Dec 122012
 
Whoever made up the phrase "sleep like a baby" obviously never had one!

Whoever made up the phrase “sleep like a baby” obviously never had one!

Sometimes I get insomnia. I have always had trouble sleeping, even as a kid, although back then my insomnia dressed itself up as an imaginary friend who would keep me up at nights, pacing around my room and asking tough questions like, “What do you think happens when you die?” and, “Why does Santa hide all the Christmas presents in your parents’ closet?” I guess I had more of an imaginary Barbara Walters. Anyway, the point is that I have always had trouble sleeping, but it has only gotten worse as time goes on. I guess because as I got older, I discovered more things to worry about. (Though I am still up most nights trying to figure out why Santa hid all the Christmas presents in my parents closet!)

Then once I had a child, a solid night of sleep became a distant memory. Now there are numerous lists to make, hundreds of things to prepare for, and gazillions of irrational fears to worry about. It is a wonder that I am not a total zombie. However if you are reading this and there is something that I forgot to do for you or there is something that I did to otherwise piss you off… it’s because I am a zombie.

The past week or so, I have had another bout of insomnia. I either go to bed early, hoping to catch up a bit on sleep, or I stay up late, afraid to even try to fall asleep. Either way, the result is the same:  toss and turn for a few hours, move to the couch, toss and turn, move to the guest bedroom, toss and turn, until finally I drift off into a fitful sleep a few hours before it is time to wake up.  Last night I tried the stay-up late technique. Instead I watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Bad idea. You should never watch anything so frightening before trying to sleep. Finally I crawled into bed, exhausted, only to spend another couple of hours tossing and turning, before finally managing to fall asleep around 2:15 am.

Then my daughter woke up crying at 2:30 am.

My daughter is a pretty good sleeper. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, normally all it takes is a little pat on the back and kiss on the forehead, and she is back to dreamland and I am back to sleep and/or tossing/turning/worrying. Last night, however, I gave her a pat and a kiss and then stumbled back to bed, but she did not fall blissfully back to sleep. Instead she cried until I went back into her room. After trying this a few more times with the same result, I decided that perhaps she had insomnia too. I hope that she never has insomnia the way that I do, but sometimes it amazes me how in sync the two of us can be. So, I covered myself up with her little quilt and laid down next to her crib.

She would close her eyes for a few minutes, then peek her head up to make sure that I was still there, smiling at me before putting her head down again. After a while I saw a sweet, chubby, little hand poke through the bars of her crib. So I took it. We held hands like that until she finally drifted off to sleep. And then, amazingly, I did too. I slept for an hour there. The most solid hour of sleep that I have had all week, right there on the cold, hard floor, with my daughter’s soft, warm hand in mine. I finally woke up and went back to my bed. Of course I had a hard time falling asleep again, but this time because I was happy, not worried or stressed.  And I woke up this morning tired, but with a new clarity.

I think that this is exactly what parenting is all about:  Holding your little one’s hands, and then only later realizing that maybe it is they who were really holding your hand.
photo credit: thejbird via photopin cc

Nov 282012
 

Dancing: Guaranteed to Make Your Day Kick Ass

I spend most of my days teaching my daughter stuff. Important stuff like words, numbers, colors, how to read, how to poopoo in the potty, and how to say “Cheerio mate!” with a British accent. But as much as I teach her, I swear that she teaches me more.  Yesterday’s lesson:  How to Make Your Day Kick Ass!

You know those nights when you come home after a long, tiring day and just want to flop down on the couch, shovel carbs into your face hole and stare blankly at the TV?  Or perhaps you have been home with your kids for an equally long, tiring day and you just want to flop down on the couch, shovel carbs into your face hole and stare blankly at the TV.  But instead of some well-deserved couch time you get to do the Evening Scramble because there is dinner to be made, baths to be given, and finicky husbands – I mean children – to feed. You know those nights? Well, that was where I was last night.

It was a Monday, and a Monday after a vacation, at that. My husband had just gotten home from work, tired and hungry. I was scrambling to clean up the aftermath of the natural disaster that is my daughter’s dinner (can I get some FEMA up in here?) while simultaneously making a fabulous dinner – ok a dinner – for my husband and I. My daughter was running around, begging for attention. So, to distract her for the 2.4 minutes I needed to finish cleaning up, I turned on some music.  It was Foster The People Pandora if you must know (I’ve had it up to HERE with Elmo singing! Maybe the next Elmo could  have a less annoying voice, huh?  And perhaps not be a pedophile. ALLEGEDLY**)  Anyway, I cranked up the tunes and got back to the Evening Scramble.

