Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Countdown Begins

Yikes.  It's December 1st.  How did that happen?

I have officially been listening to the Holiday Music Chanel on TV and have begun the process of obsessing over the right gifts for all the people in my life.  Granted, I probably started obsessing a few weeks ago.  But now I am actually doing something about it. 

Every year I manage to forget how very time consuming Christmas shopping and general Holiday organizing can be.  It never used to be so intense, but there's something about being an official "grown up" that has added a lot of pressure.  I am generally not a materialistic and consumer driven kinda gal, but there's just no way out of the mayhem at this time of year.

The kids and I take off for Canada in 18 days and there is a whole lot going on before then.  The most exciting celebration will be next week for the babe.  My daughter, who was so recently my itty bitty baby girl, will turn 5 years old on Wednesday.  On Thursday, we will attend the annual "art night" at her school where we get to check out all the kids paintings and enjoy a pot luck dinner.  Saturday will be her birthday party at the paint your own pottery studio (the first time we are hosting her birthday outside of our home!).

My husband will celebrate his birthday on the 23rd and my son, the little guy, will turn 3 on Christmas Eve.

All this, and my husband and I get to navigate the murky waters of explaining what the Holiday Season is really about and how different folks have different celebrations around this time of year.  We need to answer questions about why we go to Church with Grandpa and Nana on Christmas Eve but no other time of year.  We have to blend the explanation of baby Jesus with the Santa hoopla.

We also have to explain/elaborate on who Santa Claus is and how he manages to get presents to all the kids around the world in one night.  It's important for me to ensure my kids enjoy the bliss of all the North Pole has to offer this time of year.  But we also explain how our family supports the homeless shelter so the people with no food or homes can have a special meal over the Holidays.  We explain how we collect canned food to give to those in need.  We also explain why we buy gifts for children who may not get much for Christmas this year (which isn't easy after you've been talking about Santa Claus). 

Really, it's a lot to explain to an almost 3 and an almost 5 year old.  There is so much information for their little brains to absorb and it is easy to get messages intertwined.  Obviously we want to share the awesome joy of the season with them, but we want to hammer home how lucky we are to have everything we do, and get across how critical it is that we help others who are not as fortunate as us.

So good luck with all the things you have to do this month.  I hope you get a second to take a deep breath and soak in the goodness the season has to offer.  Because "it's the most wonderful time of the year!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What's In Your Bed?

There's been a lot of talk lately about bed bugs on the East Coast of North America.  It is a serious issue which is cause for concern, especially if you're a frequent traveller.  Luckily, I am not a frequent traveller, nor is my husband (I say that with a heavy heart as part of me would love to be a frequent traveller).  The concern around my house is not bed bugs, but child pee.  Yes.  Child pee.

When my husband and I were first engaged we decided to splurge on an awesome king size bed.  It is truly delicious and we love it.  Sadly, over the years, there have been many incidents where our little ones have spat up, peed, vomited, etc., etc. in our bed.  Because that's the kind of stuff that happens when you have little kids.

I had hoped we were mostly past that phase as I feel truly sorry for our beautiful bed which has been shown no mercy.  Yesterday I was reminded that we are most certainly not past that phase (silly me).  Yet again, my son, who climbs into our bed around 6 am every morning, managed to soak through his overnight diaper and leave a nice big pee spot in the middle of our mattress where we generally rest our weary heads.  He and his sister usually snuggle up and watch a 20 minute (educational) cartoon every morning while I throw myself together.  Most mornings I will change his diaper before he sits up to watch TV.  As you may have guessed, I did not do that yesterday.  I had given him a quick bum pat and decided he'd be OK for the 10 minutes it would take to throw my jeans on and brush my hair and teeth.  I came out of the bathroom to find him sitting clueless in a damp circle.

This is NOT what you want on a Monday morning after a 5 day (i.e. very, very long) weekend with your 4 person family.  So I stripped the sheets and grabbed a wet and soapy towel and tried to remedy the situation.  At this point I'm not sure what else I can do.  Our beautiful mattress has been abused for so many years, but as long as we have anyone in diapers or toilet training around this house, I suppose pee in my precious bed is a possibility I'm going to have to live with.  Not that I'm trying to make excuses.  I admit that I'm going to have to be more dedicated to the early morning diaper change.  I can't expect a sleep induced laissez-faire attitude to keep my mattress safe.  While pee isn't in the same ball park as bed bugs (thank goodness!), my mattress just can't take it anymore.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another Holiday Celebration & Another Anniversary

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans!  I am always thrilled to celebrate this Holiday right along with you.  While Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October, it has always seemed like a way bigger deal here.  I enjoy all the festivities (especially our traditional smashing dinner hosted by our generous and wonderful friends I and D--thank you in advance!), but I also like taking some time to dwell on all my blessings.  I have so much to be grateful for and I'd like like to say thank you to the universe for everything I have.  Right now I am especially grateful to my husband for taking my energetic kids to the park and for the sun which has decided to shine after days and days of rain and gloom.

Secondly, I would like to tell you about a special Anniversary I am celebrating.  Last night, as my husband and I caught up on all the shows we had DVRd (is that a word?) throughout the week, I realized that it had been five years since I left my job.  The babe was due around Thanksgiving, so I had decided to work until the day before Thanksgiving and then go on official leave.  Five years ago yesterday I organized my office, said my good byes, and went home with the hopes of having a baby in a few days.  Little did I know that my baby wouldn't make her debut until December 7th.  Little did I know it was to be my last day in an office for a very long time.  And little did I know that my home would become my new "office."  There's a lot I didn't know five years ago that I know now! 

At this half decade point, I am finally relatively comfortable with the notion of being a "stay-at-home" Mama.  I take pride in all I do to keep my four person family functioning.  And while I don't know what the future holds, I know that I have made it through what have been some of the most challenging and beautiful years of my life.  And today, I am giving thanks. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Snots

The little guy has a cold.  He is snotty, coughing, and generally kinda gross.  I feel bad for my little love bug.  But I also feel bad for my husband and I.  On Saturday morning my husband caught the little guy wiping his snot all over the pillow case--my husband's pillow case, that it.  We wash our sheets on Saturdays (it's just what we do), so everything was going to be tossed into the hot cycle and the snot didn't seem like that big of a deal.

Last night the kiddos were watching a little Dinosaur Train after dinner and my husband and I were taking 20 minutes to actually try and read something.  I happened to look up after my son let out a big sneeze and catch him wiping his snot onto the cozy couch blanket.  Perhaps that needs to go into the hot cycle as well, I thought to myself with a smile.

But the jewel of the snot story is this:  After a nice hot shower (and a nice long day), I climbed into our bed with its lovely clean sheets.  I looked at the space between where my husband and I generally lay our heads and saw a priceless collection of little hard snot balls.  I would like to clarify that they weren't my snot balls and they weren't my husband's snot balls. 

I have to admit that I love cuddling with the little guy when he climbs into our bed at 6:15 am every day.  I am annoyed that I am losing valuable sleep, but I cling to him because he is so warm and cozy and I know it will not always be this way.  One day my little boy will not be interested in cuddling with his Mama or watching cartoons under a cozy blanket next to his sister.  I suppose if snot in my bed and snot on our blankets is the price I have to pay, then so be it.  Snot eventually goes away, especially in the washing machine.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Belated Thank You

I never told you the story about the woman I sat next to on the train from DC to NYC last month.  She was in her 50s, I'm guessing, and was on her way home for a one night get away.  She was extremely excited as she was going to see her boyfriend and go out on the town. 

So why was she going home for only one night, you ask?  This woman, a mother of three, has been living at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the past three months as her son recovers from injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan.  She has not left his side since the day he returned.  She has helped him through the twelve surgeries he's had since coming back home.  He is only 20 years old. 

I meant to write this on Friday, Veterans Day, but didn't manage to get the computer turned on.  I haven't stopped thinking about that Mother.  While talking to her I couldn't help but picture what it would be like to watch your boy go off to war and then to return in that kind of pain.  It brought tears to my eyes and I asked her to tell him thank you for everything he has done.  I just don't think I'd be able to let the little guy go off to war.  Yet Mothers all around the world have to experience it every day.

I don't want to get political with this post.  I just want to say thank you to all the men and women who sacrifice so much.  I also want to acknowledge all the strong men, women and children who are left at home while their family members are off serving their country.  Thank you.   

