Thursday, June 30, 2011

Your child, your frenemy?

When I was lamenting the Terrible Twos to my friends, they all told me "Wait till three, it's much worse." I didn't believe them. I thought, "There's absolutely no way it could get worse than this." Before my first daughter turned two, my husband and I thought maybe she'd skip the Terrible Twos, because she was so absolutely sweet and adorable. He said, "What are her Terrible Twos even going to be like? 'Mommy and Daddy, I made you some brownies!'"

Oh, how naive we were. Two was a crazy thrill ride of tantrums, emptying her poop-filled diaper on the floor every day during the hot summer while I breastfed her sister, dumping milk sippy cups out on the furniture and other delightful behavior. You'd think that would have prepared me for three, but nothing could have, except maybe the book I just finished reading, now that my daughter is three months shy of turning four.

On a playdate a couple months back, my co-blogger Dana mentioned reading a book called Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy? I immediately laughed at the title and reserved it at the library as soon as I got home. It took me a while to get through it because I found it to be a combination of comforting and depressing.

It's comforting because it completely dispelled all my feelings of "I must be doing something terribly wrong for her to be acting like this." No, I am not doing anything terribly wrong, three-and-a-half-year-olds are, as the book puts it, "very hard to handle." (Italics are the authors', not mine!) Mom is the most important person in the child's life at this age, so that is also who they are at war with. Every daily routine (eating, dressing, etc) becomes a battle. Kids this age are known to play, as the authors put it, "the preschooler's favorite game of "I don't love you." My daughter says this to me daily, when being given a well-deserved time-out, or totally unprovoked. I'll just be sitting there and she'll say, "I don't love you at all, mommy." I always tell her, "That's OK, I love you no matter what," but I'd be lying if I said this didn't hurt.

The authors' main technique for how to handle a three-and-a-half-year-old is one of avoidance. They suggest that you put your child of this age with a capable babysitter as much as possible, because the sitter, being unimportant to them, is going to be able to get them to get dressed, eat and do all the other stuff they need to do without it becoming a fight to the death. As they put it, "Don't feel guilty, or that you are passing the buck, if you leave a substantial amount of your child's care to a sitter, since many at this age do best with someone other than their own mother."

JEEZ! That is just depressing. They have no suggestion for those of us who cannot afford a babysitter very often or who firmly believe that we as mothers are our children's best caregivers, regardless of how hard it is or how much some days suck. What then? Eat chocolate? Have a beer at naptime? Step into the garage and scream profanities for a minute? All of the above?

Thankfully, the last page of the book offers some hope, saying, "And for parents, Four is in most cases an age well worth waiting for." Man, I hope so. Because three months after my oldest daughter turns four, my younger daughter is going to turn two.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Did We Seriously Just Say That?!

Certain phrases like “because I said so,” and “you get over here, right now, mister,” one fully expects to hear themselves utter (time and time again, most likely) upon entering the moms club. However, we the lifers, have been thinking about the things that have come out of our mouths that we never could have predicted. Seriously, who knew kdis licked so many things. Here are some of our favorite sayings, that we never would have dreamed we’d say.


• Please don't eat your waffle in the bathroom.

• We don't give dirty diapers kisses.

• Please stop poking me with that plastic trident!

Mrs. Lampshade

• Please stop licking my tattoo, it doesn't wipe off.

• Don't lick the garbage can.

• Don't lick the doorknob.

• Please don't lick my face.

• It's pronounced "orange" not "orgy."


• I told you before, I don’t like it when you put my deodorant on the dog.

• I’m going potty right now, do you want to sit on my lap and have me read you a story?

• You can only rub Mommy and Daddy’s ear, no one else’s.

• Let’s not kiss the garbage can, okay?

Today, we’d like to invite all of our bloggy friends to join us in a link-up. What are some of the strangest, most unexpected things you’ve found yourself saying to your kids? This is our first-ever link up, so please join us. It would suck to be left hanging – like we threw a party and no one came. We have a full keg and all of these appetizers, so please join us. If you’re not a blogger, please share some of your gems in the comments section.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hover. Or Else.

In traditional politics, there are two main parties - the Republicans and the Democrats. In the highly-politicized world of parenting, the two main parties are the Free-Rangers and the Helicopters. While most parents want to think of themselves as an Independent or would prefer to join some other party, if there were only a viable candidate, chances are they feel compelled to support one of the two, major candidates.

Unless you're old Free-Range Lenore, sending your kid off on the subway in New York by himself, while garnering yourself national headlines, it's almost become mandatory that you wind up on the other side of the aisle, staking a helicopter-parenting sign in your front yard. The true free-rangers are kinda like Libertarians, they've got a unique way of just not caring what others think of them and want everyone 100 percent out of their business. Therefore, it's my belief that helicopter-parenting has become the default party for most parents. We love to mock it, we secretly hate it, but it offers parental asylum.

We want to let go. We want to give our kids more freedom to act independently but when we do, like an affair on the campaign trail, it always comes back to bite us. So, we hover and we over-protect, lest something happen -- even if that "something" is only the judgment of another parent.

