confessions of a rookie mom

imagesCAYZDVXXSo I completely took out my child last Monday morning.  As in feet completely left the pavement and said child flew through the air.  I was at Sea World, two days before Christmas.  Why was I at Sea World, to begin with, two days before Christmas?  I either have sado masochistic tendencies or simply no brain anymore because it didn’t hit me that one of San Diego’s biggest attractions might be slightly busy on the first Monday of school vacation—or that families descending on our 73 degree December weather for the holidays might be out in droves.

Let’s rewind.  The day begins.  It’s sunny.  It’s beautiful. It’s Monday but we have no preschool for little man or music class for baby girl so we have nothing to do.  So this mama thinks, let’s go to our most favorite place: Sea World!  Yaay!  Little man is cheering!

So I hand iPad to little man (who first shows one Elmo vignette to baby girl because we are now “training” her to watch videos in anticipation of our April trip to Maui—Mom of the year award here—before powering up his current favorite dinosaur video), put baby girl in her room for “self-play” with a cup of cereal and her baby gate holding her prisoner, power through a 20 minute frenzy on my elliptical machine, a total of 10 minutes to shower, get dressed, and throw hair in a pony tail, then haul children upstairs for breakfast (to little man saying mommy, why don’t we have eggs? I want eggs.  Did we eat them all? And baby girl screeching (ba)nana! Nana!  More! More! all the while punching little fists together to emphasize the dramatic need for more right NOW), and run around throwing food at children, slamming peanut butter on sandwiches, while the incessant demands and screeching continue.

Then we’re all moving downstairs and putting on shoes and brushing hair and I’m navigating through the gauntlet of almost 4-year-old little man and just walking 15-month-old baby girl who are simultaneously each holding onto my legs and running from me at the same time and I’m bringing lunches and water and hats and my cup of uneaten oatmeal and do I have my phone? and loading the sit and stand stroller in the trunk and baby girl is still screeching because her new found mobility has increased her demand to not be strapped into anything. And finally the car is moving and then we’re stopping and unloading everyone because mommy REALLY needs a grande soy latte from Starbucks and little man is saying can I have a warm milk can I have a warm milk can I have a warm milk and I’m like yes, whatever, and we’re all dancing to the holiday music to keep us entertained and then we’re back in the car and mommy is probably going a little too fast because this mommy is really ready to be there and then STOP.  Brakes.  Screech.

Now we go to Sea World all the time and we generally (except in August) zoom into the gate area, show our pass, and off we go.  But we round the corner of the 2-lane road that simply leads to the entry area and STOP.  A line of cars snake towards the gated parking area.  Silly me is incredulous.  Who are all these people and why are they here? But little man is now playing “Frosty the Snowman” over and over on you tube on my iPhone that (thanks hubby) is Bluetooth connected to my car stereo and baby girl is finally quiet for the moment with thumb inserted into her mouth so I’m telling myself to stay calm, listen to Frosty.  Stay calm.  Listen to Frosty.

Twenty minutes and 8 rounds of Frosty later we are finally parked and I’m pulling out sit and stand and unloading lunches and children and hats and there are people everywhere and baby girl is trying to make a break for it since she’s finally unbuckled and I’m scooping up a screaming, flailing new walker and I see little man do that squirm.  In our household, it’s the poop squirm.  It’s the I really have to go but I’m not going to tell you squirm.

For those of you who have read my previous blogisodes, you remember little man and his poop issues.  Well at almost 4, he is much better.  It doesn’t just come out during swim practice any more or back him up for 5 days straight but it is still daily a topic of discussion (or incessant questioning from this mama which of course never works because the answer to do you have to go poop? is still always “NO”) and reason that chocolate cream cookies now take up residence on my pantry shelf (in an odd mixture of pride and defeatism, I tell everyone that we were a sugar free family until we started potty training).  So little man is doing that little cowboy hip shifting thing and of course I ask him if he has to go poop and he of course says no.  And then we are jostling through a crowd of people getting bags checked by security guards and finding the shortest entry line in and finally we are in and little man wants to see Shamu so off we go to watch a black and white whale throw itself out of the water (which is really one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen) for the “breakfast show” that we peer at through a glass wall because baby girl is not at the age where she will sit through ANY show.  And then girlfriend is arriving looking like super mom with her 3 children ages 4, 21 months, and 2 months (!!) who are all smiling and quiet (even 2 month old who is fast asleep) and I step back to coax baby girl into showing off her new found movement skill set and as I step back little man decides to dash towards Shamu at that very second and my stepping back meets with a WUMPF aaack! and I see out of the corner of my eye little man’s entire body fly FEET through the air.  And apple snack he was holding is now rolling across the ground.  Oh goodness.

