Author Bingo!

I would rank tonight 2nd or 3rd in “All-Time Worst Bedtime Experience with Kids” so tonight’s post will be short as my wine IV is waiting so I can numb my feelings of despair and failure.

One of the speakers at the Writers Digest Conference shared this Author Bingo card with us.  It’s perfect!  She told us when we get five in a row, to go out and splurge.

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My favorite is “Social Sitch: ‘I Have a Great Idea for a Book'”.  Probably because that was so me, like 4 years ago.

I feel like I would have won Parent Bingo tonight if the squares included, “End the night with everyone crying”, “3-year-old throws self on floor multiple times”, “Discover maintenance broke your bath tub at 7 PM”, “Feel like the tantrum is your fault because you went to work this morning”, and “Rip a Duplo out of a small child’s hand”.  Definitely not any of our finest moments.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Don’t Ask For Too Many Things

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A page from A Fish Out of Water, by Helen Palmer and illustrated by P.D. Eastman

“Mommy, I want to ask for The Door, The Cymbal, and  The Train.”

BRK named the activities she would ask the teacher to do that day in our weekly music class.

“Well, maybe just ask for one thing.” I replied.

Then, I wondered about those words, hanging in the air.

BRK asked, “Why?”

Good question.

Why?  Why not ask for as many things as she wants?  I had discouraged her because when she rattled off all the things she wanted, my mind raced ahead to a place called Must Prevent Disappointment, and then shot to another place, called My Child Must Not Come Across As Demanding.

And I realized how problematic both of these ideas are.

I understand, intellectually, that my children must encounter and experience disappointment.  Yet, despite firmly embracing Cry It Out when she was a baby, and Time Outs when she was 2, now that she is 3, my emotional white knuckles feel arthritically stuck, unable to to let go, to let her be disappointed.  I think of a recent disappointment, when she asked another little girl to play and the little girl said no, and BRK kept bringing different toys over to the little girl, simply not understanding that no matter what she did, that little girl wasn’t going to play with her.  I watched the confusion on her face give way to her first inklings of rejection.  I needed a mop for the pieces of my heart.

My second line of reasoning, about coming across as demanding, bothered me even more.  I asked myself, would I worry about this if BRK were a boy?  Would I worry about this with Owl, who is a boy?  And I think my answer is, “I would worry about it less”.  I might see it more as “knowing what he wants” and “just being a boy”.  I would worry less about him seeming selfish or demanding.

I was reading a childhood classic to both kids last night, A Fish Out of Water.  There is the part when the boy breaks the news to the man at the fish store, Mr. Carp, that he didn’t follow the directions to “feed the fish just this much and no more”, and instead, fed him way too much.

And Mr. Carp replies, “Oh, dear! So you fed him too much! I knew you would.  I always say ‘don’t’ but you boys always do. Yes, I will come.”

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And I wondered about the girls.  Did THEY ever go against what Mr Carp said?  And if they did, what happened? Was it just no big deal, like in this case?  No scolding, just a gentle lesson learned?

Later I said, “You know, BRK, go ahead and ask for all the things you want to do in music class.”  My mind did race ahead to the possible tantrum that could occur, because it was unlikely the teacher would grant all the requests.  But it also reached ahead to BRK being just fine with it, which is what happened, and it was a gentle and real way to learn the lesson of Most Disappointments Are Not That Big Of A Deal.  And, I thought to my own life.  How many times have I amended my requests, making them smaller, in efforts to minimize future disappointment?  I noticed that when I invited people to things, I would say something like, “If you can’t make it I TOTALLY understand.”  I decided to stop saying that.  Why anticipate the No before it happens?  Why not wholeheartedly bound into the invitation, letting the person know how much their presence is desired?  A rejection might sting, but it won’t irreversibly harm.

I thought about all of these things, and especially thought about the messages I want and don’t want to send to BRK and Owl, about what is OK to ask for, and how it is OK to be.