At the park recently, my daughter asked me to watch her do something. While I was appreciating her newfound skill, I momentarily lost track of my son. I started to do "the scan" looking around the playground equipment he'd been on, trying to locate him. Quickly, I'd moved on to the "run and call," trying to find him. I did -- he was walking down the middle of the street. While he'd been out of my sight for less than a minute, he'd managed to get into the road. Luckily, nothing happened and I was able to grab him and direct him back towards the park.

But what if, God forbid, something had happened? You and I both know, that if the worst had happened and there had been a news story about a little boy wandering out of the park and getting hit by a car, the first thing everyone would have asked is "Where was that boy's mother?!" No amount of reasonable explanations would have mattered. I would have been labeled a bad mom. An irresponsible mom. I would have been labeled a hippie, free-ranger. I would have been condemned in the court of public opinion. Added to my own personal grief, would have been the harsh judgment of the parenting community.

Over at the Stir recently, one mom shared her experience of letting her daughter go to the bathroom by herself, only to have multiple restaurant employees intervene -- leaving their posts to accompany the girl to the bathroom, informing the mother they had done so (classic passive-aggressive move, letting a mom know you think she's irresponsible in her decision to give her child a wee (pun intended) bit of freedom, btw). Babble also picked up on this story and contributed to the sentiments -- while we may want to loosen up, society seems to force us to keep a short leash.

I have a friend who allowed her elementary-school-aged children to go to the neighborhood park one block from their house, unattended. This is a park in a suburban sub-division (think Weeds, Season 1, before Nancy and co. all went off the deep end), and received "the look" from other moms, who couldn't believe her permissiveness. Again, if you veer from the ultra-safe, socially acceptable role of helicopter-mom, you're judged.

There are the big, in-your-face moments where people criticize your parenting choices and then, there are the smaller ones. The subtle jabs, letting you know someone thinks you're being too permissive. You know, the mom at the park who tells her child they're not allowed to do something, and when the kid points out the fact that your child's doing it, loudly replies, "I can't tell her not to do it, but I can tell you not to do it." The none-too-subtle implication being that oh boy, would she love the chance to tell your kid to stop and really wishes you'd mom-up and tell your kid not to do whatever "it" is at that particular time. Small attempt at granting a tiny bit of freedom. Result: Judged.

While a few people take to the helicopter-style of parenting like ducks to water, most of us go there more reluctantly. The truth is, most of us want to relax and loosen up a bit but we feel pressure to toe the party line. The fear of the internal guilt we'd feel if something bad ever happened to our kids, combined with the public pressure to monitor and be responsible at every second of the day, forces us to hover beyond our comfort level.

It seems that previous generations didn't worry about this sort of thing. There was a more relaxed attitude towards child-rearing. People didn't subscribe to various parenting philosophies, they just got on with it. Parenting wasn't a competitive sport, the way it is today. I think that most of us would like to return to that, live and let the kids live a little, mentality. However, just as the middle class is disappearing before our very eyes, so too is middle-of-the-road parenting. Sadly, it seems that without sweeping political change, neither is coming back anytime soon. And I, for one, don't see any viable candidates on the horizon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Show & Tell - "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child"

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
The "Sleep Bible"
At one of my multiple (Thanks friends and family!) baby showers, a small notebook was passed around.  The idea was for all Moms present to impart some small nugget of knowledge that would help this first-time mom suppress the urge to rip out all her hair and run screaming to Mexico.  There were the traditional suggestions of "Sleep when the baby sleeps" (Really? Is that when the Laundry Gnome comes to wash the poop-stained onesies for me?) and "Take it one day at a time" (No, it's more therapeutic to lock myself in the closet and scream into a pillow. Trust me. I know.).  While all of the advice was well-intentioned and sincere, one entry changed my life.  My cousin, a new(ish) first-time mom herself, didn't mince words.  She told me to get a copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth.  She told me to do it immediately.  To read it.  To know it.  To love it.

Naturally, one doesn't turn down advice like that.  I bought a copy and went to town highlighting, tabbing, and dog-earing (and those of you who know my militant bibliophile ways understand that I NEVER do that).  I followed all of Dr. Weissbluth's instructions and referenced and re-read constantly.  His suggestions started to really jive around my daughter's 8th week (Note: This book is awesome for ANY parent - not just first timers and/or infant wranglers).  I felt like I was taking back some of the control in my chaotic world.  I know it sounds grand and excessive, but I SWEAR that book saved my life and sanity.

I no longer have my well-worn, scribbled-in and loved copy.  I think it's on its 4th or 5th owner by now.  But I have since purchased at least 10 more copies to hand out at baby showers.  Dr. Weissbluth, do you have a punch card?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Baby Quandary

Last week, after changing my 18-month-old's cloth diaper, I dumped its solid contents into the toilet. As I did this, toilet water splashed up and got me squarely in the eye. As I yelled "EEEEWWWW!" and scrambled to the sink to splash water in my eye, I thought, "At least I'm done with diapers soon."

