Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Area Mom 'Completely Screwed' After Toddlers Call Her Bluff

SUBURBS, U.S. -- A local mom describes herself as being "completely screwed" when her toddlers, aged three-and-a-half years and two years old, called her bluff that she would leave them at the park by themselves after they refused to willingly walk to the car with her.

"I even went so far as to get in the car and start it up," Up-The-Creek-Mom said, "I was sure that'd get them off the slide, but they didn't even bat an eyelash when they heard the engine rev."

The mom was forced to walk, disgraced and powerless, back to the park's playground equipment to retrieve her wards, before carrying them to said car. The trip was particularly humiliating given that a number of other parents had overheard her "threat" to leave without them.

Threatening to leave uncooperative kids by themselves at a mall, grocery store, park or other locale has long been a staple parenting tactic. This method is especially favored among parents who want to escape a public spot without making a scene. For many parents, carrying a kicking, screaming toddler from any venue is a last-resort option. Thus, over time, parents have developed many tools in their arsenal, including use of manipulation and half-truths.

However, experts warn parents to plan ahead for the day when kids realize the threat to leave them somewhere is an empty one. Some recommend keeping a stash of candy in one's purse to use as a means of luring the kids back to the car, while others recommend parents keep a pair of dark sunglasses on hand, so they can avoid making eye contact with others who have witnessed the failed tactic, or who might cast judgmental glances at the parent doing the walk of shame with one or more screaming toddlers.

"It is imperative that parents who rely on this method, develop a back-up plan to use. Parents are unlikely to realize that their kids have discerned there is no chance they'll actually be left somewhere. So, parents are likely to be flummoxed and feel helpless when this day comes," a more experienced mom said.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mommy Needs Me-Time!

As a work-at-home mom, me-time is hard to come by. It's as rare and elusive as the unicorn or the blue moon. I require it, though, to stay happy and sane and to retain my sense of identity as a person outside of being a mother. Therefore, I fight hard to get it.

What keeps me going, through every sleep-deprived night, washing all the cloth diapers AND cloth wipes, rescuing milk sippy cups that have been under the couch for two weeks in the summer, cooking and cleaning while under attack by my two toddlers (or while trying to prevent them from attacking each other) and all the endless buckling and unbuckling of car seats for errands, is the knowledge that on Saturday night, from 11:00 PM-2:00 AM, I will be able to do one of my favorite things and be left alone to do it.

I choose that late hour because by then, both kids are solidly asleep, and I should only be interrupted once, if at all. I make a pot of coffee after Saturday evening's dinner, to ensure that I will be able to stay awake that late. I instruct my husband to come get me after 1/2 an hour if I don't come back out to the living room after getting the kids to sleep, because if I sleep through my precious, hard-won me-time, I am going to be pissed.

When it's finally time, I get out one of my two spinning wheels.

Over those few hours every week, I spin wonderfully-soft fiber like this wool that I dyed:

And slowly but surely, over a couple Saturday nights, I make yarn:

This is extremely relaxing and loads of fun for me, as well as being a much-needed creative outlet. I knit every day... that I can pull off here and there during weekdays and I can do it in front of my kids, if they're occupied. But for spinning, they both have to be asleep, or they'll attack the wheel with all their might. It's a wheel that spins, it's way too interesting! So on Saturday nights I caffeineate and spin yarn while my husband and I watch TV together. It makes me happy.

Today, we'd like to do a link-up and hear about how you get your me-time and what you do with it! What I do is admittedly pretty esoteric, so I am very interested in knowing what other moms do with their precious, hard-won me-time!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Time-Travelers' Mother

Most of the time when I look at my kids, I see the round, not-quite-baby, not-quite-big-boy that my two-year-old actually is and the newly-lanky, three and a half year old, that is my daughter. However, every now and again, looking at them is like traveling in time. Certain expressions and actions remind me of the babies they once were, while others hint at the bigger kids they will become.

This past weekend, an expression washed over my daughter's face and I found myself thinking, "Who are you?! Where's my little girl? I don't know who this big kid is but she's not my baby." Then, her expression changed and my girl was back. Later, I found myself sitting beside her bed, patting her hair while she cried. She was having a hard time waking up from her nap, but looking at her, it was so easy to imagine her as a teenager, crying over some boy who'd broken her heart.

