Saturday, June 30, 2007

Babysitting co-op, anyone?

 


It takes a strong man to carry a child's sippy cup.

We went to the grand re-opening of our local zoo today, along with everyone else in town. It was a lot of fun. We ran into friends and neighbors, which always makes me happy. It feels like home. Anyway, free ice cream, free pizza (the line was too long, though), lots of critters, and a train. It was MG's idea of heaven. She got to ride the train once with Mommy and once with Daddy, and it still wasn't enough. I have a feeling I'm going to be riding that train a lot. It's going to be worse than the merry-go-round at the mall. Every time we drive past that part of town, it's going to be, "THE TRAIN! THE TRAIN MOMMMEEEEE! THE TRAIN NOW!!!" *sigh*

What is it with kids and trains?

I'm thinking of starting a babysitting co-op. If you're local to me, and you're interested, e-mail me. I think if we had a token system, where we each start out with X number of tokens, and each kid-hour was one token (so, if you watch my two for an hour, I give you two of my tokens. If I watch your 3 kids for two hours, you give me 6 tokens, etc.), it could be really cool, and could save us all a lot of money. I know of at least two other moms who are interested. Anyone else?

I think if we do this, we should all get together at my house and get to know each other first, so everyone is comfortable with one another. I'll play secretary and keep track of everyone's points and contact info (so I'll e-mail everyone once a month with a point total for them and everyone's contact info). If Karen watches Chelsea's kids, Chelsea can e-mail me and say, "Give Karen 3 of my tokens." Then I'll e-mail Karen and say, "Chelsea has given you 3 tokens, your total is now 13," and I'll e-mail Chelsea and say, "Ok, now you have 7..." Maybe I'll set up a separate e-mail address for this. Hmmmm.... Geez, we could even set up a Google account for this, and use the Google Calendar and Google Docs and Spreadsheets to keep track of everything. Hmmmmm...

Ok, new prerequisite for being in the co-op is a Google account - e-mail me if you don't have Gmail and I'll send you an invite. Oh, and we can chat!

This could be huge, guys. Who's in?
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Friday, June 29, 2007

Potty Training Stinks

I will spare you the details, because I'm busy trying to block it out, but, um...

It was my fault. I did tell her that if she went in the potty today, we could go to McDonald's for lunch. That was stupid, stupid, stupid.

She told me when it was time. She made it in there. I got the diaper off. Mayhem ensued.

She's going to McDonald's, because it was a good attempt. I guess it's the actual sitting on the potty part that we need improvement on.

Someone needs to open a potty-training boot camp. Send your kid away and for a couple hundred bucks to the "expert," she comes back potty trained. Wouldn't that be awesome? We could also have a weaning boot camp, while we're at it. Buy one, get one free? I'm all about a deal.

I feel like I'm doing this all wrong. I'm trying to be all low-pressure about it. I ask her, a few times a day, if she wants to try the potty. She almost always says no unless I promise her a car or a pony or something. I don't want to give her some kind of complex Freudian issue that she'll need eons of therapy to overcome, someday, but at the same time, buying diapers for two is very spendy.

And I don't know if I am ready for her to be potty trained, to be honest. I really don't love the idea of visiting every public restroom in the world every time we're out, because her little bladder is the size of a peanut. It is kind of convenient to just be able to change her diaper in the car, rather than risking staph or strep infections in some seedy gas station bathroom. I'm a bit of a germ-o-phobe. I don't want to have to carry a can of Lysol with me for the next couple years, I really don't.

Maybe I'll just stop. Maybe someday, years from now, we'll look at each other over a glass of wine or a cup of General Foods International Coffee, and she'll say, "Gee, Mom, before I get my Ph.D. next week, we should probably tackle that whole potty training thing, don't you think?" and I can say, "Sure, honey. Here's the Lysol..."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Saw Cows Today!

Claire fell asleep in the car while we were out running errands, so MG and I decided to drive around and look for trains and stuff. I drove through downtown, ended up lost, then found, and then I saw a bunch of cows right in the middle of someone's yard - in town! Crazy!! So, since MG is a big fan of cows in general, we stopped to check them out.

"He's eatin' the ground!" she said, gleefully. "He's eatin' the grass. He's eatin' the sticks." The big, black cows were so close - probably 20 feet from the car. There were four big cows and two babies.

"Ok," I said after a while, "Time to go! Bye Cows!"

"Get back in the barn!" she ordered. There was no barn in sight. How cute that she knows that cows live in barns.

***

I put Claire in the Exersaucer for the first time last night. (It's not exactly like that one, but that's close enough to get the gist...). I would've taken pictures, except that I had to stay alert. Mary Grace said, "I can spin our Claire!" and proceeded to fling her around in circles in the manner of a Tilt a Whirl. Claire, to her credit, was not at all freaked out by this experience. I am beginning to suspect that she's taking valium or something. Seriously, this is one mellow child. She just held on and blinked a lot, and sort of looked at me as if to say, "Are you freaking kidding?"

After I stopped laughing, I explained to Mary Grace that spinning Claire would cause her to "spit the milk" (which is what MG calls spitting up), and that I thought Claire would like it a lot more if we played gently, and without spinning.

***

I don't like to leave Claire on the floor, for her own safety. Max doesn't always watch where she's going, and neither does Mary Grace. A couple of days ago it seemed like a good idea to put her in the bathtub (without water) for a few minutes so I could do something. The tub is molded plastic, and she can sit up well enough that I figured it would work for a couple minutes. And it did... Until Mary Grace found her.

"Our Claire is in the boat! I can push our Claire!!" As she tries to slide the tub across the carpet (and succeeded more than you would've expected). Ack! Claire was characteristically very calm about the whole thing, though.

***

Today when I was putting Mary Grace down for nap, she insisted that she needed to hold Claire's hand.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

WFMW! Getting Kids into the Car

Hello ParentDish readers! Leave a comment!

Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer hosts Works for me Wednesday, and this tip is in response to this article on Parent Dish.

One of my biggest questions when I found out I was pregnant with my second child, and my first child was only 10 months old, was, "How am I ever going to leave the house???" Now, I will admit that it usually takes at least 15 minutes for us to get out of the house, but I've made my own life a lot easier with the simple addition of a plastic storage tote.

I have a Honda Odyssey with the automatic sliding rear doors, and (currently) a 22 month old, and a 3 month old. When we're at home, I open both sets of doors, and my big girl climbs in to her seat by herself. How? Because I put a flat plastic tote (the sort that you could store under the bed, if you didn't already have 40 tons of stuff under the bed) in front of the seat for her, so that she has a "step." She first climbs into the van, then steps up onto the tote, then she gets in her seat.

Bonus - I also keep supplies in the tote - extra diapers and wipes, etc., for refilling the diaper bag. That way I don't need to carry every little thing with me every time we go inside the store. It's right in the car if I need it. This has lightened the diaper bag considerably.

So, I put the infant in her seat, then I walk around the car and I buckle my toddler in her seat, and I don't have to kill my back doing either. If my kiddo can climb into a van, surely Nolan can climb into a car, if he has a little step.

Here's the demo video we made this morning:



Of course, when we're not in our own driveway, I stand right next to her, holding the baby, while she gets into the car. Then I put the baby in her seat, and then I return to MG's side of the car to buckle her in (or I put the baby in the sling so that I have arms to buckle MG with).

As for getting her to go willingly into the car - I usually tell her that we'll stop and see the trains (which are on the way to virtually everywhere we go) or tell her where we're going. If it's no fun, I tell her that she can have a root beer if she's good. Bribes are a part of life. I don't mind using them to maintain my sanity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back in Black

I just love baby clothes. I could spend a fortune on them, if I had it (hence the coupons!!). Most of MG and C's clothes come from Once Upon a Child, but every once in a while I find something special. Something different. Something... subversive.

Check this out:


If that isn't one of the funniest baby shirts I've ever seen, I don't know what is!! It's too bad that Brandon and Heather aren't still making babies, because he would totally get this shirt.

Check out the website for all the baby gifts you totally can't find at Target! Because if you're going to spit up all over something, it might as well be something funny. Trendy Tadpole - what a cute name!