**** I cannot believe it has been nearly 3 weeks since I last posted!  Tear.  It’s been an irregular 3 weeks of new summer schedules, lots of trips, etc.  We have one more week of schedule irregularity but then hoping to get my back to my standard Tuesday and Friday posts.  Thank you, readers, for staying with this blog! ****

The Funniest Book Ever by the Funniest Blogger Ever.

If you are looking for a brutally honest book about parenting that will literally make you laugh out loud, look no further than Welcome to the Club, by Raquel D’Apice.  It is JUST SO FUNNY, as is her brilliant blog, The Ugly Volvo.  This is a whole new level of funny.

IMG_3492One of my many favorite lines,

” ‘Is everyone else using this many wipes?’ as you tidy up something roughly as overwhelming as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.”

Brilliant!

I Used to Know the Weather

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My nightmare, formerly known as a flea market.

It would be a futile task to consider all the things that change in life after you become a parent.  Many of them are big and meaningful and emotional; some are mundane.  I think of two especially mundane changes in my life often when I’m out walking the city streets.

I used to always know the weather.  I would spend hours poring over various weather websites and blogs.  My husband and I mused about becoming tornado chasers.  I vividly remember a prenatal yoga class when I was about 7 months pregnant with BRK.  A fierce snowstorm was howling and blowing and covering everything with a white fur.  My yoga teacher, who was expecting her third, shook icy snowflakes out of her hair and said she had no idea it was going to snow.

No idea?  I thought.  I had known about that snowstorm for 4 days, back when it was an upper level disturbance over the Rockies.  How could anyone have “no idea” it was going to snow? 

And now . . .  I get it.  I find myself surprised when raindrops begin to soak my face, no umbrella on hand.  The last big snowstorm?  I found out when my school principal announced over the PA that tomorrow would be a snowday.  What is going on?  Am I too busy now to spend hours poring over weather websites?  I think that would be an easy explanation, but it’s not true.  I am busy, but I also do a lot of different things with my time.  I could watch less of Big Little Lies and more Weather Channel if I really wanted to.  Perhaps I’m living more in the moment, not because of some inspirational quote but because it’s easier to do that right now, and I don’t want to think about the weather 5 days from now.  Or maybe it’s that storms now stress me out.  A power outage with small kids really sucks.  Like the one we had in January for almost a whole day during which I couldn’t operate the breastpump.  I don’t know the reason, but I do know there’s been nearly a 180 degree shift in my behavior.  I wonder, will weather re-emerge as a hobby down the line when my kids are grown?

Another thing I used to love? Flea markets and second-hand stores!  For everything! Clothing, knick knacks, furniture.  Safe to say I bought most of my material things from these sorts of establishments.  I would spend hours poring over vintage purses, finding the perfect one for $3.  Shortly after BRK’s birth, I went to a few second-hand stores and flea markets.  And then at some point, I just stopped going.  My interest in them diminished to nearly nothing.  Now, they actually create anxiety.  I think I have a better handle on the reason for this shift.  Basically, I feel like we are living in a chaotic mess at home most of the time, and the thought of spending my precious leisure time looking through what amounts to other people’s messes is just not appealing in the least.  Having children has made me into a minimalist.  I don’t own a lot of clothes and jeans and a T-shirt is sort of my main uniform.  Empty horizontal surfaces bring me to a place of Zen.  In the world of parenting entropy, I crave simplicity like never before.

Might I re-embrace the weather and flea markets at some future date?  Perhaps I’ll be 75 years old, poring over an old mariner’s weather chart at someone’s yard sale.  But for now, I’m happy in my world of weather surprises and flea market avoidance.

Baby RK Turns . . . Three!

Baby RK turned three today.  This was the most special birthday yet, by far.  When I told her last night that when she woke up she would be THREE, her eyes were saucers.

We had the most lovely day . . . a museum trip, a library trip, and a special lunch together.