Of course, I often see them traveling back in time as well. The other day as I was waking my son up, I could clearly imagine him as the baby he was not so long ago. He did his baby stretch and expression and it was like I was looking at him as a two-month-old again. Then, as we walked down the stairs and that cute, pudgy little toddler hand reached up to take mine, and we were in the present again. The next day, as I pulled him off the kitchen table and reminded him that we don't dance on the table, it was with horror that I saw him as a college student, minus the keg cup.

I find these glimpses through time to be partially disconcerting and partially delicious. When I see them as the babies they were it reminds me of those sweet days, which seem long gone, but which, in reality were mere moments ago. The times when I see them as older kids, or even teenagers, help prepare me for a future I'm not always sure I'm ready for.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Moms Aren't Superhuman

This week, I read this article on TODAYMoms, about moms confessing their deepest, darkest secrets. As I read, I had to wonder, "Why are these secrets?" Most of the secrets just did not strike me as bad enough to keep secret. What's the big deal about admitting that you cry in your car on the way to work, that you sometimes shut yourself in the bathroom to eat lunch, or that you feel like you're about to have a nervous breakdown? Why is it a bad thing to admit that you're not superhuman?

When I was a new mom I cared a lot about trying to be, or at least appear, perfect. I wanted to do everything right. I was terrified of screwing up this precious little person that I'd brought into the world. Not only that, I was terrified of people thinking that I was screwing her up, or that I was even struggling or having any trouble at all.

All the other moms at daycare seemed to have things so much more together than I did. So many of them dropped their kids off and seemed happy about it. They wore power suits to their important-sounding jobs. I wore jeans and a T-shirt to my unimportant job at a software company. Once I got to work, I often cried in my cubicle for the first half hour of the day. I missed my baby. I was worried about her getting sick yet again, and how I'd have to take off work yet again, and my husband's job was more demanding so I'd be staying home with her yet again and what if I got fired, then I'd lose my spot at daycare, if I could even find another job, and how would I find another job without daycare to take care of my baby while I interviewed, and then we wouldn't have enough money to live on and our credit would get ruined and we'd never get a house and oh my God, I feel like I'm going to have a nervous breakdown, but I can't have a nervous breakdown, I have to work, and my baby needs me, I can't lose it, we can't afford for me to take any time off of work and... and... and...

That's how many mornings went: Me worrying and freaking out in my cubicle, trying to figure out how to make it all work and keep it all together. I didn't talk to anyone or tell anyone how I was feeling, because I wanted everyone to think that (despite my attire) I was one of the Power Suit Moms, that I had a handle on everything and knew what I was doing, that I could juggle a full-time job and a baby, and enjoy it, and not be stressed at all.

Meanwhile, the stress was tearing me apart. I was a wreck. I wasn't getting any sleep, because my daughter hadn't yet started sleeping through the night, and I lived in fear of not only all of the above, but of falling asleep at the wheel as I drove her and I to daycare every morning, then worked 8 hours, then had to drive us both safely back home. This was in notoriously bad Seattle traffic, where I had to have my wits completely about me and my eyes and mind not only on what I was doing but on the swirling rush hour madness around me. I worried about getting in a car accident. I worried about whether my daughter's car seat was installed perfectly and whether it was the safest model. I worried so much about so many things that I didn't want to go anywhere. I developed agoraphobia, and it got to the point where I could only go to daycare and work, and I made my husband drive us everywhere else. I couldn't go to the grocery store, too much potential peril there. I couldn't take my daughter to the park, there was possible danger there as well.

Then it started getting to the point where I was having trouble even going to daycare and work. At that point, I knew I needed help. Also, the sheer misery of that level of anxiety was wearing me down to a nub, and at a routine physical, my doctor had said my blood pressure was so high, she was considering putting me on blood pressure medication. I was 32 at the time.

