Monday, August 23, 2010
I have to admit, it was awesome. We were all home by nine-thirty. Each family pitched in ten dollars for pizza and brought their own drinks. We didn't have to hire babysitters or constantly check our cell phones to make sure the kids were behaving. Sure we had to stop the kids from jumping on the radiators, keep their fingers out of the air conditioner, and referee a few clashes over the favored toy. But we also got to hang out with our friends for three or four hours on a Friday night instead of starring at our spouses after we put the kids to bed like we do every other weeknight. And it only cost us ten dollars!
Then next morning, our exhausted munchkins slept in and let us sleep in too. It was so nice.
Is it any wonder that we are hoping to make it a standing monthly date?
Moral of the story: Just because you have kids, doesn't mean you can't be social or that you have to pay a lot to have fun. You just have to be open to new things and get more creative.
Maybe it's because I suffered from motion sickness for the duration of my childhood. Any car ride over forty-five minutes left me throwing up into my very own "barf bucket" --a one gallon ice cream tub complete with lid and handle. We flew to Florida every year at Christmastime to visit my grandparents and my dad and brother got seats in a different part of the plane so they didn't have to deal with me getting sick every time we landed. My brother would go through the plane and gather several barf bags for my mom to have handy and I never failed to use at least one. Thankfully, I've outgrown that for the most part. I do still get sick occasionally on cruise ships and I tend to avoid my dad's boat as a precautionary measure.
Ada hasn't shown any consistent signs of having my weak traveler's stomach, but she has thrown up in the car three or four times. It always coincides with her having a cup of juice right beforehand. I count my blessings that she inherited her dad's more tolerant stomach. And we'll just have to wait and see how well Iain fares in the car--so far, so good.
But that's not really why I don't like traveling. Now that I have two kids, it is because it takes forever to get anywhere. By the time you pack the car, load up the kids, get on the road, stop to nurse the baby, get stuck in traffic, listen to the baby scream, listen to Ada whine, pull off for gas or a snack or a bathroom break -- which means unloading the kids and reloading the kids--it is an exhausting process. Just going to the grocery store can take hours. I assume things will improve as the kids get older and I'm not nursing and we equip them each with an Ipod filled with movies and a cushy neck pillow. But I can't imagine I will ever get to a point where I look at my husband and say, "Let's put the kids in the car and drive far, far away for a cross country family vacation!" And if I did ever say that, I think he would look at me and know that something was really, really wrong.
The only way that I tolerate long road trips is if they are for something really worthwhile. Worthwhile meaning that I will put up with an eight hour plane ride if I get to spend two weeks in Germany. Or a six hour car ride if I get to see my best friend get married (while saving $500 on airfare and getting the grandparents to watch the kids so I can have alone time with my husband.) I start hitting my limit on trips back to our hometown an hour-and-a-half-away when we only go for a day or an overnight visit. By the time we pay for gas, pull over to quiet the kids a few times, pack and unpack the car, and then return home to a long list of chores that were put off so that we could spend three hours in the car, it doesn't seem worth it. Luckily, both of our parents live in the same town so we get to see most of our relatives each trip. And they are willing to watch the kids so we can get a date night out of the deal--assuming we aren't too exhausted to stay up late enough to actually go out on a date.
As I get older and our family expands, I find myself still wanting to do all of the things our parents and friends from back home invite us to do, but just not having the strength to endure the car ride out there to do them. I've been trying to coordinate and consolidate visits so that we maximize what we do and who we see each time we go home. It is nice to be invited and included in their lives, but there comes a point where we need to make our own lives. We live in the city and have a lot of friends to see and have Saturday brunch and BBQs with, museums and cultural centers to visit, and lazy days to enjoy. That's tough to fit in when we spend so much time traveling home for this, that, and something else. I've definitely noticed since we had Iain that more family members are coming in to see us, and they are coming more often. Now that, nine weeks after he was born, we finally got a chance to actually clean our house, I can be much more receptive to having friends and family stop by since I'm not as embarrassed by our messy home.