A few minutes later I turned around to check on my daughter, and saw that she was dancing. Beautifully, maniacally, joyfully, hand-clappingly, booty-shakingly dancing with all her might.  If you have never seen a one-year-old dance, there is truly nothing better in the world. Usually I don’t make a habit of posting many photos or videos of my daughter, because I feel like she deserves some semblance of privacy. Although, for some reason it doesn’t bother me to share her every word, action and fart with the world, but hey, it’s my blog and I will share if I want to. Anyway, I don’t usually share videos, but this video of her dancing is pure happiness, so I feel like it is my duty to share it with the world.  Check it out on my Facebook page (and like my page while you are there!)  If you can watch this video and not smile, then you are dead inside.  Pack your shit and go try out for The Real Housewives.

So last night my daughter was dancing in her amazing way, and as my husband and I stood watching her, she ran over and grabbed our hands and pulled us to the dance floor (aka living room).  Yes, the kitchen was still a mess and the dinner was beginning to burn, but when a kid commands you to shake your ass, your ass gets shaken. So we danced. And then we danced some more. At first, I was trying to teach my daughter some dance moves, but she looked at me like I was crazy and kept doing her thing. So instead I let her teach me.  I copied HER moves, and man was it fun!  And now, in yet another act of kindness, I will teach you.

Step One:  Put on some booty-shaking music. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as gets your booty bouncing.

Step Two:  Turn it up!

Step Three:  Turn it up more!

Step Four:  Turn it down already! Do you want to make your child deaf?! What kind of parent are you anyway?

Step Five:  Close your eyes. Start to move your body. No one is watching you. No one cares if you are on-beat, in-time, or cool at all. Freeing right?

Step Six:  Now that no one is watching you, just relax and let your body take you where it wants to go. Clap your hands, jump up and down, kick your legs, twirl around until you fall down, laugh until you cry.

Step Six:  Repeat until your heart is beating out of your chest or the fire alarm goes off… whichever comes first.

We all danced like that for another 20 minutes or so, until it was time to get back to the business of life. You always have to get back to business eventually, that is the way that life works. But when I got back to making my (slightly charred) dinner, I was doing it with a smile on my face and my ass still twitching to the beat.  I felt more energized and much happier than if I had flopped down on the couch as I had wanted to.  It was a great way to end the day, and I am going to try it as often as possible. And then, when I am done dancing and my heart is doing the samba and my stomach aches from laughter, only then I will flop down on the couch, shovel carbs into my face hole and stare blankly at the TV.

**Don’t sue me Elmo!!

photo credit: Will Montague via photopin cc

Oct 192012
 

Come on! How effin cool is rain?!

I sat down at my computer today with the full intention of writing something funny.  Something witty and clever and far, far, far away from the emotional and slightly sad tone my blog has taken as of late.  I starting typing a blog about losses and gains – about funny things that you gain and lose after having a baby.  Inconsequential things… like your mind.  However, the more I started thinking about losses, the more I started thinking about loss.  And, as so often happens when I am writing these blogs, my fingers began to take me somewhere that I didn’t know I wanted to go.  My husband says that he learns so much about me by reading my blog, and I have to say that in writing it, I learn so much about myself.  So screw funny.  It’s over-rated anyway.  (But stay tuned next week for the revival of my usual biting wit and thinly veiled sarcasm. Probably.)

I have had loss on my mind lately.  Last weekend my husband found out that one of his good friends’ wives passed away.  It was cancer.  It was quick.  It was devastating.  I personally had only met her once as they live in London, but she was a beautiful and kind woman.  She was also a wonderful mother to her two young children.  Her youngest is the same age as my daughter. When we heard the news over the weekend, my heart ached for my husband’s friend who was left without a wife and especially for those two young girls who were left without a mother.  But I also ached for this young, vibrant mother who will not get the chance to see her children grow up.

As I said before, I didn’t know her very well.  But in the short time we spent together, I was struck by how much she reminded me of me.  She was about my age.  She loved her family.  She loved to have fun.  She loved to laugh.  She loved life.  We were both pregnant when we met, although she already had one daughter.  She was wise and experienced and she graciously answered all of my (many, many) questions about babies and about motherhood.  Since then, I expect that the past year-and-a-half since her daughter was born was a lot like mine:  sleepless nights, blissful moments, more laughter than she ever thought possible.  I am sure that she spent many hours marveling at the perfection of her daughter’s face and imagining the possibilities of her daughter’s future, much the way that I have.

Then she woke up one day, just like any other day, but on this day she had a headache.  She woke up with plans and hopes and dreams, just like any other day, but she didn’t know that this particular day would be her last.  She didn’t know that she would never get to see her children grow up, get married, or have children of their own.  She didn’t know that she would never again get to marvel at the beauty of her daughter’s face or get the chance to discover who her daughters will become.

She reminded me a lot of me, and I think that’s why I felt the loss so greatly, even though I barely knew her.  If it could happen to someone like her, then it could certainly happen to someone like me.  None of us know which day will be our last.  And as sad as this thought makes me, it is also a reminder of how wonderfully precious life is.  A wise somebody once said that we should, “Live every day like it is our last.”  And while I do think this is sound advice, I also think it is a bit too sad for my taste.  It is hard to think of our last days without feeling a bit melancholy, and I don’t want to live every day like that.

