIC O’ THE WEEK: Does this paci ring make me look like the Joker?

5/20/09

Me Time? Not on My Time!

So you know how people are always telling us moms we need to take time for ourselves? After all, we’ve all heard the oxygen-mask-on-the-airplane theory: you can’t help anyone else unless you help yourself first. Yeah, right. First you have to find the time and get some back-up.

I can go to yoga *IF* my husband gets home from work on time. I can take a nap *IF* my kids cooperate and both sleep at the same time. I can relax and watch some TV *IF* I don’t have to bake 2 dozen cupcakes for my son’s preschool class, wash the bathmat for the bazillionth time, scrub spit-up off the couch, or write those long-overdue thank-you notes.

Read more about my quest for some me-time at TheBump.com:

5/17/09

Underpants: The Final Frontier

Fruit of the Loom guysDoes anyone ever really get tired of potty-training posts? Well, too bad! First of all, how could I NOT write about something that’s consumed my life for the past 6.5 mos? And second of all, it provides a goldmine of humorous and horrific material. It would be a CRIME not to share that with all of you lucky people. ;)

So, anyway, remember when all this madness first started? And remember when I quit potty training? Obviously, that was not a permanent solution. So, reluctantly, I plunged back into it once my nerves and bathmats had recovered a bit. And wouldn’t you know it, Miles was almost 100% trained the week before I had the baby. Well, you can guess what happened then. Back to square one. Or maybe square two.

I can honestly tell you that this ordeal has been one of the few times in my 3 years of motherhood that I have felt like a complete and utter failure. We sailed through other potentially rocky transitions, like weaning from the breast, then the bottle, moving from bassinet to crib to big boy bed, and ditching the pacifier. How hard could it be? I thought. (Insert “har-de-har-har” here.)

Now I see that part of the problem is that I have an uncharacteristically high number of mom friends who successfully and painlessly potty trained their children -- boys, even -- at a young age. I refuse to look at the scientific data since it likely will only depress me further, but anecdotal evidence suggests that boys are ready somewhere around 2.5 years old, maybe closer to 3. But I know several parents whose boys were trained right around their second birthday. In most cases, the child himself initiated it.

I’d be tottering around on a walker if I’d waited for Miles to initiate potty training. This is confounding to me, since the kid absolutely INSISTS on doing everything from brushing his teeth to pushing his brother’s stroller by himself. But when it came to the bathroom, no interest.

“Just wait till he’s ready,” well-meaning moms told me. But readiness was another irritatingly vague and elusive concept. Does that mean when he starts showing interest in the toilet? Because he’s been interested in flushing things down it since he was 18 mos. old. Does ready mean when he’s uncomfortable wallowing in his own filth? Because that’s NEVER happened to this day.

Another part of the problem was finding my son’s motivation. (Doesn’t that sound like something you’d hear at acting school? “Find your motivation, Meryl!”) Praise, encouragement, clapping, even joyous singing and dancing didn’t have a lasting effect. (Tori Spelling and her potty dance be damned!) Neither did stickers, charts, candy, books, or toys.

We got more elaborate with our bribes -- but sadly, even the Lightning McQueen scooter didn’t do the trick. We resorted to threats (“We’re not going to the park EVER AGAIN until you go pee!”) and even peer pressure (“CHARLIE uses the potty. OLIVER wears big-boy underpants. Go ahead, show Miles your Cars underwear, sweetie.”) Miles could care less.

Besides being frustrating, potty training in our house became positively dangerous. My mother suffered a minor injury when she fell off the toilet as she was sitting there encouraging Miles to go on his little potty. This caused great hilarity in our family, as you can imagine. Then there was the time Miles was a little too enthusiastic in his approach, and he slipped and fell arm-first into the bowl. Thankfully, before he’d made a deposit. One time he leaned too far forward and narrowly missed chipping a tooth. They just don’t prepare you for this kind of stuff in the parenting books!

I know I’m jinxing myself by saying this, but Miles has made huge potty progress recently. He’s wearing underwear except for naps and nighttime. We’re even leaving the house without diapers. I know, call us crazy! He’s gone from having 4 accidents in one day to none some days.

What’s the secret? None that I can pinpoint, except maybe letting him run around bare-bummed. Less to mess with when he gets the urge, you know what I’m saying? I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but I am pleased to say that maybe my son will not go off to college in Pull-Ups. Fingers crossed.

