My Hands Are Full

Full of a stroller handle in one and a small palm in the other when I walk into a store. Full of an infant that I balance on one knee as I squat in the stall, and toddler arms wrapped around me to keep from falling into the toilet that she needs to use five minutes after we walk in.

Full of dishes that I put in the dishwasher and then dishes I take out.  Full of clothing put in the washer and taken out of the dryer.  Full of many, many diapers.  Full of blankies and books and bags full of responsibility.

Full of flailing toddler or thrashing infant, or a sobbing, collapsing heap of both.  Full of tears and snot and deep breaths and deep hugs.

Full of twenty pounds of clinger who cries when I put her down, and who gives me a knowing smirk when I pick her up. Full of child with eyes so dark I can feel the weighty pull of their stare before I turn my head to see them, the little jewels shining in her tiny head, which she tilts sideways as she waits for our eyes to connect, and erupts in laughter when they do.

Full of skinny legs that wrap around my waist, but only partway.  Full of arms that rest upon mine and a very small forehead that leans in towards my own and pauses for a moment when my head touches hers.  Full of giggles when we pull apart before we lean towards each other again.

Full of tiny toddler booty and squashy baby booty that I pat. Pat. Pat. Squeeze. Pat. Full of little hands that pat me back.

Full of twenty pounds of infant, but always available for thirty more of toddler.  “Uppy, Mama”.  I do not hesitate to add more to the load.  The weight feels good pressed against me.

Full of hand weights I use during a quick workout, which are often replaced mid-rep with a tissue to wipe a nose, or a snack to feed a hungry mouth, or an entire child whose whining can not be quelled any other way.

Full of dancing babies who had favorite songs at a very early age and who spin with me in circles and who do not care that the tune we sing along to is sung off-key.  They are full of exuberant giggling.

Full of a toddler old enough to say, “Carry me like a baby, Mama”, who then quietly fake-cries and, if I haven’t started doing it yet, instructs me to, “Say, ‘shhhh'”.

Full of numerous dolls, all of them named Ruby, who have tea parties and who have conversations and who sometimes are naughty and drink mom’s coffee without asking permission. Ruby! No!

Sometimes they are full of puke, caught midair, midstream.  At least on those days there are many more hours that they are filled with enveloping child than with sickly fluids.

They are full of challenging comfort.  Full of exhausting luxury.  They are brimming with rigorous joy.

Parents have their hands full.

Parents have their hands full.

The Adventure That is Camping With Young Children

So you decide to go camping this weekend with the kids. It’ll be fun, you think. It’ll be relaxing, you dare to dream.

Nevermind that you and the toddler have been suffering debilitating allergies. You just started your second steroid of the month, which hasn’t fully kicked in yet and, so your head has been pounding for eight days straight so hard that you feel the pain in your teeth every time you take a step. Nevermind that the toddler sneezed approximately five hundred times that day, spraying fountains of snot with every achoo. That, combined with her leaky red-rimmed eyes, convinced you to start her on some children’s Claritin, which honest-to-goodness stopped the sneezing by about ninety percent within the hour.  If she’s fine, you’re fine, so you take yourself to urgent care and get yourself Flonase and Prednisone to add to your Singular and Claritin and Sudafed cocktail you already are on. When you text your husband a picture of you and your now-less-sneezy kiddo from the urgent care office, and he asks, “Are we still going camping’, you confidently state, “Of course we are”.  Because you can be miserable at home or you can be miserable camping, so why waste the opportunity for the trip.

urgent care

The night before you leave, the toddler gives you a hard time about going to sleep.  She grabs her baby doll and dragging it up the stairs is whining, “I want to give my baby a bath!! I waa-annn-tttt-oo-oogi-iiiv-eeee-myba-aa-bbb-yyyy-ya-ba-th!”  She must not think you’re really getting her point so she tries a louder tactic, a high-pitched shriek, “I!want!to!give!my!baby!a!bath!”  Maybe it was her being so worked up about the hygiene of her baby doll (was she suddenly not okay with the mashed ground Cheerios on baby’s clothes or the orange marker scribbled all over her face?), or maybe she choked on a large amount of drainage running down the back of her throat that the Claritin couldn’t quite get rid of.  Whatever it was, it caused her to vomit all over the bathroom stool and floor.

As a mother, the first thought you have is, damn, she ate two whole carrots and now they’re on the bathroom floor, and you hope some vitamin K was retained.  You start mopping up the floor and while you’re doing that she seizes the opportunity to take her baby doll to the bathtub and start washing her in the bucket full of water left over from her bath earlier that day.  You find the situation ironic, and slightly annoying, that she is getting what she was originally whining about when you said it was time for bed, but at this point, screw it.  Her puke-splattered baby actually now does need a bath so she might as well be the one to clean it.

You text your husband a picture of the puke, so he can appreciate your current parental situation.

puke2

He asks again, “Are we still going?”

