Sep 132012
 

On the crazy up-and-down, round-and-round carousal that is parenthood, of course a fun and laughter-filled weekend with friends and family would be followed by illness.  I found out yesterday that my daughter has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease.  Huh?  Although many people, me included, would I argue that I have a perpetual case of Foot-in-Mouth Disease, I had never heard of HFMD until yesterday.  It sounds pretty damn gross, but it actually sounds much worse than it is. It is a viral illness with the primary symptoms being blister-like sores all over the body but concentrated around the hands, feet and mouth… ok that is pretty gross… and a high fever.  And when I say high, I am talking Snoop Dogg hotboxing with Willie Nelson high – my daughter hit 104.5 last night.  The good news is that the fever does come down with medicine, as well as scream-and-cry inducing cool baths; the bad news is that it doesn’t seem like good news at 3 am when her fever has shot back through the roof.

There is nothing worse than when your child is sick.  It is not just how horrible you feel for them, but how totally helpless it makes you feel.   You can have a medicine cabinet stocked full of anything your child might need, you can have your doctor on speed-dial, you can read books, websites, medical-journals, mommy blogs, and doctor advice sites.  You can prepare for the worst, but nothing can prepare you for IT – for that feeling that nothing is really in your hands.  Not even your child’s life.  And nothing can prepare you for how insignificant that makes you feel.

I wonder if it ever goes away –  the worry, the heartache, the pain of watching your children suffer without being able to do anything. I think not.  I guess I hope not… I wonder what it would mean if it did.

Sep 102012
 

Since becoming a parent 16 months ago, I have done many things that I thought I would NEVER do.  I have nonchalantly wiped my daughter’s poop from my forehead, licked a kleenex and then used it to wipe her face, picked up a cracker that she threw on the floor and then gave it back to her to eat (hey, it was the last one!), let her run around with a watermelon-stained shirt for hours because I was too tired to change it and knew it would only get dirty again, and let myself run around in a vomit-stained shirt for hours because I was too tired to change it and knew it would only get dirty again… just to name a few NEVERs.

Although I have learned to never say never, the truth is that before becoming a parent, I have never been so tired.  I have never been so ungroomed, disorganized, forgetful, weepy, or tired… did I mention tired?  I have never gone so long without seeing or at least talking to many of my friends.  I have never gone so long without seeing an adult-sized human.  I have never gone so long without getting my hair highlighted, shaving my legs, putting on make-up or even showering.  I have never gone so long while sleeping so little.  That is the truth.

But I have never, ever laughed so much, loved so hard, or felt so happy.  And somehow (in a way that I think you have to be a parent to understand) this love and laughter far outweighs a little vomit and sleep deprivation.

The truth about parenting is that it is a math equation that doesn’t add up, but somehow works anyway.

Laughter… a serious side-effect of parenting.

photo credit: Loyal O.A.K. via photo pin cc

Sep 062012
 
Pink Sherbet Photography / Free Photos

Happiness is… my daughter waking up and immediately wanting to start a dance party.  7 am might be a bit early for dancing in your house, but not in mine!  After a couple of nights of my own insomnia and a few rough nights for my teething daughter (including this mornings 4 am original wake-up call) I was dragging ass this am, sure that it was going to be a rough day.  But my daughter’s sweet smile and booty shaking to “Call Me Maybe” (her choice, but how could I argue?) turned the whole day around for me.  Now I am in a great mood and in turn having a great day.

Lesson:  Start your day with a smile and a little bump n’ grind, and never have a bad day again.

Sep 042012
 

The other day I was at Target (it’s an addiction, people) and I heard someone say quite loudly, “GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE NOW!”  Curious, I looked in the general direction of the obnoxious voice and saw an angry-looking woman screaming at… a two-year-old.  Yes, a two-year-old.  As in a sweet, innocent, curious and slightly naughty because they all are, two-year-old.  The next day, my husband and I were with our daughter at a the park.  As we were playing in the sand, two more kids came to join us:  a little boy around two and his sister, who was about five.  As we are playing, the older girl began to scold her brother and my daughter.  “I told you to SHARE!” she said, ripping a toy from her brother’s hands.  I know that she is just a little girl, but after 15 minutes of this, I was slightly appalled and totally annoyed, so we moved away to play in a different area.  My husband, wise as ever, remarked, “I feel sorry for that girl.  That must be the way her parents talk to her.  It’s probably the only way she knows how to talk.”  Of course, he was right.  Kids don’t come out of the womb talking. (Thank goodness, I wouldn’t want to hear all of the things I was doing wrong in those first few weeks!)  Language is a learned skill.  When you speak to your children, you are not only teaching them words, but habits as well as values. It is not just what you say, but how you say it, and what it means.

