Thursday, July 30, 2009

Parenting Sucks

Yeah, I said it. It does. Parenting sucks.

I did not say "Being a parent sucks." Actually, I must admit that being a parent...actually creating a whole human being, watching that little tiny infant grow up and turn into a funny, spirited, unique little person...well, that is pretty damn amazing. But the act of parenting...the endless exhausting redundancy of day to day life? It just sucks.

Tonight, while I was simultaneously eating my dinner, unloading and reloading the dishwasher, and trying to entertain a crawling Aidan Kai, Ben insisted on drinking his milk from a cup with no lid.

And you know what happened.

Yes, I know there is no use crying over spilled milk. Can I cry over an 11-month-old crawling and rolling in spilled milk then? 'Cause that's what happened while I was trying to get more paper towels: Aidan decided to go swimming in his big brother's strawberry milk. The photos in the baby magazines and Pottery Barn For Kids catalogs never show reality: a half-eaten veggie burger getting cold on a plastic Disney plate...the mom holding a dripping, sticky, crying baby while she tries to mop up the mess...the nearly-4-year old looking down at them from his chair, complaining that the milk is still dripping from his Lightening McQueen place mat and oh no, now his cup is empty.

I don't know if all other moms are like me. I don't know if some of them actually enjoy the daily grind. I am sure most don't, but I wonder if most hate it as much as I do. When I find myself surrounded by the cartoon noise coming from the TV, the whines of my 3-year-old, and the cries of my 11-month old, all while trying to tend to the necessities of life: loads of laundry that have been sitting and waiting to be folded for days, dishes in the sink that quite possibly now contain the beginnings of curdled milk, and at least 40 Hot Wheels cars strewn throughout the living is very, very, very hard for me to remain calm.

Being a parent (at least of very small children) is basically like being a slave. I am constantly "on call." I am either being asked to play with, fix, make, or clean something. I barely like making my own dinner, much less someone else's...especially when that someone else whines and complains at least 50% of the time about what is on the plate. (Never mind that yesterday tomatoes were his "favorite," but tonight...well, apparently, tonight he decided he is "never eating tomatoes again.")

After all was said and done, Ben and I sat on the couch and snuggled as he watched one more episode of "Max and Ruby." (Yes, I had to bribe him: "If you keep snuggling with me, I'll let you keep watching for a few more minutes..." Something I never thought I'd say to my child, but then again, there are a lot of things I "never thought" before I had kids.) And he was so delicious. But stuck in between those delicious, funny, poignant moments are the crappy ones. The diapers, the vomit, the bickering, the whining, the spills, the cleaning up, the complaints, the crying, the tantrums, the defiance, the disciplining...that never ends. Everyday you wake up to do it all over again. Some days are better than others. On those days, I thank God for my family, my two little boys, my house full of noise. On other days, I wonder why I ever got into this, if I'm really any good at it, if I was really cut out to be a mom.

I'd love to end this post with something wonderfully poignant, some fabulous and moving closing statement about it all being worth it. But although I do know it is, today I do not have one of those grand finishes. Today, I guess, I don't really have a lesson learned or a point to make. All I have is a sticky floor and that damn pile of laundry.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The more, the merrier???

When I had my first son, I realized how exhausting parenting is.

And then I had another one.

Oh crap. I had no idea.

A couple of days ago, Ben spent the day (the whooooole day and part of the night) with his cousins. This left Hubby and me with 11-month-old Aidan Kai.

Just Aidan Kai.

Just one kid.

Oh my God. It was so frickin' easy.

I thought back to the days when we only had Ben and were exhausted and overwhelmed. And then I laughed.

How is it that when you have only one, it can be so completely and utterly overwhelming and then you have another one and suddenly having one is like a day off?

So does this mean that the way to solve the problem of being completely and utterly overwhelmed with two children is by having a third?

Yeah. Not gonna happen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Rule of 3's

They say bad things happen in 3's.

Well, let's see now...
On Tuesday, I fell mountain biking and injured my wrist.
On Wednesday, Aidan Kai woke up with a fever of 104.
On Thursday, a shopping cart fell over on top of Ben with Aidan still strapped in it.

OK. So are we done now?

