step away from the baby

imagesCA1498B4I realize that I have this almost insatiable need to be nice.  I apologize for this or that and feel totally guilty if, in retrospective examination, I may have accidentally made some comment to someone that seemed rude or self-centered.  I have a need to be nice.  Almost at the expense of anything else—including my children.

So I pretty much surprised myself because I just got back from a brisk end of the day I-have-way-too-much-pent-up-energy-from-molding-my-3-year-old-all-day walk and while I was on it, I wasn’t nice.  I paused with husband, 3-year-old on his tricycle (with the parent push stick extended from it which is awesome because it actually ensures that little man will move at the pace that I need to move by this time of day), and baby girl in the Ergo at the park near our house that overlooks the ocean for a serene let’s all breath and watch the surfers moment (though that always sort of stresses me out also because then I start thinking how long has it been since I’VE surfed and when do I get to surf again) and some random park-goer saunters over to us exclaiming “BABY!” and reaches out with her knuckle and places it right on baby girl’s cheek and starts, literally, saying “coochy coochy cooooo!”

And did I mention that it’s FEBRUARY which means cold and flu season and remember baby girl spent 2 weeks in the hospital battling a respiratory thing that would have killed her in a 3rd world country and it’s TUESDAY and I’ve had a stressful day and pretty much no one wants to mess with me on Tuesday.  You see, Tuesdays are the only day that husband leaves at 7am and gets back at 5pm and I don’t have an ounce of help during the day.  No 3 hours of preschool in the morning on Mondays and Wednesdays.  No awesome little college buddy that comes to play with little man for 2 hours on Thursday mornings.  No nana and papa’s house on Friday afternoons.  It’s Tuesday.    And those of you who do this same dog and pony show EVERY day are playing your miniature sad violins on your two fingers to me right now for boo hooing as I am. But Tuesdays around here are long days and it was Tuesday.  So by the time 5pm comes on Tuesday, I clearly need to go for a walk and not talk to anyone for at least 30 minutes or I might just accidentally bite someone’s head off. I can happily come home and fix dinner and kiss sniffling baby girls cheeks when she gets tired and do prayers with little man before bed AFTER I have had a walk.

So when random stranger reached out for baby girl, I literally flinched, stepped back, and said “please don’t touch the baby since it’s flu season” and turned my back on her.  Yes, I was pretty surprised at myself.  I wasn’t nice.  Mama bear came out of her cave.  And there were people all around me who were watching and yes they noticed.  And yes, it WAS odd for her to reach out and she might have honestly been slow (as she seemed a little off in demeanor) or a foreigner with different personal space preferences and usually I would probably have humored her with a grimace on my face.  But not today.  Not on Tuesday.

I was so thrown off by the whole thing that I left little man and husband at the park and pounded my way home getting as much aggression out as possible on the pavement beneath me.  As I walked away, I processed the whole thing.  Why was I so thrown off by the incident?  Why was I typically more afraid of offending someone than harming my own child?  It IS February and a touch from random stranger could inflict a week or two of illness on my child and I will be the one up and night, suctioning snot out of baby girls’ nose, hearing baby cry in discomfort, and possibly passing on said sickness to little man and even husband and me.  And all the while random stranger would be happily on her way not experiencing any of the consequences inflicted on my family because I was nice.

And interestingly, when husband got home he told me he was proud of me.  Maybe it’s not as important to guys to be nice.

A friend of mine from church told me how she returned after a long day of work to her 7-month-old at home with the nanny and the TV was on and she didn’t like it at all but she didn’t say anything.  She was being nice.  But gosh darn it, she’s paying the nanny and she’s not paying the nanny to have the TV on with her 7-month-old.  A 3-year-old would be different but there’s no reason to have a TV on with a 7-month-old.  My friend was nice.

How often am I nice—are we nice—at our own children’s expense?

Another friend just told me a story that one-upped me.  I was relaying my incident to her and she said, “I’ve got one for you!” and continue to relay a story of going to the market with her 8-month-old attached to her in a front carrier and outside a homeless man asked her for some change and being a better woman than I am, she took out a dollar and gave it to him (he can’t buy alcohol with a dollar, she says).  As she handed it over, the man reached forward and instead of taking the dollar, patted her 8-month-old with his adorably awesome spiky Asian hair right on the head.  My friend said she saw the hand coming at her in slow motion—and still today sees it in her mind in slow motion still coming at her—and there was nothing she could do about it.  But being the amazing person and science nerd that she is, she decided that since touching babies raises our endorphin levels, she probably increased the happiness in that man’s day and how often does a homeless man actually get to touch a baby anyway?  Like I said, she is a way better woman than me.

