Thursday, December 24, 2009

The UN-Christmas

Spurned and motivated to write about the things I observe; in the spirit of my last post I am going to continue on the theme of possessions because it is something that becomes so prevalent during the Holidays.

**Because I love this band. Because their music speaks to my heart. I think you should let this play while you read this. And then when you're done with that you should google the lyrics. I hope they speak to you as well**

I was a girl with too many shoes. Too many bags. A closet full of the results of a compulsive spending habit. A soul full of baggage. A sole resting on names not easily pronounced. And then came Katrina. I know I keep talking about it, but understand, it was the pinnacle of changes that occurred and helped to shape who I want to ultimately become.

I once was blind but now I see.

When you stand before the mirror with nothing other than you, it is much easier to find yourself. And so I did. And for once, without all the things that had once surrounded me, in stark minimalist contrast, I liked what I saw. Freed from "the stuff" I was able to catch a glimpse of the person inside of me that I could become if I was able to let it go. I liked her. I wanted to reach that woman I saw.

And so I took steps to get to her. It is not an easy thing to change the person you are. But in a culture so swept up in the wave of credit and consumerism, I did not want my children to face the same demons as me. Children are the biggest motivator I've ever encountered, and for them we got rid of cable. One dragon slain. I took an advertising class in college that said to have an effective ad, you must create a NEED in a person that otherwise hadn't existed. There are people whose sole job is to make you and your children FEEL that they NEED things. No more, not in this house.

And so, following advice that I had often heard but repeatedly ignored, Jeremy and I put ourselves on a cash allowance. At each paycheck, we get a sum of cash to last us until the next paycheck. This covers everything: dining out, clothes, entertainment, It's funny how quickly I was able to stop spending money once I had a small sum of it in my pocket that could dwindle. It's funny how my views on what was a necessary expenditure changed. The pedicures that had once been tantamount to my survival and sanity were now a thing of the past.

I learned to save for something I wanted. This may seem a tired idea to some reading this, but I come from a generation who was not prevalently taught to pay themselves first. To save. Why? We have credit cards for that. Practically free money. But this is not really about money. Money is just the facilitator of what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the ever hungry beast. Desire. It leaps like flames at your heart. Compelling and possessing you. I'm talking about finding that place between need and want. Desire and contentment. It is a hidden place. Some of us are born knowing how to find it. Some of us are taught. And then there are those like me who have to have everything taken from them to realize that it was really there all along. Just hidden among the clutter.

But this journey to who I will become is an endless one and there are yet many bumps along the way. And I still stumble and fall.

I made a trek recently to that suburban mecca of desire, consumerism: THE MALL. It had been so long since I had visited one. Another conscious decision. I entered and the beast long dormant, awoke. Hungry. I was consumed with it. It ate at me in a way that made me sick.

If I could head home, arms heavy-laden with shiny bags with smooth rope handles, I would be so happy.

All my life needed to be complete was the entire first floor of Nordstroms and a grande Gingerbread latte.

Oh Apple store, O Apple store!
How faithful are your products!


What I really wanted most of all?

To posses the tiny butts and legs of the Asian women who the place was crawling with.

Wow. The Seven jeans logo really looks good on their bums. Each pocket is the size of one cheek.

If I was only a size 2 I would be forever happy.

And then I pulled my head out of their, er, my butt and reminded myself of what I was dealing with. The pretty carrot on the stick, always dangled just out of reach. The eternal happy just on the horizon line. The mirage. And that self check, that knowing my foe, gave me the strength to face it head on. And walk out of there nearly empty handed*.

I will never be in possession of things that will keep me happy; I will never be a size two. But I have learned to be content and appreciate, love, and care for the things I have. And to save for the things I really need or want. I like who I am becoming. I am enjoying this journey to the me that was hidden under the clutter. I hope I am able to teach my children these lessons so that they don't repeat my mistakes. But if they do, I'll be there to hold out my hand, brush the dust off their hearts, and point them in the right direction once again. And, for awhile at least, we'll walk this road of life together.

I am thankful for all of my family, and dear, dear friends who have been essential in helping to shape the person I want to become. I hold you all, my dearest possessions, on a special shelf in my heart; taking down my memories and lovingly polishing them before carefully placing them back on the shelf. I glean from all of you pieces of who I would like to become. You are teachers of life, and I am your grateful student. And that? That is better than any truck load of shiny bags I could ever receive. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

*I did walk out with my sole Christmas present. The new iPhone. It was anti-climactic. Although I do like that I can take videos and easily send them to the Grandparents.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Tale of the Cheerful Giver

The lovely ladies and I have been gone for a week. Oh, Indiana. Oh, family. Oh, home. Oh, constant, constant presence in my ever changing, tumultuous life. As much as I know I am needed here and wanted to be reunited with my Husband and have us be a whole family again, I had to practically rip myself away from my parents. I depend on my Mother and Father for so much more than I ever dreamed I would. Had you told me that when I was 17, my head would have spun around nine times as green spew frothed from my mouth along with a string of obscenities that would make a drill Sargent proud. How life has changed me. The bumps along the way, they have somehow softened me and what was once a brittle heart. Just like a Timex.

Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin

I went home for a week to celebrate Christmas with Family and to have a birthday party for Elsbeth (who turned three: big, fat OMG!) because there are a bounty of cousins and family and children of my friends close in age to her. The fun and depth of the birthday experience is deserving of it's own post, although it may just remain a fond personal memory. Let's just say between her party and the Grandparents, the girl, once again, racked up.

As I was unpacking today I stood in her room wondering where we were going to put all of this new booty. And then I had an idea. I recently saw something online about the high number of families with children in homeless shelters in the DC area. So, I proposed my idea to Ellie.

"Ellie", I said, "there are a lot of children this Christmas that don't have any homes and probably won't get any toys for Christmas. And since you have so many, what do you think about giving those children some of yours?"

Her eyes lit up, sparkling with innocence and glee, "Yeah!"

And then she asked me for a bag and when I brought it to her, she began to fill it with toys. But not just any toys. Some of her favorite toys. All the while exclaiming to me how much these children would enjoy playing with them. Just to make sure she understood, I got down on one knee and explained to her that we were GIVING these toys away and that they would now BELONG to the kids forever.

She nodded, smiling, and said " Yeah, I know Mommy."

I thought Katrina did a pretty good job of making me impartial to material possessions. I'd lost them all before, so I could easily give them all up again. That is, until they belonged to the daughter I didn't have during Katrina and she wanted to give them away. Her favorites. For the a moment as she joyfully bagged her beloved possessions, there was a brief struggle within my heart.

NO, it said. Help her choose things that she doesn't play with. She NEEDS those things! They are HERS! You spent thirty dollars on that! And then a thought so quietly and simply floated into my heart and made silent the inner argument. It is the still, small voice that I sometimes choose not to hear. But this time I heard it.

Sell all your possessions and follow me.

The dialogue changed from NO! To: Do not stifle or limit her cheerful giving. Let her give freely anything that she wants. And I accepted that. The moment that I did I was freed from an unknown weight that I didn't even know I was carrying. I was liberated and it was liberating. We filled bag after bag, me following her lead on what to give. The smile never left her face and the glimmer of a soul brimming with innocence and joy spilled out of her eyes like shards of diamonds.

As I sat on her bedroom floor with the baby in my lap, a mess of titanic proportions surrounding us, I realized that this moment was a life lesson not only for her, but for me as well. I am the teacher and the student. This time it was the child who taught the teacher.

