October 30, 2013
Just over a month ago my baby boy turned 3. We decided it was time to give him a real birthday party at the house with friends, a bounce house, cake and ice cream, and all of the chaos that comes with it. It was a blast, and I told my husband that I think I had more fun planning his party than I did planning our wedding. I have a little Martha Stewart buried deep inside of me and it comes out in full force when I know people are coming over, even people under the age of 4.
Junior is a pirate fanatic at the moment, so naturally we had a pirate-themed party. A pirate bounce house, pirate tablecloths, super cute bandanna hats, eye patches, a homemade treasure chest birthday cake, and buried treasure for the kiddos to take home. I found a great website for all of the decorations and favors, www.purepirate.com, so if you have a pirate-obsessed child and need some swag you should check it out. At first I was worried that it was a site dedicated to adults with a weird pirate fetish – and maybe it is – but they had party favors so I went with it…
After a long, beautiful, fun fall day of bouncing, running, laughing, eating, and post sugar high crashing, Junior started planning out his life’s adventures when he turns 4. “When I turn FOUR I can yada yada yada…” Wow. Do you remember how much fun it was to turn a year older? So many things to look forward to… Starting kindergarten, being “double digits” when you turn 10, becoming a teenager at 13, drivers license at 16, being able to say “well I’m an adult now and I don’t have to listen to you anymore” when you turn 18 and argue with your parents, drinking (legally) when you’re 21, car insurance rates dropping at 25…
Like many people, that stopped for me at some point. My birthday is exactly 2 weeks after Junior’s and I turned the big 3-5. I don’t really have an issue with getting older, but I certainly don’t feel excitement about it. I wonder what it would be like to happily say “when I turn THIRTY SIX I can do this and that and this and that…” I started my 35th birthday by dusting the wood blinds downstairs. And since it was raining Junior and I took a nice trip to Wal-Mart to pick up some necessities. I’ve never been that person who celebrates a “birthday week” and expects a lot of fanfare and grandeur, and maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I should show a little more excitement about the day I entered this world instead of being so neutral about it. I should take some cues from Junior who is so excited about what’s ahead for him in the coming year, and how much better life will be when he hits his next age milestone – 4.
Maybe I’ll get a bounce house for my 36th birthday.
We’ve all had those periods of time when life seems out of control. For me, it’s leading a pseudo-single mom life while my husband’s job keeps him away from home most days during the week. It’s my precious toddler, just shy of his 3rd birthday, who thinks everything is his way or the highway right now. If he doesn’t get M&Ms after dinner he hops out of his booster chair and swats at me. Bedtime means nothing; he’s up 2 or 3 times with every excuse imaginable from “monsters in my room” to “I have to poop.”
I don’t know about you, but eventually I hit my wall. Granted I’m not the most patient person in general, but I do try to temper it when it comes to Junior. Tonight I actually told him that if he got out of bed one more time I was going to cancel his birthday party next month. To a kid so damned excited about turning 3 that he can barely contain himself, that was pretty mean of me. He did stay in bed after that though. So as I cleaned up one of a thousand messes tonight, I stopped to reflect on how I react to things and realized that I should actually try to be grateful for the crap that drives me nuts.
In the last year or so I’ve become acquainted with a great company that gives people an easy platform to raise money for any cause that’s important to them. Since there are no limitations on what someone can fundraise for, you see a diverse range of campaigns. Everything from church mission trips, to Susan G. Komen, to pet rescue groups, and they’re all fantastic. The ones that really strike a chord with me though, are the ones that center on families – families just like mine – trying to raise money for their children. Expensive cancer treatments, stem cell therapy, adoption, wheelchairs, you name it. Yet these are things I never have to think about.
Everybody has problems and frustrations, things to complain about. Nobody’s life is peaches and cream all the time. But I think it’s important to put things into perspective; to recognize that some of the things you gripe about could be a blessing to somebody else. My son has the ability to crawl out of bed and roam the hall upstairs, but there are other kids his age that can’t. Does this mean I should feel guilty? Absolutely not. But when I get particularly crabby it does cross my mind.
