Saturday, February 23, 2013

9 is fine

Dear N,

Every time I look at you I can't get over it.  You are turning 9 years old.  I imagine I will continue this little song-and-dance for the rest of my life....seeing you turn 19 and 29 and on and on, in shock and awe that my first baby is, gasp, growing up and then grown.

I have to include one sweet baby picture...

I really think you're a neat kid, but I always have.  You are so bright and personable.  You seem to have Daddy's dry sense of humor.  You say things sometimes in such an understated way that it is even funnier than you intended just because of your delivery.

Another of your father's traits you share is your expectation to be awesome at something from the moment you begin to learn it which leads to some tears and frustration.  You are your mother's child, though, which means you share some of my not-so-great traits, like being a bit of a worrywart and dramatist.  Changing your earrings is something of a torture for both of us because of your anxious hyperventilating and my lack of compassion (even though I did the same things to my own mother when it came to earring care).  Still, you seem to me to be far more balanced than I was at the same age.  You seem to be ok with your own skin, at least for now.  

I so enjoy learning piano with you and introducing you to books.  You have taken a shine to Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, which is one of the books I read and re-read as a girl.  (It weirds me out a bit to think that I can remember myself at your age.)  It makes me happy when you ask me to snuggle in bed with you and rub your back after the lights go out.  It makes me think back to the days when I'd rock you to sleep every night.

It is such a great privilege for me to be your mom, to be able to see you change and find who you are and who you want to be.  As the years pass, I fear your entry into the world of the teenager.  I have a difficult time managing my own moods, so the thought of your moods growing erratic unnerves me.

I hope, though, that the foundation of our relationship is strong enough to weather life's challenges with aplomb.  (And that we can both remember to say I'm sorry and forgive.)

Happy 9th Birthday, my love.  I can't wait for you to see your big surprise (and I can't wait to share in it with you)!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mommy the heroine

At least this is what N is calling me today.

I am not the kind of person who generally stops to help people or dogs or do anything that would be considered good samaritan-like.  Ok, there was that one time when I was pregnant and saved a snapping turtle, but surely that was just crazy hormones having their way with me.  

But today, after taking N to the orthodontist, I saw an older woman (late 60s or early 70s) walking along the expressway away from her car.  Maybe she reminded me too much of my own mother, but I pulled over and walked to meet her, to see if she needed help.  She had run out of gas.  

She used my phone to call her son.  She said he didn't say anything out of shock when she explained what had happened which I suspect might be the normal response when children come to that stage of life when they end up parenting their parents.  I told her son I would drop her off at the nearest Starbucks so that she wouldn't be alone with her car until he could leave work and come help her (since I couldn't stay with her indefinitely because I had to pick up G from preschool and return N to school).  

Once we dropped her off, N kept saying, "That was such a nice thing to do, Momma."  

And it was.  But I then had to explain my rationale for helping.  That I helped because she was an older woman, and I felt like it was safe for me to give her a ride.  That if she had been a young man I wouldn't have done so (and likely wouldn't have stopped at all).  I would have offered my phone and then been on my way.  That I only would have given a ride to an old, old man, like Papaw Chester's age.  That it is nice to help people but you have to protect yourself.  I had to take into consideration her and M's safety too.  

All that explaining seemed, at least to me, to take some of the shine off having my children see me do a nice deed and learn how to treat people, but there is no way around it.  Such is life in the modern world.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Oh, the raising of sons

I hear people lament the difficulty of raising girls, but for me, for now, my challenge is these boys.  I should have known what was to come when G moved so much in utero at 15 weeks of pregnancy that I became motion sick.

Today I began reading, Wild Things:  The Art of Nurturing Boys, and I have to say that it made me feel tremendously better to read the following on page xi:

Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher writes, 'Of all animals, the boy is the most unmanageable, inasmuch as he has the fountain of reason in him not yet regulated.' Can we get an amen?  As a general rule, boys are more difficult to rear than girls.  They are tougher to parent.  They are tougher to teach.  They are tougher to relate with.  They are tougher to mentor and coach.