I was taken aback by this thought, since until my 18-month-old turned one and started walking, I desperately wanted a third child. Once she started walking, she and my 3-year-old kept me so busy, every day became an intense juggling act to keep them each from hurting themselves, hurting each other, destroying the house or all of the above. They are adorable, brilliant, hilarious and delightful and they absolutely, totally kick my ass.

I'm so exhausted at the end of the day after keeping up with my two children, the last few months I've started to wonder if I really want a third. My 18-month-old still doesn't sleep through the night and I'd like to sleep again sometime before I'm 40. I'd also like to take a shower someday without hearing the screams of sibling rivalry. I'd like to be able to have a quiet lunch and watch a few minutes of my favorite soap opera without turds raining down next to me as my 18-month-old jumps up and down on the couch and her diaper comes undone.

I want to take vacations. I want to finish paying off my car (only one year to go!) and see what it's like not to have a car payment instead of having to buy a minivan. I want to go on more dates with my husband. I want to be able to have some me-time without having to wait till midnight on the weekends.

But at the same time, I look at my two girls when they're playing together nicely or when they're being funny or sweet, or I look at their baby pictures and I think, "Can I really not do this again? Can I really not experience this incredible miracle one more time?" I've heard both my mother and my mother-in-law say that they wish they'd had more children. I don't want to feel that way when I'm their age.

I'm just not ready for more kids right now, and at 35, I know that not having another soon may mean not having another ever. I am both stressed out and somewhat frightened by this decision. We're not doing anything permanent to definitely not have another baby, but waiting too long could have the same effect. What if I continue not to feel ready for another baby and then one day when it's too late, decide that I do want another after all?

I try not to think about it. I try to tell myself that it's all up to fate anyway, we'll have as many as we're meant to have. I remember the pain of childbirth and the discomfort of that last, seemingly endless month of pregnancy and think, "Do I really want to go through all that again?" Sometimes it's "yes." Sometimes it's "no." Lately, it's mostly "no."

I wish I were as sure as Dana is about not having another. I wish I were sure that I wanted another. I wish I weren't trapped in maybe-land, vacillating between "Hell no, no more babies" and "Omigod, they're so amazing, I have to have one more!"

What do you think? Do you have a baby quandary of your own?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sick Day

I don't get sick days.  It's just part of my job description.  Only one time, in my daughter's 4 years, have I been ill enough to beg my husband to drop everything and return home so I could curl up and pretend that the "flu of death" wasn't knocking on my door.  Of course, a benefit of being a SAHM is less exposure to the germs of the world.  Unless my daughter brings some home from school.  And that's what she did this week.  So today she and I are home having a down day. No school for her and no chores for me.

Surprisingly, it's been great (well, as "great" as you can be when you're surrounded by tissues and have a cough that would scare away a seal).  And I think my munchkin enjoys taking care of me for a change.  She reminds me to drink liquids (So she does listen to me!) and brought out her doctor kit to take my temperature (Sad Face temp for Mommy) and to make sure my heart hadn't stopped (Whew!). Normally she's like a hummingbird, but today she's slowed by the sickies so I snagged the opportunity (while she was listening to my "Bump Bump" with her totally sophisticated plastic stethoscope) to explain why our hearts beat and a general overview of our circulatory system.  She was fascinated! 

What's on the agenda for the rest of the day?  Well, Dr. Mommy consulted with Dr. Lil Lampshade and we agreed on Tinkerbell & snuggling, followed by some chicken soup, afternoon naps and pizza (Delivery, of course) for dinner.  Now, if she only knew how to make tea...

Monday, June 20, 2011

No More Babies.

My baby turned two last week. He celebrated his big day by climbing out of his crib -- twice. One time for each year of his little life, I suppose. I wanted to cry. The practical side of me was ready to weep because I feared the logistical transition to a Big Boy Bed. I'd just gotten everyone sleeping well and through the night (mostly) and have been relishing my newfound sleep. His escapes also made me want to cry because it was a toddler's way of grabbing me by the shoulders, shaking me and taunting me, "You don't have a baby, anymore! You don't have a baby, anymore!"

A long time ago, someone told me that when your youngest turns two, you'll start to want another baby. While I wouldn't go that far (can you hear my husband sighing in relief right now?), something about his second birthday is bittersweet for me. Our family's complete -- it feels right and it feels finished. I'm happy with where we're at and am enjoying the increased freedoms and communication that having two slightly older toddlers brings. However, this birthday is filling me with nostalgia and wistfulness.

My husband got out the crib conversion kit and before you knew it, our son, our baby, was proudly climbing up into his "big boy bed." I was so happy for him as he clearly relished his new status and as always, was proud of any milestone my child had achieved, but there was part of me that wanted to say, "Oh honey, are you sure you don't want to stay in your nice, comfy crib a while longer? Look how cute this admittedly unsafe crib bumper is! Don't you think it really ties your room together, aesthetically speaking? Don't you love Mommy coming to get your cute little self in the mornings when she hears you kicking the back of the crib and talking?" No, he doesn't care one lick for the themed decor of his room and he was thrilled not to have to wait for someone to come collect him upon waking. He could wake up, open that door and go searching for whomever or whatever his little heart desired. Freedom! The toddler equivalent of a driver's license and he couldn't wait to hit the open road.