If nothing else, having a second child has taught my husband and I that we need to get better at saying "No" when it comes to our social calendar. I think we also need to get better at inviting our families to come visit more often and host more events here since they are more mobile than we are at this point in life. Hopefully, we'll find a happy medium.
Moral of the story: Having kids changes your social life and complicates travel. Set limits and learn how to say "No" to prevent yourselves from being stretched too thin.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Last night was not one of my good nights. Rick told me he would be late getting home from work and I was on my own with the kids. Iain is only eight weeks old so the thought of having to put both kids to bed, and feed, diaper, and entertain them at night is slightly terrifying. Iain is an ideal baby until about seven at night and then he gets demanding and cranky. He just wants to eat a ton so he can sleep a long stint overnight without getting hungry. Alone, that wouldn't be so bad. When you compound that with Ada's need for dinner, her desire to watch multiple movies, her refusal to get ready for bed, and her occasional rebellious nature, you could be in trouble. That was where I was last night.
As bedtime approached, Ada's dinner and movie were over. It was time to settle down with a few books before bed. She resisted all of my attempts to coax her into bed. Iain had been crying or nursing on and off for the past hour and nothing I did seemed to soothe him. Ada kept pushing my buttons until I finally had had enough. I counted to three out loud and threatened her with a time-out. She still refused to willingly go to her room to read books so I had to resort to force. Iain was still crying so I had to set him down and listen to his cries intensify while I pulled Ada off the couch and moved her into her bedroom chair for a time-out. She was screaming. He was screaming. I was ready to scream too.
I calmed him down for a few minutes while she continued to scream. The time-out was effective in that Ada knew mommy meant what she said and it was time for bed. I explained that we have a baby as a family and she needs to do her part in taking care of the baby by listening to mommy and helping out when she is asked. She looked right at me and nodded in understanding. Iain started crying again.
Ada and I were trying to read books but his crying was foiling our attempts. At that point, I had tried everything to calm him. He was fed, had a clean diaper, had been burped, was in clean clothes and nothing was working to calm him. (As it turns out, he was just tired and wanted to be rocked to sleep. Too bad I didn't know that at the time.) At one point, I was patting his back when Ada crawled onto the floor next to me and started patting my back. It was so sweet. She was really trying to help. I then moved Iain to where he was lying on his belly on my lap and Ada and I were both patting his back. It still wasn't working but at least she was trying to help.
A few more minutes of this went by and I gave up and called Rick. Lucky for me, I sat on the couch with Iain propped up on my thighs looking at me while I swayed my knees back and forth. The swaying calmed Iain long enough for me to get a short break from the screaming and to be able to vent to Rick for a minute as I searched for suggestions and moral support. Rick recommended everything I had been trying and said, "Hang in there. I'll be home in about half an hour."
Back in Ada's room, we read two books while I patted and bounced the baby. Iain fell asleep in my arms finally. But then Ada started to rebel again and her refusal to get into bed started to get loud. That's when I decided to changed Iain's diaper and fully put him to bed so I could focus completely on Ada. With him down for the night, getting her to cooperate was much easier.
When Rick got home, I thanked him for calming me down and offering suggestions on how to maintain my sanity. I explained how, sometimes, I just want to shake my child to get him to shut up. I felt awful saying it but it was true. And sometimes I just want to smack Ada when she is being sassy and I have hit my breaking point.
You know how Rick responded?
"Me too!" he said.
Whew! What a relief. Just knowing that we were in this together and it was "normal" to feel this way was a huge relief. We have both had the urge to lose it but in the back of our minds said, "No, you can't shake the baby or smack your toddler. That's where shaken baby syndrome and child abuse come from. Your children deserve better and you need to calm down."
That's when you give yourself a time-out. Take a few deep breaths, call a friend or family member, or take the whole family on a walk around the block to burn off some steam. Parenting is not easy. I have found the most challenging part of having two kids is prioritizing their needs and attending to them when they are both screaming and you hit your limit. It helps to know that you are not alone.
Moral of the story: When parenting gets tough, control how you deal with the situation. The rest is beyond your control so accept it and do your best to remain calm.
I wish someone would have told me to question that ideal while I was growing up. I don't have the dog or the yard with a white picket fence, but the rest has been a strong guiding force leading me to where I am today.
