Greener Pastures

Sometimes, during one of many nightly nursing sessions, I will grab my phone and peruse the ol’ Facebook. I know it’s not a great idea to use electronic devices when I should otherwise be focused on getting much-needed rest at 1 am or 3am or 5am. But…I suppose I like knowing that, perhaps, there is someone else updating or viewing the masses at a shameful hour when I would much rather be sleeping.

Social media has, sadly, become my primary mode of communication with loved ones from afar, and lately I have been impressed and excited at the accomplishments of so many of my comrades. My respect has grown for friends earning advanced degrees, opening clinics, and starting firms. I am amazed by friends getting published, running marathons, traveling the globe, and even climbing Everest. I am silently fist-bumping friends performing groundbreaking research, earning promotions and achieving other impressive feats. And yet, one very early morning while skimming through these awe-inducing updates, you know what I did?  I’ll tell you. I checked my elbow…for poop. Turning away from the glowing screen of my phone, I interrupted another slideshow of the sights of Europe and inspected the crook of my arm while wondering, “…is that…is that baby shit?” (apologies for cussing…)

Fortunately, it was not the mustardy product of my baby’s alimentary tract, but some other mystery substance (dried food? A booger bequeathed by our thoughtful toddler?). And in that moment of checking myself for filth, in that moment of exhaustion, I felt….ENVY.

Now, I’m not proud to admit this. I have many flaws, but I’ve never considered myself a jealous person. That is not to say I don’t GET jealous – I am a human and a female who has mastered the art of self-deprecation, after all. But I am fortunate to have been raised to appreciate the simple and important things in life. I fancy myself a happy, grateful realist with sensible expectations. There aren’t a lot of “things” I pine after, because I know I have everything I NEED, and am incredibly fortunate to be in this position. I am not one to rush to get the newest phone or the hottest brand because I am generally indifferent about such things and also woefully and incredibly out-of-touch at my ripe age of 30. I take pride – and solace – in knowing I am not somebody with a “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality.

And yet, during Olaver’s 3am feeding, with the somber, artificial glow of the phone screen illuminating my mismatched pajamas, while physically FEELING the bags under my eyes becoming more pronounced every passing second, and after contemplating the origins of my unknown elbow crud – I caught a virulent strain of the Grass-Is-Always-Greener bug.

Why isn’t my name headlining the newest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine? When was the last time I ran – or even worked out for that matter? Why can’t I be on a beach somewhere?
Suddenly, and wholly inappropriately, I felt deprived. Disappointed. Sure I have two, beautiful, healthy kids….sure, I have a great husband…sure I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge and a great job and a loving, supportive family and a nice, reliable vehicle and all of my limbs and my eyesight and most of my sanity and I don’t have Ebola, but….but…

You get the idea. I’m going to give myself way too much credit and blame it on the sleep deprivation – and the elbow residue – but the reality is, in that moment, I was begrudgingly and unnecessarily envious. Fortunately, I quickly got over my jealousy. The two tiny people we created are a regular, refreshing reminder I am a lucky duck. To ensure I avoid such envy-induced pity parties in the future, however, I have created a pithy list of three often overlooked reasons why OUR lawn is greener than everybody else’s:

(1) No more lonely bathroom breaks
When you are voiding your bladder, do you ever think to yourself, “Gosh, I wish someone was here to keep me company!” Well, here I am getting all braggy, but I NEVER have that problem anymore.
The children can be playing quietly, peacefully, without any indications of upcoming disturbance, but as soon as nature calls for their mother, all heck breaks loose. I don’t make it a habit of providing details of my potty breaks, but the general synopsis goes something like this:

[Hazel is reading book, while Olaver plays peacefully in center of living room rug with no dangerous,pointy, or choke-hazardous materials within a 60 foot radius]
“Hazel, I have to pee, I’ll be right back, okay? Keep an eye on Olaver.”
“Okay, Mommy.”
[Eight seconds go by as I walk 18 feet away into bathroom]
“Mommy, I need you!!!”
“Just a second, please.”
“Mom, where ARRREE YOU???” (sprints into bathroom) “Oh, are you going pee?”
“I was going to, yes.”
[Olaver starts crying and I hear the familiar plodding of baby hands and dragging baby knees across the wood floor as he furiously crawls down hall and into bathroom]
“Hi, Olaver, give me 5 seconds, I just have to pee, and…”
[Olaver crawls over – pulls himself up onto my knees while Hazel tries to flush toilet while I’m still peeing]
“Mommy, can I see what color underwear you’re wearing today?”
“Not right now, please, just….Olaver, please get down…Hazel, I need you to back up so I can…”
“Do you need to wipe your butt, Mommy?”
“Yes, just…Olaver, I just need to set you down for a second, okay?”
[Baby starts screaming and crying as I try to pry him off my knee so I can take advantage of the modern miracle of toilet paper]
“Mommy, Olaver is crying REALLY loud!”
“Yes, I know, I’m done now I’m just going to wash my hands, okay?”
“Can I flush the toilet?”
“Sure, just…OLAVER!! Stay away from the toilet, please!”
“Olaver is trying to put his hand in the toilet, Mom! HA! That is so funny, Olaver!”
[42 seconds have lapsed, there is now a toddler I have to coax out of the bathroom and an infant whose hands need sanitized]

