Beautiful Chaos

Monday, July 21, 2014

You know you’re on vacation with young kids when …

… You are in bed by 9 p.m. because you are just that exhausted.
… Every trip to the pool or beach involves an unintentional underwater experience that strikes fear into your heart and shakes the child to his or her core.
… Bedtime is somehow harder.
… Sand. Everywhere.
… Seriously. Sand gets in everything and every body area and every item of clothing.
… You drink your wine at 2 p.m. because it’s the only time the kids are having down time and your eyes are still open.
… The thought of cooking dinner is awful. But so is the thought of going to a restaurant you don’t know. So you order take out almost every night and hope for the best.
… Vacation? What vacation?
… You get dirty looks for being THAT PARENT still using the spray sunscreen instead of the lotion because OF COURSE you left the lotion at home.
… It seems impossible, but you do even more laundry than you would at home.
… A run on the beach by yourself is exactly 1 million times sweeter than it was before you had children.
… You will go for said run barefoot because the old running shoes you brought gave you blisters but the searing pain is still worth the hour of alone time.
… And you will volunteer to run with the baby in the jogger later that afternoon because you know she will fall asleep and you will again get a little bit of quiet time.
… You longingly look at a book/e-reader every night as you drift off to sleep, feeling sad that YET AGAIN you didn’t get a minute to start reading that thing your sister-in-law keeps telling you to dive into while on vacation.  
… You will spend more time packing the floats, towels, sunscreen, changes of clothes, swim diapers, snacks, wipes, drinks, water shoes, blanket, canopy, Coast Guard-approved flotation devices and water toys than you actually will at the beach.
… You almost cry when the family members you are with offer to watch the kids for an hour so you and your spouse can go to breakfast alone.
… Dessert happens every night. Even when all the kids eat is a graham cracker and slice of cheese.
… And sometimes you sneak an extra dessert for yourself, but you eat it behind closed doors so the kids don’t see it and demand to have more, aka extend their sugar high.
… 5 a.m. is bright, warm and filled with the shrieks of children asking if the ocean is open yet.
… The kids get to watch TV a little more than usual because, well, it’s their vacation, too, and that’s what they want to do.
… Every day there are no fewer than 300 photo-worthy moments and you are so overwhelmed when trying to decide which to post to Facebook that you accidentally delete half of them but decide that it’s 2 p.m. and time to drink wine, anyway, so no big deal.
… You realize that even though vacations are much less relaxing now than they were then, you are creating memories that will forever live someplace in your heart. And though you spent more money on food and wine (It’s vacation! Get the expensive bottle!) than you did on the vacation house itself, you know that you can’t put a price on getting to spend time in a beautiful place with the most important people in your life. You start to cherish every second of vacation a little bit more, knowing that your kids will never look this way and be this young again.

… But you still kind of long for the calmer, carefree vacations of years past. Just a little bit.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Grocery Store

Anyone with kids knows that going to the grocery store is pretty much going to be the worst part of your day. It’s such a shame, because I used to love shopping for food. It is amazing to me how different these trips are now compared to just five years ago.

Parking

Pre-Kids: Oh, I’ll just park way in the back of the lot. They say that walking a little extra every day is good for you!
Now: Did that guy seriously just take that spot? He did! You, hey! You! Listen, bucko, there is clearly a sign that says “For parents with children only” on that spot! You do not have any kids with you! You better hope I don’t pass you in the produce section, because I will shove a cucumber right up your-Oh, nevermind, there’s another spot that’s closer to the store.

Walking In

Pre-Kids: Ooooh, look at these cute holiday decorations on sale! I can’t wait to spend way too much money on them because I have no other use for my disposable income. And discounted holiday chocolate! My lucky day!
Now: Oh %$*@. They have the damn candy at the front of the store again. Must distract toddler.

Produce

Pre-Kids: I just love taking my time to find the PERFECT apple, the PERFECT bunch of bananas and the PERFECT avocado.
Now: Sigh. Whatever.

Deli & Bakery

Pre-Kids: Bread bread bread yummy carbs bread donuts bagels bread bread bread bread
Now: Must.Not.Look.

