Sunday, February 28, 2010

What I didn't write (and how it's my best story yet)

My blog is officially two weeks-old today, and while I doubt I'm supposed to admit this, I spent the last three days staring blankly at the blinding white of the New Post screen, frantically scanning my memory for something worth writing about. 

These were some of my honest ideas...

My trip to the grocery store (nothing occurred on this trip that was funny or noteworthy in any sense of the word.  I mean, if you don't count the fact that I started in produce and ended in dairy, when usually I start in dairy and end in produce.  I know, a little too risque for the internet).

A commentary on one of my family's favorite group activities... potty time!

A post I actually began writing on the book Angela's Ashes.  About halfway through I felt so thoroughly depressed that I actually asked my son if we could watch The Wiggles, then proceeded with a spirited rendition of "Big Red Car," to which he responded, "Aw Done, Mama."

Summarizing my day, from the fact that The Tine wanted his banana sliced and not peeled to an incident involving the baby, a kiss, and the unfortunate arrival of regurgitated breast milk on my puckered lips...

Let's suffice it to say, with all of the time I spent with my hands hovering over my keyboard and my brain moving in overdrive, my best ideas involved vomit and the bathroom (which would have killed in the second grade demographic).

I am currently reading a book that talks a lot about the concept of story.  How the main character must overcome conflict and undergo transformation before he can get what he wants.  How our lives mirror the concept of story.  How some of us would walk out on a film about our life, angry that we wasted our time and money.

Every time I sat down to write this week I felt like walking out on my story.

Every time.

It was depressing.

But then I realized that even if I put my shoes back on, grabbed my purse, and started to brave those dark, sticky floors, heading for the red glow of the exit sign, something would reel me back in.

Two tiny supporting actors suddenly arrive onscreen and completely steal the show. 

These two spunky characters salvage a near flop.

They create humorous moments, poignant narratives, and dramatic tension.

They make my story worth telling.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda (but don't really care that I didn't)

As I scurried around the kitchen yesterday afternoon, finishing off some soggy chicken nuggets and cold macaroni and cheese, I started daydreaming about life before kids. 

Before ravenous toddlers depleted the coveted leftover supply and crying babies forever separated me from my precious couch. 

When breaded chicken cutlets were the norm and frozen chicken nuggets were lost in the ever-so-processed-I-would-never-touch-that section of the grocery store (although I must say the microwaved chicken nugget is really growing on me).

In a time when I viewed eating as a sacred art of relaxation and not an athletic competition.

Lost in reverie I wondered what advice I would give a couple in their pre-baby-making years...

Just then my toddler stormed the kitchen demanding "Mat, geen" (translation: milk in his green cup... the only cup he will drink from after seeing Elmo Goes Green).  The baby crossed the line from moderately whiny to full-blown screaming get-me-to-bed-right now mode, and my reverie screeched to a halt.

I had just read about this Time Out for Theta Mom Thursday, where once a month you say good-bye the the kids and take an hour for yourself. 

So when my husband arrived home I left him with two kids and a vague dinner plan, then jetted to the local Starbucks to cotinue my daydream.  Of course 10 minutes later, laptop and coffee in hand and not a single seat to be found, I drearily loped to my car and with all the martyrdom I could muster called my husband, declaring mommy time was just not meant to be. 

Upon his encouragement, however, I took my coffee to the library (I know, I'm a rule-breaker), found a quiet corner, and summoned a list of childless pleasures I took for granted before, well, children!

I am not an advisey kind of person, so I would never actually say this to someone, but this is my blog, so here is what I came up with... (I should probably preface this by saying that I wouldn't go back to my days before kids for anything.  Life is crazy now, but I absolutely love it.  Having said that, a girl can dream...)
  1. Sleep in every weekend, even if it means putting off housework, neglecting errands, or completely ignoring your early-bird husband and his nasty lectures on the perils of wasting your day sleeping.
  2. Enjoy cooking.  Drink red wine and listen to music.  Make something fancy and elaborate at least once a week.
  3. After dinner go to your local coffeeshop for dessert.
  4. Turn off the TV, sit on your couch, and enjoy the precious sound of quiet.
  5. Have some friends over and enjoy being as loud as you want without worrying about waking the baby and spending the rest of the night nursing him back to sleep.
  6. Get busy in the middle of the afternoon before you're both too tired (who am I kidding... in five years I don't think my husband was ever "too tired").
  7. Go away for the weekend with the girls (or guys).  Drink wine, play games, and giggle the days away (okay, that part is not meant for the guys... that would be weird.  Please don't do that if you're a guy).
  8. Travel abroad, for either short or extended periods.
  9. Take off work for no reason other than sitting on your butt with a hot cup of coffee and your good friends Regis and Kelly.
  10. I'm actually slowing down on ideas here.  So... let me know what you think number ten should be!
* A big thank you to Theta Mom for the encouragement to get out of the house and away from all things kids... it really was refreshing!