So finally, I decided to talk. I looked up a cognitive-behavioral therapist on our insurance's website, and I started going to therapy on my lunch hour, once a week at first. I would get there and unload, cry, and talk about all my worries and fears. My therapist helped me figure out where they were all coming from and why they were there. I told her about feeling inferior to the Power Suit Moms, and she pointed out that they were possibly as miserable as I was. I told her about my fear of screwing my daughter up. She gently shook her head and said, "If we're 'on' 80% of the time, that's what they remember." Those were the most comforting words I'd ever heard.

She helped me dissolve the worry and the fear by learning mindfulness techniques, where you pay attention to what's really happening right now, not what might happen, could happen, what if. She helped me to learn to pay attention to the present moment as it is, not as my mind says it is. No labeling, no judging, just as it is.

Eventually, the anxiety dissolved and I became retrained to pay attention to the present moment. I'd start to feel a panic attack coming on in bad traffic, and then I'd remember to pay attention to what was really happening... my daughter and I were both warm and safe in the car, we were listening to music, and everything was actually fine.

Now that I'm a work-at-home mom, juggling working part-time from home when my kids are asleep with being a mom, cleaning, cooking and all the other stuff I do, I'm grateful that I went through that awful time, because I wouldn't be able to handle staying home with my two kids full-time without what I learned. Every time I have a rough, stressful day, I remember how badly things used to suck, and that it's so much easier now. I use the skills I learned in therapy to remain in the present moment when something truly hard to handle happens, or when both kids declare that it's a Mess With Mommy Relentlessly Day.

I still have bad days and bad weeks. I still sometimes forget to be mindful and get anxious. I still have to be reminded sometimes of what I learned. But most of the time, I'm happy and I've got two delightful, happy kids and a happy husband. I haven't seen my therapist in nearly two years, but I have friends to talk to about the rough days and the stressful stuff.

I don't think moms should feel like they have to appear perfect or superhuman. I don't think we should have to live in fear of being judged. We are all in the same boat, we all have given birth, we've all experienced sleep-deprivation and Mess With Mommy Relentlessly days, we have all gotten lots of poop on our hands. Having given birth should qualify us as superhuman, but it doesn't. I think the TODAYMoms article about moms' confessions is a step in the right direction, toward moms allowing themselves to both be and appear human.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Concluding the No Grocery Store Challenge - Involve the Kids

The Guidelines:

1. All grocery (read: food) purchases must be made via Farmer’s market, roadside stand, small shop or  private purchase.

2. $30USD (before tax) is allotted – for the entire 28 days – to purchase various items that cannot be found at aforementioned venues.  All food purchased with this $30 should be organic/bio, if possible.

Well, I did it – four solid weeks with only one trip to a Grocery Store.  Actually, it’s been six and a half weeks total.  In the spirit of personal competition I’ve unofficially continued my NGSC and have managed to eke out 2 ½ additional weeks with no extra grocery store shopping.  I am darn proud of myself.  I will never again enter a grocery store and absent-mindedly scoop items into my cart.

Gimme all your Veggies!
In retrospect, what was my favorite part of the Challenge? My daughter's exuberant and enthusiastic participation.  She LOVES to go to the Farmers’ Market with me.  The timing of my challenge coincided with her school’s two week summer closure (yes, I am LUCKY – the Kindergarten here in Hungary is AWESOME and year-round!!) which means she tagged along with me when I visited our local market several times a week. 

Why I Loves Me Some Lil Lampshade/Mommy Lampshade Farmers’ Market Trips:

1.  No Barbie section or candy aisle.  I don’t think I need to explain the awesomeness of that.

2.   Instead of begging for Skittles and lollypops, she requested apricots and red peppers.  I let her have the freedom of picking out whatever she liked, which empowered her. 

Mrs & Little Lampshades' Market Baskets
3. Lil Lampshade has her own basket and it gets loaded up with goodies.  One thing I’ve learned is that merchants can’t resist the adorable charm of a toddler with their own veggie-collecting vessel.

4. Lots of flowers - cheap.  They may not be perfect or the most beautiful, but to Lil Lampshade they are worthy of a table set for a fairy queen.  And the upside is that she’s learning the names of flowers.  She also LOVES to arrange her own flowers in a vase.   