Meat

Pre-Kids: Let’s grill steaks tonight! Mmm and have that fresh, expensive fish tomorrow and then the next day, I’ll spend two hours putting together that new chicken dish I have been dying to try.
Now: $10 for 10 hamburgers? Are they microwaveable?

Dairy

Pre-Kids: I haven’t bought milk in a decade.
Now: Organic milk is the downfall of our budget.

Walking the Aisles

Pre-Kids: I think I’ll go up and down every single aisle just to see what’s here. Maybe there’s something new! I just love being able to take my time and leisurely stroll through this miraculous collection of delciousness.
Now: Don’t need anything from that aisle. There will be a major tantrum if I go down that one. Must go down this one but keep 3-year-old from seeing giant bags of candy. Lord, is this trip over yet?

Running People I Know

Pre-Kids: Oh, how wonderful to see you! Yes, I do look thin! I have ton of time to work out and cook healthy food. Oh, these? I just got them at the mall this weekend. Just $80 – they had a sale on sandals!
Now: I was hoping I wouldn’t see anyone. Yes, I’m wearing a sweatshirt in this heat because right now baggy clothes are my friends. Please don’t look at my feet. I’m wearing two different shoes.

Checking Out

Pre-Kids: La la la I love grocery shopping la la la this is so fun
Now: Why must they have MORE CANDY right here? I’m almost done. I almost made it without a tantrum! Thanks, geniuses, for tempting my kids ONE LAST TIME in such an obvious place. THIS IS PURE HELL!

Leaving

Pre-Kids: An hour!?! I was in there for an hour? That is SO.LONG. I have all these evening plans and I have to spend at least two hours getting ready. I can’t believe I was in there for an entire hour! That’s four times as long as it usually takes.

Now: An hour? Record time!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The incident

Do you know how intricately made Thomas the Train wooden figures are? Have you ever taken the time to really ponder the workmanship that goes into one?

My daughter has been teething. I think. Her gums look creepy and she never sleeps or naps.

My son has been potty training. I think. He has mastered part of it but is still working on what comes after number one, if you catch my drift.

Every time I try to put the baby down for a much-needed nap, nature loudly and emergently calls Monster.

He has no problem lording over the potty, hands on his hips, seemingly proud of the stream that sometimes hits its target. But the other side of that coin? Well, I guess his highness is not yet comfortable with sitting on the throne.

And now his aversion has gone from inconvenient to disastrous.

It always happens while I’m trying to get the baby to sleep. For three days in a row, she starts to close her eyes only to have them fly open as Monster barges in and makes a terrifying announcement regarding his bathroom activities. 

The first day, we easily resolved his little accident by simply throwing out the train-themed underwear.

The next day, his news involved an incident that was slightly messier and necessitated a good hand-scrubbing and lots of patience.

But on the third day ...

Good things are supposed to happen on the third instance of something. Third time's the charm. Jesus rose on the third day. 

Our third day was neither charming nor miraculous.

"I tried to clean it up," he said sheepishly as he led the fussy baby and a close-to-exploding me into the playroom.

I have seen first-hand what a tornado can do to a neighborhood. I have walked through homes that a flood destroyed. I have personally helped a family pick up the pieces after a fire.

But never in my life have I ever seen anything like what I walked into on that third day.

I am not trying to downplay what people endure when they experience a natural disaster. Those are truly terrible situations. 

What I am doing is telling you that our once-shining example of a child's playroom was now stained with the unparalleled effects of a 3-year-old's attempt to cover up a toxic accident before his exhausted mother could get a cranky, teething baby to sleep and discover that her afternoon would now consist of close-mouthed scrubbing, sobbing and cursing.

I couldn't even discipline the boy. He knew what he did was wrong. He knew he needed to clean up. While I was still in the nursery being unsuccessful, he had gone into the laundry room, retrieved cleaning wipes and proceeded to further blemish about 10 square feet of carpet.

I suppose he then felt that doing a little light cleaning on top of his cover-up would soften the blow, which is why the now-dirtied wipes had been used to “clean” the windowsills, walls, toys and tabletops. 

So, back to my original question: Have you ever taken the time to appreciate the minute, detailed work that goes into those wildly expensive Thomas the Train figures? 