At the end of the day every family has its own definition of “normal.” I grew up with an older brother who was confined to a wheelchair from a young age due to Muscular Dystrophy. Others may have looked at our family with sadness or pity, but to us it was normal. I hopped on the handicapped school bus with him every day for a number of years and didn’t think twice about it. My parents were active with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and we were granted a Disney trip from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I’m sure my parents felt more stress than they let on, and as a child I was certainly oblivious to it, but I know that they found great joy in their less-than-picture-perfect lifestyle. And I know that the families behind the fundraisers I just described also feel great joy, even if their lives appear less than ideal from the outside looking in.
So tomorrow morning I will look at my sleepy boy with crazy bed head and tell him his birthday party is not in jeopardy. When he swats at me like a brat I will discipline him, but also feel grateful that he’s able to swing that hand. When he sasses at the dinner table I will correct him but remember that I am lucky that he communicates so well. The next time he loses his mind in a fit of rage I’ll remind myself that his presence alone is a blessing. But in all fairness I’ll still be annoyed and wonder why my life has to be so crazy sometimes. That’s normal isn’t it?
*For more information about the fundraising company and its active campaigns, visit http://www.bonfirefunds.com.
August 1, 2013
Every now and then I catch myself looking at Junior, now 2 months shy of his third birthday, and wonder how (and when) he got so big. I had to leave town for several days last week and when I got home it’s like I was looking at someone else’s child. Did he get taller between Thursday morning and Sunday night? It’s made me really start paying attention to the little things…
His vocabulary. He’s my first child so I don’t have much to compare it to, but some of the things that come out of his mouth are mind boggling. Not just because they’re so crisp and clear, but because they’re so grown up. A recent example, stated with the clarity of a polished orator: “Mommy can you stop? You’re annoying me.”
The water fountain. He can reach it at daycare. For months I’ve had to give him a little boost to reach the stream of water. Now he puts his sweet little face right in there and slurps away. I don’t know how it happened.
His sales pitch. He’s a better negotiator than I am.
Junior: “Mommy can I have some M&Ms?”
Me: “No buddy, not until after dinner.”
Junior, turning to his father: “Daddy, you’re the best. Can I have some M&Ms please?”
Mimicking Mommy. It’s no secret that I love having Junior work with me in the kitchen. I’ve found that he translates the things I do in the kitchen to the “cooking” he does in his own little places. For instance, at least 3 times a week he makes me soup or macaroni in the bathtub. And almost always he samples his bubble-laden recipe and informs me that it “needs a little more salt.” So he takes a pinch of salt from his imaginary bowl and sprinkles it into his recipe. Then he’ll taste it again and say, “It needs some pepper Mommy,” and crank his imaginary pepper grinder like I do in the kitchen. He is so serious about it, and is overjoyed when I taste the final product and tell him how DELICIOUS it is, and seasoned just perfectly… It is absolutely precious.
Independence. Now that we converted his crib into a toddler bed he thinks he can set his own agenda when it comes to going to bed and staying in bed… My once late sleeper has now decided that chirping birds are his sign to get up and start the day. Mommy wholeheartedly disagrees. But it’s a tricky situation because he’s potty training and I want him to feel like he has access to the bathroom, or to me, should he need to go. Quite a conundrum… I do find it comical that he thinks he can get up and stroll around the house at night after he’s gone to bed. Not too long ago I was loading the dishwasher at around 9 PM, and I looked up to hear him say, “Hi Mommy. I’m going to play in my fort now,” as he waltzed into the family room. Do what?
Affection. With all of the ups and downs, milestones and challenges, the amount of affection we get is the best part. I’m not an overly affectionate person by nature; my closest friends and family know how much I value my 3 feet of personal space… But the big bear hugs I get from Junior are out of this world. He tells me he misses me when I’m gone. And he still wants me to hold his hand as we go down the steps. I know that won’t last forever so I’m happy to oblige as long as I can.
July 15, 2013
Lately I feel like the lady on the Oscar Mayer commercials who is constantly saying NO to her family. Eventually she’s presented with a pack of nitrate-free lunch meat and is relieved to finally say YES to something. Will somebody please pass the deli ham?
Junior was awake for approximately 30 minutes today before we packed up and headed to daycare. In that brief half hour I said NO to the following. And this is just a sample…
“I want to wear my jammies to school.”