Friends you've never met

One of my friends inside the computer, who happens to work in the same industry we do, which is how I got to know her to begin with, just found out that she has breast cancer.

Her sons are two and a half, and five months old. She's only 34 years old.



Please remember her in your prayers. Call her "WhyMommy." God will know who you mean.

Friends without Babies

I just read an article on another blog about the difficulty of maintaining friendships with people who don't have kids once you've had kids, yourself. The author seemed to think that her former friends thought that she was only interested in talking about babies, now that she has one. She insisted that she was still a whole person, and that she's still interested in all the things she was interested in before.

I think it's a lot simpler than that. It's purely a matter of scheduling.

Let's take my friend Amanda, for example. We've been friends for 13 years. But we don't talk half as often as we used to, now that I have kids. She is getting her Ph.D. at LSU, and she works full time, and she teaches, and she does about nine billion other things that I can't keep up with. Her days are jam packed with responsibilities, and she probably doesn't get home until 6 or 7 pm most nights. She's a time-zone behind me, too, so that's 7 or 8 pm my time.

Meanwhile, I'm home all day with the babies, thinking about her, but knowing that she's at work, or in class, or wherever. So, I think, "I really should call Amanda tonight!" and I make a mental note to do so.

Then "tonight" rolls around, and I have to get MG and BJ fed, so the whole dinner process lasts from about 6:30 until 8, by the time it's all cleaned up. Then BJ and MG go up for bath, and I either give Claire a bath, or play with her, or try to get her to sleep. We usually have both girls asleep by 9 or 9:30 (God willing) and assuming that we haven't fallen asleep ourselves in the process, we have about an hour or an hour and a half to spend time together, or watch TV, or work, or make phone calls, or whatever until it's time for us to go to bed, too. I have to admit that by that time of day, I'm usually so exhausted from chasing kids (and not sleeping well, ever) that making a phone call sounds like a lot of work. So I think, "I'll just call her tomorrow."

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Evenings, when non-parents are free, are the busiest, most hectic time of the day for parents. And on the weekends, all of us - parents and non-parents - are busy doing fun things, catching up with family, working around the house, and so on.

I have the same problem with Barb. It doesn't help that these two friends, in addition to working and being in school, live elsewhere. So, they can't just drop by to have dinner with us or anything.

But Shannyn, who has a little boy, is easy to keep up with because she's home during the day, too. Kids generally have similar schedules. They all like a nap around lunch time, and they all need to go to bed around 8 or 8:30 or so. Shannyn and I are on the same sort of schedule (even though she's a time-zone behind, too).

Working moms have the worst of both worlds - they're busy all day, and then they have the very brief, busy evenings to reconnect with their kids. I think it would be hardest for them to keep up with their friends (although they do, typically, have the advantage of having a lunch break in the middle of the day, but I'll bet most working moms use that time to run errands, not to have leisurely lunches with their girlfriends).

Bottom line - it's not that those of us who have had kids love our kidless friends any less than we did before. It's simply a matter of scheduling.

There are a few other issues that get in the way. Kidless friends may totally think that we're full of, well, crap when we say things like, "Oh my God, I just got pooped on, I have to go." (These words actually came out of my mouth, yesterday, and it was true). Kidless friends may not understand that babies and toddlers, generally, get really irritated if Mommy is on the phone for more than eleven seconds. Kidless friends may get annoyed when we Mommies are multitasking while we're supposed to be listening to them - making dinner, trying to keep the toddler from burning herself or painting the dog, answering the door, changing a diaper, and talking on the phone simultaneously. (I have read 13 books to MG while I've been writing this post - literally!) But those things aren't going to keep me from calling. The only thing stopping me, honestly, is scheduling. Maybe things will be better when my babies are bigger. Or maybe by then, you'll have babies too, and then we'll be on the same schedule again.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why I write

My dad sent me an article that included the following:

Bloggers probably began as those children who meticulously transcribed their days' events into diaries, carefully locking them afterward with those little keys that, for reasons of genetic predisposition, they always hid in their sock drawer, which is absolutely the first place parents look. (Not that I would ever do such a thing, since you can open them with just a paper clip. So I've heard.)

As adults, these diarists found a new mechanism for their self-expression: the Annual Christmas Letter, the perfect form in which to recount their perfect lives and that of their perfect children, this year featuring their perfect [name of exotic locale] vacation. But these letters are sent only once a year, an unacceptable limitation to people who feel their relatives need frequent updates on The Good Life They're Missing. The limitless capacity of the Internet was what they've been waiting for. That they now include their political and cultural views only intensifies my wish for them to experience Old Testament retribution, such as plagues, locusts, and high interest rates.

The full article can be found here, although you have to register, which is annoying, so just take my word for it that the article was obviously written by someone who doesn't "get it."

First of all, I have to set the record straight - I have never kept a diary for more than a few weeks, because inevitably my little brother or sister found it, and teased me mercilessly. They can still make me blush if they say "George B. is a HUNK!" with just the right intonation, because I wrote that once in third grade. Anyway, he was, but that's beside the point. I have also never sent out an annual Christmas letter. If I ever did try to send Christmas cards, I would probably get them out around February. It's not that I don't care about you or want to wish you a happy winter holiday, it's just that I suck at mail. (A brief word about thank you notes - I suck at them, too. I am extraordinarily grateful for all the gifts we received after Claire was born, and I have bought the notes and will write them and send them someday, hopefully before she's in kindergarten).

Anyway... I also do not keep this blog so that you can catch up on The Good Life You're Missing. I got pooped on today, so badly that it required two loads of laundry and a shower. If that's a perfect life, well, I'd hate to see the imperfect one! My life is hilarious, but it's far, far from perfect.

So why am I doing this? It's simple - math.

I've probably mentioned before that Mary Grace needs sleep like a fish needs a bicycle, right? Well, we started doing this thing when she was really little, where we'll list all the people who love her. Since we don't see everyone as often as we'd like, we think it's a nice way to keep everyone in our hearts. So, we'll start off, "Mommy and Daddy love you, Claire loves you, Max loves you, Kona loves you..." then we'll go through the family... and I mean the whole family. Every night she'll say, "Talk about people who love you!" and we do. Some nights I like to mix it up, and we'll say, "God bless Grandpa," or "Mary Grace loves Grandma," or, "Aunt Mimi misses you..." but we'll do the same phrase for every relative that night.

Mary Grace and Claire have 140 people who love them - and that's just the family. If she's still awake by the time we get to the most distant cousins we can think of, we start with our friends. "Amanda and Matt love you. Barbara and William love you. Shannyn and Ken and Caleb love you. Brandon and Heather, and Lucy and Jane love you. Chelsea and Maddie and Gwen and Sophie love you..." By the time we get through all of those people, we're well over 200 people. My daughters are abundantly blessed with people who love them.

(One of these days I'm going to make a photobook at Shutterfly that has a picture of everyone who loves them - like a yearbook - so that we can read it every night and remember everyone, but that'll take some time... It's on my List of Things To Do Before the Girls Graduate From High School.)

So, I could either single-handedly keep the post office and the photo printing services in business, sending out paper updates and photos (and, let's face it, if I can't get the simple thank you notes out, there's no way I'm going to find time to send out photos), or I can blog. For free. And reach everyone who wants to be reached, and no one who doesn't.

Blogging, for me, is a nice way to keep everyone informed about what's going on in their lives. If I didn't blog, you might not get to smile at the fact that when MG blows on hot food, she blows through her nose instead of her mouth. You might not get to worry along with me about C's pink eye. You wouldn't know them as well as you do through my words. And I want you to know them.

I'm also making a teensy bit of money on the ads that I have on this page (like 9 cents, so far, more if you use the search bar up there, so use it!). Maybe someday I'll get really famous and make 9 cents a day instead of 9 cents a month. A girl can dream, anyway. Until that happens, I'll keep clipping coupons!

And maybe when the girls are older, they'll get a kick out of finding out what they were like when they were tiny. I'm not the baby book type - I've tried, but I totally suck at scrapbooking (or just about anything crafty, for that matter). This is something I can do for them, and hopefully do well. Anyway, that's why I blog, Dad, and I hope you like it!

Conjunctivitis, what your function?