Remarkably, he's done amazingly well with his transition. I was fearing a prolonged adjustment period, filled with tears on all sides but so far, that has not been the case. Aside from one nap time, he's happily toddled over to his big boy bed every time, climbed right in and gone to sleep.
A few days after he moved to the big boy bed, I was reading my daughter a book that happened to have a baby in a crib in it. It made me sad, thinking that never again would I have a baby in a crib, waiting for me to come and get them in the morning. It wasn't just the crib, we've been getting rid of all of our baby gear - no more exersaucers, swings, or bouncy seats. No more onesies or Robeez. After his party, I even had to ditch many of the baby toys to make room for the new, big boy toys. Lightning McQueens and Buzz Lightyears now abound, while shape sorters soft, squishy toys have been boxed up, ready to be passed on to the next baby in our extended family. I think it's a bit much to ask an already sentimental mom to celebrate her baby's second birthday, move him to a big boy bed, and clear out extraneous baby toys all in the same week but I guess that's what life is -- always on to the next phase.

School got out here last week and I was talking to one of my neighbors whose youngest child will be moving to middle school in the fall. It's taking everything I have not to ask her, "How can you stand it?! It's only three years till high school, then four until graduation and before you know it, you'll just be free laundry service on the weekends!" I suppose that she's feeling the same sense of pride at her child's accomplishments as I do about the big boy bed, and likely also the same wistfulness at one more era gone by. Maybe each of our children's achievements are the source of a simultaneous pain and joy for all mothers.

Since we're done having kids, this little guy will always be my baby. Like the book, Love You Forever, no matter how old I get and how grown up my little guy becomes, he'll always be my baby. And for me, I'm accepting that I'll be a little nostalgic and sad along the way. As long as I refrain from breaking into his house when he's an adult with a family of his own, to rock him while he sleeps, I'll know I've stayed just this side of smothering, crazy mama. And sometimes, when it comes to dealing with our kids growing up, just shy of insanity is the most we can hope for.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

People Who Kick Ass - Chiropractors

For most of this week, we'll be joining the ever-witty, immensly readable, Mammalingo in celebrating the people around us who don't get the attention and accolades they properly deserve. Tired of hearing about Weiner's weiner or Lindsay's latest stint in rehab/jail/ankle braceleting? So are we. That's why we're talking about some great people who actually deserve a little press.

I am a fan, admirer and patient of the field of chiropractic. It started 6 weeks after the birth of my first daughter when I was having debilitating migraines and had an awful pain in my neck. I told my midwife, whose husband is a chiropractor, and she had me start seeing him. He did an examination, took X-rays, showed me the problems right on the X-rays and prescribed a course of treatment. Within two adjustments, the devastating pain and migraines stopped. Over time, he corrected a misalignment in my neck that was so bad it even looked wrong to my untrained eyes when I looked at my X-rays. For years, I suffered from periodic, terrible back pain that would last for weeks, but he brought all of this to an end. The pain was gone and I felt great... all without any toxic, mind-numbing medications that as a new, working mother, I couldn't have taken if I'd wanted to.

After the birth of my second daughter, I had stopped seeing that chiropractor because his office, which was convenient to me when I worked because it was 5 minutes from my office, was 45 minutes away from my home and I was now a stay-at-home mom. My baby was 3 months old, I had a 2-and-a-half year old on top of that, I was breastfeeding and learning how to juggle two kids and I told myself I just didn't have time time to find a new chiropractor and it could wait a few more months.

I thought that until one morning when I leaned over to get my baby out of her bassinet for a feeding and something went RRRRRRIP in the middle of my back, causing searing pain. I fed her through the pain, put her down and tried to stand up. A horrible back-spasm knocked me right back down. Sobbing, I called my husband and asked him to come home and then Googled chiropractors near me. Fortunately for me, 2 minutes from my house I found the awesome Dr. Kriss. He was able to see me about an hour after I called and he has state-of-the-art equipment like digital X-rays, so he was able to see and diagnose the problems immediately. My back had been, in layman's terms, royally whacked out by another pregnancy and breastfeeding, which had aggravated old problems. Since I already had been seeing a chiropractor, Dr. Kriss adjusted me on the spot, plus once more later that day and by the next morning, the unholy pain was gone.

Drug-free pain relief. No clouding of my mind, no toxic chemicals to mess up breastfeeding. Treating the root cause of the problem instead of masking the symptoms. Chiropractic kicks ass!

Dr. Kriss prescribed another course of treatment in which I came in very frequently at first, then tapered down to once a month, which is where I am now. When I come in, I don't even have to tell him what hurts or what doesn't feel right. He can tell what hurts by merely touching my vertebrae and then he adjusts my spine and corrects the problem. I leave free of pain, feeling fabulous.