“Yes, damn it”. We will have a fun family vacation.  You’re starting to sound slightly Clark Griswold.

The next day you leave and it takes three times longer than it should to get to the campsite, but that’s okay, you left early. On the way there your toddler tells you her butt hurts, and you realize all of the diapers are trapped in the pop-up, so you stop at the grocery store and buy more diapers and change her in the car, thinking she must have pooped, but she’s just wet. You change her anyway and head to lunch. Somehow in the fifteen-minute span between the diaper change and lunch she pees more than she’s ever peed in her entire life, enough to drench the diaper and cause a urine overflow all over her pants.  But, like the diapers, clean pants are in the pop-up so you just change the diaper and know that even though she has Pee Pants on, the new diaper will at least prevent a urinary tract infection.

Despite leaving three hours ahead for the “hour drive” to the campground, after lunch there are only seven minutes until you can check in, and holy mackerel, the GPS says you are seven minutes from the campground!  This must be a sure sign of an upswing in your luck, you are convinced.

You unpack and head to the beach and pay the nine bucks to park for your hour-long stay, but damn your kid has fun,  and the beach is all she has been talking about doing for a week. She did everything she wanted, she dug holes and made castles and put her toes in the water, and scooped and stacked and to top it all off, the infant didn’t even choke on any sand.  You head back to the campground and ate dinner at the picnic table and the toddler, in camping-loving glory exclaims, “I love picnics! And she makes a rainbow out of her blueberries and then eats them all. The mama in you is thrilled because, antioxidants consumed!  

After dinner you make a fire and put together s’mores, which you’re sure she’ll love, though it turns out she doesn’t even want to try it.  You try to convince her to just try one bite, but after a minute you realize, Why am I trying to force her to eat a sugar-laden sugar sandwich?  So you forget trying to force-feed the s’mores.  You don’t even like them much anyway, as you prefer your sugar in a fermented form.

It’s time for bed and you read the toddler Goldilocks and the Three Bears four times, because that’s what she wants, and all seems well until about five minutes into sleep time and the toddler pukes.  She pukes purple from her blueberry rainbow picnic.  There is puke in her hair and on her pillow and all over her special blankie.  You clean up what you can and hand her a spare blanket that you brought and another ten minutes pass before she pukes AGAIN.  You strip her down and you add a few more items to the soaked-with-regurgitated-blueberry pile and AHA! You have a THIRD blankie.

puke

You smugly think to yourself, This is why we “overpack”, Husband, and mentally note that you were so one-hundred-percent on the correct side of the argument you two had earlier about how you “always pack too much”. Clearly you needed to pack even more, since you gave her your pillow to stack on top of hers so she wouldn’t choke on her own phlegm and puke again, and you don’t have another blanket to wrap around yourself, so you have no choice but to suck it up and let the now-cold blueberry-puke-patch touch your thigh.  You read Goldilocks two more times once you’re resettled.

And even though you are covered in puke and the infant has been screaming this whole time, you laugh.

Because once you’ve accepted the fact that you’re sleeping in regurgitated blueberry and pukey hair, you just let go. You have no choice.  You accept it and say, fuck it, and you can’t believe that for a split-second earlier that day you worried about a few tablespoons of sand in the bed. Now, that sand is just a beautifully sprinkled reminder of that glorious time at the beach.  You feel liberated.  Once you’ve freed yourself from the expectation that all (or most. or some) will be pleasant, all is suddenly wholly good. You squeeze in a little closer to your pint-sized puke-head and share her double pillow, and when you realize that the pillow is also wet with puke, so don’t even flinch as you tuck the end of your blanket under your head and nod off for a few minutes until morning.

The next day you get a bit of retribution. You start the day with a deliciously steamy cup of french-pressed coffee, your spouse wore the infant in the baby carrier while you walked through town and got ice cream, you visited the salt-water pool at the campsite twice, and you read Goldilocks five times before nap, and best of all, there is no puking. And is it just you, or your jeans feeling a little loose, like maybe, just maybe, you magically didn’t gain an ounce from all of those s’mores you washed down with that six-pack of seasonal IPA?

camping

In your delirium you book the next camping outing.

On the way home you stop for a night at your parent’s cottage and you wake up to find that the toddler shit her pants in bed and the infant peed through her onesie and sleep sack.  Since you didn’t “overpack”, your entire family has officially ran out of clean clothes, because they have all been puked on, or shit on, or peed on, and as you should have guessed, you find out your parent’s washing machine is on the fritz.  Your husband hand-washes the shit-covered dress and hangs it outside to dry.  You clean up the kids and let them run around in nothing but diapers and go take a shower, and put your pee-soaked shirt back on as you pour yourself a cup of coffee.

It’s a good thing you drank that coffee because throughout the day you change approximately thirty-five shit-filled diapers between the two kids, many of which are liquid runs.  At once point when you try to get the toddler to sit on the potty, the contents of the diaper leak out into a brown puddle on the bathroom floor.  Since you didn’t “overpack” you ran out of diapers and wipes and have to get more.