I think Claire has pink eye. Her left eye was crusty this morning when she woke up, and it's kind of gummy and yellow now. It's weird, though, because the white part of her eye (the conjunctiva, actually) hasn't gone pink yet. If it isn't pink eye, it's certainly something. I have a call in to the doctor. Chances are good that I'll pay yet another $20 to be told, "It's a virus, keep doing what you're doing." They ought to just put in a drive thru at the doctor's office where I can hand $20 to someone, and then the person at the next window can say, "Virus. Nothing we can do. Thanks for the $20, see you again next month, when you will give us another $20 for another set of symptoms and we will tell you the same thing."

I shouldn't complain about having healthy kids. I just wish that the doc's office could tell me that it's a virus on the phone, where it's free. Oh well. They're not in business to make friends, and I really do love our doctor, so I'll cough up the $20 to keep him in business.

Expect lots of pictures of children with very pink eyes in the coming days. I understand that it's more contagious than yawning. Poor Claire.

In other news.... Remember when I asked about saving money? Well, I've been using couponmom.com and I am saving boatloads of money. I got the rebate book at Walgreen's and saved another $13 with that - I got four 12 packs of Diet Coke for $7!! That's less than 15 cents a can! I am so excited. It's like Vegas, only I'm guaranteed to win.

The only thing about it that sucks is that I think, "Geez, I wonder how much I could've saved by now if I'd started doing this when we got married, or when I moved out of my mom's house!" and it makes me a little sick. Of course, if I had saved all the money I spent on other bad habits I probably wouldn't need to do coupons. Live and learn.

So, don't get behind me at the grocery store, and don't rub your eyes. See? This blog is full of useful information!

My favorite story of the week

After going to Grammaland yesterday, I learned something annoying. If I tell you all of my stories here, I have nothing to talk about in person! I might have to learn to listen, or to talk about something other than my kids, and I'm just not sure if I can do that...

Anyway, I had to start borrowing BJ's stories, and this is my new favorite:

Mary Grace came down the stairs with BJ's electric razor, which he'd set out for the garage sale. BJ saw her and said, "Oh, honey. That's Daddy's razor. Can you give it to me?" and MG, being the model child that she is, handed it over. BJ said, "Thank you." MG said, "Good manners!"

We've been working on "please," and whenever she uses it we tell her, "Good manners!" I guess she's listening.

I could spend a million billion dollars on kid clothes. Wow, there's some cute stuff out there. I'm cheap, though, so I buy it at the discount store, Tuesday Morning. I got a $60 outfit the other day for $10. It's a fall outfit, sure, but the nice thing about kids is you can almost predict what size they're going to be in by what age they'll be. I'm finding that MG's 3 - 6 months stuff is the wrong season for Claire. We might have to have another baby so that we can fully use all of these clothes. Maybe two. A baby for every season!

Honestly, if we could afford it, I'd have a dozen. But these two have to be weaned first.

We're off to find pink milk, and a new knob for the bathroom cabinet, and something called Lest Oil that my sister (Happy Birthday Megan!) said would take stains out of anything... Busy day!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Going to Church




Ok, I don't want to sound arrogant or anything, but do I have the most heartbreakingly beautiful children on the planet or what? My God, I can hardly believe that they're mine, sometimes.

Don'tcha love Claire's ballet slippers? Hee...
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Friday, June 22, 2007

WTFriday - Liquor Stores, Minimum Wage, etc.

First of all, I want to know this:
If I do not make minimum wage during the course of the neighborhood garage sale, does the Homeowners' Association have to reimburse me the difference?
Net profit: $27.50, folks.

I just left all the crap on the front porch for tomorrow. I figure, if some idiot is so hard up that he needs to shoplift from my garage sale, he can have at it. And I don't want to haul it all out again tomorrow. I'm calling every charity in town tomorrow at 12:01 pm, and someone is going to come get this junk out of my life. Thank God for my mom-in-law, though, who came down and entertained the troops so that I could give the hard sell to all the people who showed up. Next time I'm going to put $100 on everything, because no one even considered paying the sticker price for anything that was out there. "I'll give you $2," was the phrase of the day. I would make a terrible used car salesman. I was like, "Whatever, just get it off of my porch."

I actually made WAY more money doing coupons this week than anything else. $75 off of my grocery bill - over 33%! WOO HOO! The final total was about $138. It was mostly diapers, but they were half price, and there was much rejoicing.

Anyway, between that and the whole Zoloft issue, by the time dinner rolled around this evening, this was my motto:


I needed some pinot, baby. In a bad way. So after a little retail therapy, we walked to the store with the good wine (the local place that does tastings and the whole bit) and I went inside. With the kids.

On the way, MG uttered her longest sentence to date: "Mommy, I thirsty, get me a bottle of water please." Holy cow! Bonus points for good manners! So I promised her a bottle of water. Silly me.

The cashier, drunk with power, came over and said, "You can't have kids in here." I said, "You're kidding." He said, "No, it's illegal." I replied, "Well, it's illegal for me to leave them in the car." "That's the choice you make," he said.

That's the choice I make??? Exsqueeze me?

Are my kids going to go off into some dark corner of the (nice, upscale) liquor store and get hammered? Probably not. They're just going to remain firmly attached to my body, as usual, while I purchase a bottle of your very expensive libations. But apparently in this guy's world, I can either choose being a parent, or being inebriated. Nevermind the fact that inebriation is what gets most of us into this parenthood gig to begin with. Geez. They get you knocked up, and then they just drop you, and are all like, "Hey, Lady, you can't come in here with those kids, even though it was our product that got you that way to begin with." It's not like I'm going after them for child support!

Well, forgive me for reproducing, Wine Nazi. I'll just take my business elsewhere.

What really irks me is that I have an extremely vivid memory of pushing Mary Grace in her stroller through that very store when she was smaller. Granted, it is common knowledge that my memory sucks, but I am sure that this happened. Positive. He was just being a jerk today.

"Can I at least buy my kid a bottle of water?" I said. "Ma'am, it's not my law," Mr. Drunkwithpower replied. I should've pinched her, just so that she would cry and make him feel like the heartless bastard he is. I believe this would've been more effective than my own tears, which just encouraged him.

Anyway, by the time I got everyone back to the car, and buckled up, we were entirely too fussy and thirsty to suffer a third trip to the grocery store in three days, so we went through the drive-up for a root beer, and came home.

Fortunately, BJ called and said, "Do you want me to pick up something fast for dinner?" and I said, "Sure, I can open a bottle of wine in about 4 seconds, that's quick. Oh, and you'd better bring some chocolate, too." That's that "new math" they keep talking about - Wine + Chocolate = 90 mg Zoloft. All I need is a backrub, and I'm good.

2.5 glasses in. Much better.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Oh... NOW I remember!

I HATE garage sales!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday...

The tea party was a big hit. I didn't get any good pictures, though (I know!). They all ran off before I could get the icing off of my fingers and locate the camera. Oh well, we'll have another.

Today we had lunch with Daddy and Grandpa Ben. We went to the new Irish restaurant, which was quite fun. I had Irish pizza - corned beef and green and purple onions and stinky cheese and this odd horseradish sauce that was really good. Strange, but good. And easy to eat with one hand, which is a major criteria for eating out, these days.

Speaking of eating out, the last few times we have eaten in restaurants, Mary Grace has been extremely good. I don't want to get too complacent, because as soon as I start thinking, "My kid is good in restaurants," she will decide that it's a good idea to scream any time we're within 50 feet of a place where people might dine, but I will say that we have a very good trend going. I'm not sure what we did to deserve it, but I like it! We went to the Italian place for Father's Day, and she sat there and ate and was quiet and played. We went to the Irish place today, and she danced (right between her Dad and I, on the floor right next to our table, NOT in anyone's way - I'm too much a former waitress for that!) to the music and played with the bottles and was generally awesome.

Also, the time outs are starting to work. That only took about a year. I've probably got about 11 minutes before they stop working, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.

I may get the hang of this parenting thing, yet.

