Beautiful Chaos

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Right where I need to be

I like to whine a lot about being sleep deprived. (Have you noticed?)

If the worst I do is complain, I’d say we’re all pretty lucky. On a daily basis, I adventure through the entire spectrum of emotions, from wanting to bawl hysterically to wanting to punch strangers to finally entering a zombie-like mode in which I am indifferent about everything, including the three Cheerios entwined in my hair.

So, yeah, complaining is pretty mild behavior, given the circumstances.

Despite the finger-pointing that occurs during my ranting, I must admit that there are extremely rare occasions in which the utter exhaustion is actually my choice.

I guess you could say that my decision to have children is actually the root of this painful byproduct and therefore I am always at fault for the bags under my eyes, but I would warn you against EVER saying that to someone who doesn’t sleep.

In general, it’s safe to say that my kids hate me and loathe the idea that I could ever be well-rested and therefore enact a plan in which they take turns waking me at all hours of the night.

However, there are nights in which I am the one depriving myself of shuteye.

I am talking about those moments that I know I could put the baby in her crib and head to bed, but I choose to linger a little longer. Just one more song. Just five more minutes in the rocking chair.

What is it about a sleeping baby that is innately irresistible?

A laughing baby will warm your heart, but a sleeping baby will obliterate any hardness in your soul until your entire being is just a puddle of mush on the floor.

This tiny little creature accounts for about 80 percent of my sleepless nights, but heaven help me, there are moments that I just want to hold her in my arms and stare at those chubby cheeks for hours.

Hours.

Holding a sleeping baby is more than just a pleasant way to pass the time. It feels like something deeper. It feels like it’s something that I have been destined to do my entire life. It feels like I am cosmically connected with every mother who has ever been on the planet, human or animal.

When I hold my child and she nuzzles her head into my neck and breathes softly …

When I tilt my head down to kiss her and instantly remember the first time I ever got to smell the top of her head …

When her little mouth moves as though she is still nursing even though she finished long ago and is now simply dreaming about it …

When she does that little baby yawn that is so soft that you know you have never heard anything like it before …

When she and I are moving gently together through her room in total silence, and she has surrendered to the sleep she has been trying so hard to avoid ….

It is in those moments that I could not care less that I will be dragging all day the next day and will have to remind myself – several times – to brush my teeth and look in the mirror before I leave the house. And I still might forget to do both.

I do not cherish these moments every night, as maybe I should. I typically count down the minutes until I can put her in her crib and head toward solitude on our incredibly comfortable couch.

But every once in a while, I look down at those plump cheeks, long eyelashes and pursed lips and remember that yes, holding this bundle of peaceful slumber is exactly where I need to be right now.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kids are assholes.

Kids are assholes.

Sorry, there is just no sugarcoating it. They just are.

Yeah, they are cute and sweet and cuddly like half the time, but the other half of the time, they are seriously assholes.

I get that my son is still learning manners, but it drives me crazy when he offers me a very sarcastic, “I’m SOR-RY!”

For example, he has a penchant for stepping on my feet when he wants something. It’s like he can’t get close enough to me when he asks for a freaking apple, so he feels like he has to physically climb me, which always results in his bony heels digging into my bony feet.

“Dude! Get off my feet! For real!” I plead.

“Sawwww-rrryy,” he half-whines, totally insincere. We have gone over this time and time again, kid. You don’t step on Mommy’s feet. Why do you insist on ignoring the mandate and inflicting injury?

Oh, right, because you’re an asshole.

And it’s safe to say that there is no dry toilet seat in my house EVER, because despite being potty trained for months now, he still insists on leaving his mark. He sees it there. I know he does. I think he secretly enjoys hearing me groan in frustration every time I get a sticky surprise.

Even the baby is turning into a little deviant.

Yes, I’m going to go there.

She has officially learned the dog’s name before mine. She squeals with glee and shouts “Na-na!” (Mona) at the dog and stares at me with disgust like I am covered in toddler pee. And I know that I am, but she doesn’t need to give me the stink eye for it.

When it comes to a general indifference about someone else’s feelings, my kids are strikingly similar to the biggest assholes I have ever met in my life. But kids get away with it because they are “cute” and “don’t know any better.”

Let me tell you: It doesn’t make it any easier knowing that my child “didn’t realize what he was saying” when he pointed to my stomach and asked why it is “so wrinkly and squishy.”

“Mommy, I have a donut?” he asks sweetly one Sunday morning.

“Yes, baby, that’s your special treat for doing your chores this week.”

“OK, I eat this. But you don’t eat it. Because you can be fat for eating it. But I not fat. But you need to do exercises.”

(Um, excuse me, who taught you the word “fat” and why do you want to see Mommy cry?)

