Monthly Archives: July 2010

Clicked

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I can’t quite believe this, but Bean is going to be six months old next week. SIX MONTHS. In just another short six months she’s going to be COMPLETELY different. She’ll probably be walking, using her hands to eat, drinking from a sippy cup, and saying a word or two!

Which is why it’s difficult for me to admit that up until last week I didn’t feel the type of intense connection with Bean that I had with Monkey when she was born. Kind of embarrassing really.

Don’t get me wrong — of course I had a connection with her. I oogle her and kiss her, cuddle her, and do silly things to make her laugh. There’s never been a question about whether or not I LOVE her and want to care for her and protect her. That came as naturally to me as breathing. But it just felt like something was missing — like when you order a turtle sundae and they forget the hot fudge — it’s still really good with the caramel and the nuts, but it’s just not as good as you know it could be.

I remember telling my mom about this very early on. I said, “Bean just doesn’t demand as much of my attention as Monkey did at this age. I just don’t feel something.” Overall, Bean is much more laid back. She never demanded to be held as much as Monkey did when she was a newborn, which was pretty much ALL-THE-TIME. And when you have a Toddler Tornado running around, capable of saying and doing almost anything to get your attention, you’re kind of grateful that your newborn is nonplussed about being put in the vibrating bouncy seat while you go get juice, or crackers, or color, or change the laundry over, or make dinner, or spend 35 minutes chasing the neighbor’s chicken out of your yard.

Plus, when someone can’t tell you all about themselves — what they like and dislike, what their favorite color is and their favorite outdoor activity — how much of a connection can you really build with that person? Imagine walking up to someone in Starbucks and trying to make friends with them. Except, the only thing you know about them is that they don’t like it when you poke them and they’re happy when you buy them a Danish. Oh, and they smile when you act like an idiot, and they don’t like sitting in their own sh*t. Or anyone else’s sh*t for that matter. See!! Kinda hard to build a meaningful relationship, isn’t it!?

I think another compounding factor is that my memories of Monkey’s first year are not that far from reach. The girls are only 21.5 months apart. It really wasn’t that long ago. When you’re a first-time parent, EVERYTHING is new. And absolutely each new thing rocks your world. And there are lots of new things — like a new thing almost every week. There’s the first smile, the first laugh, the first time they roll over, and the first time they sit up (more or less) unassisted. Oh my gosh, the list is endless!

Being my first child, Monkey was the center of my universe by default. I had the luxury of reveling in baby blissdom because I didn’t have anyone else to pay attention to! By default, I’ve spent lots more one-on-one time with Monkey than I probably ever will with Bean.

By default, Bean’s first year is kind of like a movie I’ve already seen and am watching again, except that it’s on in the background and I’m also folding laundry. You know those movies, right? Your favorite movies that you know really well and don’t have to pay super close attention to? You’re watching, but you’re not watching it as closely as you would if it were the first time. You don’t notice and appreciate the details like you did the first time. You still laugh at the funny parts, but not as hard. You still cry during the sad parts, but not as much. And you know certain parts so well that you can recite the lines by heart. Even though I look at my children and tell myself on a daily basis, “Remember this time. Appreciate this time.” I knew I wasn’t appreciating it as much as I could be.

Obviously, this whole connection thing has really been bothering me. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and feeling like a bad mama. And then, the other morning while I was up with Bean and Monkey was still sleeping, I decided to think of Bean as my *only* child. I began to imagine that she was my first born. And just like that – it clicked. There was the connection I had been longing for.

There are a lot of similarities in a baby’s first year of life, before they can really express who they are. But it’s not the same. While Bean does look an awful like lot like her older sister, she IS her own person. And as soon as I began to appreciate her as if she were the only one I had, it clicked.

Which leads me to reflect on what I do know about Bean. The older she gets, the more her personality starts to unfold.