And a little child shall lead them

In the end we managed to fill almost three large grocery bags with books and toys.

They come and they go
of this, I know.
But what we learned

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Walk Alone

**To fully experience this post, please press play on the video before you begin reading. Thank you, and enjoy your flight.

It is past seven when he walks in the door. I have two hours left to get all the things I need before the stores close. The baby is asleep and I hurriedly toss out some instructions regarding the dinner that is in the oven as I put on my coat and head out the door.

Armed with an umbrella and two reusable shopping bags, I walk alone under the nearly bare trees and through a maze of puddles accompanied by only my thoughts. OH MY THOUGHTS, how I have MISSED you! My life has become a cacophony of incessant chatter punctuated by bouts of crying by one or both of my children. And I love them, OH I LOVE THEM. It has just been quite some time since I was able to begin a thought and follow it through to it's end without someone waking up or yelling," MOMMY, WIPE MY BUUUUUUUUTTTTTTT!" from the other room.

I walk alone and ponder the nature of God. The beauty of this life; a flock of ten thousand starlings against a gray Autumn sky even seems beautiful in its lack of color. Head lights and neon signs reflected in a rain puddle and then gone in the splash of a tire. It is only a two block walk but I take it, slowly, breathing deeply, remembering as much as I can of these few moments. I will save them in that special place in my heart and pull them out again someday.

Climbing the steps to the store, I look into the faces of each person and wonder who they are. I want to KNOW them. All of them. What makes them beat and tick, who and what do they love? I want to run away with them to a place where we can almost see our thoughts as they float above us in a cloud of smoke while we drink tea from places of which I've only imagined going. But. That's just silly.....the heady whims of an ambling dreamer. And so I push them back down into the deeper corners of my soul and pull the grocery list from my pocket.

"The avocados are ripe this time". And just like that the thoughts are gone....who knows when they will return. I have switched faces, gears; persona's. Back to the business at hand. Pull my head from the clouds. And while the business at hand may not be as heady, it has it's own subtle and intense pleasures; feeling a dozen skins in pursuit of the perfect apples, the warmth of a baguette fresh from the oven, thinking of the people I love and hand selecting items with which I will create something to warm their bellies and souls; pouring my love into it like batter from my heart.

I saved 10 cents bringing my own bags. This time as I walk home I try to figure out how much I will have saved over some time. I've never been much good at math. As I walk with a bag in each hand, I imagine I am a Dutch girl with wooden shoes and two buckets of milk hanging from a stick across my shoulders.

Upon opening the door, I am greeted with the smell of dinner and exclamations of MOMMY'S HOME! My heart swells and like a flock of ten thousand starlings, may take flight.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And Then There's The Babbies......

Ellie(ism) #1.....

Normally everywhere we go, people stop to coo and fawn over Ari, she's a baby, what can I say? Well, when this happens, Ellie is most often found standing by making mean faces and being rather disagreeable to anyone who's in her path. I attributed her behaivor to a bit of sibling rivalry.

Yesterday, we were taking a walk and a young woman walked right past us without smiling or even acknowledging us. Ellie was shocked. With an indignant look on her face, she yelled out, "HEY, she doesn't like our baby! She didn't want to look at her or talk to her!" And then she ran over to Ari and held her hand reassuringly. In that split second I caught a glimpse of the future. Of broken hearts by mean, mean ole boys and a pair of sisters comforting one another and reassuring the other of their respective charm and beauty. The preciousness was palpable.

And then there's the babbies......

Ellie calls the pacifier a babbies, I dunno. Anyway, we had broken her of them before I went back to Indiana recently by letting her cut the ends of them into the trash with "grown up scissors". She was free of them, like a junkie come clean, and THEN. And then driving back from my In Laws one day, she was bawling like you had just dismembered a kitten in front of her while pooping on a DVD of Toy Story. Yeah, it was THAT bad. She didn't want to go home with ME, her MOTHER. She wanted to stay at Grandma's where she is the sun and we are all just caught in her orbit.

Well, if that didn't make me feel like crap, so I did a terrible thing. I had a pacifier in my purse for Ari (who wants NOTHING to do with them) and like some back street pusher, I offered it to her to quell the pain.

"Here man, take some a this, you know, in a few minutes, you'll forget aaaaaaal about Grandma's. Yeah, thas right, just set back and enjoy."

And oh boy, had I started something. The addiction came back tenfold. It has been a battle of nearly apocalyptic proportion every time I try to take away the bakers dozen she carries around at all times.

I sat and contemplated how to deal with this. The subtle ways it could be handled with a minimum of tears and heartache. I was at a loss for any good ideas. But I knew one thing. They had to GO. And it needed to be yesterday! So I explained to her that she was too big for them now and we were going to go to the toy store and let her pick out a new toy that would take the place of the babbies.

As we pulled into Toys R Us, her eyes filled with tears and, grasping at straws, she hurriedly said, "That's OK Mommy, I don't need any new toys. I have good toys at home." I explained to her that this WAS going to happen and wouldn't she like a new toy to make the transition easier?

"B-B-B-But I'll really miss my baaaaaaaaaaa-biiiiiiiies!" She cried.

"It WILL be OK Ellie. I had to give mine up too and Uncle Gordon and Daddy and we were all sad too, but we were all OK. You can hug and snuggle your new toy when you feel sad about your babbies and that will help you feel better."

"OK", she said in a small voice.

As soon as we entered the doors the babbies were all but forgotten. She ended up picking out a tiny family of tigers that came with a plush little sofa. When we got to the car she reluctantly handed over the pacifiers and I traded her for the tigers.

Bedtime went off without a hitch partly due to the mound of unicorn books we checked out of the library, and this morning she asked me for them once and when I reminded her that they were gone and, well, she was fine. She was MORE fine than I would have given her credit for.

Moral: A few tears initially are worth enduring to spare yourself a mountain of them later.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New York Part UNO

I remember when Jeremy told me he was getting deployed to Kuwait. I was pregnant and our daughter was only a few weeks old when we said good bye for what would be eight months. Despite the fact that I had temporarily moved back in with my parents, I was, for all intents and purposes, a first time single Mother. There was no one else to change the diapers. There was no one else to help me through the night times. There was no one else to say to this child, Hello, I am also in you. I see it in your eyes. My eyes.

My Mother was in very similar situations during my childhood as my Father was frequently away on business. I think I learned from her to steele myself. My Mother is tiny in height and frame. I have never heard her speak ill of another human nor have I ever heard her utter profanities...even when the dining room window slammed down on her finger and trapped it while I stood by like a chicken with my head cut off freaking the F out. She is beautiful, both inside and out and has weathered storms far beyond what I have had to endure and has come out on the other side, stronger, the victor.

I don't know if that strength, that resolve, is inherent or learned; forged, if you will over the course of time and circumstance. If I had to say, I would pick the latter. Because after years of watching this tiny woman with character of gargantuan proportions, I did what I had observed her do so many times. I steeled my will and resolved to BE OK. I can make no bones about it though, my Faith, her faith, were the compass that guided us through the storms, the anchor that kept us from getting lost.

So there I was, fifty pounds overweight, Husbandless, and with a baby for the first time in my life. I sucked it up and said, can I do this? YES I CAN! And I did so many things I may have never attempted if my Husband were there: Put together an exersaucer, work out for two hours a day, take out the trash. And in the end, when the sky parted and the sun shone again, and that storm was over, I was stronger, more independent. And while I love having my Husband here to take out the trash- one of his MANY skills- I don't NEED him to. If he had never gone, I don't think I would have learned that.