We had a little bit of extra time on our hands between home and the restaurant, so I pulled into the train yard and we looked at the trains. She thought that was pretty awesome. She wasn't as excited about Grandpa Ben's plane as I would've expected, though (he has a small plane - I think it's a Piper? A four-seater something or another, anyway. He was having it serviced here, and we took MG and C to the airport to check it out before he left). A helicopter landed and freaked MG right out. Not the big hit that I expected. What is it with noise these days?

I might be a bit absent for a couple of days, with the garage sale and all, but I'll be back after the dust clears from that! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Fun with Nerds!

Ever wonder why nerds have fewer children than non-nerds? It's because while everyone else is in bed, we're outside looking at these things:

Doesn't my camera rock?

Ok, seriously, that's from NASA's website. The shuttle and the ISS made another brief appearance tonight. We tried to see them with the telescope, but we weren't fast enough. Maybe next time? They looked like two slow-moving airplanes, except they weren't blinking. It was very cool.

I highly recommend Bill Bryson's book A Short History of Nearly Everything if you ever want to boggle your own mind with the vastness of space. Or, if you don't have twelve bucks burning a hole in your pocket, there's always this.

When you look at things on that scale, from 10 million light years away, it's hard to imagine that we matter at all. We're completely invisible at that scale. The largest things we are capable of building, the farthest distances we are capable of traveling, they aren't even detectable at that scale. In a universe so vast, how can something as tiny as a virus or a germ matter at all?

But, if it's your kid who has the virus, it matters a whole lot. As with all things, it's all a matter of perspective.

When I get too much inside my own head, sometimes I like to look up. I like to remind myself that there are about 5,999,900 people who don't give a rip about me and my tiny problems - and that's just on this planet. Who knows how many other planets like ours there are out there? (I don't believe that those planets, if inhabited by creatures like ourselves, pose any threat to us, nor do I believe that the inhabitants of said planets, if they could get here at all, would make exclusive contact with people in the desert and in mobile home parks. I'm just saying that in the vastness of space, chances are pretty good that there's another Earth-like Petri dish of a planet out there creating some kind of humanish critter remarkably like us. Not that we'll ever get a chance to see them or anything...)

Anyway, I look up. And I remember that in the great scheme of things, I really don't matter at all. As Dad would say, "100 years from now, who's going to care?"

And then I get blown away by the fact that we all start out as two cells; cells so small that they're invisible to the eye. And from those two cells (5 microns long for sperm, 150 microns in diameter for eggs) we grow an infinite number of new cells (inside my body, how did I do that?) , without reading any instructions or anything, and in a relatively tiny amount of time (yeah, try telling me that next time I'm in the 3rd trimester), a whole new living, breathing, kicking, thinking person is born. A person who would be completely invisible from 10 million miles away, but who matters so much. I read Horton Hears a Who to the girls tonight. "A person's a person, no matter how small." Great book.

Anyway, it's bed time. I'm through thinking for tonight.

I Get To Be The Mad Hatter!

The tea party is in full swing, which means that someone else is entertaining Mary Grace for a change! Actually, two someone elses. 7 year old Maddie and 3 year old Gwen are in the house! Woo!

They showed up in costume - a bride and a ballerina, and brought flowers. Too cute.

The actual tea party portion of the event lasted about 47 seconds. Then everyone started to play. Poor Claire (I've decided not to worry about names anymore...) is looking around at all the chaos thinking, "I wish I could be big, too!"

The cupcakes were a big hit. So was the tea. I decided not to use the china, because all of the garage sale stuff was in front of the closet where the china lives. But next time, I am so there.

Speaking of garage sales - 8-12 Friday and Saturday. Anyone want to come hang out Saturday to help me with the kids? Anyone have a table I can borrow? Let me know!

WFMW: Never Travel Empty

I worked as a waitress when I was in high school and college, and was taught the old waitressing rule, "Never travel empty."

Basically, what it means is that you're wasting time if your hands aren't full. If you have to run back to the kitchen to pick up an order, you might as well take the dirty glasses from the recently vacated table on your way. My great-grandma called it "saving steps" (which is an important thing to do when you're in your 80s, but never made sense to me when I was a kid).

When I'm chasing my kids around the house, I try to remember not to "travel empty." If I have to go shoo MG off of the stairs for the 92nd time, I could take the toys that need to go back to her room with me. When I go to the playroom to find out why it's a little too quiet, I pick up some of the migratory toys on my way.

This little rule helps me keep up with the clutter a little better. Not that my house is clean by any stretch of the imagination, but at least we can see the floor (most of the time). Works for me!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A word about C

MG woke C up tonight. I'd put C to bed, and MG decided to scream, "I do not like the bath!" at high volumes and pitches while we were trying to rinse the spaghetti off of her. Since the bathroom shares a wall with the girls' room, it was no surprise when I went in to check on C and found her wide awake.

So, I gave her to BJ, got MG to bed, and then got C and took her up for another nurse down.

I thought she was asleep, so I got out of the rocker and laid her in the crib. She then woke up, again, but didn't seem agitated. By this time I really needed to visit the restroom (mommies ought to wear diapers, too, for the times when no one wants to go to sleep easily!), so I thought, "When ya gotta go, ya gotta go!" and left her in the crib while I took care of things.

When I came out, she was still quiet. So, I sat at the top of the stairs for a while, and waited for her to start screaming. Remember, I had put her down sleepy, but awake.

She didn't start screaming. So, after a few minutes I came downstairs. Then BJ called and told me to come outside (he was on the cell phone) because he could see the shuttle and the International Space Station overhead. So, I ran out to watch them go over, and got to see about 1/3 of the path across the sky (this is what we nerds do for fun, when we're not polishing our slide rules and making custom pocket protectors). It was very cool. (He had looked up the time and date of the flyover on NASA's website beforehand, it wasn't just like he was out in the front yard looking up and saw them and knew what they were).

That took a couple of minutes, and I was out of earshot of the monitor, so I figured that they'd both be screaming (one having awakened the other) by the time we got inside. We came back in, and all was eerily quiet.

So, I read a couple of your nice comments (I love your comments, they make me feel like I'm not just talking to myself in a large empty room!), and heard a squeak over the monitor. "Here it comes," I thought, "I knew it was too good to be true..." and I sent BJ up to check on C.

She was asleep. She was just stirring because the light from the monitor's transmitter was in her eyes. She put herself to sleep. This is something that MG has never done without a lot of hysterics and screaming. I didn't actually believe that kids were capable of putting themselves to sleep without screaming, much less when they're only three months old.

Holy crap.

I can't just enjoy it, of course. I have to look this gift horse in the mouth. I feel like I'm neglecting her if I don't cuddle her to sleep every night, the way I have MG. I feel like I'm playing favorites, somehow (even though she earns major points in this house for being a good sleeper). I feel like I'm being unfair to her. This happens during the day, too. She is just so mellow - she doesn't care if I leave her in the swing for a bit while I play with MG, or unload the dishwasher or something. MG screamed like I was dipping her in acid if I didn't hold her at all times. Or, at least, that's the way I remember it. Everything from that time of life is a little fuzzy, now. I do remember being able to make Thanksgiving dinner for the family the year she was born, and she was only about 3 months old, then, so she couldn't have been that bad. I also made a ton of cookies for Christmas that year... So, ok, she wasn't miserable every minute, and I managed to get some things accomplished, but we also spent a lot of time just sitting and nursing for hours and hours.

Looking back, I know that I did it wrong. I used nursing as a pacifier with MG (because it worked) . I didn't have any other tricks. Now, I know other tricks, so I don't need to do that with C. I know how to bounce and swaddle and shush and sway, and I can calm her without nursing (and without a pacifier, incidentally). I fully expect that I will still be nursing MG when C weans, simply because MG is a total nursing junkie. BJ knows new tricks, too, so he is more effective at calming C than he was with MG (the video below, notwithstanding). Basically, when MG was little, all I knew how to do was nurse her (plus, we had major supply issues, so I *had* to nurse her a lot to keep a supply up, and blah blah blah, it was a mess).

So, am I doing C a favor by not turning her into a nursing addict? Probably. Am I doing myself a favor? Definitely. Would I go back and do things differently with MG? Not a chance, because if I did, she might not turn out to be who she is. Do I worry that I'm somehow changing who C is by not doing the things I did with MG? Yep.