  • She’s got a really sensitive palate. She’s not as welcoming to new flavors and textures in her mouth as Monkey was as a baby. My first indication of this was at her two-month well-check when the nurse tried to give her an oral vaccine. Upon receiving the first squirt, Bean contorted her mouth and made that awful “eeeh” face like you swallowed a cockroach and you can feel it crawling back up, and then she gagged, and made the face again. And then she gave that shudder — that “Ugh, that was just awful,” shudder. So yeah. There were definitely more of those faces when we started her on solids. It’s pretty hysterical actually. Even now after having had prunes a half a dozen times, she still makes that face on the first bite.
  • Bean is pretty sensitive in general. While she’s more laid back and it takes her a long time to get worked up, when she’s mad, she’s MAD. Sometimes, the kind of mad where even after you pick her up and are comforting her, holding her and rocking her, she’ll pause, and then decide she’s still MAD. And she’ll keep crying her head off. I hate that! Monkey was never like that. There’s nothing that makes you feel like an inept parent more than not being able to calm your crying baby.
  • She’s easily over stimulated. While Monkey seemed to thrive on ACTION! ATTENTION! PEOPLE!, Bean freaks out and shuts down when she’s had too much.
  • She still looooves to sleep. While there definitely have been some transition periods, for the most part, the biggest reason Bean gets cranky and cries is because she’s tired and wants to go to bed. I didn’t even know they made kids like that.

When Bean was first born, lots of people advised me that it would be really important to spend some one-on-one time with Monkey to ease her adjustment to the baby. But after spending the last few mornings playing with Bean before Monkey wakes up, I’ve come to realize that I want, and need, to spend some one-on-one time with Bean too. I think the alone time is what helped the connection click. I just need to make more time where I focus solely on Bean.

And I’m reaching out to you otha muthahs, to hopefully tell me that you know what I’m talking about and that I’m not the only one in the universe to have felt this way. Am I crazy? Selfish? Unfeeling? Normal? Anyone, anyone? I know I feel guilty. Guilty that it took me so long to figure this out and appreciate Bean for who she is and who she’s becoming. And feeling a little sad, because like I said, she’s going to be a COMPLETELY different person in six months. Why does this go so fast!?

It’s really wonderful to finally have the connection I was longing for. The invisible string that ties you to your children. The tugging you feel because a little piece of your heart is walking around outside of you.

Thankfully, sometimes the beautiful thing about watching one of your favorite movies over and over again, is that you’re surprised to notice something that you missed every other time.

Sleeping Bean, 5.5 months, clutching her "My First Doll."

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The Drama

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Six months ago, in another demonstration that I am indeed getting old and inching farther away from the pop culture information bank I once was, I was sitting at lunch with some of my public relations friends and I was all, “So what IS Jersey Shore exactly? I’ve heard of this Mike ‘The Situation’ guy. What’s up with that?” Honestly, the only thing I can remember from my friends’ explanations, other than the fact that it’s a reality show on MTV, is that they GTL. As in gym, tan, laundry. They like to do that apparently. Oh, and there’s a girl named Snooki. You don’t know what Jersey Shore is either? Here, I’ll enlighten you, ya old fart.

At least I was better off than my best friend who confessed, “Who is Lady Gaga?” I did know who SHE was.

Among other indications of my increasing age is my extreme distaste for outdoor concert venues. The ones where your seat consists of the lawn chair you brought in with you. And the 20-year-olds surrounding you have been imbibing mass quantities of $9.99 vodka and Kool-Aid since noon, and are now so unbelievably drunk that if they’re not getting into a fight with the person next to them, they’re puking on your shoes. CAN-NOT stand it anymore.

Don’t worry, I AM still young enough to stand up and dance at concerts, to the complete and extreme irritation of the old(er) people around me. I shudder to think of the day when I’m the old lady waving her purse, glaring and internally castigating anyone who dares obscure her view.

I still don’t know why they call Mike on Jersey Shore “The Situation,” by the way. But I do know that henceforth Monkey will be known as Monkey “The Drama.”

