Smelling Those Roses

This time of year is odd. On the one hand, it’s summer. The kids are home and free, and the weather is nice (albeit hot here) and there’s lots of fun stuff going on.

On the other hand, school is right around the corner. It starts August 4th here. And once school starts, another year of my kiddo’s lives zips right past us. All the pick ups and drop offs and homework and field trips, and then the holidays and there’s no stopping the freight train that is time when school is in session.

I try to slow down and enjoy the days that we have. But the boys are fighting incessantly, and it’s to hot to go and do many of the things we want to. I’m simultaneously willing the school year to start, and not wanting it to at all.

The Timehop app on my phone shows me pictures from long ago, when Bowie was just a baby and a toddler. And I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, and how big my kiddos are now. Even in pictures from only one year ago, they seem so small in comparison.

People often talk about what the hardest parts of parenting are. Having a newborn. Successfully breastfeeding. Getting kids to sleep through the night. Getting them to even just lay down at bedtime. Making sure they eat healthy. Keeping siblings out of each other’s hair. But I think when we really boil it down, it’s how quickly they grow up. It happens in the blink of an eye.

Every day they rely on us less and less. And eventually, they will rely on us very little, if at all. This is the way of things, of course. We did the same thing to our own parents, and they to their parents, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

So, here’s to slowing down. Enjoying every moment. Playing Legos with them, letting them splash in the bathtub a little longer. Because these moments are fleeting. Gone in a flash. And even a good old fashioned sibling WWE match can be funny and memorable if you’ve got the right mindset.

“Worry is literally betting against yourself.”

Before I even had children, I was worried about how I would pay for their college education.

I’m serious.

I’ve always been a worrier. I worry about pretty much everything. Like, all the time. And, despite helpful tidbits of advice from non-worriers, such as “just stop worrying!” I still do. I can’t help it.

I’ve received a lot of help over the years for my worrying, really my anxiety, but I still tend to worry. A lot.

When I did have my first child, I was told by someone, or I read somewhere, that as a mother, “It’s your job to worry.”

But, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. It’s your job to enjoy their childhood before it’s gone. It’s your job to feed and clothe them, and provide for them. It’s your job to provide them with emotional support. But, it is not your job to worry. If you don’t worry, you’re not being a bad mother (or parent). You’re just a heck of a lot better at dealing with reality than us worriers.

Where did we get it in our heads that it was not only our responsibility to worry, but our job?! As if we were getting paid to be worried. If that were true, I’d be the richest woman on planet earth.

This is where helicopter parenting comes from: worry. Worry that they will fall down and get hurt. Even though when we fell down as children, our parents were like, “Are you bleeding? Don’t get it on the carpet.” Kids get hurt, it just happens. No amount of worrying will prevent it.

And we worry they won’t do well in school. When in reality, all kids do well in some subjects, and not so well in others, and it’s up to us to find the weaknesses and help our children in those areas. Not to accost the teacher and demand that they raise our child’s grades just because. We can help our children, but we cannot learn for them, and no amount of worrying will help us in that area either.

We worry about their health. But this too is pretty pointless. All we can do is take the proper precautionary methods, and the rest is up to the environment. We can try to shield them from germs, inoculate them against diseases, get regular check ups, watch for early signs of trouble. But, they will still get sick, regardless of our worry.

And of course we worry about providing for them. In a world where resources are growing scarce, and money isn’t always there when we need it, we worry that we can’t get what we need. But, there are resources if we really fall into trouble. All we can do is get through one day at a time, making sure we have what we need, and hoping for the best tomorrow.

Me telling someone not to worry is the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black. But I’m going to tell you anyway: stop the madness, stop worrying yourself sick. We can’t sit back and enjoy their babyhood and childhood while it’s here if we’re busy looking at what might or might not happen to them in the future. And we worry ourselves into a tailspin of negative emotions. We get so caught up in fear and worry that we start to be worried for other people’s kids too. And then it’s just too much.