PICK O’ THE WEEK: We have watched this DVD so many times it’s not even funny. But the “Dirty Diaper Blues” song sure is: Elmo's Potty Time

5/12/09

How to Lose the Baby Weight

I’m going to let you all in on a big secret: this here’s my patented diet and exercise plan for losing those post-pregnancy pounds. With swimsuit season upon us, who wouldn’t want a fast, surefire way to fit back into that bikini? It works best if you have an older child and a newborn.

Breakfast: Wake up, carry baby downstairs. Put baby in bouncy seat. Go to pour yourself a bowl of cereal and realize your husband and older child have eaten all the cereal and put the box back on the shelf empty. Grab a cup of coffee instead.

Exercise interval: Pick up and put down the baby 3-4 times while you attempt to feed yourself and your older child while soothing the crying baby. Stop and nurse the baby 2-3 times, as well. (No, it’s not technically exercise, but it does burn calories.)

Morning snack: Eat the toast crusts left on your preschooler’s plate. Wash them down with a second cup of coffee. Add a splash of milk for some calcium.

Exercise interval: Get yourself, your preschooler, and the baby dressed. Your outfit requires running back upstairs for a pair of pants and downstairs to the basement to retrieve a clean nursing bra from the dryer. Dressing your older child involves chasing him around the house and pinning him down while you wrestle him into his clothes. Dressing the baby takes 3 attempts since the minute you get a clean onesie on him, he spits up again.

Lunch: Make your older child a sandwich with one arm while holding the fussy baby with the other. Cut off the crusts and eat those. Cut the peels off his apple slices and eat those. Realize you only have one yogurt left; give it to your child. Reheat your morning coffee and swig it down with a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter for protein.

Exercise interval: Squat to pick up sippy cups, pacifiers, and assorted cutlery that falls on the floor throughout the meal. Do some side bends as you reach down to unload the dishwasher, and throw in some calf raises as you put stuff away on the high shelves.

Afternoon snack: Eat a handful or two of your child’s animal crackers or pretzels. Gulp down some juice to stay hydrated for breastfeeding.

Exercise interval: Take both kids for a walk in the stroller, which is weighed down with enough diapers, wipes, snacks, and toys for the whole neighborhood. For maximum calorie burn, take the dog, too.

Dinner: Make your preschooler a pot of mac & cheese with a side of carrot sticks and ranch dip. Eat it yourself when he refuses to. Try to get him to eat some fish sticks. Eat those, too, when he refuses. Intend to make a real meal with a salad for yourself and your husband. Forget all about it when husband calls to say he’s working late. Collapse onto the couch with a pint of ice cream and a glass of wine.

Exercise interval: Run up and down the stairs 4-5 times to get your older child a glass of water, scare away monsters, and find beloved stuffed animal. Nurse baby 3-4 more times before bed.

There you have it, people -- the secret to my svelte post-baby physique. Of course, it does nothing for your dull skin, dark undereye circles, and dry hair. And it probably doesn’t provide enough nutrients for a squirrel, let alone a nursing mother. But, hey, I’m not a doctor! Proceed at your own risk. If this doesn’t work, some supermodels I know swear by the coffee and cigarettes diet.

LAUGH O’ THE WEEK: My almost-3 y.o. has started wearing “big boy underwear.” I asked him how it felt and he said, “Squeezy.”

5/9/09

Here's to You, Mom

Poor moms. Somewhere along the line, they go from being adored and bestowed with handpicked dandelion bouquets to being shunned and forced to drop off their kids a block away from school so as not to embarrass them in front of their friends.

I know I did this to my own mom. Apparently, I was such a miserable teenager that it scarred her for life. She never tires of telling anecdotes from that era. It’s true, I did give her a hard time about everything from wearing sneakers with her pantsuits to forcing me to eat homemade bean soup.

And now look at me -- I AM my mom. I say things like “I don’t want to hear another peep out of you” and “it’s a good thing you’re cute.” I sneak wheat germ into my son’s yogurt and force him to eat soy “chik’n” nuggets. I can’t even say at least I have better fashion sense, because I go around wearing flip-flops, nursing tanks and cargo pants most days.

I think it’s every mom’s secret -- or not so secret -- wish that her kids a) grow up to appreciate their mother and b) grow up to have kids of their own that are just as obnoxious as they were. I swear I’ve seen my mom stifle a snicker when Miles spits out the homecooked meal I’ve made him or Riley spits up for the 10 billionth time. Or maybe I’m just projecting. In any case, I certainly do appreciate my mom WAY more now that I have kids of my own.