When we first moved here, it had been several years since I had lived in a large, urban area and never with children. I was admittedly overwhelmed and scared at times. The metro, the bus? By myself? Could I do it? YES I COULD! And so I swallowed my fear, dove in, asked people along the way for help. Because in one of life's great metaphors, if you get lost, despite what most men think, it IS OK to stop and ask for directions.

I have two daughters. I spend a lot of time thinking about what that means for me as a Mother. Raising two Daughters in our world. In a society that places unparalleled pressure on women to look and be a certain way. For now, I am the model for behavior that they will emulate and that is no light thing. I take my job very seriously. Just as I watched and now only hope to be a smidgen like my own Mother, they will (fingers crossed) do the same. The rest is up to Providence.

So when I recently booked a bus ticket for myself to visit my friend in New York, it could have been a daunting thing. But I knew that I could do it. And, more importantly, it was an opportunity to show Elsbeth that there is NOTHING we can't do. I had a plan, it was well thought out, everything else, our safety, all the details, I thankfully gave to my friend in Heaven.

And early on a Friday morning I drove to the metro, put Ari in the Baby Hawk, Ellie in the stroller, with one hand pushed the stroller and with the other hand pulled a suitcase and got on the train. People helped me every step of the way. The kindness of strangers is a beautiful thing. We made it to our stop and managed to meander through the crowd on their way to work, find two elevators, and then walk two blocks to the parking lot where the bus was waiting.

Because of some train issues, I had been delayed about 15 minutes and when I walked up to the bus stop, they were making their last call for our bus. We had JUST made it. And so, once again with the help of kind strangers, we managed to get our things loaded and got a seat on the top deck of the double decker bus.

This post was initially just going be about my trip to New York, but when I sat down to type it, as often happens lately, the bigger picture began to emerge. Yes, I took a trip. Which I WILL talk about at length soon. But more than that, I hope that in my resolve to accomplish whatever I set my mind to, I taught my Daughters that while the World may at times be a big, scary place; while circumstances may appear as though they are going to swallow us up whole and spit out our bones, there is never anything to fear. I hope that they learn not to be paralyzed by fear, not to NOT act because of fear. Go forth boldly, and succeed, or fail trying.

That being said, will you ever see me jumping out of an airplane? NO, because well, that's just plain dumb.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Little Drummer Girl

I just went to visit a friend in New York BY MYSELF with BOTH KIDS, a suitcase, and a stroller. Yeah, it was an adventure, and I'm going to tell you all about it, but first I need to tell you about yesterday and the thoughts I had.

I like to play make believe with Ellie. It's probably my favorite thing to play with her because it enables me to relive some of my own childhood. A childhood that involved a lot of solitary play due to the fact that I moved all the time and often didn't have playmates at first. That coupled with the fact that I didn't have a sibling that was able to play with me until I was about seven made for a very imaginative me. Well, maybe that and the fact that, genetically, I'm just a touch crazy.

So this part of Ellie's childhood has been particularly enjoyable for me (except for when it makes me want to run away and join a convent) because I've introduced her to some of my favorite fantasy creatures: Mermaids, Unicorns, Dragons, Fairies, and The Like. We've amassed quite the little collection of these creatures from the thrift shop down the street that I am absolutely addicted to. Yesterday we added some amazing rocks (if you can even call them that they're so beautiful) to the collection and they became the glittering treasure that was guarded by a fierce dragon.

In the process of playing, Ellie put on part of her Halloween costume and I put on part of her Father's. After we had spent some time playing on the floor together, I decided we were going to walk to the store to pick up a couple of things I needed. She wanted to keep her flying unicorn costume on and I was to keep the King crown on because the game was to continue outside. And it did, she ran, er flew, all the way to the store flapping her tiny little arms and whinnying along the way. Occasionally when I needed her to look out for cars, I threw out a Kingly sounding, "HALT, Unicorn! There are cars, er, dragons about!" To which she would stop, look for cars, wait for me and we would cross together.

I let her do this whenever she wants. Dress up. Pretend. In public. Honestly, who am I to say no? If I wasn't wearing a pink feather boa and tiara in High School, then it was pants big enough to swim in and some crazy Japanese inspired top. My goal in life was to be an Anime character. I had pink hair, looked like Swiss cheese from all the piercings, and my parents still talked to me, albeit through gritted teeth on occasion.

So, there we were, the Unicorn and the King, in the store and for the most part people smiled and remarked on her endearing cuteness. But there were a few harsh looks and rude remarks. One in particular from the cashier. She looked at both of us like we were crazy and rolled her eyes. I explained that we had been playing dress up at home and decided to bring the game into the Real World. She rolled her eyes again. let me stop right here and say that if there is one thing I can't stand, it's rudeness. And if this little bitty was anything, it was rude. But I had to remind myself that not everyone was allowed to grow up in the environment that I was. An environment facilitated by an artist, subject to his own creative whims and vices. At times the emotional roller coaster he piloted was exhausting, but OH almost always it was liberating and just a touch mad.

And so I forgave her. And made a mental note that when the time was right. Now now, but someday. I would explain to my daughter that very important lesson that my Father taught me. It. Does. Not . Matter. What. ANYONE. Else. Thinks. Of. You. If all is right between you and The Big Man Upstairs, then bollocks to The World! Follow your heart. Listen for the sound of that little drummer that lives in all of us but most of us choose to stifle. Find your rhythm. March to your own beat. Open your heart so fully to life and all it has to offer that it may threaten to grow wings and take flight.

And yes, oh yes, there will be moments of intense heartbreak and pain, but if we don't let ourselves become bitter and continue to forgive and love and keep dancing to the song in our hearts, then in time, even those bitter moments can be savored to better appreciate what is sweet.

Someday we will have that conversation, but not now. For now, she's just a Unicorn and I'm just a King on our way from One Great Adventure to another. Blinders to the World dancing to the Music In Our Hearts.

And just because I think you need some music in your heart right now, have a listen to this:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hello My Name Is: Attachment (ish) Parent

Before I became a parent, I had all kinds of opinions on how other people should be raising their children. Oh, yes I was one of THOSE people. I had all the answers for your parenting problems, and they usually involved giving that unruly toddler a spanking. Kid throwing a tantrum at the store? Spank em. Kid won't finish his supper? Spank em. Kid talks back? Spank. His. Hiney. And so on and so forth. Why? Well, because that's pretty much how I was raised. And just like a Timex, I could take a lickin and keep on tickin. So I figured if I turned out to be so kick ass, then that MUST be the proper way to raise children.

And then I had children. I had a child who has both a will of steel and a spectrum of thought and emotion that amaze me. I realized in raising this child that there is no One Size Fits All solution for parenting. Just like their parents, each child is unique and comes with his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses. It is our job as the Parents, to figure out how to best guide them through the tempest of emotions and struggles and hopefully arrive safely on the other side of adolescence. But really, that's just a tangent. What brought me to this subject was the pondering I've done lately on how each of my girls is so intrinsically different from the other.

As I've mentioned before, Ellie was a good sleeper from the get go. Even now, after she has her daily tantrum, she usually still takes a three hour nap. Can you say Awesome? And then there's Ari. Maybe it's because she was forced into the World before she was ready, maybe it was a side effect of the crazy medication I was on for my eye, maybe it's just Who She IS. But Ari, has NEVER yet been a good sleeper.