I  remember when little man was a baby and I was in my new mom freaked out fury and I would try to go to the grocery store with him in tow in the tiny window of time I knew I had between feeding and naptime when he would be awake and happy and dashing through the store bulldozing my grocery cart in front of me and inevitably a white-haired little old lady with all the time in the world would start making goo goo faces at baby little man and I would have to stop. Stop.  Stop and hold my clenched fists while chunky-cheeked little man would smile and grace her with his butterball giggles.  And I knew that baby little man would probably be the highlight of her day and she would tell all her girlfriends over bridge that afternoon about the cutest little blonde baby boy she saw at the market and all I wanted was to continue my 100-yard-dash through the store grabbing whatever shelf items found their way into my cart through haphazard arm spasms.

There were days where I would grit my teeth and breathe and be nice.  I would be still because I knew the pleasure I was allowing was far more important than my agenda even if it meant that baby boy might fall asleep in the car and who knew if he would transfer to his crib that day or suddenly be UP and my attempts at the work I needed to do would have to be postponed until little man’s bedtime (and who knew if I would actually have energy then anyways?).  But there were days when I would also smile at the little old lady and keep bulldozing my cart through the aisle because I knew that’s what I needed to do to keep my sanity for the day.

Nice.  So yes there are times to be nice.  And sometimes being nice is the right thing to do even if it’s the hardest most frustrating thing for me in the moment.  But I also think there are times when we don’t need to be nice.  When being nice is coming at the expense of our children then maybe being nice isn’t the most important thing.  Maybe, sometimes, mama bear needs to come out of her cave.

the train wreck mom

trainwreckYou’ve all seen her: the train wreck mom.  She’s got the screaming child, the haggard expression, hair disheveled, glassed over eyes.  We other moms present avoid eye contact and awkwardly turn our backs to pretend whatever seen unfolding behind us is occurring in the far away land of incompetent momville where we have never traveled.

I say “we” because I have worked very hard on (and of course prided myself on) not being that mom. Present company was once overheard saying, at a park to her other mommy friends, when a child was erupting in crazy tantrums behind us, “I’d spank that.”  And though said company has already admitted to not being in the spanking camp (though she might have actually spanked that child), she oozed with bride when uttering those remarks.

See little man clearly has his moments but his waywardness is a little more sly and sneaky.  Yes mommy, I know you told me not to touch the salad tongs but if I move really slowly and tuck them under my arm here, you might not notice they are missing.  Or in the let’s see if I can send mommy to the looney bin with my excellent use of vocabulary.  Little man: mommy, can I touch baby girl’s foot? Mommy: no, when you are sick, you can’t touch her. Little man: can I touch her arm? Mommy: no. Little man: can I touch her head? Can I touch her eyes? Can I touch her toes? Can I touch her knee? Mommy: NO YOU CAN’T TOUCH HER ANYWHERE WHEN YOU’RE SICK!!!

So since little man, by nature, is not the screamer, climber, biter, hitter kind of kid, I’ve generally been able to maintain a pulled together public appearance for most of his existence.  We do sit timeouts anywhere, explanations (but no negotiations as our pediatrician has instructed us), and “yes mommy’s” before we can get up and that has generally worked for little man.  And for almost three years it has just been me and little man and man on man strategy works pretty well there—one parent, one kid, okay, we’re good.

Enter baby girl (cue ominous music in background please).  So last week one of Axel’s buddies in his preschool had a birthday party after class in the school garden. Super fun.  We were excited. Now little man had a cold and some general malaise that went with it and we have just potty trained him and and as I’ve mentioned, he hates to go poop in the potty now so he’ll hold it for days and just start an endless diatribe of “I’m uncomfortable! I’m uncomfortable! I’m UN-COM-FOR-TA-BLE!” and he had some diaper rash on top of all that so it was kind of a bad day for little man. But I strap baby girl into the front carrier and grab little man’s lunch pail (and nothing else because sometimes I just can’t stand schlepping everything around and baby girl had on a fresh diaper so we’re good) and we go to join the party and there is an actual train on wheels driving around in the cul-de-sac and little man is wide-eyed open-mouthed amazed and staring at the train but he won’t ride it because he’s my cautious kid that just wants to watch it but he can’t even focus on that because he starts his ceaseless “I’m uncomfortable’s” and he’s scratching his little rear and a couple mommy acquaintances I haven’t seen for awhile and am super excited to talk to are coming up to try and chat with me but little man is moaning and scratching and baby girl, who hates to be confined, starts squawking and suddenly I’m that mom.

And then I’m excusing myself and running to the bathroom because little man is suddenly screaming “I HAVE TO POOP I HAVE TO POOP!” which hasn’t happened in three days so yes we are all running—baby girl squawking and bouncing around in the front carrier and little man streaking back towards school.  But in the bathroom he suddenly won’t go (I get heebee geebies from public toilets too, so can I blame him?) so we’re back at the party and I un-strap baby girl because she’s squawking LOUDER and holding her in front of me so she can face out which she much prefers but now little man is dancing around yelling “I HAVE TO GO PEE PEE!” and we were just in the potty and I’m not going back there so I hand baby girl to a fellow mommy and pull down little man’s pants and aim him at a shrub but he won’t go so up go the pants, take the baby back, and then little man spies the cupcakes.  Cupcakes!