Maybe it is because I am a writer, but I have always been in awe of the power of words. The most influential figures in history such as Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Obama, and even Hitler, although clearly less positively,  have changed the world through their words.  For better or worse, it was their words and the manner in which they spoke them that inspired the masses – not their physical strength, money or weapons.  Words can truly do what no gun or bomb can, although they can be just as destructive.

If you think about it, most of the pivotal moments, both good and bad, in one’s life stem from words. “I love you.” “Congratulations!” “You’re fired.” “Mama. (my personal fave!)”   “Your offer was accepted.” “It’s not you, it’s me.” “I do.” “It’s a girl.” “Cancer.”  “You passed.” “Honey, would you like another glass of wine? (These particular words led to the conception of our daughter.)”  Yes, words are important.  They shape the course of one’s life.  But they also shape the course of one’s self.  No matter how strong you are, it’s difficult not to let another person’s words shape your perception of yourself.  And unfortunately it is often so much easier to believe the bad words rather than the good.  Why is that?  No matter how high your self-esteem has been built from a lifetime of encouragement and compliments, sometimes it takes only a single negative comment to knock it all down.  No matter how many people tell you that you are smart, kind, funny, beautiful, thin, or a great mother, all it takes is one person’s criticism to plant the seeds of self-doubt. And often our harshest and most outspoken critic is ourself. It’s hard for any amount of compliments to overcome our own negative thoughts.  Strange as it seems, a thousand “I love you”s can hardly stand up to a single “I hate myself.”

If we understand the power of words, then we must understand the responsibility that each of us holds… not only to other people, but also to ourselves and most importantly, to our children.  I am just now truly beginning to comprehend the weight of this responsibility.  My daughter started talking a few months ago, and now it seems as though she is picking up a new word every day, as well as repeating everything we say.  It’s cute when she repeats “I love you.” – or at least something that sounds like it – but terrifying when she says, “Yeah” in exactly the same annoying-teenage-girl manner in which I sometimes catch myself saying it.  And I already told you about my Friday night “Oh Sh!t”s slip up with my friend’s two-year-old.  If that poor kid becomes anything less than a successful doctor, lawyer or scientist, I am definitely going to blame his downward spiral on myself.

If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say it at all… especially if it is about me.

All joking aside though, a slip-up is bound to happen here and there.  We are only human, and some situations require the use of the colorful language that slides so easily off the tongue.  Shit happens, so to speak, so we can’t beat ourselves up about it. What is more important is the way we speak every day, not only when our kids are listening, but also when they are not.  I have learned that, like both the government and Perez Hilton, kids have eyes and ears everywhere.  They are always listening and learning from you, so be careful what you teach them.  Think about it… how can you teach your children to respect everyone, if they constantly hear you bashing that bitchy co-coworker or annoying neighbor to your girlfriends?  How can they learn equality when they hear you talking down to others?  How can your daughter feel beautiful if she hears you constantly bemoaning your own looks?  How can your kids learn to fight fair if they hear you and your husband fighting dirty?  The basic rule:  If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say it at all.  I know this phrase is just as annoying now as it was when your third grade teacher said it (along with “Keep your hands to yourself” and “Stop eating paste, Courtney.” ) but it’s true. It’s a tough one for me though.  I am naturally blunt, sarcastic, judgemental, easily annoyed and I love a good bit of gossip.  None of these things usually result in anything nice to say, so that often leaves me unusually mute. But I am a work in progress and I am working on these things for my daughter’s sake.  I hope you will too.

With every word we speak we are teaching our children, not only how to talk, but how to live.  So make sure you are doing your best to teach them the right way to do both.  Your kids will thank you someday… hopefully with perfect spelling and grammar.