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Co-Op

When you send your child to a co-op nursery school it is significantly cheaper, but you have to actually co-op.  I was supposed to co-op for the first time in October but switched my "shift" with a pregnant Mama who was trying to free herself for her baby's arrival in January.  As the little guy is only in school two mornings a week, I technically only co-op once every six weeks.  Not bad, right?

My first shift was scheduled for November 17th and I have been silently preparing myself for the prospect of hanging out with twelve two-year-olds for weeks.  I have to admit I've been quite nervous.  I have never done this kind of thing before, and while in theory it sounds great (kinda), how was I really going to do in reality?

Last night I got a call from my shift switching Mama colleague asking for a favor.  She was wondering if I could help her out by taking her co-op shift today. I decided to bite the bullet and say "yes."  I pulled together some juice, crackers and veggies to bring in for snack time.  I went to bed early so I wouldn't have a foggy head.  I got up early so I could get a cup of coffee (instant) in me before our regular chaotic morning routine kicked into full gear.  I dropped the babe off at the rope line (which was not a smooth transaction).  I braved rush hour traffic.  And I made it to my shift just in time by 9:14 am.

I now realize that these nursery school mornings go by fast whether you are at the school with the kids or racing around town trying to fit in as many errands as you can in two hours.  I honestly didn't have a chance to worry because I was working/playing/swinging/singing/cleaning/crafting/hand washing/changing poopy diapering/wiping snotty noses/marching and having a grand 'oll time from the second I walked in the door until our time was up at noon.

While I would never want to be in there every day, or even every week (I don't know how preschool teachers do it), I did have a pretty good time.  It was fun to talk to other kids and to watch the little guy in his element.  By the time we made it home for lunch I was wiped out (as was he).  I was starving (as was he).  And I really had to pee (he still wears diapers, what can I say?).

I've caught up on some chores around the house, downed a cafe au lait from my fancy home coffee maker (that's another story), and am really just enjoying my few minutes of peace, quiet, and computer time.  Today, I deserve it.  It feels good to have my first shift under my belt.  And it feels good to be an official "co-oper."

  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mama Brain

Once you get "Mama Brain," does it ever go away?

I have heard a variety of pretty impressive Mama Brain stories in the past few weeks and just have to share.  I am not naming any names, except my own.

The week before last was the bake sale at the babe's school. I whipped up some nut-free chocolate muffin cupcake kinda things during the little guy's nap time.  At 3:00 pm, we ran out the door to pick up the babe.  About 5 minutes into our journey, I had a panic attack.  Did I turn off the oven?  What to do?  Do I risk being late for pick up (for the first time ever) or do I swing around and go check?  As we were headed to an after school play date I decided I had no choice but to turn around.  It's a good thing I did, because the oven was on.  And there was nothing in it.  This was not good.

I recounted this story the next day to another Mama while purchasing tasty treats at the bake sale.  She one upped me (and I was thrilled she shared this story with me so I could share it with you).  This Mama, who will remain nameless, had gone for a manicure in her precious down time.  When it came time to leave the salon, she couldn't find her keys.  After retracing her steps and walking to the coffee shop she had visited just prior to the salon, she walked back to her car (which was parked on a major road) expecting to see the keys in the ignition.  Yes, the keys were in the ignition.  But hold on.  It gets better.  Not only were the keys in the ignition, the car was on and the doors were unlocked. 

Last night an email message came in from one of the school list serves I am subscribed to.  A Mama admitted to leaving her stroller in the parking lot of a grocery store and was wondering if anyone had an extra they could spare?  At least she didn't forget the kids, she joked.

And another Mama I know just admitted she had left her Snap and Go in a folded down position by the side of the road for a few days before she realized what she'd done.  It was still there when she went back to pick it up.

No one was hurt in any of these stories.  And hopefully you feel better about yourself now.  Because remember, "we're not perfect...no we're not."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween 2011

I really like Halloween.  My kids do too.  The few weeks leading up to it are filled with such beautiful anticipation.  I love seeing it though my kids eyes and remembering the good 'oll days of my childhood. 

We spent a good part of Tuesday dealing with the fact that "Halloween is over."  The babe asked, "Mama, how many more days before we have Halloween again?"  It hurt to tell her 364.

I have taken down the spider webs from the bushes out front.  I have packed away the costumes.  But I still have a lot of candy.  Too much candy considering I have a daughter with food allergies and a son who is not used to eating food his sister can't eat.

The tough part about Halloween is sorting through my kids stash at the end of the night.  I take away all the candy and chocolates my daughter can't have.  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups being a prime example.  She remains seriously allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and can't eat dairy products that haven't been baked at 425 for 25 minutes or more.  I am too paranoid to give her things without labels and usually end up taking away most of her trick or treating collection.  I am the bad guy.  I would have hated myself now as a kid.  Luckily she is good about it and doesn't lose her cool. 

I try to replace the candy I take with approved candy I have bought in advance.  So I guess that makes me the good guy.  The kids still get to sit at the dining room table after they eat dinner and eat too much sugar.  They still get to experience the sugar highs and lows of a normal post-Halloween childhood.

Although yesterday was a reminder that perhaps my kids aren't that used to getting loaded up on sugary candy treats.  Our first incident was during nap time when the little guy barfed up chocolate I had given him after lunch (his sister was at school and I figured she wouldn't know the difference).  The little guy sadly knew the difference.  This barfing episode may be due to the fact he doesn't consume much dairy or that he doesn't consume much chocolate.  Regardless, no more dairy chocolate for that kid. 

The second incident was before bath time.  Both kids had consumed a good chunk of candy after dinner so were a tad ramped up by bath time.  I was on my own last night and was sorting out pajamas, etc. for after bath when I heard a horrific cry.  The crying continued and before I knew it I had a sobbing little boy in my arms.  My hyper daughter had managed to close the bathroom door on my hyper son's thumb.  We had a solid 20 minutes of theatrics and I broke a sweat worrying that his little thumb could be broken.  By 8:25 pm everyone was safely tucked in bed....clean and calm. 

Oh, and by the way, the babe was a witch for our neighborhood party on Sunday and then an astronaut for Halloween on Monday.  The little guy, my crustacean, was a lobster.  They were both darn cute, if I do say so myself.  Another successful Halloween under our belts with a few lessons learned to boot.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Show Well

I got a compliment last week.  Although I'm not sure how accurate the compliment is, I appreciated receiving it.

I was dropping off the babe at school and trying to deal with the little guy having a bit of a melt down at the top of a rather dangerous staircase.  I am not sure what I was doing which looked like "appropriate mother type behavior," but one of the Moms passing by commented on how patient I was.  I looked at her and started laughing.  I told her that I am not an exceptionally patient parent and if they sold patience at the store, I would spend my retirement savings on it.  She laughed and told told me that "I show well." 

I happen to know she is a real estate agent, and having recently purchased our first home, I am familiar with the term "showing well."  What I don't understand is how I could ever "show well."  I think that's because I am always stuck inside my head and dealing with a trail of crazed thoughts and occasional (OK, frequent) expletives.  Drop off is just not an easy thing to do with the little guy in tow.  This kid has gotten rather big and rather strong, and when he doesn't want to cooperate, well, he doesn't cooperate. 

I am pretty jazzed that I managed to pull off the "patient Mama" look on that particular morning.  Now I just have to aspire to pull it off every morning (Just joking. I'm not perfect!).  Maybe "patient Mama" will help bring out "patient little guy."  Or maybe not.  Either way, I show well.    

I'm Not Perfect

You know when a song gets stuck in your head and you just can't get it out?  Well apparently this happens to kids as well.  The little guy has been wandering around the house, and everywhere else, singing, "I'm not perfect, no I'm not."  If you didn't know what he was singing, you may think there's some messed up stuff going on at our house.  But in reality, he's singing a great song by the Laurie Berkner Band and if the little guy were to sing the whole song, folks may think we have a pretty cool home with just the right attitude. 

The song's message is just as important for the little ones as it is for us big ones.  In fact, it's such a great song I think I'll share the lyrics with you:

I'm Not Perfect by Laurie Berkner

I'm not perfect, no I'm not
I'm not perfect, but I've got what I've got
I do my very best, I do my very best
I do my very best each day
But I'm not perfect
And I hope you like me that way

We're not perfect…

You're not perfect, not you're not
You're not perfect, but you've got what you've got
You do your very best, you do your very best
You do your very best each day
But you're not perfect

And you know

I love you that way

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I've been thinking about Erma...