“I want M&Ms for breakfast.”
“I want to take my rocks to school.”
“I want to stay home.”
“I want to have these scissors.”
“I want to watch 2 cartoons.”
“I want to hear Elmo songs.”
No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I could have probably budged on the Elmo songs in the car, but I was on a roll.
Yesterday, roles were reversed and he said “no” to ME a hundred times. When I told him not to put an extension cord in his mouth. When I told him not to sit on the dog’s head. When I told him not to throw everything off of the deck. When I told him not to dump out the entire container of bubbles. My sweet, cuddly, gentle, kind boy has begun to show his obstinate side and I’m not a fan. Especially when his NOs are coupled with an angry scowl and a swatting hand. Really? Take a swing at your mom because she doesn’t want you to hang out where a bunch of mosquitoes are? Sheesh.
The best part is, he knows he’s acting like a pint sized poop. He’ll be defiant, sometimes throw a tantrum, and then toss in a little sugar so he can say, “I’m a good boy mommy.” They are so much smarter than we give them credit for. At his last checkup our pediatrician said she can tell he’s a bright kid based on the way he was responding to her. She also said the bright ones often give their parents a run for their money when they’re around 3 years old. And you know what? I see it happening. He negotiates like a champ and exhibits an uncanny amount of logic. My husband worries he’ll be like me – book smart, argumentative, and hopelessly klutzy. If his attitude and the knot on his forehead are any indication, I think that may be his path in life.
July 1, 2013
Have you ever risen on a Saturday morning after a much needed sleep-in session, looked outside at the beautiful sunny sky, then looked at your messy house, laundry, and empty fridge and decided the sunshine has to take a backseat to chores? Regrettably I do it all the time. My busy work-week schedule leaves me little time to catch up on errands, laundry, and de-griming the house, so Saturdays or Sundays (sometimes both) are usually reserved for the crappy stuff.
But this past weekend was different. On Saturday morning I was the first to wake up (at 9:15 AM – score!), so I started the day with 30 minutes of peace and Food Network shows until the rest of the crew decided to join the living. It was during that time I chose to give the middle finger to my dusty hardwood floors and skyscraper sized piles of laundry, to turn up my nose to the grocery list on my counter, and turn a blind eye to Junior’s disaster of a playroom. On Saturday I wanted to play outside. I did not want to see the inside of Wal Mart, Target, or Trader Joe’s. I did not want to open my container of Mr. Clean with Febreze scent. I did not want to clean toilets. So I didn’t.
I jokingly classify myself in a number of less-than-desirable ways. OCD, type-A, and a slightly less extreme version of Monica Gellar from Friends are a few that come to mind. Granted these are all a little exaggerated (maybe?) but I will certainly admit that I’m one of those people who needs to be doing something all the time. I can always look around and see something that needs tidying or decide at 9:00 PM that I’m going to bake a cake. Even when I’m watching TV at night I’m folding laundry or dusting or organizing Junior’s stuff. At 34, I still haven’t learned the fine art of vegging out, unless there’s a hangover in play and I have no choice (which has only happened once or twice since I became a mother). So for me to declare to my husband that I just wanted to goof off was a little perplexing for both of us.
So here’s what we did… We ate breakfast at our leisure. We watched cartoons with Junior. We went for a long walk and let our new rescue dog swim in the lake for the first time. [Side note: for a moment I thought I was going to have the only golden retriever on earth who doesn’t like the water. She heaved herself into the lake with reckless abandon as soon as the tennis ball left my husband’s hand -- and promptly sank. She found her way up but was utterly confused about where the sturdy ground went. My husband yanked his shoes and socks off so fast and was prepared to go in after her. She figured it out eventually.] I digress… After the walk we fixed sandwiches at home and then filled up Junior’s exquisite inflatable pool with the garden hose. I sat in a chair in the sun and watched him. I didn’t pluck weeds out of the flower beds or mow the grass or wash windows or clean the grill. I just sat there and watched him make pretend soup in his embarrassingly cheap swimming vessel. Then we got extra fancy and hooked up the sprinkler so he could run through it 1000 times. I ran through it too, in my clothes. He laughed so hard at his silly mommy getting her shorts all wet. As the afternoon wound down we decided to get showered and head to a local (kid-friendly) brewery to sit outside and listen to some music. We met friends and enjoyed a few hours outside in the comfortable summer breeze. Junior danced and ran around and ate dinner from a food truck. My husband and I had a beer and caught up with our friends. When we got home Junior brushed his teeth and fell fast asleep, and I watched a movie on TV that I’d already seen 250 times.