Now we’re on the broken record of “I want a cupcake I want a cupcake I want a cupcake” and no matter how many times I attempt to school little man in the art of courteous linguistic skills (mommy, may I please have a cupcake), he always resorts to the “I WANT A…” until coached otherwise.  But I tell little man he can’t have a cupcake until he has eaten his sandwich so he opens his lunch box, has exactly two bites, and then he’s holding the front of his pants again and yelling “I HAVE TO GO PEE PEE!” so I hand baby back to mommy friend, feeling like such the rookie mom for unhitching baby girl from her front carrier in the first place and also not bringing the stroller, pull down little man’s pants and aim him at a bush again and just when he’s finally in mid-stream, I hear infant volume increasing behind me and know it’s absolutely my child beginning to let loose (remember, code name: the screamer).  Though baby girl may not be understood by the general population, I my mind I know she’s yelling “YOU’RE NOT MY MOMMMMMMYYYYYY!” and I look back and kind helpful mommy friend has a panicked look on her face and is holding baby girl out in front of her who is red-faced fist-clenched fury.  So I pull up little man’s pants, grab baby girl, and I can see the circle of mom’s widening around me—increasing the space between them and present falling apart mom.  Yes, I’m that mom.

I apologize to mommy hostess for our short stint at the party and begin to pack up scratching little man and now quieter but still squawking baby girl and hand little man his lunch box to carry who then decides it’s finally a great time to eat his sandwich and opens said lunch box himself and apples and sandwich and water bottle fly out and I’m chasing them as they roll in various directions and can I be any more of a train wreck?  Then hostess mom asks if we want to take a cupcake and little man is suddenly again fixated on the cupcakes and I’m about to just say no but she adds, “they’re gluten free!”  Now as I’ve been trying to regain the last bit of my once svelte figure, I’ve been doing the whole gluten free thing on weekdays and I do have to say it’s been helping—maybe just because I’m not loading up on French bread when we go out to dinner.  But anyway, I’ve been embracing gluten free so as soon as hostess friend uttered those words, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine again and a chorus of mystical hallelujahs encircled me.  Then she added, “do you want to take two?”  I almost asked if I could take the whole box but settled on two perched inside a red cup (oh how the mighty have fallen—if my single friends could see me now with cupcakes tucked inside my red cup instead of some yummy beach-banned beverage) and tucked my tail between my legs and dragged self, baby, whining little man, and two cupcakes in a red cup back to my car.

When I recounted the experience to husband that night, he simply said, “we all have our train wreck days.”  That was it.  We all have our train wreck days.  Just because I have a train wreck day doesn’t mean I am a train wreck mom.  And just because I see a train wreck in motion doesn’t mean that mom is a train wreck.  We all have our train wreck days.  So I apologize to you, mom at the park with the child I wanted to spank.  I’m sure you’re doing the absolute best you can and I applaud you.  I’m sorry for being judgmental and oh so prideful.

So today when after another eventful swim practice, sitting outside with girlfriend and all of our children in song-and-dance tow, a little girl of another mommy started to unwind, I introduced myself and said, “don’t worry, I’m in your club.”  She smiled gratefully. I’ve learned my lesson: we mommies need to stick together.  Because we all have our train wreck days.

So carry on, mommy friends, you are awesome at what you do!


frazzled 2Mommyhood has the ability to frazzle me like nothing else (way more than the events that I plan). I don’t know if it’s the loss of control, the fear of a little person somehow dying, the enormity of what it means to have a little person depend on you completely (not just for health and all the things I do to ensure my child will of course be a genius—just like every other child—but weren’t our parents the ones who scarred us the most? Could I be…?) or somehow all of it?

Today I had swim lessons for little man. I scheduled them late morning so baby girl could be at home for her morning nap. Little man could sleep anywhere anytime when he was a baby but not baby girl. She’ll fall asleep for a bit but as soon as a sound wakes her, naptime is done! Time to play! She really needs to be at home in her bed for a decent nap. SO we had been home all morning, which is fine, but by 11am both little man and I are ready to be OUT of the house.

So we get up baby girl (please don’t scream at me but I’m not going to feed you until we get there), rush off to swim, load the baby in the stroller when we get there, grab the towel and swim bag and lunchbox, rush inside because of course I’m not early, strip little man, pull on swim pants, throw him in the pool, get out baby girl (who I think is still in shock from being transferred from bed to bucket and is looking at my wide-eyed), grab nursing cover, and sit. For 10 minutes. Then “mommy I have go poop poop” because I’ve just potty-trained little man and he’s still terrified of poop and holds it as long as he can so nice fellow mommy (who I can’t remember your name, but your awesome) sitting next to me says “I’ll hold the baby” and little man and I dash off to the restroom with him wailing all the way. I mentioned he hates to poop. We get there, I strip off swim pants, am now covered with chlorinated water, sit him on the toilet. Nothing. “Mommy, I’m all done!” So back to the pool, take baby girl, sit down. Five minutes later, “mommy, I have to go poop poop!!!!” Hand baby back to nice neighbor, chase wailing little man back to toilet, pull pants down not quite as fast because I’m sure it’s another false alarm and “oh no!” says little man as poop falls on the floor as I’m transferring him to the toilet. Really? And I can’t traumatize child further so of course I tell him it’s ok and accidents happen and I’m using toilet paper to scoop poop off the floor and back to the pool we go with smiling proud little man because he pooped in/close to the potty.