I recently read a thoughtful piece by Erma Bombeck.  One part in particular hit me like a slap in the face.  A few hours before reading the collection below, I had told the babe to get back in her seat and finish her dinner.  The thing is, she had gotten out of her seat to come over to give me a kiss.  At the time, I was more concerned with getting dinner wrapped up so I could clean the kitchen before bringing the kids upstairs for a bath.

Reading the piece below was a reminder that living in the present and appreciating all the little things is so much more important than stressing out about the next few steps on our "to do" list.  When someone comes over to give you a kiss, especially when that someone is your precious little girl, you should stop and savor it.  These are the kisses I will hopefully remember when I'm sitting in my rocking chair one day.  I don't think I'll remember if I managed to get the entire kitchen clean after dinner and before bath time, though.

“IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the "good" living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather rambling about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television, and more while watching life.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment, realising that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more "I love you's" and more "I'm sorry's"

. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute . . . look at it and really see it . . . and never give it back.”

― Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"I'm OK"

I didn't celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving this year. I had just returned home from a whirlwind one night trip to New York City where I had attended my dear friend's baby shower. I had a great time catching up with old friends and making new ones, but something was hanging over my head. Despite a lovely get away to fabulous NYC, I was sadly not in a place where I felt like giving thanks.

In the past few weeks I have been reminded, once again, how very important my health is. It is something I take for granted. And as I rapidly approach my 36th birthday, I'm still feeling relatively young and healthy, except for a few odd things that have been bothering me since August.

I have been grappling with the possibility that I could have an autoimmune disorder such as Multiple Sclerosis. I've been experiencing symptoms such as occasional numbness and tingling in my left foot, lower leg, and the left hand side of my face. I am not one to self diagnose, but after the third time my face went partially numb, I figured it was worth going in to see a professional. When my doctor sent me for an MRI of my lower spine, and then my neurologist sent me for an MRI of my brain and for an EMG test, I started to panic. This is real. This could really be happening. And the questions come flooding into my brain: What if they find something? What if this is the beginning of the end for my "normal" body? What if my life, and the life of my family, is about to seriously change? What if they tell me I have MS?

When you are stuck in an MRI tube, and you can't move for over half an hour, you have a lot of time to think. It is a very mentally and physically challenging experience and I was drained after both of them. I fully understand how many folks freak out and demand to be removed from the loud, cold, scary tube. The even tougher part was not immediately knowing what was found during the scans.

The second type of testing, the EMG, was pretty much 45 minutes of being electrocuted and then an hour of being poked by needles in the muscles of my legs and back. This made me wish I was back in the MRI tube. While I had pretty much kept it together for the whole testing process, I lost it as soon as I made it to my car after the appointment. The possibility of having a permanent disease and the reality of the testing became too much.  I went home and lay on the couch in a fetal position crying (it didn't help that I was in pain and could barely walk after having needles repeatedly stuck in my leg muscles).  Again my mind was churning.  I was not meant to be the one who got sick. This kind of thing happens to other people, not me. How am I supposed to be a strong Mama if my fears become a reality?

To say that I have been distracted lately would be an understatement. I sincerely struggled to remain positive, but the weight of the unknown was rather difficult to carry.

I anxiously awaited my follow up appointment with my neurologist. Friday morning arrived and my husband asked if I was prepared for whatever news I was going to receive. I asked him how I was supposed to prepare. He told me he loved me and that we would deal with whatever the results of the tests were together. I was reminded how lucky I am to have such an amazing husband. I brought the little guy along with me as this was an appointment where I wanted his innocent company.

Do you know what I want to give thanks for now? Four days after Canadian Thanksgiving and forty one days before American Thanksgiving, I was told there is no evidence of any neurological problems. I do not have MS. As if I didn't have enough to be grateful for already, I am now set free from the burden of fearing I am sick. There really are no words to explain how awesome, exhausted, thrilled and drained I feel.

I immediately called my husband, and told him, "I'm OK, I'm OK." He thought for a second that I had received a bad diagnosis and I was comforting him telling by him I was OK with it. "No, really," I said, "I'm OK. I don't have MS and there's no evidence of any neurological problems." Standing outside the doctor's office building, cell phone pressed against my ear, and the sun in my face, the tears were flowing because I'm OK.

What do you do after such an intense experience? I went and ate fancy overpriced cupcakes with my little boy and gave thanks, because, as I mentioned, I'm OK.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"I Boy"

Things around here have been busy.  Not sure if I'm just adjusting to the new season, or things really are just plain busy.  Essentially I have lots to say, and no time to write it.  Or, more like, lots to say and by the time I get a chance to write I really don't feel like writing.

But here I sit, with a second to spare, and I want to take this opportunity to capture a moment I do not want to forget.  Because ultimately, that is what this blog is about.  When I am sitting in my rocking chair in a retirement home all old and gray, I want to read these words and remember.

We had just gotten back from an excursion in the car.  I walked over and opened the little guy's door to unbuckle and get him out.  I said, "Hi, Baby."  He looked at me and said, "I no baby!  I boy!"  I let out a big laugh and gave him a bear hug while kissing his boy cheeks.  "Indeed, my love, you are a boy," I replied.

I suppose when the kid is saying it himself, it must be true.  My baby is a boy.  He will be 3 in less than 3 months.  He is a boy.  And, as hard as it may be, it is time for me to embrace it.  It's only been a week, but those words have been repeated many times around this house.  We all know that the little guy is a boy, and that he's happy to be one. 

Between you and me though, he'll always be my baby.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Poop Goes in the Potty

This is just a quick post to brag about the fact that my son did not poop in his diaper yesterday. That's right. He did not poop in his diaper.

After lunch he informed me that he had poop coming and we rushed to the potty. It was a grand success. And before bath time he informed me he had more poop coming and we rushed to the potty. Another awesome experience.

It was a big poop day, and the fact that it all went into the toilet was quite monumental. I think I like our no pressure potty training approach. It certainly is much less stressful than the alternative.

And in case you were wondering, today ended up being a non-poop day. So we will just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

All in a Day's Work

A few weeks back the babe and I were attending her classmate's birthday party.

As with all birthday parties we attend, I had brought her a special treat to make up for the fact she couldn't have the birthday cake the other kids were bound to be eating in her front of her.  Usually this plan has worked.  Sadly, it didn't work at this party.  When it came time for snacks and cake, the babe came to me crying.  She couldn't eat the sandwiches the other kids were eating and didn't get to indulge in the brownie cake that followed.

I felt so terribly bad for her.  I have always been impressed with her ability to deal with eating different food than the people around her.  I thought that since we've been aware of her allergies since she was 5 months old, that she was used to eating different food.  What I am now realizing is that almost 5 year old girls don't like to be different.  What they want is to eat the same cake as everybody else. 

As you may recall, the babe has outgrown some of her allergies and can now have eggs, sesame and baked milk.  While this opens up many doors, parents are never able to tell me the ingredients of what they are providing at birthday parties.  They don't know if the party food may contain trace amounts of peanuts.  They don't know if there is butter in the icing.  They don't know if the food was manufactured on equipment which is used to produce tree nut products.  And I don't want to take any chances.

Anyway, yesterday I spent an hour going through the list of snacks that are provided at the babe's school.  For over 2 years, I have sent her snacks in with her and she has eaten different food than the other kids at snack time.  I decided it was time to reevaluate this system and go through all the items that are served and read all the labels I could get my hands on.  I came up with a solid list of the foods she can have at snack time, and a list of those which she is not to be served.

I have put some faith in her teachers and in her by doing this.  I have lost some control.  But for the first time the babe was able to share in snack time with her class yesterday.  She was thrilled she got to eat what everyone else ate.  And I got to feel like I had done my job as her Mama.  It certainly feels good to make some progress.  It also feels good to know that my daughter is one step closer to culinary independence.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

That First Cafe Au Lait

My friends, I am happy to announce that the day I have been eagerly anticipating finally arrived.  Yesterday I dropped the babe off at her school, drove over the little guy's school, dropped him off, and drove to the coffee shop.  I sat down, by myself, and ordered a cafe au lait in a bowl (because I was going to be sitting down for a while) and a croissant with gooey melted cheese and ham.  It was simply marvelous, marvelous, marvelous.  I got to sit for 45 minutes uninterrupted and read the "express" newspaper and my very engaging book, Bel Canto.  I had waited almost 5 years for that moment and it was pure bliss.

