Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two under Two: Mommy Guilt

I am one of those people who always wanted my child to have a sibling, and for them to be close in age.  I've loved having three brothers - two years older, eleven months older, and three years younger than me.  Because of the age-closeness, my two older brothers and I were inseperable until the pretween gender divide happened, and I wanted my daughter to have a built-in playmate.

So, when DM was about six or seven months old, we started trying for a second, knowing that it would likely take months and we wanted them less than two years apart.  We hit the jackpot first time, instead, and so DM wasn't even 1.5 years old when her brother arrived.

Parenting two children is hard (duh!).  Not only is there the issue of carefully dividing/sharing your attention so no one feels left out, there's trying to co-ordinate -- please oh please coordinate JUST ONE -- naps, there's spending your entire day either breastfeeding one or spoonfeeding the other, the double-diapers, the she's-crying-because-he's-crying ...

There is also the Guilt.

I did not expect the Guilt.  The Guilt comes with The Professor, and it has many aspects.  But it really boils down to one question that hooks its claws in and perches on my shoulder: Is the Professor taking my time/attention/love away from DM?  And vice-versa?

The first time I had to decide which baby was going to be left to cry while I tried to comfort the other one, my brain did the equivalent of a blue screen of death.  I stood there and started crying and that just made everything worse.  Trevor wasn't home to help me with one while I tended the other.  I had to do this on my own.  It really really sucked.

Thankfully the Prof is a pretty easy baby.  Not *the* Easy Baby - that unicorn of silent snuggly sleep-through-the-night grins and diaper-contained poops, but the cousin of that baby, perhaps.  He's like ... the Griffin of Babies.  Less OMG rare and sparkly and perfect, more ... eagle-headed and lion-bodied?  I'm not good with metaphors, OK?  He's happy by nature, resonably quiet unless he's overtired and/or being bugged by his sister, and he sleeps pretty soundly, most of it by night. 

Darth Molly, however, is aptly nom-de-plumed.  She is a tempest of wants that feel like needs and needs that feels like OMGNEEDITNOWs.  She needs to be handled like a celebutante or she explodes into toddling Rage.  So I've gotten used to walking on eggshells with her when she's upset, and she's grown used to it.  Spoiled, maybe.  Things have had to change.

Now I know that neither child is going to dissolve into an actual puddle of tears if I can't answer him or her within the first minute.  In fact, I've learned that a lot of DM's toddler-tears are alligator in nature, and quickly left off when they don't get the result she wants.  I'm reminding myself that it's OK that I have to share myself between the two of them.

I try to spend real time talking and singing and dancing and playing with both kids.  I try not to fawn over The Prof while DM is not entertained by something or someone else.  When The Prof falls asleep and DM is still awake I follow her around and basically obey her whims and act the dancing monkey for her amusement.  It's the two-under-two equivalent of being an every-second-weekend dad.  I try to compress a whole day's worth of fun into that one hour nap, even if I'm tired or would really like to shower instead.  On the rare occasions that The Prof is soundly asleep already, I try to put DM to bed.  I often feel like I'm still not doing enough.  I remind myself that I wasn't scarred by my parents having to tend four of us at once, so why should my kids be?

I can't help it.  It keeps coming back, no matter what I do.  The Guilt is a ninja that strikes when my guard is down, and I have to fend off the shurikens of doubt and just do my Mommy job.

I guess in a few months The Professor will be crawling, then walking, and the two kids will have each other as playmates, and no one will feel unattended to.  And then they'll have each other for life.  And that's gotta be worth a few months of agonizing mommy-guilt, right?

I hope they don't hate each other. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Graphakery: Irony

Another in an occasional series of fake graphs based on semi-real statistics.

The book, incidentally, was If I Have To Tell You One More Time … by Amy McCready.

So far I don't hate it, which is more than I can say for pretty much every other parenting book I've ever read (read more about my first reactions here).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"That's Not Fair!"

You know the classic problem when you give each kid a piece of cake, or a cookie, or whatever, and they scrutinize to see who got the bigger piece?  My brother and I drove my mother crazy with that, to the point that I think I remember the wooden spoon being deployed.

Every now and again my husband will lean down to carefully pour our glasses of wine to make sure we get the same amount, and I will invariably remark "we're spouses, dear, not siblings."

You'd think I would have gotten out of that whole mess by having only one child, or at least, only one who eats solid food.  So what kind of Bad Mommy actually encourages it?  Friday night is family pizza and movie night, and we make our own pizza by using the breadmaker to make the dough, then patting it out on a cookie sheet.  Many Friday night dinner conversations revolve around how to cut a rectangular pizza into three equal pieces, where the amount of crust each person gets is also fair.

Normally we cut it into six squarish pieces, but that leaves four corners and two edges. That's clearly not fair, because someone gets two corners.  The previous solution of cutting the crusts off the short ends and making them into six breadsticks was rejected as lacking a certain elegance.  Today at lunch (which was relatively non-combative sandwiches), we finally hashed out a solution we were all happy with.  It turned out to require only a tape measure, grade eight math, and a large helping of pigheadedness.

From then until the end of the meal we got to debate how to mark the pizza for ease of cutting... my son favoured burning it right onto the cookie sheet, while I think my husband was leaning towards marking the pizza while raw with cilantro.  Sometimes making something fair can be deeply satisfying.

P.S.  If you really need to know the solution, for our 12" by 18" cookie sheet the solution is laid out in the picture.  All cuts originate from the centre of the pizza.  The cut represented by the pen ends 6" up from the nearest corner.  Rotate to the left and make the cut represented by the first pencil 8" along that side; then the final cut is just 2" short of its nearest corner.  Each person gets 72 sq. in. of pizza and 20 in. of crust.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My life is actually great, thanks

Negativity abounds these days. On the news, in the media, practically everywhere you go. It is so easy to let the negativity get to you, to make you feel like crap about yourself, about your parenting, about your kids.