And I recalled writing something down around this time a year 2 years ago, when she was about to turn 1.  In some ways it seems 100 years away — I can hardly imagine her in a crib, or in a high chair anymore.  Today we talked about ladybugs and aphids and camouflage.  How have we gone from newborn to this, in only 3 years?

Below is what I wrote down, when she was truly still a baby.

That Little Girl in the Crib

In the monitor I see that little girl in the crib.  Curled up on her side, hugging the stuffed version of the dog who wanted to be put in the zoo, the tail and her thumb both in her mouth.

That little girl who has been in this world for almost a year.  Who was sleepy and wrinkly and yellow last March; who is sitting on my lap this morning, this March, this morning of March 1, eating puffs and cheerios while I write this.   That little girl who can now show me where the sheep is in her room.

That little girl who was in my belly for 9 months before she emerged sleepy and wrinkled and yellow with a disturbing preference for Similac.  Who, when she was a blastocyst in Tokyo, was already making me feel sick.  Who I mistook for just feeling off and who I placated by downing 4 beers and singing karaoke with no idea that she had been made.

That little girl who we now call a big girl.  Who we put into her Big Girl tot seat, her Big Girl stroller, her Big Girl bowl.  These things that as my husband points out, she’s going to discover actual Big Girls don’t use.

That little girl who I would wrap up and walk endlessly with.  Whom we forced to do Tummy Time.  Who we never really know how to take care of, because she is the first.  Who gives us invisible objects as appeasement for getting too close to something forbidden.  Who makes me laugh harder than the best comics.  Who makes me feel everything — sometimes all at once — and who is responsible for this life I am living right now that is so hyperaware and present and brimming with new directions that are a better reflection of me — the me I was long before this girl came into my life.

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Baby RK in her crib, March 2015

They Are Different Babies

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When you have a new baby, you often hear something like, “They don’t come with an Instruction Manual!”, followed by the chuckle of schadenfreude.

But then you have the last laugh when you have your second baby, and you’re like um, hello, I KEPT THE MANUAL FROM LAST TIME.  (In my case, I really did – I have tons of small notebooks with EVERY DETAIL of the first 18 months written down.  Photo evidence above.).  So, I TOTALLY know what I am doing now.

Until, I didn’t.  Which is what happened to me this week.

My son Owl is 15 weeks old.  When my daughter Baby RK was 14 weeks old, she began Sleeping Through The Night (STTN).  On the nights leading up to this momentous event, she would eat once at night, between 3 and 4 AM.  She would wake up once, and then I would feed her, and she would go back to sleep.  Feeding was a 45-60 minute ordeal — she would need to burp a lot, and would spit up tsunamis of formula that would soak and stain my clothing and the stench never really came out in the wash.

One night, Baby RK didn’t wake up to eat until 5:15 AM.  The next night it was 6 AM.  The next night it was 6:15 AM.  And the next night it was 6:45 AM.  We were now officially into day, no longer night.  And that was that.  She was STTN.  And about two weeks later she shifted from eating five times a day to four.  She didn’t wake up again at night until she had her first cold, five months later.

And I naively thought little Owl would follow this same path, that his Instruction Manual must match that of my daughter.

Despite the fact that at 14 weeks he would wake up at 11 PM, and then go back to sleep with the help of a pacifier, and then wake up between 1 AM and 2 AM, and need the pacifier every 10 – 30 minutes until 3 or 4 AM, a time I deemed acceptable for a feed, the time Baby RK ate before she started STTN.  That whole week he would eat between 3 and 4:30 AM, but always, always, there were earlier wake-ups and the need for Pacifier Whac-a-Mole before we made it to my pre-determined time.

After three trippy, brutal, torturous nights of basically being awake from around 2 AM on, shoving a pacifier in Owl’s mouth roughly every 10 – 30 minutes, until the next day, I came to my senses.

“He’s not ready,” I thought.

“He’s not Baby RK.”