Until that third day, I hadn't. 

As I stood over a sink of piping hot water and disinfectant, I realized just how many nooks and crannies there are. So many little crevices that just when you think you have identified them all, one triggers your sense of smell and you contemplate burning down the house instead of spending one more second doing what you are doing.

We could not save all the victims of that third day. A plastic lion, knock-off train and a few tracks found their new home in the garbage alongside the used wipes and empty bottles of peroxide. 

My son will undoubtedly ask where his toys went. The kid can't remember where he put his shoes, but he keeps a detailed toy inventory in his brain and knows when one goes missing.

So when he asks me where the purple caboose went or why he is two links short of a full train track, I will have the perfect response:


"Shit happens."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Stop. Just stop.

I think we all just need to chill out a little. I’m glad people care about children’s well-being, but we need to take it down a notch. There are some decisions parents make that do not adversely affect anyone, including the child, yet everyone feels the need to share their own stupid opinions on it.

Parents are judged enough, so I think we can dial down the crazy on these six things:

1.       Bottle-feeding a baby

Yes, OK, we get it, “breast is best.” But some women can’t breastfeed. They tried and tried and simply can’t. And other women just don’t want to do it because breastfeeding is hard, exhausting, inconvenient and almost painful at times. When you think about it, formula is actually a life-saving medical advancement because it provides babies the nutrition they need when they can’t get it otherwise. Oh, and just FYI, there are pregnant women doing crack and thus injecting their babies with a stream of narcotics. But yeah, let’s whine about the nutrition-packed formula in that BPA-free bottle.

2.       Breastfeeding a baby in public

Get over it. I have seen more indecency in beer commercials and at the family swimming pool than I have seen with a mother on a bench in a mall discreetly feeding her child.

3.       Extended breastfeeding

I understand that the sight of a woman nursing a 2-year-old can make people uncomfortable. In this country, it isn’t the norm like it is in, oh, just about everywhere else in the world. But just because something makes you uncomfortable doesn’t make it wrong. “If the baby can ask for it, they are too old to nurse.” So I should punish my child by denying her the one thing that she has always instinctively wanted just because she started doing the one thing every parent anxiously awaits and encourages? Palm to forehead.

4.       Where my kid sleeps

When I was pregnant with my first child, someone at my old job asked me if the baby would be in a crib or bassinet. I replied that he would be in our bed with us. Holy moly, you would have thought I suggested we were putting the baby on a mattress made of knives and anthrax. Good to know other people lose sleep at night because my child is safe and comfortable next to his mother.

5.       What my kid’s name is

Lesson learned: Never tell people what you plan to name a baby unless you are ready to hear the feedback. “Well, he’ll be bullied with a name like that!” Um, isn’t threatening a parent with future bullying actually bullying itself? Yes, people name children ridiculous things, but who cares? If a kid isn’t teased for his name, he will be teased for his looks or lack of dexterity or height or his overbearing parents who worry too much about what other people think.

6.       What my name is

“If you don’t have your husband’s last name, then you aren’t really a family.”
“Don’t you worry that when your kids go to school that they won’t understand why their friends have their mommy’s last name and they don’t?”
“Think about your children. How will they understand?”

I’ll admit it. My son recently asked me what my last name is. When I told him, he immediately packed a suitcase with dinosaurs and fruit snacks and marched defiantly out the front door. He said that he needed to go find a woman who had the same last name as him. There was nothing I could do to stop this determined 3-year-old because clearly I am not his real mother. In fact, my son is still somewhere out there, searching for a woman with his same last name, telling passers by that he could not believe I would dupe him as I did. I would go look for him, but I have to take down all our “family” pictures. After all, we aren’t a real family because I kept my last name, so I guess it’s time to end the charade.



Thursday, June 5, 2014

What vacation?

Just about every day, I close my eyes for a few moments and long for a respite. Sometimes it’s because the kids are being kids and I need a break, and other times it’s because who in the world doesn’t want to take a vacation?

We are currently in the most beautiful place in the entire world. This little island is ideal for families, exercise enthusiasts and anyone who just wants to chill the heck out.