Comparing ourselves to others is what we do. Try as you might, it is nearly impossible not to compare your experience in life to that of others. Take, for example, the recent trending topic of Mommy Wars. I'll give you my experience to consider.

My husband and I were blessed with a perfect little boy, our first born. He never lost weight, ate like a champ, hit all his milestones early. At 3.5years, he is often mistaken for a child a couple years older, both in looks and in his communication and motor skills. Brag, brag... I was new to the whole parenting scene with him. None of my IRL friends had kids, so I sought out a local parenting group. I wanted to know if we were normal, if I was doing a good job, if I was "succeeding".

I did not like the group, AT ALL. It was a constant brag fest, and I lost a few friendships over people lying through their teeth about how well their children were excelling. I didn't like how so many people thought they needed to augment the truth, to make their BABIES seem better. As babies, these children were already having to live up to unrealistic expectations. I stopped going to the meetups, and stuck to my online due date group, a group of women I bonded with over our pregnancies, deliveries, and following years. It was nice to have a group of women to go to, who could answer my questions on any issues, breastfeeding questions, baby poop, you name it. And, if I didn't want to participate in the race to meet milestones (milestones J was meeting anyway) I didn't have to.

We were blindsided when my pregnancy with our second child hit a rocky road. She was born 8 weeks early, presenting 4 weeks delayed on top of that. In the NICU, I started comparing her to other preemies, wondering why she wasn't orally feeding when they were, why she didn't cry, why she slept all.the.time.

We got an explanation, by way of her being diagnosed with a genetic disorder, when she was four months old.

Until then, I'd relied on my online mama group (a new one I'd joined when we first found out we were pregnant with E), but by the time we got her diagnosis, I didn't feel right bombarding them with my questions. Besides, I told myself, they couldn't possibly understand what we were going through.

I sought out a diagnosis-specific support group. It was easy to find, and populated by almost a thousand individuals. I thought I had found a haven, a group of supportive people who would hold my hand and tell me that everything was going to be alright. I expected that they were going to be as amazing as my two due date groups had been. Holy cow, was I ever wrong. My joining the group turned out to be a tremendous mistake.

School's Out for the Summer

Last Thursday, my oldest finished his last day of preschool. He will officially be a kindergartener next year. This is an exciting time in a boy’s life. He runs around telling me 2+3 is 5 and 6+6 is 12. He is READY. I am NOT ready however, especially for summer break.

You see, I have a summer full of activities to plan. Mostly with one purpose in mind. To keep my boys from fighting.

I am terrified at the prospect of the summer. Right now, my 2-year-old gets a half a day break from his brother while he is at school 4 days a week. No longer. Now, they can endlessly torture each other (and therefore, me) for hours and hours on end. Today, I sat down and wrote out a schedule for every day of the week. It includes lots of backyard play time. LOTS. And mandatory naps. Even for the 5-year-old. He says, “Five-year-olds don’t take naps.” To which I replied, “Well, in my house, 5-year-olds take naps!”

I love my kids dearly; I just can’t stand the fighting. I’m just hoping with lots of planning, this summer won’t turn out with me in a locked padded room.

Bathtime Confessions, Part Two

Last week I noticed a funky funk in the bathroom.  That is to say, noticed and dismissed it, until the smell got to the point of absolute unignorability, over the course of the day.

So it was that I ended up on my hands and knees, literally sniffing every bathroom surface I could reach. 

The bath and shower were okay, so it wasn't a drain thing.  I had half-assedly cleaned the toilet that morning, so that usual suspect was out.  I actually put my cheek on the cool tile floor and sniffed around the base of the toilet, just to be sure -- all clear.  The floor was fine and so were the vents.  The smell seemed isolated to the small pedestal sink, which was worrisome (see earlier drain comment).

And that's when I realized that the source of the smell was, in fact, a small baby washcloth wadded up in the sink, in a jolly rubber duckie print that belied the unholy stench emanating from its soggy self.

And THAT is when I realized that the reason this normally sweet-smelling scrap of fabric was jackfruiting up the whole room was because earlier that day I had used it to wash under my arms.  In lieu of a shower, which I hadn't had time for.

Not that day, nor the day before.  Not, in fact, for the previous five days, and the only reason that one happened was as the happy ending to a rare visit to the gym.

The joys that motherhood brings are, truly, too numerous to mention.  But not having time for -- or, more accurately, running a quick mental cost-benefit analysis and willfully deprioritizing -- bathing?

That stinks.

(Note: Model in photo is not me, not by a long shot.  For starters, I have much fatter hips and much hairier pits.  And I always had butterflies and sparrows shoot of of there, back in the day, not lame-o flowers.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where I really do feel like a bad mom

SK Open House was today at school, and JK parents were invited to attend.  I elected not to, and instead took a nap while Trouble napped.  In truth, I thought about it yesterday, and then it completely slipped my mind.  Mischief had a playdate this morning before school where the caregiver dropped her off and a playdate after school where the mom picked her up, so once I dropped her at her friend's house, I kind of stopped thinking about her beyond remembering that I need to pick her up at 5.

The mom who is probably on her way home with Mischief right now emailed me not that long ago to confirm pick-up time for this afternoon, and mentioned that she'd been to the Open House, and that Mischief was chosen as the Star of the Day today, and now I feel The Guilt.  How could I not go?  Was she disappointed?  Did she watch the door hopefully, wondering if I might show up to surprise her?  Was my nap worth her hurt feelings if she WAS waiting for me?  *sigh*

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bath Time Confessions

I am far from the perfect parent. FAR from it. But what I’m about to admit falls into the bad mommy category.

