Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Me Time

I have a question for moms of toddlers/babies:  What would you do if you had 24 hours completely to yourself?  Sounds like a little slice of heaven, doesn't it?  Well, I had that glorious opportunity this past weekend and completely squandered it.

I had a bridal shower to attend and my husband took the kids down to his family's bay house for the day/night/following day.  Seriously, why have I not figured out that I should make up some kind of girls-only event that I am obligated to attend more often?  Chalk it up to increasingly multiplied amount of brain cells lost with each pregnancy/ kid.  I will probably let something crop up in a few weeks again-- gotta space it out a little so he doesn't get too suspicious ;)

Well, it appears that, without the never ending to-do list, I am completely lost and helpless.  My life is now a series of completing the tasks listed on a bunch of crumpled up papers in my diaper bag (never did make that transition back to a normal purse; now the massive saddlebag is filled with toys and trash, but equally as heavy and full as when it was filled with actual baby essentials).

So, for once, there was no to-do list this weekend.  I finally hit the major nesting phase and went a little crazy being on top of things in the last 2 weeks or so.  I have been eagerly ticking the tasks off my list until I got to the point where both my closet and the baby's are fully prepared for 10 degree weather if it hits tomorrow.

Which left me a full 24 hours of peace and infinite possibilities... but I forgot just what it is that I like to do for fun when I am by myself.  Could it really have been that long since I have had a little free time to participate in a hobby or two?  Let's see... about 5 years, so yea.  Kinda sad that I hadn't noticed I don't have hobbies anymore, though.  That's when you realize you have been reassuring yourself with: "but I am a good person!"  Sure, that counts as a hobby.

I was certainly not going to start a book since I knew I would get maybe 50 pages into it, only to finish about a year and a half from now.  And I didn't want to waste it on TV or a nap.  I wanted to do something exciting, something that would make this 24 hours worth living for!  Something like doing a really awesome painting or knitting a complete hat & mittens set or going for a 10 mile run-- you know, things that I am not remotely capable of doing.  So what do you think I did?

Spent a truly humiliating amount of time thinking about "van configuration."  I can only hope that most of you are saying "Oh, yea!  Van configuration! I  have thought about that a lot in my spare time."  But my better judgement tells me that most of you are thinking "I'm sorry, van what?"  The sad part is that I really enjoyed pondering the different ways I could move the van seats around to make the most space for 3 kids, myself and my 98 pounds of junk that goes with me every time we need to go for a 10 minute car ride.  I was also really proud of myself that I took into consideration keeping the baby in his own separate row so he wouldn't get his eyes poked out by a big brother who likes to point out that the white part is separate from the colored and black parts of the eye ball.

By that time, I was just so exhausted from all of that intellectual stimulation, I ended up taking that dreaded nap I had been avoiding all day.  And you know what?  It was wonderful-- and pretty much everything I could have wanted or expected out of a little quiet time to myself.  Sometimes you just can't teach an old dog new tricks... and I'm pretty ok with that ;)

Plus, I had to get my beauty rest for when these little hooligans busted back through the door. Honestly, I really missed them, even if it was for just a day.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cruel Mommy Myths

I can still remember when Niall turned 13 months old-- it was like this slow morphing of a perfect angel into some kind of monster over the course of 30 days or so.  I could see that sweet little baby slipping out of my hands and didn't understand what was happening.  Well, I'll tell you what was happening-- Christmas "the terrible twos" came early at my house, and I had no forewarning whatsoever.

It lasted until he was almost 2, but by his second birthday, everything was pretty much back to normal.  Those 9 months were not fun.  But I can tell you what's even more not fun: when you amplify those tantrums by about 75% and stretch out the time frame another year or so.  That would be my Brendan.

For me, babies are easy.  They eat, sleep, poop, smile and snuggle-- I relish every minute of those months 3-12 (as soon as they can mostly sleep through the night).  Ahh, these were the days...

And this was probably my last vivid memory before it all started to take a turn for the worse:

It's once they start walking and getting that first taste of independence that I think the whole parenting thing gets REALLY HARD.  Nobody tells you that the terrible twos might not actually start around age 2 when you are expecting it; at least in my house, they start the month after the baby turns 1 and don't end until... well, it's been a year and a half so far with Brendan and the attitude now is pretty much the same as it was then...