At three days old when I couldn't take the sound of her whimpering in the cradle next to my bed any longer; I said, The Hell with it, and did what I thought up until that point was a big no no and put her tiny body in bed with me. She slept for almost six hours and it just felt RIGHT. Shortly thereafter, I realized that I had been trying to force my child and myself into the box of what I thought a good parent child relationship was. And while it worked for Ellie and I, it wasn't a fit for me and Ari. You see, that's the crazy thing about parenting. You have the be the parent that each child needs you to be. Ari's specific needs as a child caused me to slip comfortably and fully aware into the shoes of an Attachment Parent. Or my version of that anyway.

So, that's what we've been doing for the past almost six months. Co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and the whole she-bang. And up until recently, the shoes fit real nicely. Recently though, she has been nursing ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Basically using me as a comfort and a pacifier, and while up until this point I didn't mind it; my neck and back have been causing me pain and my quality of sleep had gone down tremendously. Not to mention the fact that there just isn't room for the three of us in our bed anymore. This situation caused me to realize that in order to be the best parent I can be; I sometimes have to do what's right for me. And right now, what's right for me is getting my sleep and my bed back. I am no good to anyone hobbling around in a sleep deprived daze all day.

So, I consulted with older women that I trust who have had many children and could offer advice on just how to go about kicking her out of my bed. And, I might just add that she was simply going to a pack and play right NEXT to my bed. You know what all of them said in one way or another? Let her cry. To someone who embraces Attachment Parenting, those are very dirty words. So, I tried my own way first, which involved just about anything I could think of to get her to sleep in her pack and play without crying short of climbing in there with her and nursing her to sleep. I must admit though, I did go as far as to lean over and contort my body in such a way so that she could use me as a pacifier while in there. And while I was twisted and pulled, I thought to myself, This is so stupid. Let her cry for a minute. And so I did. DUN DUN DUN

And you know what. As much as I hate to admit it, THEY. WERE. RIGHT. After five minutes, she was asleep. I still fed her twice that night and put her in bed with me at six the next morning. HEY, baby steps OK? But the next night she only whined for maybe 30 seconds and fell asleep. And just now, for her nap. JUST NOW guess what happened? I laid her down half awake and she went to sleep without EVEN WHINING OR CRYING IN HER OWN BED. YES, I AM YELLING! I want to run through the halls of my building in my underwear testifying of this glorious hurdle we've just overcome.

There is no label for her as a Child. There is no label for me as a Mother. It is just give and take and we are both learning what works best for us. But, a little secret? I wouldn't give back those six precious months of her in my bed for anything.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hurricane Elsbeth

So, you have a baby. And it's brimming with innocence and wide eyed wonder and all the things that make it worth while to have a baby. You fall so deeply in love with said baby that you wonder how it's possible for one person to adore another person quite so much without their heart bursting and covering everyone around them in gooey, matronly love.

And then. There comes a day when that baby has become someone else entirely. Why, now that innocent, chubby little ball of flesh is a miniature Cuban dictator running around the house screaming unintelligible orders at everyone wielding a black sharpie and threatening to use it. On everything.

It's a transition. And sometimes it's exasperating. On the one hand we just can't wait for those giggling babies to grow up so we can talk to them and know them in a deeper way. And on the other hand, well some times it's like trying to hold a hurricane in your hands and pretend like everything is fine while the wind is nearly knocking you out. The magic of watching your child grow is like watching a rose bloom. But sometimes when you're holding it, you get stuck by a thorn.

I have observed my daughter choose to lie. And it hurt me in the places that seek and treasure what is right. Watching your child lose her innocence one tiny shred at a time is a painful thing to observe. I must remind myself that we are all human and this is a process that everyone must experience. It is my job to equip her with the truth and the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. And to correct and guide her when she makes the wrong choices. If I'm there. And if I'm not.... Well, that's where my fervent prayer for her comes in.

It's a process and a struggle.

I must remember.....

I was once a child. The magic of youth lingers in my memory. My parents, the creators and shapers of the memories. And now, in the eternal cycle of life; it's my turn to create and shape what she will one day remember. I wonder if they felt the same we do now when I was young. I am just a girl. And he is just a boy. Feeling so inherently the same on the inside as we did so many years ago, only surrounded by a life that we're not quite sure how we came by. A house, two cars, two kids, and some animals. I am just a girl. And he is just a boy. I am Mother. And he is Father.

And the Nihilist Toddler is still wielding the Sharpie. I take a deep breath and remove myself from this minute that threatens to consume me with anger, anxiety, and frustration. I remember the baby she was, and think about the woman I hope she will become and in doing so, I regain my calm. I am the guide on this Ride Of Life and I remind her that I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. That means HER. That means NO JUICE. The sharpie falls. This time the battle was easy. But I remind myself that there will be more. Many, many more. probably withing the next hour. But I remind myself that I am doing very important work. I am helping shape A PERSON. WOW. Heavy stuff when you really stop and think about it. But, who has time for that? The baby's crying, the doorbell just rang and the Toddler is now in your makeup and looking like Joel Gray in Cabaret.

Take a breath. Soak it in. These days are gone faster than seemingly possible. Step outside the chaos and remember that. One day she will call me from college, we will talk, we will be friends, and I will remember the baby, the diabolical Toddler, the She That She Used To Be.

Right now it's nap time. After a bathroom break, two stories, a cup of drink, and some tears, she begins in on the list of things she needs in order to avoid napping. I calmly tell her, No, No and NO all cushioned within loving sentiment. it is time for sleep. Then the screaming begins. I shut the door and within minutes she quiets down and falls asleep. Sometimes it's very difficult not to just give in. But I remind myself of our unwavering policy NOT TO NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS. They NEVER keep up their end of the bargain. Even if it's just going to sleep for a couple of hours.

And now, with all miraculously quiet, and calm for a short time, I will attempt to tackle the stack of books that have been calling my name. Them, me, and a hot cup of tea.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Good, The Bad, And The Fugly

It's been five months. Five months since I pushed a human being out of my body and called it my own once again. Well, kind of. She is attached to me in so many ways that we are still very physically connected. Because those are the shoes I've decided to settle into. Those of an attachment parent. And so far, they fit real nice. But today isn't about that. Today is about life after the baby. Just me. In my Skin. Before the mirror.

Pregnant. And a pirate.

I've borne two beautiful children. I grew them within my body and pushed them out of my body with strength I didn't know I possessed. It's an amazing thing our bodies do as women and far beyond my comprehension, but in the aftermath. In the battlefield of my body. That is where my struggle lies. The war within and without myself.

Sometimes I can see the me I used to be.

I stand in front of the mirror before my shower and look at my body. Sometimes I don't want to but I make myself. Things appear to have shifted all over. Skin is still soft but sits a little further south than before and looks wearied and puckered in that place right below my navel. My bones seem to have shifted as well. Hips are still tilted out and up. I wonder if that will ever go back to the way it was when I was nineteen. I sigh. Probably not. I can see the blue veins mapping my chest and legs, telling me I am alive. Sometimes when I stand here I don't feel like it.

This new body is hard for me to embrace. I struggle against it. I fight accepting it. I CAN change it. And so I endure endless squats, lunges, and crunches. I refuse to eat bread and sugar...well, sometimes. And yet there seem to be things I just cannot change.

I'm standing before the mirror again. Wondering why my arms are so big. They've always been so small. Well, before children. I look at my face and ponder the tired look I see in my eyes. I push and pull the skin in so many different ways trying to find the me that I feel like on the inside. The me I was just a few years ago. It's all happened so fast.

Learning to love me without the frills.

