A daily...meh, weekly dose of babies, reality, and love.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

having two little kids is starting to be really fun.

A response to this post: having two kids is not very fun. 

My mom and Sam's mom both swear by the 3-Month rule when it comes to adding a new baby to a home. They say it takes three months to establish a new routine, three months for the baby to adjust to the outside world, and three months to start feeling like yourself again. However. I had family staying at our house for extended weekends by the time Clara was two weeks old, and hosted Thanksgiving dinner along with her dedication at church celebration by the time she was three months. So while I appreciated their advice to take it slow, I didn't feel like I needed a long time to get back to myself. Looking back I see that I was basically running on adreneline and blind confidence, but that first six months of Clara's life were heaven on earth and I felt great.

Fast forward 16 months. I bring home teensy tiny baby Sam after a stressful pregnancy and a week in the hospital and KABLAM, kick me in the nuts, I was out of my mind exhausted and overwhelmed. I was sleep walking, I was crying, I was eating all my feelings and everyone else's too, we were quarantined to our house so the baby wouldn't get the flu: it was bleak. It seemed like a good idea to get pregnant when Clara was 8 months old because you know, she would be so much older by the time the baby arrived (??) but guess what! She was still a baby too! Who knew? Our home vibrated with the absolute dependence for survival of two small, incoherent humans. Lord help us.

There was really nothing to do but pray. So we did. We prayed, He answered, and things are getting better.

Things are getting a lot better, actually. Yes, they are young. But they are so small and smell so good, and I like that they both fit in my lap. I like that I can carry them both around the house if I feel so inclined. Which I often do, because an armful of squirming babies is funny and it makes me laugh. Also- I like baby Sam. A LOT. He sleeps all night. He takes 2 hour naps with no cajoling necessary. He is always thrilled to see me and he is almost never upset. He smiles with his entire body and he has a dimple in his right cheek. It's a little much on the cute factor sometimes, honestly, like the other shoe has got to drop, but hey: I'll take my perfect baby while I can. Soon enough he'll be stomping his foot and running away from me in front of the unimpressed Baby Gap clerk, so. For now he can be my delight.

Another big improvement: Clara.
Just, Clara. For some reason- no, for two reasons- my interactions with her are moving further from "slit my wrists" and closer to "I really like being with you." Here are the two reasons (I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat).

1. SENTENCES. She is speaking in sentences and I cannot begin to tell you the lowered frustration level for both of us when she can say what she needs. And there is an enormous difference, by the way, between her saying "hep, hep, HEP!" (help) and "hep up please, mama." Or, "point, cry, moan, wail, throw huge fit" and "more blueberries please." The days are so smooth, I feel like I'm dreaming. She's always been a good talker, but every day she is stringing together more and more thoughts and ideas. It's not only a joy to watch her language develop (it's like a social experiment that I'm directly affecting) but our relationship with her is taking a new direction as we communicate more effectively. I tell you, when she looks me right in the eyes and says "Thank you, mom"- kill me. It's the best.

2. SPANKINGS. Capitalizing that word makes me nervous, since I'm sure there are more than a few people who won't like this. But that's ok: my kid, my blog. Ha! So. Spankings. Clara's toddler attitude paired with bringing home a new baby were not a great combination. In my tired, emotionally distressed state, I was letting her get away with WAY too much. Her modus operandi when it comes to being naughty is to whine and disobey. She's not a climber or a destroyer; she's sneaky and likes to talk back. And I don't know, I guess I wasn't giving her enough credit, if I really dissect the whole problem. She knows when she is disobeying me. She knows what I am asking her to do. And by not holding her to high enough standards, I wasn't giving her a chance to learn self-discipline, or learn the pleasure of living in peace with her family. That probably sounds crazy, but listen: it took ONE WEEK of being really hard on her, and our whole house changed for the better. I spanked, I started getting serious about time outs (30 second time outs, mind you) and I consistently required that she answer me "ok, mama" even when she didn't want to do what I asked. One week. And she was a different, happier, just as busy and fun-loving girl. Anyone who thinks kids are innocent, or acting out because they don't know any better, or just need re-directed, either have really dumb kids, or really smart kids who fooled their parents. Clara is so much happier now that I am requiring more of her. She whines less, she (usually) obeys faster, and you know what happens after I discipline her?