Don’t let fear take over your life, especially not where your kids are concerned. Your job is to love them. That’s it, really.

worry

Things it’s a Good Idea for Moms With Boys to Get Familiar With

In honor of my good friend M who just had her first child, a gorgeous baby boy. I hope I don’t scare her too much! Just know you can handle it all, mama, that’s the magic of motherhood.

1. Poop. And the fascination thereof. The questions. You’re at the grocery store innocently swiping your credit card, and suddenly he asks you very loudly so the cashier and bag boy and fellow shoppers can ALL hear, “Mama, why was my poop green today, but brown yesterday? And sometimes it has corn in it.” Oh, and skidmarks. Not the road-meets-tire kind. Go to the store, get a bar of Fels-Naptha, (also on Amazon) it’s a miracle worker with the skidmarks, for realz.

2. Pee. There’s so much pee. They don’t get the “aiming” thing for quite a while. In the beginning, you can guarantee yourself a good, spa-quality face wash if you don’t cover that thing. In the mornings now, I completely disrobe Ferris before putting him on the potty, that way he can just rinse off before breakfast. Bowie still goes sitting down. Because, well, why rush that mess. I’ll be dealing with it soon enough.

3. Snot. Boogers. They usually end up smeared on you, or the nearest surface. No matter where they are. Public bathroom stalls, the dinner table, the Starbucks counter, the shopping cart, the back of their brother’s shirt, the art museum wall.

4. Dirt. It’ll be on them about 2.5 seconds after you get them dressed in the morning. Just get used to it. Don’t send them to school in anything white. ANYTHING. Dirt just becomes a way of life. What’s that saying? Boy: noise with dirt on it. ‘Bout sums it up.

5. So that brings up the next one: noise. It’s loud. And I don’t know how they can sustain it for the hours that they do. Even their general dinner table chatter is just LOUD. And, sorry to say, they do not come with a volume button. Between the rocket ship blast offs, lightning-speed car races, screaming fights with each other, throwing heavy objects around the house (not through a window if you’re on of the lucky ones) and the overall just bumping and crashing into things, and the the wailing and crying that ensues. And in elementary school, life becomes a walking commentary. “Did you see that rock? It was shaped just like this tool I have in Minecraft. Hey, can I play Minecraft at home? Because there’s this [minecraft type building/weapon/person/what have you] that I just HAVE to make. I’ll do my homework super fast. Madeline said it wasn’t a lot of homework. Maybe we can go to the park. Hey, are we going to the beach this weekend? Maybe Cal can come.”  Just go out and get the biggest, fattest jar of ibuprofen the Costco guy can legally sell you.

6. Sand. Take off their shoes outside, before entering the house. TRUST.

7. Matchbox and Hot Wheels. They multiply overnight when no one’s looking. They’re often left in a precarious place where a 6 a.m. bleary-eyed mom or dad will slip on them. And you’re required to know where The Red One is at all times. Not just a red one, THE red one, the chosen one, the Messiah of their 1,000 piece car collection. (Which changes daily, of course.) And until you have guessed which one it is found it, you’re the worst parent ever.

8. Legos. This I know is a multi-gender issue, along with the little cars. But, when you’ve got two kids of the same gender, they tend to get the same presents, only slightly modified. One gets a rocket ship lego building kit, one gets a race car building kit. And when they are inevitably destroyed, and the pieces get mixed up, let the fist fights and lego hurling begin. (And that’s how it happens that you step on one in the middle of the night and the pain makes you wish you were in hell instead.) I know I’m the no-sharing mom and everything, but I do bend the rules for this one. I try so hard to stick to the plan. “You can have that one very special orange piece which is essential to the integrity of the structure you’re building, when you’re brother is done with it.” But every once in a while frustration kicks in and I just say, “Give it to your brother. Do it. Give it now. Just do it.” Forced sharing, shame on me.