My kids rarely get baths.

If they don’t look dirty or smell funky, then no baths for them. Part of this is because of convenience; the other part is because my boys HATE baths and getting their hair washed.

Two weeks after I had my sweet daughter, nearly 8 months ago, my husband decided to tear out the walls of our bathtub/shower. Promises were made to replace them quickly. But 7 ½ months later, I still have plastic sheeting on the walls surrounding the bathtub. My friend and I even threatened to tile the walls if he didn’t fix it, to no avail. Last week, the promise of a trip to Home Depot kept the hope alive. The trip never happened.

So, I am living in a house with one bathroom and a torn apart tub. The tub still works. I just have to remove the plastic off the walls every time I give the kids a bath. And I have to put it back up afterwards. Once my children’s feet can’t be distinguished from the dirt they are walking in, though, it is time. I pull off the plastic, drag my kicking and screaming boys into the bathtub and throw them in.

For all the fighting they do getting in, they never seem to want to get out either. Sometimes I have to bribe them with Skittles to get in. Other times, I throw in cheap glow sticks and turn off the lights. And yet other times, I turn the water colors with a little food dye.

 This week, Baby Girl got to be in the bath with the boys for the first time. She made sure they were thoroughly clean with all the splashing. And I wasn’t the bully making their hair wet.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Graphakery: Sunscreen

This will be the first in an occasional series of fake graphs based on semi-real statistics. 

In my cookie-eating defense, I always remember to put SPF eleventy-billion on the kids.

Cats and Babies

I'm afraid I may have inadvertently given the impression that I deserve a cookie, so it's time to come clean with a little more appropriate post for a "Bad Mommy" blog.

I love babies, but I've also loved cats from a very young age.  I remember my Mom having a coffee date, and me playing on the floor nearby, listening to her say "Kay knows every cat between school and home.".  That was my first inkling that everybody doesn't know all the cats on their walking route somewhere.

So where babies and cats co-exist, I tend to treat them as equals.  This probably horrifies people who like to keep their pets firmly in the non-human category.  I don't mean that I would have to stop and think about which of them to save in a fire, but in the day-to-day I talk to them, play with them, and enjoy them in fairly equal measure.

Now here's where the odd part of fostering comes in.  Our worker claims to like cats, but given the way she looks at ours, I think she just says that to be polite.  She says we need to keep the cats away from the baby at all times, but how do we separate out what is the Society's official stance, and what is her personal opinion?  Also, she's our worker, not the baby's, so should we ask the baby's worker as well?  We have a 4" binder that's our Foster Care Manual, but the only mention it makes of pets is the policy on banned breed dogs.

Realistically, of course, what they say goes in the big slushpile of what has been said, and we try to make sense of it all in a bigger framework.  As you can see from the picture, though, on at least one occasion I let the baby and our young cat nap together. 

I could fill up another two paragraphs with an apologia on why this was okay on this one occasion, and defending my breaking of the safe sleep guidelines with a comforter.  But I'm going to resist the temptation.  I trust that you all know that even though sometimes in the little things I'm a Bad Mommy, in the grand scheme of things we're all doing the best we can, and it's generally a pretty decent job.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Because I said so."

I'm going to steal from Jaimie's last post for a sec. She mentioned that she avoids using "Because I said so" as reasons for getting her kids to comply with her requests/demands/needs.

I remember those days. Once upon a time, I too had a 2- and 4-year-old. I had lofty non-coercive parenting goals that involved raising my children to feel like they were consulted and included in decision-making processes, and that our household decisions were reached more respectfully and collaboratively.

And then I realized something: I was giving my kids WAY too many choices. Even as I was asking them for their help with cleaning up after themselves, I was offering them the option to opt out of the process entirely. By allowing every situation to devolve into conversation, I was leaving myself too tired to assert that shit still needed doing, regardless of how they felt about it.

I was also encouraging them to question me every time I needed them to do something. Sometimes, there isn't a need to ask me why I need something done. Sometimes, you just have to do it because it needs to be done.

If I tell one of my kids I need them to strip the beds/rinse and stack the dishes/collect all the socks from the living room floor, "Why?" is not required, and if it's asked, "Because I said so" is entirely reasonable. To be fair, I generally prefer, "Because it needs to be done," but I'm still using a very closed-ended response that does not invite further debate.

We are one adult and two pre-teens. While I am far from a neatnik, you can well imagine that the bulk of the mess generated in my household does not originate with me.  As important as it is for me to have my children grow up to feel love and respected, it is equally important for them to develop a sense of responsibility regarding their own actions. I do not want my children to grow up with a sense of entitlement, that someone else will pick up after them/clean up their messes/make their lives easier. I think that does all of us a disservice. I also don't want that feeling of respect to be one-way. Yes, my language choices model to them what I hope to see them use with others. But my expectation of their respectful treatment of me is also modeling to them what they should be doing (and expecting from others) in the context of the bigger world.

Hold on for one more day

My children's sleep has been interrupted more than usual lately. Mischief, who was sleeping through the night, is awake once or twice each night and Trouble, normally up once or twice, stands at the baby gate at his bedroom door and calls out for me two, three, four times each night.

I know that climbing into Trouble's bed with him reinforces the problem, but frequently I am too tired to do anything but collapse gratefully onto his mattress and pull the duvet up under my chin. Lately, I am asleep before he's even settled himself against me.

My house, usually mostly tidy, has devolved into an unmitigated disaster, and rather than work on cleaning it up while Mischief is in school and Trouble sleeps, I catnap on the couch, trying to claw as much rest as I can from the too-bright, too-short afternoons.