This winter has been a real challenge for me.  It has been difficult to get out to do active things with them, and keeping them inside while I try to tend to household chores is just giving myself more work to do.

My boys, and I daresay most boys, are roughnecks, with me and each other.  Rather than hug me, they run at me and jump into my chest and arms.  They smack my butt and punch my belly, and while they do it with love and affection, it gets oh so tiring.

When they are not being physically rough, they are yelling or roaring or growling at the top of their lungs.  Every day of my life is an experience in sensory overload.

I have moments of brilliance when I feel like I am being a really good mom of boys.

Like Monday, when I needed to clean the master bathroom and decided to try to contain the chaos and mess in one room (since normally as I clean up one room they destroy 3 other rooms of the house).  I had the boys strip to their undies/diapers and get into their bathtub sitting on a large towel.  I filled their bath toy bowls with shaving cream and let them have at it.  The only rule was that they could not get out of the tub.

Later on during that freakishly warm February day I took them to the park where they ran themselves ragged on the playground equipment, and we walked around exploring rocks and trees.

But most of the time I feel like I'm not meeting their needs and being worn down to a nub in the process.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Books I'm (and we're) reading (or planning to read)

I've been doing some consulting work with a family that is having issues with their middle schooler.  It makes me remember how much I enjoy working with middle schoolers (even though they are bat-shit nuts), and it makes me think that if there are only two things a person does as a parent they will have a much easier time if they 1.) expect respect and 2.) are consistently consistent.

All of this thinking about parenting has launched me on a tear to read some new parenting books.  I would be a liar if I said raising two little boys doesn't work me into a frenzy much of the time, so I thought it might be a good idea to read some boy-centered books I haven't read before.  These are the ones I've checked out from the library and am awaiting:

*The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian
*How Do You Tuck in a Superhero and Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys by Rachel Balducci
*Wild Things:  The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James
*The Heart of Parenting:  How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman
*The Blessing of a Skinned Knee:  Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel

For my book club I am reading Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I am also perusing Secrets of Mental Math by Arthur Benjamin.  Since I just finished The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and like to have a children's lit book going too, I need to select another one.

G and I are big fans of the Franny K. Stein series of books, which are chapter books that have pictures on every page.  They are more substantial in terms of storyline than the easy reader chapter books but they still have pictures to maintain interest.  I was able to locate another series of books that are similar, though not nearly as good as Franny books in terms of humor:  Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series.

N and I are reading Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.  On nights that D reads with her, she can select whatever she wants to read.  On nights that I read with her, I try to take turns choosing books with her so that she periodically gets something more substantial than My Sister the Vampire.

M enjoys reading pretty much anything with an illustration of a baby in it.  I'd say his most recent favorite of this nature is Uncle Bigfoot by George O'Connor.  He thinks seeing babies in picture books is downright hilarious.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Science in da house!!!

Today, as on most days, I compare living with two little boys to being part of a band of wild and potentially rabies-infected primates.  

However, after seeing a highly entertaining and enlightening live show of scientific experiments (Doktor Kaboom), I thought I'd try to see a day with my boys through the lens of scientific discovery rather than the lens of a tired momma.

The day began with one of G and M's favorite activities----having me put their stuffed animals on the fan blades and then watching them fly off as they laugh uproariously.  Through the lens of ROCKET SCIENCE:  Newton's Law of Motion (for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction) it was much less aggravating than it normally is.  

The little scientists.

The enthusiasm of the little scientists is growing.

The baby wolf is down!

The horse looks like he's gonna land on the wolf!

There goes Mickey!
And Urse the Black Bear isn't far behind.....

The mommy wolf has flown off to the front of the frame.  
Minnie Mouse and Beary the Black Bear hold on for dear life!

After running errands, we walked down to the creek, picked up sticks and watched ducks float in the water.  I have decided that a law of nature is "BOYS NEED TO GET OUTSIDE EVERY SINGLE DAY."

