9/30/09

12 Ironies of Motherhood

1. Just when you figure out something your picky child will eat, he’ll decide he doesn’t like it anymore. “I don’t like chicken nuggets and mustard now, Mama!” Good thing I just bought them IN BULK at Costco!!

2. For once you make it to school on time -- and then you realize it’s a holiday.

3. The one time you leave your cell phone in the car while you go to the gym is the one time your sitter was frantically trying to get a hold of you because you left her a bottle for the baby but no nipple.

4. The baby FINALLY sleeps through the night -- but only because he has a fever.

5. Your child quietly entertains himself for a whole half-hour. Because he was busy drawing all over the furniture in the next room.

6. You get caught up on all your thank-you notes -- before realizing you forgot to address them before you sealed the envelopes.

7. At last, your toddler has started going #2 on the potty by himself! Too bad he pulls up his pants before telling you he needs to be wiped.

8. You manage to get both kids to take a nap at the same time -- but not on the same day.

9. In a rare fit of productivity, you make dinner from scratch. Then you burn the bajeezus out of it because you forgot to turn the stove off while you gave the baby a bath.

10. After months of trying, you and that super-busy mom finally schedule a playdate for your kids. Then someone contracts an infectious disease the day before.

11. You get everybody’s sheets washed, dried, and put back on their beds. The very next day, someone has a diaper blowout, throws up, or spills a juice box all over their bed -- or yours.*

*BTW, does anyone else get bloody knuckles from changing crib sheets? Do they really need to make those things so freaking tight??

12. You can't wait for your little shadow to be more independent. Then comes the day when he slams the door in your face because he “needs privacy” and he skips off to preschool without a backward glance.

NEWS O’ THE WEEK: The next session of my 6-week online writing class, “Personal Essays that Get Published” starts in a week! There’s still room for last-minute sign-ups. The class offers great camaraderie, accountability & best of all, how-to tips on getting published, even if you never have before. Past students have sold their essays to Chicago Parent, Southern Living, The New York Times & more. Get more info & sign up here.

9/26/09

You Choose, You Lose?


Yesterday was a bad day. Like most days, it started with the baby waking up at 3 a.m. Then my 3 y.o. was up around 6. (Doesn’t anyone but me like to stay in bed until the sun’s actually up??)

During the morning rush, Miles was playing in the recycling bin rather than putting on his shoes like I’d asked him to … 6 TIMES ALREADY! Next thing I know, he’s screaming and crying and bleeding. Apparently, he’d stepped on a piece of broken glass. Upon closer inspection, it turned out not to be as awful as it looked. But by the time we’d dealt with all that, we were late to school and the baby had missed his morning nap window.

The rest of the day passed typically with Riley spitting up all over everyone and everything -– now in a rainbow of colors, thanks to his diet of fruits and vegetables! -– and Miles not napping. We were supposed to go to a school picnic that evening, which I was dreading having to manage solo since C. wouldn’t be home from work in time.

But just before I was about to start getting everybody ready, Miles let the dog in from the backyard. She went tearing through the house, tripped over my computer cord, and sent my laptop crashing to the floor. Pieces of metal and plastic scattered everywhere.

I lost it. (My sanity, I mean. Not my computer. Like Miles’ cut, it turned out the damage was mostly superficial.) I am not cut out for this. I quit. I’m moving to Guam. I can’t do this anymore. The world is against me. Those are just a few of the thoughts that went through my mind.

So when C. and I were talking later that night and he said, “It was your choice to stay home with the kids.” I kind of lost it. Again. (This time I mean my temper, not my sanity. Which as you may recall, was already gone.)

First, let me clarify that my husband was not trying to be an unsympathetic jerk. Rather, he was genuinely perplexed about what to do and trying to find a solution, in that typically male way. A problem? Let’s fix it! Then we can stop talking and watch the game already!

But something about that word “choice” infuriated me. What was he TALKING about? That’s like telling the castaways on Gilligan’s Island, “Well, hey, you guys CHOSE to go on that 3-hour tour!”