Aug 162012
 

As of late I know that I have made many references to time, or lack thereof.  And as much as I post about it, I actually whine about it about even more (sorry friends, family and random strangers who mistakenly ask me how my day is going!)  In my life there is barely enough time to do all the things I HAVE to do, such as eating, sleeping, changing diapers and teaching my daughter all the dance moves to “Call Me Maybe”.  So, if there is barely enough time for the things I must do, there is rarely enough time for the things I SHOULD do, like shower, exercise, grocery shop, clean, and connect with friends and family every now and then to let them know that I am just really busy, not dead.  If there is rarely enough time for the things I should do, forget the things that I WANT to do like… hmmmm… what did I used to like to do anyway?

It’s no secret that when you are a parent, there is just never enough time.  But it is not simply the lack of time that bothers me, it is also how quickly the time that I do have goes.  My daughter is now 16 months old.  She is walking, running, talking, playing and feeding herself (more food usually ends up on the face/hands/hair/clothes/floor/ceiling/mom’s shirt than in her mouth, but it still counts!) However, it seems like only yesterday she was a snuggly little bundle curled up on my chest, reliant on me for absolutely everything.  And even though it has been less than a year and a half since all this madness started, for the life of me I can’t remember half of it.  It has all become such a blur.  What was her first word?  Was it “Lyla” or “Hi” ? (Yes my daughter’s first word was her own name, if that says anything about her.) When did she start sitting up?  Was it 4 months or 6 months?  When did she begin to crawl?  What was her first food?
When did she start sleeping through the night?  When was her first smile, giggle, and full-out laugh?  It all blends together in some kind of wonderful, exhausting, beautiful life-smoothie.

Some of these things I wrote down in a baby book, but there are many things that I didn’t write down because either I thought that they were not important enough to count as “milestones”  or because I thought they were things that I would never forget.  What I failed to realize is that a child’s life is full of so many major milestones that sometimes the smaller things get lost along the way.  And while the day that Lyla took her first step is very important (that one I do remember… 10 months and one day) there are so many more small but wonderful things she does that I never want to forget.   The Small Things are not the milestones that you find in books or that you brag about to Grandma or that you use to compare notes with your friends.  No, the Small Things can sometimes seem insignificant in a lifetime of achievements, but often it is the Small Things that make a big life.  They are Things that only you know, Things that only you recognize.  They are the Things that can’t be captured in a story or on video or in a photo.  They are the Things that make you tear up with love, smile with pride, and  laugh till you wet yourself (c’mon, you know that if you had a baby come out of your JJ this happens.)

But as important as the Small Things are, they are often the first things forgotten in a busy life full of memories.  So, in recognition of these magical Small Things I am going to write a few of them down here and now so they will be recorded for all of time… or at least as long as the internet is around.  And if you ask me, the Internet is here to stay.

TODAY’S SMALL THINGS:

– The way that Lyla “reads” a book to herself, all in her own language.  Pointing at the things, as I do, and usually saying “shhhh”  and “noooo”  they way I do when I read to her.

– Her favorite word “Missibah”.  I have no idea what it means, but it seems that Lyla does.

– How every color is currently “bu!” (blue)

– The way she sometimes looks up at me, smiles and presses her nose against mine.  It’s our own special kiss and it always brings tears to my eyes.

– How, the second I pull her out from the car, she says “hi” and waves, just in case anyone is around who she might need to say hi to.

– The exact way she smells right at this moment:  baby shampoo, laundry detergent, Vick’s Baby Chest rub (she has a cold), fruit, milk breath and Lyla.

– The way she shrugs her shoulders and scrunches her face up when I ask her where anything is.

I hope I never forget this!

– How tightly she hugs me around my neck and then kisses me directly on the mouth with a wet, slobbery kiss.

– The way she contentedly twirls her hair with her fingers while she is drinking her bottle.

Ok, so these are a few of my Small Things.  Now it’s your turn!  What are the little things that your child or children do that you never want to forget but probably will.  Feel free to record them here for all of the world… or at least all of my followers… to read.  And if you don’t want to share them with me, write them down for yourself every once in a while.

Cheers to the Small Things!

Aug 092012
 

“The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until the children are in bed.”

Unknown

So true.  No matter how exhausting the day or how crabby the daughter, everything always seems better when I can reflect on it in a quiet house with wine in hand.  No matter what the day was like, by the time we go to bed my husband and I spend at least 30 minutes talking about how wonderful/smart/funny/perfect Lyla is.  Unless of course, she is up crying…

Aug 062012
 

If you are reading this believing that I can offer you a full proof way to make traveling with kids easy, you are either:

a)  Delusional

b)  Not a parent who has ever traveled with kids

c)  Extremely desperate

If you are c) Extremely desperate… hey, I get it.  After spending most of the past month and a half either on plane, in a car, begging my daughter to sleep, or sobbing inconsolably… often most of these at one time, I would try just about anything to make traveling with my daughter even a little easier.