I wake up for the fourth time this week drenched in sweat. My hair is stuck to my neck and the baby is stuck to me. There is a damp spot on the sheet where I've been laying. Night sweats. Again. I step out of the shower and run a comb through my hair. It comes out in obscene amounts. I try to reassure myself by remembering that we all lose 80- 100 hairs a day. But this is much, much more.

These things are all battle scars. You might call them badges of Motherhood. They are a testament to the fact that I've given life. I've shared my body with other people. And in the course of it, I was changed forever. In so many ways.

As I look at my laughing children, I know without a doubt I would do it again. And I will probably do it again in the not too distant future. And I will be surely changed again. And in time, I hope that I can learn to accept and embrace the changes.

For now, this is who I am.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Recession Diet (Part One)

If you're anything like me, and let's hope for your sanity you're not, then you go to the grocery store almost every day. Even if it's only to pick up that one item you're lacking to complete the list of needed ingredients for what you've planned on making for Supper. Is that what the last meal of the day is officially called? I always get confused because my Grandma calls one of them Dinner and one Supper and I can never remember which is which.

Anyway, it adds up. I've been doing a detailed budget recently and the amount I've been spending on groceries is really a lot higher than I'd like it to be. Gordon, you may insert your jokes about my appetite ______ here. The truth is, not being totally organized about meal planning and indecisive about what I'd like us to have for supper?Dinner? every day puts a strain on Ye Olde Wallet.

I realize that times are hard financially for many, many people right now and in an effort to save money and squeeze out some creative juices (believe me it's much more awesome than it sounds) I've proposed to my Mother (Whose house I am STILL at) that we see just how long we can go before we go to the Grocery Store for ANYTHING. Now, I may fail miserably at this (Cough, cough, green experiment, cough, cough), BUT I think it will be fun.

I've recently been doing the South Beach Diet to lose the rest of this unsightly baby blubber and so far it's worked like a charm. I actually only have a few more pounds to go before I'm to my pre Ari weight- That is another post in and of itself- and I realize that in order to do this it will require that I give myself some liberty in the diet department. My little heart just leapt for joy at the thought of eating bread.

So, here's the plan:
We will make meals from whatever we can with WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE in this house.

We will eat food that has been frozen in the freezer since Hoffa went missing (Only a little kidding). That may include small, helpless creatures that my Father and Brother killed.

I will give you the recipes for whatever we come up with.

And if you have come up with anything out of ingredients you had on hand....please share the recipe and a photo if you can and I'll share it here.

Tonights dinner : BLT's and Green Giant Broccoli and Cheese (and at this stage its going to be easy....stay tuned for a week from now when we're eating stewed rabbit glazed with Strawberry Jam and served with potato eyes and canned asparagus)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Home and The Realization of Contentment

Many years ago, when my parents took us to the 1800's farmhouse that they wanted to buy, I cried. It had no air conditioning and smelled like moth balls and remorse. Even worse was the location. It sat in a town outside of Indianapolis that had nothing to offer a nineteen year old girl with a penchant for the night life. Just small town, middle American charm nestled quietly in the midst of corn and soy beans.

Now ten years later, their loving, hand toiled restoration of this house has made it a place I treasure. It has been a source of respite for me in times of great hardship and pain. It is listed in the registry of Historical Places and once upon a time it was called The Lemon Drop House because the woman who lived here would leave a bowl of Lemon Drop candies just inside for the neighborhood children. Times have sure changed, huh?

Red Geraniums, a sign of summer. I used to to hate them and the way they smelled. Now, they are a beacon, a reminder of home. And when I pull up to the front of this house, they remind me of my family and that I am home.

These stairs. I have climbed them more times than I can recall.
Drunk, and very quietly in the middle of the night so as not to get caught.
Fast, two at a time, up to the top, to slam my door in youthful angst and protest at the dictatorship of my parents.
Wistful and swooning. In love for the first and last time.
Offering goodbyes as I left for what I thought would be the last time on my wedding night.
Up to the top again and again as I returned after Hurricanes, deaths, deployments, and babies.
I have knocked myself out running down these stairs.
And one time the mailman saw me naked because I was forever forgetting my towel as I made a mad dash up the stairs to my room.
After a decade, I know every place they creak and every loose spindle. And I know at the top is a room that will forever be mine. Where I will forever be their child.

A room full of books. A better place I cannot think of. Well, maybe if they added a movie popcorn machine it would really rock my world. On these shelves sit The Harvard Classics and from these books came the great enlightening of my mind. You can travel anywhere without leaving the room.
There is a dent on this sofa where my Father's butt has resided for the better part of the last decade. It is oddly comforting to fall into it and then to heave ho myself out of it in a rocking motion. Only not so much while I was pregnant.

Oh, the conversations that have been had on this porch.
Discussions celebrating the life of loved ones lost.
Pontifications about life, God, and things much headier than who Jennifer Aniston is dating.
I have sipped coffee and iced tea in this place and waved at neighbors bicycling past and finally realized that all the other things I used to think were important were just emptiness. And chasing the wind.

I washed my second child in the glow of the amber light to the tranquil sound of the rain on the honeysuckle vines. As I felt her soft skin and examined my aging hands against it, I pondered the journey I have made. I wonder why it took me so long and so many bumps along the way, to finally understand what this life is all about. I wonder if it was the only way to get me to appreciate it. Would these moments be as sweet if I had not experienced the bitterness of pain? Would I love so deeply if I had not felt the searing ache of losing so many? Would I enjoy a life unencumbered by material possessions if I had not lost everything? I can't answer these questions because I'll never know. But, however I got here, I am glad to be at this place. Content.

For so long I vowed to leave this place at the first opportunity. And I did. And I came back to this place. Time and time again. Now when I am away from it I long for the quiet. A quiet punctuated by the laughter of children, and crickets, and the occasional barking dog. It is a stillness and a quiet that allow you to breathe. I have come full circle on this part of my journey. And I am better for it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Secrets of a Disney Princess

Well, folks, we've entered the Disney Princess phase. I don't mind it so much that she likes princesses, but I'm just not a big fan of uber-merchandised goods plastered with the likeness of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. I can only take so many character themed objects before my head explodes from their collective Disney perfection.

I think I've logged more hours watching Snow White in the last week than I have slept and that makes for an interesting day. I find myself breaking out into a spontaneous rendition of "Whistle While You Work" as I'm changing a poopy diaper. In watching all of these movies I have noticed a definite formula required to become a princess. And just in case you were wondering what skills you needed to list on your resume before applying at The Disney Castle, I'll help you out.

1) A true Disney princess must not have a Mother and should ideally posses a cruel Step-Mother who is jealous of her virginal beauty.. This is crucial as it lends to our sympathetic view of the poor dear.

2) She should be forced into manual drudgery and wear simple, patched clothing for most of the day. But she never lets those minor details keep her down because although she has no human friends, she.......

3) Should be able to talk to animals of all sorts in a high pitched yet soothing voice. She is never, ever cruel to these animals (ELLIE, ARE YOU LISTENING?) even when she puts them to work.

4) She is a tidy housekeeper (probably from all the years of drudgery) and frets whenever she sees a mess. She will always tidy up a room, usually with the help of her furry friends, and almost always while singing.

5)She is a virgin. (Sorry to 99.999% of you applicants out there that just became disqualified) and furthermore, she has never been kissed. Her first kiss will be tantamount to losing her virginity and she will then promptly get married before she ignites in flames of red hot Disney passion and live happily ever after.