With what I know now, my career path would have been a lot different and I might not have bought a house. Why?
Well, I'm finally learning that you don't have to follow these rules or guidelines to be successful in life. Health, love, and happiness should define success--not the size of your house or the rock on your finger or the car you drive. I think seeing so many people lose everything in this recession has brought this to light. Having a second child has also given me much reason to reflect on the subject.
As an entrepreneural spirit, I would not have bothered trying to fit into a traditional job straight out of college. I've been annoyed with most of the jobs I've held and haven't found many of them challenging, or fulfililng. I'm meant to be on a more non-traditional path. Too bad it has taken me a few quarter-life crises to figure that out. It's still a work-in-progress.
As for buying a house, having children is more expensive than people realize. If you buy a house and are living within your means, your income will need to increase with each child. If you are a two-income family like we are, having a house could limit your options once the baby is born as expenses increase and, depending on your maternity benefits or lack thereof, income may decrease. Mortgage lenders have made it possible for families to finance the "American Dream", but at the expense of making them "house poor"-- a very common conversation amongst my group of mom friends these days. Most of our incomes go toward our mortgages, taxes, and condo assessments. And in the midst of a recession, we are all feeling trapped by housing prices that would force many of us to take big losses if we sold now.
If you are wealthy or talented at climbing the corporate ladder and having income that continues to increase as your family grows, that's great. But if you (or your spouse) lose your job or want to stay at home with the kids, you can get into a real pickle. Here in Chicago, our mortgage and condo association assessments are much higher than the cost of renting a place of the same size. I find myself jealous of renters all of a sudden when I grew up thinking home ownership was the way to go. Instead, I find ownership expensive, risky and stressful -- especially in this market where so many families are losing so much as they foreclose on their homes.
I'm not staying I like the idea of renting where you have a landlord, can't do home improvements, have annual rent increases, and have the possibility of moving more often. I prefer being settled and the freedom and security that ownership brings. I guess the bigger problem here is a lack of what I consider affordable homes in the city and the mortgage industry's willingness to loan out way more than a growing family can afford. Hopefully, the future will bring more life planning into the mortgage qualifying picture instead of just being a percentage of income and credit risk calculation. I'll put in a request for better landlords, better tenants, and better maternity leave benefits for all while I'm at it.
Moral of the story: Having kids is stressful enough that you shouldn't have to worry about how to support them too. Plan ahead and save, save, save.
- Create a mailing list, and pick a design before the baby arrives.
- If you are doing it yourself, get stamps and return address labels, maybe even address labels too.
- If you can outsource the whole process, I highly recommend it as it can be time consuming and stressful.
- If you are doing a lot of them yourself, ask friends over for an announcement assembly party.
- Consider sending the announcement when he is around two months old so he can smile and show some personality. (Or just cover up the fact that it took you that long to get around to mailing them out.)
Getting the right photo is another big challenge:
- Hire a professional or take the photo outside in indirect sunlight with a good camera
- Dress him in a solid color that isn't white or yellow.
- Avoid outfits with fancy necklines that will distract from the baby. He's the focus after all.
- Have someone stand by you to make faces at the baby, or tickle him, or wipe up drool and spit up. An assistant and some patience are key.
And try your best to simplify. Shorten the mailing list, streamline the design, and wait until you are happy with it.
Moral of the story: Prepare the baby announcements in advance as much as you possibly can, and have someone help you with the photo.
Recently, I've given up on the foot-kissing theory and instead prefer to kiss a baby on the top of his head. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.
- I don't find feet all that kissable.
- Older babies are so flexible their feet end up in their mouths anyway, thereby defeating the purpose.
- Sometimes he will be wearing socks or shoes which won't taste all that great.
- His feet could be cold or clammy and that's no fun to kiss.
- And most importantly, if you have changed many newborn diapers, you know that a baby loves to stick his feet on his newly soiled diaper. Now if the person who changed him last wiped down his feet, you might be okay. But if they didn't, you might be the one getting his cooties. Do you want to take that risk?