Basically, I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't. If I do what I did with MG when it comes to C, I'll create another nursing junkie. If I don't, I'll feel guilty that C isn't getting what MG got at the same age.

I have to keep reminding myself what I learned in college, when I was studying to be a special ed teacher - "fair" isn't giving everyone exactly the same thing. To truly be fair, you have to give everyone what they need. C, apparently, needs less than MG did. Since MG still needs a lot, I'm lucky. C is healthy and happy. I can't beat myself up. I can't keep score. (I'm also pretty sure that C has a mild case of reflux, and noodling me all day may just plain hurt her. She is a business nurser - get in, get done, get on with life. So different!).

Who knows, maybe C will teach MG to fall asleep by herself.


(I probably need to stop comparing them to each other, but that's another Momguilt for another night).

...and then I lost my mind!

Oh boy, did I have a fun afternoon! When the girls went down for nap (at the same time!) I added a chimney and a "bedroom" to our playhouse.

I also made flowers for window boxes (there are two).

Then I started decorating. The blue is the table (complete with centerpiece) and the daisies are the "upholstered seat." The curtains are made of ribbon (how sad that my toddler's playhouse is more coordinated than my house??). The pictures on the white card are actual family photos - I used the little preview photos that come with the prints from Shutterfly, so they're little thumbnail sized pictures of family. How cool is that??

It even has a fireplace (I colored in the area above, where it should be black, after I took this). I printed the "fire" from the internet.
I have big plans for exterior modifications, but it's time to make dinner, so it'll have to wait. I need to find some wrapping paper that has a brick pattern to it, to do the chimney. I think I'm going to use aluminum foil for the roof. I also want to make a little mirror out of foil for the inside.

I'm not sure which one of us is having more fun.
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Playhouse

 

 

 


The kind folks at our local Weber dealer gave us this fantastic box (after we'd driven, literally, all over town to find one) so that we could make a playhouse. MG loves it. Needless to say, I should've done this after nap, because the chances of getting her to go to bed are approximately nil at this moment.

We made cupcakes last night, and we're having a tea party tomorrow with our friends Maddie and Gwen. Pictures to follow!
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Mulitdimensional Blogging

Oh, man... Grandma's going to love this!

Monday, June 18, 2007

100 mg of Happiness

My doctor's office screwed up and sent my refill authorization to the wrong pharmacy. Three trips and several days later, I'm back on my Zoloft, but BOY am I cranky. Not cool, not cool. I think I'll just keep myself medicated until they go to college. Otherwise I feel like a toddler who missed her nap. And since I've been spending all my time getting ready for this stupid neighborhood garage sale, I really did miss my nap.

If you want me to sell your junk, bring it to my house and I'll split the profits with you 50/50.

Not only am I cranky, I'm also an idiot. It turns out that the battery I've been waiting for was not at the office like I thought. It has been right behind my computer all of this time... *sigh* So, I could've had a camera for the Taste of (our county), if I weren't an idiot.

In other news, Max has become evil:

But C is working on her superpowers, so she will save us all:

The force is strong with this one.

MG and I are making cuppycakes, and planning to invite the girls down the street over for a tea party tomorrow. I'll be sure to let you know how that goes!
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Becoming My Mother

"If you don't let me take care of your hair,
I'm going to have to cut it all off."





(This picture of Barb, MG, and MG's wacky hair is from our recent trip to The City On The Upper Right).

The Taste (and Happy Father's Day)

Yesterday we took the girls to the Taste of (our county) festival. For $8 per adult (the kids were free) we purchased admission to the festival grounds (most of downtown), where we could buy tickets (at $1 each) to buy tiny portions of food from local restaurants. Three potstickers from the Korean place were 4 tickets, or $4. Bottled water - $2. Coke - $3. Root beer float - $3. Tiny 6 ounce smoothie - $1. Beer - $3.

We totally got fleeced. But it was fun, so, whatever.

There were bands. We sat and listened to a very good Irish group that was, by far, my favorite. MG was hilarious, she danced and danced. We also listened to a jazz group and a doo-wap group. They were ok. There were bagpipers playing near the park for a good part of the evening. MG called them "bad pipes." Hahaha...

We waited around until 10 pm (stupid daylight savings time...) for the fireworks. This was a Very Bad Plan. MG has a real problem with noises lately. I don't know if it's a toddler thing, or what, but she absolutely Freaked Right Out. It was too bad, because they were really spectacular. She was shaking and crying so much that we had to leave. She was holding onto BJ so hard that he didn't even have to hold her back - she was clinging to his neck for dear life.

The 4th of July is going to be a hoot. All of our neighbors spend ridiculous money on firecrackers. The smoke rolling down the street makes it look like someone has a fog machine on in a small room. Personally, I think you might as well go in the front yard and burn $20 bills, but what do I know about fun? Anyway, we may have to go stay with Grandpa Ben at the farm (quiet, no neighbors for miles and miles) that night, or something, so that she doesn't end up with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It was stinkin' hot here yesterday, even at 5 pm when we left for the Taste. Amelia's grandma suggested, when we ran into her, that we wet the receiving blanket with some water and put it on C's head to keep her cool, and darned if it didn't work like a charm! She was the most comfortable of the four of us, by far. Hooray for people who are older and more experienced!!

We ran into lots of people we know, including my old bosses, and our friends who have a little girl MG's age, and one of the kids who used to be an intern for us. I happened to catch his karaoke performance, which was totally worth the price of admission. There is not enough $3 beer in the world to make karaoke a good idea.

Some crazy woman made a comment to BJ that I'm still trying to figure out. I was holding C. MG was running around, a few feet ahead of BJ. This woman comes up to MG and says, "Are you waiting for your Daddy?" and BJ said, to MG, "Come on, Sweetheart..." the woman then said something about how she'd been to DisneyWorld where "all the pedophiles are."

Excuse me???

I asked BJ about the exchange because I saw the woman walk away, shaking her head in a "tsk, tsk," sort of way. I don't know if she was implying that she thought BJ might be a pedophile, or if she was chastising him for being a couple of feet behind because a pedophile might grab MG, or what, but it was a hugely inappropriate thing for her to say. If it was the first, I think it's sad that we live in a world where a Dad can't go out in public with his daughter without someone thinking he might be a pedophile. If it was the latter, who the hell does she think she is to criticize his parenting? He was only 4 feet behind her. It's not like he was too far away to protect her if someone did try to grab her, and we weren't in a crowded area at the time. Both BJ and I could see her the entire time.

All I have to say is that she's lucky I was out of earshot at the time, because I would have let her have it. Busy body....

*sigh* Anyway, that was that.

We took the double stroller, which I love, but it seems like we can't get both kids to stay in it for more than 13 seconds. C still has to ride in her bucket, which snaps onto the front seat, which makes the whole assembly even longer. For most of the festival, C ended up being held in my sling (LOVE my sling - mine is French Blue, I also have a fleece one in plumstone for winter, which is even better). I think next time we're going to try C in the sling and MG in the backpack carrier, and see how that goes. It is amazing how many different ways we have to get these kids from point A to point B - and most of the time they just want to walk or be held, anyway. But mommies and daddies want to have arms (and personal space - especially when it's 100 degrees outside!). I'm looking forward to C being able to sit up, so that we can ditch the bucket, and just put her in the front seat (or the back seat) of the stroller. I think they'll both like it better when we can use it that way, and it'll be way easier to push.

No pictures, unfortunately, because the camera still needs to be charged. I thought that having it plugged into the computer via USB (as if to upload pictures) would charge it, but I was mistaken. Whoops.

Happy Father's Day to all! Especially Grandpa Ben, Grandpa Bob, and Pops! And of course, BJ, who is the best dad I could've picked for my girls. I love you all a bunch!

Friday, June 15, 2007

TGIF!

All this hard work can really wear a girl out!

(It's an old picture, but my camera batteries were dead today, so that's life... Thankfully the camera survived the sippy cup full of root beer that exploded in the diaper bag, because Mommy had the forethought to put all the purse things - wallet, camera, pens, checkbook, etc. - inside a waterproof plastic case in the diaper bag! PHEW!)
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These are the moments...