END SCENE

(2) 24 hour ambiance
I have had to sleep with a fan on for as long as I can remember. I have the same white, plastic, oscillating fan from when I was in elementary school and for some weird reason I hope it lasts at least another 20 years. How cool would it be if I could pass it along to one of our children? Upon moving dear Olaver into his freshman dorm, crying and hugging would ensue. After saying lots of sentimental and inspiring things, I would exclaim, “Wait! We can’t leave until I give you this!” and I would pass over the beloved fan that, at this point would be an antique, and he would wipe his eye and say, “You have no idea how much this means to me, Mom,” and all of his roommates would be SO jealous.

Future showstopper of Antiques Roadshow

Future showstopper of Antiques Roadshow

People spend all sorts of dollars on noise machines – but we have two INCREDIBLE noise machines that you cannot find at Brookstone. The noise settings include, but are not limited to:
Crying, screaming, laughing, coughing, farting, gagging, squealing, robot noises, babbling, hiccupping, yelling, arguing, gibberish, clapping, stomping, running, crawling, multiple animal noises, and slamming of unknown objects, among other options. These machines are unpredictable, you can’t choose what sound you want, there is no adjustment for volume, and they generally turn on at their loudest setting at inopportune moments, BUT – they work 24 hours a day and are undeniably cute.

Note: Photo does not accurately capture the earbleed-inducing squeals from the daily 'headlock or snuggle?' session.

Note: Photo does not accurately capture the earbleed-inducing squeals from the daily ‘headlock or snuggle?’ session.

(3) Classy Home Décor
There is a house a half mile or so down our road I call the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” house. It’s creepy for so many reasons, and it doesn’t help that on the rare instances we see the residents outdoors, they don’t wave or smile or make eye contact because, obviously, they have to get back to work hiding the bodies of trespassers. Anyway, they always have a lot of crap in their yard. I find it curious why people keep so much crap in their yard, but while driving past a few days ago I noticed a mirror that looked JUST like a fancy-pants mirror I saw in a Pottery Barn catalogue priced at $600. I mean, if mirrors had doppelgangers, this was IT. I thought about asking the homeowners if the mirror was for sale or a freebie since it has been sitting in their yard since the Cold War (kidding! I think…I haven’t been alive that long to attest to its lawn life), but, obviously, I don’t want to get murdered.
Where am I going with this? Oh yeah. Our house is the classiest on the block. I am allowed to be sassy and judgmental of the “Texas Chainsaw massacre house” because our sweet children adorn our home in their own creative and stylish ways. Admittedly, I would prefer they left things clean and tidy, but how can I repress their décor skills?

Contemporary chic table top items, creatively called, "Truck pulling my boot and stuff."

Contemporary chic table top items, creatively titled, “Truck pulling my boot and stuff.”

Betcha won't see a Little Tikes hall barricade in West Elm!

Betcha won’t see a Little Tikes hall barricade in West Elm!

In lieu of turndown service, our babies provide us with a nightly obstacle course in order earn our slumber.

In lieu of turndown service, our babies provide us with a nightly obstacle course in order to earn our slumber.

Trying to make up for earlier messes.  It's about time he starts contributing around here...

Trying to make up for earlier messes. It’s about time he starts contributing around here…

Three examples? I could probably do better, but…I’m sleep deprived and there’s this flaky spot on my elbow…

Outside of some obnoxious movie classics, I have very few quotes memorized. But one of my favorites would have to be Mark Twain’s: “Comparison is the death of joy.” I don’t foresee Samuel Clemens’ quip needlepointed on many hipster pillows, but this quote has resonated with me since my early morning pity party of late.

I have come to appreciate that solitude and silence are overrated, and that the appearance of my home’s interior these days is about as important as a lawn ornament mirror (not important, to be clear). I don’t believe I have impressed anybody for quite a while, but every day when my kids wake me up by 6 am (thanks Daylight Savings!), I am utterly, incomparably in awe. The landscaping might need weeded, and the grass might need irrigated, but I have the prettiest garden on the block:
I mean, how many people get to hang out with a two year old capable of sarcasm and an 8-month-old lumberjack?

 

Baby lumberjack included.

 

Advertisements

A Brief Compilation of Things I Never Thought I Would Say…

Oh, hi there. Remember when I kept a riveting, timely, unique blog that was intellectually stimulating and incomparably entertaining? No? Me neither. Get in line.

I just had to reset the forgotten password on my WordPress account.   It was only then that I recalled my last two posts were in May and, before that, January. Based on my inconsistent updates, I’ll address the elephant over in that there corner and admit I am the worst blog writer ever. I know, I know. Luckily, I write this blog only for my own selfish reasons, to aid my prematurely failing memory of our childrens’ milestones and shenanigans, and to potentially humiliate and/or entertain our offspring in the future.

Someone teach me to read so I can fully appreciate my mom's over-sharing!

Someone teach me to read so I can fully appreciate my mom’s over-sharing!