I’ve heard the first stage of grief is denial.  Little man is in my arms howling as I comfort him and comfort him and comfort him.  He can’t believe his own mommy has catapulted him across the pavement but he initially runs to me as his known source of comfort.  But within a minute he pulls back and screams in my face “MOMMY! (pause for emphasis) YOU HURT ME!!!”  Second stage of grief: anger.  Little man is angry.  So I apologize and tell him I love him but he won’t let up.  Now though my child is yelling at me, I’m feeling pretty badly because I did just make him fly across the sidewalk so I kind of let it go but would really like to remind him about how last week in one of his spasmodic moments he head butted my forehead engendering a wincing I really want to cry pain from this mama who of course took a breath and thanked little man for his apology and winked back the tears.  I really want to remind him how my forehead had a tender spot for 4 DAYS following the spasmodic episode but of course I don’t.  Because I’m the mama and I’m supposed to be the better person here—or at least the one molding and shaping the other positively.

So little man is finally not yelling but he is grumpy.  I remind him AGAIN that I am sorry and I love him and offer him two choices: you can either sit in the stroller and be grumpy or you can put this behind you and choose to have fun because, look! we’re here at Sea World!  Yaay!

Little man: I want to sit in the stroller.

And between his need to poop and his take out, little man decides to continue to be grumpy.  He doesn’t want to see anything.  He ignores my questions or wines incessantly or yells a response.

So I remind little man I can’t understand you when you speak that way. $%#@*!  I can’t understand you when you speak that way. $%#@*!  I can’t understand you when you speak that way. $%#@*! I can’t understand you when you speak that way.

And of course baby girl is still trying to make a break for it at any moment I’m not holding her or belting her in and of course all three of girlfriends little angels are behaving perfectly.

As the $%#@*! Continues from little man I remind little man that I care about his feelings but I need a kind voice and a kind face.

Kind voice kind face is my mantra with little man.  Back when little man was an infant, I read Hendrix’s parenting book Giving the Love That Heals because my husband and I thought his book for couples was super helpful and Hendrix’s theory is that a child’s perspective of himself is the sum of the way his (or her) primary caretakers view him and treat him (and that’s really formed in the first 5 years of life).  So that includes parents, nannies, older siblings, or anyone who spends a lot of time with our kiddos.  And one of his big things is that kids need to learn their emotions are okay as part of understanding that they are okay, simply in who they are.  He recommends mirroring back emotions and helping kids process their feelings so that they learn to own their feelings and therefore own themselves.

So when little man is crying, I’m saying that really hurt, you’re really sad and not you’re okay, shake it off. I’ve decided with my kids that I will hold them as long as they ever want to be held.  So if a child is in my arms crying, I will hold him or her until he or she stops. Hendrix’ theory is that simply allowing the expression of emotion helps a child to move through it quickly.  And to feel that their emotions, and therefore they themselves, are okay.  And feeling comfortable with themselves and not needing constant validation from their peer group is everything (um, I’ll let you guys ski through the avalanche zone—I think I’ll meet you at the bottom).

So with little man, I want him to know that he can tell his baby sister things like stop, I’m playing with that I or that’s my toy—I want him to be able to be able to verbalize his feelings (because baby girl, who thinks the sun and the moon revolve around big brother, clearly thinks that anything he is playing with must be the most amazing thing in the whole world and she therefore must experience it at that very moment)—but it’s also very important to me that he speaks to her and to me kindly.  I want him to know that his emotions and feelings  are okay but it’s equally important that he learn to express himself kindly—because this mama requires respect from her kiddos and because little man is considered a primary caretaker in the life of baby girl.  The way he looks at her and treats her will mold her perspective of herself.  Being a younger sister with an older brother myself, makes this especially important to me.

So I’m telling little man kind voice kind face but he’s not having it and is instead demanding that we see everything on the exact opposite side of the park (BUT MOMMY, I DON’T WANT TO SEE TURTLES I WANT TO SEE PENGUINS!) and I’m finally just done so I tell him that we are leaving and I need him to speak kindly or to not talk at all.  So as I am moving towards the exit, pushing sit and stand with baby girl belted in and little man sitting facing me, here is how our conversation goes:

Me: your choice is to either speak kindly or to not say anything at all.