Tonight I was sitting on the bed trying to make C smile. I would pump her little legs and say, "run run run," then slower, "walk walk walk," then faster, "run run run!" Then we did jump, hop, skip, dance, etc. She was really into it, and nearly laughed for me. I got lots of great smiles.

MG was there too, of course. I thought she was watching "Lola" (more cute Lola stories in a moment...). I saw her out of the corner of my eye, with her baby doll, sitting just like me and pumping her dolls legs.

I don't think anything else can more eloquently demonstrate the awesome power and responsibility of motherhood.

***

The other day at Target she got pink milk, "Just like Lola." Lola is the main character in her (current) favorite TV show, "Charlie and Lola" on the Disney channel. It's a really cute show. Anyway, Lola drinks pink milk, and we saw strawberry milk at the store, and in keeping with the trend (we've also had green eggs and toast - who wants to dye ham?? The toast had green sugar, MUCH more appetizing. And "Pooh Toast" - toast with honey. And chamomile tea, just like Peter Rabbit...) I decided that we had to get pink milk. "Just like Lola," she said, about 10 billion times, in between happy gulps of pink milk.

When she saw the program again, and they showed the pink milk, she said, "Just like MG!"

***

She cried today when it was time to leave the library (it was closing). That's my girl!

***

She sang the entire alphabet song 4 times today in the car. She has also been singing selections from Nosrus Tap and Dog Train, including "I Need a Nap," which is pretty funny. She'll kind of get this high voice and say, "I just can't take anymore... I need a nap! Can't stay awake anymore! No more running around I just need to lie down and sleep..." I can't claim that it's in any way on key, but it's pretty amazing that she's memorizing lyrics at 22 months. And she uses them in context - when she's tired, I start to hear "I need a nap!" When we have peas for dinner, she sings, "Oh Lonely Peas!" Crazy.

Saving Money

I find myself thinking about saving money today. I saved us $7 a month by signing up for the power company's plan, where they can shut off our AC if there's a brown out. I saved us another $4 a month by calling the cable company and getting them to stop charging us for a cable box we don't have (and it was way out of date, the one they thought we had, so they might refund us the amount we've been paying since it became obsolete - I'll keep you posted on that one!). I'm going to submit a $250 rebate to the gas company because we now have a high efficiency furnace. I also need to call them about getting on the "budget bill" plan they offer.

I'm in the process of developing a system for coupons. Apparently the real money is in rebates and refunds. I'm looking into this. I make pretty good use of my grocery store loyalty cards, though.

I get books for (nearly) free from www.paperbackswap.com. I mail out my books, and when they're received I earn a credit, which I can use to get a new book from someone else. All it costs is postage. Wish someone would start something like this for kids' clothes!! Paper Back Swap has a Swap a CD site, too. I've saved hundreds of dollars, not buying books at retail (I still buy books at retail, but I always check PBS first, so I'm at least saving some money... With the speed I go through books, it's totally worth it).

Anyway, what are your best money saving tips and strategies? Leave them in the comments!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Toy Manufacturers are Out of Their Tiny Minds

Last time I checked, anyone with half a brain knew at least two things:

1) Kids put things in their mouths.
2) Lead is very high on the list of "bad snack ideas" - around the same level as cyanide and iocain powder.

So, why oh why oh WHY would they put lead paint on Thomas the Tank Engine children's toys?

We have the stop sign and the railroad crossing sign. And I have seen MG put them in her mouth about a bazillion times.

And now I have to clean the toy room, because I can't find the stupid things, and I'm just sure that she'll eat them if I don't confiscate them right now. *sigh*

Baby Jet Set

I just got a note from an old friend. She mentioned that she and her husband are taking their kiddo (who was born on the same day as MG) to France next month.

BJ and I lost our minds and took MG to France when she was 13 months old, and we learned a TON. I thought I'd share it here, for posterity's sake, and in case any of you ever lose your mind and decide to attempt international travel with a baby.

Our biggest concern was the plane ride. That was stupid. Our biggest concern should have been transportation. But we'll get to that... Our doctor told us to give her Benedryl on the plane. I do NOT want to hear about what a horrible mother I am for "drugging" my child. We'll just agree that I'm horrible, but I'm more popular among my plane-mates than someone who refuses to "drug" her child, and move on. Seriously, though, our flight left around 4 pm, and arrived around 7 am (local times), and she slept nearly the whole flight, and it was wonderful. BJ and I didn't get much sleep, because we were busy trying to keep her in the seat, but that's ok.

We had her between us, and when she fell asleep we spread her blanket out on the seat and over the tray table. Then we put the carry-on on top of the tray table, so that it was sort of hammock-like. That way, if she rolled while we were dozing, she didn't roll off of the seat. Quite brilliant, aren't we?

Our flight out wasn't full, so we didn't buy a seat for MG. We just requested the two seats on either side of the three-seat middle section, knowing that no one in his right mind would want to pick the middle, given a choice, and that MG could have that empty seat. That worked, but it was risky. If I had it to do over (considering that she didn't have a seat on the way back because the flight was full, and it was miserable), I'd suck it up and buy her a ticket. Actually, I hear that the "under two, fly free" rule will be changing soon, but that's just a rumor. Anyway, if you want to know what it's like to share an airplane seat with a toddler, find the least comfortable chair in your house, put it about eight inches from the wall (facing the wall), grab your baby or toddler, and sit in it for the duration of your upcoming flight. Then buy your kid a seat. It'll still be tough, but at least you'll have some precious personal space. (The other option would be to fly first class, but I think 3 coach seats are still cheaper than 2 first class seats).

Our return flight left at 11 am and arrived at 1 pm (local time), so it was a weird day for MG. The benedryl didn't work at all. The lesson here is, if you're going to be on a plane for 8 hours, try to make those 8 nighttime hours, so your kid doesn't have a weird 36 hour day that screws her up. It literally took me two weeks to get her back on a normal routine, which was hard on everyone.

In flight entertainment was a challenge. You don't want to lug 50 pounds of board books onto a plane. Don't forget that small kids love repetition. They will happily read the same book 12 squajillion times. So save your back and take a few (non-board) favorites. Trust me, though. Do NOT take books that will drive you nuts. This is NOT the time for Dora. Dora sucks. Bring things that you have memorized, so you can close your eyes and recite them while Junior turns the pages. That's probably the closest thing you're going to get to rest, honestly.

Beyond books, we found puppets to be a big success (bonus, they're light, squishy, and don't take up much space). Of course, you can always make your own Odoriferous J. Stockingham (of the London Stockinghams) but that's a whole 'nother post. Crayons would've been good for her at this age, but she didn't quite get it at 13 months. If we were doing it now (hahaha... We'd have to be crazy with two under two!) I would take some modeling clay - the kind that cleans up easily, not play-dough. We also had fun looking for dogs and cats in all the in-flight magazines. Magazines are pretty good for babies - especially magazines that feature lots of dogs, cats, and babies. I'm a total nutjob, and I will make up stories about the babies in magazines ("That baby's crying because the doggie on page 30 ran away from him. What should he say? 'Heeerrreee doggie!' Do you think he'll be happy if that doggie comes back? Let's look at the doggie again..." etc.) I also enjoy drawing clothes on magazine critters. It makes her laugh. We also make up songs, but you're going to think I'm seriously warped if I start posting those!

By far, the best distraction was Hershey Kisses. Yes, I know. I'm going to cause her to have all sorts of "food issues" by using chocolate as a reward. Whatever. It worked. Sometimes you have to do whatever works. We took other snacks, too. Both for variety's sake, and for helping her clear her ears on the plane. You definitely want to have lots of beverages available. We found that the flight attendants were very accommodating, and brought us things as-needed, and not just when the beverage cart went by. Actually, they were even kinder when I traveled with MG to Texas by myself (and visibly pregnant - I got a lot of great sympathy on that trip!!). Now that they have all the stupid rules about liquids, you will have to buy them once you pass security, but it's worth it. It may be a good idea to take a soft-sided cooler, so that you can stock up in the airport and then keep them cool for the wait.