With the elephant out of the way, I should entice you with the fact I have TONS of great material. By tons of material, I mean I am constantly thinking, “Oh, geez, I need to write this down!” every time one of our kids does something remotely cute or humorous. I succeed in actually recording these things just shy of 0.5% of the time. It is hardly novel to think one’s own children are the cutest and smartest and funniest and naughtiest of beings, so I welcome and understand any murmurings of “who cares,” by the unfortunate souls who are forced to absorb my unwelcome updates. By writing a blog, however, one is NOT forced to nod and smile at my obnoxious quantity of kid stories/photographs/woes, so if you’re still reading this garbage, prepare to be BLOWN AWAY! Or, more likely, minimally distracted for a few minutes…

One of many disappointments in myself as a young (in experience, not age) mother is that I have failed to stay away from the dreaded ‘mom talk.’ I swore I would never participate in such cliché, mundane, repetitive quips. Nope. I would not partake in the parental mantras, “when I was a kid…” or “life’s not fair,” or “because I said so,” to name a few.

Our sweet babies are far from the approaching thunderstorm that is adolescence and puberty, so these phrases might just spew from my vocal cords like a repressed volcano when the time arrives, BUT so far I have avoided these favorite catch-phrases of parenthood. However, with our chatty and engaging toddler, who is developing a greater sense of independence (a burden/blessing to parents of toddlers everywhere) whilst learning the ways of the world around her, I have said so, SO many things I could never have predicted to avoid. Often, I don’t even notice or realize what I am saying. Not until minutes or hours later do I recall a particular episode and wonder if a particular conversation REALLY took place. Did I REALLY just say that? Did we REALLY just have a lengthy discussion about the volume and attitude of “Seal,” her beloved stuffed animal/person/best friend that accompanies her everywhere and seems to have an innately annoying voice and vocabulary?

IMG_3817

Although physically restrained, Seal’s personality can never be repressed…

A few examples of Hazel bringing out the best in me:

“If you ask the same question too many times, Mommy’s ears stop working.”

“No, I don’t think your turds get scared before you flush them.”

“I know you weren’t tickling him with your feet. Stop trying to kick your brother.”

“Please don’t eat with ‘sock hands’. That’s gross. Put your socks back on your feet and use your utensils.”

“Well, when you put it that way, I suppose robots might need to go to the grocery store.”

“Yes, you can see Olaver’s poopy diaper. Just don’t touch it.”

“Please be a quieter dinosaur.”

“Yes, that does stink and yes, we know you farted.”

“I’m sorry you are ‘so frustrated,’ but I can’t make the bath fill any faster.”

photo-27

“I just….need…more waterrrrr!”

Often times I also find myself using the contractions, “let’s.” For example: “Let’s not do that.” It’s been a while since I took an English class, but if memory serves me correctly, “let’s” is equivalent to “let us” which would imply WE are doing things we shouldn’t be doing. Ummm…no. Why must I drag myself into a situation? Am I trying to convey camaradarie? Emotional support? Am I being a giant softie and leveling a potentially upsetting situation by suggesting that I, too, am doing something wrong or equivalent to her behavior? Dumb, dumb, dumb. To highlight my poor choice of wording:

“Let’s not pick our nose.” Wrong. I was not picking my nose.

“Let’s put our pants on.” Correction: YOU put pants on. I wear pants every time I leave the house. And contrary to your beliefs, your butt gets plenty of fresh air.

“Let’s think about what happened.” Actually, I don’t need to think hard. You do.  At least pretend you’re thinking about it so I’ll be duped into assuming it will never happen again. I know what took place because I have two functioning eyeballs and a hint of common sense.

As always, my list could go on and on and on, but I’ll share one more for the road and consider it a meager success that I managed to throw together one blog post over the past four months:

“Yes! You look JUST like a lighthouse!”

You're welcome, sea captains.

You’re welcome, sea captains.

Have a good one.

Learning The Ropes: Lying To Children

Before getting pregnant, Nathan and I had a lot of conversations about what we absolutely would and would not do when we popped out miniature versions of ourselves.  Although we didn’t yet have children of our own, we obviously knew everything about parenting.  It was oh-so-easy to witness young families in public, look at each other in our knowledgeable and nonjudgmental ways and say, “Oh, our child will NEVER do that.”  Once you have babies, however, you quickly realize you know NOTHING about parenting and all those starry-eyed, intellectual baby-rearing conversations at the dinner table would have been better spent drinking more wine or getting more sleep than filling your brain with false pretenses or ideologies. Truth is, even the best of intentions frequently fall apart, are forgotten, or are altered out of fear, desperation or necessity.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  I think.

To give ourselves an ounce of credit, we haven’t dropped the ball everywhere…yet.  We have stuck to a few of our initial, well-thought-out parenting plans.  In accordance to the hippy parent recommendations, we managed to stick to cloth diapering Hazel from the start and it, in fact, turned out to be just as money saving and tree-huggery, garbage-saving as suggested! For better or for worse, I also faithfully nursed Hazel for 12 months, as I hoped I could.  It was exhausting and physically demanding and socially challenging, but at least it was something  I could proudly cross off the attempt-to-do baby list.  More importantly, we have not let her get eaten by wild animals, we never set or forgot her in her carseat atop a vehicle and drove away, we didn’t give her Mountain Dew in a bottle, and we haven’t been the target of any CPS investigations, so….I think we deserve at least, like, a C+ in parenting so far.