Did my husband really think I CHOSE to spend 12 hours a day wiping butts and cleaning up glass shards by myself?? Did he think that before we had kids I had any idea what was involved? That I’d be required to fish pieces of newspaper and Legos out of my 6 m.o.’s mouth that he’d grabbed while I was busy cleaning up a dirty diaper the dog had shredded? Or that potty-training my older son would be an extended form of malodorous torture? Or that I’d spend most of my days dividing my time between 2 needy beings who require constant feeding and attention and I’d barely have time to brush my teeth, let alone write anything?

The way I see it, the choice boiled down to this: C.’s job pays more and provides health benefits. I am a self-employed freelance writer. I can work as much or as little as I like, from anywhere. I never intended to stop working. And I never seriously considered full-time childcare. I assumed that I could have the best of both worlds. And you know what they say when you assume…

Today I was catching up on some blog reading and I came across this post on Jeannette Maw’s Good Vibe Blog. Here’s an excerpt:

“… I believe there is one thing that can help no matter the situation we’re dealing with.

That is to recognize we have a choice.

We always have a choice.

Once upon a time I hated my job, but I went because of the story I believed about how I should be grateful for it, that bills needed paying, and that the investment in this career shouldn’t be wasted, etc. etc.

And it was misery.

But once I realized (with the help of a coach) that I actually had a choice as to whether I got out of bed and went to work, it wasn’t quite as awful to go. I could stay home. That was an option!

That choice would have consequences, surely … but it was an option!

Believe it or not, that was a new perspective to me. I could stay home! I could get a different job. I could spend my savings. I could go bankrupt. I could move back home with folks. (Okay, maybe not that.) But I had options!

All of a sudden this option (of going to work) made sense. (Until it didn’t, and then I quit.)
But it was easier to go to work when I did it out of choice.”

Hmmm… When you put it THAT way… Perhaps I have more choice about our situation than I’ve led myself to believe. Maybe it’s time to reconsider my options, shake up the status quo.

As soon as I’ve duct-taped my laptop back together, stain-treated the carpet, and picked up all the loose change within Riley’s reach, I intend to do just that.

QUOTE O’ THE WEEK: Me: “Miles, how’d you get so cute?” Miles: “I’m not cute, Mom, I’m awesome!”

SHOUT OUTS: Sending virtual hugs to A.G., C.R. & T.S. I know I’m not the only mama dealing with trials and tribulations!

9/23/09

Danger Boy Jr.

Name: Riley
Age: 7 mos.
Weight: 19 lbs.
Likes: Eating, puking, crawling, standing
Dislikes: Being left alone, EVER

So today was Riley’s 6-mo. check-up, a month late. It’s hard to get a doctor’s appointment that doesn’t interfere with naptime or preschool drop-off/pick-up! Anyway … the doctor confirmed what I have long suspected: my son is fully capable of sleeping through the night. Then she added, “But I’ve heard him scream, so I’m not going to tell you to let him cry.” Ha! Then she moved on to the importance of babyproofing the house.

You don’t have to tell ME. This child is hell-bent on following in his big brother’s footsteps -- LITERALLY. He’s trying to walk already!! He pulls himself up on anything and everything, then stands there with this huge self-satisfied grin. And then he does a “Look, Ma, no hands!” and falls flat on his butt. Hysteria ensues. [SIDEBAR: I love when people say, “Well, I guess that’s the way they learn.” No! No, it’s not! Babies and toddlers learn NOTHING from repeated self-inflicted injuries, I can assure you!]

Everyone knows boys are competitive and clearly, that starts at birth. Riley is determined to take his place alongside his brother in getting his photo on the wall of the closest ER. OK, I’m exaggerating -- slightly -- but you may recall that Miles’ nickname at age 9 mos. was “Stunt Baby.” And how about the (first) time we rushed him to the ER? Good times. Well, Riley’s hot on his danger-loving little heels.

