Thursday, March 31, 2011

Confessions of a part-time cloth diaperer

I am a part-time cloth diaperer. Since I started cloth diapering a year and a half ago, this has varied from nearly full-time to part-time part of the time. Currently I'm back at it full-swing, cloth diapering during the day, using disposables when we go out and at night.

Right before I quit my job just after the birth of my second daughter, I researched cloth diapers, figuring that after the initial investment, using them would save us considerably on our monthly diaper expense. At the time, I had a two-year-old who was still in diapers and I was about to have a newborn, so I researched all-in-ones or AIOs, as they are commonly known. I wanted to buy cloth diapers once and have them fit both kids. I researched using pre-folds with diaper covers or soakers (which sounds disgusting but they are actually pretty cool), but the all-in-one's fit my criteria. After more research into which brand was best, I chose BumGenius. They had the best reviews, and with a name like "BumGenius" and my infantile sense of humor, I was sold! I spent about $300 on them while I still had it, ordering a pretty, cute, fun array of colors.

Before the new baby was born, I tried them out on my then 2-year-old and they worked great. We used them at home except for night-time, and they fit well, were absorbent and despite definitely causing the phenomenon known as "cloth diaper butt," in which your baby appears to have a butt like J.Lo's, they fit under her clothes just fine. I was gung-ho about using them with my newborn, and before she was born, I reserved and pre-stuffed ten or so of them with the newborn insert and snapped them into the newborn size. Perfect!

Well, then my baby was born and I gave it a shot for the first few days. However, since newborns poop about 10 times a day and I had my 2-year-old wearing them, too, the 22 BumGeniuses that I had were quickly used up. I found myself needing to wash a load of cloth diapers every day to keep up. Cloth diapers have very specific washing needs: specific detergents must be used so as not to damage the waterproof outer fabric and also to avoid leaving baby butt-irritating detergent behind. They also must be washed once on cold to remove any nasty residue (eewww) and then once on hot, to get them truly clean. With my washer, this takes just over two hours.

Beyond the mere washing, there's also the problem of handling the poo. Since newborn poo is nowhere near solid, you have to get it out of the diaper somehow before putting it in your washer. That's where a diaper sprayer such as this one comes in:

Or so I thought. It's this brilliant sink sprayer-like thingy that attaches to your toilet, so you can spray the non-solid poo right off the diaper and into the toilet. What could be easier, right? It sounds great in theory, but the times I actually tried it, it did not remove any poo, but succeeded only in making the entire diaper really wet, soaking the smelly nastiness through all layers but the waterproof outer core.

This all proved to be too much for me with a newborn and a 2-year-old in diapers at the same time and I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of laundry and stressed out by it. "Screw it," I said, and I gave up on cloth diapering for many months, going through $40 box after box of diapers from Costco.

Until the last month or so, the cloth diapers did nothing but sit on a shelf, look pretty and mock me. "You spent $300 on us, dumbass. All we do is just sit here while you spend $40 or more per month on disposables," they seemed to say. I would occasionally use a few of them when we were getting low on disposables and our Friday payday and Costco run was still a couple days away, but otherwise, there they sat.

Then my sister-in-law had twins and started asking questions on Facebook about cloth diapering. She went ahead and bought some and gave them a try. I thought, "If a mother of three-month-old twins (AND a 4-year-old) is willing to even consider trying cloth diapering, I can give it another try, too."

And I did. The situation is quite different now - my older daughter is now 3-and-a-half and potty trained and my baby is now 15 months old and her poops mostly solid. This makes the whole thing so much easier. I cloth diaper her exclusively except for night-time and when we go out, and I do a load of diapers about every other day. So far, it's really working, and I am enjoying both saving the money and saving a few disposable diapers from ending up in a landfill.

It's still really gross and really smelly, but much easier than before, and I think I can stick with it until my younger daughter is potty trained. If I feel overwhelmed by the laundry or just feel like I can't face a poopy cloth diaper on a given day, I just use a disposable and I don't feel bad about it. My daughters need me functioning at full capacity, not stressed out or overwhelmed, and not rocking in a corner, delirious from baby pee ammonia fumes.

One of the things that my cloth diapering experience has taught me is that there are no absolutes in parenthood, no black and white rules. Almost nothing works 100% of the time and I have to remain flexible and go with the flow, including the flow of smelly laundry.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Are We All Raising a Bunch of Brats?