She gives me a huge hug and kiss.

 Every single time. She likes knowing I'm in charge. And she likes knowing her boundaries. After that one hard week, I rarely have to spank, and usually 10 seconds into a time-out she jumps up and says, "happy, mom. happy!" Nothing really changed in her, you know. She's still Smoochie, still likes to talk back, still likes to have her way (who doesn't?) but something in me changed. And it's for the better. The balance of power has been reestablished in the direction of the person who is actually in charge, and we are all enjoying the new sense of peace and joy in our house. Here's a blog I read that helped me when I was ready to lose it with her. I like this lady a lot, and her no-nonsense approach to parenting. It makes the most sense to me, and puts into words what I know to be true.

Things are getting better. And having two little kids is starting to be really fun.

Pictures from our mother's day picnic. Thanks for these lovely shots, Joel and Deborah :) 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

toddlers have a death wish.

My nephew once poured an entire gallon of bleach all over his living room carpet. He is not yet two years old and has already had 10 stitches above his left eye after an unfortunate meeting with a table corner. My niece stuck her finger in an exposed socket plate and shocked herself, falling backwards as the jolt ran through her tiny toddler body. My friend Amanda took her first helicopter ride last summer with her toddler, after he ingested some old heart medicine up at their family cabin and had to be flown back to the city just in case his heart stopped. He was fine after the drugs cleared out of his system, thank you JESUS. Amanda also recently walked in her kitchen to find her other son, a two year old, with a stool pulled close to the stove, steadying a pot on one of the burners. He was ready to cook himself up a little snack.

Toddlers, like a group of lunatics on a cocaine bender, live a life blissfully and stupidly unaware of consequences. Or basic science.

This is hot. It will burn you.
This is poison. It will make you very sick.

before the day started, obviously. 

<< My sister and I took our kids up to the mountains for a day trip, with plans to picnic for lunch and hike around for a while. We have 5 kids under the age of 4 between us, so it's always an adventure. After we finished our (10 minute) hike, I took baby Sam to change his diaper. A few minutes later I heard Clara's wailing echoing up the path. I ran down and found her in my sister's arms, inconsolable. She had fallen and hit her head on a boulder, and a nasty blue lump quickly rose above her right eye. I calmed her down and made a face at my sister like, "whoopsies, that's a bad one," and held Clara tight.

throwing pine cones. their dream afternoon. 

We pulled into our driveway a few hours later and Clara was in the depths of the afternoon whine state. I dragged her and the baby and all of their stuff inside and by the one millionth time she turned my name into a ten syllable "maaaaammmmaaa" I lost it. I yelled, I told her to sit, and went to change out of my dirty jeans. I had barely unbuttoned my pants before I heard a loud bump and a scream. Somehow, somehow, from a sitting position, she fell onto the hardwood floor and hit her head in the EXACT same spot as the boulder. She screamed herself breathless and I felt terrible. Had I magically made this happen by yelling at her and putting her in time out? I scooped her up into my arms (where is the baby at this point? I mean, really?) and took her into my bed. She cried for awhile as the lump on her head grew twice as big and dark. I bowed at her mercy, serving yogurt and water and letting her watch 3 episodes of Bubble Guppies while I texted my friend Hollie the nurse and my friend Eric the pediatrician to see if I should be worried. (I always text them both because Hollie has twin boys Clara's age and runs her own small business and Eric is, you know, a doctor, so sometimes one of them is too busy to answer my panic texts. Can you imagine.) Here is the picture I sent in the text.

I know a bump on the head is not the end of the world, but since she hit it twice in the same spot in a matter of hours, I was concerned. They both told me the same symptoms to watch for and sent me their condolences. I love them for not judging.