In case there’s still someone out there who thinks the sooner babies crawl, stand, or walk, the better -- you are WRONG. It’s a nightmare. You can’t turn your back for one second lest the baby decides to rappel up the side of the TV cabinet or do chin-ups on the rim of the toilet. And once he’s tasted freedom, don’t even THINK about containing him in an Exersaucer or highchair unless you want to risk a high-volume hissy fit. Plus, he will wake himself (and you) at all hours of the night to “practice” his new skill.

I’ve heard about babies who sit on the floor for ages, who love hanging out in the swing or the bouncy seat, who took forever to crawl and even longer to walk. But I can’t relate. I can’t even remember when Miles started crawling, because I’m pretty sure it lasted no longer than a week or 2 before he moved on to walking, then sprinting. I can already tell the second kid’s going to be the same or worse. In case you’re wondering, THAT’S how I got my body back after each baby!

Now I’ve gotta run -- I’m off to stock up on ice packs, Bacitracin, and band-aids.

PLEA O’ THE WEEK: I’ve been blogging for almost 4 yrs. now, can you believe it? And since I would like to share my labor of love with as many people as possible, I ask all you lovely, loyal readers to consider nominating me for TheBump.com's Mommy Blog Awards in the Best Baby Journal Blog category. It might require registration, but that’s what Hotmail is for! It would mean the world to me. :)

VIDEO O’ THE WEEK: I can stand on my own 2 feet!

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9/21/09

Yard Sale Recap

I’ll be honest: I’m not a big yard sale person. Rummaging through other people’s junk doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t seem to have that eye for finding the treasure among the trash, and I would rather pay $5 for a new T-shirt at Old Navy than dig through a pile of musty old clothes from someone’s attic. And I’ve never held a yard sale myself mostly because I’ve never had enough stuff I wanted to get rid of.

But when my street organized a group yard sale I thought, what the heck? Now that we have kids our house is overflowing with stuff! Ironically, it’s not the toys and baby paraphernalia we wanted to sell. Rather, it’s things we never use -- like extra wineglasses, martini glasses, margarita glasses, champagne glasses (are you sensing a theme?).

You know, all that stuff you register for when you’re getting married and envisioning your life as one long dinner party. And then you have kids who mess around with the china cabinet while you’re changing the baby’s diaper and topple an entire shelf of vases, shattering glass everywhere. And you realize Target’s finest plasticware is a better match for your lifestyle.

So anyway, there we were bright and early on Saturday morning, setting up our goods. My husband and I were bitching about what to charge and whether or not he’d sufficiently cleaned up our old jogging stroller. The baby had been up since 4:30 a.m., we were out of coffee and milk, and I was wondering why this ever seemed like a good idea. Then there’s Miles, running around singing, “Yay, yay, yay! It’s a perfect day!” He could not BE more excited about the yard sale. Plus, he and his buddy Charlie were having a lemonade stand –- their first foray into sales.

Overall, it was a fun day and pretty successful. Sadly, I didn’t take a single picture because I was too busy running around. But I did learn some interesting lessons from our first yard sale:

  • People are cheap. They’ll pay $10+ for a bottle of wine but won’t pay 50 cents for a Crate & Barrel wineglass? You can’t even buy a PLASTIC wineglass for that price!
  • People are dumb. To attract passersby, my neighbor got some balloons that had “Garage Sale” printed on them. We’re sitting there in our front yard with all this stuff, no garage in sight, and a guy goes, “The sign says ‘garage sale.’ So is this it? Or is there more in the garage?”
  • People are unpredictable. To my surprise, no one touched the still-boxed picture frames or the dishes (except for a couple martini glasses). The big sellers were my old junk jewelry, an old couch, some pregnancy books, and the jogging stroller (vastly underpriced at $10, but probably worth it because it was so dirty ;)
  • Kids have short attention spans. After selling the first cup or two, the boys lost interest in their lemonade stand and ran off. But not before they’d eaten the merchandise, the baked goods for sale alongside the lemonade. They did like counting up their profits at the end, though.
TIPS O’ THE WEEK: I got some of these from PineappleBabble.com, who also lost her yard sale virginity this weekend! Price everything in increments of $0.25 with pre-printed stickers from Target or Staples. Have plenty of quarters and dollar bills for change. Provide plastic bags, newspaper, and/or bubble wrap for people to take home their purchases.