A week or so ago, I read an article on Babble that asked "Am I Raising a Brat?" That article's really stuck with me and I've found myself coming back to it several times. I consider my parenting style to be fairly middle of the road - I'm neither free-range nor helicopter in my approach (So I believe, anyways - I suppose it's all a matter of perspective to some degree). When it comes to discipline though, I feel like things get so muddy.
In the article, the author, Anne Fitzpatrick, seems to be unsure where to draw the line in the disciplinary aspect of parenting and I'm right there with her. While I don't want my kids running amok and so ill-behaved that other people don't want to be around them, I also don't want them to be so regimented that "compliance" is the only goal. Not only do those kids creep me out a bit, I find myself pitying them for having lost their spark or "will" so early in life. If the party line is merely to obey and never to question, what happens to those children as they grow older? Do they just do whatever their friends, spouses, bosses tell them without questioning? Surely that's not good either.
Fitzpatrick, quotes her mother as saying consistency is the key. This is pretty much one of the 10 Commandments of parenting, is it not? I can honestly say I'm consistent in my approach, consistently inconsistent that is. How to be consistent in a way that doesn't crush their spirit while also teaching them what's socially acceptable? It sounds so easy. While I strive to have set rules that are firmly understood and the resolve to follow through with any of my "threats" for time-outs, toy banishments, etc., in practice I find it's not always that easy.
For one, my children rarely seem to act up while I'm unoccupied. Oh no, they wait until I'm changing someone else's poopy diaper and know that I can't abandon the task to deal with their poor behavior. Or, they act up in line at the post office, where I can't give a time-out and there are no toys to confiscate. So, I'm left begging and bribing them for their cooperation. Hardly authoritative and hardly effective.
I have a friend who is a master with discipline. When her daughter starts to act up, she's able to get down at her daughter's level and calmly talk to her, explaining why such behavior is not accepted and her daughter listens. My friend's a former teacher, so I don't know if it's some magic skill they learn while getting their degree, or if her daughter's just more receptive to it. Every time they do it, I watch, mesmerized, studying her tactics like a fighter watching videos of his opponents before a big fight, trying to learn the subtle nuances of her game. However, when I try the same approach with my daughter I get a big "No, I don't want to talk about that," as she tries to squirm away. Then, I start yelling...
For now, I guess, I just have to have faith, creativity, and wine. Faith that I'm trying my best, which will surely account for something at the end of the day. Creativity to continue to devise new ways to bring about the best behavior in my kids in a way that works for our family. And wine, for the days when my best just doesn't cut it and I need to have a little drinkie-poo at the end of a day, where the score reads Kids: 2, Moms: 0.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The New Dating Scene: Mommy-Daughter Date Night

Lately, I've been stepping out on my husband - with my daughter. In the past few weeks, we've had a couple of mommy-daughter dates, and can I just say they were the best dates ever! None of that awkward first-date nonsense, it was straight to the fun.

When you have two kids, it can often feel like you're playing basketball - running everywhere, trying to guard people, get things away from people and occasionally make a score (I assume that's what basketball's like, I'm not at all athletic and have never actually played said sport, but I digress). Also, with multiple children, your attention's never just truly on one child, you're trying to keep the peace, find an activity that everyone can enjoy and just getting home in one piece is a significant victory.

Having the time with just Bonnie was a delight. There was no fighting over who got to push the button on the elevator, it was all her. She was the only candidate to feed the parking meter (aah, the little delights of toddlerhood). Not to mention hours of undivided attention from me.

We started our first date off by going to her dear friend's birthday party, which was so relaxing for me, only having to keep an eye on one child. Then, we took a stroll down a popular street, enjoying some people-watching and dropping in a couple of stores. I was able to let her help me with everything - handing the money to cashiers, holding bags, everything. We both loved it. Then, we went to dinner and it was so relaxing to sit and talk with her and her alone.

Our second date was to the nail salon. I don't know how she became aware of the mani-pedi ritual but she did. (Please don't think I'm some kind of Toddlers and Tiaras mom, this was all her idea - I swear!) Talk about a stereotypical suburban family, while she and I were doing that, my husband and Clyde were shopping for paint at Home Depot together...

Here's something I've observed on our "dates," strangers look at you in a completely different way when you have just one child with you. 99 percent of the time, I'm trying to wrangle two toddlers in and out of stores and people give me either a pitying look or one that says "Wow, you're a trooper." Not so when it's just one kid. Everyone just looks at you with an "Aww" expression on their faces and you glide serenely along like you're a celebrity mom photographed in US Weekly with the caption "So cute: mommy-daughter date."

As we were wrapping up our date Bonnie suggested "Maybe we could go to a movie or something on our next date night. Wouldn't that be nice?" Yes, yes it would be. I can hardly wait.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Show & Tell: Bread You Can Bake While Your Kids Are Awake

For the last year and a half, the wonderful book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day has never left my countertop since the day I got it. The basic recipe is easy to memorize and is available for free online, but the book is loaded with different twists on it that make absolutely wonderful bread.

I never buy artisan bread at the grocery store anymore because what I make with the basic recipe in this book is better and I can make it in the time it takes me to get to our local Safeway and back. The recipe is fun, easy, unfussy and there's not much to keep track of (important when you haven't had a good night's sleep in as long as I haven't).

All you need is unbleached all-purpose flour, kosher salt, yeast and water. The book recommends King Arthur Flour, but I have used store-brand flour many times and can't tell the difference. The book also recommends a special container for the dough, but I use a big Rubbermaid cereal container, and my results have always been fantastic. It's really fun to watch the dough rise, and it makes for a great science experiment to share with your kids:

After it rises for 3 hours, there's no punching it down and letting it rise again or keeping track of doubling or tripling or worrying about proofing or anything else. Once it's risen, you can either grab 1/4 of it and bake a loaf of bread, or you can stick it in the fridge for up to fourteen days. Fourteen days is what the book says the limit is, but personally I don't like to let it go much past seven. I guess I don't like my sourdough quite that sour.