9. Penises. Now, I know you have to be semi-familiar with them to have landed yourself in this boat. But, just get used to hearing the word a lot. And having questions asked that you can’t answer. And watching them twist and bend and stretch in ways you never knew they could. There will be questions too about where’s mommy’s penis? What happened to it? Did you do something to lose it? Did you just never grow one? Any Puritan attitudes you had toward genitalia in general goes out the window completely.

10. The phrase, “Wow, you sure do you have your hands full!” They’ll say this when you’ve got one boy, but when you’ve got more than one, whoo boy. You laugh sheepishly and say, “yep, I sure do.” When what you really want to do is scream in their face, “Good, I’m so glad you can see that! Now would you mind cleaning up that pasta the one just spilled, and grabbing that gallon of  milk the other one is about to throw while I just try to GRAB A GODDAMNED BAG OF FROZEN CORN, FOR F#$%’s SAKE?!” And sometimes you might get that ballsy person that asks, “So, are you going to try for a girl?” Go ahead and slap them right across the face.

11. Milk, bread, cheese, milk, Goldfsh, yogurt, milk, cereal, did I already say milk? Have your job directly deposit your paycheck to the grocery store’s account. Though they be little, they eat like they’ve been starved for a week. Five times a day. And then ask for more.

12. But, the love. Oh, nothing I can say here will prepare you for the love you’ll have for them, despite all that stuff above. Like your heart is just split right open, and their little hearts are nestled inside. When they hug you and kiss you and tell you they love you, you are a puddle on the floor. Every damn time. Never gets old. Thank goodness for sons. Thank goodness for daughters. Thank goodness for parenthood.

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I get it now.

You know how before you have kids, you think you know everything about raising kids, and then when you finally have kids you laugh at how foolish you were before?

I’m kind of feeling that way again, only about having more than one kid. I used to read blogs and Facebook status updates and tweets about moms who forgot to do important stuff or couldn’t get stuff done around the house and could barely manage a shower some days, and never NEVER arrived anywhere on time, and I used to think, “What is wrong with these women? I have a kid, and I’m not doing that stuff.”

Ah, dear Beth, if only you knew what was in store for you with two kids in tow. I think I figured that adding one more kiddo to the mix wouldn’t be that big of a deal, considering that Bowie is already 4 1/2. But, I’m having to do a lot of juggling to take care of both boys, a lot more than I ever imagined. Plus, for the time being, Bowie has regressed a little bit, and “needs” help again with things he’s been doing on his own for a while.

Things suffer. Like getting to appointments on time, and getting the laundry done and daily showering. Before Ferris came along, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve been late for things. Now, I’ve been late to both of his doctor’s appointments and twice getting Bowie to preschool. And once picking him up from preschool. This is requiring some adjustment on my part, given my anal retentiveness regarding punctuality.

I’m getting better at it though. So far I’ve honed the skillz of Showering Before Husband Leaves for Work and Loading Dishwasher While Wearing Baby. And I’m not proud of it, but a few times I’ve pulled the old Distract Preschooler with Sesame Street While Tending to Baby trick. And I’m still riding on the coattails of “I just had a baby,” so people are pretty gracious about my tardiness.

I’m figuring out our routine too, slowly but surely. I know that Ferris will take a nice, long nap in his bed in the middle of the morning, leaving me free to do household tasks and cook lunch for Bowie. But, in the afternoon he is a bit of a Fussy McFusspants and has a hard time sleeping unless he’s snug in the Moby wrap or nestled in the crook of my arm. As long as I know it will be the same every day, I can deal with it. (Though it’s pretty common knowledge that as soon as you’ve learned your baby’s routines, they will change. Shhh, nobody tell Ferris that, ok?)

I thought the learning curve would be smaller, given that I’ve already mothered one kid all the way into preschooler-hood, surely I can do at least that again? But, still a pretty steep learning curve, hopping back and forth between each kid, tending to their needs. It’s a balance. A very careful balance.