Both in the morning and again in the afternoon, the boys engaged in one of their newest exploits:  blowing milk bubbles and popping them.  Did you know that milk proteins make the bubbles last longer than those bubbles blown in water or other drinks?  And once milk has warmed up it makes smaller bubbles.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

OCD, weight gain/loss, sensory issues, cheapness and general fashion stupidity

Over the past 9 years my weight has fluctuated due to pregnancies, breastfeeding, my nervous breakdown, and strength training.

Before my first pregnancy I was around 130 lb.  I gained 18 lbs by my 28th week and then lost 7 due to gestational diabetes diet, which meant I ended my 1st pregnancy at 141 lbs.  Three days after delivery I was 120 lb.  Nine months later, due to OCD fallout, I was 112 lbs.  Anyone who thinks skinny is good-looking needs his/her head adjusted.  Medication and therapy helped me get back to around the 130 mark.

In each of the next two pregnancies I gained about 30-35 lbs and then lost a lot while nursing.  I don't weigh myself anymore unless my trainer takes my stats, but I think I am around 143-145 lbs, with about 25% body fat.  This seems to be a good weight for me.

In addition to the weight changes, there is also the natural shifting of things due to childbirth and aging.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying, "My pants don't fit."
Which means I need to buy new ones.

My current jeans were purchased at Plato's Closet when M was an infant (and exclusively nursing).  Now that my weight has stabilized and I'm approaching 40, I'm thinking I'd do well to stay away from things that teenagers wear.

Being a stay-at-home mom has made it difficult to justify buying nicer clothing, but I've come to a point where I am tired of wearing ill-fitting clothing and looking frumpy.  I'm marking a milestone year and I want to approach it with an appreciation of my age, my body, and what makes me look and feel comfortable and nice.  I love the look of tailored/conservative dress, which is kinda funny given how liberal/granola I am in terms of outlook and mindset.

That being said, I have to admit that as much as I b*tch about G's sensory issues with socks and apparel, I am not much better (the nut never falls very far from the tree, after all).  As much as I want to look nice and put-together, I cannot tolerate my clothing feeling anything less than extremely comfortable (which is why yoga pants are my current best friends).  The slightest seam that rubs or fabric that scratches a bit is like alarm bells going off in my head, and they won't be silent until the clothing is off.  I don't know if this clothing issue is technically OCD, but since both my mother and son have the same characteristics I can't help but think there is a strong genetic component.  Wearing uncomfortable clothing does to me the same thing that seeing something out of place does.....I obsess until I can fix it in a way that my brain can handle.  I must fix it or the alarm bells will continue to sound.

Adding all these things together classifies me as a "pain in the butt shopper."  My penchant for being cheap ramps up my pain in the buttness even more.

And then there is the general lack of knowledge when it comes to fashion.  Much of the time I cannot figure out how clothing goes together.  The whole "layering" thing confounds me.  Ask me to discuss the themes in a novel, and I can do it without a minutes' hesitation.  Ask me to select the size that fits my body properly and coordinate an outfit, and I turn into a sniffling and bumbling idiot.

I am the Mr. Bean of fashion.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Technology, parenting and making more work for yourself

My MIL shared a story with me and D about her discussion with her tennis friends.  When she told them that D and I do not have cable/satellite, they were stunned.  They asked if we lived out in the boonies and couldn't get access.  When she told them that we choose not to have it, they sat speechless and aghast.

I am not a Luddite by any means.  I love, love, love my MacBook.  I like being able to text people on my cell phone rather than having to talk (because I really dislike chatting on the phone).

But I want pretty strict limits on what we own technology-wise and how often our kids use it.

Technology is expensive, both in terms of initial outlay and upkeep, especially if upkeep in your world means replacement every 2 years.  Upkeep to me just means buying more memory, more disks, more songs for the iPod because unless something is broken, I don't believe in getting the latest and greatest (although my techie-nut husband disagrees).

Technology also quickly becomes addictive, which I can attest to given my FB habit.  Technology can be a huge time suck (Where did the last 3 hours go, anyway?) and a self-limiting demon.  You forget what you did and how you did it prior to the technology becoming a part of your life.  You simply aren't as present in the present as you could be if you weren't swiping your finger across that screen.