Tough week.
But hey...this is the Not-Quite-New-and-Improved-but-Working-On-It-Me. The Old Me would be dwelling on the terrible luck we've had. The Old Me would have been going on and on about how bad of a week it's been. The Old Me would have been fretting and stressing about how out of control I feel right now. But if you've been reading the last few posts, you know I've been doing some self-reflection. You know I've been trying to become more self-aware. You know I've been working on my control issues and my pessimism and my worrying.

So, ready? Watch this.

1. Today I found out my wrist is not, in fact, fractured. No cast necessary.
2. Yesterday we found out that Aidan's fever is due to a throat infection and he should be fine in a day or so. No mystery illnesses.
3. The shopping cart accident could have been really severe, and yet the angels were looking over us. No major injuries.

It seems that we're having a pretty good week. Good things happen in 3's too, right?

P.S. For those of you with small kids, I feel the need to elaborate a bit on the shopping cart incident as a precautionary tale... I have never particularly minded when Ben stands on the bottom rack of the shopping cart and hangs on as I push him around. It never would have even occurred to me that his tiny 32 pound body could tip the whole thing over. We were at Party City, where the carts are more narrow and shorter than traditional grocery carts. Aidan Kai was strapped in the top seat and Ben must have climbed up onto the side of the cart, his feet on the bottom ledge. I was standing right there and happened to look up to take something off a shelf when I heard a noise and saw the entire thing tipping over. Aidan's head hit the rack of products on the side as it went down and the cart landed on top of Ben. I think what saved Aidan from a very serious head injury (other than pure luck and grace) was the fact that I had buckled him in. His head never hit the floor, because he remained suspended there. We were very, very lucky. It could have been very, very bad. Aidan got a slight bump on his head and a scratch on his ear. Ben got 2 little scratches on his ankle. So Moms, just keep it in mind when out shopping with your little ones.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Maybe I should take up scrapbooking...

Disclaimer: I may not be as witty, clever, and overly wordy as I usually am, since I am currently typing with only 9 fingers. No, I did not lose one. Thankfully. But my left thumb has been temporarily imprisoned in a wrist brace. It seems there is a possibility I might have yet another fracture.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a mountain biking accident during which I fell on my left elbow...hard...twice. It turned out that I had, in fact, fractured it, but because I waited too long to see a doctor, all I could do was physical therapy. Today, I went out by myself, for the first time ever and fell...again, hard...on the same side. As of a few weeks ago, I started riding "clipped in", which basically means that my shoes are clipped into my pedals. I have to twist my ankle out slightly in order to disattach myself from my bike. I have fallen four times since I have been riding clipped in, and all four times I was unable to get my left foot out in time. This means that when my bike stops and I start to fall, I do so with full force, bike and all, down on rocky, rooty terrain. Today, as I started to fall, my instinct was to put my hand out in an attempt to protect my now nearly healed elbow. It worked. Sort of. My elbow? Good to go. My wrist? Not so good.

The pain this time was immediate and searing. I could barely ride my bike out of the trail. I went straight to my doctor, who did x-rays and sent me for an MRI "Stat." Although the x-rays did not show any fractures, he said there is a chance I might have one in the scaphoid bone, which, apparently, as would be the case with my luck, is one of the most worrisome if it does fracture. Yay. Lucky me. If it is fractured, I will have to be in a cast for "at least 6 weeks, possibly even up to the shoulder." Oh, so practical for a mom of 2 small children. Oh, so practical for a person as active as I am. Oh, so practical for a person who can barely stand a band-aid for longer than a minute.

There is a possibility, the doctor says, that it may be just a bad sprain. I will know on Thursday. That is in 2 whole days. In case you have not figured me out yet, I am not so good at waiting. I am really bad at not worrying. And I am even worse at not "horribilizing" to the worst possible case scenario. In fact, today while showering, I tried to plan out how in the world I will manage to shower for "at least 6 weeks" with a cast.

Why can't I assume that it is, in fact, just a sprain? Why can't I just not worry about the diagnosis until I actually get it? Why can't I stop replaying my ride over and over again and how I could have/should have avoided the fall? Because there is that pesky theme again... Surrendering. Letting go. Not worrying about everything. Accepting that I can not control things. Trying to be positive.