If I am not careful - if I do not plan some self-care into my weeks and months - it begins to seem hopeless, and my temper becomes as brittle as my ability to keep my eyes from leaking against my will. My cardinal rules of parenting (never say "because I said so", remember their perspective, consider how my words affect them) slip sneakily out the window and I don't even realise that they're gone until Mischief says something incredibly hurtful to me. As my eyes well up, I recognise that she's just parroting something back that I've said in a moment of frustration, and my cheeks flush with shame as I apologise.

If I have something to hold on to, though, a plan or a dream or a hope, it's easier to smile gently instead of groaning with impatience. It's easier to take the time to let Trouble put on his own shoes, even though it will make us late, and to do it with encouragement and praise instead of chiding and harsh words.

Right now, I am clutching tightly at a plan for a weekend very soon that I will spend all by myself. I might watch tv. I will certainly read in utter silence. I will nap when the thought occurs to me, and will sleep the night through. I might knit or have a bath or take my time over a crossword puzzle at a coffee shop. When I wake, it will be to smile sleepily as I realise that I have nowhere to be and am responsible for no one, and I will gleefully pull the blankets back up to my nose and roll over for another hour.

This may seem a rather pedestrian dream for most of you, but at the moment it's my idea of heaven. It's the only thing making it okay that it's 1:17 am and I've spent the last 45 minutes trying to get my children back to sleep, painfully aware that morning for me will come in just over 4 hours. I will have no opportunity to nap tomorrow and it will be a very long day, but I'm borrowing comfort, calm and patience from my getaway weekend, so it will all be okay.

On this weekend when North America celebrates mothers, I hope you're taking the time to celebrate yourselves. I hope that you find something to hold on to, and that it's big enough for you to borrow all of the patience, calm and comfort you need so you can be the amazing moms that each of you are.

Good night!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Trouble with a teen? No, really?

I'm having trouble with my fourteen-year-old.  I'm sure you're shocked.

Up until recently we've had all the best parts of the mother-son bond, plus the usual good behaviour and eager-to-please traits of the oldest child.  But lately, he's sullen and quiet, speaks in grunts (if at all), hides behind a wall of greasy hair, grumbles about doing his chores, and complains endlessly about going to school and his teachers.  I never see him reading a book anymore.  What really drives me to distraction is his butt, because it's constantly parked in front of the computer.

But you know what?  He loves, loves, loves our foster baby.  From the day the baby (let's call him Baby B) came at two days old, my son (let's call him Boy A), has been a huge part of B's life.  A. had no warning that B. was coming; A. came in the door from school, hung up his coat, turned around and saw the baby lying on a blanket on the floor.  After standing frozen for a moment, he nonchalantly remarked "We have a new foster child".  Later that night he was stroking the baby's head and said "Mom, this is great, we get to have a cute little baby, and I never have to have an annoying little brother!".  He babysits for me (when I'm working, and I pay him $4/hr for that), but he also "brothers", which is when I say "can you just take this screaming baby for 15 minutes so I can have a shower?", and he never says no.

And you know what else?  He grumbles about his chores, but he does them.  He complains about school, but as far as I know he has never skipped a class yet.  When we go to the library together (which we still do), it's so obvious that the kid's and YA books are too easy for him, and the adult books don't interest him.  When we're at home and nobody can see, he still calls me "Mommy" and gives me big hugs, and kisses me goodnight.  (Sometimes it's me going up to bed first these days.)  And how can he be hogging the computer if I spend so many hours of *my* day in front of that same computer?

I get tied up in knots about perfection.  As a break from worrying about my own shortcomings, I focus on his.  My Mom was the same way, and after internalizing that worry about never being good enough, apparently I'm passing it on.  Why would I do that?  Why wouldn't I love him just the way he is?

So, yes, I'm having trouble with my fourteen-year-old... but I'm starting to think the trouble is really me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Are you mom enough?

Time magazine really, really wants to know!


I posted my own thoughts on my personal blog (post: Yes I am, now kindly f*ck off) but I'm curious what other mamas have to say about this cover. 

Parenting on $6 a day

Remember those old travel books that used to promise, for instance, "Europe on $5 a Day!"? I have a vivid memory of flipping through one in the 1970s and imagining myself grown up and drinking wine in a fancy Paris restaurant.

I still remember that sometimes as I change a poopy diaper or put on a load of laundry. I especially remember when I sit down with a glass of wine at the end of the day, and when I open my statement from the Children’s Aid Society at the end of the month.

You see, although I’m a bona fide Mom with a fourteen-year-old son, I’m also a foster parent. We have a three-month-old baby living with us right now, and the Society pays an “all-inclusive” per diem of $6 for an infant. Some magic switch is flipped on a computer screen when a child is placed with us, and early in the month from then on we get a direct deposit of the accumulated amount from the previous month.

My bemusement comes from this fictional $6/day. You can’t go to the grocery store and buy a little $6 kit of baby stuff that will last one day. If you want to get a good price on diapers, you buy the huge box of 276, not a dozen. Like every parent I scrutinize the growth charts and count diapers per day to see whether I should buy the huge or extra-huge pack, but I have the additional wrinkle of not knowing how long he’ll be living with us.

Let’s say you buy the huge $45.99 box of diapers. Voila! You’ve just spent his first week of per diem. What about wipes? Do you spend another five days on the big refill pack? Do you spend one day on the small Penaten, or spring for the more-than-twice-as-big one for twice the price? Of course you have to buy the better value, but you’re already hoping you’ll get paid for at least two weeks, and only his bum is covered so far.

Through the extraordinary generosity of friends, I have only had one Naked Baby day, and that was on purpose (the remarkable April day that reached 24 degrees). I’ve been touched and moved by the friends who dropped off bag after bag of sleepers, onesies, and flannel blankets. A bath tub, toys, books, and even a stroller have found their way to us.