Yes, some of you know of her repeated and intriguing methods to delay going to bed. We’ve come a long way since the first few weeks of the big girl bed — chiefly because we removed all of her toys, books, and everything within reach in the closet, and used safety straps to close all of her dresser drawers. But really, it did get A LOT better. For a while. It seems like every few weeks there’s a new transition or phase that delays her going to bed. We finally were in a pretty sweet spot and then Bean was born. Then we did potty training. Lately, we’re back to the “I have to go potty and poopy again” wail, combined with her recent desire to practice taking her clothes off and on. Or maybe she just wants to be naked. Or maybe she just wants to irritate us get our attention.

Like two nights ago. I heard wailing from her room. I walk down the hall and look in her bedroom. She’s walking around crying with her arms flailing about because she got her head stuck in her shirt in a two-year-old’s attempt to take it off. Her pants and “nighttime underwear,” aka the pull-up, were successfully on the floor. It was really funny. But then she got her head unstuck and it really wasn’t funny anymore. Because then she was just standing there with her pants off. AGAIN.

We had somewhat successfully curbed the after-bedtime bathroom trip, until the night when she did actually poop in her pull-up (apparently I need to start reading “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” fable more). So we started giving her the benefit of the doubt again, until night after night, it became clear that it was just a ploy.

One night, after asking for books and magazines to read while “Waiting for my poopy to come out!” as she generally exclaims with a big smile on her face, I firmly said, “Monkey, I don’t think you really have to go poopy.”

“Yes I do! Yes I DOOOOOOO. I really DOOOOO have to go poopy!”

And then she dissolves into a fit of really LOUD fake crying and wailing.

“Monkey, you’ve been sitting on the toilet for more than five minutes. I don’t think your poopy’s coming.”

“Fine!” she says half fake sobbing, half wailing. “I’ll just go poopy in my underwear then,” and continues fake wailing as she throws her hands up to her cheeks and buries her face in her lap, shoulders slumped over in a defeated stance, as if I had just told her the dog died.

OH to the D to the R to the A to the M to the A.

And yes. She has started to use the word “fine.” Correctly.

Last week we were taking Monkey to the zoo for their Kids’ Night event and she was being unruly in the backseat. She was “talking loudly” in the car, which is pretty much more like half screaming in the car. While she’s often pretty loud (it adds to the drama), I can handle it better in the house. But when you’re in a confined space like a moving vehicle, it’s deafening.

Apparently she was feeling persecuted when I asked her for the 10th time to “Please lower your voice,” because she responded by rattling off:

“Nomoretoys.I’mtakingallyourtoysaway.Yougetatimeout.We’renotgoingtothezoo!!”

Ooookaaaay. Husband and I looked sideways at each other, stunned in silence. Then we both started silently laughing. We never even responded to her.

Thanks for rolling up every single punishment I’ve ever given you into one, you drama queen. Geez, I’m not that much of a witch!

So who’s The Drama in your life and what do they do?

Losing Your Sh*t

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If you ever see a mom who doesn’t have freshly shaved legs and armpits, don’t judge. She probably hasn’t been able to shower in peace for like, three years. Because that’s what happens when you have kids. You can’t ever get A MOMENT’S PEACE, not even in the shower. And sometimes, it’s either conditioner or shaving, but not both.

I remember the day we brought Monkey home from the hospital. The storming undercurrent of hormones finally overtook my fragile mental existence and I literally LOST it when I tried to go take a shower, because the baby wanted to eat for like, the 7th time in two hours. I just stood in the doorway to the kitchen, sobbing, my shoulders shaking. My husband was sitting on the couch, cradling the newborn, watching me with a terrified expression on his face probably because he was thinking, “Crap, now I’ve got to figure out how to take care of this thing by myself because my wife has gone batsh*t crazy.” All because I just wanted to take a shower.

In the last two weeks, I’ve made a vow to try not to “lose my sh*t” so much. I’ve been seeing this phrase used on a lot of mom blogs lately to aptly describe the feeling when you’re about to go out of your mind, explode into rage, or in general, are at your wit’s end. I like it.