When it's time to bake, you just dust the top of the dough with flour, grab a big hunk of dough, put it on a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel to rest for 40 minutes and then, after pre-heating your oven for 20 minutes, bake it on a pizza stone for about 30. What results is this:

A beautiful, wonderful-smelling loaf of fresh artisan bread, ready to devour hot with butter, or with which to make sandwiches later. It costs way less than the $4 loaves at the grocery store and looks really impressive, especially if you hide the book so no one knows that it took you about 5 minutes to whip up.

The Mother Goose Code

Somehow my children's pediatrician and I recently got to discussing the origins of 'Ring Around the Rosie'. Anyhoo, he seemed kind of surprised that I knew it was about the Bubonic Plague and it got me to wondering: What other nursery rhymes have a deeper, darker meaning behind them?

Being a girl with an inquiring mind and access to all that Google offers, I set to find out. Here are some of the more interesting ones I found. Not the innocent sing-songs of childhood, these are cruel, mocking jests of rhymes. The cyber bullies of today have nothing on the medieval English when it comes to cruel taunting.

I was syndicated on
Ring Around the Rosie. Bubonic Plague.
This is about the plague of London. One of the symptoms of the disease was a red rash on the skin (a rosie ring if you will). People carried posies around in their pockets to ward off the smell of the disease, and "Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down" refers to the high mortality rate associated with the disease. (Side note: I've also heard that the phrase "In the dead of the night" refers to the plague, as people would take their dead out for collection and burial in the middle of the night.)

Georgie Peorgie. Adulterous royalty.

Georgie was George Villiers, 1st duke of Duke of Buckingham, who had an affair with the Queen of France, ruining her reputation (and making her cry because of it). Oh yeah, and he wasn't popular, which is why he ran away when the boys came out to play.

Jack be Nimble. A pirate's life is the life for me.

They say Jack is Black Jack, a notorious English pirate, who regularly escaped from the authorities (boy, was he nimble). Just to wrap this one up, they talk about candle leaping, which some English did at fairs back in ye olde medieval times(talk about starved for entertainment).

Jack Sprat. More royalty with issues.

King Charles I (Jack Sprat) declared war on Spain but Parliament wouldn't fund it (he was lean). His wife imposed an illegal war tax on the populace (to get some fat). He dissolved Parliament (licking the platter clean).

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. Sheesh, no wonder we rebelled. These people are a pain in the ass.

Mary is Bloody Mary Tudor. The old wench had many innocent people tortured and beheaded for failing to convert to Catholicism (Unsurprisingly, she was the daughter of King Henry VIII - talk about the head not falling far from the guillotine). The garden refers to the graveyard for non-converts, minus their craniums. Silver bells were thumbscrews, which crushed the thumb between two hard surfaces by tightening the screw. Cockleshells - again torture: look at the root of the word and you'll get an idea of what it involved. Ouch!

Of course, some say it's about Mary I of England and mocking her for her miscarriages. Her womb, or garden, was barren and that the original line was not "pretty maids all in a row" but "dead babies all in a row" (as in their little graves).

Jack & Jill. Because the French aristocracy sucked, too.

Since we're on the subject of guillotines, let's chat about Marie Antoinette and her hubby. Jack was King Louis XVI was beheaded (that's one way to lose your crown) and was then followed by Jill, or Marie Antoinette (hers came tumbling after).

Humpty Dumpty. Not the cute little egg on a brick wall you thought he was.

Actually a cannon used during the English Civil War. The darn thing fell off its perch and the Royalists (King's Men and their horses) tried to fix it and get it back up and running but couldn't because it was so big.

BaaBaa Blacksheep. The English and their taxes...

The wool tax in this instance. One-third went to the local lord (master), one-third to the Church (dame), leaving only one third for the farmer (little boy down the lane).


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Changing recommendations

This week the American Academy of Pediatrics announced new car seat recommendations, changing the recommendation that toddlers remain rear-facing until age two instead of age one, among other changes. As the parent of a 15-month-old, who I still have rear-facing, I paid close attention to this report and then let loose a string of profanity.

I just bought a new car seat for her, since she is already 32 inches tall and 28 pounds and is therefore about to outgrow her convertible car seat (the kind that can be either front- or read-facing). I had just talked to her pediatrician about moving her into her new, forward-facing seat and really thought I was on top of things, ahead of the game. I even went ahead and ordered the seat.

Before I ordered it, I asked our pediatrician about the weight and age recommendations. The new car seat says it's for a child of at least 25 pounds and 24 months old. I told him that my daughter will outgrow her convertible seat long before 24 months, and asked if it's OK to move her to this new seat, even though it says it's for 24 months and up. He said with car seats, go by how the seat fits, not what the rules say, and that the new seat would be perfectly safe.

So I went ahead and ordered it, it arrived, and of course, then this new recommendation came out. I know I'm not alone here, and this is throwing a lot of parents for a loop. It would be nice if the AAP could somehow employ quantum physics and make car seats that will fit a 2-year-old child rear-facing instantly available when they release new recommendations. Then we parents could do more with this news than throw up our hands and say, "Now what?"