What nobody has is bottle-feeding supplies, since my friends are generally staunch breasties. That wasn’t exactly an option for me, so another couple of week’s worth of per diem went for bottles and nipples – all the while I was hoping the cheapest ones wouldn’t give his newborn tummy gas, in which case I would have to pitch them and start over.

$6 a day works out to $2190 a year. I read a statistic, years ago, that families tend to spend 10% of their after-tax income on a new baby. If my income was $21,900 a year, that would put me solidly under the poverty line. What does that say about how we treat babies in foster care, I have to wonder?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mimosas and Bed Sores.

My son, on realizing it was mothers day this weekend, complained petulantly and asked "Do I have to get you a gift mom?" Being a single parent in a family that has a Matriarch means that mothers day isn't about me. I'm not a "real" mom.

Plus, mother's day is for mothers with partners[1] , right?  A dad that'll drag a lazy kid, or rein in an over enthusiastic kid ,  on mother's day.  You know, to do that really sweet breakfast thing while mom stays in bed 4 hours later than usual, getting bedsores, pretending she isn't imagining her kitchen, which she stocked and cleaned,  being destroyed? 

I get it,  I really do, and if that ritual words for folks then I wish them all the best.

Me?  I've asked my kid to have breakfast with me.  Make it, and eat it, together.  Nothing fancy.  Sitting at the table.  Creative is okay.  If we make a mess he helps me clean up. TV, PS3 and internet off.  He hesitated a moment, calculating how much time he'd lose from Minecraft and MW3, and how early he'd need to get up, but he'll do it.  It’s more about winning than quality time together.

But no matter what we do or plan, it's a day that leaves me feeling disenfranchised. 

It's an opposite day.

If it was actually okay to have mimosas before lunch  we'd all do it all the time. 

It's a day to be showered with affection, where our work and worry is ignored the rest of the time, unless we don't do it. It's a day to be thanked,  when the rest of our year is thankless.  It's a day spent with our kids.  No matter how much we love our kids, how willingly we'd take a bullet for them, put our dreams on hold for them, remake out lives for them, we existed as human beings before and after they were born or arrived in our care.

What if we, mothers, decided that we need to be less selfless, and be more selfish. 

"Go out more, keep cheerful as well as busy, for you are the sunshine-maker of the family, and if you get dismal there is no fair weather. " Little Women

Me?   I'm going to Oasis Aqualounge on Friday with a friend, after luncha t the Salad King on Yonge.  That's my celebration for every time I kept my temper and gave over the last chicken nugget and got paintball splatters out of a favourite hoodie. Oh, and for the thing with the toilet,  the whining during the man-cold in March, and the exploding yogurt in the backpack.  If you google that you'll find that it's a sex club, but don't be too shocked. They have a heated pool and patio outside, and it's going to be 20C, so I'm going to lie on a padded bench in the sun in a thong and I'm going to do absolutely nothing more useful than get a line-free tan and swim with a girl friend.  

No mimosas though - their OJ is extra pulpy.   

The alleged bad parenting trifecta

1. We're at McDonald's for a late breakfast.  That is supposed to be bad.

2. The kids are watching TV.  Also apparently bad, especially when you consider that the older kid is pointing to said TV, excitedly exclaiming that the title screen he sees is for Toopy and Binoo's "Peanut-Butter-Bot."  He is correct.  Not because he can read, but because he has seen it THAT many times.

3. The baby has her feet on the table.  Cute, but not to be encouraged.

But you know what?  The kids are happy and mama is relaxed (and happy).  Nobody's hungry, nobody's bleeding.  Suck on that, granolahead.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Don't spend it all in one place

Think of a bad roommate - I know you've had one.  Stays up too late, drinks the last of the milk from the carton then puts the empty back in the fridge, leaves the bathroom a swamp, plays hours of loud first person shooter games in the living room, their room smells like a biochemical disaster and  can destroy the kitchen making one meal and then gets defensive when you ask them to clean it up 48 hours later?

That's like living with a teenage boy.

I love my son.  I really do.

 . . . and last Friday afternoon I gave him my debit card and metropass and asked him and his friend to just go away. 

Did I have a good idea that they'd go to see The Avengers? Yes. Did I care if he was headed to go knock over a liquor store? Not one bit.

I just wanted him out of my house.

Head lice: the creepy crawly gift that just keeps on giving



I've been bug and egg-free for days, and I cannot. stop. scratching. Or checking my bedding. Or freaking out every time I see a wee tiny black spot of something in the bathroom.

We have been visited by head lice, and we have been hit hard this time around. I'm still working through it with the kids, and trying desperately to not be sick in my mouth every time the comb brings up something new and crawly. You see, the chemicals MAY kill the bugs. So we try the chemicals. And they killed maybe 65% of the bugs. The others just got angry, flailing wildly as I pulled them from their hairy nests. Apparently, these ones are RESISTANT. Dear LORD. That's all we need. Resistant lice. These are lice that will continue to thrive long after the apocalypse, assuming we don't all lose our hair due to radiation poisoning.

The internet says that combing every day with a metal nit comb will also get rid of them.

Have you ever tried to comb through 15 pounds of hair? I'm serious. My son has more hair than a Wookiee. Now, imagine combing through that with a tiny comb, one dredded clump at a time. And the girl just screams incoherently at me every time I hit a snarl. There is a lot of screaming.

(i am UNBELIEVABLY itchy right now.)

I'm still finding eggs (though fewer and fewer) and live bugs (though not every day).  As disgusting as this process has been, it's given me the opportunity to spend more time with my son than he's let me in months. We're having conversations during our half-hour nitpicking sessions, instead of his hiding in his room, avoiding the world. My daughter has no end of topics about which she loves to chat with me, but my boy is very often too introverted for his own good.