You somehow manage to make it out for a pontoon ride and for a lovely half an hour, both kids nap and you enjoy the breeze and you think contentedly, Ahhh, life at the lake.  There is still hope left.  You get back to the cottage and the toddler eats some cheese and crackers and immediately proceeds to puke all over the carpet.  Enough puke for you to suggest taking the carpet out of the house and hosing it off.  Enough puke for your dad to say, “Maybe it’s time for us to get rid of this carpet”.

carpet

You read the toddler Goldilocks another five times in a row while your spouse packs up the car, and you head home a day early.

You gave it a valiant effort.

Three Dirty Wash Cloths Can Put A Parent With Anxiety and Depression Over The Edge

Laundry is not a chore I mind doing. It’s something I can do while I’m doing other things around the house.  It doesn’t require me to get my hands dirty.  It’s not too physically demanding, except when I lug the basket up and down the stairs, but then I can pretend I’m getting some cardio in.  I like the way our detergent smells. I like taking the mess of dirty clothes and ending up with the neatly folded piles.  I like the way it feels when it is all done. Every hamper emptied. Every drawer stuffed full of folded clothes. When I’m done with the laundry, I know I’ve done it right and I really like that feeling.

Most things I do don’t give me that absolute feeling of successful completion, of knowing the job was well done.

Parenting is certainly not a job that leaves me feeling that way.  Especially being a parent that deals with anxiety and depression.

I try to do a lot of things for me, to ward of the depressive slumps, because doing so helps make me a better mama. One of them is running.  Nothing on this planet feels as good as a long run. Running makes every molecule in my body vibrate.  Right now a pretty significant hip injury has left me unable to run for several weeks. WEEKS.  And my body is not responding kindly. Other than the shooting, stabbing, searing pain in my hip joint, for the past four weeks it has felt like my legs are numb.  I’ve been wading through thigh-deep water instead of just walking like a normal person on land.  The other day I stood in place in the middle of my kitchen and had to think, much longer than should ever make sense, about walking to the garage to grab my shoes and then carrying them to the front door, or just walking outside barefoot because I wasn’t sure I could manage the extra trip across my house.  Lately I am moving very slowly. I am dropping things.  I am worried I will not be able to run the marathon I signed up for. I am not happy.

Maybe it’s my mind that isn’t responding kindly.

This month there have been so many days that I’ve felt like I didn’t have the energy to be the best parent I could be.  When I get like this, I worry I’m not doing enough arts and crafts, or taking the kids outside enough, or reading enough books.  I worry about my toddler watching too much t.v.  I worry I’m not giving enough attention to my youngest.

Lately I keep hearing a lot about how if you’re worried you’re a good parent, then you shouldn’t worry because that means you are one.  Which is sort of confusing.  Does that mean to stop worrying?  Because I’m worried now.  Is that good? Now I’m worried that I don’t even know the right way to worry.

Today I was finishing the final fold and had the, “Ahhhh” feeling of a task fully completed.  I exhaled for a minute.

Until I went into the girls bathroom and saw this:

This is enough to put a parent with anxiety issues into a tailspin.

This is enough to put a parent with anxiety issues into a tailspin.

I shit you not my heart jumped a beat. How did I miss this?  Damn it, I thought I had done all the laundry, but here are three wash cloths in the sink!  It’s like even though I did five loads of laundry today and everything is folded and put away, it all the sudden doesn’t count because of three dirty wash cloths.  For some reason it made all the more insulting that they were still wet.

And I know it doesn’t matter. I know that by tomorrow we’ll have dirty onesies and socks and bibs and whatnot, so what’s the big deal?   I know it shouldn’t bother me.

But it does.

So even though I’ve come a long way, I realize I am always on edge. My anxieties are raging.  I’m always worried that something won’t be good enough. The kicker? Something always won’t be.  And usually the more I worry about it, the more I screw shit up.  Or at least the more I notice.  Either way – that’s not a good situation to set oneself up for.

I’m working on it.  Usually at the end of the night I do a final load of dishes and clean up the living room and kitchen, making it somewhat presentable before I pour my glass of wine and relax on the couch.  I pat myself on the back on the nights I’m able to step over the baby toys on the floor and just leave them.  I’m happy to report that there have been days that I have been able to do this and let it go.

Today just wasn’t one of them.

In Which Parenting is Like Cutting Off a Limb

Have you seen the movie 127 Hours? It’s based on the real life situation in which Aron Ralston went hiking by himself through some canyons in the desert and managed to get his arm trapped underneath a boulder too heavy for him to lift. He was stranded without hope for rescue and got to the point where me made the decision to cut his own arm off in order to survive. (SPOILER ALERT: he does cut off his arm and he does survive). The movie producers did a fantastic job of depicting his self-mutilation. He sawed through the muscles and tendons with his multi-tool, which was grisly, but the cinematographic artistry peaked when he hit the nerves.  As he stroked the nerve, the screen vibrated and, like guitar strings, the wires screamed out grisly chords.  It made me cringe and grab my arm in response. He eventually realized he couldn’t saw through the bone and he had to break it in the end, but as disturbing as that part was, the nerve scene was by far the most powerful. It was disgustingly well done.