I appreciate all those years of her nursing my brother and me back to health when we had ear infections and stomach bugs. Taking us to gymnastics, soccer, Little League, dance lessons, and day camp. Cooking us meal after meal, day in and day out, year after year. Baking us special birthday cakes and sewing Halloween costumes. Helping us with our homework even when we waited until the night before a big project was due. Taking me to every store in the tri-state area to find the perfect prom dress. (It’s not her fault that my idea of the perfect dress was royal blue stretch lace with illusion sleeves!)

I wonder if my mom had any clue she would still be mothering me, AND my own kids, when her baby was 34. We sure are glad to have her around. Especially since the sneakers she wears with her pantsuits have gotten way more stylish. (Sorry, Mom, I couldn’t resist!)

For all the moms out there, even if you’re feeling overworked and underappreciated, know that someday, maybe years and years from now, your kids WILL realize they’re lucky to have you. Here’s hoping it happens sooner rather than later. And a nice card and a mimosa wouldn't hurt. ;)

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! We deserve it!!

QUOTES O’ THE WEEK: “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.” --Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

“Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that suppose to mean? In my heart it don't mean a thing.” --Toni Morrison, Beloved

5/6/09

I'm on TheBump.com!

Exciting news, people: I am now a featured guest blogger for TheBump.com! It’s a sister site of TheKnot.com. Remember the Knot? If you were anything like me, you became addicted to the site the minute you got that engagement ring on your finger. I would spend HOURS debating the benefits of bridesmaid dresses, looking for centerpiece ideas, learning new terms like tussy-mussy ... But I digress.

For the Bump, I will be blogging twice a month about the stuff that concerns me now, as a frumpy old wife and mom. For my first post, I use my hard-won expertise (and I use that term lightly) to answer new moms’ frequently asked questions. For instance, what’s up with pregnancy-induced cankles? Is my baby normal? And why is my husband such a jackass? Head on over to TheBump.com and find out!


5/1/09

Letter to My Second Son

Dear Riley:

In case I haven’t said it enough in the past 2 mos. since you joined us, welcome to the world! And welcome to our family. We’re a friendly bunch, albeit a little frazzled. That’s mostly because of your older brother Miles.

Since he was born almost 3 years ago, your dad and I have been very, very busy. It’s hard work teaching someone how to eat, walk, talk, use the bathroom, ride a tricycle, and generally be a functioning member of society. Especially when that person is too smart for his own good and as stubborn as the day is long. But I digress ...

I just wanted to say, please don’t take it personally that we didn’t change a thing in the nursery for your arrival. It’s not that you’re not unique and special and deserving of new stuff, it’s just that we realize now that babies could care less about custom-framed Babar posters and valances that match the crib bumper. We did at least TRY to personalize your room by putting your name on the wall. And your grandmother made an adorable new quilt just for you!

Also, don’t be upset that you’re wearing mostly your brother’s hand-me-downs. Some of them he barely wore! Just be glad you’re both boys. I had to wear MY brother’s hand-me-downs, too, which is why there are pictures of me wearing burnt-orange Toughskins corduroys and football jerseys. But that was the ’70s.

Anyway, there are plenty of good things about being the second child. Believe me, I know. For instance, you’ll get to do lots of fun stuff much sooner than your brother did. You’ve already been bowling and to 2 birthday parties! Of course, you probably won’t remember since you slept through everything.

You know, Miles was practically 2 before he got his first taste of sugar. Poor kid. With you, I wouldn’t be surprised if we broke out the cookies and gummi bears before you even have teeth! And just wait until you get your driver’s license. My brother couldn’t drive with a friend in the car or even listen to the radio for months. By the time I got my license, my parents had forgotten all about those rules. Second kids always have it easier, trust me.

Of course, you may have a bit of an identity crisis since people are always calling you Miles. Even us. It’s not our fault; we’re sleep-deprived! MY mom used to call me the dog’s name. Plus, you do look a lot like your older brother. But he’s pretty cute, so that’s not a bad thing. Once you grow some hair, maybe you’ll look different. Another redhead in the family would be nice.

Well, I’ve gotta sign off now. You’re busy spitting up all over another outfit and your brother’s refusing to take a nap. That’s our life, Riley. But we love it. And we love YOU! Thanks for being born.

Love, Mom

RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: This is what I make when we have nothing left in the house but a box of pasta: Cream Cheese Basil Sauce.

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