I will also admit to liking the fuzzy softness of baby hair and that clean baby smell -- both benefits of kissing him on top of the head.
Moral of the story: If you kiss a baby, consider kissing his head, elbow or knee to keep both of your cooties with their proper owners.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
On Tuesday, we saw one of Rick's co-workers walking with her grandchildren. The kids were holding their arms out at their sides when they crossed the street as if they were crossing guards. Ada's been in that phase where she copies everyone these days so she of course held her arms out to the side all the way down the sidewalk, but not at the intersection.
On Wednesday, we were only a block from home holding hands while walking when I felt a downward pull on my arm. Ada was leaning over to pick something up. We were approaching a crosswalk so my mind was on finding a gap in the cars and by the time I looked down to see what she was doing, she already had her thumb and forefinger in position to pick up a large dog turd. She definitely touched it and gave me quite the confused look when I scolded her for reaching for it. It must have looked like a chocolate candy bar. Needless to say, I didn't let her touch anything until we arrived at daycare. Upon our arrival, I asked her caregivers to scrub her hands thoroughly.
On Thursday, she again surprised me. It was a ninety-degree day with humidity that made it more than just hot. Ada spent the morning's walk saying "Hot" and trying to walk in the shadows. If there wasn't a shadow, she walked directly behind me, using my shadow to keep her cool. Her walking behind me wasn't conducive to me watching her as we crossed the street or walked down the sidewalk. That was a day I really needed eyes in the back of my head.
With each new day, something new is always learned. This past week it just happened to be my turn to do the learning. When we cross the street, I'll let Ada hold her hands up like a crossing guard to protect us. When we are walking anywhere, I'll be on high-alert for the presence of dog poop. And when it is hot out, I will give her an umbrella to create her own shade so she doesn't use my shadow.
Moral of the story: Kids aren't always the students in your relationship. They will often teach you new things, many of which you'll wish you never knew.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Moral of the story: The Internet has a plethora of information to help explain the many wonders of the world to your children. And many sources are free so take advantage.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
After each pregnancy, I've taken time to re-evaluate my wardrobe and clear out items that I don't wear, that don't fit, or that just don't belong anymore. I tend to wait a month or two after the baby is born so that I have a better idea of what could again fit me some day if it is close and what really doesn't have any chance of ever working for me again -- like my bikinis. It wasn't hard to fill three bags of clothing up to pass on. Purging also gives me a chance to reorganize our room, get things back in order, and have a space that is more calm compared to the chaos that is currently our home.
I still need to go through all of Ada's clothes to see what she's already outgrown but it isn't an easy task since she could be anywhere from a 2T to a 5T depending on the style and cut of an outfit. And everyone keeps telling me her pants will all fit differently when she is potty trained so I need to hold off on passing those on.
Iain has outgrown a few things but his wardrobe is considerably smaller than Ada's and poses less of a problem. I am still trying to find homes for the gifts he received from the recent baby shower Rick's family threw for us. I really just need to put most of it away in his drawer but just haven't found the time. And to add to our chaos, we collected three bags of books from Rick's parents' house to help them purge and add them to our collection. Now we just need to figure out where they fit in.
Moral of the story: We all have stuff. The more you can minimize, organize and maintain the systems in place to manage the stuff, the less stressed you will be.
You would think we would have this all figured out now that he is six weeks old, but we don't. What we need to do is create a space, maybe even a drawer in the living room, for a few of his necessities so that we don't have to look at each other after we close Ada's bedroom door and say, "Honey, did you remember to grab the diapers and some burp cloths?" or "Crap! I forgot the wipes are all in her room." Which has been the norm rather than the exception this past few weeks.
The challenge is in keeping all of these things organized and in their proper places while they all seem to be in constant motion. Disposable diapers and wipes are depleted as they are used and thrown out. Cloth diapers and covers are soiled and often somewhere between the dirty diaper bucket, the laundry machine, the drying rack, a stack by their bedroom door of laundry to be put away, or in their room put in the cloth diaper drawers -- which we really shouldn't even be storing his diapers in at all but they don't have another home outside of their bedroom at this point. Outfits, blankets, burp cloths all make the laundry cycle and occasionally get trapped in with Ada. And the snot sucker has just recently been banned from being used in her room so as not to get it stuck in there. It's not an easy task to juggle all of his stuff and keep her out like Sleeping Beauty.