If you have a 13-month-old whose seat you just turned around, are you supposed to turn it back? And how mad are the 8-year-olds who thought they were about to be done with their booster seats, but are now finding out that they may have to use them until they're (omigod, how embarassing) TWELVE?

I am all-about safety. I'm quite a stickler for it, in fact. My 3-year-old rode rear-facing until she was 20 months old, because she has a considerably smaller build than her little sister and she could. My 15-month-old will fit rear-facing in her convertible car seat for another month, maybe two. Then I'll have to do the only thing I really can do, and put her in her new car seat, which I just spent over $200 on.

It's not just the car seats themselves that make this new recommendation challenging, it's the cars as well. Not all car seats fit in all cars, particularly not rear-facing. I drive a Toyota Corolla, and the convertible seat that we have juuuust fits rear-facing. I looked at other seats when I purchased this one, and some simply would not fit. Were I to leave my daughter, who is in the 97th percentile for height, rear-facing until she's 24 months, her head would probably be in my lap while I drive.

To accommodate these new recommendations, car seats are going to have to change and cars are going to have to change to accommodate them. Therefore, as much as we'd love to adopt them immediately, many of us cannot. After stressing about this considerably, I came to a helpful realization: I can only do the best I can with the information that I have at the time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 asks "What is something you have done that no one else has?"

When I saw's writing prompt for today,I had to think hard about this question. I'm the mother of two toddlers, so I don't get out much, and even before kids, I was not overly adventurous. However, I have done something that I'm pretty sure no one else ever has. If anyone else has ever done this, I want to meet you, because we should hang out. Here goes.

While in labor with my second daughter, I watched Monty Python's Flying Circus to keep my spirits up. My first daughter's labor was a really long haul... two days of prodromal early labor, followed by 16 hours of active labor. So when I got pregnant with my second daughter, I knew her birth might take a while and I might need some laughs and some entertainment to keep myself going, especially since already having done it once, I knew how much it was going to hurt.

It worked! When one DVD finished, my midwife would go get another one. She was all for anything that helped me get through it. I think she did wonder about me, though. At one point, after a rip-roaring, hellish contraction, I sat there panting in exhaustion, then I looked up at the TV and cracked up when I saw one of my favorite sketches was on, the Funniest Joke in the World. My midwife and her assistant looked at each other like, "What the heck is wrong with this lady?" I didn't care, though, I was too busy laughing.

In all aspects of parenthood, including labor, you really have to keep your sense of humor about you at all times!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My New Hat

A year ago I got flustered just considering a trip to Walmart.  And a 45 minute drive to the nearest “city” was often forgone for the sake of ease (we lived in middle-of-the-plains Oklahoma).  Then I moved to Europe.  Since our time here is potentially fleeting – only 2 years – it lit a fire.  In just 12 months I have become Traveling Mom (try saying that without adding a announcer’s baritone to your voice).  Now, I could drop everything on a Saturday morning and be in Vienna in about 2 hours.  With a toddler.  If you’d told me that a few years ago I would have called you a liar.  To your face.  Yes, it’s helpful that my daughter is nearly 4.  Diaper bags, stuffed animals, and feeding supplies have been traded up for an iPod Touch (seriously, Mom & Dad, HOW did you live without those?!?!), assorted snacks & a bottled water. 

There have been times I’ve wished my daughter still wore diapers.  In many cities in Europe it is required to wait in line and then pay to use a toilet.  A LOT of these have moving parts.  Try getting a 3 year old to sit on a toilet she just saw rotate and flush without anyone touching it.  It’s a spectacle, I assure you.  But, regardless, we’re diaper-free (woo hoo!) and that’s just one less item to pack.

Being Traveling Mom takes practice – you have to provide the same duties as home, but out of a suitcase.  That’s why the first thing I ALWAYS do is unpack.  Even if it’s just for one night.  Now I have only one child – so I don’t know if that works for everyone – but if I can’t find something immediately I get…cranky.  So my dear husband allows our daughter a few quick test bounces on the bed (yeah, that’s right – call the Hotel Police!) then they find someplace else to be for about 20 minutes.  When they come back, Traveling Mom is happy.  Everybody’s happy.  And when we’re happy we eat gelato. 

So help a fellow Traveling Mom out – what do you do as a parent to facilitate seamless travel?  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blame it on the Gardener

The landscapers who handle the communal elements of our development have been busy replacing the planting strip between the sidewalks and the street. Glory Be! Can I hear a hallelujah for marginally increased property values?!

Clyde is fascinated by them. Because I thought "landscaper" was a bit much for his 1 1/2 year-old tongue, I told him they were "gardeners," which, let's face it, just doesn't have the same panache. Now, every time he sees them he yells "Gardener!" Gardener!" Not too bad because his pronunciation still needs a bit of work. Now, when Bonnie yells "Clyde! Look! There's a gardener for you!" Well, that's decidedly more embarrassing because she' crystal clear.