Monday, February 22, 2010

What did you say?

My two-year old is currently raiding the fridge like a teenage boy, pulling out everything from week-old macaroni to a package of raw, ground turkey.

So I ask him the obvious question, "Are you hungry?"

To which he responds (in his peculiar toddler dialect)...

"I'm hoyney.  I'm hoyney.  Mama, I'm hoyney."

The hazards of laundry day (and why I try to avoid it)

I hate laundry.

Every week or so, when the smell of rancid spit-up overpowers my children's room and the underwear supply runs dangerously low, I lug the laundry basket upstairs (which usually takes me a couple days itself) and get down to business.

I hate sorting it... deciding what is a dark and what is a light, then worrying that if I make a wrong decision my boys could be running around with pink t-shirts (which is pretty silly seeing that poop/spit-up stains don't seem to bother me).

I hate finding a way to occupy my toddler so that he won't torture (or more accurately lovingly smother) the baby while I'm downstairs throwing in the laundry.  (Literally throwing it in, meanwhile panicking as I imagine my son dragging the baby across the living room floor.)

I hate the smell of laundry detergent and dryer sheets on my hands.

I hate hate hate walking all the way downstairs to switch the laundry only to find it isn't done yet (yes, I am kind of lazy).

I hate taking 45 minutes out of my evening relaxation time to fold those annoyingly tiny t-shirts and snap all the little buttons on a gazillion sleepers (who even thought to put snaps on sleepers... have you heard of a zipper?).

And you can just forgot about putting the clothes away.  My family has learned to live out of laundry baskets (of which I have multiple for this reason exactly).  In fact, I put those not-so-freshly laundered clothes in their respective drawers and closets just in time to start the whole annoying process all over again.

And that is why I HATE laundry.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The freedom that comes from letting crying babies cry

So this morning someone asked me how old the Tine is. 

"Two," I answered.

"Ah, the terrible two's" (someone else chimed in).

"And they really are terrible," I added.

"My sister calls it the teachable two's," the original asker kindly stated.

My response...

"That's optimistic." (As my son pulled violently on my hand, then dropped prone to the floor in the throes of hunger).

Sometimes there is just no room for optimism in parenting.  Or for making things look or sound better than they really are.

It is refreshing to reveal that, at times, parenting sucks (and leave it at that). 

When the Tine was a baby I always had an excuse ready.  If he cried he was probably hungry.  If he fussed he was overtired.  If he was in anyway discontent teething was pegged as the culprit.

With the advent of Bady, I dropped the excuses.  I was too exhausted to prepare a reason for each child, every bad mood, all those toddler tantrums, inexplicable newborn crying.  And it is like I can breath again. 

I still care what people think... that the Tine is a brat or the baby is colicky (sidenote: I absolutely hate it when people hear your baby cry once and ask if he is colicky... really annoying).  But I don't care as much.  And that's a start.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It may not be glamorous, but the cafeteria is always open

I just realized that I really love my job. 

I mean, the hours are terrible (I feel like I work all the time).  My only break is 30 minutes or less (courtesy of The Wiggles and a beautiful respite referred to in the parenting world as the afternoon nap).  And I get paid in toddler "tisses" and Starbucks coffees (alright, that part is actually amazing and not a complaint at all).

I'm not sure why I'm suddenly discovering that I love this gig.  Over the past two plus years I wavered countless times between working and staying at home.  I really appreciate the fact that I am able to stay home, but some days I feel like I'm going crazy.  I envy my husband and his peaceful, 20-minute drives to work.  I envy his ability to stand up in front of a classroom and do something he is great at.  I even envy the stress he feels from performing a mentally taxing job. 

But then I realize...

my two little bosses are also my biggest fans. 

I would "exceed expectations" in every performance review (though I most often deserve a "needs improvement").

my raises predictably occur when my performance is most lacking (more kisses when I am sad and distracted, special Starbucks treats when I am particularly stressed or unmotivated).

and finally, my tiny audience is completely star-struck by me... they think I am the most hilarious, entertaining person in the world (one of them just fell into a giggling fit when I said "hello").