I find that the field of chiropractic is still, mystifyingly, very misunderstood. Whenever someone starts to give me crap about seeing a chiropractor, I quickly shut them up with, "All I know is I was in terrible pain and now I'm not."

Chiropractors kick ass, and Dr. Kriss kicks ass! He keeps me running right, and as the mother and axis of the family, I have to be healthy in order to keep my family and my household healthy and happy!

Want to read about more people who kick ass? Check out these fabulous blogs as well:

An Attitude Adjustment

Good Looking Life

The Daddy Complex

The Sahmmy

If you're a blogger and know some People Who Kick Ass and deserve to be recognized for it, link up with us this week and spread the word.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

People Who Kick Ass - Selfless Caregivers

Mrs. Lampshade's contribution to Mammalingo‘s “People Who Kick Ass” series.  This week we're joining Mammalingo in celebrating the people around us who don't get the attention and accolades they properly deserve. Tired of hearing about Weiner's weiner or Lindsay's latest stint in rehab/jail/ankle braceleting? So are we. That's why we're talking about some great people who actually deserve a little press.

Thirteen years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I was away at college and only witnessed her slide into the unknown at occasional weekend family gatherings.  Truthfully, it was almost too unbearably painful to watch.  The bright social butterfly – the matriarch of our enormous Irish Catholic clan – went from Countess of the Kitchen to frail observer.  While she was never shut off from any festivities she became unable to actively participate in the constant, noisy banter that surrounds my family. 

She could have spent her final years in a nursing home, as so many elderly do.  It’s a difficult decision to put a loved one in the care of others, but it’s an incredible task to take them into your home.  And that is what my Aunt & Uncle and their family of three wonderful daughters chose to do.  We shall call them The AngelsThe Angels took on the responsibility of feeding, bathing, and caring for my grandmother.  They did tasks that no child expects to perform for their parent and they did it with humor and grace.  The Angel girls not only accepted their grandmother into their home, but constantly involved her in their chatter and lives.  And all three girls excelled in their educations, school activities and social lives. 

When my grandmother passed two summers ago, they were at her side.  I know the last thing she felt was the love they had for her.  I like to imagine that she floated freely and circled them with the hug that she was so fond of handing out when she had control of the mind and body that were her right as a human being.  The right that she was able to hang on to because The Angels – true Saints on Earth – brought her into their home, involved her in their lives and allowed her to retain her dignity while in the hands of a terrible and degrading disease.   And they never expected anything in return. 

They are love.  They are laughter.  They are faith and family.  They are people who truly kick @$$. 

*Post Note*
While my entry is about my grandmother and the selfless love toward her from The Angels, I would be remiss if I did not add that The Angels also took in my Uncle's mother and father for several years - at one point caring for all three parents simultaneously.  And recently, both my Aunt her her eldest daughter flew to Bahrain - in the midst of all of the Middle Eastern turmoil - to spend time with our cousin during her final days of terminal illness.

They also did not do it alone.  My sincerest thanks to my other Aunts, Uncles and Cousins for making Grandma's comfort and dignity a priority; allowing The Angels to take some time to themselves; and showing others, through example, what selfless loves looks like.  Your actions make me a better parent.  

Want to read about more people who kick ass? Check out these fabulous blogs as well:

An Attitude Adjustment
The Daddy Complex

If you're a blogger and know some People Who Kick Ass and deserve to be recognized for it, link up with us this week and spread the word.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Father. My Son.

Today my adorable little boy turns two years old. If my father were alive, he would be 68 years old today. My father died suddenly of a heart attack when I was 14, so he wasn't there to walk me down the aisle when I got married and he never got to meet my two, wonderful children. However, fate has ensured that he will be forever connected to my son in one very special way.

June 13, 2009. After nearly a week of on-again, off-again contractions that almost sent us to the hospital a dozen different times, it was finally time. As we drove to the hospital, we crossed the lake, the sun glinting off the water on a warm, nearly-summer night. To my immense relief, when we arrived, I was far enough along to get checked in and epiduraled immediately. The doctor who would deliver me volunteered to break my water for me in order to speed things up. "Unless you'd rather wait until tomorrow for him be born," she said, somewhat jokingly --assuming no one would ever want to prolong labor. Actually, we would like to wait. And he was born the next day, my dad's birthday.

My father was a wonderful dad and by all accounts, a great guy. After he died, it felt like so many people came and shared their memories of him with us, which was a wonderful gift. People told us of kind things he'd done for them, as far back as when he was in high school. Even though I didn't get to have him around for nearly long enough, I feel incredibly lucky that the time I did have with him was so good. I just wish my husband and kids had gotten the chance to meet him as well.

I think that anyone who's lost a parent at a young age wonders how things would be different if that parent had lived longer. I wonder which choices in life I might have made differently if my dad had been around. I wonder how he and my husband would have gotten along. I wonder if he would come over and help my husband with home improvement projects, were he still here. I wonder what it would have been like to have seen him playing with my kids now that they're toddlers or what it would have been like to have seen him holding them as babies. His absence is not just a loss for me but for my whole family.