Why don't we ever see the Princess after she rides off into the sunset with Prince Charming? Well, it's just my opinion, but I think it's because: She gets pregnant on her wedding night, has a child every other year, her perky Disney breasts fall down to her knees and there isn't a Victoria's Secret within a thousand mile radius of the Castle to help her out, Prince Charming takes a lover(s), Princess goes on Zoloft, develops saddlebags and liver spots, goes on Dancing with The Stars only to trip over her gown during practice and break a hip, is nursed back to health by the woodland creatures and fairy folk, and then (deeeep breath) develops breast cancer from drinking out of water bottles that she let sit in her carriage all day and get hot. By this time she's the one saying, "Mirror, Mirror on the wall" And so on and so forth. And, you know what? I kinda like it that way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mommy's A Cow

All right dudes, this one isn't for you. So, please leave now or forever hold your peace.

Admittedly, I had a lot going on in my life in the way of "stressors" when Elsbeth was born. Oh, like say, hurricanes, deaths, deployments, and a particularly high number of people from Nigeria wanting to give me a lot of money for no apparent reason other than the fact that I am a "Dear Sister or Brother in Christ". So, when I attempted to breastfeed I was a little preoccupied. And it was hard. My mother who had breastfed both my brother and I and had gone on and on about how amazing it was and how she could practically eat her weight in powdered donughts every day and just about wither away, was not with me. For the first few weeks I was alone in Mississippi and she was in Indiana. I needed help. A lot of women do. It's not always as easy as we are sometimes led to believe.

I relied on what I had been told at the hospital for my success, and that was that babies need to eat every three hours. So that's what I did. I put her on a schedule of feedings every three hours. Even in the early days. It breaks my heart to look back at videos from those first few weeks of her life to see her fussing and rooting looking for food while I am standing by, oblivious, because, well, it hadn't been three hours so she SURELY couldn't be hungry. As women I think we have grown so accustomed to relying on the advice of books and Doctors that we have forgotten how to hear that little voice inside of us that guides us in the ways of Mothering. It is our Mother instinct and I had practically muzzled mine for the advice of men who had never borne a child but claimed to be experts in the ways of this womanly art.

So because of this schedule I had poor Ellie on, my milk never really came in. And when someone suggested after I had fed her that she still seemed hungry and that perhaps I should give her some formula to top her off, well that's exactly what I did. And without my knowledge, this further decreased my milk supply. Because with the 'ole udders, it's all about supply and demand. Baby demands it; my body supplies it. But I just didn't know. I was ignorant. And the women of previous generations either weren't there to instruct me in this ancient and intimate process or had no experience themselves in the era of easily accessible formula.

And just like that, in the course of only a few months, the nursing of my firstborn was over. And, I'll be honest, in some ways my life was easier. I could wear whatever I wanted without having to ponder whether or not my kid could have easy access to "The Milk Bar". Anyone could feed her and I could get a few minutes to myself. But ultimately, the bigger part of me felt a tiny light go out in the newly developing part of my soul that is reserved for the Mother in me.

With my second pregnancy, I vowed I would not repeat my past mistakes and do it differently, and this time I would succeed. And so when the whole thing with my eye came into play and I was told I wouldn't be able to breastfeed because of the medication I was on, I felt crushed. Because that's how important a goal it had become to me. I would rather risk losing my eye than not be able to nurse my baby. And so I refused my medicine. That's right, I REFUSED to take medicine that could potentially prevent me from going blind. I just started listening to that little voice that urges me on and sometimes tells me to relax. Luckily, so far it hasn't asked me to go to the kitchen and grab a knife. That's quite a relief.

In preparation for this monumental task I read. A lot. I was better informed this time and resolved that every time that baby made a peep, blinked an eye, or hiccuped I was going to stick a boob in her mouth. And that's what I did. For several weeks. My Husband commented that it seemed like all I ever did was feed the baby because it was true. So I fed and I pumped and I pumped and I fed, and by the end of six weeks you could have tanned leather with my nipples but, by God, I was finally a cow! And I mean that in the most, glorious and reverent way possible.

It was my body alone, and what God had provided me with that was keeping my child alive. And not only keeping her alive, but nourishing her,growing her; fattening her up. It was the biggest boost of self confidence that I have ever experienced. Even more than the time that I fit into my Mom's size four pants.

And so here we are four and a half months later and we're still going strong. She has never had a drop of formula, not because I think that's wrong, but because I haven't had to give her any. I have shifted from one school of thought to another. Before I guess, like alot of women in our culture, I viewed these things on my chest as something to be admired and hidden away. Now, they are even more beautiful despite the fact that they are love worn to the point of being almost unrecognizable to their former, more perky selves. They have become a life source. And the source of me. Coming into my own as a Mother.

As most of you who have followed this blog for some time realize, I'm not one for mushy, estrogen laden sentiment, but the bond I have with this child at this stage is beyond my comprehension. It is she and I. Me and she. We function almost as if the cord of blood and water was never severed. The fact that she's my bunk mate night after precious night doesn't hurt either.

Oh, and my eye. It's fine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Short And Compact Musings of a Questionably Addled Mind

I know. It's been awhile. But don't think I haven't been thinking about you, Dear Readers. Because I have. Alot. It's just that I left my Mac Book with The Husband and the computer at my parents house was created sometime during the Cold War. You think I'm kidding. I am not. I'm surprised the keys even function from all the God only knows what bio material gummed in between them.

Some thoughts:

I don't care what anyone says, I can literally smell the end of summer. Especially in Indiana. I think it has to do with the corn. And perhaps the crop circles, but that's another post entirely.

I usually pack a couple changes of clothes for each kid whenever I leave the house. Because, well, you just never know. While loading Ari into the car after the gym today, I hear Ellie say, "I have to go to the potty". And then she did. Right there in the parking lot. So, I wiped her down and as I was changing her into the dress I brought I realized that I had forgotten to pack extra underwear for her. So, I just put the dress on her and made a mental note to add the undies when we got home.

I had to stop by the grocery store for a couple things on the way home and since I was only going to be in there for a minute; I carried Ari and had Ellie walk with me. Inside I gave her a hand wipe to keep her from getting distracted by all the dye riddled junk food placed at very questionable eye levels. She seemed very happy with this and gleefully showed me all the dirt that had come from her hands. I was only half listening and busily eyeing the aisles for smoked almonds (which have become a SERIOUS addiction) when I noticed that she wasn't by my side anymore.

I glanced around and to my HORROR found her in the area between the cash registers and the aisles (quite possibly the most visible place in the ENTIRE store) with her dress UP NEAR HER HEAD, halfway bent over, and yelling out to me, "Mommy I have to wipe my BUTT!" I think I sprouted several grey hairs at that moment as I hissed PUT YOUR DRESS DOWN.

And then there was the moment when I FINALLY got both children to sleep at the same time. I ran to the downstairs bathroom and jumped in what was my first shower in two days. Hey, DON'T JUDGE ME. It was like a small vacation and I was thouroughly enjoying my few moments to myself when I heard my Father come in.

Don't come out, He says.

Me: You're just peeing right, I hope you're just peeing.

Him: Nope

Me: Oh, god, please does this have to happen NOW?

Him: Jill, what do you want me to do about it?

Me: FLUSH, for god sakes FLUSH!

Him: In between grunts and groans, Almooooost finished.

Me: I can't believe this is happening NOW.

And yes, despite my disbelief, it did happen. And my shower had lost the appeal it formerly held.