One of my most adamant proclamations was that I absolutely would not lie to my child.  Period.  With the exception of the jolly man in a red suit and the fairy that brings you cash for your baby teeth (although, really, who came up with this creepy idea?), I wasn’t going to feed my child false fluff.  I absolutely was not going to give sugar-coated answers to difficult questions, and I would not lie or bribe to coax her into being a better child.  Instead, I would use reason, patience and whatever explanation was necessary to give her an honest, appropriate upbringing.

Let’s take a moment to pause and catch our breath from laughter.

Here’s the thing.  White lies are inevitable.  Colorful lies are necessary.  And now that our toddler’s communication skills are developing at a more rapid pace than we can keep up, the lies are erupting in my gullet so fast I can’t help but to spew them out.  It seems a 23-month old cares less about common sense and reason than doing what she wants, when she wants, so I have turned to the dark powers of dishonesty to get where we need to go.  Admire some of my more shameful untruths of late:

“If you don’t wear your hat, your head will fall off.”

Not true.  Or, at least, highly unlikely.  Despite explaining to Hazel how cold her head will get without proper covering and that the wind will hurt her ears and that the hat is not “owie” or “itchy” or painful, she didn’t want to cooperate.  Because we had already spent 18-ish minutes trying to leave the house, I turned to the scare tactics of cold weather-induced decapitation and…it worked.  Feeling a rush of simultaneous relief and reproach, I opted to suppress the fear of upcoming toddler nightmares.  Instead, I mentally saved this stumbled-upon threat in my bucket of successful parenting tricks for the next windy day outing.

Image

Progress?

“Henry Hugglemonster is sleeping.”

And so is Doc McStuffins.  And Daniel Tiger. And The Cat in the Hat. And every other cartoon or TV character she has ever had the luxury of viewing.  Turns out, the little turd is a bit of a smarty pants.  Sort of.  She has deduced that even if her favorite show is not ON, there is always an emergency DVR catalog for the desperate moments of appeasing a toddler meltdown, cheering up a sickly girl, or an emergent need to sit still and away from her mother for 10 minutes so she can prep dinner/clean/make an important phone call/rock back-in-forth in a corner without a wailing child attached at the ankles.  You get the idea. So while Hazel may be aware that Henry Hugglemonster “might be on right now”  (she has no realization of appropriate bedtime, but an innate perception of daytime TV scheduling) or “is there…jus’ push da buttons!” (acute DVR awareness), she is also, fortunately, aware of JUST how much sleep these characters need.  If they don’t get their rest, after all, then they can’t do their show and they can’t be on TV and then won’t you be so sad?  All because you didn’t want them to get their hard-earned rest?  Apparently toddlers are capable of guilt and I’m using this to its full advantage because I am a sweetheart.

Image

Learning to cope with the duration of Henry Hugglemonster’s nap.

“That’s your front butt.”

Remember the Oscar-worthy flick Kindergarten Cop?  It starred the Austrian bodybuilder turned actor turned Governor of California turned retired politician turned back-to-thespian of action films, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger (disclosure: I had to look up the appropriate spelling of his surname…didn’t want to do The Terminator an injustice).

Well, anyway, I was all of six years old when it came out and I remember little of the movie other than a scene in the kindergarten classroom where a student blurts out, “Boys have penises and girls have vaginas!” which led to hysteria and laughter among his classmates.  Why do I remember this?  Because being the awesome kid I was, a social butterfly, and a genius who didn’t really understand the true humor/nature behind the statement, I picked up on this socially acceptable quote and RANNNNN with it.  I remember chanting and giggling it in public outings with my father who scorned and stink-eyed me all the livelong day.  But it was TRUE, after all.  And ever-wanting the adornment of my peers, I was convinced it must be a good thing to say because all those kids were laughing and who doesn’t want to make someone laugh?

I don’t want to lie to my kids, and I want them to know the correct nomenclature of human anatomy.  What if Hazel decides to enter the medical field some day?  She should be prepared for her first postgraduate interview and not be held back by the perception that boys are born with “wee wees” and girls with “jay jays” or whatever people say these days (for the record, I nor anybody I know was asked about genitalia in their interviews…).

But I don’t want our daughter to end up like the obnoxious kid in Kindergarten Cop or….well…me.  Hazel, in her innocent and knowledge-thirsty ways, has learned her body parts and points them out with impressive enthusiasm and volume.  So what happened when, during an otherwise routine, pleasant bath time, she pointed to her girly parts and said, “Whus dis mommy?”

I panicked, that’s what.  Unsatisfied with my “Ummmm,” she persisted: “Mommy, whus dis HERE?”  And how did her honest, well-intentioned, medically educated mother respond?

“That’s your front butt.”  REALLY, Erin?  The best word-vomit you could come up with was front butt?  Fortunately she was equally dissatisfied with my response, failed to repeat the term, quickly lost interest, and went back to attempting to expel every droplet of water from the tub via maniacal splashing.