Now, lets rewind to last week.  On Tuesday the 13th, the little guy started school.  He was so excited as we pulled up to the building.  He kept yelling, "my school, my school!"  The class was a buzz with activity, and all of us parents were staying for the session which went from 9:30 to 11:00 am.  I was proud of the little guy's independence and general interest in getting his hands on everything he could, as fast as he could.  He also rocked the sand box and was the first one in with the trucks.  I had a good feeling when I left at 11 am. You know the kind of feeling you get when you realize you made a good decision (doesn't happen much, right?).  Well that's how I felt.  I was thrilled the little guy is going to be spending 2 mornings a week in this very fun and loving environment.

Then came Thursday....this was the day when parents didn't have to stay.  I knew I was going to be taking off as soon as I felt the little guy was OK.  What I didn't realize was that he was going to feel OK the second he walked into the classroom.  I literally had to beg my boy for a hug good bye.  Again, I left the building feeling secure and happy.  I have volunteered to be the school's newsletter editor this year, which meant I had a meeting to attend that morning.  So while I was without children for a short window, I was not doing anything special (i.e. selfish) to mark this new phase of my life. 

Special came to me yesterday. 

While I don't envision spending 2 mornings a week drinking cafe au lait, I am looking forward to all the little things I will be able to take care of in my 5 hours of freedom a week (which includes drive time, sadly).

Here's to all the possibilities!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

This week I had to explain to my daughter what happened on September 11th, 2001.

It's not something I planned, but when the opportunity arose, I decided to share a few details with her. She took in the information I provided and said she wanted to see pictures. I knew there would be a lot of media coverage of the 10 year anniversary and thought it was best if she had a base understanding of what had occurred on 9/11. In her 4 year old brain she processed that planes had crashed into numerous buildings on the same day.

I honestly had never thought about when I would have to explain the events of 9/11 to my kids. I never planned what I would say and what I would not. But when a DJ on the car radio started discussing the upcoming anniversary as we drove to school, I knew the time had come. The babe was sitting so innocently in her car seat and started to ask questions. Despite the fact that I closely monitor my children's exposure to mass media, my daughter wanted to know the story.

Today, after sneaking up on me in the living room while I was watching the news during "nap time," she followed up and asked me why it had happened. I told her that I honestly didn't know and that many people have asked the same question. I did not explain to her that planes crashed into numerous buildings and a field because of a few evil men. When is it ever OK to explain that to an innocent child? I did tell her that today is a day to remember the people who died (not that that is easy to digest, either).

Tonight as I watch the television coverage of the anniversary, I have been consumed with memories of what it was like to live in New York City in September of 2001. In some ways it seems like so long ago and yet right now, as I watch the horrible images flashing across my screen, it feels like only yesterday. Nothing has ever touched me as deeply as the days following 9/11. I continue to count my blessings on a daily basis, but wish I was better at remembering how precious each and every day is. As we learnt 10 years ago, one day can change everything.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Back to School

I never thought we'd make it to September 7th, but we did.

On our last full day together, I decided to take the kids to the Museum of Natural History to see how the dinosaurs are doing (they're fine, by the way).  We had a great time and I felt like a good Mama for getting off my posterior and driving downtown in the rain.

Wednesday morning rolled around and we were all ready to go.  Everyone but the little guy.  He knew we were bringing his sister to school and wasn't ready to say good bye to his summer play mate. 

The school was complete mayhem with parents and little people crowding every available space.  There were a lot of new faces floating around, including 2 new teachers in the babe's classroom.  We got my little girl situated and said our farewells.  She appeared to be thrilled to be back in her class and immediately started touring around with one of her best gal pals.  Very cute.

What wasn't cute was the little guys sad face.  As soon as we said good bye to the babe, the little guy started pouting, "I miss Coco, I miss Coco."  I suppose after spending 7 weeks straight with his big sister he was not prepared to go back to the old boring routine with Mama.

As we left the building I had a big smile on my face.  Despite the fact that the little guy was sad, I was happy.  I noticed a pregnant woman and her husband standing outside the school.  He was rubbing her back and she was staring in the school window crying.  I stopped for a second and wondered what was wrong with me.  Is that the kind of reaction I'm supposed to be having?  After a moment's reflection, I remembered that I'm just not that kind of Mama...I am the kind of Mama that smiles after dropping off her child at preschool.  Granted, it is her third year, but I am pretty sure I did not shed a tear after dropping her off for her very first day. 

Anyway, the little guy survived the separation and the next day he got to visit his new classroom and meet his teacher.  It went smashingly well and he seemed right at home.  He starts school 2 mornings a week this Tuesday and I think we're both ready.  We'll see if I'm shedding tears on Thursday when I leave him there on his own for the first time.  Somehow I don't think I will be.  After 5 years of full time Motherhood, this temporary freedom will no doubt be a delicious treat to be savored.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Summer

I have just survived what possibly could have been the longest summer of my life.

Don't get me wrong, there was a LOT of awesomeness.  But frankly, it was a LOT of work.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard "How was your summer?" over the past week.  I have been smiling and saying, " Great, thanks, how was yours?" 

I suppose in passing people don't really have time to get into it, but really, let's be honest, a summer with 2 kids and no camp is intense.  Really, really intense.  As you may have guessed, there wasn't a whole lot of time for blogging.  And I truly missed my blogging.

Some of the highlights of the past 7 weeks include:

Lewes, Delaware, otherwise known as "The Beach":  I am now able to confirm that the ocean is indeed only 3 hours from DC.  It is beautiful and blue and I love being by the water.  My kids were beach bunnies and loved the scene.  To call it a vacation, however, would be a tad inaccurate.  I think what I have realized is that you can't really have a "vacation" when caring for 2 kids under the age of 5.  They need to be fed 3 meals a day plus snacks, they expect to be entertained most of the time, and they tend to go a bit batty with their sleep schedules when pulled out of their familiar home routines (like getting up at 5:30am).  I was more tired after the beach than before the beach, but frankly, it was totally worth it. I love the ocean and I think it loves me too.  I also love my amazing friend A who came down from NYC for the crazy beach trip and made everything more happy on a daily basis.  I could not have done it without her.



This was our regular "spot"

I sat in this chair for an hour staring at the water and it was the best hour of my entire summer.

Montreal, Canada: The kids and I spent 5 days in lovely Montreal visiting my Mother in Law (MIL).  We saw good friends, ate delicious food (home cooked Indian food or bagels, anyone?), and got to regroup after our ocean adventure.  My MIL has saved all of my husband's toys from when he and his sister were kids.  You remember the Fisher Price airport, garage, school bus, etc?  Well she's still got them, and my kids get a serious kick out of them, as do I.  Hours of fun.  

Ottawa, Canada: This was a 2 week visit with my folks which featured hanging out with family, friends and more family and friends.  We went to some awesome parks (my favorites are Andrew Hayden Park and Britannia Beach Park), visited the Experimental Farm, Valley View Little Animal Farm, and got to swim in my parents pool on an almost daily basis.  The babe was even lucky enough to score a trip to the Canadian Museum of Nature with her sweet Uncle A (my brother).  Many good times were had by all, including my stomach which seems to have expanded after being on the road for a month.


The lovely view at Andrew Hayden Park


Britannia Beach


We saw a lot of very cool animals at the farms we visited.

By the time we took off back home, I had managed to see friends from my childhood, high school, university, and my NYC life.  I saw almost every Aunt and Uncle I have.  I saw my brother and his lovely fiancee.  And I felt like we had had a darn successful trip to Canada.  Luckily we managed to fly back to DC the day before Hurricane Irene hit the area.  And luckily our travels went smoothly, which is a lot to say when road tripping across the border for a cheaper flight and flying alone with 2 kids.

So, how was your summer? 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

I know I should be writing about the beach.

I know I should be writing about Montreal.

I know I should be writing about summer "vacation."

But frankly, I'm too tired.