In other news, Ari has turned the corner of formerly EEEEVVVVIIILL baby and is now a smiling, gurgling, and YES laughing bundle of scrumptiousness. More on that to follow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stop. Collaborate. And listen.

It's five AM and I am awake again. Another restless night with the loudest baby in creation. I thank Providence that I do not require great sleep to function well(ish).

There was a moment yesterday. A moment that almost passed me by. A moment so thinly veiled in it's innocence that I nearly chose to pass it up.

A house in disorder. A bowl of brightly colored beads scattered across the floor. Raw chicken on the counter waiting to be turned into something edible. And a little girl asking me to dance.

It's easy to brush her off with the list of things that I must accomplish in order to feel sane. It's easy to sit her in front of the T.V. and make promises about a "later" that may never come. It's so easy to get swept up in the mundane details of the everyday that we forget what makes this life unforgettable.

And so I stopped. And we danced. We danced to Queen's Another One Bites The Dust. And we laughed. Once again in that moment I was reminded that these few minutes, these few precious minutes are the fulfillment of childhood visions.

Here we are. My daughter and I. MY daughter. I dreamed about these moments as a child. Forgot about them for awhile during the time I was a veritable Johnny Appleseed of "wild oats". And then, when the time was right, they found me.

So, we let the beads fall where they may. And we let the chicken sit on the counter (but not long enough to cause salmonella). And we danced. For a few moments all the things that seemed so pressing, fell away.

Sometimes memories happen all on their own. And sometimes we have to stop and make them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Life....With Children

I have began and then erased the beginning of several different posts on several different topics. I believe I am running on such a consistent lack of sleep that a deep fog has settled into every crevice of my mind and until I lock myself in the closet or bathroom with a notebook or the computer I will be unable to gather and piece together the fragments of my thoughts.

So, until that day, let me invite you into the chaos that is my world right now.

(Sometimes) 5ish, coerced out of what feels like the first deep sleep of the night by Husband who wishes to have a few moments of conversation without the incessant chatter of children constantly bombarding us.

Make tea (Earl Grey...YOU KNOW IT) and coffee.

Search cupboard in a daze looking for my Thomas Jefferson coffee mug. I simply can't wake up well without the help of the profile of our third president.

6ish, Bid Husband farewell as he heads off to work.

Sit at kitchen table in a daze and marvel at the quiet.

Talk to God.

Compile a list of things that need to be done before the day ends. (some days I am more ambitious than others....hell, some days there is no list)

Look at facebook and try not to fall asleep.

Listen for baby in the monitor.

7:30ish Ellie wakes up.....we make a mad dash for the toilet and hope we make it there in time.

Respond to pleas of: I'm hungry, I'm firsty, with the appropriate food and drink.

Eat a grapefruit and wish it was pancakes.

Attempt to finish a Tae Bo video while not stepping on Ellie who is doing her own freestyle version which spans the length of the room.

Look around this tiny apartment and try to comprehend the mess that seemed to appear out of thin air.

Sing a song about cleaning up in a sometimes successful attempt to get Ellie to take all her junk back to her room.

Occasionally step on the pointy edge of some toy laying in the middle of the floor and hop around trying not to teach daughter expletives that want to fly from my mouth.

9ish Baby wakes up, sometimes happy, sometimes not, but always hungry.

Feed baby while visualizing all the calories being sucked from my body (preferably my butt) and transferred to her tiny little frame. What's mine can now be yours.

Talk in a high pitched voice and act like an idiot in attempt to coerce a smile or even the hint of a giggle from the baby. Well, at least it usually works on Ellie.

10ish Sing the "school time" song and lead Ellie like the Pied Piper into her room where I try to get her to sit still for close to 45 minutes.

Teach her the day of the week and the date. Go over letters and their sounds, numbers, and writing. The latter is proving more difficult that I thought it would be.

11ish Let Ellie watch a show while I try to get baby to nap. Some days are easier than others. Look into crying baby's eyes and tell her that if only I could trade her places, I gladly would . But alas, God has seen fit to make ME the parent, so shut those peepers and for heavens sake GO TO SLEEP.
Five minutes later. Reassure crying baby that I did not abandon her and am still here to usher her into a peaceful sleep which sometimes involves a little "Milk nightcap".

11.45ish Make lunch. Tell Ellie that while her Father may find ice cream an appropriate lunch time meal, I do not and therefore she will be eating something healthy and nutritious thereby securing my place as the "Bad Guy".

Eat some version of a salad or whole wheat sandwich and wish it was a steaming bowl of pasta smothered in a creamy sauce.
12ish Baby wakes up again and this time usually can't be talked or shushed into returning to sleep

Feed baby again.

12:30ish Put Ellie down for a nap

Contemplate blogging, but usually abandon the idea and instead opt to finish a few pages of one of the five books I checked out of the library.

1:30ish Try to get baby to nap again by any means possible. Go through tears and frustration once again. Sometimes give in and lay down with her which does the trick for both of us in minutes.

Dream about weird things

2:30-3ish usually get waken up by Ellie and make another mad dash for the bathroom. Once again respond to the hungry and firsty pleas with appropriate food and drink.

Really wish I could drink more caffeinated drinks.

Wonder where the day has gone and wish I had spent more time outside underneath the trees.

(sometimes) Go to the pool, after much gathering of things and preparation of the children.

Let Ellie play in the kiddie pool while trying to keep Ari happy.

Look at the lifeguards and remember all the summers of my youth spent swimming and laughing.

Miss my childhood.

5ish go home and get dinner ready for husband who will arrive home soon. Tired and hungry.

Make a mad dash through the house in an attempt to clean up the mess that has once again mysteriously appeared.

Look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I remembered to brush my teeth.

(sometimes) put on makeup and try to look like the woman he married.

Welcome Husband home and try to keep Ellie from bombarding him right away with feet and endless words.


Clean up dinner mess.

Bathe children.

7:30ish Jeremy puts Ellie in bed while I begin what can be a two hour long process of getting the baby to fall asleep.

9ish fall onto the couch and think about a hot bath and a glass of wine. Usually, it's just a thought.

10:30ish Go to bed and fall asleep with my earphones in listening to an audio book.

The next day: Repeat

Occasionally some variables that may occur are:

Putting on nice clothes and makeup

Completing some of the To Do list

Leaving the house

Fun, Huh?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Baby Books and Sleep Solutions

All right guys who read this blog, you may want to turn away now because unless you have children, you're probably going to be lost. I promise to write something amusing and mildly controversial for you in a future post.

So there's a ten week old baby at our house and she is NOTHING like my first child in any aspect other than those big doe eyes and skinny little legs. From the time Elsbeth was a few weeks old, I could swaddle her and put her to bed wide awake and she would put herself to sleep and sleep for several hours at a stretch. That was during the day. Sleeping through the night took awhile longer for us, I think because she was breast fed and I've heard breastfed babies need to eat more frequently. This wasn't a problem at the time though, because Jeremy was in Kuwait and I just let her sleep in bed with me and eat during the night whenever she became hungry. As any Mom who's done this will tell you, it's pretty awesome to nurse in bed. It's comfortable for me and the baby and I can pretty much drift back off to sleep.

Well, I thought the same method would work with this baby and that's when I realized that just like snowflakes, no two babies are alike. And this one is causing me some pretty big headaches. During the day, if we're out I carry her in a Mei Tei, an Asian style front carrier from baby hawk. She routinely falls asleep in this carrier which is kind of nice when I'm having lunch with a friend or shopping. Occasionally I can slip it off and put her in her cradle, but she usually doesn't stay asleep for very long that way. I feed her on demand which is usually every two to three hours although sometimes, especially in the evenings it's quite a bit more.