So I'm sure I will write a later post about my desire to escape the confines of this full-time mothering gig.  I understand there's a good chance I won't stay at home forever.  But while I do find myself in the employ of my own household, I hope I can realize just how good I have it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

And the fog is lifted

Both kids slept past seven today and I am like a new person.  I felt like the mom on Caillou, speaking sweetly to my husband and greeting my children with an actual smile (something that rarely occurs before 10am or my first cup of coffee, whichever comes first).

Anyhow, I watched my children today from something like an optimistic high (that I guess occurs quite naturally given an adequate amount of sleep) and I found all these things I love about them (who knew?).

So here are a few...

When the baby eats he very sweetly strokes the top of my shirt.  He looks like a spastic, one-armed swimmer and it drives me crazy.

At two years-old The Tine is finally putting all kinds of words together.  Today we walked out the front door and in a tone of utter exasperation he exclaimed, "Oh no, more snow," then trudged through with his head down as though submitting to the cold, barren winter that is now his lot in life.

At one point all three of us lay under the baby's playmat staring up as the lights hypnotically blinked on and off.  The Tine looked at me, Bady gazed up at him, and the three of us broke into the silly laughter of three girlfriends sharing an inside joke and a bit too much wine. (sidenote: I really hate the word girlfriends and don't know why I just used it).

The baby has this flirtatious way of looking up at you when you're holding him like he's finally found the love of his life and it melts my heart every time.

The Tine loves to dance and most recently mastered this one move where he steps forward and then backward over and over again, meanwhile pumping his arms in the air in completely different time to both his feet and the music.  Watching him puts a big, goofy smile on my face and makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world.   

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's all about getting by

The following is a letter I wrote to a friend in the final days of her second pregnancy. I think it serves as a quick snapshot of my life with two kids and,well, momhood in general.


I know this is supposed to be a letter of encouragement, telling you what a great mom you are (which is true) and how easy life with two kids will be (which is not true at all). But I realized as a new mother of two sometimes I just want to hear how other moms function with multiple children. With my first I tried to do everything perfect. Now that there’s two I’ve given up trying to be perfect and simply try to get by. It’s not always glamorous, but it’s my life. So here it goes...

The morning my water broke my husband jumped out of bed with excitement, just the picture of the perfect father thrilled to meet his new son. I in turn snapped at him to be quiet because, and I quote, “I’ll be so mad if you wake up The Tine.” Lovely.

I thought I would miss my son terribly during our stay at the hospital. Instead it felt like a mini vacation. Nearly 24 hour room service, more distraction-free TV than I watched in the last two years, a romantic dinner for two, and best of all, free babysitting... for both kids!

I let my newborn cry.

Last week my oldest son woke up with damp pajamas after soaking through his diaper (we ran out of the overnights weeks ago and still haven’t replaced them). I was so tired I simply changed his diaper and zipped those damp pj’s right back up. And despite the faint smell of urine surrounding him I didn’t change his clothes until after nap time nearly 8 hours later.

Later that day when I finally got him changed he wouldn’t put on his shirt. He walked around like a little construction worker for the rest of the day (his unusually long buttcrack hanging out of his diaper and everything).

When the baby wakes up he grunts like an agitated bear. It sounds like nails on a chalkboard in the middle of the night. I cover my head with a pillow until I can tune him out no longer.

The Tine ate chicken nuggets and watched an entire movie before 10am today.

I tried to cook dinner for the first time the other day. Somewhere between my oldest son literally hanging on my leg (arms and legs locked in a death grip) and the baby screaming from his infant seat I told them both I didn’t want to be a mom anymore.

Bady smiled that goofy toothless grin that’s so ridiculous I laughed out loud. I decided to stick it out as a mom a little bit longer.

When the baby poops in his clothes I don’t wash them right away. It almost always comes out.

On Bady’s first car trip to my parents he began crying five minutes from home. With my first son I would have pulled over the car, swept him out of his seat, and comforted him any way possible. This time I looked at my husband and said, “It’s just five more minutes,” at which point we turned up the music and averted our eyes from the rearview mirror.

I find most of my prayers these days center around getting the baby to sleep. People are suffering all over the world and all I can think about is how I want nothing more than a good eight hours.

"If you really want to hear about it..." and other great first lines

I keep putting off this first post thinking I need to write something particularly witty and clever... like the opening line of an essay or something. But I figure I just need to start or I'll never, well, start.  So I want to thank my husband for setting up this blog for me (also, I figured I should mention him, it being Valentine's Day and all).  You may want to know that I'm a 26 year-old, married mother of two boys (2 years and four months).  But as J.D. Salinger puts it, "... that stuff bores me...", so enough with the cookie cutter intro and on with the blog...
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