Instead, I am going to try to live every day as if it is my first.  Like a child.  Full of the magic and wonder and true appreciation that comes from experiencing everything for the first time.  Without the fear and regret we learn as we get older and “wiser”, and without the ambivalence that often comes with age.   The world is full of amazing things and people and moments that, as adults, we often fail to recognize or even see.

My daughter’s new word is “Wow!”  A bird in the sky gets a heartfelt “Wow!”; fitting the right puzzle pieces together gets a “Wow!”; seeing a dog on the street gets a “Wow!”; even my stepping out of the shower naked got a “Wow!” (It’s been a while since that happened, but I will try not to let it go to my head.) A bite of cheesecake, a big splash in the bath, my funky neon green nails, a great song, a perfect hi-five… all of these are deemed “Wow!” worthy by my daughter.  And they are. Each and every day is full of these simple Wow! moments if we are young and wise enough to recognize them.

And while I hope that I have many, many (many, many, many, many) more Wow! moments left before my last day, I am going to try to live them all like they are my first.
photo credit: Frederic Mancosu via photopin cc

Feb 092012
 

Today, after feeding my daughter a bottle, I went to put her down for a nap. But instead of going to sleep like she normally does, today she clung to me like B.O. on a New York City cab driver. Slightly annoyed because I had a deadline quickly approaching and her nap time is the only time I can work, I sighed and sat back down in the chair to rock her. But instead of settling in to sleep, she picked up “Goodnight Moon” and handed it to me… my daughter’s subtle sign language for “read this to me now.” So I read it to her.  Then I set the book down and prepared to put her back in her crib.  But again, she picked up “Goodnight Moon”  and handed it back to me.  Frustrated, I read it again, but quickly this time and skipping pages along the way.  I should know better – Lyla is too smart for these shenanigans. Before I even finished, she flipped the pages back to the front… subtle sign language for “Your laziness is punishable by reading this mind-numbing book over and over until your tongue is drier than a parrot’s.  Read it again, and make it count.”  Then she settled back into my lap to once again discover the surprise ending of Goodnight Moon (spoiler alert:  Goodnight noises everywhere.)

As I was reading the book yet again, and inhaling her perfect baby smell (aka kryptonite for busy moms,) I was suddenly struck by the feeling that this was a moment to remember.  I moment that, someday very soon, I will long for with all my heart.  A moment that I had almost missed in order to get back to the hypnotizing glow of my computer.  I realized that in 30 years I won’t remember the deadline that I was 30 min late for, or the fact that we ate Thai food for a week straight because I didn’t have time to go to the grocery story, or the time that I had to wear my underwear inside out because I didn’t have time to do the laundry… ok, that one I might remember.  But what I will definitely remember is the sweet smell of Lyla’s head, and the feeling of her small body curled in my lap, and the sight of her chubby fingers turning the pages.  Those are the things that I will remember until the day I die.  Oh, and after 1000 readings, I will definitely remember ALL the words to “Goodnight Moon.”

Jan 272012
 

My daughter, Lyla, is nine months old and growing by leaps and bounds every day.  But as much as I have taught her (how to wave bye-bye, how to clap and how to give kisses, not to mention some serious dance moves)  she is constantly teaching me as well.

For example, Lyla is almost walking now, and this new sense of independence has had the unfortunate side effect of her never wanting to be constrained.  Trying to insert her into a car seat, stroller, and any kind of jumper or activity chair is  a grave offense, punishable by an embarrassing tantrum.  This includes her high chair.  She has a wonderful technique of both stiffening her legs so I can’t insert them into the leg holes, while making the rest of her body loose and floppy, so I can’t strap her in.  It is highly effective (I should try this the next time I am in my Gyno’s office for a pap smear) and totally frustrating.

So today, as Lyla and I wrestled for the umpteenth time, I got…quite…frustrated. As I was trying to pin her down long enough to strap her arm in and she is twisting and turning out of my hands, I was teetering on losing control of my anger.  Lyla looked up at me, with my wild hair and crazy eyes, and started laughing.  And you know what… I started laughing too.  I was so caught up in my own frustration, that I failed to stop and ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if she won’t sit in her high chair? Or if she won’t eat her lunch (also a problem)?”  The answer is… nothing.  She gets all the nutrition she needs from her bottles.  If she doesn’t want to eat, she doesn’t have to.

So, I sat her in my lap instead and when she wouldn’t open her mouth to let me squeeze in a bite of food, I laughed it off. When I was at the store and I had to put her in her car seat, and she started screaming like I killed Barney and everyone was staring at me with their judgy, accusing eyes, I laughed it off.  And when Lyla had a temper tantrum because I wouldn’t let her insert a cracker into the DVD player, I laughed at her.  And she looked at me, and she started laughing too.

I guess we both have a lot to learn… and to teach… each other.