Let's see... in this one, he was mad that I was trying to take a picture
In this one, I think he was upset that I gave him the wrong water cup
Pretty sure he was angry at the wind
That cow was very offensive

It's a cruel joke, the whole phases thing.  Everyone has an end date to throw at you for all things baby/kid related.  Oh, breastfeeding will only hurt for [1 week...2 weeks... 1 month] until you realize after 2 months of agony that you might just be one of those people that it never gets better for.  Same thing with terrible twos, kids pooping their pants for a year, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

The terrible twos are not just some thing that every kid does the same way.  It has taken me 4 years to figure out that it's 100% the kid's personality.  Brendan is a diva and there is no changing that.  For Niall, it was just a phase of growing into his independence and dealing with those limitations and frustrations; it had a concrete start and finish.  For Brendan, there isn't an interaction in the world that isn't worth crying, whining, exploding, or causing some kind of scene over... except when we are around the people who I like to do my venting to; he loves to act like a perfect angel in front of them to make me look crazy :)

Some of my favorite reasons that Brendan has completely freaked out on me lately:

-we are going the wrong way (driving in the car)
-he doesn't like the song I've selected on the radio
-he had to put shoes on to go outside
-he doesn't want his water (putting a sippy cup in the cup holder is unacceptable unless he asks for it)
-he tells me the same story 8 times in a row and each time, my reaction of "Oh really?  Cool!" isn't enthusiastic enough
-I tried to help him with getting his clothes on... 10 minutes later, he still can't get his clothes on and is now mad that I'm not helping
-He asked for waffles for breakfast... I made them... but he actually wanted cereal (I still have a lot of work to do on my telepathy skills)

So what really scares me is how many people have told me that the 3rd kid is just SO EASY.  So go-with-the-flow, so happy to just be included and tag along, so everything-you-dream-about-a-kid-being-before-you-actually-have-kids.  Why does this scare me?  Because I BELIEVE THEM!  It just occurred to me the other day that I could be banking on something that is just another terrible myth.  I have been envisioning this barely noticeable kid just boppin around with us, smiling and cooing... and I suddenly realized that this might not be the way it is.  I think it's time to start mentally and emotionally preparing myself for a different version of reality.


Every time I write something like this, something where I have less than pleasant things to say about parenthood, I come across a heart-wrenching article that makes me want to slap myself and pretend I never had any of those feelings.  But the truth is, no matter how great someone else's loss or how lucky I realize that I am, I did/do still have these feelings sometimes, and pretending or hiding that doesn't make any of it go away...

What I will say is that for every 1 negative experience I have with my kids, I have at least 10 great ones that make it all worth it.  For every time I want to scream at the top of my lungs or lock a kid in their room for wayyy longer than the recommended 2-4 minutes-- all it takes is one "I love you mom!", 1 hug, 1 smile, 1 giggle, 1 funny anecdote; it all makes me realize how incredibly blessed I am every single day.  Life is so much more rich and fulfilling and *interesting*, to say the least, with these guys in it.

And the next time my head is about to explode, I will try... really hard... to remember that ;)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Note(s) to self

I've learned a lot in the last month-- about both parenting and life in general.  Most of it, I probably already knew, but didn't want to/ choose to acknowledge it until recently.  The thing is, when you have to tend to a couple of small children while carrying around a bowling ball in your abdomen, you really have to adjust your standards/ expectations/ perception of reality... whether you want to or not.

So I'm forcing myself to take a little mental note; things that I really need to accept as truths-- at least for the next year or so (but more likely for the next 10-20 years... and then probably the rest of my life, because at that point, I'll just be old and exhausted).

1) I am always going to be tired and never have enough time in the day.

Why I keep setting my alarm for 5:45 am every day expecting to pop up and cheerfully get my to-do list done while everyone else is still sleeping, I will never know.  Morning after morning, I consistently hit the snooze button 12 times or so, until my kids come in and wake me up themselves. So tonight, maybe, could I just be honest with myself for once and not set the alarm and feel ok about the fact that my bulging leg veins might just need a little bit more rest?

2) Everything is a phase-- both good and bad.

You know when your kid is hitting you in the face because you had the audacity to make him get in his car seat and your friend tries to make you feel better by reminding you that it's just a phase? Well, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you; that goes for the good parts, too, my friend.  When your kids are finally both in a good stretch where they are sleeping through the night and not giving you a hard time going to bed-- it's only a matter of time before someone starts having nightmares or they realize that they can throw books at each other once you leave the room or slurp all the water out of their sippy cups to use as super soakers on each other.  And they will wait until you have, or are about to have, a brand spankin new baby before they enter this new phase... just to keep things interesting.