What I want to write about is my parents.  Today they are celebrating 40 years of marriage.  They are out on the town as I write this from their home office in Ottawa.  I am so proud of the family they created and am so grateful to have been born into this family.

I only pray I will be as blessed in 34 years time.

So congratulations, Mom and Dad.  You are both awesome and I love you both dearly.  Thank you for everything you have done, and continue to do. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Beach

It's official.  The kids and I leave for the beach in the morning.

I have a zillion things to cram into our car (which is not a mini van!).  I have a lot of sunscreen and many bathing suit options for the kids.  I have a silly amount of food ready to go (I'm not sure what we'll be able to track down that is allergy friendly in the little beach town we're staying).

After living in DC for 8 years, I am finally heading to the Delaware coast.  I have never taken the little guy to the ocean, and the babe hasn't visited the beach since our trip to North Carolina when she was a wee little 1.5 year old.  We're all ready to experience the beauty and power of the water and sand.

I am praying the 3 hour drive goes smoothly tomorrow.  I will not be able to pull off the road every time they need something or decide to have a melt down.  I am expecting the babe to really shift gears and hopefully rise to the occasion.  I know she gets how special this is, and I hope she realizes how much I need her cooperation.

All this said, I will be offline for at least the next week.  I look forward to sharing the highlights of our adventure with you.  But it will have to wait because as soon as we get back from the beach, we are heading to the airport to fly North.  I've managed to coordinate an exciting Canadian adventure to visit our people.  August is going to be quite something.  I can already feel it. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And So it Begins

I thought I was ready for Day 1 of summer vacation.  I had a few things scheduled and thought we could just have "fun" the rest of the time.  As much as I tried, the "fun" I had envisioned seemed pretty hard to come by. 

Turns out I wasn't as prepared for Day 1 as I thought I was.  By the end of the day I had a son with a black eye, a daughter with no clue as to how her behavior was impacting others, and an unsavory feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

My husband came home with a fresh perspective and tried to talk us down off the ledge.  It is always helpful to have a burst of positivity come through the door following a really rough day.  After the kids were in bed, we continued to discuss how to make things better with the babe.  The conversation continued on this morning after I realized that the little guy's eye was worse than I had thought (needless to say, the babe had smacked his eye with something during a rather violent and chaotic play date).  My husband and I decided that all the talk about "being good," "doing good listening," "no yelling and hitting," wasn't getting us anywhere.  In fact it may be hurting us as we struggle to get through to her.  All this non-stop pressure to be a "good kid" has her acting exactly the opposite.

So we're going to try dropping all the "blah, blah, blah" and see how that goes.  I am sick of the sound of my own nagging voice so this is coming at a great time for me.  Another idea we're kicking around is just dropping down to our knees and hugging our little girl.  Where I would have lost my cool and gone off on her before, I am now going to try and get ahead of the situation and hug her when things seem to be taking a turn for the worse.  It will be a huge challenge for me as I don't usually feel like hugging when things are headed South.  So perhaps it will be good for both of us in the end.

Things have been going better today.  I am reminding myself that I am the adult and have to lead by example.  And I am trying to remember that my kids are kids and aren't usually acting out to get back at me.  They just don't know how to control their emotions, and I supposedly do.  My job is to teach them.  And the next 6 weeks is my chance to practice being the best Mama and person that I can be.  I think it's going to be the only way to make it to Labor Day.

So hang in there with me.  And please forgive my occasional rants.  Sometimes I just need to get it out and remember that it's not all about me and that I am not the only parent out there with a "spirited child."  Thanks for reading and please know that your thoughts are always welcome ( I won't hide it, I LOVE getting comments on my posts!).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thank You, Miss. D

Yesterday was the last day of preschool for the year.  The babe didn't seem to appreciate the magnitude of it all.  And I don't remember it feeling so dramatic last July.  Perhaps it is because we had to say good bye to one of her beloved teachers, Miss. D.

Miss. D has been such a loving and positive role model in the babe's life.  She has been a solid and sweet force of good vibrations and has made me feel like I made the right decision in sending my daughter to this particular school.  I have always felt I could be honest and straight forward with her I appreciate that she has always been the same way with me.

Through the ups and downs of the babe's last 2 preschool years, Miss. D has stood by her and encouraged us to find ways to help the babe through her bumpy periods (like when she was biting other kids). 

As I hugged Miss. D goodbye, I fought back a few tears, because I am really going to miss her smiling face.  I'm excited she has found a teaching position closer to her home, but I know there is going to be a gap that is hard to fill next year.  So thanks, Miss. D, for reminding me what a critical role teachers play in children's lives.  You will be missed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Let the Summer Begin

Ahhhhhhhh....summer.  Lazy days by the pool.  Chasing butterflies.  Playing in the splash park.  But wait.  It's about 100 degrees out there.  I'm not joking.

In less than an hour I am taking off to pick the babe up at school.  It is the last time I will be doing the 3:30 pm pick up until after Labour Day.  She gets off at noon tomorrow and then, as far as I'm concerned, summer really begins.  By summer, I mean having 2 kids at home all day in a heat wave.  Now that's what I'm talking about.

I have been trying to ignore that this day would come, but here it is. 

Luckily we have many exciting plans for August which include my first trip with both kids to the beach and a few weeks in lovely, hopefully cooler, Canada.

Am I scared?  Why yes, yes I am.  I don't know if I''ve mentioned it, but I think I'm a great hands on Mama when there's only 1 kid around.  I can easily do 1 on 1.  Bump that up to 2 and I start losing control of the situation pretty quickly.  My kids are just too much of a dynamic duo for me sometimes.  The old saying that you can't make everybody happy becomes exceedingly apparent once we've all spent a few hours together. 

I am officially calling on all my reserves of calm and patience and sending out vibes to the universe to help me through the next 6 weeks.  Things are going to change around here, and I'm going to embrace it, because what else can I do?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Context

I need to stop and take a deep breath.  My kids are changing and growing every second and saying and doing the most amazing things every day.  I forget that they are little people with very big ideas.  They just don't know how to put their big ideas into any sort of context.

Today was the babe's class trip to the WATER PARK!  She was in a great mood and being quite cooperative (maybe I need to take her there every day?).  She was also in a very, very chatty mood.

As we neared her school, the babe was talking about playing in the water, using goggles, and then announced that she wanted a snorkel.  I told her I didn't have a snorkel, but if I saw one designed for 4 year olds I would consider buying it.  Frankly, I'm not sure 4 year olds are able to use snorkels....but what do I know.  She thanked me and proceeded to ask if the police arrest you if you don't use the snorkel properly. 

At the time I was parking the car and a huge smile spread across my face.  I turned around to face her and asked if she could repeat herself.  I had apparently heard her right the first time: Do the police arrest you if you don't use your snorkel properly?  I'm not sure what I've been saying about the police lately (maybe that they should arrest all the terrible drivers clogging up DC's streets), but I assured her that the police are not involved in snorkeling and do not arrest children who are improperly using snorkels.  In fact, she doesn't really need to worry about being arrested at all....not yet, anyway.

This conversation served as a good reminder that part of my role as a Mama is to help my kids piece the world together, bit by bit.  As much as it may appear that the babe has it all figured out, she doesn't.  And for that, I'm grateful.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sweet, Sweet, Saturday and Sullen, Snotty Sunday

It was bliss.  Last Saturday was a postcard Saturday.  It was the kind of summer Saturday I used to dream of having.  A perfect day.  A lovely sleep in.  Well behaved children.  Drinks on the patio under our new umbrella.  Kids playing in the kiddie pool and sliding into the water with glee.  BBQ dinner.  Good conversation.  Many laughs.  Many smiles.  All around great vibes.

As my husband said on Sunday though, I suppose we had such a lovely time that we have to pay for it now.  Sunday was one of those days I never used to dream of having.  The kids were cranky and misbehaved.  In fact, the babe even screamed that she is going to be a better Mother than me when she grows up.  Keep in mind this was as I was loading her into the car for a morning play date at the park (what kind of Mother does that, anyway?).  I shut the car door and announced to the empty streets that I hope my daughter IS a better Mama than me one day.  Always room for improvement. 

My husband and I were wiped out.  It was hot and muggy.  We ended up canceling our planned trip to the Outback Steakhouse because the babe had pushed us too far.  We even cancelled dessert and story time for good measure.  And for some strange reason the kids weren't as into the US vs Japan soccer game as my husband and I were.  Overall, it was not a feel good day.  I was totally ready for Monday when it came.

