Thursday, February 28, 2013

24 Hours of Crazy

I was inspired by Valerie's post on 24 hours at her house, and decided to do it, too. I did it both for writing purposes and because I thought it would be a nice way to document this time in our lives.

Like Valerie, I picked a day (Tuesday of this week) and stuck with it, and let me tell you, the day turned out to be a doozy! Ok, here we go!

6:15 am -- I get out of bed to try and try to coax my ten month old daughter back to sleep. She's been up twice already. My husband has been trying to get her settled but needs to start getting ready for work. I wrap her up, lay her on her belly, and softly pat her back, and within a couple of minutes her even, deep breathing tells me she's out for the count. I run back to bed and try to snooze for the next ten minutes. Instead, my mind races with thoughts of said ten month old's first birthday party.

6:30 am -- Up and at 'em. I'm really tired. I make my bed while my husband and I discuss reasons not to have any more children (not sleeping through the night is at the top of the list). I take a shower.

6:46 am -- I gulp down coffee while browsing Facebook on my iPad. I try not to get agitated over various online dribble.

6:55 am -- I have to get dressed.

7:01 am -- My stomach hurts. Too much caffeine and aspirin. Taking so much migraine medication inhibits my stomach's processing of acid, making it build up and cause great pain. Must make smoothie before school so that my stomach is not empty.

7:03 am -- Kids are up. Well, Sofia is, anyway. She's scared of the hissing of the heater in her room so she's anxious to get out of bed. I look at Alex and he just buries his head under his blankets.

7:11 am -- Sofia makes her case for a treat after breakfast. She's unbelievably cute and endearing, until she hears no, and then she turns into a screaming banshee. Thankfully the baby sleeps through the ruckus.

7:26 am -- Request that kids get dressed. Alex obliges, Sofia protests very loudly, finally managing to wake Victoria. My husband changes her diaper before he leaves for work.

7:36 am -- Time for my husband to go. I cling to his leg and beg him not to leave me alone with the savages. He must go and I bay at the window as he walks away from the house. Sigh.

7:42 am -- I fix Sofia's hair with a style I found on Pinterest. She looks so adorable that I almost forget her morning screaming.

7:47 am -- I dry my hair while Alex brushes his teeth. He has been very reasonable this morning. He finishes and then calls Sofia in to brush. I love my big kid.

7:50 am -- I catch Victoria's fingers under the toilet seat lid. She screams. At the same time I battle and plead with Sofia to brush her teeth. I'm not going to have time to make the smoothie. I'm getting stressed.

7:55 am -- I make the smoothie after all! The kids are fascinated, with the older two asking me lots of questions about the ingredients (banana, strawberries, honey, cinnamon, and yogurt).

8:01 am -- Oh my lord, we are ready too early! (As I realize later, the relatively smooth morning was a bad sign of things to come. Haha.) I take the time to give extra hugs, and Alex tells me a story about how someone in his class ripped one of his books.

8:08 am -- On our way to school, Alex helps Sofia put something in her coat pocket, and we all hold hands all the way down the block. I have a moment of pure happiness.

8:17 am -- I helicopter parent Sofia through a small conflict with a classmate while waiting for the Pre-K teacher. As soon as I step away, they resolve it on their own.

8:20 am -- Arrive at PTA office. There's lots to do and discuss. I do some computer clean-up.

10:45 am -- As Sofia comes out at dismissal her teacher says she needs to talk to me. Uh oh. I question Sofia but she seems happy enough, so I try not to worry.

10:55 am -- I listen while the Pre-K teacher describes a minor playground incident. I strongly dislike her approach and I proceed to become irate and remind the teacher that the kids are only four and will make mistakes. I question Sofia once again but all I get are inane mumblings. I am rude to the teacher and yank Sofia out of the building.

11:05 am -- I make it about half way down the block before turning around, going back to the school, and asking to speak to the Assistant Principal. I am furious and complain about Sofia's teacher. The Assistant Principal graciously listens and assures me she will take care of it.

11:17 am -- I find alternate side of the street parking quickly, and I call my husband and yell endlessly about school incident.

12:06 pm -- At home, I feel bad about being rude to Sofia's teacher. She's a nice woman, she means well. I worry neurotically about possible consequences.

12:45 pm -- Sofia is down for her nap and I settle in to nurse Victoria. She is playful and at first I resist, anxious to get her to sleep, but I finally give in to her antics and I begin to feel better. I finally put her down around 1:30.