Two weeks ago I was trying to make cookies with Monkey, but Bean wasn’t sleeping for me. So in the process of running between the kitchen and her bedroom trying to coax her back to sleep (total fail, BTW) I burned a sheet of cookies. Then I spilled an entire bag of butterscotch chips on the floor. After which I burned my hand really badly on the hot cookie sheet. I really lost my sh*t. And then Monkey got really scared because I was yelling and she started screaming crying and saying “Mama, stop it, mama stop it!” I realized I didn’t want to be scaring my kids like that and I vowed to stop losing my sh*t.

Coincidentally, around the same time I picked up this great book by Amy WilsonWhen Did I Get Like This? The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer & Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be — that my neighbor/friend/fellow mom recommended. This book was like therapy. In it she talks about how she was a screamer, and now she’s a reformed screamer because she realized that she was scaring her kids. Plus they were starting to ignore her screaming because they had gotten used to. That really ticked her off. So she decided to stop losing her sh*t. After her extensive research and reading about parenting, she distilled what she learned down to the following, which I now have taped to my fridge:

Lower my voice instead of raise it.

Model flexibility rather than impatience.

Embrace my child rather than my frustration.

ANYWAY, back to being hairy and not having a moment’s peace to shower. We are in a transition period in our house. Bean is in that in-between period where instead of waking up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. to eat and then going back to sleep, she’s waking up at the undesirable time of 6:15 or 6:30. She’s not quite making it to 7 a.m. which would be preferred. Plus when she wakes up at 6:15 or 6:30 she doesn’t go back to sleep after I feed her. Which means, she’s not waking up early enough for me to shower and get ready after I feed her, or before. And Monkey, for whatever reason — probably because she can sense the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates or something, she’s very sensitive like that — has been waking up before 7 a.m. for the last week as well, instead of 7:15 or 7:30 a.m. which is typical for her. And this is not good because I really need to shower people! I mean, I know I work from home, but I do take SOME pride in my appearance and general removal of body hair.

So yesterday Bean wakes up at 6:25. I feed her and make a valiant effort to coax her back to sleep so that I can shower, because I know she’s not going to be happy if I leave her in the crib awake for more than five minutes. And I know she’s not going to be happy if I lay her on my bathroom floor either. She’ll cry just as loudly plus she’ll be in danger of rolling over and getting stuck underneath the toilet. I jiggle and rock and lay her down, only to have her wide awake and rolling around in her crib as soon as I walk out the door. Damn. It’s now 6:50. I turn on the shower just in time to hear Bean start to express her dissatisfaction with being left alone. I’ve only managed to rinse the shampoo out of my hair and start to condition when Monkey walks into my bathroom announcing that she has to go potty.

Not a problem. This is totally doable because Monkey can now pull her bottoms off and use a stool to get herself up and on the toilet. In fact, she often insists that we let her go to the bathroom by herself. Plus, she sleeps in a pull-up, so it’s no big deal if she has an accident while I’m in the shower.

I instruct Monkey to go get her stool. She comes back and I start to lead her through the steps of pulling down her pajamas when she stops me.

“Mama, I need a wipe.”

“A wipe? What do you need a wipe for? You only need a wipe for poopy.”

No reply.

“Monkey — what do you need a wipe for?”

I crack the shower door to prevent flooding the bathroom and look at her. She stares back at me.

“What’s going on? What do you need a wipe for,” I ask again for the third time, starting to get a little irritated now because she’s not answering me and for the love of God I am trying to hurry up in the shower because I can hear Bean over the baby monitor expressing extreme dissatisfaction.

“What IS dis?” Monkey points down to her foot.

I look. Oh in the name of all things holy and sacred.

“Monkey! That’s poop! How did you get poop on your foot!

The red lights on the monitor are now brilliantly lit up and Bean is on her way to a complete meltdown.