For some reason Aron’s story sticks with me. It pops into my mind with surprising regularity and makes me think. It makes me wonder if I would cut off my own arm in a similar circumstance. I wonder if I would cut off my spouse’s or if he would cut off mine. I wonder what other things I would do to survive. To live. It makes me wonder if what I do on a daily basis is enough. It’s a powerful story.

Sometimes his story pops into my mind just from parenting.

It’s the nerve pain.  It’s the vibrato zing. It’s the razor-sharp adrenaline rushes that slice open my insides and cause chemicals to seep into my blood stream faster than they normally would.

Parenting is gasping and inhaling and sweating and heart RACING RACING RACING. Parenting is survival mode and I’ve been in it for 20,040 hours. The difference between Aron and I is that instead of for actual life or death circumstances, I’m on overdrive for stupid things like these:

ONE:

“Mama!!!!”

THUMP THUMP THUMP.

“I have water in my eye!”

She spilled her sippy cup on her face.

TWO:

It’s a middle of the night moan.

“Ermmmhh!”

ZING!!!!  My head vibrates. My eyes vibrate. My fingers vibrate.

I hear her roll over. She’s still asleep.

or

THREE:

“Mama!” A shriek this time.

Flup!  I can hear my eyelids unstick from one another.  I try to listen over the thumping.  Nothing. I doze off.

“Mama!”

THUMP THUMP THUMP.  Silence. I doze off.

“Mama!”

Silence again.  What the hell?

And then I realize it is Mr. Grouch’s nose doing a whistling sort of snore. My arms are pinging and pulsing and I’m ready to pounce, but my kid was never even awake (Sidebar: This is why we hate you, sleeping spouses. And anyone who asks if the kids sleep through the night yet, because that doesn’t really matter, if we’re still not).

Parenting is constant nervous system misfiring. It is hypervigilance.

Sometimes my spouse gets caught in the misfire, saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. It’s like he’s bumping the hand that is severing the other limb off, triggering sudden and unexpected searing pain, but, since he doesn’t realize I’m cutting my arm off, he has no idea how he possibly could have struck a nerve.

He usually doesn’t even know he did until I snap at him.  Which pisses him off, and makes me appear too sensitive, and then we’re both in a foul mood because I am snippy and how the hell doesn’t he notice my bloody bleeding stump?

Okay, okay, I’m not really comparing myself to this bad ass who cut off his own limb but sometimes hormones and anxiety make me feel this way.

Maybe I drink too much coffee.

Our loved ones certainly tug at our heart-strings, but I think they tug on our nerve-strings too.  So, if you’re the one who gets treated like you’re always on your spouse’s nerves….maybe this is why.

Parenting is exhausting and can be as hard as cutting off your own arm.  Maybe.

Parenting is exhausting and can be as hard as cutting off your own arm. Maybe.

Moms Aren't The Only Ones Out There Mothering

I dropped my girls off at daycare the other day and watched two-year-old Toddler Grouch take of her boots and put them in the basket at the bottom of the closet. She unzipped her coat and laid it on the floor before grabbing a hanger off of the bar purposely positioned at half the usual height.  She folded her coat’s arms around the ends of the hanger, hung up her coat and shut the closet door while I chatted away with Ms. J.

Ms. J. and I talked about how the kids were doing lately, not superficial talk, but talk about how they were actually doing, the minute-by-minute of every nap and night, the what and how often and by what method, nutrition was being obtained, the color and shape and frequency of each bowel movement, the how well are they listening, the where are they at with each motor skill, the she did that! and the oh-no-she-didn’t! We smiled and nodded while we expounded upon how silly and exuberant and fun Infant Grouch was lately, whether it be her side-to-side head-shakey dance or her fearless rampaging through the crinkling polyester tunnels, or the yelling at the top of her lungs when the other kids cheered, always wanting to be part of the group. I laughed at something Ms. J. said and called Infant Grouch a little goofball.

Ms. J. hugged Infant Grouch to her chest and cupped her hand gently around the back of my baby’s head while leaning her own forehead in and looked into my daughter’s eyes as she said to her, “You’re my little goofball”.  For a split-second my heart stuttered.

She called MY little goofball HER little goofball.

And I realized, she is hers, too.  Ms. J spends almost every weekday of every week teaching her, holding her, caring for her.  Loving her.  She and Ms. L. are mothering my children, and on many days, for more hours than I am.