In a roundabout way, I guess I have to be a little thankful for our infestation. Disgusting head lice, thank you for giving me the opportunity to engage with my kid. We both promise we'll continue to make an effort to connect daily even in your absence. Be gone now, please.

No Mother's Day

The statistics in this video just break my heart.

Edited to add: For Mother's Day this year, I've asked my family to consider supporting Every Mother Counts by making a donation or giving me Every Mother Counts 2012 - a compilation album that looks fantastic (and has Diana Krall singing Don't Fence Me In!!).

Jeni's right - keeping silent on Mother's Day won't save any of those young women from dying in child birth, but even a small donation CAN save a life.

A rambling ode to squishy orange ear plugs

My children have never been good sleepers, and I'm reasonably certain that it's mostly my fault.

Sleep training (ie "ferberizing") didn't work with my daughter.  We tried it on two consecutive nights, and both times, she cried until she threw up.  The second night, I had to leave the house because I just couldn't bear to listen to her cry.  It was awful, and I vowed that there had to be a better way, and refused to even entertain thoughts of trying it with my son.  (If there is an effective way to help your kids learn to sleep through the night over a short period of time, I have yet to hear about it.)

I think now about the tactics I used to get Mischief to sleep and it makes me cringe a little, nauseous.  I was so green at parenting, and didn't realize that it didn't need to be my way or the highway - that there could be a happy medium that didn't involve me putting a sobbing infant Mischief into my sling, zipping her under an enormous hoodie and then walking laps of the apartment until she stopped crying and fell asleep.  That, as a toddler, my job shouldn't have been to make her sleep as much as it should have been to help her learn how to sleep.

So, you win some and you lose some.  I imagine that my shift from too authoritarian (about sleep anyway) to too permissive arose from my guilt over how poorly I mismanaged Mischief's early sleep training, and so for years now, I've been the mom who gets up in the night every time the kids wake, climbing sleepily over the baby gate that closes off their room in the night and attending to every lost lovey, late-night thirst, midnight pee and bad dream.

(That's not to say that we haven't made other attempts at sleep training - before Trouble was born,  I successfully weaned Mischief from being bounced to sleep on an exercise ball, and attempted with less success to teach her to fall asleep without one of us in her bed with her.  We've tried a few times to encourage both kids to go back to sleep on their own after night wakings with mixed results, and have managed to transition our bed back to an adult bed from a family one.)

At 4.5, Mischief sleeps through the night 5 nights out of 7 now, and for that I am profoundly grateful, but Trouble is still up at least once per night, but usually more like 2 - 3 times.  He always wants the same thing.  "Climb into my bed with me, Mommy."  Like a very sleepy chump, I always do.

Last week though, I splurged and bought myself some fluorescent orange squishy ear plugs.  I've had a hard time using them - I've spent so long at the beck and call of the children that I feel guilty for intentionally making myself largely unavailable to them.  I say largely because if Trouble stands at the baby gate and calls for me more than twice, I'll hear it.  The few times I haven't heard it, DH has thrown a sharp elbow into my ribs (in his sleep no less) and I've gone in to settle Trouble back down.

This morning, Trouble woke (for the third time) around 4:30, and I heard it but was just too tired to get up right away.  DH called out and told him to go back to sleep, and after calling for me four or five times and getting no response, he did just that!  He climbed back into his bed and went back to sleep for another couple of hours.  Hope springs eternal.

The amazing thing about the ear plugs is that when I have them in, I sleep more deeply than I have in years.  I drop off to sleep, and don't know anything until I wake.  It's so lovely.  The Dawn Chorus (my avian nemesis!) no longer troubles me as I struggle to eke out just. one. more. hour, and when I stumble back to my room from Trouble's at 3:45, the sound of DH's gentle snores need no longer be cause for despair.

My pregnancy with Mischief went a full two weeks beyond my due date.  It was my first pregnancy, and I had (and still have) strong feelings about the necessity of medical intervention in the birthing process, so it was with a great deal of dismay that I agreed with my midwife to schedule an induction to begin my labour.   We made the decision on a Sunday morning, and planned to go in for the induction on Monday morning.  Within hours of talking with my midwife, my contractions started, and my labour began naturally.  I firmly believe that once I'd made the decision, I was able to relax into it enough to allow my body to do what it needed to do.

I think the same thing is happening with the ear plugs.  Along with my mom's ridiculous cleaning gene, I've also inherited her extraordinary capacity for worry.  I worry like a champ.  I worry like a fish swims and a bird flies.  I'm probably worried about you right now.  I have even (and I wish I were kidding about this) worried about how much I worry.  I spend a lot of my worry energy on my kids, and as much as they're the authors of my bad sleep, I suspect that my constant concern that they might need me has also played a part.  Once I made the decision to put in the ear plugs and trust that they're probably not going to die in their sleep, my body seems to have been able to just do what it needs to, and it's amazing.

And I have hope that it's going to get even better - nobody takes their mom to college to help them sleep, right?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sometimes it's just a bad dream

As a foster parent, I sometimes feel like I've traded money for the right to make parenting decisions.

It's not generally true; most of the time we're expected to use our judgement and knowledge of the child in our care to do what's best for that child. But one of the big things we're flatly not allowed to do is share our bed with the infant we're currently caring for.  It's not the big-brother "you're not related" reasoning I originally assumed; it's because bed-sharing is associated with higher rates of SIDS.  Because because babies in care tend to have more risk factors (prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, maternal smoking, low birth weight), we have to control the risk factors we can.  So, sharing a bed is out, but sharing a room is encouraged.

That's why from the tender age of two days, our baby has slept in a proper crib at the foot of our bed.  It's a pretty bare-looking crib, too, with no blankets or bumper pads; just a plain white sheet.  He doesn't seem to mind, though.  He has learned to sleep well and will even put himself to sleep at bedtime and during the night.  When my friends talk about how easy it is to feed in the night, or more likely complain about getting a foot in the face at 3am, I just keep quiet, because I don't get to share those experiences.