But lately, Clyde has taken to accusing the gardeners of petty crimes around our house. Whenever I ask where his sippy cup (or toy, shoe, etc.) is he says "Gardeners took it." Umm, yeah, I'm pretty sure they didn't come in our house and steal your sippy cup. And where did you develop this theory? Scratching head.

Warning: The Skills You Are About to Teach Your Child May Come Back to Bite You

As parents, we generally delight in every newfound skill we teach our children. Every milestone dutifully recorded and preserved for the future. How many hours of video footage do we have of babies lying on their backs (doing not much of anything) in the hopes that we capture their first roll on film?

However, the older they get, I'm discovering an increasing number of skills I wish they hadn't learned - at least not yet...

Helping With The Laundry is, for inexplicable reasons, one of the most favored chores in the house. It trails only Taking Out The Garbage in popularity (clearly, we need to develop some more interesting family activities...). I let the kids pull the wet clothes from the washer and shove them into the dryer. If they're really lucky, they even get to be the one to toss in the fabric softener sheet!

Somehow, it never occurred to me though that they'd actually master the skills needed to operate the machines without assistance. Why do I ever underestimate them like this?! The other day I asked Bonnie to bring her jeans downstairs so I could help her put them on. It took her a while and when she handed them to me, they were WARM - because she'd had them in the dryer! When I went up there, I found Blue Baby (who holds Most Favored Toy status in our house) in the dryer, because she "needed to get clean." If she's mastered the dryer, surely the washer can't be far off...

And buckles... The high chair serves as our timeout chair. This is mainly because of the secure seat-belt, complete with a buckle device that ensures time-outs last the exact number of minutes as the time-outee's age. Except, they recently figured out that with teamwork, they can undo this. Bonnie was recently placed in a timeout (for refusing to stop dancing on top of a glass console table...). She started calling for Clyde to come help her. He toddled over and the two of them managed to spring her from her sentence. I was stunned and terrified - that's a very secure buckle. Can baking a nail file into a cake be far off?

Oh yes, and while we're on the topic of Skills We Don't Want Them to Learn Just Yet - what is up with that Melissa and Doug puzzle-thing that teaches kids how to unfasten any lock on the market? What were the good people at that company thinking?! Yes, please develop a single toy that will teach my child how to undo every safety latch in my house, thank you. I mean, I already keep my makeup in a lock box due to an unfortunate incident with my mascara and about six feet of wall space (because Bonnie could negotiate the "child latch" on my makeup drawer...), now I'm going to need to trade it in for one with a combination lock?!

Sometimes I long for less inquisitive children.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Week in Status Updates

Mrs, Lampshade: Excursions booked, Airlines booked, Hotel booked - now the only thing left to do is decide what body parts to sell to pay for it all. Disney Cruise - we'll be seeing you soon!

Sara: My kids will not eat their breakfast at the table. To get them to eat breakfast, I have to bring MY breakfast into the living room, which they both then poach from.

Dana: March 14 and I'm officially calling it. Another new year's resolution bites the dust...

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Fatwa Against Max & Ruby

One more reason not to like those little bunnies. There are seemingly no parents on this show, which means that when Bonnie wants to play-act Max & Ruby, she wants me to play the Grandmother. Horrors!

Friday Show & Tell: A Kid-Friendly Meal

As I've mentioned, my kids are not the best of eaters (and the Understatement of the Year Award goes to...). However, they do enthusiastically eat this meal, so I thought I'd share it - especially as it's easy to make.

Prosciutto "Stromboli"
  • Pillsbury refrigerated French Bread Loaf dough
  • Mexi-blend, shredded cheese
  • 1 package prosciutto
  • Baby Spinach

Pre-heat oven to 375. Separate the dough into four, roughly equal lengths. Stretch each piece out into the thinnest rectangle you can (before holes appear). Sprinkle with cheese, add a layer of spinach, followed by a layer of prosciutto. wrap the open ends of the dough together and cinch them - kinda like a package. Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: I serve these with mashed sweet potatoes (one of the rare foods that's healthy but doesn't taste like it). Start with the sweet potatoes first because they take longer to cook.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Like a good bra... moms need support

"Any time you talk about being a working mother and you complain about it in any way, people eat your face," said Tina Fey to InStyle magazine for its April issue. She's absolutely right, except you can extend that to any aspect of motherhood, not just being a working mom. People, especially other parents, are all too quick to pass judgment about anything related to parenting. What foods your children eat, how long you breastfed, where your baby sleeps, whether your child watches TV. It's hard to take your children anywhere without comments from someone about something.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, a friend told me "it's the hardest job you'll ever love." I didn't know yet quite what she meant, but I'd soon find out. I love being a mother more than anything and I'm grateful every day for my two beautiful girls. However, there are days that I want to run out the front door screaming. You know those days... You wake up with your baby next to you (because she won't sleep in her crib) and you discover that sometime during the night her diaper exploded and now you're lying in a puddle of baby pee. While you try to mop the floor, both kids whine and one dumps out most of the potting soil from the largest plant in your house. As you try to make dinner, your toddler clings to your leg while you stand at the stove and ends up pantsing you when you reach for a spatula.