2:24 pm -- I want a latte. I break out our DeLonghi.

2:26 pm -- I briefly consider running for a position with the Education Council of my school district. Temporary insanity ends and I bookmark it for next year.

2:36 pm -- Victoria is up and inconsolable. I hold her for a bit but it's time to wake up Sofia so I can get her dance outfit on and pick up Alex from school, so I have to put Victoria down. She crawls after me screaming at the top of her lungs.

2:55 pm -- We are running late and Sofia refuses to do anything but stand and cry. She tries to put on her dance tights but they are inside out, and she also has to go to the bathroom. I pull her tights off, run her to the bathroom and put her on the potty, while Victoria follows, crawling and crying. I finally get Sofia dressed, Victoria into her winter suit, and I load myself up like a donkey.

3:02 pm -- I am going down the outside stairs of my house, wearing the baby, carrying a diaper bag and one other bag, and holding the stroller. Sofia is behind me. I'm rushing and don't look where I'm going, and I completely miss the last three steps. I twist my ankle and fall down on my butt. Hard. I can't get up. I'm in complete blinding pain and I'm afraid my ankle is broken. I think about Alex waiting for me in the school courtyard. Sofia panics and begins to cry. $!&@$!#%*"!!!!! Thankfully, Victoria is still snug in her Pikkolo and completely unaware that anything is happening. Moment of happiness--not quite.

3:15 pm -- I've managed to get up, strap Sofia into the stroller, and make it to get Alex on time. My foot is numb at first and then begins to get hot and tingly. We are already outside so I decide to go ahead and walk the 20 blocks to Sofia's dance class. I stop at CVS for a heated pad and an ACE bandage.

3:57 pm -- While Sofia twirls in the next room, I regale friends at dance class with colorful stories of the day's events. Victoria practices her new walking skills. She eats tiny pieces of popcorn off the floor before I can limp over to her to take them. I try with futility to get Alex to sit and do his homework--he just wants to play with the other older siblings of the little dancers.

4:45 pm -- My husband walks in and he is a sight for sore eyes. I show him my now horribly swollen ankle and garner some sympathy. He's left work early and has brought the car to drive us home. While he snuggles Victoria I have a chance to sit with Alex and talk about his day in detail. We hug and I feel happy.

5:33 pm -- We are home and I am resting my very painful ankle. I sit with my iPad and decide that I want to run for the Education Council after all. I complete the application while chaos ensues all around me--Victoria is tugging at my leg looking to nurse, Alex and Sofia are fighting endlessly. The fact that I can't freely get up and do stuff is maddening. Crap, we still need to eat dinner.

6:37 pm -- My mom is over for a visit and I hobble around the kitchen trying to get dinner together. Various children are underfoot, making me anxious. I worry about tripping over someone and hurting myself further. I blame my helpful husband for anything I can think of. Sigh.

7:48 pm -- Dinner is an hour late but we are all eating. Alex scarfs down his spaghetti and one whole meatball (actually made from cannellini beans). Sofia pokes, stirs, mashes, and then declares she's not happy with the meal. We invoke the five bite rule and she's done.

8:48 pm -- My mom reads a book to Sofia while Alex reads his school library book and I nurse Victoria on the couch. Another good moment to cherish.

9:00 pm -- Kids are in bed, 45 minutes late. Damn my stupid sprained ankle.

9:30 pm -- I'm nursing Victoria but I can't get comfortable. Our new sofa is hard and it hurts my butt. I finally give in and lay down, and fall asleep nursing.

12:55 am -- My husband helps me get to bed. I can't put any weight on my ankle. Everything gets dark and my ears start ringing really loudly and I feel like I'm going to pass out. I make it to the bed where I lay feeling cold and clammy.

3:23 am -- Victoria is up to nurse. She goes back to sleep without much fuss and I am grateful.

5:05 am -- Victoria is up again. I'm hoping my husband can settle her but her cries pierce through the early morning silence and he brings her over to nurse. She is cute and cuddly and we sleep side by side for the rest of the morning. Another good moment.

6:15 am -- I have hardly slept because of the pain from my damn ankle. My husband is spending the day working from home and he will take the kids in to school. Thank goodness, because when I try to get up I feel like I am going to pass out again. Boy, what a 24 hours it has been!


