Sentences I Never Said Before Having Kids

Motherhood forces you to explain the obvious, the absurd, and the disgusting on a daily basis.  Every so often you hear yourself utter a sentence that makes you stop and think, “Did I really just say that?”  For example:

-“If it stinks, stop sniffing it and go wash your hands.”

-“Please stop licking my sunglasses.”

-“I already told you, they don’t sell shrink-rays at Target.”

-“You can’t eat your ice cream until you finish your french fries.”

-“I’m sorry, but when your brother throws up on your shoes it’s time to leave the zoo.”

-“The mailman doesn’t want to see your wiener, please close your shades.”

What is your favorite parenting sentence?

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Confessions of a Tired Mom: Why I Decided to Sleep Train

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture.  Deprive someone of sleep for long enough and they will be willing to betray their country, confess to crimes they didn’t commit, and forsake every family member they have.  After nine-and-a-half months without a full nights sleep, I am positive that the key to taking down al-Qaeda is to have their top general care for a baby that refuses to sleep. In a few short weeks his brain will be so addled that he won’t remember to inform his operatives that the secret password was switched and he will leave the blueprints for the next terror strike on the table at Starbucks while he is waiting for his triple-shot latte.

Irritability…check. Memory lapses…check. Decreased reaction time…check.

Before you all judge me, I realize that Benjamin’s sleep problems are my fault.  They are the same problems that David had with sleeping when he was a baby.  Instead of letting them cry a little when they were infants, I picked them up, rocked them and nursed them to sleep.  At first I would be able to lay them down once they drifted off, but after a few months, both boys decided their favorite place to sleep was on top of me, and I accommodated them.  It wasn’t out of some strong maternal need to be in physical contact with my children at all times, but because it was the easiest way to get the most sleep at the time.  You would think I would have learned my lesson the first time, but I didn’t, and holy crap am I paying for it now.

Let me paint a picture of what I typical night is like for me now.  At 7pm I go to lay down with Benni in my room.  Since my husband gets home around 5:45 that means we say exactly three sentences to each other (“How was work? The kids are driving me nuts. Dinner is on the stove.”) before I have to get Benni to sleep.  Once in my room, I lay with Benni while he flops around, tries to climb over me to get out, and (on really fun nights) crams his fingers in my eyes.  Eventually, he settles down enough to drink a bottle and then falls asleep, my arm acting as his pillow.  I then spend about 30 minutes trying to get my arm out from under him without him waking up before I give up and resolve myself to a bedtime that even senior citizens would laugh at.  And then Benni wakes up.  At 11:00. And 1:30. And 3:30. Around 4:30am he feels pretty perky and tries to get up for the day.  I know that because he hits me in the face and then giggles as I scream “It’s time for sleeping!” I then repeat the process of getting him to go to sleep which takes about 45 minutes.  If I’m lucky, he will stay asleep until 6:30am, but I’m not usually lucky.  On a typical night, I estimate I get around four to five hours of sleep (cumulative not successive), which is nowhere near enough.

Given that I sleep less than an insomniac on a 5 Hour Energy binge, it’s pretty remarkable that I am still able to do all the things required of me as a wife and mother and remain fairly pleasant and coherent.  But if I am being really honest, while I do the things required of me, I don’t do them well.  Things slip by me, emails go unanswered, calls go unreturned, paperwork, bills, appointments are all forgotten.  Relationships, like my marriage, like the one with my oldest son, start to show the wear of too little time and attention.  And it’s all just too much for me anymore.  Something has to change. So I am going to let Benni cry it out.  You can think I am selfish or cruel if you want to (I obviously have had those thoughts about myself as well) but I have to get my life back, even if it’s just a free hour in the afternoon and a few consecutive hours of sleep at night.

While I know this is not going to be easy, I think it is the best thing I can do for me and for my family.  And when I feel my resolve start to slip, I will keep this quote in mind:

Signs of Stay-at-Home Burnout

All jobs are stressful and demanding, which is why there are labor laws in place to guarantee that the basic rights of workers are protected.  There are defined business hours, coffee and lunch breaks, and mandatory days off.  If you are lucky, your place of employment also offers vacation time and sick leave.

This cannot be said of stay-at-home-parenting, a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year job, working for the most demanding of all human beings: children.  A recent study found stay-at-home parents report being more stressed, more worried, and more depressed than their corporately employed counterparts.

photo courtesy of http://nickandzuzu.com/

Burnout is a real possibility stay-at-home parents need to be wary of.  Here are some signs that it may be time to schedule a spa day and leave the kids with the sitter:

-Your idea of a lullaby is repeatedly chanting “go to f*@#ing sleep” while checking your Twitter stream.