Entertaining a toddler in an airport can be a challenge. They move fast. They're small. And people are in a hurry (and dragging huge luggage) and they're not looking for people at toddler height - they're looking up at the arrival boards, etc. most of the time. You want to keep your little one in the stroller as long as possible. I know it's counter-intuitive - he's going to be cooped up on a plane for 12 hours, but trust me. Once you get to your gate, you can use your carry-ons or movable benches to block off an area (enlist the help of other parents who are on your flight) and make a corral for the little ones. Get all the kids playing together, and then you can go "visit your friends" every once in a while during the flight. You may even get the other parents to take your kids for an hour so you can nap, if you offer to take theirs to your seats, first. Or, you could, if you find some really cool family with a kid or two around your child's age, ask them if they want to see if you all can sit together. Nothing entertains kids like other kids! Airline personnel know this, and might be willing to move mountains to make it happen, but you have to ask.

Now, a word about strollers. You may be tempted to take a cheap umbrella stroller to save weight and space. Or, you may have completely lost your mind and thought, "Oh, we're not taking a stroller!" Repent! You want to take the biggest Humvee of a stroller you can find.

I know, this seems really stupid, but trust Mommy. We didn't have enough room in the car to take our giant Graco stroller, and we regretted every minute of it. For one thing, the Graco reclines. When MG fell asleep in the umbrella stroller we ended up borrowing, we had to tip it back onto the two back wheels to recline her, which caused a lot of back difficulty for us (plus, it didn't look that comfortable for her). Another perk of the Graco is that there is storage underneath. I can't tell you how many times I tipped the umbrella stroller because I took MG out without taking the bags off of the back. Of course, the Graco would've been more comfortable for MG, too, even awake. The umbrella stroller's seat was pretty wimpy in the padding department. But the biggest disadvantage of all was that we borrowed the umbrella stroller in France - so we didn't have a stroller in the airports! I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that I had an easier time when I took MG to Texas by myself, with the big stroller, than I had with no stroller and four adults when we went to France.

Take the big stroller, thank me later.

Also, if there is the slightest chance that you will be in a car of any kind, take your own car seat. I know, I know, you don't want to drag all this junk through the airport. Trust me. European rules about car seats are not what you think they are. I thought everyone would have Britax. Ha ha.. And people drive like maniacs over there, honestly. We borrowed a car seat, and spent the entire trip worrying about it. Sure, we were very grateful to the family of our friend who loaned us this stuff, and it was extremely generous of them, and I am not trying to be a brat, here... But peace of mind is a beautiful thing, especially away from home. If there is anything that can help you achieve peace of mind, take it. Get a sherpa if you must. Check the car seat, (and gate check the stroller). It's really not going to save anyone in the event of a crash. In fact, from everything I've read about plane crashes, it's going to make things worse. You've got a ridiculously short amount of time - on the order of 10 to 20 seconds, to get out of the plane if there's a crash. I don't know about you, but I can't get my screaming kid out of a car seat that fast, let alone get out of a door (even if there's a cool inflatable slide involved). In my completely amateur opinion, you're much better off holding the child, and then bolting for the door if possible. But, let's face it, plane crashes being what they are, you might as well bend over and kiss your ass goodbye, so there's no sense worrying about it.

Well, that took a turn for the morbid. Moving right along... Let's talk about Europe.

I'm pretty certain that all Europeans (or at least, all French persons) spring forth from the womb as 5 year olds - fully potty trained, eating pâté, and looking snidely at anyone who doesn't do those things. This is just my opinion, but it is based on two important facts:

1) There are no changing tables in France.
2) There are no children's menus in France.

This is where we come back to that big horkin' stroller that I convinced you to take along. It reclines, remember? So you can change a diaper wherever you are. This is a beautiful thing. I changed diapers on some surfaces that I really don't care to think about right now, because I just ate lunch. Honestly, they were gross. And there were no changing tables to be found. And when you say things like, "Est-ce qu'il ya une place pour changer la bebe?" they look at you like you're high. Hey, I tried.

So, you take your Humvee stroller, and you're good. I think the reason that they don't have changing tables is because they don't feed babies in France (because everyone's over 5). Seriously, MG had just started eating real food, and was on a steady diet of ravioli and chicken nuggets, and we had a hell of a time finding food for her to eat. On one hand, it was nice that she had to try new things, and I'm pretty sure that this is why, at 22 months, she'll eat scallops and salmon and other non-kid food, but at the same time, sometimes you just want your kid to EAT, not have a cultural experience. We found that quiche worked really well for this purpose. Also, a lot of restaurants have ravioli. I got in the habit of ordering something that I knew she would eat, and sharing, so I didn't pay another 10 Euros for a meal that she'd take two bites of and then heave onto the floor. All in all, she did really well, and I was very glad that she was nursing at the time, so I knew that there was always something nutritious for her, no matter what.

Take a sweater for baby wherever you go. I was astonished at how much the temperature could vary in a day (in October). Just like for grown-ups, the rule is "Layer"!

Oh, I almost forgot. They haven't heard of the ADA in Europe. Maybe they're keeping all the disabled people wherever they keep the babies. Anyhow, do not go with any expectation that you and your Humvee stroller are going to be able to get around easily. We ended up carrying the stroller up and down stairs and escalators (I know) in Metro stations because there were no elevators to be found in most of them. However, I maintain that unless your stroller really weighs as much as a Humvee, the benefits of having it will outweigh the pain in the ass factor of having to run it up and down stairs. You're also going to have to deal with curbs, and small doors, and other potential hazards. One of the things I came back appreciating was how much easier it is for people to get around here, even though we don't have the public transportation and things that are available in Europe.

The biggest problem we faced was when MG came down sick. She was getting really high fevers at night, and it was scary. You want to make sure you take a thermometer, any meds you would use for your kid (write down the correct doses before you go, because you don't want to make an international call to Walgreen's, and you don't want to guess), and any medical equipment you have ever had to use on your kid (I'm thinking inhalers and whatnot, but I'm sure that other things would fall into this category). Fortunately, our friend Tim was with us, and his family is made up of mostly doctors, so we were able to get treatment (free, even, with a housecall!) and to translate. It may not be a bad idea, if you're not fluent in the language of the place you're visiting, to write down a few key phrases, for example:

"My child is allergic to X."
"My child has a fever."
"My child is vomiting."
"My child is injured here (with the idea that you would point)."
"Is an English translator available?"
"Please speak slowly, I do not understand you."
etc.

Babelfish is good for some of these things, but it isn't reliable, so check with a native speaker of the language, if possible, before you go. Be aware that some things are named different things in Europe. Tylenol, for example, is called paracetamol. This is the best reason to take your own, in my opinion, so you know what you're getting.

That about exhausts my expertise in this area. I'm sure that I'll think of many more helpful hints and tips for traveling with a baby. Even though it sounds like it was a Major Troop Movement (and it was), our trip to France was one of the most fun things we've ever done with MG. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It was exhausting, but it was a lot of fun.

Bon voyage!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And she's so modest!

The technicians are here installing our new central air unit (YAY!!!!). When they came in the house, MG informed them, "I've got pretty hair!"

Yesterday, she told my mom, "Much I love you."

And when we went to Panera for a snack, she informed the cashier, "Grandma's got money!"

Smart kid, and so modest!!! Hahaha...

I wish I could bottle her self-esteem and save it for when she's 14 and she hates everything about herself. I thought I was the ugliest creature on earth when I was 13, 14, 15... and looking back, I was pretty cute! I wish I looked like that now (especially post-bad-haircut!). Anyway, it would be really nice if I could put this confidence of hers in a box and save it for her. I wonder if there's any way that she can keep it, in spite of the media, etc. always wanting everyone to look like Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie and other vapid, twiggy blondes.

I hope that this trend goes away before my girls are teenagers, but I'm not going to hold my breath. For now, I'm just going to say, "you sure do!" when she says she's pretty, and hope that she'll keep believing it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Shaken Baby Syndrome

I never understood, before I had kids, how someone could hurt a child. Before I had kids, I had never felt the depths of frustration that I've felt with my kids - when they just wouldn't stop crying, and they just wouldn't sleep, and nothing would comfort them (or me).