At his three-month checkup on Friday, the Children's Aid clinic doctor, after a long conversation with my husband and I about the baby's situation, recommended that we move his crib into his own room.  Friday night he slept through the night for the first time, from 10pm to 7am, so it seemed like a good omen.  Yesterday afternoon we moved the crib, and at 8:30pm I put him down to sleep.  He squirmed in, yawned, and fell asleep just like normal.

When I slept I dreamt that he was crying, and when I went in to him the room was cold, with a storm blowing outside and the window open.  I couldn't get the window closed, and when I turned to call my husband to help, I saw another window in the opposite wall, with the glass all broken and the rain pounding in.  I don't need a therapist to tell me what that dream means - obviously I feel I've abandoned him to the big, bad world and the elements by moving him to his own room!

At 5am he woke up for a feeding, with no more fuss than usual.  If he'd had to cry more to wake me up, it wasn't obvious.  I got him a bottle and fed him, and put him back down.  Back in my own bed I could hear him cooing to himself, then sucking his fists, then gradually getting quieter.  It was fainter than usual, but I've been listening to it several times a night for three months, and I could fill in what I couldn't hear.

No fuss from him; no tears from him.  I was the one who cried, as quietly as I could, so I wouldn't wake up my husband and have to explain the mix of guilt and sadness I felt.

The high cost of saving

Like most one-income families, we do our best to economize where we can, and since I'm in charge of pretty much all of the household shopping, that boils down to cheaper cuts of meat, cheese mainly when it's on sale, and this week, off-brand pull-ups when I couldn't find any diapers in Trouble's size that were on sale.

(For the record, I CANNOT wait for this child to get over his discomfort at using the toilet.  After four and a half years of being a mom, I've had my fill of other people's excreta, and might very well throw a party when Trouble finally toilet trains for real and I can throw away the toothbrush that I use for scrubbing escaped poops out of clothing.)

I had some concerns when I first tried the off-brand pull-ups - the elastic around the leg seemed awfully loose.  They were what I had at hand though, and I wasn't about to let them go to waste, so we've been using them.  My concerns about their structural stability didn't occur to me this morning when I saw Trouble assume his favoured pooping position (feet apart, knees slightly bent, hands braced on the entertainment stand, hilarious grimace on his face), or even when I noticed the ungainly bulge in the back of his pants (lumpy and slightly to the left).  It wasn't until I started to change him that I realized that fully one third of what was in his pants wasn't in his pull-up.  Not my ideal way to start the week.

So, lesson learned.  The $3.00 I saved on the off-brand pull-ups was NOT worth the cost in human misery associated with scrubbing feces out of green fleece pants with a toothbrush at 7:30 on a Monday morning.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy some Pull-Ups® Training Pants.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Like rain on your wedding day

The irony is not lost on me that I've happily created and posted to a blog confessing to the world that I'm a "bad mommy", but when Mischief angrily turned to me this afternoon and called me "the worst mom in the whole world" (because, in insisting that she move away from the street side of the sidewalk, I'd made her miss a jump in her intricate "walking home" dance) it sent a knife directly through my heart.

Some days, there is just not enough chocolate in the world.


Someday, I'll have a basement that my son can actually go into, with a playroom for him where he can play on his own safely. It won't be filled with piles of crap, balanced precariously. I won't pull muscles trying to get to the laundry area or the freezer. I'll be able to see the carpet. The carpet won't have remnants of cat puke on it. (The cat has been dead since November 2010.) Everything will have a place, everything will be in its place. We will only keep what we need. There won't be garbage bags of clothing (Moe's, some too big, some too small) open and spilling out everywhere. Hell, there won't be boxes of garbage spilling out everywhere.

But right now, I'd settle for clean bedsheets.

Effortlessly gadding about

So, while I was still pregnant, the topic of getting out and about while on mat leave came up a lot. I have a couple friends who didn't get out a lot, and I vowed that that wasn't going to be me. Moreover, I judged them a bit for their poor decision making in not doing so - obviously it is bad for your health, both mentally and physically to stay inside for a year. I had it all planned out, the baby was due at the end of March, so just as I was recovered enough to get out, the weather would be beautiful. I would pop that baby in to a sling  and the world would be our oyster.

What I didn't count on was the paralyzing terror of taking her outside, in the stroller, never mind the sling (!)

I can't even explain what the fear is of...it's just an intangible terror. The stroller may be that I don't want to be a douche with my giant stroller making everyone's life a misery (and it isn't even like my stroller is that big). As much as I would identify myself as an assertive person, I try to not be in the way if I can help it. The sling though is the real irrational one. Im terrified of falling down and killing the baby.

I know logically that I go whole years without falling down spontaneously, so I should be able to do this.

So today I was meeting my boss for coffee at a starbucks near my house, and my stroller is currently en-route to my home town as I will be taking the train there on Tuesday. So left with no option other than to cancel, I got out the sling.

I have used it before around the house, and on one dog walk around the neighbourhood. But this walk, while only about 10 minutes, would involve crossing an extremely busy intersection (where I was convinced the fall would occur).

Since I am writing this, Im sure you can infer that the walk went without a hitch. No falling, not even minor stumbling occurred. I am hopeful that this small success will have gotten me over the fear enough to keep getting out.

The next hurdle: the bus.  Im baby-stepping my way through modes of transportation.

The only thing I can say in my defence is that I am neurotic yes, but at least it has only been a month and a half. And I am sorry that I judged my friends because it just isn't as easy as I thought it would be.