And then class is over and I put baby girl in her stroller with a toy dangling in front of her and strip little man and he and BF little blondie girl are squealing and splashing each other, and my girlfriend, blondie’s mom (who has her 1-year-old strapped in his stroller) are washing and wrangling and dressing kiddos and combing hair and baby girl is squawking because she doesn’t want to be in her stroller (or confined in anything because she always wants to wiggle) so I take baby girl out of her stroller and her back is covered with light liquidy brown stuff and really? So now I’m stripping baby girl and praise God I have another outfit for her in the diaper bag and now we’re all outside and kiddos are running around with sandwiches in hand because they don’t want to sit and baby girl is bobbing like a turtle on her blanket and 1-year-old is investigating the bark on the ground and then blondie girl whispers in a voice that cannot be heard above the din “I have to go pee pee” and suddenly her clothes are all wet. And little man thinks it’s a fabulous idea as well but at least he yells “I HAVE TO GO PEE PEE” and I unbutton pants and he’s grinning from ear to ear as he waters the bushes—much to the wide-eyed amazement of blondie girl who at the moment would really like to be able to do the same thing. Then blondie girl is running around in new underpants and girlfriend and I are wrangling kids into cars and baby girl is squawking because she really doesn’t want to be back in her car seat and my stress level is inching up my legs into my belly, up my neck and I yell at little man who is half way down the block to get into his car seat now (please!) and I load baby girl (squawking louder) and look and little man’s in the front seat pretending to drive and I pull him out and it takes all I have in me not to pull down his pants and give his little behind a wack.

Now I’m not opposed to spanking when it’s done right (as in not pulling down your child’s pants in exacerbation and giving him a wack) but it’s not something husband and I have decided to do and we’re not home so I can’t give little man a time out in his bed which is what I would do so I breathe deeply, hold little man’s shoulders and look in his eyes and say “I am very frustrated right now” and continue with how when he runs away from me I get scared and when I ask him to do something he needs to do it because mommy is in charge, not little man. And finally, we’re all loaded and I’m driving home and I’m trying to focus on traffic while baby girl still squawks and…really, is this my life right now?

Does living in the land of mommyhood just mean being frazzled? Choosing to be thankful for the sweet moments with each of my little people I have every day helps (and actually looking for those moments some days) and appreciating the gift that each of them are in my life helps. I wouldn’t trade being their mommy for anything and I absolutely adore them both (most days). I don’t want to change my life and it’s not like I want to even add more childcare—it’s not that I’m trying to get away from my children or spend less time with them. So why are there so many days where I feel like I have half a brain and my stress level is between my ears?

I have a 41-year old girlfriend who tried for 7 years to get pregnant and/or adopt and after 7 years finally adopted a little boy internationally and miracle of miracles was pregnant 3 months later so she went from 0-2 kids under two in one year and feels all this guilt because she cried for and prayed for and begged for children for so long and now some days she wants to throw them both out the window.

Does living in the land of mommyhood just mean being frazzled? I think part of it is the loss of control.  And for a type A person like me, that’s hard.  I have two want-based illogical little human beings on my hands that depend entirely on me for health, happiness, and safety.  Little man wants to run down the street because it’s fun.  Little man wants to climb into the driver seat and pretend to drive because it’s fun.  His ideas are based on wants and curiosity…which at times is really fun but because I’m trying to keep him safe and mold him into a little person that understands boundaries, at times it also drives me C-RAZY!  And throw a squawking need-based (hungry! tired! uncomfortable!) baby girl into the mix and there’s some days I think I should be checked into a looney bin (at least it would be quiet there and I could shower in silence and absolutely alone!).

Helpful husbands, good girlfriends, red wine, Nashville, prayer, date nights, occasional breaks, cute jeans, and chocolate all help.  But I think that being frazzled is just part of my stage.  The I’m thankful for but still going to be frazzled stage.

super mom

Super momNow  though I have already admitted that in some ways, I’m trying to do everything, I am definitely not trying to be super mom.  There is a caliber of mommyhood that I will never achieve and really don’t even want to try to attempt.  I don’t understand who these women are that bake cookies in the middle of the night so their elf on a shelf can make a naughty mess.  Do they have full time nannies and daily “cleaning friends” (as we call them in my house because they are my best friends every other week when they arrive to sprinkle magic happy marriage and happy mommy dust in their wake)?  Because I can tell you the only thing I want to do at 8pm when both of my children are snoring away is to turn on my TV and flop on my couch with a glass of zinfandel and lose myself in Nashville or Hawaii 5-0 with the hubby.