Sadly Monday came and the misery continued.  It is amazing that one child's behavior has the ability to knock the rest of the family from their feel good place, but there it is.  I can only hope that my continued efforts to get through to my little girl will eventually succeed.

Not sure if it's the fact that we're facing the last week of summer school, or the fact that it is truly miserably hot and humid, but we need to figure out a way for the babe to be happy so the rest of us can be happy, because I am not interested in being held hostage by her extreme moodiness, lack of respect and inability to listen to simple instructions. I understand children need to test limits, but I am getting tired of upholding them all the time. 

All that said, I do try and remind myself, just as she reminded us the other day, the babe is, after all, only four and a half.  I don't remember what it's like to be that age, but I assume it must be a mix of awesome and terrible.  At the end of the day, I truly hope I can recreate more sweet, sweet Saturdays and help us all find some inner peace.  Ideas are always welcome!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Potty Talk

I am tired of my self analysis stint and am officially switching gears.  My Dad was right when he told me I always seem to want to be obsessing about something!

I'd like to talk about bathrooms.  Specifically, bathrooms and children.

I have become hyper aware of the fact that I probably sit on a lot of pee and poo fragments left on toilet seats by my daughter.  At 4.5 she has pretty much mastered the art of using the toilet when necessary.  In fact, earlier this week the babe and her new friend (a neighbor) decided to kick off their first play date with a rather prolonged trip to the bathroom.  The female inclination to head to the bathroom in groups apparently kicks in quite early. 

There do, however, appear to be some gaps in the clean up section of the babe's bathroom usage skills.

More than one time this week we have walked into a rather nasty situation in our bathrooms.  Little flecks of poop on the floor, chunks of poop stuck on toilet seats, and smushed looking poo all over the kiddie potty seat, which she claims she doesn't need.  I feel like I have been walking around with a container of Clorox wipes all week. 

You know that feeling you get when you stand up after using the toilet and realize you sat in wetness which has now transferred to the back of your legs?  That is fairly common around here.  I guess I just hadn't really spent much time thinking about what other disturbing things I could have been sitting on over the past few years.  I've decided it's time to get my head in the game and always assume the worst. I am not a germaphobe, but I think I am officially done with sitting in yuck. 

I am secretly grateful the little guy is still in diapers as I don't quite think I'm ready to face the challenges of potty training with him.  If I think things are gross right now, I'm sure I will be looking back at these times as the good 'oll days.  Before we venture down that path, I am going to work on toilet etiquette with the babe and try and get her squared away before we have to start all over again. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Perception

Last night I went to a community "social" event.  It was a wine & cheese/meet & greet, book reading/discussion hosted by my next door neighbor, the local community association President.  After confirming my attendance the day prior, my neighbor asked me for a favor.  Would I be able to help watch the bar and make sure there was enough wine, beer, and glasses left out for the crowd?  In my new role as Block Captain (that's another story), I was more than happy to help out.

I was looking forward to a little intellectual conversation and to learning a bit more about this father-daughter journalist team.  I have both a political science and journalism background so I tend to enjoy this sort of event.  I briefly spoke to my Mother before leaving and mentioned that I was off to a book reading.  When I mentioned the book title, Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama, she informed me she had just seen the authors interviewed on PBS last week.  Who knew my neighborhood was so cutting edge? 

After making sure everyone at home was fed and bathed, I threw on some fitted black non-play date clothes and went off to the event.  I quickly got to business tending the bar as there was a healthy turn out and lots of glasses being filled.  After I had made a few trips from the fridge to the bar, the event planner's husband (my next door neighbor) asked if I had ever worked in restaurants or bars before.  Apparently I was right back in the swing of my former role as a student server/bartender.

I quickly realized no one was really speaking to me, unless it was to ask a question about the wine, nor were they really making eye contact.  Oh My.  It dawned on me that my neighbors thought I was being paid to do this!  In fact, my neighbors didn't realize that I was their neighbor.

I suppose I was probably the youngest person in the room, and wearing black, and standing behind the bar.  When I mentioned my observations to my next door neighbor, the event planner, she said I should take it as a compliment, and I'm going to.  For half an hour I was my old poli sci/journalism student bartending self.  Perhaps it was even a little slice of feeling alive?  Whatever it was, it reminded me that what we perceive to be the truth, isn't always so, and who I appear to be can change from the streets of Manhattan to the parks of Washington, DC to the community centers of Bethesda.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - Part Two

I realize now that yesterday's post was rather self indulgent and privileged sounding.  Last night I was thinking about what I'd written and it dawned on me that I really should be focussing on how lucky I am to even be in the position I'm in. 

As I watched Mothers trying to find food and shelter for their children in drought stricken East Africa on the BBC last night, I was reminded that I have no right to complain about my lack of independent travel and people watching opportunities.  I chose my path and am blessed to be on it.  The feeling alive sensation I had over the weekend was just a different version of the one I normally have now (like when everything is going smashingly well with my family).  

I have never had both feet fully in the stay-at-home Mama thing, and have always wondered how long I would last with this job title.  What I have trouble dealing with is the idea that it could go on endlessly unless I actively pursue another path.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that path is going to have to be flexible and balanced.  Needless to say, that isn't going to be easy to find. 

As I ran from errand to errand this morning with the little guy in tow, I remembered how busy and important my job really is.  It may not be what I was trained to do, but for now I am the best person to do it.  No one else can be a Mama to my kids and for now, while they are so young, I think my efforts are best focused on the home front.  If I can't get everything done now, I can't imagine how strung out I'd feel if I was at an office full time.

What I haven't told you is that I have arranged for the little guy to join a co-op nursery school for 2 mornings a week in September.  He is ready to be away from me and I am excited to have found what appears to be a very loving and play based environment for him.  It will also amount to 5 hours of "alone" time for me.  This will be the first regular 5 hours a week I have had alone in almost 5 years.  I know the time will go by fast, but I am already excited by all the things I hope to achieve with my special time.

Don't get me wrong, everything I said yesterday is still true (and self indulgent, but I really do want that feeling alive feeling more!!).  But so is this.  I just wanted to make sure I put out a balanced picture when sending my thoughts to the universe.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I am slowly coming back down to earth after my marvelous visit to my favorite city.  The problem with looking forward to something for so long is that you don't quite know what to feel once it's over.  Needless to say, it was a brilliant adventure (thanks, A!).  And while I was happy to return to my sweet sleeping children, my tired husband (thanks again, honey!), and my very own home, I am always sad to leave THE place that makes me feel so very alive.

As I don't normally get uninterrupted time to read, I had decided on some light entertainment for my train travels.  The book I chose to bring along was about a single professional girl living in Manhattan, about my age.  The character is at a point where she is questioning what she wants out of life and whether or not she'd even be able to play the role of the "good Mother" who makes necklaces out of Cheerios and plans blow out birthday parties for her kids.  The character passes a comment that stay-at-home Mothers know what every day, month, and year are going to look like for at least the next decade.  Their lives are determined by their children's lives and schedules.

Reading that made me feel sick.  And as a stay-at-home Mother, I am not sure I agree.  Or perhaps I don't want to think about the truth that may lie in her comment.  I am a planner, so the idea of knowing what the next decade looks like is oddly reassuring.  At the same time, I am not a fan of the next decade of my life being structured only by my children's academic calendars and extra curricular activities. 

This leads me to the feeling alive thing.  Being in NYC with friends who knew me before I was a Mama reminded me of what it feels like to be me.  Just me.  Christine.  Not the wife part and not the Mother part.  The me that used to have a job on Madison Avenue. The me that used to have a seriously active social life.  The me that traveled, had fun, and a whole lot less responsibility.

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, because I have almost everything I used to dream of having.  I realize I am a grown up now and will never be that carefree girl again.  And that's more than OK.  But something about being on my own for the first weekend in over a year got me to thinking, how can I get this feeling more?  Frequent independent travel is not doable for the foreseeable future, but would having a paid job outside the home give me that feeling back?  Would having an identity outside of this family give me the independence and exposure to humanity that I seem to be missing?