I have been looking forward to this trip for the last few months. Monster and I regularly discussed it. I may have begun packing a week before we departed.

Now here I sit in a quaint, three-bedroom cottage with d├ęcor that hasn’t been updated since the early 90s, but who cares? It’s vacation. On an island. I can hear the ocean waves.

No, not the real ones. These are the faux sounds of soothing swooshing coming from Eliza’s sound machine, or as we like to call it, “The Finisher.”

The baby is napping. Monster is with David and the rest of my family at the beach.

I have this entire place to myself.

Alone.

Peace.

Quiet (fake waves excepting).

I could do whatever I wanted. I could nap or drink wine or watch adult movies (no, not THOSE adult movies; I mean an entertaining rom-com starring a dude who looks good but can’t act and some chick whose post-baby body makes me wrinkle my nose with jealousy.

If I wanted to, I could lie out on the sun deck and read a book.

Ha ha ha. Who am I kidding? I don’t read. BUT, I could read if I wanted to. Or bake. Or just stare at the wall.

Yet I simply can’t do any of that.

Why?

Because the house is a disaster. We have been here just a few days and there are already toys everywhere, Cheerios ground into the floor, dirty clothes lurking in every corner, wet towels that need drying before we head to the beach, dishes with remnants of lunch on every table in every room.

Why can’t I just leave them alone and rest? Do what my husband does and say, “Eh, we’ll get to it later”?

Because I am somehow restless. The second I put my feet up, I want to be on my hands and knees looking for that miniature train Monster said he lost “somewhere over there.”

Here I am with this golden opportunity for relaxation, and all I want to do is clean and do a little writing and switch over the laundry and organize the cupboards.

I realize that I’m going to regret this later. If I mention to David later on that I am tired, I know what he’ll say: “Well, why didn’t you nap when you could have?”

First, I cannot nap unless I am sick or pregnant, and I’m not either of those. Second, I totally agree. Why don’t I nap? Or at least be a little lazy?

That thought nags me for my daughter’s entire two-hour slumber, during which I move about the cottage swiftly but quietly. I may not want to rest, but I will be darned if I am too loud and prematurely wake that little creature.

The place is spotless. I knocked out a little bit of work. All the towels and beach necessities are ready and neatly stacked by the door so we can simply pick them up and walk to the beach.

One little glass of afternoon delight, aka cabernet sauvignon, as I sit on the couch. That’s my treat.

I pour. I sit. I sip.

The baby wakes up before I can even swallow.


And I have no one to blame except myself.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I'm morbid now.

When someone dies, it is usually a (harsh) reminder of the preciousness of life.

Conversely, I have found that through becoming a parent, the preciousness of life is a reminder of death.

It happens almost instantly: Mother births baby, mother names baby, mother begins to fear all the ways she will lose baby.

I have never been an optimist, but I certainly have never considered myself to be a doom-and-gloom type. Yet since having my children, I have become shockingly morbid. Grotesquely morbid.

For example, it used to be we would go to a restaurant, order dinner, eat our meal and then leave.

Now, I walk into a restaurant and immediately start picturing the ways my children could die or become seriously injured there. The first step is to look for anyone who could be considered a threat to my child: rambunctious teenagers, clumsy servers, pedophiles (Side note: Being a parent will bring out a very harsh, stereotyping side you never thought you had).

I scour the floors for puddles on which I could slip and inadvertently throw my 1-year-old in the air then helplessly watch as she lands million-dollar-baby-style on the back of a chair. Once I have ascertained the floors are free of tragedy-inducing objects, my eyes dart around for the other hazards: open electrical sockets, steak knives, extra-pointy forks, hot plates.

There is no such thing as enjoying the meal because there is the constant threat of a child choking. Even if everything is going well during dinner, I have one eye on my children, just waiting for their happy little faces to turn blue. If we all survive dinner, there is, of course, the treacherous ride home in which we seemingly encounter every idiot who has ever been granted a driver’s license.