9/17/09

Weekends: Then & Now

Sometimes during the week I'll realize I've forgotten what day it is. In fact, the only clue that it may be a Saturday or Sunday is that my husband is around. Or he's not, but I only have one kid since the other's with Daddy. But basically, the weekends are just more of the same thing we do during the week -- meals, naps, cleaning, errands, tantrums.

Remember when weekends were actually a BREAK from the routine? I do -- vaguely. Read more about how my weekends have changed post-baby on The Bump.com:

9/14/09

Perception vs. Reality

If you’re a fan of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” like I am (mmmm, Ty Pennington...) then you may be familiar with Paige Hemmis, the perky blonde designer/handywoman with an excessive fondness for the color pink. I was surprised to learn from a recent article in People (which, let’s face it, is where I get 90% of my news these days) that she once suffered from debilitating depression.

The part that struck me was when she said she was afraid to tell people about it because there she was, working on this show helping people suffering from all sorts of major problems, and she felt guilty that she wasn’t happy with her supposedly great life.

How sad for her. How sad that she felt she wasn’t "allowed" to be depressed because she "should" be happy. How sad that she isolated herself from her friends and family rather than talk about the struggles she was going through. Does this sound at all familiar? It does to me.

There have been many, many times when I’ve complained about how hard my life is -- being home with 2 little ones, trying to squeeze in my writing work where I can, having a husband who works long hours at a stressful job, living far away from family, dealing with financial stress, etc. And I’ve been brought up short by someone else or by my own internal dialogue. “Stop it! You’ve got so much to be thankful for,” they/I insist. “You have 2 beautiful, healthy children, a husband who loves you, and a roof over your head.” And it’s true, I do.

And yet, when I hear stories like Hemmis’ I wonder, are we doing ourselves a disservice by putting on a happy face, pretending everything’s peachy and going about our lives? Are we doing OTHERS a disservice?

I heard through the grapevine that an acquaintance whose baby is about the same age as mine is suffering from postpartum depression. This came as a surprise to me because I recently ran into her at the park and she seemed fine. (Whatever that means.) It got me thinking about how perception and reality are often vastly different.

If anyone were to see me on a random weekday morning, for instance, they might think: “Look at that chick in her gym clothes with her Starbucks. Must be nice.” They might see me as a privileged lady of leisure, pampering herself while her kids are at school or with a nanny. I doubt they would think, “Look at that poor, overwhelmed mom hanging onto her last shred of sanity through exercise and a small indulgence during a rare hour to herself.”

It just goes to show, you never know what’s going on with someone else. That stranger with the perfect body/job/marriage/life might not be so perfect after all. It’s liberating in a way, isn’t it? Knowing that even celebrities don’t get a free pass to avoid life’s struggles. And humbling, too.

OK, this is getting a little too serious, so let’s lighten things up. How cute are Rebecca Romijn’s twins?? And what is UP with the wacky celebrity baby names, Nicole Richie?!

VIDEO O’ THE WEEK: Lower the volume, cover your ears. I have captured “The Scream” on video. Tell me listening to this 24/7 isn’t enough to send you to the loony bin!
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9/11/09

Frugalista Finds

Those marketing people at Target are evil geniuses, I tell you. Evil because they separate me from my hard-earned money. Geniuses because they do it so well. This “frugalista” fashion campaign is totally working on me. One cardigan, 3 different looks? Sold.