Damn it. How many lessons will the Universe throw at me?

And once I get my results...another "demon" to face: will I return to mountain biking? For those not familiar with it, it's a tough sport. I have been told, in fact, that "it's a guy's sport." It is rigorous, exhausting, dangerous, and exhilarating. (And for those of you who are thinking "There are no mountains in South Florida!"...that may be true, but the mountain biking here is so technical that they say that once you learn down here, you can ride anywhere.) I am a fairly clumsy individual. I became athletic late in life. I trip over my own two feet on a pretty regular basis. Maybe I have no business clipped into a mountain bike. Because another one of my "issues" I deal with on a regular basis? My biggest secret? I am not very brave. I pretend to be. I try to be. I've done some pretty courageous things in my lifetime. But the truth is, deep down, I'm a big chicken.

So what to do now? Wait. Try to surrender. Try to learn something from this life experience too. But...hey...the good news? Apparently, even with only 9 fingers, I can still be just as wordy as I usually am! Lucky you.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Post-Traumatic Vacation Disorder

I have spent the last 5 days unpacking, doing laundry, trying to lose the booze and buffet cruise weight, sighing wistfully over memories of the trip, and dealing with a 3-year-old who, it seems, has decided to make us pay for going away without him.

I am not sure if that is exactly the cause of his behavior, but I have had many moments over the last few days where I've wanted to put him up for sale. Or maybe just give him away. Have you ever just looked at your kid and thought: "Boy, I just don't like you right now."? For the most part, Ben is a really well-behaved kid, but he can be obstinate. He's too damn smart sometimes, and he knows how to push our buttons. This week, he's been pushing every one. I have felt completely deflated...wondering, "Are we not doing a good-enough job raising him? Have we not taught him enough about being kind? Are we firm enough? Are we too firm? What the heck is this kid's problem?!?"

Put his behavior together with Aidan's separation anxiety/total whiney/crawling and climbing into everything phase, and well...let's just say I have not yet gotten over my vacation nostalgia!

Now we are packed for a weekend vacation with my whole family. The four of us, plus my sister's family and my parents will all be spending a couple of days at a hotel on the beach. We have sold this to Ben as our Family Vacation (in contrast to our Mommy & Daddy Vacation). On one hand, I'm excited. On the other, I'm weary. Aidan is a light sleeper, so I don't know what to expect overnight, one big happy family in one room. He can be pretty high-maintenance at times. And Ben's behavior this week has left me exhausted and discouraged. I have a feeling this weekend will do little to cure my melancholia...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cue the theme song from "The Love Boat"

I can't believe this picture was taken less than 48 hours ago. It seems like it was months ago. Have we really only been home for a day and a half? The cruise was wonderful. The moment I stepped onto that ship, I Let Go. I did. I became another person. Or maybe just the one I used to be. For 4 days and nights, I was just Liz, not Mama. And we were just Us. And it felt so damn good that it makes me sad.

By the end of the trip, I was ready to come home. I was. It was just enough time away. I was ready to see the boys. I was ready to sleep in my own bed. I was ready to leave the all-day eating and drinking and go back to my carefully allotted Weight Watcher points and my gym time. We had read. We had slept. We had sunbathed. We had snorkeled. We had danced. We had laughed. We had talked. We know...the other stuff. We had done all of it in excess. And it felt really, really, really good. And on the last night, while I was crawling into bed and realizing that That Was was over...I started to cry. No, not cry. Bawl. Hubby was surprised by it, but not as much as I was. I don't usually cry at the end of vacations, because I firmly believe that if you make your Life, your usual Everyday Life, as good as possible, then you should be happy to get back to it. And I always am. And I still am. But when it hit me that it would be a very, very long time before we could be Like That again...just Us...for more than one made me really, really sad.