To make matters worse, since we can't store his stuff in their room at this point, that also means there are a lot more obstacles in the house for me to trip on in the night as I rush to quiet his screams so as not to wake Ada. If only they made a magical bubble we could put her and her bed into none of this would be an issue and I'd be much more organized.
Moral of the story: Sharing a room is good in theory once you have both kids sleeping through the night. Until then, it entails a lot of planning and organization to keep the entire family happy.
First of all, Ada's was sent out around February fourth. She was born December nineteenth so that makes my deadline for Iain's to be sent out August sixth which is tomorrow and I haven't even started them. Whoops. I don't have the mailing list ready, the invites aren't designed, and let's be honest, all I have is the paper that isn't even cut to size and some stamps. As Scooby Do would say, "Rut ro".
Some people think this isn't really that big of a deal. And in the grand scheme of things, they would be right. It isn't. But it's important to me to do them right and be timely about it, as much as I can anyway.
I think what is holding me back most in this whole announcement process is getting the right photograph to showcase just how cute baby Iain really is. I used over two rolls of film, yes black and white 35mm film, when I was trying to get Ada's announcement photo. I wanted the control of a 35mm camera and I hadn't switched to a digital camera at that point. In the end, I was torn between two photographs, one that my mom preferred and one that my husband preferred. Knowing my mom would nag me about it forever and thinking it was more important to her, she won. In hindsight, I should have taken more pictures until I got one we all agreed on.
Delaying the photo further is the minor incident we had yesterday that left a small cut on his forehead. Not exactly the best way to showcase his cuteness. Thankfully, we have Photoshop and can fix that if we need to. Chances are it will be healed by the time I get to taking his photo at the rate things are going. And I'm embarrassed to say that my mom, good intentioned as she may be, really needs to learn that it is not okay to offer to put cover-up makeup on a baby's blemish for their announcement photo. Not okay. Never. Period. Just like it wasn't okay to cut cousin Anna's bangs while she was at the hairdresser just because they were driving Grandma nuts and she was under strict orders not to cut them. Again, not okay. I will say that she has that whole "Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness later." thing down pretty well. It just better not be me she's asking to forgive her if she gets too close to Ada's hair with scissors. But I digress.
Moral of the story: If you plan to have multiple children and treat them equally, consider setting the bar low to begin with so you reduce the pressure to preform later on.
Of course I gave her a cookie. So what if it was before dinner? It would have been hypocritical not to give her one since I had just eaten three spoonfuls of cookie dough before she got home. And I don't believe in denying her the joys of life, of which I firmly believe oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are near the top of the list.
The problem came when her cookie was gone. "Cookie?", again accompanied by the sign for a cookie, was supposed to be Ada's key to happiness. You can only imagine her shock, sadness, and the depth of her pouty lip as it protruded from her face when I said "No more cookies until after we eat dinner." It was clearly written all over her face that she didn't understand why she couldn't have another cookie. Surely there were plenty since I had baked over three dozen and they were right there on the counter. Trying to explain to a toddler that cookies aren't necessarily classified as a "health food" is a whole different matter. Needless to say, she was not happy.
Moral of the story: Guiding your children to make healthy choices in life is tough. Limiting their cookie intake might prove to be outright impossible.
As it turns out, it is tough to get your toddler to wash her hands after everything she touches. She touches a lot of things. And she doesn't really want to wash her hands. Just recently she started to give in to hand washing but it has taken awhile for her to acquiesce. I didn't grow up with the "wash your hands before you eat" rule so it's tough for me to remember to do that with Ada. We are just now starting to get into the habit of having her wash her hands when she gets home from daycare, and she's been there six months! Ug. I can only imagine the germs she's brought home so far this year.