These are serious questions which I've been facing for some time.  And while I go back and forth on what the ideal plan for our family is, I am now realizing that the dream scenario has to include what is best for my family AND  for me.  While I can't run off to Manhattan whenever I need some feeling alive time, I want to remember the importance of that feeling.  My quest for balance between Motherhood and personal independence is not a new one, but it certainly has come back to the forefront of my mind.

While I'm not going to figure this all out today, sometimes it just feels good to spit out my confusion and questions to the universe and see what comes back my way.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bad Blogger

I have been irresponsible.  I apologize for not posting to tell you that the babe's food challenge was a success!  She has now been cleared for baked dairy (like cake, cookies, and other good stuff).  We are all thrilled and so relieved that she seems to be growing out of her food allergies.

In the past week, my husband and I celebrated our 6 year anniversary (yay, us! and, where has the time gone?), went for dinner a few times, went to a movie (it had been a year and a half since my husband and I were in a theater together), bought a mini freezer for the basement (my husband's Mother has been visiting and cooking up a storm for us!), celebrated Canada Day, celebrated the 4th of July, went to a BBQ, hosted a BBQ, dealt with various home owner related issues and have generally been running all over the place like a chicken with its head cut off. 

These things do not amount to a valid excuse for not writing, but finding computer time has been challenging.

More news: I am taking off by myself for the first time in over a year.  My train to NYC leaves in a few hours and I am so very, very excited.  A weekend in my favorite city with my old and lovely friends.  How delicious is that?   

I will get back into the swing of things upon my return.  But I did want to say hello and that I miss updating you on all the excitement and chaos of life in our home.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Enjoy Life

Tomorrow the babe and I are going for another "food challenge" at the allergist's office.  This will involve sitting in a small room with my daughter for about 6 hours as she is slowly fed muffins made with real cows milk.  Apparently when you bake milk it breaks down the protein which can cause allergic reactions.  And apparently the doctors think she is ready to take on the "baked milk challenge."

I haven't spent too much time thinking about it, until today.  My Mother-in-Law and I were having lunch and she started asking questions about the appointment and how long we'd be gone.  As I explained to her how the appointments go (I've done 3 challenges with my kids already), I realized I had not thought about the fact that all the challenges we've done so far have been successful.  My kids had out grown their "challenge" allergies and did not have any reactions whatsoever.

What I haven't spent time thinking about is the fact that not all food challenges are successful and that sometimes kids have severe reactions.  That said, I am not going to stress about it now.  The only way we can really know if the babe is ready for baked milk is to give her small amounts in a safe environment and monitor her along the way.

All this reminds me that I want to say a big thank you....not to my husband, not to my Mom, but to a food company.  I am not being paid to give this endorsement, I just feel so grateful that Enjoy Life Foods exists and are creating foods that help my daughter feel "normal."  Enjoy Life Foods makes amazing chocolate chips which I have been using in the babe's treats for some time.  Last week I discovered that they now make chocolate bars she can have (imagine eating your first ever chocolate bar!).  And yesterday, I was beyond thrilled to discover 3 varieties of granola bars that will be safe for the babe and her lunch box.  It has been hard living without the easy to grab granola bar, and while I like the ones I make, I don't exactly always have them on hand.  While the babe is now only allergic to dairy, peanuts and tree nuts, it is rare to find a company that is making tasty treats that are dairy, gluten, peanut, tree nut, soy, egg and casein free!  I just want to thank Enjoy Life Foods for helping my daughter enjoy her own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Follow-Up

For a budget massage in Northwest DC, check out the Potomac Massage Training Institute.

And for an amazing Italian meal in a cozy restaurant in Northwest DC, check out DeCarlo's Restaurant.

These two activities brought joy to my life last week!  Enjoy.

Thanks, Mom!

My last post was thanking my husband.  This one is to thank my Mom.

When I heard my husband would be leaving town for work for 10 to 14 days I had a bit of a panic attack.  That is really beyond the amount of time I feel comfortable being a single parent.  So I called my Mom and subtly let her know that she would be more than welcome to come down for a visit.

She immediately went online, found a good flight on points, and after calling back to check, went ahead and booked an 8 day stay.  And what a joy it was to have her with us for the past week.  As she said this morning over our last shared coffee of the visit, the days were long but the week flew by.  I told her I think that's what it's like when you hang out with little people so much.

In the time she was here we managed to go swimming, to numerous parks, and to a puppet show.  I also managed to have a massage (at the budget training school near my home), to go clothes shopping, and to go grocery shopping all by myself.  Not only that, but we also booked a babysitter on Saturday night and went for a fabulous Italian meal at DeCarlo's Restaurant in DC.

I was exhausted and overwhelmed when she arrived, and I am blessed to have a Mom who swooped in and helped with all the details of life with my kids.  The cooking, the cleaning, the playing and the general tickidy boom of the house hold went so much smoother because she was here.

I am lucky to have such a great Mom.  And I am grateful we enjoy each others company so much.

She flew back to Canada today and we will miss her.  But guess who arrives from Canada tomorrow?  My Mother in Law!  We have back to back coverage and the kids and I are blessed.  As my husband said the morning he flew home from his most recent business trip, "I love my family."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Big Thank You

I want to send my husband a huge (virtual) hug and gigantic kiss.  I want to document how much I love him and how grateful I am that he is the Father of my children (who are not easy), and a Husband to me (who is also not easy).  Our family seems to be securely strapped into the perpetual roller coaster of life, and while there are many highs and lows, I know that the kids and I have a man who is always going to be strapped in right next to us. 

While we both continue to have our good days and our bad, we are committed to finding ways to make our family work.  We are always striving towards that "union" of parenting styles that will make for a smoother path into the future.

I know what it's like to get lost in the hassles of daily life.  And I know that I don't say thank you enough.  But today, June 19, 2011, I want it on the record that I am a grateful Wife and Mother.  I am blessed enough to have built a family and a home with my closest friend; and I want to wish him a Happy Father's Day.  Thank you for everything you do (like getting on multiple planes to fly to work-related committments on Father's Day).  All our love, C xoxo 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Office View

I have been working on unpacking our office.  It has been a total mess since we moved in last October.  I didn't want to hit the one year mark without having it set up.  Why buy a house with an office if you're going to avoid it because the mess stresses you out?

So I have made it a bit of a "project" this week.  Nap times have been spent moving stuff around, unpacking boxes, and generally trying to create some sense of order.  I have been making progress and it feels good.

One benefit of being in the office is that I can see outside the front of our house.  The other day I was at the desk when I saw a group of about 7 sketchy looking teenagers (I'm 35, so I can say that now) walking slowly down the street and staring into peoples homes and looking in car windows.  It was broad daylight and they were obviously looking for trouble.  I immediately went to shut my shade as I didn't want them coming up to ring the doorbell and waking the kids up (the babe has been home from school since Wednesday until the "camp" version begins on Monday).

A few of them proceeded to casually walk onto my neighbors lawn.  She is a  Stay-at-Home Mama like me and tends to keep her front door open.  My heart started racing as I watched one of them pick up a scooter sitting on the lawn and walk off to the street with it.  The gang kept moving and the scooter stealer scooted away with them. 

I had a zillion thoughts racing through my mind.  Before I could think too much about it I ran out to the street and started yelling at them, "Hey, that's not your scooter!  Bring that back here!"   I knew that if I didn't try and get the scooter back, I would beat myself up about it for weeks to come.  To my surprise, the little thief stopped and headed back. 

I glared at him and took the scooter.  "That belongs to a 7 year old kid.  How do you think he's going to feel when he realizes someone stole it?"  I was so pumped up at this point I don't even remember what he said, or if he said anything at all.

There has been an "uptick" in crime in my neighborhood lately and we have been asked to report suspicious activity.  There was recently an armed car jacking at a nearby intersection, there have been a lot of cars being broken into, and some assaults at near by bus stops.  After staring at the "gang" in disbelief, I ran inside the house and called 911.  I have never reported suspicious activity in my life, but I knew I had to make the call.  I gave the operator the info and she told me they would send someone out. 

When I later went to tell my neighbor what had happened, she mentioned she had seen a police cruiser driving by quickly and had wondered what was up.  I have never seen a police car on our street, so was bummed I missed seeing the one police car I had been been involved in arranging for.