Before we had kids, our biggest fear about parenting was the disruption of Our Cocoon. How in the world were we going to be able to allow another entity into this little space we created for ourselves? How would we be able to share each other with someone else? What would happen to Us? We were a Team. Partners in crime. Best Friends. Lovers. Soul mates. How would we reconcile sharing what we had made with someone else? Well, of course, after we had Ben and we fell in love with him too, we pulled him in with us. And later, when Aidan Kai arrived, we all squeezed in closer and squished him in there with us. We became a Team of Four. Hubby and I had been a family from the beginning. Now our family had just gotten bigger. But the cocoon...the original one in which there was only room for 2...I think I had forgotten what it really felt like in there.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful, either. I know how lucky we are, that we were able to go away by ourselves for a few days and leave our boys in very good hands. So typical...I feel guilty just for feeling melancholy! But it's almost as if I had forgotten...really it felt to be A Couple. I didn't realize it would feel so different...4 whole days. We have babysitting on a pretty regular basis, so we do actually spend quality time alone, but this was different. This was absolutely disconnecting from the world...from not only our kids, but our friends and families, our TV shows, our jobs, our daily household chores. It took me back to the old days when all we were responsible for were our little apartments and each other.

Now as I go through the luggage, every article of clothing, every souvenir, every photo makes me melancholy. I feel like a girl who has had a romantic vacation fling, and is now pining away at the memories of the dream guy. A little reminiscent of "How Stella Got Her Groove Back", except I seem to have left my groove back on the ship.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I am so outta here...

Well, we are ready. No colds, no calamities (knocking on wood as I type). We leave in the morning. The boys' stuff is packed up for Grandma's. Our stuff is packed up for 4 nights of frivolity and indulgence. No crying babies or whiny diapers to bottles to prepare or tantrums to ward off. Just Me and Him.

And because nothing makes me feel more like ME than my shoes, I made sure to pack the essentials:

My Summer '09 Steve Maddens...

My Nothing-Makes-Me-Feel-Sexier purple platform stilettos...

And the ones I lovingly call "My Cupcakes"...

Of course, I do realize this IS a cruise, so by day I will either be barefoot or in my Happy Havaianas...

And I made sure I have plenty to keep my mind occupied with absolutely nothing of importance...

I may need some warm chamomile to get to sleep tonight, and I may be quite stressed with the good-bye's and last minute tending-to's in the morning, but once I step on that ship...I am officially checking out of life. Just for a fabulous little while.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pina Colada, anyone?

"Four days?!? You and Daddy are gonna be gone for four days?"

"Yes, Ben, that is why (pause here for dramatic emphasis) you get to rent FOUR Blockbuster movies for grandma's house!! Isn't that gonna be cool?!?"

"But Maaaamaaaa, I don't waaaant you and Daddy to be gone for four days. I want to be with you guys aaaaall the time."

We have been telling Ben about our upcoming "Mommy and Daddy Vacation" for a few days now. I think it just hit him today that maybe, just maybe, he might have a problem with it. It seems that 4 rental movies do not cancel out 4 days of no Mama and Dada. Darn.

Hubby and I are big believers in spending quality grown-up couple time together. We do not think a fancy dinner can be romantic with 2 children sitting at the table with us (in spite of what some parents we know tell us...repeatedly). We do not think a family vacation--although wonderful in its own right--is as relaxing or as recharging for the marriage as a true getaway all alone. I realize that not everyone has this option. We do. We have my mom, Babysitter Extraordinaire. We are lucky. Really lucky.

So we will be leaving in exactly 40 hours (um, ehem, approximately), and we will tap into our Old Selves. The ones we were before we were Mama and Daddy. The ones we were when we met. And dated. And held hands. And kissed. And giggled. And flirted. And, uh, other stuff. It's hard to be Those People in our daily lives. It's hard to...and we try, Lord knows, we try. We reach out across the expanse of our family room, strewn with rattles, Hot Wheels cars, balls, books, and Nerf darts, and we try to reconnect as often as possible. With winks. With kisses. With smiles. With hugs. And after we put the boys down to sleep, we try to, with some regularity, open a bottle of wine, put on some music, talk (yes, really talk) and love each other. On the best nights, it feels like old times. On the worst nights, we're too tired to even bother with any of it. On most nights, we manage to steal an hour to ourselves before we collapse with exhaustion. This is Our Lives right now. It's what we want. But it's hard.