It still stings when my 10-month-old jumps out of my arms for her daddy even though I am the one who has been feeding her and protecting her from her foot-crushing older brother all day.

My kids and their BS personality disorders make me crazy. One minute, they are the most adorable, precious things that I just want to squeeze and kiss and taxidermy so I can preserve their sweetness forever. And just 10 seconds and one malfunctioning toy later, they are huge assholes who have no regard for the fact that MOMMY JUST WANTS TO SIT FOR ONE MINUTE. JUST ONE MINUTE.

No one tells you that this is what you signed up for when you decided to have kids. No one tells you about the Dark Side.


And you can be damn sure no one tells you about the pee on the toilet seat.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

In case of emergency

I have had a fear lately about something happening to me when I am alone with the kids, which is quite often. I often wonder if other stay-at-home or work-at-home parents feel the same way.

If I fell or had a stroke or otherwise became unresponsive, it could be hours before anyone knew. Aside from the random Facebook update and Happy-Hour-ish texts I send from time to time, we don’t have much communication with the outside world on the days we stay at home.

Additionally, Monster does not yet have the ability to unlock my cell phone and dial 911. And the baby, well, she’s just a disaster waiting to happen if left unsupervised. I can barely keep her off the stairs/out of the dog food/away from sharp objects when I am alert and functioning at 100 percent.

In an effort to head off any emergency, I have been training my son over the last few weeks. We talk at length about what to do if something happens. I have instructed him that he needs to run to our neighbor’s house and tell her that we are having an emergency.

How is the training going, you ask?

It was going awesome. Every day, we would discuss scenarios and what Monster should do. This weekend, we were ready to show off our newfound knowledge to Daddy.

“Buddy, what do you do if something happens to Mommy?”

“Kick you in the face.” (Lots of giggles.)

“OK, OK, enough being silly. What do you do if Mommy falls down and you can’t wake me up?”

“Then I chop off your head!”

“Come on, dude, be serious. What happens if Mommy gets hurt?”

“Well, you will just die and then I will be here and Liza will cry and I will have to eat my vitamins without you because I’m THREE. LOOK AT THIS DINOSAUR! I have to go potty now.”

So.

I’m a little afraid.

I keep picturing that awful scene from “Steel Magnolias” in which Julia Roberts’ character is passed out on the floor, the baby is screaming and something is boiling on the stove.

I mean, is 30 too young to consider Life Alert? I’m only half-kidding.

While I’m not clumsy, I am not exactly brilliant. Those packages that say “Easy to Open!” always make me feel stupid because I never find them easy to open. And I catch my breath at least once a week because I dodged a bullet, like somehow not falling down the stairs despite seemingly tripping through the entire flight.

Combine my lack of common sense with my occasional clumsiness and it is just a matter of time until my son is kicking me in the face as I lie unconscious on our floor surrounded by decapitated dinosaurs and other victims of a 3-year-old’s imagination.

The kid can usually come through when it counts, though. The other day, he expertly unwrapped one of those heaven-sent chocolate peanut butter eggs for me despite saying over and over that he couldn’t. And I have seen Monster get himself into and out of the most awkward physical positions, like being caught between the couch and the wall with one foot above his head and an arm bent backward.

Those skills translate to helping during life-threatening emergencies, yes?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My favorite accessory

For the last 10 months, I have been sporting an awesome accessory.

It’s called “my baby.”

She matches every single outfit and I always get compliments on her.

“Where did you get her?” passersby ask with envy. “Procreation!” I reply.

I carry my sweet little accessory everywhere. She goes on everyday errands and attends special occasions.

Parties. Weddings. Barbecues.   

As much as I love my tiny little human, I don’t bring her everywhere just for fun. Rather, she is constantly attached to me out of necessity.

I am not a mother who is worried about leaving my children with a babysitter. I would gladly hand them off to someone and run as fast as I could to the nearest spa for a day of kid-free pampering.

The issue is that I’m a breastfeeding mom whose baby will not take a bottle.

No sippy cup, no “life-like” nipple will suffice. Even if it did, it wouldn’t matter, because I cannot pump anything. I was able to pump and freeze for the first week of her life, and then it never worked again.

I tried the teas and the herbs. I did the Googling.

After about six months of worrying about it, I decided to accept the fact that my favorite accessory would dictate my social calendar for the next year or so.

Some activities just aren’t an option, as certain venues, i.e. the bar and concerts, are not ideal for an infant. Everything I do is planned around feedings.

For a nursing mom, is there any such thing as a spur-of-the-moment outing?

“Can I bring the baby?”

“Is the restaurant baby-friendly?”

“Do people mind if I nurse here or should I go somewhere else?” (I only ask to be polite; I actually think moms should feed their babies whenever and wherever they need to, covered or not.)