Seriously, go to sleep.
Image courtesy of amazon.com

-While looking for your keys, you lift up the couch cushions and reveal used Kleenex, a half-eaten lollipop coated in dog hair, and enough change to pay for a full tank of gas.  Not seeing your keys, you replace the cushion and go check the bathroom.

If you pretend you didn’t see it, it’s not really there.
photo courtesy of http://lifeasmom.com

-When your four-year-old drops the f-bomb at preschool, you furrow your brow, shake your head, and mutter “what has your father been letting you watch.” You then sneak a peak at the teacher’s face to see if she is buying it.

-Your secret nickname for the baby is “Mommy’s little burden.”

-You let your kids watch Human Centipede, thinking it is a nature special.

You’ll make it up to them by paying for their therapy bills when they are adults.
photo courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Human_Centipede

-You wear headphones all day so when your spouse asks why you didn’t pick up the dry cleaning like they asked, you can point to your ears, shrug and say “I can’t hear you.  I have my earbuds in.”

Were you talking to me?
photo courtesy of http://www.ipodhistory.com

-Headphones also drown out all but the most serious of your children’s screams.

-You feed your kids chocolate milk and cheese puffs for breakfast because you didn’t go grocery shopping the night before, instead opting to watch a very special episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County.

She’s the ideal housewife, unmarried and childless.
photo courtesy of http://www.cliqz.com

-You pack up all three kids and yourself into the car and race to the store at 6am when you discover that you’re all out of “mommy juice.”

photo courtesy of etsy.com

Living Life Out of Order

As I sit here, seven-and-a-half months pregnant and struggling to balance my all too limited time between finishing my last semester of college while caring for a very active four-year-old, trying to keep the house from becoming completely engulfed in miscellaneous piles of crap,and attempting to be something to my husband other than a grumbling, moaning weeble-wobble, I am wondering why I have never followed the traditional path through life. There is an order in which you are expected to do things–go to college, get a career, get married, have kids–and I am quickly realizing that the reason for the traditional order is that it is the easiest way to make it through life, a way to accomplish as much as possible with the least amount of struggle.  And as of right now, I am struggling.  The timing of my pregnancy will put me at 39 weeks along during finals, and the physical demands of the third trimester are kicking in. Big time. All I want to do is eat carbs and nap but instead I am conjugating irregular verbs in Spanish, developing a creative project the encompasses all of early British literature, writing unanswered emails to disgruntled pre-K teachers, packing lunches, washing clothes, dishes and dogs, and using every last bit of energy I have to keep everything from falling to shambles.  I can’t help but think, as I sit and take stock of all the things still left undone, if I have done myself a disservice by living my life out of order.

But then I wonder if I would value my education as much if I hadn’t spent years working too hard at shit jobs for too little money.  Instead of taking my parents up on their offer to let me live at home rent-free while I attended junior college, I decided to move into my own apartment and support myself. The decision seems silly and unnecessarily rebellious now, but at the time I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I was capable of taking care of myself.  Without the struggle of living on my own on a minimum wage salary, would I understand what a privilege a higher education is?  Would I appreciate the opportunities I will now have with a degree if I hadn’t spent a year of my life working at a gift store, sorting through disembodied hermit crab limbs in search of survivors?  Would I have chosen to follow my passion for writing if I hadn’t discovered, through years of forcing insincere smiles onto an alarmingly hostile public while making up back-stories to explain their foul dispositions, that I would be happiest working alone writing down the stories I told to myself?  Would I have learned as much if I had gone to college in my early twenties when I was convinced that I already knew everything anyway and my point of view was the only correct one?   I don’t think so.

I also wonder if I would have been able to appreciate the ease of my relationship with Casey if I hadn’t spent years of my life struggling to make someone fit.  Fully believing in the American view that true love is a something you fight for, something precarious, something you clung to when found, I spent years fighting for the wrong men. I pined over guys who didn’t call or care, always wondering what was wrong with me.  Now I know that it wasn’t me, but them, or just the combination of us together that didn’t work. But I struggled anyway because that’s what I believed you were supposed to do. Isn’t everyone always saying that relationships are work?  When I met Casey, the struggling stopped.  I met a man who did what he said he would do, always. I never had to question his feelings for me because I knew if he didn’t want to be with me, he wouldn’t.  I wonder if I hadn’t been so thoroughly sick of men falling short of my expectations if I would have been so smitten with a man who met every one.  The love I have with Casey isn’t something they would write a romance novel about. It’s subtle and comfortable. A friendship and deep respect for one another keeps us from ever drifting too far apart.  After years of  working to make wrong relationships right, I can fully appreciate a man who never makes me work for his affections.