My ankle is painful, bruised and swollen, but hopefully just a bad sprain. I hope I can hobble my kids over to school for the next few days.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Liking vs. Loving my Spirited Child

I had another post in the works for today, but I'm putting it aside for later. Instead I have something I have to get out, something I have to confess, so it can stop weighing on me. I'm going to be so honest here, and I'm a little afraid of it. It's hard to admit your own shortcomings, and maybe even harder to admit ugly feelings because they seem to speak even more to who you are inside.

I remember that Gwen seemed to hit certain emotional developmental milestones early. Around 20 months, and definitely by 22, I stared getting a preview of the fun that was the "terrible twos." The threes, I've said it before, have been described to me as "two, with intent." She hit that early too. So while she's only been 3 for a bit over a week, this attitude has been here for a bit, and I'm over it already.

Guys, I'm just going to say it. I love Gwen, with all my heart, she fills me with love and a simple hug from her is a balm to me... but frankly, there are times lately that I don't like her. When she completely ignores my requests. The time she told me to shut up. When she whines, constantly. When she throws a fit because I ask her to do something so unreasonable like clean up toys that she's strewn around the living room when she's done playing with them, or take a single bite of something that she begged me to make her to eat.

I am loathe to ever wish time with her away, but I find myself wishing for bedtime, wishing for 4!

Now there are great parts to this age as well, and I am so grateful for those. However, she just seems so much better at pushing my buttons now, no matter how many loving boundaries I give her, and this has brought out a side of me that I don't like. My carefully cultivated patience has gone out the window, and I suddenly feel like a newly unfrozen Austin Powers ("I can't seem to CONTROL the sound of my VOISE!").

So here's where I ask for your help gentle readers: What's your secret for hitting the reset button? Yoga helps me, but since I can only go once a week, I need something to help me get my mama mojo back the other 6 days of the week. I don't chose my daughter's actions, but I can change and chose my reactions.

Help me reset our off balance relationship, so I can like my daughter as much as I love her again... and survive this crazy age.

Editor's Note: I wrote this yesterday, while sitting in the car with a napping Gwen. We'd had a morning full of butting heads. We went on to have a wonderful afternoon together. Thank goodness. Then we butted heads at bedtime. ::sigh::  We went on to end the night nicely, but this is how our days have been going.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Letters From My Son

My son is almost eight and loves to read and write. As soon as he was able to read on his own I started to leave him notes in his lunchbox every so often; at first, he would just read them, but then he started writing back, and now, we've gotten into full fledged correspondence.

Each phase of parenthood brings joy, challenges, and plenty of unexpected developments. I did not expect note-writing to be part of the relationship between my son and I, but I'm so glad it is. I hope it continues well into adolescence and adulthood. Following are some of his more memorable expressions in writing.

This is one of the first notes he wrote to me. Things I love about this:
a) It's clear and to the point.
b) It's a run-on sentence.
c) It's all one word.


This is from Kindergarten. The spelling is atrocious and part of the whole "sound words out" approach of the NY school system, whether they be spelled correctly or not (which I hate, but that's another blog post), so it's translated below.

"I called out 2 times I got out of my seat 1 time I talked 2 times" This means he knows he's going to be in trouble...

"But you are still the best mommy ever and I still love you." So basically, I still rule. Or, he just wants to avoid the trouble.


Ok, technically this isn't a note; it's a drawing. But I enjoy the fact that his love for me is so strong it demanded its own exclamation point.


I hate migraines. But I love the fact that they produce this:

 (I love you mommy I hope you feel better I love you so much)


That's right. He gets to go on vacation, all. Because. Of. ME.


Yup, you heard it here. My kid thinks I should be President, y'all! Cunningham 2016!

Also, I organize things very nicely.


I just love his use of the slash in this one.



This made me laugh so hard. I had to really hold it in when I had to give him the note back.


Lest you thought it was all fun and games around here, I am apparently not perfect. Clearly, my humor is lost on my child.

He will be a very good supervisor some day. He already knows to start with the positive feedback and then politely give some constructive criticism.


"Green all day" means that he was good in school (they have a color system--green, yellow, orange, red). 

Also, I am a number one mom. You know, in case there was every any doubt.


I intend to keep all the notes and turn them into a scrapbook. It's amazing to see my son's writing develop over the last couple of years. When he gets older I'd like to get us a correspondence notebook where we can communicate on a regular basis through writing; it really is a wonderful thing. I read an article once where a mother was discussing all the things she and her daughter shared through writing that she doesn't know would have been communicated otherwise.