Hazel came to the realization there weren't enough letters to spell out 'How are babies made'

Hazel realizing there aren’t enough letters to spell out, ‘How are babies made’

The moral I have so eloquently highlighted is that despite our best intentions, preparations and hopes for parenthood, there are many things we can’t control and sometimes we’re forced to do and say whatever is necessary to get things done.  Sometimes we lie and say really stupid things like “front butt,” because we suck at coming up with a spontaneous nickname for a child’s nether region.  Sometimes life gives you lemons, and you tell your daughter they’re delicious because you’re a crappy mom and you love the pucker her adorable face makes when she takes bite #1…#2…and #11 of the sour treat.

Blech.  I'm gonna need 3 more of these.

Blech. I’m gonna need 3 more of these.

At the end of the day, I’ve concluded all that really matters is that your child is happy and healthy and knows they are loved.  When Hazel is old enough to realize we’re dirty liars then…well…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Our Child, The Vampire

I briefly thought about dressing up our daughter as a vampire for Halloween.  It is not cute, it is not girly, and it’s really not very creative, but it is appropriate…because SHE IS a tiny vamp.  I am aware it’s not particularly nice or mature to refer to your innocent offspring as a mythlogical monster.  When Nathan betsowed the moniker in her first few months of life, I more or less scolded him.  But his apt conclusion that she “never sleeps and sucks the life out of us,” made me realize he wasn’t entirely wrong and we must come to terms with possessing such a unique child.  Fortunately her daytime demeanor makes up for having an insomniac demon of the night.

Vhen vill you learn? I never vant to sleep!

Vhen vill you learn? I never vant to sleep!

In my younger days I had many legitimate fears of procreating, but my biggest hesitation was sleeplessness.  I love sleep.  I NEED sleep.  I envy those who thrive on 3-4 hours of slumber; I cannot.  If left to my own devices, I would regularly and happily sleep 9 1/2 hours per evening and awaken feeling like a champ.  So as fate…or karma…would have it, we have a sleepless kid.  I remind myself multiple times a day this is a small price to pay for an otherwise healthy, happy, pretty awesome toddler.  But when you’re 90 minutes into the nightly hell routine, parent switch-off #3 and enjoying kick/knee/punch in the face #17 of the inevitable wrestling match that ensues, it’s hard not to get a little huffy, so…bear with me.  Hold up, I’ve mentioned before that our sweet girl isn’t a good sleeper?  Let me justify my repetition…

I place 80% of the blame on my husband.  You see, before we had kids he talked big of being the disciplinarian, the “enforcer,” the “iron fist” of our parental partnership.  But he is a big. Fat. LIAR.   It all started the day Hazel was born.  The labor, delivery and postpartum period in the hospital turned out to be unexpectedly and uniquely complicated. I’ll spare you the details, because most people don’t gravitate toward pregnancy horror stories, but I know that with everything that happened Nathan was a bit traumatized and more than a little fearful for both his wife and newborn.  Fortunately Hazel came out 100% healthy but he – thankfully – refused to leave my side until I was “in the clear” and stayed every night with me in the hospital.  The angels of nurses kindly offered to take Hazel to the nursery so I could get much-needed rest (although their more vicious motive was clearly that they could maintain a better trajectory to jab my arms 132 times for IVs and meds and other forms of torture), and I gratefully obliged.  Just as I awoke from a brief slumber, my eyes met with the “enforcer” laying on the couch, nestled in with our newborn babe.  In stealth mode he apparently wandered into the nursery, announced he was “taking the baby” and felt it was necessary to sleep alongside her because he “didn’t want her to be alone.”

Now at this point it didn’t really cross my mind that this could set a dangerous precedent.  After all, she wasn’t even 24 hours old, I hardly had the energy to raise my head, and I didn’t have the mental capacity or motor skills to convey this might not be a good idea.  Since we were head-over-heels smitten with the tiny blob of human goodness, I thought it was…sweet.  Adorable.  But the trend continued every night. Five nights later when I was finally released to go home, it didn’t get better. Somewhere between the never-ending diaper changes and the every 2 hour nursing binges and the fear and panic of being responsible for another life, sleep routine got pushed to the side and we did whatever was necessary to get her to sleep and to allow us to get more than 56 minutes of shut-eye.

To shorten what is becoming a longer story than I anticipated (are your eyeballs peeled?), I’ll fast forward through the next 12 months and say we tried everything – EVERYTHING – to get our child to sleep.  I read every stupid book, every advice column/article/blog and took in nearly every bit of advice from friends/family members/coworkers/strangers in the parking lot (except for whiskey…might be effective, but…call me crazy…I couldn’t bring myself to give our infant hard liquor).  Despite our best efforts and intentions, on the nights she didn’t end up in our room, most ended up a lil’ something like this:

Nathan grew immune to the teddy bear's mockery

Nathan grew immune to the teddy bear’s mockery

To this day I don’t know how he managed his 6’1” frame in and out of that crib.  But kudos to the manufacturers for handling a better-than-anticipated weight limit.  Nap time was no better:

2012-02-18 16.13.36-1

Cute? Or BAD IDEA.