And then of course there is the beautiful, amazing David; the person who finally gave me a period to put at the end of all my questions. He is the answer, the purpose for my life, the child I was meant to have. Being David’s mother has transformed me in ways that are beyond explanation.  He has made me a kinder, more empathetic and compassionate person.   He has redefined love for me from an emotion that nurtured my own insecurities to an emotion that eclipses my own wants and needs in the pursuit of his well-being.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for him, nor a day that I wish things were different.  Which is why it makes me laugh when I think of the self-assured twenty-five-year-old who confidently told the man who would become my husband that I was never having children. Casey looked at me then, and said with just as much confidence “yes you will. You’re going to be a great mom.” Back then I remember thinking “who the hell does this guy think he’s talking to? He doesn’t even know me” but Casey has always been able to see things in my that I am blind to.

My position on having children wasn’t because I didn’t like them, but because I felt I would never be able to put a child’s needs before my own. I also knew that parenting was a two person job (at least) and in my world, men didn’t stay with the women they made babies with. I saw the way my single-mother friends had to struggle and I knew I wasn’t as strong as them.  Parenting wasn’t something I was capable of doing on my own and so I decided it wasn’t for me.  Had I waited to have David until I felt prepared, until I was emotionally mature enough, financial stable enough, and secure enough in my relationship with Casey, then I would probably still be waiting. Sometimes life steps in and makes decisions for you, and that’s what happened with David.  What I didn’t know, had no way to know, is that parenthood is something that you just do, there is no preparing for it really. There are daily sacrifices that I make and I make them with no sense of martyrdom because the pay-off is so much more than anything I have given up. With another life on the way, I am not apprehensive but excited to be able to experience it all over again with the confidence I have built over the last four years.

Maybe my way wasn’t the most direct or efficient, but it was the path I was meant to take. There is something to taking the hard way, you learn more about yourself and you are instilled with a gratitude which puts the smaller struggles you face into proper perspective.  I know my out of order life isn’t  for everyone, but  I don’t regret a second of the struggle.

A Day in the Life

Lately I’ve felt like I get nothing accomplished all day.  It seems every night I go to bed with dishes left in the sink, a living room rug covered in dog hair and Cheerios, and a pile of laundry where my couch use to be. Seriously, this laundry pile is becoming an issue.  No matter what I do, it never gets smaller.  It’s like a beast out of Greek mythology, if you cut off its head, three more sprout in its place.

Laundromodus, the creature made completely of clean laundry that has taken over my couch.

I decided to approach this problem logically. I kept a log of everything I did for a day to see where all my time goes.  Here is what I discovered:

6:27 am- Am awoken by a thumping on my forehead.  Open my eyes to see David peering down at me while he whacks me in the head with his Nemo. And so the day begins.

6:30 am- Shuffle out to living room and make coffee.  Stand staring at coffee maker willing it to go faster to no avail.

6:35 am- Change David’s diaper and get him set up with Cheerios, a banana and a sippy full of milk. Sigh deeply as David throws Cheerios on the rug and eats them off the floor.

6:45 am- Finally, coffee is ready.  Sit down with a cup when I realize the living room smells rather disgusting.  Double sigh.

6:47 am- Change first poopy diaper of the day.  Take it to the outside trash so the rest of the house isn’t filled with the noxious odors held within it. Realize after I come back inside that I just wandered outside without a bra on for all the neighbors to see.  Triple sigh.

6:55 am- Return to my cup of coffee after washing my hands and realize my coffee is now cold.  Drink it anyway.

7:00 am- Make David breakfast.  I know what you are thinking, the floor Cheerios and banana were his breakfast, but D is like a Hobbit.  That was first breakfast, the meal he eats so that I can get a cup of coffee in my system before I have to make actual food.  Second breakfast consists of two eggs, a tortilla and grapes.

7:15 am- Wash dishes from last night and this morning while David eats. Once the kitchen is clean I realize I forgot to make Casey’s lunch.  Shit…

7:32 am- Clean kitchen for the second time after making lunch for Casey. Am beginning to realize the inefficiencies in my routine. May have found room for improvement.

8:00 am- After doing two loads of laundry and adding to the ever-growing pile of clean clothes on the couch, I go to the bedroom to wake Casey for work and put on a bra before I humiliate myself again. Come back into the living room to find David completely naked dancing in front of the television to the theme song for Curious George.  Decide it is easier to leave him that way and get a second cup of coffee.