5. Her favorite thing to do after leaving the market is nosh on her stash.  She usually eats her entire RDA of fruits and vegetables by the time we get home.  

6. The colors. The textures.  The smells.  The sounds.  The tastes.  "Mommy, STOP! Smell! Do you smell that? It smells wonderful!!  I’m starving – can I have a cucumber?"

My initial goals were to involve myself with local culture and commerce (ACHIEVED!), eat healthier (DONE!), and save money (SAVED!).  And for  you accountants out there - I spent $24.76 of my allotted $30.  I did everything I set out to do and gained the habit I’d hoped to take-on at the end of my four weeks.  My NGSC is “officially” over but I will be participating for the rest of my life.

A huge, heart-felt THANK YOU to Take Part & Food, Inc for their support of my NGSC.  If you have not seen Food, Inc yet, please move it to the top of your Netflix queue or look for it when it airs on PBS.  It’s like watching an episode of Hoarders when you’ve been putting off cleaning the pantry.  It will change your life.  Best of luck to all of the current No Grocery Store Challengers.  You are making a difference. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


"You got kicked out of a mom's group?! How do you get kicked out of a mom's group?!" my cousin asked me recently at a family gathering. Yes indeed, what kind of a loser gets herself kicked out of a mom's group... Apparently, the kind who, like me, managed to let a summer slip by without fulfilling her quarterly requirements to "host" an event. I hadn't meant to shirk my responsibilities, the time had just gotten away from me. Realizing that it had been awhile, I started thinking about planning a fall outing to a local farm. Before I'd gotten too far though, I got an email in my inbox telling me that I hadn't fulfilled my duties and I was out. Frankly, I was stunned that a group designed to help support and offer friendship to moms would give someone the boot without so much as a probationary period or warning. I decided to forget the group and move on -- I had several great mom friends who were willing to let an occasional bout of flakiness slide.

Then, within in a month, two of those friends packed up and left town after both of their husbands were transferred out-of-state. Suddenly, I was left feeling pretty lonely. Before they "abandoned" me, my two friends had a lot to do with making my time home with young kids not just survivable, but downright fun. We all lived on the same block and it just felt downright idyllic to have wound up in a neighborhood where the kids got along and the moms were cool. Their husbands, like mine, regularly worked late, and we often had dinner together, just the ladies and the kids. Young toddlers may be cute but they aren't great dinner table conversationalists and it was a treat having another adult to eat with once in awhile. One of the gals had become a particularly close friend -- the kind I could chat about anything with. She was also my wing-girl. If I was in a pinch, I knew I could call on her. Last fall, when my mom wound up in the ER, I knew I could call on her and she'd be there for me. She watched my kids while I was with my mom in the hospital. My kids knew her so well and felt so comfortable around her, that they were delighted to go there and play with her kids, whom they adored. For them, it was as comfortable as being at home. In turn, I was happy when she'd ask me to watch her kids when she needed. Our friendship was not only fun but supportive in a way that's simply essential to motherhood.

Their departures really hit me. I knew how much I enjoyed these women (and their kids) and how much I counted on them, so it wasn't a surprise to me how hard it was when they left. After they were gone, I realized that all of my pre-kid friends were scattered across the greater Seattle area -- often a 40 minute drive. Plus, most of them were working and not available to get together for a Tuesday morning playdate, which is when I really needed a friend. I found myself without a momtourage, and that's not a good place for a mom to be. So, here I find myself in search of a new momtourage.

My daughter's starting preschool next month and I elected to do a co-op, which means that I'll be working in the classroom several times a month with the other parents. We also will have monthly meetings and other get-togethers. I'm hopeful I'll meet some cool gals there and start to build up a new momtourage for myself. Last week, I went to a birthday party and met several local moms, who all seemed really nice. Turns out, they're all members of the moms' group that booted me last year. After talking to them, I've decided to give the group another try (if they'll have me). Now that I've met a few more people in the group, I'm hopeful it will be a more fun experience. Additionally, I've taken to cruising the grocery store and post office, picking up new friends and have started getting friendly with a nice group of gals in the area. So, fingers crossed, I'll keep working to build up the momtourage I need -- for my sake as well as for my kids. Because, let's face it, a happy mom is a better mom.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Smart move

I resisted getting a smartphone for the longest time, partly because of the cost, both of the phone itself and the extra monthly fee for data usage. More than the cost, I was concerned that having a smartphone, with instant access to e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, games and more, would make me inattentive. I never want to be one of those d-bag parents who are too glued to their Blackberry to ever give their children their full attention. So I waited until just last week, when I started to realize that communicating with my co-bloggers and responding to comments, etc, would be so much easier with a smartphone AND my carrier offered me an awesome one for free.