So I am definitely not trying to be a perfect mom. I won’t ever be the woman that made all her own baby food or cooks a meal from scratch every night or sews 30 costumes for the school musical or heads up the gala committee every year—as much as there are many days that I would like to be that person.  But once in a blue moon neurotic over-caffeinated moment I get the grand idea to make something.  Maybe it’s a brief rebellion against consumerism or this lofty attempt to live up to the abilities of my hippie mom who did grind her own baby food, did cook dinner every night, and kept me and my brother in cloth diapers (little man had exactly 5 months of cloth diapers and baby girl has had exactly 0).

So a year ago December I decided I was going to knit a Christmas stocking for little man.  I mean, how difficult is it to make a Christmas stocking?  Just because the pattern is titled “intermediate” (and I didn’t even know what to do with the stocking pattern anyway so I just kept it buried in my yarn bag) and I didn’t actually own any knitting needles and didn’t know the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch, I decided it was a great idea to knit a Christmas stocking.  So four trips to the Knitting Cottage later, two sets of circular needles, and three start-overs, I finished little man’s Christmas stocking…in November the following year.  “I didn’t know you knew how to knit,” my friend said when I proudly texted out pictures of the completed version for my friends to ooh and aah over…just in time for Christmas this year (my very metro guy-friend gave me the highest of highest compliments when he exclaimed: “It looks like it came from Anthropology!”).  “I still don’t,” I told her, holding the completed stocking.  “I watched videos on you tube.”  For any of you who get similarly inspired, there’s an amazing lovely blond woman who has step by step videos to follow.  I still can never remember her website but google “very pink Christmas stocking” and you’ll get there.

And then for little man’s birthday I decided I was actually going to bake his birthday cake.  I sell myself to my clients as being at least somewhat creative so dog gone it, I’m going to make a cake!  For birthday #1, a local bakery provided a beautiful pirate ship cake.  For #2, I headed to Williams Sonoma with a gift card I had been holding onto for 5 years since husband and I got married in search of cake pans.  I’m such a cheapskate.  When I showed up at the counter with two large round 16” pans, I was greeted by the raised eyebrows of the salesman. “I’m investing in 16 years of birthday cakes right here,” I said.

Then armed with my girlfriend’s mom’s amazing carrot cake recipe (she too being from the hippie generation that made their own cakes), I set to work.  Though I confess to buying pre-shredded carrots from Trader Joes, I did mix spoon, bake, cool, frost, and decorate all on my own.  And when I was done, I swear light shone all around me and a chorus of Hallelujah was sung by mystical voices as I held up my creation for the world to ooh and aah over.

Do I really do all of my parenting for the ooh’s and aah’s of those around me?  Maybe that’s what my problem is.  My mommy group friend told me that in a pole, 85% of mom’s admitted to judging other moms.  And, as she says, the other 15% were lying.  She’s right.  I judge.  We judge.  We judge each other’s birthday cake creations, the way our children come dressed to school or church or show up in pajamas in the store, the way our kids listen or don’t listen to us, if they nap or don’t nap, or if they can do a 1000 different feats by themselves or, horror of horrors, are not there yet.  I can’t tell you how my slow moving, methodical, watchful, cautious but deliberate kid is the bane of my existence sometimes.  No, he’s 9 months and not crawling yet.  No, he’s 16 months and not walking by himself yet.  No, he’s 2 and doesn’t jump off the side of the pool yet.  No, he’s 2.5 and doesn’t want to go down the big slide yet.

Little man does not do things until he is ready. I’ve had to own his cautiousness and watchfulness and I tell him he’s perfect just the way he is.  He is exactly who he is supposed to be and my job, I believe, is to discover who he is and let him be who he is—not to compare him to his fantastically crazy best friend who had him in a choke hold in the pool the other day…and did I mention that she’s a girl?

My constant refrain to myself is let him be who he is and discover who he is.  A wise older mom-friend of mine recently said that “you can never be a good mom, you can only be a faithful mom.”  A faithful mom.  I can be faithful to my beliefs and be present with my kid and, to me, that’s being faithful. For some of us, being faithful involves religious faith and for some of us it does not.  But I think we can all figure out what it means, for each of us, to be faithful to our kids and family and at least that’s what I want to strive for.

At times I probably need to ignore what my mommy friends from little man’s pre-school or from church or from chit chat’s at Starbucks say, because when I start to compare is when I start to feel like a failure and the never attainable goal of being super mom begins to creep in again.  Though I do somewhat enjoy my psychotic over caffeinated super mom moments, (I did just proudly parade around my 2nd birthday cake creation for little man’s 3rd birthday and am almost done with baby girls’ Christmas stocking…at least I’ll be done in time to hang it next year), I realize I am way less jittery and probably significantly more enjoyable to my husband and babies when I focus on being faithful mom instead.