Though they will never meet, I feel like my son and my father have a special bond because they share the same birthday. Though I may be projecting, I also feel like their bond goes beyond that. In looking at the youngest pictures of my dad, I marvel at how much my son looks like my father as a toddler. My son got a workbench from Santa this past Christmas and he loves playing with it and is endlessly fascinated by power tools. My dad was very handy around the house and sometimes I can almost see them sitting side-by-side, working on a project together, my dad teaching my little guy how to hammer, screw and drill. Of course this will never be but that's just another aspect of my dad that I can see in my son.

My father loved to play softball. In fact, he was on the field, in the middle of a game when he died. His mitt is one of the strongest tokens of him that exists for me. That old, ratty thing's been around for as long as I can remember. Last year, my mom gave it to my little guy for his first birthday. I was incredibly touched and loved that my son would have something of my dad's that was so sentimentally important to me. It's now hanging in his room.

While I'll never get my dad back, in some ways, my little boy has brought parts of him back for me, which is a wonderful gift. His very presence and their shared birthday helps me remember and appreciate my dad, for which I'll always be grateful.

We're linking up with the wonderful, oh-so-readable, Bees with Honey again this week. Pay her a visit and tell her we say hi.

Monday, June 13, 2011

People Who Kick Ass - Teenagers

For most of this week, we'll be joining the ever-witty, immensly readable, Mammalingo in celebrating the people around us who don't get the attention and accolades they properly deserve. Tired of hearing about Weiner's weiner or Lindsay's latest stint in rehab/jail/ankle braceleting? So are we. That's why we're talking about some great people who actually deserve a little press.

Sexting. Cyber-bullying. Stealing prescription meds from their parents' medicine cabinets. These are the types of stories and headlines most often associated with teenagers. The kind of news that has parents of younger kids either investigating boarding school or cowering under the covers in fear of the demon their little darling will soon grow into. However, these aren't the teenagers I know, which makes me think today's teens are getting a bum rap in the media --which, let's face it, is nothing new. The teenagers I know are People Who Kick Ass.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching my three-year-old daughter's swimming class and I looked around the pool at all of the teenagers who were there, early on a Saturday morning, teaching toddlers to swim. According to the news, these kids should be sleeping off a hangover or torturing a classmate on Facebook, yet here they were, bright and early being productive citizens. There were close to a dozen of them and I watched, impressed, as they compassionately instructed little ones to dunk their heads under water. One teen calmly and patiently helped one small boy overcome his fear of the water by carrying him up and down the length of the lane, talking to him softly and reassuringly. These were kids who had gotten training to teach others to swim, gotten jobs and gotten themselves out of bed at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday.

Those are high school kids, you say. What about the middle schoolers? They're the truly awful ones. On my block, there are several middle school boys. At an age where one expects grunting and eye-rolling to be directed towards any adult, I have found these kids to be incredibly nice and polite, warm and friendly. My two toddlers simply adore the middle school boys on the block and have been known to rap on the windows and scream like a 'tween at a Justin Bieber concert when "the boys" are outside. Luckily, for once, this is not undeserved idol worship. These middle school boys are so nice and indulgent towards my kids, who routinely wander into their games of street hockey and tell them all about the latest episode of Max & Ruby they just watched. Once, I somehow wound up on the other side of the street from my daughter and one of the boys, unsolicited, held her hand and helped her cross the street. When they're not serving as white knights to toddlers in distress, these kids are riding bikes, playing street hockey, football, baseball... Basically, exactly what kids their age should be doing.

I'm Facebook friends with a number of my cousins' teenaged kids and what I see online only serves to reaffirm my belief that teenagers, in general, are much cooler than they get credit for. These teens post status updates about upcoming choir concerts, school plays, horseback riding lessons, and spending time with their parents. They also seem to ask each other for help with homework, so unless there's some unheard of app that automatically changes risqué posts into adult-friendly messages, these are some awesome kids, who are busy and active doing the sorts of things everyone wants kids to be busy and active doing.

As a parent whose kids are a long way from this stage of life, it's incredibly reassuring to encounter teens who are active and engaged with sports and hobbies that they feel passionate about. So teens, try not to get discouraged by the way the media portrays you and keep on kicking ass.

Want to read about more people who kick ass? Check out these fabulous blogs as well:

If you're a blogger and know some People Who Kick Ass and deserve to be recognized for it, link up with us this week and spread the word.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Show & Tell: The Car-Barf Cleanup Kit

These days the big diaper bag mostly stays in the trunk and I instead carry with me a smaller bag full of essentials like diapers, sippy cups and a bag of Goldfish. Also in this bag is my Car-Barf Cleanup Kit.