There was a time that I envied friends who could go for long runs, attend parties or otherwise just LIVE without the concern of what would happen to the baby if the boobs weren’t around.

I even worried about what other people thought of my constant accessory. The time is quickly approaching when many will think that Eliza has aged out of breastfeeding. Just like every other parenting topic, everyone has an opinion, and most of those “notes” are garbage.

“At least you’ll be done soon. It is weird when moms breastfeed kids who are old enough to ask for it,” a woman said to me once, clearly not realizing that EVERY BABY ASKS FOR FOOD. Some cry, some use words. Also, just about every other country in the world supports extended breastfeeding because of the myriad of benefits. But not here. Here, we judge women and call them “weird” for doing it.

“Just give the baby formula in a cup. If she’s hungry enough, she’ll take it,” another woman said. That sounds like a lot of fun for me, being engorged while worrying throughout the entire pedicure about my daughter screaming for what she naturally and instinctively wants.

What is so wrong about having your child with you practically all the time, anyway? Isn’t that actually what normal should be? Isn’t that what so many people wish they could have?


While it isn’t always convenient, I do wear my baby accessory with pride. I don’t care if my life has to revolve around her a little more intensely while she is still dependent on me for food. And if other people turn up their nose to a mother who must bring her child everywhere, they should remember that up until very recently, breastfeeding – and extended breastfeeding at that – largely contributed to our very existence. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Not so different

There is something about an increase in responsibility that makes your long for your more carefree days.

I thought initially that was why after Eliza was born, I started to long for my days on the Ohio University campus. College was arguably the most fun four consecutive years of my life, and I had the good fortune of attending the best school in the entire world.

Lately, however, I have noticed more similarities than differences when considering my life now and my life then. They say college is a great way to prepare for your future; perhaps it’s also a training ground for becoming a parent?

For example, I never drank coffee until my college years. I used to love going to this little coffee shop with my books and get mug after mug of some specialty brew. These days, of course, I don’t sip in peace so much as take gulps between diaper changes, but I still have that same feeling of bliss when wafts of those robust roasted beans hit my nose. In both situations, I felt this wonderful escape taking in that first cup.

I truly learned a lot of fundamentals while being away at school. Budgeting time was a huge one, of course, and a necessary skill as a parent. And my laundry-doing abilities hit a major upswing in college. I feel like I could get any stain out of any garment, which translates well to battling spit-up and other less pleasant items.

There are more similarities in the little things, however, that occur in both college and parenting. And it’s those little things that bring back such wonderful memories.

Like, in 2014, there is always at least one pants-less person in my house. I’ll spare you details, but I shared a house with four other girls in college who did not care about closing doors. One in particular. She also found it funny to pants you in public. Just like my son. In related news, I started wearing a belt way more often during college and once Monster learned what he calls “the pants game.”

And now, just like in college, happy hour can be any hour. Remember in college when you HAD to go to the bar because you got an A on a paper/paid the bills on time/noticed the temperature had gone from freezing-cold to barely-tolerable?

Same thing now. My kid uses the potty by himself, I get a glass of wine. My kid misses the potty and goes all over the floor, I get two glasses of wine.

I sometimes wonder if the biggest similarity is actually my inability to appreciate what I have. Looking back now, I wasted so much of my time in college stressing out over relationships or test scores that I forgot to soak in how awesome it was to have the freedom to literally make my future whatever I wanted it to be.

It really isn’t much different now, except I have the ability to help my children make their futures whatever they want them to be. Yet instead of embracing those teachable moments, I get wrapped up in the minutiae of them. As I type, my daughter is reaching for the laptop screen and pulling it forward so I can see her smile. Instead of hopping offline, I pry her tiny fingers away and continue working.

In summation, I suppose the biggest lessons I took from my time at OU are to appreciate the little things and treat yourself to a good cup of coffee. And always, always, wear a belt.




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Why is Daddy crying?"

Monster likes to go through our wedding album.

We have a beautiful book that our photographer put together that captures some of the most memorable moments of that day like Dad walking me down to the beach and my then-18-month-old nephew cutting a rug.

My son always asks to see the picture of “Daddy being sad.”

“Momma, is Daddy crying?” he said this weekend, pointing to a picture of David wiping away a tear as we said our vows.

“Yes, just a little,” I answer.

“Did he cry because he married you?”

My child does not understand what he has just asked. While it is laughable in the moment, there are many times that I wonder if David has any regrets.

Look, my husband loves me to the moon and back, of that I have no doubt. And I, in return, would be completely lost without him.

But marriage is hard.

Really, really hard.

It was hard before the kids came, and it only got harder afterward.

Many days I feel like I have a choice: I can either be a good mother, a good wife, a good writer or a good housekeeper. Maybe a mix of two or three, but rarely all.