Judgment, comparisons—what do I really get out of them?  What do we get?  Aren’t all of us mommies really on the same mission anyways?  Aren’t we all just trying to love our kids and do our best to point them in the right direction?  And, if possible, look fantastic doing it!

the screamer

ScreamI’ve nicknamed her the screamer. Though she is only 4-months old, she has the ability to silence a room and bring a shock of terror across her mother’s face. She’s my second child but I’ve had way more panic attacks with her than I ever had with little man. One person told me that we all think we’re great parents until we have our second child.

For baby girl’s 2-month appointment, I brought in a whole list of questions to our pediatrician. I laughingly told him that I didn’t have any questions with now 3-year-old little man and here I am with a laundry list for baby girl. He told me that’s common. Essentially, we don’t know what we’re doing with our first child (read: deer caught in head lights) and with our 2nd, we expect everything to go like it did with our first. When it doesn’t (as of course it never does)…

If baby girl had been like little man (and yes, there are snickers out there among you readers who secretly prayed we wouldn’t—just couldn’t—have another baby like little man because it just wouldn’t be fair), she would have been on a perfect eat-wake-sleep 3-hour nursing schedule by a week old, happily cooing away when awake, yawning and closing her eyes anywhere, sleeping in anything when it was nap time, and laughing with belly laughs whenever you made a face. That was little man. That is not baby girl.

Now baby girl also hasn’t had the same entrance into life as little man. At one week old, she caught a cold from her big brother which put her in the NICU for 2 weeks and caused her mom and dad and grandparents and whole community really to cry and pray for her to pull through. The first few days, I didn’t know if she would. She was forced to wear a full breathing mask, stuck with an IV, later graduated to a feeding tube and oxygen fastened to her tiny little nose, finally allowed to bottle feed and then glory hallelujah after a week allowed to nurse. We spent two weeks trying to have someone with baby girl as much as possible and juggling care for little man and I was pumping every 3-4 hours around the clock and crying more than I have ever cried. After 2 hours of sobbing in the ER on the first day, I asked a nurse for a tissue. He held out a box for me to take one. I glared at him and took the entire box. Quickly a mountain of white mascara-filled mess piled up next to me.

There were times in the NICU that I could not comfort baby girl. But I chalked that up to the presence of tubes and wires attached to her. They actually had her on baby valium the first couple days. I learned she was a fighter. And I learned she was a screamer. No sweet little waa’s were emitted from this thing. No, fully belly screams, face bright red, little fists clenched—that was baby girl.

When we finally were able to bring her home from the hospital, the screaming didn’t stop. It actually got worse. Looking back, I almost can’t believe that time period was only about 3-4 weeks long because every day, every moment of those weeks seemed like an eon. I wore her constantly because it was the only way I could get her to stay calm or to sleep. And I’m no spring chicken anymore! Every muscle in my back hurt. My husband and I took turns walking and walking her to get her to sleep and we would ever so slowly unclip the sides of the Bjorn and inch her down towards her upright little bed praying the eyes would stay closed. We each wore these wide-eyed fear-stricken looks and were hesitant to ever take her out in public. My husband stashed ear plugs everywhere. The neighbor offered to start leaving beer out for his nightly walks.

And I had a birthday in the middle of all this. We tried to go out for dinner with my family and it dissolved into a mixture of screaming, pacing, shoveling down our fancy meal, and a wide eyed look from my brother and his wife which I’m sure translated into a conversation involving “we are never having kids” on their way home. On my actual birthday, I tried to take baby girl to the mall for a few hours in a desperate attempt to get out and pretend my life was normal. More screaming.

I had a pitty party on my way back from the mall. All I wanted was a a mani/pedi and a few moments of quiet and it was my birthday gosh darn it and I’m turning 37 which isn’t old but it sure isn’t young either and here I am stuck with this little thing and why won’t she stop screaming! Why won’t she Go the F*#% to Sleep (a book which I had totally laughed off with little man since the writer surely didn’t do any sleep training with his child…unlike yours truly amazing mom who did). I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to yell at baby girl go the F to sleep!!!

But then as I was driving back from the mall (with intermittent crying from the back seat), I reminded myself that I’m trying to focus on daily counting the gifts in my life. I read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts last year and was so affected by her challenge to daily decide to be thankful for all the little gifts that we receive every day that I’ve been really trying to live like that. I’m thankful that I have a baby girl—a now healthy baby girl (I adore my little boy but so so wanted a little girl too). I’m thankful that she smiled at me yesterday—even if it was gas. I’m thankful for my healthy energetic little boy (even if he had 6 time outs yesterday and threw a hot wheel at me last week). I’m thankful for my hard working so involved husband. I’m thankful that I fit into all my clothes, damn it (the only good thing about all this stress!). I’m thankful for my friends who brought me lunch at the hospital and the force of women from our church who delivered dinner nightly for 2 weeks. I’m thankful that I still have my milk supply after all that pumping. I’m thankful to be exactly where I am at 37: two beautiful children, a good man for a husband. So what if this birthday sucks and I can’t go out with friends this year. I’m sure I will next year.