Most days motherhood is wonderfully fulfilling and non-stop fun. But on those rough days, I realize that motherhood is not something that can be done alone. I need support. When I'm feeling particularly drained, I call my mom and compare notes about the horrible things I did as a kid. I schedule a playdate with a like-minded mom so we can trade war stories. I post the gross and hilarious stories to Facebook and Twitter. On the very worst days, I call my husband and cry.

There was a 6-week period last summer when my older daughter was a mischievous 2-year-old on the cusp of being ready to be potty trained. Every day while I was pinned down breastfeeding her baby sister, she would poop and then dump out her diaper all over her bedroom floor. Every day for 6 weeks. At about week 5 I cracked and called my husband at work sobbing, wondering when it would end, how we could make it stop, why it was happening and could he please buy dinner tonight. Thankfully I have a very supportive and understanding husband who listens and helps me when I need it, and I couldn't do it without him!

When moms complain or vent, people should listen, without passing judgment or as Tina Fey put it, "eating their face." We have the best, most rewarding, most fun, most important AND hardest job in the world, and we do it often while working other jobs, while wearing other hats. Work this important can't be done in a vacuum (though it is often done while vacuuming).

Top O' the Mornin to Ya

Our friends over at MommyBrain had a fun St. Patrick's Day idea that we just had to share.

That's What Leprechauns Do is like an elaborate St. Patrick's Day version of Elf on the Shelf. With Christmas now being a foggy memory and Easter seemingly ages away (especially on a toddler's calendar), it's fun to add some magical elements to what is otherwise a slog of a month.

I've gotta say though, I'm feeling pretty lame for making such a big deal about giving the kids "Green Milk!" as a special St. Patrick's Day treat after reading this- especially considering the fact that I discovered we were out of green food coloring after I'd hyped said product...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Social Network

Let me get something over with – I want to profess my unending love for Facebook.  Some scoff and scorn at the use of social networking, saying it’s like slapping down glass block walls.  I disagree. 

I have enough reasons to pen a book, but I’ll stick to the essentials.  Foremost,  I’m married to the military.  That means every 2-4 years my family, my life, and my hard-earned friendships are packed into boxes and shipped to the next assignment.  My constants are my husband, my daughter, my cat, my possessions - and Facebook.  When I need an empathetic ear or want to share the new “artwork” my daughter added to the wall, all I do is log on and type away.

Without Facebook, this blog would not exist.  A little over a year ago I did some Facebook meandering (read: mild stalking) and stumbled across Dana.  My dear, elementary school pal, Dana.  The girl I used to go swimming with and have sleepovers with and play softball with (her dad was our coach!).  After a timid “Hi, are you who I think you are?” we refreshed our friendship.  We both enjoyed reading each other’s status updates and discussed creating a blog expanding those 420 character limits.  18 Years to Life was born! 

And I cannot omit the pro-parent aspect of Facebook.  When we were switching our daughter over from infant carrier to stationary car seat I put out an Information Call on my status and within an hour I had at least 20 experienced Mommy answers waiting for me – with links.  Forget Google! 

But it’s not just about information gathering – it’s also about connecting.  If your child is in the tub and you hear, “Oohhhh…a submarine,” (when there is NO SUCH toy in the bathroom) you go in, remove the “floater,” drain the tub, and sanitize the child.  Then you walk to your computer to tell the world.  Why?  Because you want to know you’re not the only person who’s fished a turd out of a soapy bathtub full of impossible-to-clean toys.  And, thanks to Facebook, within an hour you’ll have a dozen parent's similar Tub Poop-Capade Tales.  And just as many thumbs ups.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Plea to Emily Post

Firstly, I am convinced that Clyde has somehow watched the food fight scene from Animal House. It's the only logical explanation for his food-throwing tendencies at the table.
Secondly, I'm tired of frat-house style dining in my suburban home. I would like to instill some better manners around the table at our house. Nothing crazy, just a little basic civility. I'm not talking elbows off the table or napkins folded neatly on laps - that would be like someone on food stamps holding out for a six-figure managerial position.
No, all I ask is that people not signal they're finished with their meal by dumping the remainder of the food on the floor. Not throwing undesirable food across the table and/or room would also be a welcome treat. An end to the waving of empty sippy cups in my face with nothing more but an expectant look would also be a step in the right direction. Please tell me my children aren't the only ones who were born with these terrible manners...

Monday, March 14, 2011


Becoming.  The perfect word.  Cyclical.  Round.  The last few years I have become.  Become a woman. Become a wife.  Become a mother.  These descriptions are my base – my platform.  I could tell you where I’ve been but I’ve spent so much time explaining where I come from that I’ve forgotten the liberation of shouting where I want to go. 
I want to be a great mom. 
I want to master grace and patience. 
I want to be a wonderful wife. 
I want to maintain my sense of humor. 
I want to embody the self-confidence I faked in my 20s. 

I want to own it.  I want to become it. 
And I will.