When I went to bed on Saturday night the floors still needed to be mopped and the laundry was still piled up. I still didn’t have eggs or milk in the fridge. But I spent a whole day having fun with my little boy, my husband, and my crazy dog, and felt that good tired feeling that you get after a busy day. The moral of the story? It’s OK to take a day and chuck “responsibility” out the window. I don’t do it often enough and that will probably never change. On Sunday I was right back at it – grocery store, prepping meals for the next few days, doing laundry. But we still found time to head to the playground for a while…
June 18, 2013
Spoiler Alert: This blog post contains quite a bit of bathroom banter, so if that’s not your thing you might want to check back later. You’ve been warned!
And so we begin…
We’ve made great strides in our potty training world since the last post! Junior has embraced the potty at home and finally decided that using the potty at daycare is also acceptable. So this weekend we ditched the daytime diapers and covered his rear in spiffy new Jake & the Neverland Pirates underwear. He was psyched, and for fear of having to remove his prized undies, he willingly sat on the potty throughout the day. Only one accident that evening, and I take full blame because my heated game of cornhole apparently took priority over checking on Junior’s bladder. Oops.
On Monday Junior strolled into daycare with a little spring in his step, knowing that his big boy tush was far too cool to be crammed into a diaper. Off I went, fingers crossed that he didn’t take ten steps back and decide the potty was evil. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he only had one accident at the end of the day – I’ll take it. So we headed home to eat some dinner and play outside for a little while.
After a walk around the neighborhood, me pulling the dog with one hand and the wagon with the other, we decided to goof around a little bit longer on the driveway. The dog was roaming in and out of the garage and Junior was jumping on his little trampoline. I got a whiff of something gross and chastised the dog for eating out of the cat box again. I don’t know what it is about big dumb dogs, but cat poo is quite appealing to them. I kept telling Annie to get lost because her breath stunk.
I looked down and noticed that Junior had dribbled in his shorts so that was perfect timing to head upstairs and get cleaned up for bed. In we go, Annie the dog following close behind and breathing her hot poop breath on us. “Damn Annie! Eat this treat and get a drink of water!” I said with disgust as I tossed her a cookie.
If there was a vinyl record playing somewhere in the background, this would be the exact moment something scratches across it, signifying a stop-you-in-your-tracks situation. Oh God… Annie didn’t eat cat poop, Junior pooped in his underwear. That’s what I had smelled for the last 20 minutes as he bounced up and down and all around on his trampoline. Dear lord, I was scared to look.
My husband is traveling nonstop for work right now, so I’m temporarily playing the role of single mom during the week. Normally this isn’t a big deal, but last night I would have given anything to do the daddy handoff and find a reason to go to Wal-Mart. But since that wasn’t an option I took a deep breath, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work.
There’s nothing like seeing your first child’s first poop smashed into a pair of (formerly) pristine, white toddler briefs. I immediately think of Mr. Hanky, the South Park character we all know and love. Gross, I know. I’ve never missed diapers so much in my life. I think I panicked at first because after I got Junior somewhat cleaned up I looked at the soiled underpants and didn’t know what to do. Throw them away? No, that doesn’t sound right. You can’t just throw out underwear every time there’s an accident. No, you’ve gotta get the poop off and get them into the washing machine stat. So that’s what I did. I washed the poop off. In the sink… DUMB. Come on mom! You’re an intelligent, educated person! The poop goes in the toilet, not the sink! Now it’s starting to clog up the drain and stink to high heaven. Get that poop in the toilet and put some Drano in there! It was all happening so fast. You can only imagine what else was running through my head: Don’t let Junior sit on anything because he still has poop on his bum. Don’t let him touch me anymore because I already have poop on my leg. God I hope that dog isn’t chewing up the furniture downstairs since nobody’s watching her. How much poop is glued to this tiny pair of underwear?!