We can call it daycare, or childcare, or preschool, but if they’re doing a good job, they’re mothering, right? Wiping noses, bandaging skinned knees, diapering, cleaning up after. Teaching skills and character: ABC’s and 123’s, no thanks and yes please.   Hugging, touching, smiling.  Watching, reinforcing, encouraging, enlightening, guiding, reprimanding, uplifting, forgiving. Loving.

Us mamas aren’t the only ones mothering our kids.

Got a good childcare provider? Thank them, today.

Got a good childcare provider? Thank them, today.

When my kid leaves daycare she’ll have teachers that will see them for a fraction of the time that their daycare providers do, and I can only hope will love them a fraction of the amount. Because those relationships are important.  I have no interest in a teacher or a coach or a mentor who isn’t mothering my child, at least part of the time.

Note that I did not say coddle, because that isn’t the same. Mothering is not friendship, and mothering means love with limits and setting the bar high, and helping achieve goals.  Mothering means doing what can be done to mold a person into someone who is as self-sufficient as possible, as kind as possible, as well-rounded as possible. Mothering means doing these things with a gentle tone, or at least a gentle heart, with you-can-do-its and try-agains and safety nets, not forceful sneers, dismissive shrugs, or there’s-nothing-more-I-can-dos.

We mamas take a lot of pride in our roles, and a mother’s work could very well be one of the most important jobs in the world, but we can not forget to acknowledge, appreciate, and respect those other lovelies out there who are also mothering our little ones. Most of us don’t do it alone.  I sure as hell didn’t teach Toddler Grouch how to put that coat away.

So with Mother’s Day near, I say thank you, fellow mamas. Thank you to the Ms. J’s and Ms. L’s, and the other childcare providers, the teachers, coaches, mentors, grandmas, aunts, cousins and friends. A very extra special heart-huggy thank you to those mamas who aren’t mamas by birth, but are mamas by heart. Thank you for helping mother my babies.

Got a great childcare provider?  Tell them thank you, today.

Got a great childcare provider? Tell them thank you, today.

The Purposeful Marathoner (The Purposeful Person)

This time around I set out with the intention of running a marathon again.  For awhile there, I didn’t think I’d be able to make it. I felt too weak.  Too tired.  Too busy.  But, I decided that I wanted it, so I found a way to make it work.   I’m not the skinniest.  I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest.  But, I do not care.  I want it anyway.

I want to do certain things.  So I do them.

The older I get, the more I am on a mission to make sure what I do has a purpose.  That I do things with intention.  I don’t know how many minutes, days, months, or years I have left, but I sure as hell don’t want to waste them.  There are things I want to do. Important things. Nice things.  Silly things.  Frivolous things.   Things I am good at. Things I am bad at. All kinds of things.  I don’t care what other people think about the things I do, because they are mine.  They make me me and they make me happy.

marathon 2

An acquaintance of mine asked me what I thought my time would be for this race and when I told her my time for my first marathon she said, “Oh, that’s a long time”, probably thinking I was going to run this one a whole lot faster, and then she told me what time she thought I should be able to run it in, which is nowhere near what my time will actually be and I do not care.  I will run it anyway, and it will take a loooong time and it will be glorious.  Because the past few months while one of my intentions was to train for this marathon another was to eat popcorn and drink homemade wine while I sit on the couch snuggling my husband, watching House of Cards, analyzing all of the relationships between the fictional characters on the show.  Long gone are the days that I let embarrassment, or fear, or even ability, stop me from being ridiculously, outrageously, happy with the things I choose to do.  This marathon is just one of the many things that are important to me right now, it is not the only thing.

I want to do things I can feel with my hands and my fingertips.  I want to do things I can feel with my brain and my heart and that weird spot in my chest that may or may not be a real physical space but that certainly swells every time I feel all the feelings.

Before you get all let’s-stop-the-glorification-of-busy on me, know that sometimes I want to do nothing, so I do. On purpose.

coffee

I will purposely fuel my body with fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. I will intentionally indulge in wine and nachos. I will purposefully smother those around me with hugs and kisses.  I will intentionally leave them all at home when I go for a long jog by myself. I will purposefully write.  I will intentionally not spend too much time wondering if it is any good. I will purposefully push myself into downward dog.  I will intentionally breathe.

I think it might be possible to suffocate oneself with all the crap and the sadness and the mundane.  I am working to collect every free minute I have, to gather them one by one and pack them together and carry them around with me, like a deep-sea diver carries a tank full of oxygen and nitrogen molecules strapped to his back.  I know I can only hold on to so many at once, so I will not be too stingy with my minutes and I will take deep, luxurious inhales of them. How could I not?  They keep me alive. Even though I know I will be able to refuel, I will certainly try not to let any escape because what if one of those wasted minutes ends up being the one that could save me later?

We all have the same hours in the day, and we all make our choices about what it is we want to accomplish.  I am done saying that I wish I had the time to do x,y or z that my pal is doing because if I really wanted to do it, I could.  It just might be in the place of something else.

What do you do with purpose? With intention?  What do you make sure to do with your minutes?