My oldest daughter, now 3-and-a-half, frequently threw up in the car when she was younger. It was almost always on the way to daycare and uncannily, more often than not on a Monday. I started to wonder if she could actually be that smart and capable of throwing up at will to get out of a day at daycare. We would drive 40 minutes or so in hellish Seattle traffic, drive up the hill to daycare, get almost close enough to see the building and baaaarrrfffff... toddler-vomit everywhere. The first couple times, I was unprepared, totally not expecting it. I parked the car (usually in the daycare parking lot) and grabbed whatever I could from the floor and door-pockets of my always-messy car. I grabbed junk mail, Starbucks pastry bags, plastic grocery bags, anything. After I scooped most of it up, I'd tidy things further with baby wipes and then change her clothes and drive back home with a window or two rolled down.

After the first few car-vomits, I learned what works. Since my 18-month-old fairly frequently throws up in the car, I am never without this kit. Here it is:

1) Plastic grocery bags. These are not only awesome for scooping the mess up, they are great for putting the barf-covered clothes in until you get home.

2) Baby wipes. You can use these to clean up both your kid and the car seat, and if necessary, yourself.

3) Wet Ones. These are antibacterial and safe to use on hands and faces. You can wipe your befouled hands before putting them back on your steering wheel and getting it all germy.

4) A fresh, clean outfit for your poor sick kid to ride home in.

When you get home, obviously you have some more tidying and deodorizing to do. At home, I have at the ready:

1) Lysol or Clorox Wipes. These will remove the remaining barf from the plastic and metal as well as the cloth parts of the car seat and they help to deodorize.

2) Febreze. Spray the heck out of the car seat with this, roll down the windows and the next day, your car will only sort of smell like puke.

I have to recommend that you get a different scent of Febreze for vomit-cleanup than the one you use in your house. I had to stop using Lavender Vanilla in the house because I developed a Pavlovian association with that scent and vomit. Every time I smelled Lavender Vanilla, I automatically also smelled barf, even if there was none around!

I hope this kit will help you if your kid happens to throw up in the car. Most of all, though, I hope your kid just doesn't throw up in the car. Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Don't write mom off

A few months back, I entered a piece of fiction based on my time as a full-time working mom into a literary contest. The results were to be announced this week, and of course I hoped to be a finalist. I waited, watched the mailbox, watched my inbox, jumped every time the phone rang. Tuesday I checked my mail and there was an envelope from the contest, containing my two critiques and informing me that I was not a finalist.

I just started writing fiction again after 10 years of writing nothing, so I didn't really expect to be a finalist this time. But not only was I not a finalist, I got two very negative critiques. One is helpful and constructive, offering many suggestions for how I can improve my work. The other is brutal and unnecessarily mean. It seems like the critic was having fun writing the critique, showing off his own writing skills and his apparently evil sense of humor instead of really writing a critique.

I poured my heart and soul into this work. It's highly personal and means a lot to me. Telling the fictionalized story of my experiences as a full-time working mom has been cathartic for me and I think if I succeed with this work, many women will relate to it and enjoy it. The critic apparently did not think so. As I read the nasty critique, I cried harder and harder but then the tears turned to rage as I got to this sentence:

"It needs a lot of work and is no different than the other stories we've heard other women around Starbucks talk about."

Oh, hell no. Tell me what's wrong with my work. Tell me it needs more conflict, tell me my characters need more depth. That much is true and I need to know that in order to fix what's wrong with it and make it good. But don't you write me off because I'm a mom, and don't you write mothers off in general. This sentence dripped with sexism, almost outright misogyny and it pissed me off to my very core. He may as well have written, "Oh, aren't you cute, trying to write fiction. Now go back to playing bridge with the ladies and then get back in the kitchen."

I'm not the only female writer being written off. Earlier this week, posted this article about Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul, who said that "no woman writer is his equal." Really? In the year 2011 we are still up against moronic, backwards attitudes like that?

Tell that to Tina Fey. Tell that to Oscar winner Diablo Cody. Tell that to Anne Rice. All three are women who have inspired me to have the balls to write and have the balls to put my work out there for scrutiny. Don't ever underestimate a writer because she's female or because she's a mother. All three of those inspiring female role-models are mothers and it sure as hell hasn't held them back. It hasn't stopped them from writing about motherhood, either. And it won't stop me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Laundry Castle

Number One sign you've procrastinated too long on putting away your clean laundry: When you empty the basket, you get a pefectly-formed "laundry castle."

Secret Family Behavior

Sex & the City introduced the concept of "secret single behavior." You know, those things you do when no one else is watching? Miranda's was the best - she liked to wear moisturizing gloves while watching infomercials. I've realized that for me, this has now evolved into "secret family behavior." Those kooky things you say and do when it's just you and the kids (and sometimes the hubby).

To make sense of this you first need to know something about me - I'm a talker. Ask any of my elementary school teachers and they'll readily confirm it. "Talks too much in class" was a consistent theme on my report cards growing up. My husband is continually amazed by my ability to talk with my gal pals. "How can you go out for five hours and just talk the whole time?!" he'll ask. Uh, easy.