I resigned myself to having a colicky kid. Now, I am a sleep trainer in philosophy and even with baby girl, I was trying to get her on a 2-3 hour eat-wake-sleep cycle. I had decided that getting her to actually sleep was more important than where she slept and focused entirely on the routine, even if it meant carrying her for hours a day. But I couldn’t actually try to get her to put herself to sleep without any sleep aides or crutches because that only dissolved into red face fist clenched fury. So for all of you out there dealing with colic or reflux, you have a different animal on your hand. I get that now.

About the time I was going to pack a bag and run for the hills, my mom sent my husband and me an article saying that probiotics had given relief to some colicky infants. The user reviews were so amazing that husband left work and bought BioGaia drops that afternoon. During a scream we sprayed them into baby girl’s mouth. The directions said they would take 3 days to work. The next day I was texting husband pictures of the video monitor showing baby girl asleep in her own bed. In her bed! Not on me! I had rocked her to actual sleep (not intermittent bouts of sleep and screams) and been able to transfer her to her little upright bed and she had stayed asleep! Glory hallelujah.

Within days I had a calm, smiling baby. My logical husband realized baby girl had been on antibiotics in the hospital which would have stripped her gut of all bacteria—good and bad. Babies have immature digestive tracks, as it is. So she really wasn’t an ornery baby, just an uncomfortable one. Now we were sad. When we mentioned our results to medical people around us, they would respond, “that makes sense—probiotics are a good idea.” Why didn’t anyone freakin tell us this four weeks ago? So to anyone with a colicky baby, two words: probiotic drops. They might not help your kid…but if they do…the world will suddenly appear in color again.

A month later we were out to dinner with a mass of extended family the day after Thanksgiving and baby girl slept in her stroller for part of the time and was then passed between me, husband, and nana gracing us all with her sparkly-eyed wide-mouth smiles. As we left, an older couple flagged husband and I down and said, “that is the quietest baby ever.” I looked at them with an incredulous you’ve got to be kidding me look. Driving home, I told husband that I still think of her as the screamer and still feel like any moment she’s going to erupt. But she only does so on occasion now and for consolable reasons (hungry now tired now).

So for us, probiotics were a miracle. I’m so thankful that the hours of screaming a day are behind us. And I guess I can say that I’m thankful that the screaming reminded me to check my attitude and strive to be the person I want to be. Forcing myself to think about the gifts in my life helped a lot. Choosing to be thankful for my every day gifts changed me and made me happier (and I’m sure a less frenetic wife and mother). Why couldn’t I go out on my birthday (sob sob)? Because I have a beautiful (I would tell people during the screaming stage, luckily she’s pretty!) and healthy baby girl. And for that, I am SO thankful.

a hair appointment and a starbucks

StarbucksAll I wanted was a cut and color and a Starbucks. I had two precious hours to make that happen. I want to yell at the 50-somethings sipping their coffees over luxurious chats or the high-heeled working 20-somethings, “do you know what it takes to get me here?” Of course I hadn’t constructed a relaxing day ahead of my appointment because I have a three year old boy who needs to RUN (EVERY day) so I’d thrown the baby in her bucket and traipsed off to Sea World with other friends whose children also need to RUN (EVERY day) and together we had all RUN all over Sea World and my new wash-by-hand Love Stitch sweater had been splashed by an ornery dolphin (just standing by their pool—not anywhere near the splash zone at the arena) and of course the baby had woken up early because she wasn’t taking her morning nap in her quiet comfy bed so then she was crying and then we were all running to nana and papa’s house because I had the hair appointment scheduled and I had arranged for my two parents to take care of two kids (and they were both slightly nervous about the whole thing and I was like come on that’s man on man strategy and I do the majority of my days trying to tackle two kids by myself) and we get there and I’m trying to extricate myself (count down, 5 minutes now until appointment time) and then baby girl decides to poop all over her outfit and it’s running down her leg and my mom looks at me and I’m like, yes…I’ll change her so finally I leave nana reading a story to little man with baby girl quietly bobbing around like a turtle on her tummy next to them (shouldn’t I get accolades for being able to actually leave with two children quiet and happy?) and rush out the door, texting my hair stylist that I’m on my way and all I want is a Starbucks. Starbucks is peace and calm and with a yummy drink in my hand, the whole world will be sunshine and roses. So I run into Starbucks and have to get, of course, new-on-the-job-trainee-girl who is asking me if I want my Vivano chocolate smoothie grande (yes, it always comes grande size) and then has to call in reinforcements because she can’t find it in the cash register computer thing and then supervisor girl says, oh, this is a great drink for you to learn and I clench my hands together while she slowly shows her how to measure out each of the ingredients and then trainee girl can’t get the simple dome lid on and has to call over further reinforcements and it’s taking ALL I have in me to not grab the drink and the lid myself and RUN and then I jump in my car and WHAT? there’s a forklift behind my fantabulous trying-to-be cool-mom-car-SUV slowly backing up through the only exit in the parking lot. Really? A forklift? In downtown La Jolla? So helpful construction man oh so kindly helps me back out so that I don’t take out the forklift (because I would at the speed I was going) and maneuver me around the other Village People clad forklift observers hanging out in the parking lot (really, how many construction workers does it take to drive a fork lift?) and I’m suddenly James Bond screaming through traffic and dodging pedestrians hoping no one recognizes my completely obvious license plate (did I have to put my company name on it???), screeching into a parking space, pounding up stairs and apologizing profusely to my gorgeous 20-something hair stylist who, like the love that she is, has already mixed my color and for 90 precious minutes I sit in a chair and loiter through the pages of US Magazine, smelling like dolphin water, getting texts from my mom through the process (both children are now UP which reads in truth WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK???) and I race back to a squawky baby girl rooting at her hands and a 3-year-old telling me that we need to leave a pacifier at nana and papa’s house because baby girl is LOUD and my hair is wet still because of course 90 minutes is ONLY enough time for a cut and color and not a blow out and I think, some day again I will waltz in and out of a hair appointment with perfectly coifed locks that flow in the breeze behind me as I exit. Someday. Not today. But someday.