You would think that the crazy-mommy-brain could rest once the kids are tucked safely into bed, but that is when the insanity is kicked into high gear. Probably once a week, if not more, I have trouble going to sleep because my mind is just ticking off the list of things that could kill my kids:

“What if Monster’s cough is actually the start of pneumonia? Despite all of our medical advances, people still die from that. Eliza has been so fussy lately. What if she is having headaches brought on by a brain tumor we have yet to discover? I really need to get an indoor air quality specialist in here to check out ductwork. That article I read about foreign particles infecting our lungs was terrifying. If my son complains one more time about his tummy hurting I have got to get him to a specialist. Gastrointestinal issues are nothing to fool around with, according to my friend’s blog about her son’s battle with something yet to be diagnosed. They are both sleeping so soundly tonight, but maybe that’s because they are actually dead. I should wake them up just to be sure.”

It.Never.Stops.

I shake my husband awake. He asks what’s wrong, and this is what comes out of my mouth:

“Well, the kids are fine. Extremely happy and healthy, actually. Our life is pretty close to perfect. But I keep thinking about the kids dying or becoming sick or hurt. I can’t sleep.”

Even as I say it, I realize how ridiculous it is.

David reminds me that worrying is useless, and that I’m simply doing my duty as a mother. “Think of it as a lioness protecting her cubs,” he says as he goes back to sleep.


I smile and finally close my eyes. A lioness sounds much better than a total nut job.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Milestones

My best friend’s son is just a month older than Eliza. We spend many mornings on the phone discussing the babies’ latest ear infections or up-all-night episodes.

One morning a few months ago, she remarked to me that her son could find his nose and clap. Two thoughts immediately raced through my mind:

“Eliza definitely can’t do that. Is that a development flaw?” and “Whatever. Second baby.”

Milestones are a big deal at any age, but we obsess over them when it comes to babies. We wonder if our kids are “normal” if they haven’t rolled over/walked/smiled/crawled/written a thesis yet.

I quickly learned with Monster to never look at the by-the-book milestones, especially the ridiculous ones that are broken down on a month-to-month basis. Don’t we have enough to worry about without being concerned that our 3-month-olds are not yet doing gymnastics?

I understand the medical need for certain milestones, but even those can be flawed. Doctors told my parents that my sister had a mental handicap because she was not progressing the way other kids did. Nearly 30 years later, she has a Master’s and no sign of any mental or physical handicap. She simply developed outside of “normal” parameters.

I propose we set different milestones that are not attached to a certain age. The moments we will forever cherish and kids can hit at any time without being labeled as “different.” Throw out the baby books and make your own list instead. Here are a few of mine:

-          The first time your child realizes that the rain is freaking awesome. Monster has always loved sitting in the garage on beach chairs and watching the rain fall. Recently, he asked me if I would go dance in it with him and sing the “Frozen” songs. We twirled and belted out “Let It Go” right there in our soggy driveway, and I loved every minute of it.

-          The moment your child stops trying to put everything in his or her mouth. I don’t remember when it happened with my son, but I am looking forward to it with my daughter. We have had way too many close calls. Again, I’m chalking this up to “second baby syndrome.”

-          When your child tries something you cook and actually likes it. Hands-down, just as miraculous as the day my kid was born.

-          The first “I love you.” Maybe they will say it with words, or maybe they will say it with a look. Not all kids can verbalize their emotions, but a parent knows when a child means it. And holy moly is it a great feeling.

-          When they feel bad about something they did. I do not relish in my child’s pain at all, but there is something satisfying about watching him recognize that he did something wrong. “OK, he is listening and actually getting it.” Monster gets this look – a half smirk and lowered eyes. Lord, I know that look is the one I’ll see well into his teenage years.

-          The moment they start “reading” a book to you. No, my son cannot read yet, but he has memorized almost all his books. Oh yeah, he knows if we skip a page. Don’t even try it.

-          Every little baby sound they make. Yes, every little one. That tiny creature grew from a tiny speck into a tiny person, and now that tiny person makes tiny sounds. Who cares if it is a burp or a coo? It’s all super cute and memorable in my book.


I could go on, but my favorite milestones will be different from the next parent’s. I can’t tell you exactly when Monster took his first steps or when Eliza cracked her first smile, but I will never forget that dance in the rain with my son, and I Miss E babbling in her crib in the mornings is pure music. I much prefer these milestones to the ones in the baby books.