Using technology is a constant battle of restricting and redirecting MYSELF, and it is even worse when technology is in the hands of children.  Despite our attempts to limit technology, we have a little 5-year-old boy in the house who is deeply obsessed with Disney Universe, which the kids received for Christmas.  And N is on Strike 2 of "Thou shall not enter someone's home listening to the iPod because it is rude not to say hello and be friendly," which means she will soon lose access to it.

So what am I doing to try to keep the technology monsters at bay?

*No televisions in bedrooms (for parents or children).

*No Kindle (for me or kids; D does have one but it is the plain, no "bells and whistles" one)

*I do not own a smart phone, and I will continue to have the most basic features possible without a monthly plan even when my aged phone kicks it and I have to purchase something more 21st century-like.

*No satellite/cable television.  We do stream Netflix, and we have an antenna in the attic to get local channels.

*N has an iPod Shuffle (No camera, no recording device, no games)

*We have an Xbox that is on a family timer.  The kids cannot play video games during daytime hours during the school week.  One hour limit.

*I have an iPod (It has a camera/recording device but we only listen to music on it.  There are no games on it.)

*The children do not own any portable game players (like DSs)

I sometimes hear parents lament the struggles they have with their children over technology.  Their child is posting inappropriate things on FB.  The child is spending too much time texting or texting things like answers to homework to friends.  And I can't help but think there is a relatively quick fix to this (although not painless for the parent, to be sure.)  The person who buys, maintains and pays for continuous access to the technology controls the technology.  End of discussion.

This is not to suggest children should not be allowed certain technologies, but there should be clearly defined "rules" associated with their use and consequences for failure to abide by those rules.  The hardest part for the parent when it comes to technology (or anything for that matter) is the enforcement of the rules.  Punishment of a child is always akin to punishment of the parent, but that is the nature of consistent parenting.

Parenting at its easiest is still a whole helluva lot of hard work, so why in the world make it harder on yourself, with more to monitor and fight about and, for crying out loud, spend money on. 

Monday, February 4, 2013


A friend of mine said that it seems like it's not the BIG ordeals in life that depress a person but the small, every day minor things that pile up and become overwhelming.

Such is my life right now.

Life has been a series of infections/minor illnesses that, alone, would be no big deal, but they have come at me in rapid succession.  The painful cuticle infection in Oct/Nov, the armpit MRSA abscess in Dec, strep throat at the start of Jan, an upper respiratory virus now.

The continuous interrupted sleep by the boys, primarily G, has almost worn me to a nub. I've now decided to utilize his obsession with Disney Universe on the Xbox to try to get him to not wake me constantly.  Even if that works for him and he cuts back his night-time mommy need, I still have M who wakes me occasionally.  Whenever I complain about the past 5 years of crappy sleep, N will remind me that I got to sleep when D and I went away in November for our anniversary, as if 2 nights will make up for the past 1,825 nights.

Illness and lack of decent sleep, coupled with my burnout with stay-at-home motherhood for these 9 years and the general chaos that is being with G and M, is making my antidepressant feel less than effective.  My mood most mornings is terrible until around 8:30-9:00 when D and N are out of the house and the boys settle down or when G has been dropped off at preschool and I only have 1 other person besides me to wrangle/manage/talk to.

And then there was Gonzo's death last week which dealt me a harder blow than what I would have expected.  Finding him dead, wrapping him in blankets and carrying his rigid body to the car, delivering him to the pet crematorium...these thoughts have been in the forefront of my mind upon waking every morning.

The cold, the snow, the gray skies doesn't help.

When I am not feeling sad, I simply feel angry.  Angry at the constant demands on me.  Angry at the lack of acknowledgment for what I do.  Angry at myself for doing too much when often it is my attempt to have something for me (like exercising).

The coupling of sadness and anger is not a good sign.  It reminds me of when I got bad, really bad in 2004.  When I felt overwhelmed and tired, like everything was falling on my shoulders.

And I so don't want to go back there again.