Beyond Sesame Street: The Loss of (TV-Viewing) Innocence

E is for Elmo - and End of an Era. It's true and it's sad, Sesame Street no longer reigns supreme in our house. After a long time consuming a strict Sesame Street-only TV diet, we have recently branched out to some other screen-time options -- namely, the "Toy Story" trilogy Toy Story Trilogy (10-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)and "Max and Ruby," with an occasional "Annie" viewing for a snack. I find myself having very mixed feelings about this. While part of me enjoys the variety (I especially find "Toy Story" to clever and fun for myself as well), I'm realizing that even these fairly benign options are opening up some previously unheard-of (and unpleasant) concepts in our house.

Meanness. No one on Sesame Street is mean. Ever. Yeah, Oscar's a Grouch but he just wants to be left alone to his messy self. He never plots to torture the other Sesame Street characters, he's just a bit grumpy when they infringe on his space. I find "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo" to be some of the most innocuous of kid movies but even there unkindness exists. In the world of "Toy Story 3", there's the bear, Lotso, who's described as being a "monster" and not the cuddly Elmo variety. He leads a Taliban-style rule over Sunnyside Daycare, riding around in a pickup truck with his henchmen, terrorizing the local toy populace. Annie, of course, has the mean (and drunk) Miss Hannigan and her brother, Rooster, who actually tries to kill Annie.

We haven't branched into the world of Disney yet, which is chock-a-block full of mean, conniving characters - murderous uncles in Lion King, vain witches in Snow White, and those awful step-relatives in Cinderella.

Dishonesty. In watching a recent episode of "Max and Ruby" I watched with dismay as Max found ways to trick Ruby into believing he'd eaten the prerequisite healthy snack he'd been instructed to consume before he got the candy he so desired. The worst part was that he got away with it! As a mom who struggles to get her kids to eat anything other than Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, it was disheartening to see his bad eating habits rewarded. I mean, any monster on Sesame Street would have been delighted to eat that apple and proclaimed it delicious!

Bad Words. No, not the four-letter kind. But words like "Stupid" and "Idiot" do get thrown around, which aren't words I want bandied about in our house.

Other Unpleasant Topics. The more varied one's TV diet becomes, the more varied the topics addressed become. Annie, of course, is an orphan. That's a tricky and unpleasant topic to try and explain (especially for a mom who hasn't made out a will yet...). Theft. In Toy Story 2, a toy collector steals Woody - talk about another tricky one...

While I know that at three, it's probably about time to start exposing Bonnie to some of these concepts, it still makes me very sad that her safe, protected little world is coming to an end - even if only through the world of Pixar and Nick Jr.

She'll be starting preschool in a few months, so maybe it's for the best that she has some idea that meanness exists in the world as I'm sure it's about to meet her head-on once she enters the land of Mean Girls toddlers. (My heart already breaks just at the thought of some girl refusing to let her into her clique.)

All of this also leads me to wonder just how overly-protective I'm being with their little feelings. For generations, the Disney movies have been geared towards young children. I don't think parents used to stress about how scary the various witches might have been or whether the unkindnesses animated characters inflicted upon one another would scar a toddler's psyche. I can't decide if I'm over-thinking the whole thing and should just be grateful to get a nice shower in while they happily watch TV or if it's normal to mourn the end of the first bit of innocence.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rain, Rain Go Away - Dana is Feeling Uninspired Today

As a native Seattleite, gray, rainy days never used to bother me. In fact, some of my favorite activities lend themselves best to a dreary day. You never feel guilty reading all day, or watching movies or sitting in a coffee shop, chatting with a friend when the weather's so nasty out.

However, having kids has largely changed my feelings towards the rain. Going through long stretches of time where kids can't get outside and go to a park, or a zoo just get sooo monotonous. This craptacular weather, combined with a prolonged stretch of illness at our house has led to a raging case of cabin fever. We're out of finger-painting paper, we're tired of coloring and all of our other normal indoor activities. I've reached that place, which is dangerous for mothers, I've run out of ideas to keep people occupied. Our house operates best when I'm wearing my social director on a cruise ship hat, leading people from one activity to the next. Now we're all just wandering aimlessly around, getting cranky trying not to step on the sea of toys covering the floor. Tropical vacations should be mandatory this time of year. Since that's not going to happen, I don't need to worry about a bathing suit-ready body at the moment, which means chances are, the afternoon activity will involve baking - again...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Show & Tell: Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear

Dougal The Garbage Dump Bear - You are my favorite of all toddler books - and a favorite of both of my toddlers as well. Dougal is the story of an Australian bear who is neglected by his owner because he is not new and clean and perfect like the other toys in the house. He is thrown into the "bin" and hauled off to the garbage dump, where he's rescued by one of the workers. He is soon joined by Bumble the Bee and together, they rule the dump.

They even become friends with the guys who work there - lunching on vegemite sandwiches and iced coffees with the men and going out with them after work to play pool and drink ginger beer. Call me immature but there's something hilariously subversive about stuffed animals suffering from hang-overs that I just can't get enough of.

On its own, Dougal is a delightful tale of cast-offs finding true happiness and the reminder that "Sometimes, bad things happen so that good things can happen. You just have to make the best of it." The fun writing-style and whimsical use of real photos though are what make this book unique and a true delight.

A quick internet search indicates that this is Matt Dray's only book which is a shame because it's so fantastic. Matt, if you're out there, do us parents a favor and write another!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another sleep-deprived Lifer stumbles in...