For months Hazel slept against Nathan, earning her the affectionate nickname “Armpit Monkey.”  I put the kibosh on this sleeping arrangement when her sweet baby smell was overtaken by stale Old Spice deodorant.  Despite a reluctant attempt, the cry-it-out method was torture for everyone involved, led to arguments and apparently only strengthened Hazel’s impressive will because at just over 11 months I found her climbing out and hanging over the edge of the crib. This feat conjured up images of broken limbs and bruised faces in my worrisome mind and ultimately led to us dismantling the crib and turning it into a “toddler bed.”  Thinking this would somehow help matters, it instead initiated the ongoing debacle of Vampire-turned-Ninja Hazel crawling out of her new bed, walking into our room, and disturbingly, silently, unexplainably nestling herself into our own.

Let me stop you right there, Dad, and warn you this is a complete waste of your time.

Let me stop you right there, Dad, and warn you this is a complete waste of your time.

At the one year mark I finally stopped nursing.  The first night sans-boobjuice, she slept….well.  Nathan and I laughed.  Benefits aside, I clearly should have cut her off sooner!   What were we thinking?  We high-fived, patted each other on the back and came to the conclusion it was the nursing all along.  Then night #2 rolled around and after an hour and half of trying to get her to fall asleep, we realized we were oh so wrong.  And now, without the mammaries, we were one weapon down in our arsenal of sleep-inducing tactics.   Back to square one.

I’m happy to report the situation has improved a bit over the past year.  Her middle-of-the night awakenings have, for the most, diminished to the one it takes to ninja her way into our bed (Call up Webster, did I just make “ninja” a verb?). The majority of the time we’re not even aware of it anymore, we just wake up and…surprise!  Hazel is here.  The going-to-sleep period remains a dramatic, ongoing saga.   People generally feel we are exaggerating or kindly ask, “what are you going to do when the next baby arrives?”  Which warrants the timid response: “I have no freaking idea.”  The best routine we have mustered is the following:  Dinner, bath, books, toothbrushing and BED.  To maintain our sanity and health, we now alternate half-hour “shifts.”  It is expected and required that the alternate parent “rescues” parent A at exactly – not a second more – 30 minutes (or face the wrath of the initial shift-taker).  If during any shift parent A or parent B becomes overly frazzled, can be heard cussing or develops a back spasm from shifting/wrestling/toddler wrangling, the opposite parent is not required, but may – and to prevent bloodshed SHOULD – rescue the other.  This process continues until sleeping beauty finally, effectively arrives in the land of nod.

I know, I know.  I should probably go into more detail so you can take thorough notes and ensure you don’t miss out on ANY of our amazing, unprecedented, brilliantly clever strategy.  If demand is high enough, we might publish a manual entitled, “How to Guarantee Your Child Will Be In Your Bed Until Kindergarten and You Never Get A Full Night’s Rest: Just 28 Simple Steps.”

In the meantime, we’ll be perfecting the art of child slumber and hope she turns out like this:

Zzzzzzzz

Zzzzzzzz

and not this:

Wait, I don’t shimmer? I thought I was supposed to shimmer…

And….g’night!

I’ll Be Workin’ on My Time Machine

Some days I sit in a state of exhaustion and wonder – as I’m sure many parents and adults do – what happened to free time?  What did I used to DO with all my free time?  I’ve never felt lazy and I’ve always felt busy.  I can’t remember a period when I wasn’t working and/or in school.  Sure I used to run a lot (for fitness and pleasure – just to clarify – not because I was being chased or was a fugitive).  I know we used to dine out and visit friends and travel more.  I’ve always felt myself a fairly social and productive member of society.  But as nearly every second of my time is now filled with parental responsibilities (says the girl typing a useless blog post – don’t judge me) , I can’t help but feel I wasted too many hours.

Anyone who has spent more than 8 minutes with me has likely put up with my whining that Hazel is a terrible sleeper.  She is otherwise objectively perfect, of course, but she has always been – and still is – a  raging insomniac and restless sleeper.  I’m sure I’ll post more on this issue some other time (I can sense the anticipation!!).  Between nap and bed time I figure I spend, as a conservative average, 90+ minutes a day attempting to get her to sleep.   Because I like math and I have a spare 45 seconds, that equates to nearly 2 months of my life I have spent ONLY rocking/walking/laying with/wrestling/coercing my child to sleep.   TWO MONTHS?!  Now I am grateful for every second I have with her – truly – even when it’s 49 minutes into our nightly thunderdome that is bedtime, but I can’t help but think of all the amazing and productive things I could have otherwise done with those two whole months.   I mean, I DEFINITELY would have had time to exercise and would probably look like Gisele’s (shorter, homelier, paler) sister right about now.  Would I have learned another language?  Most likely.  Traveled the globe? Perhaps.  Built a rocket ship? If it were in my budget, yes.  But….what I REALLY could and should have done with these spare hours? Built a TIME MACHINE.