I have been to some very dark places inside of myself since MG was born. She has not been an easy baby. She is very wakeful, and very alert, and has always needed constant stimulation and interaction - almost since the day she was born. She is an exhausting child. Now that we have C, who is a much more typical baby, I know that this is just part of who MG is - not any failure on my part. Parenting her differently wouldn't have made any difference - she would still be MG.

She's not bad, she's intense.

Ironically, the things that make her so tough are also the things that make her so wonderful. I can see that now. It wasn't so easy to see when she was really small. When she was really small, I didn't know if things were ever going to get better. Sure, people told me that it would, but those peoples' kids were also sleeping through the night by 6 months. They didn't have My Kid. The couldn't really Know.

The only person I could really take much advice from was my mom, because I was the same way when I was a baby. So, she promised that it would get better, and I believed her, and I learned to call her when I Just Didn't Think I Could Take It Anymore. And she was always there, even when I scared her.

Combine all of the above with a raging case of postpartum depression, and I was practically a ticking time bomb. Seeing those pictures of that little boy just made my heart ache, because it was very literally, "There, but for the grace of God, go I..."

I think it's important to talk about these issues - frustration in parenting, shaken baby syndrome, postpartum depression - because they are so real, and so common. Normal people, people you love, people like me feel angry at their babies. It's not just something that happens to bad mothers.

I am a good mother. I hope that you can see it in the way I write about my kids (and if you know me in real life, the way I am with them). I am a good mother, and I almost shook MG. We tried for two years to get pregnant. I wanted to have a child to the depths of my soul. And I got so angry and frustrated and tired and strung out that I almost shook her. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.

I am putting this out there, my confession, so that other parents who may read this someday will know that they are not alone. It is normal to feel angry. Feeling angry doesn't make you a bad parent. Thinking is one thing, acting is another.

I wrote earlier that I am grateful that I have always had the strength and clarity to put my babies down, gently, and walk away. One time, I almost didn't. MG bit me, hard, while nursing. When I scolded her, she laughed. I won't attempt to justify the rage I felt, I will just say that at that moment, I came so close to losing it that it scared me. I thank God that I walked away. It wasn't easy. I went into the bathroom and screamed into a towel. I cried. And I stayed there until I had myself under control again.

Even a good driver can experience road rage. Even a good parent can experience fury toward his or her child. The important thing is what you do with those feelings. Do you run the other driver off the road, or do you pull over until you cool off? Do you shake your baby, or do you walk away? I am grateful that I walked away. I hope that other parents who might read this will feel less alone, and will understand that their dark thoughts don't make them bad parents, and will remember this if they ever get to the point where they're in danger of losing it:

Walk away. Breathe. Breathe again. Deeply. You're going to be okay, and so is your child. This too shall pass.

This too shall pass.



Back to the Cute!

 
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Oh, my heart

I am so grateful for my healthy children.

I am so grateful for the wonderful people in their lives who have cared for them so gently and loved them so well.

I am so very, very grateful that when I have been angry, I have had the strength and the clarity to lay my babies gently in their cribs, and walk away. (I will write more about this later, but I can't right now.)

I am going to pray for this child and his parents. I don't know if it will do any good, but it sure can't hurt. If you're the praying type, I hope you will, too.

Now, I'm going to go hug my kids.

I am a complete idiot

I got my hair cut. I am a complete idiot. I have never, ever liked a hair cut that I have had. Not once. And they all end up looking the same (because I pull it back off of my face with a rubber band or barrette) eventually. This is serious Over-30-Mom-Hair, and it is hideous and I hate it.

Why do hair dressers lie? "Oh, you'll just be able to towel it dry after a shower, put in a little of this (more expensive than the haircut) product, and go!" Or, "Oh, this will look really cute on you!" or "Oh, layers! Bangs! Fabulous!!!" And why does my IQ drop by 50 points whenever I get near one of those upsy-downsy chairs? "Bangs? SURE! Bring 'em on! It's just hair, it'll grow back." What was I thinking?

I think that hairdressers go into the business because they want the opportunity to make other women look worse, therefore elevating their own cuteness. Blowing out my candle to make theirs burn brighter, as it were. And it works, because I look hideous. What I really need is a good gay hairdresser - a real queen. That takes the competition out of it. Gay men want everyone to look fabulous. They'd paint the world and add accessories to everything if they could, because they want to be surrounded by beauty. My friend Niko, in college, was the only person in the dorms whose room had been finished by an interior decorator. If that isn't wanting to be surrounded by beauty, then I don't know what is. If anyone knows a good gay hairdresser in my area or how to make hair grow fast, let me know.

Moving right along... Last night C was fussy after we got MG to bed, so I took her outside to walk her (sometimes that works). I heard a kid crying on the other side of the very big tree, and when I came around the corner I saw that a little boy from down the street had fallen on his bike, right in the middle of the street.

So, being the big idiot that I am, I went to help him (with C in my arms, remember). I lifted him up off of the bike (he was tangled up and stuck) and then attempted to walk the bike back to his house for him. Yeah. Attempted. My stupid shoe got caught under the wheel of the bike, and I went down. Hard. On my knee.

Miraculously, I managed to hold onto C and keep her from hitting the ground. She was on my left arm, and I went down on my right knee. I basically tucked and rolled. Total instinct. I fell out of a chair at Mimi's once when MG was little, and did the same thing. That "act first, think later," feeling is very surreal. You end up on the ground thinking, "Wow, did I really do that? Cool!" and feeling like a ninja. A ninja with a really sore knee. In describing it to BJ later, I compared it to the scene in Star Wars where Luke is fighting the flying laser thingie with a helmet over his eyes, and BJ was all smug that I referenced Star Wars. He's turning me into a nerd.

So, my knee looks like ground meat, I have Really Bad Hair, and I'm a Star Wars nerd. I will spare you the pictures. MG was cute, "Mommy's got an owie on her knee." Longest sentence, I think, that she's ever uttered.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Lazy Sunday

We had BIG fun yesterday for Daddy's birthday! First we drove to Grandpa Ben and Grandma Nancy's farm for hot dogs and burgers.

 


Then we went to the Drive-In Movie Theater where we saw Shrek III. We were going to stay for Pirates of the Caribbean III, but it wasn't going to end until 2:10 am, which would've put us home at about 3 am, and that's just too late for babies.

 


Especially babies who are having a hard time falling asleep in the car due to all the noise and excitement of the Drive-In. Max came with us, too. She and her cousin-dog Rocky played at the farm, and had loads of fun growling and barking at each other. Max was a very good dog at the Drive-In. And today, everyone is pretty sleepy:

 


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Happy Birthday BJ!

Today is BJ's birthday! Leave him a nice birthday greeting in the comments!!!

Happy birthday, Honey. I'm so glad you were born!

Friday, June 8, 2007

It's WTF Friday!!!

There's just never a dull moment around here. It's WTF Friday!!!

So, I went to Walmart with the girls. I always park near the cart return because it's way easier than trying to return the cart a half a mile away when I've already packed the babies into the car. So, I put the babies in the car, I put the stuff in the car, and I returned the cart. This is what I saw:

 


Yes, Virginia. That is a drunk man, passed out in a cart.

I looked at the nearest person, and she looked at me and shrugged. She said that a black truck had pulled up, the man driving had dumped the guy into the cart, and the truck took off. She said, "I'm pretty sure he's still alive."

I'm pretty sure he's still alive???

Then the manager came out and I volunteered to call 911, and she nodded, so I did. The cart guys were totally freaking out. While I was on hold with 911 I went to the car and got my camera (of course) so that I could share this experience with all of you. At first, people looked at me like I was high. Then I said, "What? I have a blog!" and then they all took their camera phones out and started taking pictures.

 


So, then the fire department showed up, and even one of the firemen took out his camera phone and took a picture (ha ha!). They rubbed on his sternum until he woke up.

 
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Then, without much fanfare, they dumped the cart out on its side and the guy walked himself to the ambulance. I was really surprised that he could walk.

It was all very random and surreal. I was really glad that the guy wasn't dead, because this story wouldn't be quite as funny if he had been. But, seriously, what kind of bad friend dumps your drunk ass in a cart at Walmart and takes off? And you thought that you were having a bad day!