On another note, Brendan entered the "terrible twos" phase at exactly age 13 months and still hasn't come out of it (over a year and a half later).  Not a fan of "phases."

3)  Pre-assembled furniture is worth its weight in gold.

With new babies and new bedroom arrangements comes a torturous amount of work for the hubby-- assembling new furniture, hanging curtain rods, swapping out cribs for toddler beds and toddler beds for twins... I don't know about anyone else, but when Matt sees one of those massive cardboard box shipments leaned up against our house, he kind of looks like his head might explode. After 6 years of marriage, I've finally learned that it is worth a truck ride to go pick up a piece of furniture that doesn't require 4 hours of your time and 12 pages of instructions to put together.

4)   Painting is for school and this is why God didn't give me girls.

We have a special crafts box that sits on the very top shelf of our playroom-- so high that I need a step stool to get to it.  We pull it out maybe once a year.  Yesterday, I was gently reminded of why it sits on that top shelf, untouched for so long.  Niall asked me if they could paint outside after Brendan woke up from his nap, and it actually, for one second, sounded like a pretty good idea to me.  Until they started painting the deck and the chairs and the bricks that are part of MY HOUSE and everything except the 47 feet of paper that I put in front of them.  I just hope my neighbors didn't see/ hear me when I threw a stage 5 temper tantrum and started chucking their paints into the garbage can while screaming "NEVER AGAIN!!! YOU CAN PAINT AT SCHOOL AND THAT'S IT... FOREVER!!!"

5)  A work out is a work out.  Tomato / Tomaato.

I truly believe that pushing a stroller with a 2 1/2 yr old and 4 1/2 year old in it, while carrying a human being in your stomach has to count as the full hour strenuous work outs I used to participate in--  even if that walk is only 15 minutes and I am drinking a pumpkin spice latte while doing it. Well maybe I don't believe that, but I am just going to keep telling myself that.

6)  There is no shame in candy bribing.

I try to use real consequences and reasonable privileges whenever possible... but there are times when you could hand a kid 1 hershey kiss to get some cooperation and it would save you 30 minutes of headaches and crying (for both you and the kid).  In those times, I say give the kid a hershey kiss and call it a day.  And then pat yourself on the back for taking the opportunity to make your life just a little bit easier.

7)  If you are pregnant and have other small children, you really HAVE to put your feet up.

I know everyone hates when people say this to them-- How are you supposed to put your feet up when you have to cook, clean and raise a bunch of kids at the same time?  I have no idea, but I do know that by 7pm, my legs feel like they are going to fall off and if I have to chase 1 more person to get them in the bath tub, I am going to turn into redneck beat-down mom who threatens to give her kiddos a good whoopin at the count of 3.  This is why I have decided (as of 10 minutes ago) to retreat to the couch for a good 15 minute feet-up break after dinner... which will probably end up being 2 minutes of peace and 13 minutes of being jumped on and hit in the face with pillows.  But hey, it's worth a shot.

8)  I will never stop being freaked out by a baby fist or foot jutting out of my stomach.  

You would think by the third time around, I would barely notice the little guy swimming around in there... but I still wince and squirm like someone catching a glimpse of a centipede sitting on their pillow every time this baby suddenly rams his appendages out of my belly.  And for some reason, I keep thinking that if I gently pat my stomach and tell him to calm down a little, that he will be willing and/or capable of listening. Really, what would make me think that this kid would follow my instructions anyway-- don't I have 2 other kids who completely debunk that theory?

9)  Worrying doesn't solve anything.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am completely freaked out about having a third c-section.  My first 2 births didn't go so well, despite my best efforts to have them naturally.  So this time I am scheduled to have a c-section, which is completely new and scary to me.  Naturally, I've been researching all of the risks and things that can go wrong with the third c-section because that's the best thing you can do for yourself when you have to have a procedure that is completely out of your control-- scare yourself to death.  But today, I woke up for the first time feeling really excited that meeting this baby is really just around the corner.  I want to focus on how nice it will be to know that I will only have to wait 15 minutes until I can see and hold this baby, as opposed to 40 hours of wasted labor the first time (and 24 hours the second time).  From now on, I am going to really try to commit to only thinking happy thoughts about this new little guy who we will get to meet so soon!

10)  For all of the times I've lost my patience and wanted to pull my hair out recently, being lucky enough to hang with these little hooligans all day is totally worth it.