A million conflicting thoughts are running through my head as the shower door is now gaping open, water pouring everywhere. I consider losing my sh*t, but don’t. Monkey clearly didn’t do this on purpose. She doesn’t look happy. She’s not grinning deviously. I remember the tips on my fridge. I am staring at Monkey trying to figure out what to do. I wonder if I could walk her through how to wipe the poop off her foot, but dismiss the idea before I’ve even completely thought it. That scenario would only result in her then having poop all over her hands, arms and legs.

I momentarily consider whether I could finish my shower, but there’s no way. Monkey has a HUGE chunk of poop on her foot and I don’t trust her to stay in the bathroom, even if I explicitly tell her to. Plus, I don’t want even more poop tracked around my bathroom than there already is. Oh. And eww. It smells. Bad.

There’s just no way around it. I have to abandon my shower. With conditioner still in my hair. I come out of the shower and further inspect the mess. She has somehow got her pull-up wedged halfway up her butt cheek. I’m not sure if she pooped in her sleep? Or woke up and started to poop and then tried to remove her pull-up to finish on the toilet and the poop fell out. I have no idea. I do know, however, that I can now see poop on her other foot too. Ugh. I wipe the biggest chunk off.

“STAY HERE. DO NOT MOVE,” I say in my most stern voice.

I dash naked and dripping down the hall to the other bathroom for the toddler wipes, STILL NOT LOSING MY SH*T BUT REALLY WANTING TO, and realizing that I just instructed Monkey to walk down this very carpeted hallway, from my carpeted bedroom, to get the stool, with poop on BOTH of her feet. I am on the lookout for more chunks of poop. Our carpet is beige with brown spots. I don’t have my contacts in or glasses on. I am PRAYING that I’m not about to step in poop.

The other bathroom offers further clues. Several pieces of poop scattered on the floor. At this point I throw my hands up in the air and beg, WHY, GOD, WHY? Okay, not really. I just grab the toddler wipes, run into Bean’s room where she is in a full wail, open her shade, shove the nuk in her mouth and run back to my bathroom. I start cleaning the chunks of poop off Monkey’s feet. Except I can’t properly clean her.

I throw her in the shower with me. I give her a full body scrub down and examine every inch for more signs of poop, all the while wondering if there are tiny pieces of fecal matter on my hallway carpet and “how on earth am I going to clean that!?” Thank God I don’t see poop anywhere else on her body. No seriously, thank you. At least now she has the sense to understand that poop is disgusting and didn’t start finger painting with it.

I wrap her up in a towel and inform her to sit on the bathroom floor until I’m done. Meanwhile, I frantically wash the conditioner out of my hair and run some soap over my own body. Damn, Bean is not impressed by my flimsy effort to appease her with the nuk and has moved on to stage 3 — the “I’ve been crying so hard now for so long that I am hyperventilating because you are never going to come back for me, and for surely I am going to die” stage. I run out of the shower again ­— at this point the entire bathroom has been flooded — and I run to pick her up and inspect the rest of the collateral damage. Obviously, I’m still naked and dripping. Two spots of poop on Monkey’s bed. Two spots of poop on her bedroom carpet. I squint at the hallway again and am 99% certain she didn’t track poop prints down the hall and between the bedrooms. I have no idea how she didn’t.

BUT, through all of it, I DID NOT LOSE MY SH*T. I do admit though, that when I was trying to squirt the three-quarters empty bottle of Fantastik on the bathroom floor, after trying to squirt the three-quarters empty bottle of Resolve carpet cleaner on Monkey’s bedroom carpet, while STILL naked, I did mutter some choice words about the ridiculousness that is trying to get those damn cleaners to work when there is still enough solution in the bottle that it SHOULD work, yet all it does is spew bubbles in the most imbecile, inefficient and frustrating way. What is UP with that!? At that point though, Monkey and Bean were safe in another room and didn’t hear my slight rant.

BUT I DID NOT LOSE MY SH*T!