And then there's the evenings. She is very fussy at night and for a couple of weeks I wondered if she had colic. Nothing I did seemed to stop her crying. It wasn't an "I'm in pain" kind of cry, it was just an "I'm pissed" cry. Recently though, the evening crying has lessened but I'm still having much trouble getting her to fall asleep. I feed her, swaddle her, and then lay her down in a dark room with a relatively loud fan, and shhhhhhhhhh her until her eyes start rolling around in her head. Then I try to make my exit. It usually always ends in crying. I go back in, give her her pacifier which has most often fallen out, and try shhhhhhhhhing again with a combination butt pat. It has never worked. The crying escalates to the point where I think she's going to choke and I inevitably get in bed with her and nurse her to sleep and if I don't fall asleep myself, I make as quiet an exit as possible.

I have read The Baby Whisperer, The Happiest Baby on the Block, and Dr. Sears baby book. The only one I haven't read is Babywise which came recommended by a few friends. Here is where my struggles lie.
Dr. Sears is an advocate of attachment parenting, which encourages co-sleeping, babywearing, and other such methods of keeping baby physically near you. He makes the point that babies were near us physically for nine months and then we force them to lie in a dark room by themselves and push them around in strollers far from our bodies and this is not natural. He also points to cultures that routinely wear their babies and breastfeed several times an hour stating that there is little instance of colic and prolonged periods of crying. To that I say, it's all good and well to have your boobs exposed all day if you live in Africa, but it might draw some unwanted stares here.

From what I've heard, the Baby Whisperer is similar to Babywise in that they both advocate a schedule and a little "cry it out". Some things about the Baby Whisperer I like, but I am just not OK with crying. I know people who can let their children cry for over and hour, and I just can't. The thing that some may call Mother's intuition or the Mothering instinct sends up red flags when I hear my babies cry. I think when they're a little older short periods of crying are OK with "check ins" if needed.

So, here I am, torn between how to handle this needy baby while not betraying what my heart tells me to do. They're only small for so long; I don't mind rocking or holding her to sleep. I just want her to stay asleep for longer than 15 minutes without me having to lay next to her.

Here is what I propose to do. I plan to get serious about a schedule with her while still feeding her on demand during her awake periods during the day. For naps and during bedtime, I will swaddle and do the same sleep routine every time which will include the five S's of The Happiest Baby on the Block. I would truly appreciate any shared experiences from other Mother's (or Fathers for that matter) or advice. And it is my hope that if I am successful, this may benefit someone who is experiencing something similar.

UPDATE: As I have been in the process of writing this post, it is naptime and I decided to use it as my first attempt at my new plan. I fed her, swaddled her, gave her her pacifier, bounced and shhhhhhhed her until she was sleepy but not asleep. And then I put her in bed. She was quiet for about 10 minutes at which point she started crying. I let it escalate slightly and then went in and gave her the pacifier and shhhhhed her; she fell back asleep. She awoke a couple more times and I repeated the process, and to my great relief, she has now been asleep for over 30 minutes. This just may work. Now, we'll just have to see about night time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

For the Pleasure of Your Eyes

I have about 15 different posts swimming in fragments around my presently addled brain. I can't seem to fully or cohesively extract one in particular, so I'm going to offer you a story that made me laugh to the point of tears recently. I'll end with a series on what's been offered in the "Foyer Freebies" lately, just in case you wee anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Lately, every day is an adventure for me. Learning how to manage two small children while staying relatively sane has proven, at times, more difficult than I imagined it would be. Elsbeth can be very willful ( I have NO idea where she gets it), usually when we're in public. Jeremy and I have had to regroup and strategize together to form a plan of action for these instances. He prefers to reward good behavior, while I prefer a good, old fashioned public beat down in the style of that screaming Mom you can always hear somewhere off in the distance at Walmart. "I said NO, you AINT gettin that toy! Granny already dun gotchu sumpin! Now you put 'at back fore I beat yer butt!"

Actually, I abhor the public spanking as much as it amuses me to observe it being done to other unruly little heathens. And I think Elsbeth realizes this and it is why she acts out more when we're in a public environment. So, I have taken to consistently enforcing time outs in the cart and then ignoring her screams and the judgemental stares of onlookers. Guess what? It's working. I threaten action and I instantly get the correct behavior 99% of the time. It has become a joy to take her places. And here is just such an example.

A couple of days ago we made a run to Target. I was walking with Ari in the baby carrier and Ellie was sitting in the seat of the cart. As I was shopping, Ellie kept me entertained with precious little songs and stories told to me in a strange little voice that was almost cartoon like. I wasn't giving her my full attention, only half listening, but occasionally she would say in the funny voice, Ohhhhh, my bewwy hurts. And then back to the singing or the story. This went on for about fifteen minutes.

We were in the shampoo aisle which was relatively crowded with about six or seven other people, when she says in the same funny voice, Ohhh, it stinks in here. Then back to the singing. I'm in the process of smelling different body washes when she says, Uh, Oh, we better getoutta here! I'm going poopy. And then. Then she let loose the loudest and most offensive sounding gas. It sure did sound like she had gone poopy. I began to laugh and could barely manage to get the words out to ask her if she had in fact pooped her pants. She looked at me with a huge Cheshire cat grin and said, uh-huh, I did. I started to laugh even harder and had to hold on to the shelf for support. People around us had been giggling for some time and it made me laugh all the more. Tears were streaming down my face.

I'll take the poopy pants kid any day over the screaming, kicking, dragging her feet monster I had been dealing with. Oh, and in the end, her pants weren't even dirty.

And now (insert drum roll) in the continuing series of Foyer Freebies, Here is what you COULD have gotten for free if only you lived in this building.

A parenting magazine, a mouse pad, and a children's bike helmet. Apparently, the part in the magazine about bicycle safety was overlooked.
Another mag, some plastic snack cups, some articles for a baby girl, and the fingers of a small child.
And, just because pureed squash wasn't bad enough...we're offering you green beans. AT LEAST thery're organic. And hey, maybe there's ONE baby in the world that loves them. And hopefully it lives in this very building.
Some questionable reading material, and (GASP) golden glitter spray with (ANOTHER GASP) a sponge applicator! That will go so well with my bedazzler!
And finally, some more shady and dog eared reading material.

You sure do want to move here now don't you?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Good Times

Growing up, my Father would often entertain us with stories about growing up in the fifties. The pictures he painted for me were so vivid, I could almost see him riding his bicycle to the barber shop his Grandfather owned in Broad Ripple and sneaking under the fence to go to the Indiana State fair every summer. Rolled up blue jean cuffs, white t shirts and a crew cut; life was so innocent then.

I wanted so badly to be transported back in time to live in the fifties. I watched Grease more than was good for me and had my Grandmother make me a poodle skirt which I wore every time there was a costume party. Although, now I've learned to accept the fact that this was meant to be my time on Earth, I'm still enamored with all things fifties. And every summer, I'm reminded of the movies I've watched and the stories my Father told me about that time and I'm taken back, if only for a little while.

It's usually the music that does it for me. I have a favorite playlist that I made the summer I lived with my parents while Jeremy was in Kuwait. I would like to share some of my favorite songs with you....enjoy

I dedicate all of these songs to my Father, who for me, created a world with words and in turn taught me to do the same.

And the artwork on this video....well, it can only be classified as pure genius. ;)