It arrived, and I took the usual awkward first few days to figure it out, learn where everything was and how to do everything that I want to do. Aside from the soft keyboard, which I'm still getting used to, the transition has been pretty effortless. In this short amount of time, I've also found that it makes my life a whole lot easier, and I wish I had gotten one sooner!

As a work-at-home mom, I go many a day without seeing any other adults, aside from the cashier at the grocery store, who I talk to only long enough to get yet another gallon of milk. My husband works 12 hour days or longer in the summer, which is his industry's busy season. Without social media, this would get really, really lonely and I might start to lose it and speak to everyone in toddler-speak or become unable to talk about any topic other than poop. With my spankin' new smartphone, I no longer have to wait till I have a chance to go to the computer room to read my e-mail, check Facebook or tweet. I can do it in the kitchen while I wait for my coffee to brew or for water to boil. I can read my e-mail before I get out of bed. I can see that someone commented on one of my Facebook posts while I'm on the couch watching "Peppa Pig" with my daughters. I can tweet a new witticism from the patio while I watch my daughters run around the backyard.

Not only has it not made me at all inattentive, it has made me more present in that I no longer have to escape to the computer room at a convenient moment to sneak in a minute of computer time. It also has not consumed me, like I'd feared, but rather simply streamlined my social networking and e-mail by putting all my connections to the outside world in one place, in one tiny, portable package, in the palm of my hand.

I absolutely LOVE this thing and I'm happy to have joined the rest of civilization in being able to tweet and play Angry Birds from the commode. Not that I'd, like, actually do such a thing...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fast Times at Ridgemont Preschool

As I held the green straw up to my daughter's three-year-old lips so she could sip her Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino without smudging her newly-painted fingernails, I knew that somehow, things had gotten off course. Sitting side-by-side in Mama Bear and Baby Bear-sized pedicure chairs, awaiting our spa treatments, I couldn't help but wonder when, and more importantly, how, I had become a mom who was pushing my child to grow up too quickly.

In the 1980's, Fast Times at Ridgemont High served as a warning to America about the perils of teenagers growing up too quickly and experiencing things high school kids really aren't ready to cope with. If that movie were to be remade today, it might need to be called Fast Times at Ridgemont Preschool because it seems that even the toddler set is experiencing too much, too soon these days.

I would no more buy my daughter a bedazzled, tot-sized T-shirt, which proclaimed "I'm a slut!," than I would tease her hair, give her a spray tan and enter her in a beauty pageant. Yet here I was, indulging in mother-daughter mani-pedis at an early age. It had all started innocently enough. She'd seen some little girls painting each other's nails on TV and said "Mommy, we should do that sometime." Looking at my calloused, unpolished feet, I'd suggested we get our toenails painted at a local nail salon. Two birds, one stone and all. Fun bonding with my daughter and a long-overdue treat for my feet in one fell swoop. From there, things seemed to snowball. A pre-pedi Starbucks run resulted in her getting her own (un-caffeinated) frothy, iced beverage and later, a miscommunication with the nail technician turned a pedi into a mani-pedi. Somewhere along the way, it had gone from being cute to being gross.

Often, society seems overrun with attempts to turn little girls into teenagers. Not so long ago, kids were just kids. Now, they're 'tweens. From eight-year-olds getting (or perhaps not getting) Botox injections to Abercrombie & Fitch's padded bikini tops for elementary school-aged girls, there's an overwhelming sense of kids being pressured to mature beyond their year(s). Normally, all of this disgusts me. So, how did I-- a mother who's aware of, and disturbed by, this phenomenon--wind up contributing to it with my own daughter? No, getting her a pedicure wasn't as extreme as waxing her eyebrows, but it's in the same vein of pushing little girls to grow up too quickly.