“He just wants a bottle.  And since it takes him 10 – 15 minutes to suck one down, with zero to one burps required, why on earth am I resisting this?”

After exchanging about 1,754 texts with friends who assured me that a bottle at night at 15 weeks would not dash all hopes of future STTN, I decided I was done.  Enough of this silliness with the pacifier.  I would just make him a damn bottle and give it to him when he woke up!  And fifteen minutes later, we would both be back to a sound sleep.

For the past ten nights, as I placed him in his crib, I would say, with desperation-tinged hope, “See you in the morning!”

And last night, I said to him, “See you when you wake up!”

And, in yet another dashing of motherhood expectations, he woke up at . . . . SEVEN THIRTY THIS MORNING.

So, I don’t think he was saying, “Mommy, I’m not ready.”  He was saying, “Mommy, get to know ME,  I’m different.  Show me that you are interested in getting to know ME.”

And once I did, he decided to sleep.

Post-script:

I wrote this 5 days ago.  Since then, Owl has slept through three of those five nights without a peep.  It’s like he’s still reminding me he’s not his sister.

An Anal Fissure

OK, if that title doesn’t get attention on the blogosphere, I’m not sure what will!

This is the story of the humbling parenting moment this past week when two kids definitely felt like a bit more work than an additional 50%.

On Thursday around noon, Robert had some red streaks (blood) in his poopy diaper.  (Sorry Robert for embarrassing you in the name of social media!).  I called the doctor and was instructed to stand by — it probably wasn’t anything to worry about — but if it happened again, call back.
It happened again.

At 5 PM, I called the doctor.

“There’s a note here that says if it happens again, come right in,” the woman on the phone said.  “We have a 5:45 appointment.”

It’s a 20-minute walk to the pediatrician, and probably a 35-minute cab ride in rush hour.  I looked outside.  It was nearly dark.  June was already in her PJs, assembling the animal molds for our Red Jell-O project.  I looked over at Robert, sleeping peaceful in the bouncy seat.  I had no desire to disrupt this scene.  I also had no desire to push the stroller with June standing on the roll-y board, in her PJs, 15 blocks in the dark.

“I’ll take it,” I said.  Because so much of parenting is doing what you don’t want to do!  But oddly, a lot of it feels good afterward.  It’s rewarding.

I called my husband, on the off chance he might be able to come home early.  And — hallelujah! — he could.

I looked at the clock.  5:10 PM.  I looked at June, standing patiently on the little ladder against the kitchen counter, wanting nothing more than to make red Jell-O.  Damn it, I thought, we are going to make this Jell-O.

And we did.  Quickly.  Me trying not to spill scalding hot water or syrupy liquid on anything or anybody.  And at 5:20 my husband walked in, just as the Jell-O project concluded, and I began the process of bundling up Robert to go out.  And ten minutes later — because I’m still in the Beginner Section of Bundling Up a Baby — Robert and I left, with me supremely grateful I was also not toting along a 2-year-old.  And then after waiting for the elevator stop on 5 different floors, and getting out of the lobby, it was 5:33 PM and we were going to be late for our 5:45 appointment, the “last appointment of the day.”

Afraid the office might be closed when we arrived, I began to jog.  And I jogged the whole way, pushing my non-jogging stroller.

And, damn.  I felt powerful.  Dodging groups of pedestrians left and right.  AND, we made the appointment.  I checked us in at 5:44 PM.

And Robert?  Oh, he had an anal fissure.  From his explosive poops.  But he was smiley and flirtatious with the doctor, and after learning it would heal on its own and it was nothing to worry about, we headed home, this time at a more leisurely pace.

I felt accomplished when this was over.  We made the Jell-O.  We made it to the appointment.  I adapted to changing circumstances, something I historically have been terrible at.  And that extra work felt like an extra dose of endorphins, on top of those produced during the jog.

So far, I like this two kid thing, even if it does involve anal fissures.