I finally got it under control. Poop was now in the toilet, sink was cleaned out, Drano was poured, rinsed underwear was in the washing machine (sorry husband, with some of your dirty laundry), and my precious, confused child was happily splashing in the tub. Things started looking up and smelling better. We ended the night with a couple of bedtime stories and a quick lesson on the importance of putting poop in the potty. As we said our prayers I secretly prayed that he would never, ever, ever poop in his underwear again. I don’t think my prayer will be answered… But next time, for the sake of my gag reflex and my indoor plumbing, I think I’ll just toss the dirty underpants in the Diaper Genie and move on.
June 7, 2013
I often read about how important it is not to be a short order cook at dinner time. You should teach your kids to experiment and eat the same things you do, in an effort to keep things simple, dirty fewer pots and pans, and introduce them to something other than PB&J and chicken nuggets. All of that is excellent in theory, but I think challenging in practice.
I have a 2 ½ year old who is a pretty good eater. Is he the mock love child of Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay, devouring arugula salads and roast duck? Hardly. But he likes meat, fruit, and a few stealth vegetables that I sneak in. Despite this, dinnertime gets tricky for me in a couple of ways. First, I love to cook. It is my absolute favorite thing to do (besides eating). I bury my face in cookbooks, food magazines, and recipe websites whenever I get the chance, so I’m always trying something new. Usually what I’m experimenting with are things most 2 year olds won’t touch. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised (Junior loved Korean beef tacos — odd), but usually I have a pretty good pulse on the things he will like. So if I go the anti-short-order-cook route here are my options: put my adult-friendly concoctions in front of Junior and say “eat or starve,” settle into a life of grilled chicken, rice, and applesauce, or split the difference. I vote for the latter.
Sometimes I get a wild hair and decide to start creating something off the wall at 6:30 PM, which makes it too late for Junior to be part of the taste test panel. Yes, hold your gasps, we aren’t always able to sit down and have dinner like the Cleavers every night. I rarely get home from work and daycare before 6, and my husband is usually later. Unless something has been brewing in the crock pot, or I’m tossing together something quick or eating leftovers, we may have to divide and conquer. But on those nights at least one of us is sitting at the table with Junior, recapping the day and having quality time. Sometimes, though, the only thing in front of me is a glass of wine, and I’ve stopped feeling guilty about it. The life of 2 full-time working parents is challenging in a few ways, and the family dinner is one of them. But we make it work the best way we can.
I digress… Back to my conundrum of Junior starving because he doesn’t like my grown-up food, us being bored to tears with kid food, or coming to a compromise. I try to work it out so Junior’s dinner includes at least one component of what I’m fixing for us, if it’s not something he’ll enjoy all together. Example – if I’m doing something with crock pot pulled pork that I know he won’t like (i.e. making it super spicy), I will set aside a couple servings of the meat for him (plain) before I dress up the rest. That way he’s eating the main dish along with us, but his is more kid-friendly. Another example – I recently made Mediterranean-style pita sandwiches with things he doesn’t care for, like grilled shrimp, peppers, cucumbers, and white bean hummus. So instead of a pita wrap, Junior had a pita pizza using some marinara sauce I had in the fridge, and the chopped spinach and feta cheese I was using for my own meal. I really didn’t have to deviate much from what I fixed for myself, other than pulling out the marinara and some shredded mozzarella.
This tactic has made mealtime a little easier. It allows me to still cook “interesting” things, and Junior can sample what he wants, but if necessary, still have a kid-friendly dinner using some of the same ingredients. Does it work every night? Nope. But as is the case for every family, you figure out what works on that particular day. And if that occasionally involves a little short-order cooking I’m fine with it. There’s a reason fish sticks were put on this planet, and one of them is so I can enjoy sushi every once in a while…
I will say, however, that there is tremendous truth behind the “let your kids help in the kitchen” trend. Junior has experimented with so many more things since I put an apron on him, gave him a wooden spoon, and hoisted him up on his helping chair. A little food for thought. Order up!