While many mothers, myself included, are outraged over the more garish aspects of this trend, many of us are complicit with it in other, smaller ways. For me, it was treating her to a pedicure. For some, it's buying baby high heels because they're funny and kind of cute. For others, it's letting toddlers have sleepovers with their friends. I've increasingly been hearing about three-year-olds having overnights with their friends. I remember my first slumber party. It was Becky's eighth birthday, we got pizza and watched Grease. The anticipation of it had been the talk of the second grade for weeks leading up to the party. If kids are starting to have sleepovers at the age of three, what's to look forward to when they're eight?

As normally rational parents, we see these things as being cute and harmless fun but the more I think about it, the more I realize we're part of the problem we usually rail against. After all, it can be a slippery slope from toddler pedicure to 'tween push-up bra.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Welcome to the Toddlernet

Over the last few weeks, my oldest daughter, who is almost 4, has learned how to use the computer. She watches videos, she plays games, she even prints stuff out! Instead of asking me to play the same video over and over, she now knows how to use the mouse and do it herself. These newfound computer skills are exciting, but they fill me with trepidation as well.

It's weird, for one thing. How is the 7 lb 5 oz baby that I gave birth to already using the computer? I can't believe she's this big, lanky kid already, kneeling in the computer chair with her hand on the mouse, deftly navigating around and doing what she wants.

It started with YouTube. I loaded a video up for her one day and walked a few feet away to do the laundry. Suddenly I heard new videos starting. She picked through all the related videos and branched out from there, finding video after video to watch. At 3, she is already clueing me in to dumb internet memes to which I had been oblivious, such as the Nyan Cat (above) or the equally earworm-forming Funny Bear. This was fun for a few days, until one day after making breakfast, I walked down the hall and saw her watching one of the appallingly violent, unfunny (to me, anyway) Happy Tree Friends cartoons. I ran down the hallway doing the cinematic, slow-motion "Noooooooooooooo!" and thankfully stopped the video before anything terrible happened. Whew.

I thought to myself, "How is this happening already?" I did not expect to have to worry about the dangers of the internet or having to play internet police already, when my kid hasn't even turned four yet.

I decided to keep her off of YouTube by leaving Nick Jr. or Sprout Online up for her to play with. These sites have fun, educational games and videos related to her favorite TV shows, and are blissfully free of objectionable content. This strategy has kept her almost completely off of YouTube, except for the time she got into our bookmarks and started watching "I'm on a Boat." I found the idea of her watching that FAR less mortifying than Happy Tree Friends, however.

When my parents brought home our first computer, a Commodore 64, when I was 6, they didn't have to worry about any of this. There weren't any games, but my dad wrote one for me called "Sara Math," to help me with my already ailing math skills. The only problem he had was underestimating my subversiveness and making the game say "STINKO!" when I got an answer wrong. I found this so funny, I would deliberately get answers wrong to make the computer say "STINKO!" My mathematical education never recovered.

That's the worst damage I could do, though. There was no internet, no violent or moronic videos or games, no internet predators. They had a whole lot less to worry about back then.

As filled as I am with trepidation and as confused as I am about the best way to keep objectionable content away from my daughter, I am very excited for her to already be developing computer skills. It's very good for her to already know how to use a mouse, how to turn on the printer and print something out. She's already acquiring skills that will be essential in her life. As freaked out as I am about the negative aspects of her newfound skills, I am also really happy that this whole world has opened to her already. Computers have given me loads of enjoyment, have helped considerably with my education (barring that "Sara Math" episode...), have given me a career (full-time until two years ago, part-time from home now), and they even helped get me a husband (I met him on JDate!).

As much as computers create problems, they also create a lot of opportunity and wonder. I'm going to focus on that aspect, while I continue to work on toddler-proofing our computer and making it as safe as possible for our children to enjoy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In the Muthahood - A Rap Video All Moms Can Get Behind

In case you haven't seen this yet, it's beyond hilarious. Enjoy
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