I’m not a high-fashion person by nature. I like to look cute, but practicality usually trumps style. I will never wear heels to the playground, no matter who tries to convince me I should. (Sorry, Stacy London.) I think the shoes all the celebrities wear these days look like bizarre, futuristic fetish-wear. (Yes, that means you, Rihanna.) And I will never, ever pay 4 figures for a single item of clothing other than a wedding dress, even if the magazines call it an “investment piece.”

Except for the occasional business meeting, school function, or date night, I have no need to look stylish. Whatever I’m wearing is just going to get covered with spit-up and peanut butter anyway. But every once in a while, the urge to be at least moderately fashionable surfaces.

So off I went this morning to Target. Another reason to love this store? It’s the only place I know where you can shop for clothes at 9 a.m. after you’ve dropped off the kids at school. Plus you can pick up groceries, diapers, and Starbucks while you’re there. (How am I not on Target’s payroll??)

Actually, it took me a while to warm up to Target as a fashion destination, if you want the truth. Except for workout wear, I was hesitant to buy clothes there. A holdover from my label-conscious teenage years when I would only let Esprit and Benetton touch my body? Who knows. Anyway, then I had 2 kids and got over it.

Now, I have an extremely sensitive buyer’s remorse threshold. If I feel I’ve gotten a bargain or scored a great find, I go home happy and confident. If I spend too much, though, I’m laden with guilt and berate myself every time I DON’T wear those pricey boots I bought just because InStyle said they're hot this season.

As a certified accessory-phobe, I surprised myself by buying a scarf and a belt, among other things. When I was growing up, my mother -- the queen of accessories -- was always urging me to throw on a necklace or tie a jaunty scarf around my neck. But I couldn’t be bothered. Call it minimalist, call it lazy -– whatever.

But I’ve changed my ways. Those Target ads helped me realize I could wear the same pair of jeans and cardigan 3 days in a row and no one would know if I mixed it up with some different accessories. The scarf has a whole range of fall colors that matches some sweaters I already have. And now that I’m no longer pregnant and have a waist again, I can belt my shirts and cardigans.

If you spot a trendy, fashionable mom at the playground this fall, it just might be me. Unless she’s wearing heels. In that case, it’s most definitely NOT.

TIP O' THE WEEK: Did you know an $11 Target bra beat out Victoria's Secret in a Consumer Reports test?

LAUGH O’ THE WEEK: My son Miles can’t read yet, but the kid knows his logos. He can identify “the donut place,” the pet store, Chick-fil-A, and of course, Target, just by the sign. Also, he pronounces Target funny because of this SNL skit we always reference.

9/8/09

It's Just a Cough

It’s ba-a-a-a-ck. (Cue creepy music.) The Cough is back. I thought we'd at least make it till Oct., but no.

Did you know that a chronic cough is often one of the only symptoms of asthma in young children? I do now. Last year, when my son Miles started preschool, he started getting more colds. And with these colds came a cough that would linger… and linger… and linger.

We’d find ourselves in the pediatrician’s office about once every month or two. And each time she’d say, “Does he have a fever? No. Is his nose running clear? Yes. I don’t hear anything in his lungs. He’s fine. The cough will go away in a few weeks.” A few WEEKS? And in the meantime, he has to walk around sounding like a tuberculosis patient?

Eventually, the pediatrician referred us to an allergist, who did all kinds of tests and determined that Miles has mild asthma and allergies. This means that anytime he gets the slightest cold or his allergies act up, it causes an awful-sounding cough. So now he takes Singulair every night, and he has a nebulizer (a.k.a. his “breathing machine”) that he uses when the cough flares up.

But try explaining all this to his teachers, the daycare workers at the gym, or strangers we encounter at the library or mall. All they know is, he sounds sick. And let me tell you, you get some evil looks when you walk around in public with a sick kid. Especially since this whole swine flu frenzy.

Last year, Miles went to school two mornings a week. One of those mornings was Monday, which happens to be the day of the week on which 90% of holidays fall. So if I were to keep him home from school one day, that sometimes meant he’d miss school for an entire week. (I don’t know who was more upset about that, him or me.) And if I kept him home every time he had a cough, he would’ve attended maybe 19 days of school, total.