Sam didn't get home until late that night and I really didn't want to skip my workout (my body is weird after baby #2. I barely gained any weight with this pregnancy but gained a lot of stress weight the weeks following his birth and anyways, workout DVD's. That's all I have time for some days.) So I popped in good ol' Jillian Michaels even though my kids weren't in bed yet because I was keeping them up to see their dad. Baby Sam was in his bouncy seat beside my mat and Clara sort of hovered around me, laying across me during the ab workouts, trying to copy my movements (cute), and just being sort of a nuisance (not so cute). Sam walked in about halfway through the workout and Clara started running around, chattering up a storm, excited to see him. She ran behind me right as I swung back with a free weight,


I hit her goose egg with the full force of a back swing. With a hand weight.

You've never heard such screaming. At this point, her lump had a lump which had a lump and didn't I feel like the world's best mom? I damn well wasn't going to quit the rest of the DVD, either, so I paused for a moment, handed the crying and probably concussion ridden little girl off to her father, and settled back in for some squat presses. I chose not to text Hollie or Eric about that hit because what if they said she needed to get checked out, and then the ER saw her broken leg in her medical records, and then suddenly we're being reported? I felt it best just to set my phone alarm for every couple of hours and make sure she was still breathing all night long. It was a long night after a bad day for my smoochie girl, but I needed the penance.

So, ok, her head looks like hell and if she doesn't get into an elite college this is what we'll always look back and blame her lack of success on, but everything is fine. Say a prayer for Smooch, you guys. She could use an extra guardian angel.

Sincerely yours and avoiding the emergency room at all costs,

PS I'd love to hear your own funny dangerous-toddler stories in the comments on the blog... anyone? Bueller?

That time we broke Clara's leg and the cutest x-rays of all time were taken. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

some stuff sucks with babies.

I took my kids to the zoo this morning, which is really no small feat with these people. It requires a lot of preparation: timing for nursing, sandal buckling, lunch packing, stroller folding, supplies gathering, etc etc. Anyways, we made it out the door, we even made a quick stop at Trader Joes, and then we made it to the zoo. Parking lot. The zoo parking lot. Because once we got that far, I saw bus after bus after yellow looming school bus, parked along the road and emptied of children, whom I could only assume were running through the zoo.

They were.
Hundreds of them.
And normally I wouldn't care, actually in my old life I would've been corralling a big hoard of kids myself, for my job at summer camps or after school programs, but this is my new life and it involves two little babies who can't do anything by themselves and are easily lost. The zoo, crowded and hot, felt very stressful. Every time I turned around I caught a glimpse of Clara running off with one of her 'older' cousins (3 year olds, very responsible you know) and it. was. not. fun. We made it about 100 yards in to the tiger exhibit, only to the find that the great cat was hiding somewhere in his cage, away from the multitudes of pudgy fingers clawing at the glass window of his home. My sisters and I backed our strollers out onto the winding path crammed with school children and said over the din of our crying toddlers: "Let's get the heck out of here."

We ate our picnic in the park under the shade of giant old trees and caught our breath. We changed diapers, cleaned up our mess, and after watching enormous crowds leave for their own lunch break, decided to try the zoo again. After 15 minutes of the chaos and the glaring sunshine on Clara's brightening skin, I knew I was done. So I bid farewell and pushed my stroller with my tired daughter back to our car on the other side of the park. Then I needed to nurse baby Sam. I set Clara in her car seat and fed him behind the steering wheel. Then I got out to buckle him into his car seat, shut the car doors, and stretched in the sun. And felt a cool breeze across my breast.

Yes. Across my breast. Because I was still in "nursing position," if you will, unhinged for all the world (park) to see.

Perfect. And you're welcome, park dwellers. I take my payment in singles.

My babies cried most of the way home, hot and exhausted, and I hustled them inside our house for naps. They were both pretty worked up, so I held them close and rocked them. I read a few books. I sang their favorite lullabies. They calmed down and went to sleep.

Some stuff sucks with babies.
Like the zoo on field trip day.
And nursing in parking lots.

But this day right here? This is the tiniest, teensiest, most precious moment in time when they both fit in my lap. And they both just need a whispered rendition of "You are my sunshine" for their lives to be right again. That's all. Just my lap and a sweet song and they are off to sleep with tired smiles on their faces.

And you know what?
I love that.
I really, really love that.