8:15 am- Realize I made a mistake in not getting David back into his clothes when he pees on the carpet.

8:26 am- Rug cleaned and D dressed again.  Notice that funky smell from earlier is back.  Oh my God, what is it about a clean diaper that makes this kid need to poo?

8:37 am- Poopy diaper #2 changed and disposed of.  Pace around the living room waiting for Casey to come out so that I can get into the bathroom.  Irritation builds as I ponder the unfairness of having to wait to go to the bathroom while others just let it loose whenever the mood strikes them.

8:42 am- Casey is finally up and I head to the bathroom.

8:44 am- Am hit in the head by the bathroom door when David pushes it open yelling, “Mama.” I guess my alone time is over.

9:00 am Abandon the plan of logging my activities for the day when I realize I do way too many things to keep track of.

After looking back on my incomplete log, I realize that I do a lot in one day, even if it doesn’t look like it.  I have come to terms with the fact that my house is never going to be spotless and the laundry will continue to take up residence on my couch.  As long as we are able to open the door without a flood of unfolded socks spilling out on to the porch, I think we are in pretty good shape.

Dirty David

There is no delicate way to say it, David has some really disgusting habits. He likes to pick his nose and on occasion, eat it. His gas rivals his father’s in both volume and pugency, which is no small feat. He is constantly digging in any dirt he can find, be it in the garden, where I am sure the neighbor’s cat poops or in the cracks on the sidewalk. Even more stomach turning, I have caught him eating the accumulated filth out from under his fingernails. David has never seem a piece of floor food too disgusting to eat, be it lint covered Cheerios from under the couch or semi- moist popcorn off the kitchen floor.

With this laundry list of questionable personal habits it is hard to pick which is the worst, but I have the definitive winner. David likes to stick both hands down his pants, pull them out, and then sniff them. Keep in mind he isn’t potty trained so he is basically sticking his hands in the toilet and then smelling them. Sometimes while doing his scratch and sniff routine, he manages to shift himself around in a way that causes his diaper to leak and anything around him to become soaked in pee. Also, one of his favorite games to play is sticking his fingers in my mouth and eyes. Now his new past time has filled each day with the fear of an impending pinkeye outbreak.

I have been at my wits end with him and have heard myself scream, ” get your hands out of your pants” enough times to realize I needed a new approach. Yesterday morning I tried  something different- every time I caught David with his hands in his pants I would make him go to the bathroom to wash his hands because they were dirty. I had to do this four times in a row before he finally found another way to entertain himself. I thought this was going to be a really good way to break this habit. Then my issue of Parenting magazine showed up.

Apparently, it is natural for children to explore their bodies and you are supposed to just ignore them and let them do what they want. What you aren’t supposed to do is tell them what they are doing is wrong or “dirty”. So now I am damaging David’s burgeoning self esteem. Well excuse me, Parenting magazine, for not wanting my kid to be a pee-hand sniffer.

I don’t know what to do now. I don’t want to make him grow up with weird negative associations but I also don’t want him to have no friends because he always has his hands either down his pants or up his nose. Or both.

If anyone has any advice or suggestions, please let me know. I’m desperate.

Freeze Frame

I wish I could stop time, freeze life in this moment, hold on to it forever and have everything stay just as it is.  I watch as he runs up the hill, the thick grass scratching the soles of his bare feet, in an endless pursuit to capture and then release the ball.  He laughs as gravity gets hold of the ball and pulls it down, the blue and green pattern becoming a blur as  momentum builds.  Suddenly, he turns his attention to the sky and to the thick white clouds he has just now noticed.  He points and looks, amazed by what he sees.  I look up too and what I see fills me with a new appreciation for the everyday wonders that are forgotten and dismissed in adulthood.  He points again and looks at me, waiting for me to explain the world.  “Cloud” I say and he laughs.  Is it the word or that such a thing exists that causes him such elation?

He laughs again as he throws his ball up the hill, running after it without hesitation.  The sound of his laugh touches   me, how it rings with the  delight only a child can express.  There is no doubt, no hesitation, no holding back.  His happiness bursts out of him, radiates from inside and blesses everything around him with its purity.  He knows nothing of the world except joy, comfort and wonder.  Life hasn’t left its mark on him yet, hasn’t sullied him with its disappointments and cruelty.  He knows nothing of these things.  He is innocent.

And so let me  stay here in this moment with him. This day will soon become memory, fade and disappear  as if it never happened.  So much happiness  forgotten and lost to time.  Let’s linger here in the waning sunlight and discover the world all over again.   The rest of life can wait, let’s linger here.