Unfortunately, the “good wife” area is the one that gets sacrificed so I can succeed in the other areas.

Marriage really tests you.

You have to live with someone else. Someone who might be less clean than you. Someone who does not understand why putting a wet towel on a hook over another wet towel is inefficient. Someone who does not ever shut anything: doors, cabinets, spice lids and light switches.

For years, I have gotten frustrated with my husband over these little things. I still struggle to accept that he simply does not see dust collecting on the furniture or the marks on the wall that DRIVE ME INSANE. His male eyes cannot see dirt, but they sure can find a hockey puck no matter where it is on the TV screen.

My frustration usually manifests in what David calls, “The Tone,” or a nasty edge in my voice.

While my husband does the dumbest things ever sometimes (“Can our 5-month-old have a tortilla chip?”), he does not deserve to get The Tone.

Some days, all he wants to do is show me a funny meme on his phone.

“Kate, you have to see this,” he says excitedly.

But I have been up since 4 a.m. with two kids who want to be touching me all the time. I have cleaned and re-cleaned every room in our house and the place is still a disaster. The dog is vomiting up god-knows-what and the plans I had for dinner have fallen through because I forgot to get olive oil, squash and chicken at the store. (How? HOW?) Not to mention that bedtime is rapidly approaching and the baby’s blanket is still in the washing machine after a toddler potty incident. Oh, and I am under deadline for work.

So do I really want to take 20 seconds to talk about YET ANOTHER grumpy cat meme?

Instead of being polite, I roll my eyes, sigh heavily and agonizingly shift my gaze from my laptop to my beautiful husband, his bright blue eyes filled with love for me, holding out his phone with the intention of just making me smile.

“Never mind,” he says quietly.

He doesn’t deserve it, and I know he doesn’t. No amount of dirty socks in the corner or sheer ignorance about the kids (“Where are their diapers?”) merits that.

It might seem like a small thing, but these small things quickly multiply and become a monster small thing. We are fortunate to fall back on our commitment to each other, but it is not always easy.

“Did Daddy cry because he had to marry you?” Vinny sweetly asks again.


“Maybe, buddy,” I reply, and secretly vow to be a better wife.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Do we over-coddle?

People my age have been called lazy. We allegedly have a poor work ethic.

I used to think this largely stemmed from reality TV painting all of us as Hiltons or Kardashians. I would take offense as I have always been someone who worked very hard to earn very little.

Since becoming a parent, however, I have slowly begun to think about this in a different light.

Parenting is a job.

That doesn’t simply mean it is hard work. It means that we have a responsibility to our children, a responsibility that if we shirk can have huge consequences.

If there were universal goals for all the parents on Earth, I imagine one would be to prepare our children for life out of the nest.

I worry my generation falters in this area because of this big push that is, in essence, coddling.

Have we been branded as lazy because of a “new-age” approach to parenting? In other words, are we coming up short in our job to equip our children with the skills to survive outside our homes?

I had a drink with a girlfriend who was planning a party for her daughter, and she told me other parents warned her to avoid any games in which there are winners and losers. Another girlfriend of mine told me that many youth sports organizations mandate that all children get equal playing time.

Today’s young parents are bombarded with warnings about behaviors that could damage little egos.  

“Don’t yell at your kids or you will ruin them.”

“Don’t use words like ‘no’ or ‘you can’t’ around children. It results in poor self-esteem.”

“Don’t look your child directly in their eyes or they will know how scared you-know-what-less you are to be a parent.”

How is this helping prepare our children? In the real world, there is no such thing as “equal time” and “everybody wins.” What is wrong with introducing a child to the harsher side of life in a safe, controlled environment?

The first time either of my children experiences a loss or misfortune, I expect that either I will cause the disappointment or I will be there to explain it and help them manage it. If it isn’t me, it will be someone else on the school playground, in a social setting or at the workplace.

In no way am I advocating physically harming or verbally abusing a child. I’m actually a fan of many parenting techniques others criticize as coddling, such as extended breastfeeding or co-sleeping.

However, I am not a fan of sheltering my children to the point where they feel they are entitled to a slice of the pie even when they did nothing to deserve it. Despite articles that trend on social media sites, I believe that kids can handle reality.

“Mommy, why did Susie get to stay on the field longer than me?”

“Because you have two left feet, kid. You did a heck of a job picking your nose, though.”

Wake up, folks, not everyone can bend it like Beckham. And that’s not only OK, it’s a good thing. We aren’t supposed to be the same.

I think we need to expose children to situations that demand maturity and understanding in order to help them grow. If parents aren’t the ones guiding a child through these moments, someone else less capable will.

And that is scary enough to motivate me to do a better job.