Not a Whole Heart

I am the luckiest lady in the world.  I am healthy and happy and my biggest concerns are 100% of the first world variety.  My problems are of the luxurious sort; my grief is the easy kind of grief.

But no matter how much I believe that my grief is silly or my grief is selfish or my grief is self-indulgent, my grief doesn’t care.  I can squash it down for a while, or tuck it away in a corner, or rub it raw with my joys, or scrub it clean and sparkly, or run far away from it, but for some reason I can never seem to rid myself of it, not completely.

For even though I’m pretty sure we are done having children, and are more than content as a family of four, there is always a lingering tug.  At the mention of a loss.  During discussions of multiples.  It makes me grieve for those other ones.  The other three. Even though we did not hold them, did not see them, did not name them, it doesn’t mean they were not there.  They were still there.  I wondered what they would look like and who they would act like and I still do.  I just know better than to dwell on it.

Maybe it’s because we have it so good.  Two amazing little beings that we marvel at on a daily basis.  Two perfect specimen, exactly the same in terms of being healthy, strong, smart, kind, brave, cautious, silly, lovable, beautiful – but so not the same in terms of how they present those strengths.

Maybe it’s because we have a visual reminder.  Infant Grouch was going to be one of a triplet.  She’s the fighter who showed her strength not only by bruising me internally with her repeated kicks in utero, but simply by making it when the other two didn’t.  When she was born I gasped a bit when I saw the birthmark on her back.  Two-thirds of a heart.  Blood red.  It’s like she carries the fraction of the old whole around as a commemorative patch.

20150109_162905

I am not the same as I used to be, for a million, trillion reasons.  One of which is that I am a mama of two.  Another of which is that I am not a mama of five.

One of my all time favorite quotes from Regina Brett is, “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back”.  I believe that to be even more true than we can possibly imagine.

When I give both of my girls a bath, Toddler Grouch usually asks to see her sister’s heart.  Sometimes she says, “Ooohhhh” because she isn’t sure what to make of it.  I assure her, it’s okay.

That there is nothing wrong with having a heart out there for everyone to see.

Practical Tips For All You Wine-Loving Mamas

1.  Make sure your diaper bag is big enough to pack all of the essentials. Opt for the satchel with plenty of extra room, just in case you need to hold a few of your favorite things.

wine in diaper bag

2.  Use Your Role as Grocery-Getter to Your Advantage: Remember that there is really no need to begrudge your spouse for never setting foot in the bread aisle because the wine aisle is usually right next to it.  When you want to make a wine run, but don’t want to hear any grief from your spouse about how you can’t make it a day without wine, you can use the old, I-need-to-go-to-the-grocery-because-the-baby-needs-diapers excuse.

wine groceries

3.  Take a Special Treat to Sip As You Stroll:  Endorphins plus wine = happiest of mamas.  Just be sure to put your mommy juice in a cup with a well-sealed lid (do as I say, not as as I do) and take care to dodge the potholes.

wine cup spill

4. Of course, don’t overindulge. A little nip to take the edge off is well and good, but there is no repercussion worse than having to parent with a hangover. You only need enough wine to counter the whine. Proportion wisely.

Today I Did Good.

There are a lot of days I screw up. But today was not one of them, even though it could have been.  After work I had a doctor appointment, and then I picked up the kids from daycare and we went straight to the grocery store.  I knew I was pushing it, but my kids are pretty good and I brought diapers and snacks.  I am ready, I thought.  Immediately upon entering the store my 2-year-old told me she had to go potty.  SHIT.  We’re just starting this whole potty business so we’re at the point that if she ASKS to go, we have to take her. Nevermind that the clock was ticking until meltdown mode for both her and Infant Grouch, or that the public restrooms are bacterial infected cesspools or that I’d be precariously holding both her and the infant, or that she probably wouldn’t go to the bathroom anyway until she was back in the cart (spoiler alert, she later shit in the cart).

So I took a deep breath.

I said, “Okay, let’s go” and we entered the bathroom and to my surprise, she peed!  So I wrangled her diaper back on and said, “Don’t touch anything!” a million times and we washed our hands and we hoped Infant Grouch wouldn’t start screaming (and she didn’t, whew).  Fifteen minutes after we arrived we finally started our grocery shopping.

Toddler Grouch was sitting in the big part of the cart and Infant Grouch was in the small upper seat.  Toddler Grouch kept standing up and grabbing things off of the shelves and shouting cliches like, “I want that!” while knocking over rows of shampoo.  I found myself repeatting, to her, “Sit down. Sit down. Sit down”, and, “Do you need a snack?” and to myself, “Take a deep breath. An ujayi breath.  Fuck it, ANY BREATH”.

I breathed.