Please don’t think me crazy, but how is it 2013 and we don’t have a time machine?  We can converse and view a loved one on the other side of the world within seconds.  We’ve discovered neutrinos and black holes and there’s even research into superfluids – materials that defy gravity and flow up vertical surfaces (Seriously! Google it!).  But why do I give a rat’s turd about my spilled milk hitting the ceiling instead of the floor when I could TRAVEL through TIME.  It doesn’t even have to be a DeLorean.  Sure people say it’s “not possible.” They talk about the space-time continuum and all that jazz.  But what about NASA? What’s this talk about “wormholes” and “cosmic strings”?  Allow me to take my nerd hat off and get to the point.  If someone could whip up a time machine in my lifetime, that would be grand – because life just goes too damn fast.

14 seconds ago...

14 seconds ago…

...and now.

…and now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to be able to change history – just to observe and relive moments.  Is that so much to ask?  Maybe it’s motherly hormones and maybe it’s just because I’m a pansy, but sometimes I look at Hazel and get a big ol’ lump in my throat and think, “How did we get here?”  Everyone tells you to “cherish every moment,” and warns you how it “goes so fast.”  Like any stable citizen, I nod politely and say something expected and cliché in response, though in my head I’m usually thinking, easy for you to say…you didn’ t just get vomited on nor are you literally wiping someone’s dirty arse right now but thanks for the pep talk person in ladies restroom I will never see again. And yet, it’s true.  Until one goes through it, you can’t describe it…you can’t do this feeling justice.  But it is 100% unequivocally true.

When Hazel spouts out “I love you mommy,” or runs to the door to greet me or laughs at my stupid jokes, I want nothing more than for time to stop.  I think of the obnoxious, eye-rolling adolescent I witnessed in line at the coffee shop, I picture the 14-year-old patient who keeps her hair in her eyes and refuses to eat because someone – in R-rated terms – told her her body was undesirable.  And I want nothing more than to put the future on pause. Sure there will be countless more happy and loving moments; there will be so, so many good days to come.  But every day she gets older and every day she will become more independent and some day I will be sitting, waiting for her to come home from a movie or a “date,” and I will want nothing more than to be 49 minutes into a warm, snuggly, defiant yet loving night of “thunderdome.”

 Image

So as a request – a plea – to someone out there much smarter than I, please…please make a time machine.  Try to whip up one with a “rewind” button and a “pause” and even a “fast forward” for the difficult times (I picture a time machine as a remote control…technology is clearly my thang).   But I won’t be picky.  If you show up looking like Dr. Brown in one of these beauties, I’d be cool with that:

Image

…but only if the high-fiving mutt is included.

Stupid Children’s Books

I love children’s books.  I saved boxes and boxes of my own and like some dumb sap gave them away to a family member or friend – I don’t remember – years ago and now I WANT THEM BACK.  But I don’t remember who I gave them to, and even if I did I wouldn’t ask because I have a little more class than that, okay?  Instead I would probably just play it cool and subtle and beat around the bush and stop by their house and be like, “oooh that book…that…that looks familiar! Weird,” until they got the hint and threw them back at me and pushed me out the door.

To keep up my sophisticated image, I should point out I like adult books, too.  Errr…not THOSE adult books, just the ones not intended for schoolchildren.   I truly enjoy a little bit of everything and I hang on to hoard nearly everything I’ve read.  I’m not too picky.  If someone recommends it, I’ll try it out.  Nathan, on the other hand, is a bit of a book snob. He prefers “real” literature and the classics and occasionally picks on my novel choices (although he read AND enjoyed The Hunger Games series, thank you very much).  I think that’s because he’s a dork because who actually reads and enjoys War and Peace?  Exactly.  Dorks.  In his defense, any time we plan a vacation, we immediately drive to the closest bookstore and I skip inside to stock up on reading material because I am sad to admit that’s one of the things we most enjoy and look forward to on vacation.  But I digress…

I especially love that Hazel loves books.   We have made a genuine effort to limit her TV watching for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it tricks us into feeling like we are better parents and that somehow limiting her access to technology makes up for our other flaws.  Fortunately this – and maybe a slight genetic predisposition – has lead to her enjoying the written word.  I am generally frugal, but anytime she picks up a book, I figure “what the heck?” and add it to our growing, obnoxious book collection.

photo 3

What exactly IS Little Critter, Mr. Mayer?

Problem is, some of these books are ridiculous.  Craptastic, really.  I know I won’t be writing anything legitimate soon, children’s book or otherwise.  But I am confident I could come up with better plots or story lines or even illustrations (I can whip up some rock solid stick people, and sometimes I even color inside the lines) than some of the garbage that makes it onto Barnes and Noble’s shelves.  As luck would have it, some of the books I enjoy the least are among Hazel’s favorites.  Despite my best attempts to hide or get rid of them, they just keep showing up – like a boomerang or a possessed doll or a Jehovah’s Witness.

To highlight my concern, I’ve listed a few of the offenders:

 Image

           -Okay, this actually isn’t a bad book. In fact, it’s well written and sweet and memorable.  But it’s DEPRESSING.  The gist of the story is a mom who sings to her baby boy as he grows over the years and how it gets harder for her to see him and at the end – SPOILER ALERT – she gets sick and is going to die and he goes home sad to sing to his own baby.   I suppose the author felt you are never too young to learn about the circle of life.  This was one of the first books Hazel gravitated to and she has made me read it no less than 1,000 times and I cried – sobbed – the first 500 of them.  It’s like, “Oh here, mom – get this great book for your kid because eventually WE ALL DIE.