I love to travel.  I wish that I would have done more of it when I was young and unencumbered. There are so many places in the world that I want to see, foods I want to taste, cultures I want to experience, and languages I want to not understand.  Yes, I love traveling, but I have come to realize that I do not love traveling with my 15-month-old daughter.

Me in Bali BEFORE baby. Don’t I look relaxed?

This summer we flew to Italy with Lyla.  She is very well-behaved, but she is also extremely curious, very energetic and besides that…she is 15-months-old.  Too old to want to sit in my lap for very long or to fall asleep in my arms, but not old enough to discover the joys of the Ipad, portable DVD player, TV, or really anything at all for longer than 3.5 minutes at a time.  She wants to run, explore, play, and say hello to each and every person on the plane, whether they are sleeping child-hating weirdos or not.  No matter how well-behaved she is, 12 hours on a plane spent chasing, playing and apologizing profusely is exhausting.

But it is not just the plane ride that is the killer; it usually doesn’t get much easier once you arrive at your destination.  It certainly didn’t get easier once we arrived in Italy.  When you take a new country, a new bed, new people, new food, new schedule and a bevy of new experiences and add that to a significant time change plus jet lag plus not sleeping for 15 hours on the plane ride, you get one cranky baby.  And one cranky baby equals two cranky parents.  You multiply that by the two weeks we were in Italy plus the two weeks it took all of us to recover when we got home, and it DOES NOT equal a relaxing vacation.

I guess that maybe our intercontinental jet-setting ways could be to blame.  Ah…if only that were true.  The truth is that it is not much easier traveling even a short distance.  After returning from Italy, I flew alone with my daughter to visit my parents in Colorado for our yearly tradition of the Llama Races.  It was only a two-hour flight and a one-hour time change, but still my daughter was cranky, clingy, and completely unrecognizable as my usually-delightful spawn for most of the trip.  Every single nap and nighttime took 2-3 hours of rocking, milking, reading, pleading, bargaining, and threatening (threatening God, not my daughter… threats don’t work on her yet.)  Most parents would agree that nap time and bedtime are some of the best times of the day (sorry Lyla, I love you, but it’s true.) These moments are the only time that you can have a real conversation, an actual meal or a full glass bottle of wine.  So missing out on this, when I had gone to Colorado to spend time with my friends and family was a slap in the face.  By the third day I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

To rub salt in the wound, my husband had to stay home to work, so I was doing all of this alone.  My husband meanwhile was sleeping in, going out, watching movies, seeing friends, and drinking many a bottle of wine and/or beer and/or vodka.  I was out-of-town, but HE got the vacation.  Not that I resent him… he works very hard and deserves a vacation more than anyone.  But to say that I was just a little, teensy bit jealous would be an understatement.  But then, I am a jealous bitch.

Ok, so here’s the part of the blog where I turn it on its head and tell you how I was able to make it all easier, or how through some incredibly special moment with my daughter, I came to realize that it was all worth it.  Sorry, friends.  Not going to happen this time.  There is no full-proof way to make traveling easier.  There is no magic device to make kids behave the way you want, when you want them to. (Sorry Apple!)  I truly wish that there was. The point of this blog is just to say that if you are a parent and halfway through your “relaxing” “vacation” you found yourself just wishing you were home watching reality TV, you are not alone.  It is tough. I don’t know if it gets better.  I hope so, but I doubt it.  I have a feeling that you exchange one hardship for another.

So, do I need a vacation from vacations? YES.  Will I ever travel again?  Certainly.  What’s the alternative?  Sit around all year drinking boxed wine and watching the Bachelor Pad?  Actually… hmmmm… tempting.  But alas, Bachelor Pad only lasts a month or two.  And besides, what could I possibly learn if I made everything easy on myself? And more importantly, what would I blog about?  The world is full of places to visit, people to meet and experiences to discover… for my daughter and myself.  And while my travels were not exactly relaxing, I did find time for a lot of laughs with friends, some great conversations with family, and many wonderful moments with my daughter.  Moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything… except maybe a staycation at home by myself.