So imagine my chagrin when the baby woke up two nights ago with a fever, encrusted in mucus. And Miles started sniffling and coughing. He’s been to school 2 DAYS and he already brought home germs!! AND his class is even doing a unit on handwashing and germ-prevention!

Everybody knows that kids are germ magnets. And when they start school, it’s 10 times worse. But it’s only the beginning of Sept! I’m SO not ready for the cycle of sickness to start already.

So we’ll be bathing in Purell, chugging orange juice and vitamins, and praying that we nip this thing in the bud. In the meantime, I’m thinking of getting a shirt made for Miles that says: “Relax, people, it’s just asthma!”

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Most kids average between 6-10 colds a year. But does your baby have a cold or the flu? How do you treat it? And when should you call the doctor? All about babies and colds.

9/7/09

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

When I was pregnant with my first child, my extended family was planning a reunion across the country. Depending on when the baby was born, he would be around 7 weeks old at the time. I was seriously considering going. Then I had the baby, and realized I must have been on crack to even CONSIDER taking a cross-country trip with a newborn.

Of course, since then I have flown with one, even two kids. But each time there's a point during the trip when I wonder just what the hell I was thinking when I booked our flight. Read more about my airline adventures on TheBump.com:

9/3/09

Back to School

Ah, the first day of school is here at last. Hooray! Since my son will go to preschool 3 days a week, that means I’ll have 3 whole mornings to myself. Well, 3 whole hours each morning, anyway. Actually, by the time you factor in drop-off and pick-up, it’s more like 2.5 hours. And wait – I have another kid now, so never mind. No break for me!

Seriously, though, I am happy school’s back in session. Miles needs something to do besides antagonize his baby brother. I walked into the room the other day to find him dragging the baby across the floor by his heel. Another time, he claimed he was playing peek-a-boo when I caught him wrapping a towel around the baby’s head. Surprisingly, Riley didn’t seem to mind. I guess any attention’s better than none, right? At least that seems to be Miles’ theory.

If you recall, he started preschool last year. Most of the other 2-y.o.’s had a hard time transitioning, so there were lots of tears and shortened hours at first. Not my kid, though. He ran into the classroom each day with barely a “See ya, Mama!” At pick-up he pouted and cried about being forced to go home with his boring old mom. So he couldn’t wait to go back this year.

As I was sitting there in the carpool line counting the Honda Odysseys, I couldn’t help but notice the differences between the boys and the girls. The girls were for the most part wearing cute dresses and sparkly shoes and hair bows. One little girl was dressed in head to toe white. Holy stain removal, Batman! But the boys…. Sure, some wore little polo shirts and khakis, but most were dressed in T-shirts, shorts and sneakers.

Like my own son, whose choice of outfit was: a truck T-shirt, yesterday’s shorts and a John Deere cap. I nixed the hat but decided not to battle over the rest. What’s the point? I’m not trying to make any kind of fashion statement through my son. Though I HAD picked out a nice collared shirt and khaki shorts. Oh, well, he came home covered in red paint and playground dirt anyway.

Last year, it was like pulling teeth to get him to tell me about his day. What a difference a year makes. This time, he was rattling off details before I’d even buckled him into the car seat. “I had a great day, Mom,” he began. What more could a parent hope for?

Of course, it turns out he didn’t use the bathroom once in 3 hours. I’ve been nervous about the potty issue. I’m not proud to say I got a little smug when another mom mentioned her 3 y.o. son was nowhere near potty trained. Now watch, my kid will be the one who comes home every day wearing a change of clothes. Meaning a DIFFERENT truck shirt and camouflage shorts.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Aren’t these Garnet Hill Kids’ backpacks cute? I wish I’d seen the Bug Boogie one before I bought a plain old ugly backpack on sale. Once again, a bazillion adorable options for girls, nothing but sports and cars for boys.

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