So, if I ever made a snotty comment on your site about how surely you can find the time for a shower, then forgive me. I get it now. Are we cool?

Ok, I need a little advice.

Bowie picked up a new phrase at some point, and started using it quite a bit while we were on our trip.

“I hate you!”

As in, I hate you Mommy, for making my PB&J with different jelly than what we have at home. I hate you Daddy, for making me put on sunscreen before sitting out in the hot, Hawaiian sun. I hate you Grandma for making me listen to my mommy. I hate you Grandpa for telling me to listen to Grandma and Mommy and Daddy. I hate you random kid I don’t know for splashing me in the pool.

Hate hate hate. One of my least favorite words, over and over. And I have no idea what to do about it.

If I ignore it, he keeps repeating it, louder and louder, until the entire universe has decided that I’m a bad parent.

If I respond, in any way, he wins. He gets attention. Negative attention, but attention nonetheless. And I seriously don’t think he’s not getting enough attention otherwise, though who knows. Maybe some kids need more than others?

So, help me bloggy universe. I think that this is a relatively normal phase. But, I would still like to nip it in the bud. Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy hearing “I HATE YOU!” 300 million times a day.

What do the “experts” say? What have you tried? What works? What doesn’t? HELP ME.

Anyone Have a Pattern for a Suit Made of Bubble Wrap?

One of the hardest parts of motherhood for me is dealing with my anxiety, and trying to raise a child that’s not as anxious as me. It’s a constant struggle for me, trying to find balance between encouraging Bowie to spread his wings and try new things, and holding him back from potential dangers. And if I feel this way when he’s only 3 1/2, I don’t want to think about how difficult it will be when he’s 13 1/2.

The world is a big, wide, scary place with so many scary, scary things lurking around. But, it’s also a big, wide, beautiful, wonderful place bursting with new experiences, waiting to be had.

Kids have to go out into the world and experience life. But, they will inevitably get hurt, scared and disappointed. This is essential in the learning and growing-up process, but it’s hard for a mama to see her babies going through that. That quote that gets tossed around (and I’ve seen attributed to 3 different people, INTERNET. Ahem.) about parenthood being similar to having your heart on the outside of your body is no more true than when you talk about this. Your kid is sad, you are sad. Your kid is disappointed, you are disappointed. They hurt, you hurt. All parents know what I mean.

I know I should be nudging him forward, but my instincts, paired with my sometimes-crippling anxiety, brings out the protective mama bear in me, and I just want to be by his side, deflecting sadness and danger.

But I can’t! Not only is it impossible (we can’t possibly be everywhere at once) but it’s also not healthy. I don’t want to raise a nervous, clingy, anxious child. I really don’t want that for him.

Right now, I’m still working on finding the balance. REALLY working on it. But, the steps I’m taking are 1) letting him take more safe and calculated risks, which I know sounds like an oxymoron, but there is a way to do it; and 2) trying to teach him to think through his actions and imagine the possible consequences. He’s so young yet, but we talk through it. “If you ride your bike down the steps, what do you think might happen?”

Do you struggle with this too? What have you done to help find balance?

A Kind Word

We’ve all been there: you’re at the store, or the post office, or a restaurant, or just walking down the street. And your child chooses that precise moment to throw an unprecedented Tantrum of the Century over something seemingly innocuous, something you could never have guessed would cause such a fit.

This has happened to every. single. parent. You can’t deny it. Kids are just like that sometimes. So, if it’s such a common occurrence, what is with the typical response? A snicker, a sneer, a TSSSSKKK, all eyes glued to you as if you were a street performer. Never a sympathetic glance, never an “Oh, honey, we’ve all been there, it will pass.” Not even a passerby that can completely ignore it, this totally normal toddler behavioral moment.