It also doesn't help our desire to be cootie-free when everyone wants to touch and hold the new baby. Some people are really good about saying, "Let me go wash my hands so I can hold him.". And I know, as his mom, I should ask people to wash up before touching him...but I forget. I'm pretty scatterbrained these days at it isn't top of mind. (Some would say I have a lot going on with having a newborn and all.) It isn't even close to being on my mind to tell the truth. At least, not until we get a family cold and I'm considering making a holster on my belt for his snot sucker since I can never find it when I need it. Poor little guy.
For right now, this cold will serve as a reminder that we need to do more as a family to prevent cooties from attacking us. Now is the time we either change our habits or accept the fact that we are going to get more colds and other illnesses that could be prevented if we just tried a little bit harder and spent more time hand washing. It's not enough to just tell Ada to cover her mouth when she coughs. We have to get into the habit of doing more.
Moral of the story: With kids come cooties. Teach good hygiene habits from the start and it is bound to pay off. Even one less round of cooties will be worth your effort.
In an effort to use the food we get each week from our community farm share, I've been trying to cook more. My cooking friend Sarah sent me a few recipes to try to help use up the items I don't typically cook with like beats and cucumbers. I cooked the beats to use in a salad tomorrow and then chopped up the cucumbers for a basic cucumber salad. Easy enough. While I was cooking and had the over still hot from the beats, I also thought it would be nice to make some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to keep in the freezer for a little snack every now and then. Have I mentioned that I'm a chocoholic? Well, I am. And I thought the cookies would reduce the number I handfuls of chocolate chips I eat each afternoon when I need a snack.
So here I was, in the kitchen making cookies, dancing to some music to get in some cardio for the day, with Iain in the bouncy seat happy as can be. I can be an insane multi-tasker and it just so happened that I was also emptying the dishwasher as I was dancing, making cookies, and watching Iain. That's normal, right?
As I emptied the dishwasher, I was trying to put the blender away in a high cabinet that is poorly organized and contains a mini food processor, parts to a stick blender, and a small food chopper. I've always hated the contents of this cabinet and how something always got dislodged whenever I opened it, further frustrating me and causing me to hate the cabinet even more. I had recently purged half it's contents to make it less ominous, giving away a few small kitchen appliances that just didn't fit in our house and could be put to better use by someone with a better space to store them. Too bad that didn't help me today.
There I was, reaching up to try to shove the base of the blender back into the corner of the cabinet when the cabinet's contents starting tumbling out at me. I, as instinct, jumped back so that the blender parts and other random small appliance accessories could fall unobstructed --just to watch them hit baby Iain in the head on their way to the ground since I had stupidly placed his bouncy seat right below that cabinet.
First, my heart skipped a beat. Then it sped up rapidly as I watched the stick blender whisk attachment hit him first. And then I'm pretty sure that the blender blade for the chopper hit him next. It all happened so fast that I just remember thinking, "Please dear God don't let whatever just fell on Iain have injured his eyes." I'm not sure how I could deal with myself if something so stupid had caused him to be blind or leave him permanently scarred in some way. Luckily, the way these objects impacted him caused very minimal damage. I was relieved when I saw just the smallest cut form on his forehead between his eyebrows. How often do you hear that? I, the parent of a newborn, was relieved to see blood on his forehead!
He, on the other hand, was not so relieved. He was in fact pissed off to the extreme. The screams he let out could tear a mother's heart in two. It was awful. I instantly cuddled him, shushing his cries as we bounced and rocked and swayed down the hallway to the living room. I think I started breathing again once we got to the couch. He screamed. I nursed him and tried to put an ice pack on his head to reduce the swelling but he wanted nothing to do with that so I gave up. He just wanted to be soothed and a cold foreign object on your head after a trauma like that doesn't really set well with him. Luckily, it turned out that it didn't even swell or bleed for that matter. But it did take a good five minutes for him to settle down again and even then he was still pretty jumpy. I know I spent the duration of his crying spell thinking how lucky we are, how much I love this little guy, how important it is for me to think more about my actions and how they might affect him, and how much I really need to slow down and reduce my multi-tasking so that I don't miss out on life by trying to do too much.
Moral of the story: When something happens to your child, don't panic. Breathe. Hope for the best. Stay calm and deal with the situation you've been dealt with as best you can.