The first item on my list was dry shampoo.  Because God forbid I have to wash my hair every day.  (Seriously, who has time for that?)  I was completely out so I needed it and I walked back and forth and back and forth, scouring the aisles.  I walked back and forth as many times as they say “back and forth” in Love You Forever.  Where the hell is it?  I was getting pissed.  The Meltdown Clock was ticking.   After the amount of time it could have taken me to write a graduate thesis, I finally found it.  Why the hell do they have to always change the packaging?  I resisted the urge to ask this question out loud, since little ears were within the listening range.

The next item on my list was saline rinse for the two stuffy little noses that alternate between mimicking spewing volcanoes and crusty manhole covers.  Our household is plagued with sinuses as delicate and narrow as human hairs, so none of us can survive without this stuff.  We were out, so it had to be found immediately. Where the fuck is it?  For the love of God, it’s been thirty-five minutes and so far all we’ve done is pee on a potty (but, Potty Dance!) and make it down one aisle.  The Meltdown Clock is ticking! I finally found it. “God damned fucking packaging changers!” I yelled.  In my head.  I actually held it in. And again….

I breathed.

While Toddler Grouch was screaming, “I wannnnt it” and, “Go away!” and “Poooooooopy Poop!” I could not be the mom who loses her shit because the saline drops now came in a purple package instead of a white one.  I didn’t even yell when Toddler Grouch started screaming in a sort of horribly mean tone, “Go away!”  or as she crushed groceries with her boots and kept stacking items up next to the infant carrier until they almost toppled over.

Instead, I breathed again and made myself smile at Infant Grouch, even though it may have been a bit too toothy, looking perhaps like the smile the Wolf gave to Little Red Riding Hood.

I bought four different types of dark chocolate and a bottle of Cabernet.  But I did not yell.

We got home and I had two tired and hungry kids to feed, and I opened the fridge to get the leftover chicken tenders and fries for Toddler Grouch…..and I realized Mr. Grouch had eaten them.  He was on a plane heading to an out of town business event so I could not give him an evil glare.  I threw together some leftover black beans and roasted vegetables and told Toddler Grouch she could watch a Little Einsteins episode if she ate her food. And after she tried to pull down the kitchen blinds, she did. Somehow after all that she ate beans and vegetables for dinner.  Score.

It was time for her to head to bed and she started complaining.  I started singing the Goodnight Song to her but improvised the words, changing, “It’s time to go to sleep” to, “It’s time brush your teeth” which she somehow found hilarious, so we laughed and laughed about that as we walked upstairs and she brushed her teeth.  Then when we were getting her pajamas on, she said she wanted to wear the coconut tree poop pajamas so I repeated back to her what she said and we laughed and laughed as we joked that, “A told B and B told C, I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut poop pajama tree!”  After we laughed about that we read I Love You, Stinky Face. On the page with the swamp monster on it I always blow a kiss and touch her face with my finger when the kiss lands on her cheek.  Tonight she giggled and told me she was wiping it off, so I gave a million or so kisses to my little slimy swamp monster and she laughed so loud she could hardly breathe as she wiped them off (even though she asked for more on every inhale) but my kisses were no match for her. Before we knew it, we had been laughing for over half an hour.

A day like this I consider a win, and worth recording.

And I still have dark chocolates and Cabernet to top it off.

How Being the Parent of Two Kids is Different Than Being the Parent of One

When I was pregnant with my second child I was pretty relaxed compared to being pregnant with my first.  I didn’t obsess over which porta-crib had the best mobile, or whether or not I needed a diaper genie, or even what childbirth would be like.  I knew that all that mattered was that the baby had onesies and diapers and I was ready. Or so I thought. Looking back, even though it was a bigger adjustment from no baby to one baby, going from one to two rocked my world more than I could have anticipated.

Before I could stare at my little baby and marvel at every little head nod and every sigh and every eye blink. “Aww…what a cute little blinker I have! Look how cute she is when she blinks”. I posted countless photos on Facebook of her cute little blinky eyes. Now, instead of staring at adorable baby eyeballs, I find myself staring at the ankle-deep puddles of milk that flood the living room carpet, or what appear to be ant hills made up from ground Cheerios filling up the space surrounding the tufted buttons on the couch cushions.  I marvel at how a four-minute toddler mini-spree can result in a three-and-a-half hour clean-up job. I’m constantly on guard trying to make sure the baby’s little peepers aren’t poked out by her older sibling’s fingers or erratically waved fairy wands.  I can not even imagine what will happen once the second one is able to walk. I know I’m living on borrowed time.  Will the Cheerio-dust ant hills morph into massive termite mounds? Anything seems possible.

Before I hoped my baby would grow to be a passionate lover of books.  Now I’m just crossing my fingers that Number Two will be semi-literate.  Not only does it seem improbably difficult to physically sit on the couch and read for more than three minutes at a stretch, when we do we are rarely alone.   Watch an infant try to garnish attention from an older sibling and you will quickly begin to question how accurate Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs is.  Based on how Number Two responds to Number One, it would appear that feeling a sense of love and belonging with an older sibling far outweighs physiological needs such as eating or sleeping.  If eating or sleeping aren’t top priorities during these times, you can best your ass that sustaining attention to board books when her older sister in the room is damn near impossible.  It doesn’t matter how cute the little fuzzy bunny on the cover is.  Sibling > board books. My next point might also have something to do with her potential pending illiteracy .