People who don’t have kids think they would handle it so much better than you. People whose kids are grown think they did a better job, and their brains have selectively deleted the memories of their own children doing this. And even people who have young children, EVEN the people who have toddlers, think you’re a terrible parent.

And, what can your response possibly be? If you leave the establishment, you’re an ineffective parent and you let your kid walk all over you. If you spank them, you’re an authoritative parent that abuses their kid. If you try to talk to them, you’re a stupid hippie. If you do nothing, you’re lazy and raising a spoiled brat, not to mention forcing everyone in the vicinity to listen and watch. There is NOT ONE SINGLE THING you can do in response to a tantrum that will please everyone in the room.

It puts so much undue pressure on us. And we feel so isolated, when we should feel like we’re a part of the large, diverse parenting community.

But, there was this one time when a mother surprised the hell out of me. We were leaving Bowie’s swim lesson, it was only the second or third time we had been there. He wasn’t quite into the routine, and he didn’t understand that he had to leave because the lesson was over. He was kicking, flailing, crying and screaming at top volume as I tried to pull both him and myself out of the swimming pool, as we made the long walk to the locker room, as I tried to get my clothes on, as I tried to get his clothes on. And, I got the usual response: nasty looks, judgmental stares, barely-audible snarky comments.

At the moment I was about to give up, when I had only managed to get socks and a Pull-Up on Bowie (and he was in the process of ripping them off, still screaming), I sat down on a bench in the locker room, just to catch my breath. And a woman came over to me and said, “I just want you to know, I have been there. You are doing a great job of staying calm. Don’t forget: it will pass. I feel for you.”

I was so stunned, that all I could muster was a “thank you.” And, I can’t, for the life of me, remember her face. I’m sure that we still see her there, week after week, in the locker room. But, I can’t remember which mom she is, so that I can say, “hey, thanks so much for that pep talk that one time. I really needed it.”

I can’t remember her, so I can’t repay the favor. But, whenever I have the opportunity, I offer my sympathies to another parent in the throes. And I urge you to do the same. Try to recall a particularly bad moment for you and your child (because there IS one there) and put yourself into their shoes instead of judging them into oblivion.

What to do while kiddo bathes

Bowie is 3 now, so we figured he’s old enough to be in the bath unsupervised (because we obviously are the worst parents ever, according to some). (Actually, we’ve been doing that for a while now.) (Ahem.)

But, recently, a friend who is a new mom confessed to falling asleep on the bathroom floor because she was so bored (and so tired, understandably), she thought all you could do was sit and stare at your baby, who is now of the self-entertaining variety, yet still too young to be left alone. And, sleeping thereby defeats the entire purpose of accompanying your babe in the bathroom. So, here are my suggestions for ways to keep busy and/or stay awake while you supervise the bathtub.

1. Clean the toilet. (Or the shower, as in our case the toilet is in a separate room. what can I say, they made some wacky houses back in the day.)

2. Pluck your eyebrows.

3. Text, email, Twitter, Facebook, the point is, if you have a smart phone, use it. Or your Kindle, iPad, whatever technological device you have at your disposal. (Some people think this makes you a little too distracted, but I disagree. Just don’t get sucked into some hot drama on Hulu. And don’t make calls. THAT is distracting for sure.)

4. Cut, file and maybe paint your fingernails and/or toenails. Bonus: you can soak your feet and exfoliate!

5. Try out some new hairstyles or makeup looks in the mirror.

6. Floss. You’re too lazy to do it upon waking or before going to bed, so why not turn it into a time killer?

7. Shave. Not kidding. Just keep the razor away from babe, and take care of the peskiest, most time-sucking task of all.

8. Make lists. Make this week’s meal plan, your notes for the work meeting tomorrow, your new year’s resolutions, whatever it is you’ve got to get off your mind and onto paper.

9. If you sing or play an instrument: practice. Bathroom acoustics are notoriously awesome. And the kiddo will love it!

10. Knit. I personally don’t knit or crochet, but this one seems like a no brainer for this time slot.

There you go. No more wasted time (or falling asleep)!