Little man: BUT I WANT…!

Me: Nope.  Nothing.

Little man: BUT I NEED…!

Me: Zip it.

Little man: BUT…!

Me: Zip. (thumb and index finger pushed together for emphasis)

I told my child to zip it.  Maybe not one of my finer moments but I couldn’t handle the badgering any further.  And to his credit, little man was quiet after that.  And while baby girl smeared peanut butter sandwich all over herself and the car seat on the way home, he glowered in quietness.  And then when we got him I made him sit on the potty and he pooped and the whole world was sunshine and roses again.  And I am now kicking myself for rushing out the door and not taking the time to coax out a poop before Sea World since I’m sure that 80% of the drama of our last 3 hours has been due to Mr. Grumpy I Have to Poop who had taken over my child.  Argh.  I’m such a rookie still.

And while little man now dances around the room flinging his underpants in the air, instead of getting in bed for his nap, I remind myself of our mantra and repeat in my head: kind voice, kind faceKind voice, kind face.  And wonder if 1pm is too early to open a bottle of wine.

mother’s day

About 10am on Mother’s Day, now almost two weeks ago, I realized that it would have been really apt of me to have had a blog entry ready to publish that day.  I quickly scanned the day in my head and realized in about 2 seconds I had absolutely zero time to sit down at my computer and write.  So I would have no well-timed article on how amazing it is to be a mom published that day.  And the article I started to write the next day, has now taken almost two weeks to finish.  I guess that’s the reality of mommyhood!

Let me tell you how my mother’s day started.  It started with a jolting burst into reality from sleepy dreamland by an incredibly enthusiastic 3-year-old voice yelling ”HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY” and the thwump thwump of a balloon being kicked by 3-year-old feet around my room.  Then little feet were jumping on bed and little hands were thwump thwumping said balloon.

Attach 8-month-old to self and close eyes.  I just need 5 more minutes.  Twenty minutes later we are up.  It’s Sunday.  We leave for the 10am church service we go to at 9am since that’s when baby girl wants to start her morning nap and she’ll do about half a nap in her stroller and we call that enough for a Sunday—especially since it means we walk to get scones and coffee before church and actually make it there on time.  Since it’s also Mother’s Day, we’re meeting my mom at church and then taking her out to brunch with my older brother because my dad is out of town. 

Place baby girl in jumpee in my bathroom, quick shower, dressed, hair and make-up in 15 minutes flat because that’s how long baby girl will last jump-jumping with only mild squawking.  If we approach 20 minutes, squawking turns to full-fledged screams.  Then pound upstairs to feed baby girl yummy goo of pears, bananas, yogurt, and prunes (yes, still feeding prunes every day—hilarious how the ruin-an-outfit poop so quickly changed to yaay-I’m-eating-solid-food-rabbit-poops).  Husband and little man have made eggs and left me some in the pan.  I don’t bother to reheat them or even put them on a plate.  Instead I sprinkle salt over said eggs, pick up pan and fork and shovel eggs into mouth.  Leave husband dishing food into baby girl’s mouth and run downstairs to pack puzzle, coloring books, and iPad (in case neither of the former items inhibit public meltdown) for restaurant, gather items for Nana’s gift and tie together with cute ribbon, pack diaper bag, run back upstairs with outfit for little man, grab baby girl, run back downstairs and dress wiggling infant in frilly church dress coordinating with little man’s attire (yes, I’m that mom), grab lovey item for baby girl, and call upstairs to husband that I’m heading towards the car.  Turn on car with soft Pandora hymn station playing, put baby girl in carseat, cover with dark blanket, load little man into seat as he wanders out to garage, flop down in passenger seat of car.  Breathe. 9:10am.

In my head, I envision that Mother’s Day is supposed to be relaxing—supposed to be a break for me, right?  I’m still just running around like a chicken with my head cut off pulling everything together.

We get to church, park, luckily baby girl has dozed off on the ride with only mild squawking, put helmet on little man and watch him Flinestone his way down the sidewalk on his balance bike.  Then we’re getting coffee (praise the Lord) and scones and pedal pushing back towards church pushing stroller and coercing little man into continuous forward movement (Look mommy, a bee!  Look mommy, is that poop?) and all I’m thinking is that I really want to streak for my car and run for this hills as fast as I can—which in my case, would be the mall.  Now.  Oh how I would love to wander around for a couple hours with NO ONE I know around me and NOTHING I actually have to purchase and just wander and wander.  Maybe sip my latte slowly (rather than in hiccup spurts as I steer little man away from the huge puddle tempting him and his shiny church clothes) and just wander with all the time in the world and no one texting me about when I’ll be back or what do I want to do for dinner.