So, now that I'm home alone with two toddlers, they are the recipients of my stream of consciousness style, near-constant conversation. Since the conversation is largely one-sided, I tend to get a little -- goofy (as an aside, in high school I broke up with a guy because he was so quiet, it made me nervous, which gave me a case of verbal diarrhea and I'd just start blathering on and on and on... ) Where was I? Oh yeah, I talk - a lot.

As we were leaving the house the other day, Clyde called out to the dog "guard house" and I realized that one of my verbal rituals is to explain to the dog that we're leaving and to remind him that it's his job to guard the house while we're gone. This started me thinking of all the other strange, little commentaries I make throughout the course of a day. Telling them they need to wear socks because the only time they should have cold feet is if they're about to marry the wrong person, or singing the "Oh Dry Diapie" song I made up (to the tune of Oh, Susannah). Let's not forget the song that signals it's time for our weekly Costco trip. Oh, and the fact that on the drive home from said Costco trip, I speak in silly voices on behalf of the various purchased items, now rolling around in the back of the car. And there are many other odd phrases, songs, and rituals that accompany our daily routines. Songs and phrases that my kids just assume are a normal part of life.

I realized they have no other points of reference - they don't know this might not be the most normal behavior - that most people's gallons of milk don't express concern over the misbehavior of the bread, or worry that the eggs will jump out of the car when we stop, making a big mess. Will they remember these ritualistic phrases later in life? I also wonder how much longer I have when I can spout these odd sayings before I receive some major eye-rolling from them? I guess for now I should just enjoy the fact that they don't know any better and are happy to go along with my in all of my kooky habits. It also make me wonder what Secret Family Behavior other families have...

Today, I'm linking up with the ever-delightful Bees with Honey. Check out her site & tell her Dana sent you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Show & Tell: Mommy's Secret Storage

Because even with a child-safety latch, little hands can do this:

Grabbing things like this:

Then doing things like this:

The second time the mascara was obtained, my then 2-year-old turned a six-foot expanse of wall and the screen of our TV into her own modern art masterpiece. However, I was too irate to take pictures of the resulting damage. Hence, no photographical evidence of the crime scene is available to share on this site.

That's why I recommend getting one of these:

to keep your make-up in.

Tip: Never leave the key in the lockbox lock. Classic rookie mistake. Always remove the key and store it in the farthest corners of your "kiddie-proofed" drawer. Because, trust me on this one, if they can navigate the child-safety-latch with ease, turning that little key presents zero challenge to little hands. In fact, they find it insulting that you'd make it so easy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

WAHM, SAHM, thank you Mom. "WAHM" is a new term for a timeless thing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fanatical knitter and crocheter. I love all things related to needlework and fiber arts. When I'm not taking care of my kids, knitting or crocheting, I am reading (and writing) about knitting and crochet.

Recently, I read Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting , which is an excellent book about not only the Fair Isle technique but its history. The author details how the women on Fair Isle earned money to feed their families by knitting elaborate Fair Isle sweaters, sometimes in a very short amount of time. They cranked them out and sold them, sometimes even spinning their own yarn to make the sweaters.

Then I read about Irish women crocheting lace to sell for money in the Summer 2011 issue of Interweave Crochet. As I thought about these women doing this, my first thought was "HOW?!" How the hell did they manage to pull this off while taking care of their children, doing the laundry, cooking, cleaning and all the other crap they had to do? I know the concentration that's needed in order to correctly execute a complex Fair Isle or lace pattern and I never attempt it while my children are awake. Nope, the complicated stuff waits until both kids are asleep and I'm fairly sure I won't be interrupted. And the last time I got my spinning wheel out while my 3-year-old was around, I couldn't even use it because she wouldn't stop screaming, "MY TURN! I WANT TO DO IT!" So how did these women do it? Did they just never sleep?

These women were WAHMs before the term existed. They, like WAHMs today, juggled their work with caring for their children, housework, errands and everything else. They did it, however, under the threat of their family not eating if they didn't do it and as I read in Starmore's book, many looked upon knitting as a hated chore, not as a delightful leisure activity.

Many WAHMs today, echoing the past, sell (or attempt to sell) their needlework on, at farmer's markets and through other outlets. Still more do it as a leisure activity, just for fun. As I read about the women of Fair Isle and Irish lace knitters during the Potato Famine, I feel like a huge slacker. I can't imagine having to knit super-complex sweaters all day every day so my family could eat, under the threat of starvation if I didn't work hard or my work wasn't good. I bet their houses were way cleaner than mine, too. I think of them and feel connected to them whenever I try (and occasionally succeed) to sell my own needlework or related work. Unlike them, all of my and my husband's and children's needs are covered. Selling my work would be more for extra money, not life and death.

Being a stay-at-home mom has always required hard work and sacrifice and a little or a lot of financial strain. When I experience a little bit of financial strain myself due to my choices, I think of what the wonderful knitting and crochet author Maggie Righetti refers to as "our foremothers," those women on Fair Isle, in Ireland and other places, and I remember how good I have it.
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