Breast Feeding

Babies are the only people who are adorable when they eat until they are unconscious.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Good Mom

Okay, so I know that I started this blog because I hated how fake it felt to post pics of our occasional awesome crafts or outings and make like I'm just that good all the time, but I think Jeni's right. Sometimes you've just gotta toot your own horn because baby, there aren't many other people out there who will.

On Sunday, as part of DH's birthday present, I took the kids to the zoo for the day. Eight hours at the zoo during mating season. Just envision that for a moment.

Anyway. While we were there, my 4-y-o daughter (let's call her Mischief) found a bent stick and proclaimed that it looked exactly like a giraffe's head, and she wasn't wrong. Now, I'm pretty sure I had sunstroke, and I hadn't had much sleep the night before - the boy, 2.5, code name Trouble, has his 2 year molars coming in and hasn't slept properly for weeks. So Mischief showed me her stick and in a fit of madness I offered to help her make it into a whole giraffe once we got home and had access to our craft supplies.

Here's my bad mom confession for this post; I say that kind of crap all the time and almost never actually do it. My intentions are good, but my memory and time management skills suck. Poor Mischief has been promised kite-making so many times, and the one time I actually got my act together enough to do it, we made them only to find that we had no string, and the kites were ruined before I managed to get some. (I still haven't found a store that sells kite string without a kite attached to it.) And I've promised Trouble that we'd play bubbles after nap so many times that he's finally taken it upon himself to break into the cupboard where the bubble solution lives and just do it without me.

But giraffe! This time I came through, and Mischief is so happy. I had her colour the toilet paper roll, and then hot-glued the rest of the pieces into place as per her instructions. She hasn't named him yet, but tomorrow is her show and tell day, and he'll be making the trip to JK in her backpack. I feel a little bit like a hot-glue hero.

Raising NerdBabies

I am a self-proclaimed Nerd, married to a self-identified Geek.  We've got some mainstreamy aspects, but in general we're both a little march-to-your-own-drummer with leanings towards the absurd.  I like us both this way, but it's caused us both problems at one point or another.

Now we have two kids, and I have so many opportunities to influence them, to direct them gently down one path or another.  And of course I want that path to involve tiny Jedi costumes, is that so wrong?

Well, is it?  I'm trying to decide.  I know that pushing them into an activity or hobby would be wrong, but is it wrong to simply...restrict/engineer which activities they're exposed to, and encouraged to enjoy?
And is it wrong, from another angle, to encourage nerdish tendencies that can separate them from the "average" or "normal" kids?  Surely it's not wrong to encourage self-expression, but @ what point does encouraging your children to be like yourself become self-indulgent?  These are questions I'm just starting to ask myself, as my oldest child is just getting to that small-person stage where she sort of understands me.

Ah, screw it.  Tomorrow we have Star Wars pancakes for dinner.  May the Fourth be with you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Popstars & Superspies

I have a confession.  (OK, I've got dozens, but this is the one you get today, world!)We go to McDonald's sometimes for dinner, and I buy my toddler happy meals.  It takes her two days to finish the chicken nuggets, and some fries sometimes go to waste (because leftover fries?  neh.) but the toy is ALWAYS the first thing to come out of the box.  She knows to look for it when she sees the happymeal box, and goes for it no matter how hungry she is.
The toy is, really, the reason we get her the happymeal.

My beef is with McDonald's toy selection.  More specifically, I have a problem with their happymeal toy gender division.

The first time I got a happymeal I was a bit surprised when they asked "boy or girl?" in response to my order.  But I said "girl" and we got a super-sweet My Little Pony.  In all honesty, that was why I started getting the happymeals for DM - I had dreams of a vast MLP collection that we would spend hours playing with.
Of course the next time we went, the toy was something less impressive and much more painful to step on barefoot, but that's another story.....

Yesterday I managed to look at the toy selection display that they have in the restaurant (we usually go through the drivethrough because the children are about to explode) and saw the most-recent toy DM had gotten - a little fake MP3 player that plays a clip of popsong from a nickleodeon show (she LOVES this one-button musicplayer and carries it around and dances to it.)  I looked over the rest of the collection - all merch for this show, but most of it was...shiny plastic princessey crap.  Gaudy toy necklace-type stuff.
Then I looked at the "boy" toys in the display.  The boy toys were all things *I* would want, let-alone a toddler with a taste for adventure.  The toys were SpyTech.

We've been cheated out of spy toys by gender stereotyping and I didn't even know it!  By not asking what the toys were, I allowed this system of toy-dispensing to not only keep me in the dark, but pimp chunks of pink plastic to my child, while denying her night-vision goggles.  For shame! 
I'm not saying I'd *always* go for the boy-toys, but I would like to know what the options are.  And how problematic would it be, really, to stop calling them "boy" and "girl" toy selections, and just refer to them by whatever licensed merchandising tie-in they're attached to?  If asked "would you like a toy affiliated with a musical show for pre-tween, or faux spy-gear?" I know which one I'd choose.  But "boy or girl?" that's just too universal and vague and ready for misinterpretation.  That sort of thinking denies us tiny parabolic mics.

The moral of the story?  Make sure you see what all the toys are, and get ALL THE MY LITTLE PONIES BEFORE THEY DISAPPEAR. 

Bad Blogger, No Posty

Yeah, I got nothing. 

But it's been several days without posts and that is sad-making.  So in place of original insight and creativity, I offer you someone else's.

From Rants from Mommyland:

I identify strongly with this list, with the following exceptions:

  • Our basement is too full of stuff for there to be any kind of sleeping surface available;
  • We have a dishwasher but it's not hooked up yet (kill me kill me kill me);
  • I wish I showered as often as a prisoner;
  • I am actually, honestly, truthfully, usually able to go to the bathroom alone;
  • The only reason I'd want to find lost earrings is so that I can sell them for cash;
  • I would totally take the maid; 
  • And the Lexus.