Okay, return to reality.  Now we’re sitting in church and the pastor is praying and he’s thanking God for mothers and how amazing they are and yaddy yaddy yadda and I’m listening with only half my brain as baby girl has woken up and I’m wrestling her in the back of the hall (because yes, I’m still a little afraid to put the screamer in the nursery).  And then the pastor says, “and we pray for the people for whom today is a really painful day…”

O snap.

“…for those who have miscarried or are childless or have lost a mother recently…”

Double snap. 

I’m temporarily listening with my entire brain and then I’m kicking myself in the arse for my pity party.  Once again.  Here I am, with a life filled with blessings and I’m the one having the pity party.  It seems like on Mother’s Day, I should probably just be thankful—thankful for 2 beautiful, healthy children, a kind and faithful husband/father, an amazing community, family close by…

I realized I’d spent the morning focusing on what I don’t have (like, any personal time) and not what I do have.  Let’s say these last 4 years had not been filled with 2 pregnancies and the entrance into life of 2 little people…let’s say it had been filled with fertility treatments or adoption attempts…  I would probably be sitting in church with a lump in my throat, whisking a tear out of my eye, and glaring at any mom wining about how she doesn’t have time to go to the mall today.

It’s interesting how I go through these waves of feeling stressed and then feeling guilty about feeling stressed.  I love my babies so much and don’t know if I could survive actually losing one of them (that’s the stuff of nightmares for me and daytime paranoid moments), but there are times I want to throw them out the window…or as one of my girlfriends said, throw herself out the window.  Or like another girlfriend of mine actually did, shut myself in the bathroom and just scream as loud as I can. I guess mommyhood is accepting both sides of the coin: that it’s okay to need breaks and occasionally feel like you want to throttle your children yet still feel incredibly thankful for them and thankful to be a mommy.  And needing breaks or wanting a peaceful moment wandering around the mall doesn’t make me a horrible person or ungrateful. But I also do need to be snapped back to reality, like the prayer did, and remember to focus on the amazing amount of gifts in my life (and not my own arse).

So church is over and we wrangle 3-year-old into car, put mum mum in hand of squawking baby, drive to brunch spot (carefully chosen since it’s a 2 minute walk from our house in case either child completely unwinds), find my mom/Nana at table (little man proudly carries in gift for Nana and holds it up with a big “TA-DA!”), get little man in booster seat and spread puzzles and coloring books out in front of him, unpack food for baby girl, do once over skim on menu to quickly decide what I’m eating, start shoveling food into baby girl’s mouth, and attempt to half-way carry on conversation with Nana and brother/uncle who has now arrived.  After a little over an hour of shoveling food in either my or one of two little people’s mouths, baby girl is unwinding so I say goodbye to uncle and Nana and whisk her away to home where dark room and happy crib await.  Then finally I am collapsed on my bed while husband is getting little man in his.  And it’s 1:15 pm.  Whew.

So here’s my plan for next year: mommy brunch.  As in mommies and champagne only.  And pedicures to follow. No babies.  As much as I adore them, I have a new plan.

Until next time, carry on mommy friends, you are awesome at what you do!

llama drama

For little man’s third birthday, a friend gave us pretty much the best children’s book of all time.  Llama Llama Red Pajama.  I have begun quoting the book to little man which luckily he thinks is hilarious which means he may not be getting my secret coded messages I’m sending him.  For those of you who haven’t read Llama Llama, it’s about a baby llama who throws a fit for really no reason and his llama mama who responds in a flurry only to find that baby llama simply wanted a glass of water and a little attention.  Here comes my favorite part (and the part that I quote to little man like all the time now).  Mama llama says, “baby llama, what a tizzy!  Sometimes mama’s very busy.  Please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama.”
Best line in a children’s book hands down.

Llama drama.  I clearly must have a sufficient amount of llama drama in my life in that I am so in love with this book (and with the author for writing it…and dedicating it to her little llamas!).  But I guess little man must be getting my innuendos because the smart little stinker has totally started deflecting my humor and now sing songs the same line to his baby sister: “Baby girl, what a tizzy!  Sometimes mama’s very busy…”

Llama drama.