Life is Precious

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Normally I use my blog to write about my funny misadventures in parenting, or the charming simple moments that touch my heart. At the least, my blog is a way for me to let off some steam when my kids are driving me crazy, and at the most, a way for me to capture some of these precious memories. Because it’s all going too, too fast, and life is precious.

Typically I don’t use my blog to get up on my parenting soap box and tell all you other parents how to do your parenting business. That’s just not my style. I mean, I’ve been a parent for just over two years — so what the hell do I know. If anything, I’m just looking to share my crazy stories about bedtime battles and vacations so you share yours, and then I have more ideas for my parenting arsenal. Knowledge is power, people.

So I guess that’s why I wanted to share with you the story of Katie Allison Granju. I’ve never met Katie, but her story has touched me so deeply. I was introduced to Katie by author Elizabeth Pantley, whom I follow on face book. (As many of you know, I am a disciple of Elizabeth Pantley’s “no cry” methods, particularly her “No-Cry Sleep Solution.”)

Katie Allison Granju is an accomplished author (she quite literally wrote the book on attachment parenting) and a widely followed mom blogger. She also is a featured blogger at Babble.com and her freelance writing has been published in The New York Times, Salon.com and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. To put it mildly, Katie is a knowledgeable, experienced, thoughtful, “good” mom.

She has four children, the youngest one a mere 10 days old. But just over one month ago, her oldest son Henry, died after complications from a major drug overdose and subsequent brutal assault that left him with severe brain injuries. Henry was 18.

There are some topics — like sex, molestation and drug use — that scare the sh*t out of me as a parent. Where do you begin? These things are important. They’re a big deal. And even when you take the steps to educate yourself and you think you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing, things like this happen. They can happen to good parents. They can happen to you and me. And they happened to Katie.

Katie discussed Henry’s situation for the first time publicly on May 1, just a few days after the assault. She also discusses how she became aware of Henry’s initial experimentation with drugs when he was 14. Katie and her family did the things they were supposed to do. Despite their best efforts, Henry became a serious drug addict. And even nine months of inpatient drug treatment, 12 step meetings, jail, and the streets couldn’t bring Henry back.

How can Henry’s story help you? For me, it means that I’m going to be doing a hell of a lot of reading and research on how to handle talks with my kids about drugs, from very early on. And I’m going to continue those discussions throughout their childhood. It’s also important to know that for the first time in U.S. history, prescription drug overdoses, mostly painkillers like oxycodone, and sedatives, now match or exceed the number of illegal drug overdoses. Get informed. Take it seriously.

For starters, Katie offers:

Four years later, with my child fighting for his life in the hospital after a drug related brain injury, what would I have done differently after that first admission that he was smoking pot? In the most general sense, I would have taken it a hell of a lot more seriously. I would have assumed that any time a 14 year old is experimenting with drugs, we are looking at a potentially serious problem that needs proactive, immediate and ongoing intervention. I am not saying that every 14 year old smoking pot is a drug addict or will become a drug addict, but NO 14 year old needs to be using drugs. Period. And if a kid that age is using at all, in any amount, there needs to be some serious information gathering beyond just what the kid is willing to tell you. Trust, but verify, verify, verify. Err on the side of over-caution. Consider starting family therapy with your child, enroll him in a good drug education program, and definitely up the level of your adult supervision. Even if you are already watching your child and his friends pretty closely, start watching him MORE closely. Don’t assume that you know the whole story because you probably don’t. That’s my opinion now. Others may disagree.- Katie

I started Googling and bookmarking other resources, including:

Please don’t let Henry’s death be in vain.

If nothing more, I’m asking you to send prayers to Katie’s family. And if you happen to find useful information that you think will help you in your parenting journey, all the better.

As a final note, in memory of Henry, Katie’s family has started what they hope to be a permanent, endowed fund with non-profit status to provide funds for families who are struggling to pay the costs of drug and alcohol treatment for their children. If you wish, you may donate to:

The Henry Louis Granju Memorial Scholarship Fund
via administrator James Anderson
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
2000 Meridian Blvd., Suite 290
Franklin, TN 37067