But someday I will also have two teenagers that keep their doors closed and brood over dark music or talk incessantly on the phone to their friends for hours and I’ll have all the time in the world to go get a perfect cut and color and linger over my peace in a cup Starbucks and that day I’ll wipe a little tear out of my eye and long for the precious 4-month-old girl that snuggled in next to my cheek or the 3-year-old boy who when I asked him what he wanted to thank God for from the day replied, “for you, mommy.”

I have a friend who likes to say that, “this is my stage.” And it’s a short stage. It’s a short stage of extra long roots because it takes too much work to coordinate all that and miss a whole afternoon of work more than every 3-4 months. It’s a short stage of leaving the hair stylist with wet seaweed for hair rather than a perfectly blown out do. It’s a short stage because having my babies is such a short stage.

And any one of my many friends who have prayed or been pricked or spent thousands of dollars in their attempt to please please let me be a mommy would scream and yell at me for whining about my hair in this post. So I say thank you, God, for my seaweed-hair-long-root-stage. It’s just my stage. And I thank God for it.

gold stars

star-50831ae4402f5[1]Okay, I will admit it, I am kind of trying to do it all.  I am trying to be a mom, a wife, and a business owner and trying my bestest to do all of them well.  I am a 37-year-old mom of a fantastically fun and imaginative 3-year-old boy and a (now) sweet, smiley, LOUD (no comments here, please about similarities between mother and daughter), go-getter little infant girl—there was a stage she wasn’t sweet, which I’m sure will be blogged about, but we’ll stick to the present for now.  I am trying to live a balanced life of spending time with my husband and friends, maintaining my trim yet not quite so svelte pre-baby body, volunteering at our church, keeping our house organized (I tell myself I will NOT be one of those homes that looks like it exploded with toys), creating a fun and healthy and mind-expanding and happy home for my children, and…oh yes, running a wedding planning business out of my home office.  I am trying to do it all.  But am I doing it all?

Sometimes I want the world around me to shower me with accolades of how amazing I am and pin gold stars all over me because don’t my friends, and my husband, and my family realize how truly amazing I am?  I mean my clients are generally happy (I mean, you all are, right?), my son is generally well behaved (at least that’s what others tell me and I remind myself of that after the 6th time out for the day) and my little girl has been sleeping through the night since she was 10.5 weeks old (shoot your flaming arrows at me now, I let her cry)…my husband hopefully likes me most days (and hopefully appreciates that I’m wearing all my pre-baby clothes again!!!) and my children generally have good food put in their tummies and books read to them every day.  Don’t I deserve a ton of gold stars?  Shouldn’t the world be pinning them all over me?

And then I realize that all my girlfriends around me are all trying to do the same…in their own way.  We’re all trying to do it all and all hoping that others will notice what an amazing job we are doing.

So to all of you fellow 30 and 40 something women trying to do it all—trying to be mom and wife and possibly bring income into the family (or at least support your own closets like me) and/or be positive community participants, I pin gold stars on all of you!  Let’s all gold star each other!  You made all the beds today? Gold star!  You got your children to pre-school/school/mommy & me class with their shoes on and something in their belly?  Gold star!  You got the whole fam to church in clean clothes before the service ended? Gold star!  You shaved your legs this week? Gold star!  We mommies need to shower each other with gold stars and remind each other what truly amazing jobs we are doing—every day.

So that’s the goal of this blog.  Do we really need another mommy blog?  Probably not.  But I’m starting one anyways.  My goal is to help myself laugh about my own foibles, hopefully encourage all the other do it all women out there, and share ideas and information I’ve gathered from my friends, fantastic pediatrician (if I sound like I’m ascribing saint status to our pediatrician, Dr. Walls, when I speak about him, it’s because I am), and books I have gleaned helpful ideas from.

If you feel like me, like a woman trying to do it all, then I would love for you to join my blog community.  Send me comically tragic stories about you own lives, ideas other moms have told you that have been helpful, or any questions you want me to take a stab at answering.  I hope you laugh along with me and feel encouraged to persevere at the awesome job you are doing.