What is it about little man being 3-years-old that he has to say no to everything and I mean everything (well, I guess he doesn’t say no to ice cream cones or cupcakes…or birthday parties because he’s pretty sure he’s going to get one of the previously mentioned items if he attends).  The 2’s were a breeze compared to 3.

Time to put your clothes on for school! NOOOOOOOOOO!

And did I mention that little man LOVES preschool and is always the last kid out the door and I am cajoling with visits to the school library (where there are gold fish and animal cookies—okay, 2 more things he loves) or tossing bread crumbs to the chickens in the school garden and often threatening time outs because school has been OVER for 15 minutes and the teachers really want you gone so it’s time to GO!  Yes, same school that when I say it’s time to put clothes on he runs the other way.

Llama drama.

Time to go downstairs because it’s swimming time!  We need to move a little quickly to be on time!

No mommy, I want to move s-l-o-o-o-w-w-w.

I swear a sloth takes over his body the moment we have to go somewhere.  Anywhere.  It could be the most fun place imaginable to a kid like Sea World or the Zoo or the beach (all places little man LOVES)!  And as previously mentioned, this mommy dearest has too much going on in life to ever get to places on time by moving s-l-o-o-o-w-w-w.

Let’s go for a walk and look at bees!  Let’s go ride your bike! Let’s eat breakfast!  Let’s eat lunch!  Let’s get dressed!  Let’s jump up and down on the bed!  Let’s go pee pee on the bush! No matter how fun an activity is or how I excited I sound, the answer is one syllable two letters: N-O! And an emphatic I DON’T WANT TO usually follows the N-O.

Now if any of the activities mentioned above are somehow the brainchild of little man, then of course it’s the best thing in the world.  Like jumping up and down on the bed is suddenly a great idea when I’m trying to have a zen moment and nurse baby girl on said bed.

Llama drama.

Getting little man out the door is the bane of my existence.  But little man has to get out because staying in all day would lead to bouncy ball type behavior and this mama can’t handle that drama either.  Little man has to run.  EVERY DAY.  Otherwise llama mama here will turn into psycho mama.  And then it will clearly be 5-o’clock somewhere right here right now even if it’s only naptime.

(as an aside, a friend of mine just gave me beverage napkins that read: enough with the damn juice boxes, mommy needs a cocktail)

I’ve had a little more success moving little man lately by having him help me come up with a task list.  A bunch of you are probably saying “du-uh” but this was a new thought to me.  Scenario: Okay, little man, let’s talk about what we have to do before we leave.  I need to go potty and put my shoes on.  You need to go pee (notice how I sneak that in there), get dressed, and put on your shoes.  I need to change baby girl’s diaper and put her shoes on too.  What shall we do first?

Of course I want to just yell “put your shoes on and let’s go” but that will meet with tsunami height waves of resistance.  Patience, mama.  Argh!  I hate patience!

I think being a mom is such an interesting thing because I have moments (sometimes days) where I want to throttle little man but the idea of anything actually happening to him or baby girl sends horrific shivers down my back and I grasp onto my sweet little children wanting to love and shelter them beyond everything.  Husband gets the kids up every morning so each of my days starts with the pitter patter of 3-year-old feet and a sing song “hi mama bear!” and when I pry an eye open I see wide-eyed baby girl giggling and salivating.  I think I hold my breath every morning until I hear those feet and see that little smile.  Then I breathe.  They’re okay.  They woke up this morning.  I get one more day with them.  Everything is okay.

Maybe because I had this really awful relationship in my 20’s or because we almost lost baby girl in her early weeks of life, or because I’ve seen enough pain in the lives of my friends and family and just the whole stinkin world out there, that there’s this on-going fear in me that everything can’t stay this good.  I can’t be lucky enough to have a beautiful healthy family and live in a wonderful place by extended family and amazing friends with work I really enjoy and have it all just keep going.  Can I be this lucky to have this many gifts?

Maybe I’m just a mama drama.
But some days the brevity of life and it’s constant inability to be controlled—by me—gets to me.  I pray.  I try to trust.  I maul little man with hugs and kisses until he wiggles out of my grasp.  I plant on-going raspberries on baby girl’s tummy as she squeals with delight.

I love love love my little llamas. No matter the drama.

But most days I still need a cocktail!