Before it was quiet a lot.  Nowadays our household emits a ceaseless cacophony of child-rearing sounds. Between the Frozen soundtrack blaring from the T.V. (or from our smartphones, or our daughter’s Frozen watch, or her Frozen singing doll, or bursting from her own little Let it Go lips), the toddler stream-of-consciousness chatter that extends  for 20 minutes stretches   for 2 hour blocks of time to infinity and beyond, the periodic screams from me my husband my toddler of “Nooooo, I don’t wannnnnnt to”, the sanitizing swooshing from the dishwasher, the washing machine churning, the off-key singing of the Good Morning song and the Clean Up song and the Goodnight song and the endless shouts from one parent to another across the house of, “Will you throw me the wipes?” Or, “I need a burp cloth! Hurry!” or, “Why didn’t you replace the diapers down here?”  I fear we’re giving her ADHD by way of auditory assault. And how the eff are we always out of one size diaper or the other at the downstairs changing table?

Before my house was clean. At least sometimes.  Every parent knows that before and after kids there’s an inverse relationship between how much time you spend cleaning and how clean the house actually is.  As far as I can tell, our carpeting will forevermore be littered with toys and half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches and mystery crumbs of various size and shape that I hope the toddler isn’t snacking on while I am not looking. Even though she balks at eating a quesadilla or a slice of peach, I know she probably is stuffing her face with the hidden, hardened little gems, so my real hope is that there isn’t some antibiotic resistant strain of bacterial film coating the tops of them.  Even when the clutter is contained, an invisible infection-spreader remains. Children’s noses are basically miniature volcanoes that spew continuous secretions – gentle, fluid eruptions on some occasions, violent chunk-filled emissions on others.  I often wonder if mucus glows green under a UV light, and if we were to do a mucosal forensic sweep, would our living room resemble a murder scene straight out of Dexter?

Before I could stay up until 11 p.m. On a lot of nights, not just on the really special occasions. Like the nights when I drink Merlot, eat Doritos in my pajamas, and watch Netflix episodes that aired four years ago.

Before I didn’t need the Amazon Prime coffee subscription. And I definitely didn’t need to keep increasing the order size. I got a new debit card the other day and before I realized I needed to update my payment method, my subscription got delayed two days and I do not have that kind of leeway built in!  For two whole days I was in caffeination crisis mode, scouring the house for rogue coffee grounds while mentally swearing at the damn hackers who were responsible for me needing a new debit card in the first place. I even pulled out the rusted out coffee maker we use when we go camping in the pop-up. After that fiasco, I’m thinking it’s probably time to bump up that Amazon order again.

Before I thought that sometimes knew what I was doing. Number One we swaddled for four months, Number Two broke out of the sleep sack at two days old. Number One ate bottles out of the fridge, Number Two literally chokes and gags unless the bottle is freshly made with water at or around 99 degrees Fahrenheit.  Number One liked to be rocked to sleep, Number Two thrashes and headbutts and whines until we lay her down in the crib to settle herself.  I imagine the more children you have, and more you realize that none of us really control our children’s behavior as much as we would like to think.

Before I got my hair cut and dyed on a semi-regular basis.  Even if that meant every six months. It was also usually brushed. Now if you see me on a weekend know that definitely has not been brushed since I got ready for work on Friday morning. It’s only been slightly disconcerting that I don’t think most people have noticed the difference.

Before it was possible to make it to all those workout classes I wanted to go to each week.  All one of them. I manage to carve out some time for activities that don’t require a definitive time and place, like jogging or writing, but for some reason being able to attend one scheduled activity each week seems to require an alignment of Venus and Mars, that occurs seventeen days after the first full moon, that also coincides with a month containing an even number of days, as registered on the Julian calendar.

Before the last seven pounds just melted away. Okay, not really. But in comparison they came off faster than a crack whore’s panties. Now I have this permanent bulgey bit that I’m starting to think will hang slightly over the waistline of my jeans forever.

Before my heart was only half the size.  It’s cliché, but it’s true. Parenting is an adventure that can be as marvelously (and scarily) intense as the fiery inferno at the center of the Sun.  Just like atoms at the core of a star fuse and produce a larger entity, one with more heft, the addition of another child creates something different, something bigger.  A touchy-feely sort of nuclear fusion occurs in the hearts of parents that causes emissions of energy and light, even amongst the occassional volatile flares, and it is tremendously more substantial than even that bulge.

I can not imagine what three must be like.

How Being the Parent of Two Kids is Different Than Being the Parent of One

How Being the Parent of Two Kids is Different Than Being the Parent of One