Genius Mom Moment #492

Bowie has been somewhat picky since about 18 months of age. But lately, he’s taken it to a whole new level. He’s like, competitively picky, as if he were on a reality show: America’s Pickiest Eater. I mean, the list of the things he will deign to eat, is less than I have fingers. Which royally sucks when you’re trying to get just an ever so slightly tiny minuscule amount of nutrition into him.

One of the foods he will gladly eat, and not just eat but clean his plate of, is cheese pizza. Loves the stuff, gobbles it up. Which he comes by naturally, I could eat pizza in some form for every single meal for the rest of my life and be perfectly content. Ahem.

Anyway, I was standing in front of a fridge case at Trader Joe’s, waiting in line for my time to browse (why the heck are those stores packed morning, noon and night? Oh yeah, because they are the BOMB.) and I thought about making a pizza for one of our dinners that week. Then, I thought to myself, Self, instead of having Bowie mooch off of the pizza you make for yourself, you could pull off a little ball of dough, and make him his own tiny pizza.

And at that moment, I swear to you, the heavens opened up, and a voice came down and said, Thou shalt pull the whole package of dough into little dough balls, and thou shalt freeze said dough balls, and thou shalt be able to make a mini pizza for him whenever thou pleaseth.

I mean, this is GENIUS. I have thus far made about 10 of these mini pizzas for him since that lightbulb went off, and I am STILL amazed at how simple it is.

And the best part about pizza is you can hide pretty much anything you want to in that sauce. (If you go that route, I’m not looking to start a debate here, just letting you know what worked for this mom.) I’m a fan of spinach, kale, carrot or sweet potato puree. And even if I don’t have any of that at the ready, I will sprinkle on a little flax meal. And a little corn meal on the crust. And, use whole wheat dough. I’m telling you, the added-nutrition options are endless.

So, there you have it. This picky eating breakthrough was way too good to not share with my bloggy friends. 1 lb. bag of store-bought pizza dough, some ziploc baggies, a bag of shredded mozzarella and a jar of pizza sauce = like 10 meals!

I made a little pizza tonight, and I wanted to take a picture for the blog, but I forgot until I had already given it to him. I went into the kitchen to retrieve the camera, and this is what was left:

The Patience Wears Thin

Bowie’s latest activity of choice has been to find a tube of toothpaste, during the 10 seconds I am distracted from him each day, squirt a bunch of it into his hand, and smear it around the bathroom.

I have allowed this to happen, and had to take on the cumbersome task of cleaning it up (cumbersome? Yes. Why don’t you go smear toothpaste all over your bathroom and try cleaning it up, and we will discuss.), no less than 5 times (THUS FAR). And the only thing more annoying than  cleaning up a particularly sloppy and difficult mess left by a toddler is having to do it more than once.

I’ve tried all of that “they’re only little once” and “try not to focus on the moments when they are bad, but instead on the moments when they are sweet”. But, we all know those sweet moments are few and far between. And SWEET JESUS IN HEAVEN, I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO SMELL ANYTHING BUT COLGATE FOR AN HOUR AND HE’S WASTED ALMOST AN ENTIRE TUBE OF TOOTHPASTE AND LOOK AT ALL THE TOOTHPASTE STAINS ON OUR CLOTHES. Ahem.

Sometimes, I’m just not patient enough to hold in the anger. It comes spilling out like angry volcano lava.

But then, after all that anger finds its way out, and you have unleashed it all upon your child, that’s when you look down into those big, innocent eyes and realize crap. He was just a normal, curious toddler who liked the feel of the toothpaste squishing between his fingers, and now I’ve gone and hurt his feelings. This is all my fault anyway, for not paying attention while I was on the phone.

Motherhood is the single most frustrating thing on earth. I’m sure of it. Someone should study that.