 Image

            -There is nothing wrong with Curious George.  I like the rascally monkey and his innocent hijinks.  But I hate this book because (1) Hazel makes me read it no less than 8 times per day and I wish it would go away forever and ever, and (2) when you really think about it, there’s something disturbing about the plot.  George saves the day by stealing back a boy’s balloon from the naughty monkeys in the cage. Ummm, did George forget his roots? Does he really feel comfortable visiting his cousins in a locked-up viewing pen for the public to ogle and mock?  Hey George, these are your kind.   And watch your step with the man with the yellow hat. You’re one more stolen banana away from ending up behind bars.  Perhaps I read into a bit too much, but….I can’t help but lose a little respect for George after this one.

 Image

            -I have always loved Shel Silverstein, and I actually don’t DISlike this book. It was one of my favorites growing up.  But as Nathan pointed out while reading it to Hazel one evening, the main character basically hacks away at and takes advantage of his tree “friend” until they are both left old and with nothing but each other.  Another happy-go-lucky plot.  Giving is something we all need to do more of, but why must the tree be such a martyr?  Life is hard, you don’t have to dismember your friend to make it better.  Maybe Shel just wanted to teach kids not to be selfish brats.  And not to waste paper.  I don’t know.

Image

-Just….wow.  We don’t own this book, but I’ve seen it in a couple different places and I have to wonder, did anyone really READ the title or LOOK at the cover before they sent it off to the printers for mass publication? I admire their good intentions and all, but this is just….terrible.  And why is the jerk off to the left laughing at the child in the wheelchair?  Not cool, orange shirt kid.  Maybe you should read the book and take some notes.

And the grand finale:

Apparently turds are french?

Apparently turds are french?

-Gross.  No caption needed, really.  Another book we THANKFULLY do not own, but is able to be purchased on the world wide web.  Christmas present, maybe?

 

I should point out Hazel has lots and lots of great books that I enjoy reading almost as much as her.  Sometimes I wonder if she actually enjoys being read to or just utilizes this opportunity as a procrastination tool.  Either way, I’m okay with it.

I know I was supposed to be asleep 40 minutes ago, but these pictures are RIVETING!

I know I was supposed to be asleep 40 minutes ago, but these pictures are RIVETING!

Now if I could just find my Goosebumps collection…

I Cuss, You Cuss…

Because it’s Sunday, I feel it is appropriate to confess that I have a potty mouth.  It could be worse.  I wouldn’t cut it in a Tarentino movie and I won’t be replacing Howard Stern any time soon.  I have a filter.  I can pull it together.  But I still swear more than the average mama bear and I’m not proud of it.  99.4% of the time my usage of such classy words is limited to outbursts from my clumsiness – most likely dropping groceries, breaking a glass, stubbing my toe, the usual culprits.  But the small mimicking parrot child that follows me around on a regular basis seems keenly aware of all things that shouldn’t be said, so I’m turning a new leaf and trying to cut the shameful four-letter terms from my vocab.

Less of this...

Less of this…

More of this.

More of this.

The realization I needed to change my ways started several months ago.  Hazel was just beginning to form more coherent words and I vividly recall one entire day when she repeated a particular word over and over and OVER again.  Because of my newfound G-rated venacular I’ll spare your sensitive eyeballs and hint that this word rhymed with “spit” and could be utilized to describe my cooking.  As I listened, with a slight twitch, to our innocent tot spouting this word as clear as crystal, I convinced myself she was clearly looking for her SHIRT.  Amid nervous laughter I would rush to her dresser and say, “here you go! Here’s your SHIRT…SH-ERT…SHIIIIRT.”  For some reason, despite my enthusiasm and determination, she just didn’t seem interested in this item of clothing or altering her pronunciation.  Weird.  Fortunately, it wasn’t 24 hours before it fell out of favor for “apple” or “book” or something more innocuous.

Both Nathan and I have made strides since then.  Unfortunately for our dinnerware, my clumsiness has not improved, so I have replaced my former outbursts with equally intelligent but less offensive expressions including, “Golly!” “Son of a biscuit!” “Fish sauce!” and “Awww crapsicle!” I have no doubts we sound absurd or like writer rejects from a sitcom circa 1950, but you gotsta do whatcha gotsta do.

I applaud our improvements, ridiculous dialect and all.  We are far from perfect, however, and as Nathan learned on a recent trip to the grocery store, Hazel isn’t immune from the unexpected expletive as result of a car pulling out directly in front of your well-meaning father.  Fortunately, we quickly changed subject, started yelling out other safe and apparently more enticing words, and may (*fingers crossed* ) keep our daughter from ending up on the Jerry Springer of 2025,  an MTV “reality show” or from writing an autobiography called, “I Turned Out This Way Because of My F$*@’in Parents.”   We hope.

Road rage-induced curse words stunt my development.

Road rage-induced curse words stunt my development.