I'm Sara, another happy (if exhausted) mom. After the birth of my first daughter in 2007, I went back to my job as a software tester and toiled there for two years, trying to survive the vicious cycle of paying for daycare, taking my daughter there, having her get sick and then not being able to go take her to daycare and thus not being able to go to work. It was an insane rat-race and I hated every minute of it. When I unexpectedly got pregnant with my second daughter in 2009, I knew that my tenure as a full-time working mom was about to be over. I knew this because I desperately wanted it to be over and because the cost of daycare for two children would have consumed 95% of my salary, rendering it pointless for me to return to work.

In December 2009, my second daughter, or my "Liberator," as I call her, was born and I did not go back to my job. Shortly before she was born, I managed to secure part-time, work-from-home work that was flexible enough and paid enough to cover the small amount of bills that I'd need to cover now that I would stay home with my daughters. Trying to get anything accomplished while home with two children under the age of four is quite a juggling act, but not nearly as crazy as trying to work full-time in a male-dominated field that frequently demands overtime while being the mother of one or two small children.

Becoming a stay-at-home mom was something I deeply desired from the moment my first daughter was born, and I love it. It did take some adjusting at first. I was sort of horrified when I realized that there are no 15-minute breaks and no lunch hour, it's all-day, non-stop intensity! I also found myself missing my friends from work and fighting loneliness. However, as the months progressed, I figured it out and now have a pretty good system down. I work way harder as a stay-at-home mom than I ever did at a full-time job, but it's the best work I've ever done and I'm so happy! I haven't figured everything out yet, though, and I'll really enjoy blogging about the trials and tribulations, both funny and frustrating, of being a full-time mom while working part-time from home!

Monday, March 7, 2011

(s)Ick Day

(by Dana) Late last week I casually mentioned to a friend that Clyde hadn't ever had the stomach flu. This of course, invoked Murphy's Law and today was a day of the pukes. My poor little guy.

Murphy's Law also ensured that the Pedialyte in the pantry had expired a year ago, so I used gave him some Gatorade (the bright red, fruit punch kind). I'd been thinking that Pedialyte was just one more way for companies to sell the same product but charge twice as much for it by marketing it as a special baby/toddler product. But where Pedialyte truly beats Gatorade is in its lack of food dye. Naturally the Gatorade led to bright red vomit - everywhere.

Aside from feeling awful for him, the brand of indignity involved with caring for a sick toddler is something unto itself. As he was feeling so rotten, I held him all day long (even when I had to use the restroom, yup, perfect timing for him to get sick all over me). He also managed to throw up into my purse at one point. Then, as I was trying to get him to eat something (BRAT diet), he managed to spew the rice he'd just eaten, then pick up one of the individual grains of rice and tried to feed it to me. He seems to be feeling better now and is tucked into bed, where hopefully a good night's rest will help him get over the last of it. Now I'm left wondering what the worst of the indignities I suffered today was. Also, I can't help but think that no matter how unpleasant some of my bosses may have been, none of them actually tried to make me eat thrown up rice...

Welcome to the Best Life Sentence Imaginable - Motherhood. I'm Dana.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dana and I'm a "Lifer." We've named ourselves the Lifers because, even though our children are still toddlers, we recognize that motherhood is a life sentence - the best one possible. I live in the 'burbs (my mom describes it as Ozzie & Harriet-land) with my husband, two kids, and Golden Retriever -- friendly, not-so-bright dogs are practically the law of the land out here.

When we found out we were expecting our first child (our daughter), we became one of the oldest clich├ęs in the book, quickly selling our city home and moving to a suburb that was known for nice houses, good schools and little-to-no crime. It's been great for everyone and everything (except for my parallel parking abilities, which are now pretty much nonexistent).

Our daughter was quickly (and somewhat unexpectedly) joined by our son. They're 18 months apart in age and have become the best of friends. I love how much they enjoy each other and one of my greatest hopes in life is that their friendship will continue as they grow older. I find 95% of their friendship to be the most charming thing imaginable. However, in the past couple of months I've noticed their increasing tendency to start a "parents" team and "kids" team in our house (and yes, the dog usually picks the kids' team). It leaves me outnumbered and wondering how a group with such limited verbal skills - the dog can't talk, my son can only string 2-3 words together at a time - can manage to coordinate and execute such havoc. Given that they truly are partners in crime - for the sake of this blog, I will refer to them as Bonnie and Clyde.

Being with my kids is always an adventure and one I've enjoyed sharing with a couple of wonderful mom friends, who understand both my joys and my flounderings. One friend is the first friend I made in Kindergarten. While we lost touch over the years (moving to different towns before the age of email often made that happen), we re-connected on Facebook a couple of years ago and what do you know? As a five-year-old, I had excellent taste in selecting friends. She never fails to crack me up. Another friend is a true "mommy friend" - we met via our daughters, who at the ripe old age of four months befriended one another at daycare. Three years in and they still adore each other, with the added benefit of having provided their mothers with a new friend - what truly considerate children ;) Please join us as we slog through our perfectly imperfect attempts at motherhood.
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