Dear Alex, I love you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's Sex Got to Do With It?: Learning to Appreciate Your Baby No Matter What

Recently, I overheard a family at a restaurant being asked about the sex of their newborn baby while their beautiful (and I mean GORGEOUS, curly haired, obviously very spirited) preschooler proudly stood near by. The mother sighed and said "It's another little girl. We tried for two boys and we're stuck with two girls. What can I say? We're cursed." I know that little girl heard every word her mother said and although her mother may not have meant it literally, I couldn't help but wonder if this was the first or even the last time these sweet little girls would hear such a "joke" from someone that they have the right to believe will love and protect them the most. It also made me really examine myself and some feelings I've had during this pregnancy.

You see, before I ever got pregnant the first time, I had dreams of having a little girl. I knew what to call her. I knew the talks I wanted to have with her. I daydreamed about what life would be with her. But then I got pregnant and almost from the very beginning, I had the strong feeling I had a little boy. So strong in fact, that when I was told at 23 weeks that I was pregnant with a girl, I couldn't stop crying because I felt like someone had stolen the little boy I had bonded to away from me. For five weeks, I tried to make peace with the news that I was not having a boy, but was having a girl. Then, at another ultrasound, a different technician asked me if we knew what we were having. Wishing to know her unbiased opinion, I asked her what she thought we were having and she replied, "Well, I can't tell for sure because this baby has a foot in the way, but I think these might be testicles." My husband was shocked and dismayed to find out that we may not, in fact, "know" for sure what we were having, but I was thrilled. The little boy I had bonded with was back in the picture. A little over four months later, our son was born.

After having my son, I loved him to pieces, but a part of me still dreamed of having a little girl. I'll admit many of my dreams bear the gender stereotypes of wanting to go dress shopping, bond over sewing/cooking, and just engaging in "girl talk" as well as finally getting to visit the larger half of the baby section where all the really cute baby clothes are. (Which of course, depending on the daughter might never come true or might even come true with a boy just as well as a girl. . . a son could love sewing and shopping just as much as a daughter.) When I felt overwhelmed by motherhood and worried that maybe I couldn't handle another baby, I would look at my friend's daughters and think, but if I quit now, I would never have a daughter!

This time, when we finally got pregnant, I felt for sure I knew the sex again only to go into the ultrasound once more and be told the opposite. Once again, I felt it difficult to make peace with the new information. Because the ultrasound had been wrong before and we are likely having no new ones this pregnancy, I have not made the information public in case it is wrong again, but privately, I struggled to make peace with what might prove to be a dashed expectation. The baby I thought I knew so well early on, might not be who I thought this baby would be!

Yet, hearing that mother complaining aloud about the sex of her children, made me really think about how much sex really doesn't matter in the long run. My dreams of having a little girl pre-children were quickly surpassed by the wonderful reality of life with my son. The early "knowledge" I felt I had about this baby, should it prove wrong, would do nothing to surpass the blessing I have in having another little soul entrusted in my care no matter what sex s/he turns out to be. With so many would be mothers struggling out there to have any children, how can I or any other lucky parent really complain about getting a child of a sex we were not expecting or (in case of the mother in the restaurant) maybe didn't want initially? After all, child's personality is far more important, interesting, and compelling than just whether or not s/he is declared a boy or girl at birth. We become obsessed with finding out whether or not a child is a boy or a girl because we think that gives us a shortcut into knowing what they are going to be like growing up or as grown ups, but honestly, sex is no more indicative of who our children are than their birth weight or height proves to be. It is just one piece of the information. It would be my honor at this point to birth another boy, a girl, or even a hermaphrodite because what is most important is the soul inside and the bond that we will build together. I hope that everyone who ever wants a baby is "cursed" the way that lucky mother was "cursed" in that she dreamed of having a family and now she has one. I only hope that wherever she is, she soon learns that her two little girls are just as precious and as wonderful as her two dream sons would have been, maybe even more so because they are real, they are here, and they are more than just a box marked "female" on their birth certificates.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, February 11, 2013

moving beyond gender stereotypes

This weekend is my daughter's 3rd birthday. She's having a party and she couldn't be more excited to share the day with her friends. When we started thinking about her birthday a month or two ago, it was pretty easy to come up with a "theme" the she would love. I asked her if it was what she wanted, and she agreed happily, and continued to want the same theme ever since. So, this weekend will be my daughter's Construction party. 