If you're lucky enough to be parenting with someone you'd still marry all over again, then it can definitely be more rewarding, but in some ways it can make day-to-day life even more frustrating. Because when you actually like the person you're parenting with, when you actually miss him even though he's still right there, living with you, sleeping in your bed, making breakfast with you everyday, helping you turn little boys into men, well, then it can be doubly hard because it's the parenting that's keeping you apart. So to have four...count 'em...four whole days and nights to OURSELVES on a cruise ship...away from the Real World, away from Our Current Lives, away from...yes, The will be heaven. But as I finalize my packing, as I count down the last few hours, as I get my passport ready, I realize that I am leaving behind 2 little who will notice our absence, really notice it, for the first time, and in spite of the promises of Blockbuster movies, special outings with the grandparents, no bedtimes, and extra candy, well...the truth of the matter is, fortunately or unfortunately, he still likes being with us best.

So when I heard the panic creeping into his voice today, I felt a bit of the same panic creeping into me. Not so much because I will miss him, but because I want him to behave for Grandma and Grandpa...I want him to have fun...I want him to be happy...and, I have to admit, I want to leave guilt-free. And if he is clinging to my leg upon my departure, it will take me more than a couple of umbrella drinks to unwind and really let go. And letting go is the whole purpose of this trip.

I think I'm gonna need a lot of singles for the bartenders.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not to toot my Mommy Horn, but...TOOT!

Hubby and I have a lot of in common. We both like to do a lot of the same stuff, but there are certain pursuits--which although shared--still "belong" more to one than the other. As much as I enjoy it, cycling is "his." It is part of who he is. It is what he does. So when Ben's 2nd Christmas rolled around and he was just over a year old and Daddy wanted to get him a "real bike" as his first bike, I was okay with that. I did not care that the kid could barely reach the pedals of his tricycle, or that the chosen bike cost more than most of my friends' adult bikes. And when Ben woke up on that Christmas morning and saw IT under the tree, a big bow on top...he did not seem to care that he could not really ride it yet, either. The look on his face was raw joy.
Fast forward to today...our baby Ben is no longer really a baby. And he can reach the pedals. And he can ride. And as of this week, he can ride with NO training wheels. It took this usually cautious, often slow-to-try-new-things little boy all of 10 minutes to figure this out...

By the third day, he had suffered two major spills ("I'm OK! I'm OK!") and was riding up and over homemade ramps (his idea). I asked Daddy, " this your proudest Daddy Moment yet?" "It's up there," was his response. "It's up there."
Biking might be Daddy's thing (and I do love it), but I have a few "things" of my own. Reading is definitely one of them. I have been the quintessential bookworm since 2nd grade, when I met Ramona Quimby. We used to joke that since Ben was a toddler, his three favorite things all started with the letter of his name: balls, bikes, books. He was under a year old when he threw his first mini-tantrum because I would not read him another book. We have read to him every single day of his life since the day he came home from the hospital. So, like biking, he has always loved books. But this week he decided he wanted to make a bookmark "like Mommy's" and he wanted to read "a long book" so he could use his bookmark and he knew exactly which one he wanted to read: the chapter book about the bike race that had been sitting on his bookshelf, waiting for him to get a little bigger so he would be ready for it.
So I humored him the first night, thinking even if we did not really continue the book, at least he was beginning to understand the concept. But tonight, after his PJs were on and his teeth were brushed and he asked the infamous question I dread every other night: "Tonight, is it Daddy's turn to read books?", instead of trying to convince me to let Daddy have an extra turn, or whining about how he "waannnnttteed Daddyyyyy to read books toniiiiight..." he started jumping up and down, cheering, "And tonight we're gonna read more about the race across America!" And sure enough, after a short recap from the night before, we went on a few more chapters and talked about the story and the characters and slipped our homemade bookmark in the book and I had to promise that we'd keep reading tomorrow night.

I have no idea what he'll be when he grows up. I don't know if he will be like us or swing completely in the other direction. And we are very, very careful about letting our boys grow up to love and do what they want. Whether he contines to love the same things we do or not, we will be there...cheering him on, sharing in his joy and his pride in whatever it is he loves to do. But for right now, within this tiny sliver of our lives as parents, we have our little Dream Boy: cyclist by day, book geek by night. A 2-wheeler. A chapter book. All in the same week. We are a long time away from that baby boy in Christmas PJs who couldn't reach the pedals... our First Baby, our First Boy, our Ben...the one God made us wait for once upon a growing up.