My daughter came upon her love of construction vehicles naturally. The major road that she and I drive when we go to visit my parents every month or so has been having work done for as long as she can remember (a multi-year, expansion project). Diggers are her favorite, and she gleefully points out every. single. one. along the drive. At daycare, she plays with her classmates with trucks... but also all sorts of toys, blocks, books, trains, puzzles, baby dolls, and in the play kitchen.

I never really worried about gender stereotypes in our household. I don't like pink, my husband's favorite color is purple, we both love to cook, he cleans more then I do, and we both work outside of the home. Since my daughter was born, I've bought her clothes from the boys section and girls section equally. We never turn down a gift of clothes, no matter what the color, and whatever she chooses to wear in the morning is fine by me, so long as its weather appropriate. We're also blessed with family and friends that don't bat an eye when we answer their question of, "what does she want for Christmas?" with "Trucks!" She adores her two babies, Lily and Laura, and has the best time pounding away on her tool bench.

I wonder if this is going to change as she gets older. Her interests will grow and change, for certain, but all I want is for her to know its okay to love whatever she loves, that her gender does not determine her interest, her actions, or her capabilities. I hope no one she meets, be it child or adult, will make her feel badly for choosing hobbies that are more traditional "boy" hobbies. And for my own part, I will do my best not to let my own interests or associations dissuade her from any traditionally "girl" hobbies.

My girl, she is perfect when she is building tall towers with blocks while wearing pink dresses, and perfect when she is rocking her baby to sleep while wearing brown sweatpants and a blue hoodie, or a football uniform.

How do you feel about gender roles in your household? Do your friends and family respect that? Do you feel moving beyond gender stereotypes is harder with a boy?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Five Quotes to Parent (and Live) By

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. 
(Eleanor Roosevelt)
Mommy wars, anyone?

Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone. 
How easy it is to judge another's choices.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. 
(Dalai Lama)
Are you as nice to your own family as you are to strangers?

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. 
(Albert Einstein)
Do you see your children's (and your own) natural talents?

Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; you are raising a human being.
(Kittie Frantz)
A good reminder no matter what season of parenting you are in.

What quote would you add?

Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Importance of Creating with Children

Tonight I made bread with my 2.5 year old daughter, as we've been doing for some time now.  I wish I could say I was one of those moms who loved baking - I actually kind of hate it.  Or I should say, hated it...until now.  Cooking is my real passion - without measuring or following recipes, tasting as I go.  Even though my bread machine did all the kneading for us (sorry all you awesome baker moms out there!), my daughter was simply BEAMING at the chance to stand up high on a chair and help me measure the ingredients and slice the butter.  I am constantly striving to find more ways to involve her in things and let her help, as she loves to say, "Can I help?  I'm a good helper!"

She is always so excited to help me in the kitchen, and even asks for her apron and insists that I wear mine.  But tonight especially, she was just radiating bliss, and I was suddenly overwhelmed by two thoughts.  First, I really enjoy these moments with her, and think I may even love to bake now because of it.  Tonight I saw that her involvement makes it a completely different experience, and one that I don't want to miss out on.  I think I may even tackle real bread, just so she can knead it, even though all that keeping track of rise times and whatnot is not for me.  But seeing the joy she'll get kneading that dough certainly is.

The more important realization, something that of course guides our parenting but really hit home for me tonight, was that it is so crucial to create with children - art, music, and especially food.  It gives them a sense of pride being involved, and an understanding that things aren't simply purchased - somebody makes them.  Children are bombarded by consumerism, coerced at a young age to want and need material things, and I think cooking or baking with your child provides an essential lesson that not all things need to be bought at a store. 

I can hardly contain my excitement for this spring, when my daughter will be nearly 3 and can help me in the garden.  She had fun last year helping me rake the soil where we built the new garden, plant seeds, and every time she went outside she'd make a beeline for the garden to try to find things to help me harvest.  We got to taste things off the vine, and then she'd find all those green beans she picked showing up at dinner, where we could thank her for her help and point out those were the same beans she picked earlier.

I look forward to this growing season, when she'll be even more cognizant and able to appreciate more, as well as those seasons in the future when she can learn about composting, canning and more.  While everyone does not have the space for growing their own food, we can still create with our children.  Dance with them, play music with them, paint, knit, sew or do silly crafts with them...make english muffin pizzas if you don't know how to cook.  Even if you're not experienced in any of those fields, they aren't judging.  Help raise a new generation of contributors who will fill the world with more art, music, good food and all around beauty.