Anyway, I think I did the right thing, although when my husband returned from his business trip later that night, he asked if perhaps I should have let them go and just called 911.  This thought had never occurred to me.  I am a Mom and now I am a home owner and I don't want people to think they can come into our neighborhood and take things that don't belong to them.  Needless to say I was glad we had an alarm system installed when we moved in.  I don't know what retribution I could expect for interfering with an attempted scooter robbery, and I don't want to find out (I say that in jest, sort of).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Who is God?

On Sunday I took the babe to the baptism of my friend's son.  It was held in an Episcopal Church and included a full religious service.

I don't usually get into religion here, but I just had to share a few things.

I was raised Catholic and attended Mass pretty much every Sunday of my life for 17 years.

My husband was raised Hindu.

We now have 2 children who have not been baptized and who do not attend any regular religious services.  When we visit our families in Canada, we go to Mass and we go to the Temple.  We are in a wonderful position where we can educate our kids about love, respect and the fact that there is not one "right" and "wrong" when it comes to different religious beliefs.  We are going for the open approach and plan on helping our kids explore and supporting them if they choose to follow.

An Episcopal service is rather long, similar to the Catholic ones I grew up with.  The babe doesn't have a lot of experience sitting on hard wooden pews and remaining quiet, so it was a bit challenging for her.  I held her up when we stood so she could see what was going on, and tried to support her when she got exasperated by the length of the service.

As cooperative as she was, she occasionally asked questions in a not so quiet voice.  The one I wanted to share with you was, "Mama, who is God"?  Whoa.  That is a REALLY big question and I wasn't exactly in a position to get into it with her.  I whispered to her that we could talk about it in the car.

For the rest of the service I formulated my answer so I would be prepared.  The obvious answer to me was that "God is love."  After things wrapped up at the church we had a 10 minute drive to talk about God, all the different religions in the world, and about how Grandpa and Dadima (my Husband's Mother) both believe in God but attend different places of worship.  I didn't get too deep into it, but I think I covered the basics in as open a fashion as possible.

I know that our open approach to religious education may seem a bit odd to some, but I am hoping that the kids learn that there isn't one answer and that we can support them in their journey, wherever it may lead them.  Luckily the babe seemed satisfied with our discussion; although I'm sure we'll have many opportunities to expand upon it in the future.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Feet

OUCH!!!!

When you have kids, no one warns you how many times a day your feet are going to get trampled, run over, or stepped on in warmer weather.  This morning my son dropped something on my friend's foot and I told her I had been meaning to write a small post about the constant foot damage Mothers experience at the hands of their youngsters.  She wisely pointed out that the thing that makes it so hard to deal with, is that it always takes you by surprise.  You can try and protect yourself, but they are still going to get you.

That pretty manicure you managed to arrange? It may not even last an hour once you've returned home.  There's just nothing we can do about it other than wear full coverage foot wear all day long.  And when it's 102 degrees outside, that ain't happening.

I will give the kids a bit of a break and admit that it's not always their fault.  Yesterday I managed to knock a fork off our kitchen counter and have it land, spokes down, on my foot.  One spoke actually managed to break the skin and leave me with a red and bruised dot.

Anyway, just had to get that out of my system.  Happy weekend to everyone!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vegas and Other Stories

There's been a lot going down around here lately.  Just wanted to share a few updates to keep everyone in the loop.

I don't usually advertise on the Internet when my husband is out of town, but last Thursday he took off for Las Vegas.  It was not a business trip, so it was a unique situation.  In the 4.5 years since the babe was born, my husband has rarely left our side, unless it was required for work.  To celebrate turning 40, my husband (who I should give a blogging nickname to) and a group of his best friends from high school decided to live it up in Vegas for 4 days.  He had my blessings and I really wanted him to have an awesome time.

That all said, I had forgotten what it can be like to be on my own with 2 kids for that long, especially when there is no school on the weekend to provide a bit of relief.  There were many highs and lows, and we survived the experience, including yet another power outage at an inconvenient time (is it ever convenient to lose your power?).  Needless to say, I was pretty psyched when he came back safe and sound.  The pressure of being solely responsible for 2 little lives was a tad much for me....combined with the standard lack of sleep.  But all in all, I am glad he went, because that man deserved a break from the madness. 

On Tuesday the babe turned 4.5 which is slightly mind boggling.  I used to celebrate every month of my kids lives and take a picture of them with a sign indicating how old they were.  I did take a lot of pictures of her on Tuesday, but she was holding a chocolate cupcake with a candle and a big grin on her face instead of a sign.  It is amazing how a cupcake and a candle can make everything seem so special.

Earlier in the day I had attended my last preschoolers parenting class.  I was extremely sad to see it end and will miss the 2 hours a week I used to spend learning about how to be a more patient and positive parent.  While I am still trying to put all I know in theory into practice, I am sure that all the time invested in these classes will somehow pay off in little ways I can't even see.  A few of us were weepy eyed at the end and it was really hard to say good bye to my amazing teachers and the lovely woman who watched the little guy while I was in class.  In fact he loves her so much that instead of calling her "Miss.Mary," he calls her "Aunt Mary."  I am not sure how long it will take him to realize that his regular Tuesday mornings with Aunt Mary have come to a close (they have been together every week since I started classes in February).  Anyway, if anyone reading this in the DC area wants to learn more about this amazing parenting program (Parent Encouragement Program), you can check them out online at http://www.parentencouragement.org/.

I also hosted my book club on our deck on Tuesday evening.  It was an awesome way to wrap up such a intense day.  We discussed Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.  If you're looking for a good story that has a lot of motherhood and biracial family themes, this would be a solid pick.  You may recall I blathered on about loving my home a few months back, and I have to say it felt so good to have all the ladies form my old Street come over to my new home and hang out as the sun set and the sky turned pink.  The company and conversation were lovely. 

Anyway, apologies for being all over the place.  As much as this is a blog, I sometimes treat it like a journal.  In the end, it will be a great document of our life, so some blather along the way is OK by me.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Kind of Mom I Am

We woke this morning to a full on power outage.  The little guy was standing at my door crying and I quickly realized it was going to be a long day. Saturdays are always long days, but this had an extra special "long day" feeling.

Realizing there was not going to be any snuggling in bed watching cartoons and dozing, we all headed downstairs for some cereal and fruit. The power was still not back by the time we finished breakfast.  What next?  We decided it would be fun to go to the park.  So we all got dressed, packed our drinks and snacks, went to the front door to get our shoes, and BAM; the power came back on. 

I immediately told everyone to take off their shoes and go sit in front of the TV.  I got the kids set up with some quality programming, made a pot of coffee, cleaned the kitchen, started the dishwasher and stripped our bed to get the laundry going (I had found children's snot caked onto my duvet cover earlier in the morning).

So yes, it is super lame that I parked the kids in front of the TV just as we were about to go play, but I did redeem myself.  After the show ended and I was up to speed on all my basic chores, we put those shoes back on and went to the park for an hour.  And that was how we got through our Saturday morning.  Let's see how the afternoon goes.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Crazy Heat

Today we got a break from the insane onslaught of excessive heat and humidity we've been experiencing here in DC.  It was record breaking and suffocating and I am thrilled to report that it now seems to have moved on. 

I think things tend to get a little crazy when it's severely hot outside.  People just can't keep it together and all the basics are no longer so basic.

In the past 48 hours, I have seen a few of my newly planted flowers die (yes--from lack of water), brought both kids to the ER to have the little guy's eye area examined after a funky bug bite, and been hit by a car at a stop sign on the way to pick the babe up at yoga.  All this, and the little guy got up at 5:30 am today.  Needless to say I'd like to run off to the Bahamas now, alone.

Luckily I have a few other flowers which have survived, the car's bumper got a bit more banged up but no one was hurt, and the little guy was not diagnosed with cellulitis or any other funky infection thing.

The heat wave has subsided and hopefully our temporary state of chaos has come to an end.

Has anyone else out there been having a weird week?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In the Garden

I'll admit it.  I was being a slacker.  I knew I wanted a veggie garden at our new house, I just didn't feel like digging one out and going through all the steps to make it happen.  I kept putting it off and putting it off thinking that if I waited long enough, it may just magically happen. 

Last Friday my husband passed a comment that it looked as though we weren't going to have a garden this year.  My heart sunk.  I didn't say anything, but I decided then and there I was going to make it happen.

After dropping the babe off at school, the little guy and I went to the garden center and stocked up on compost/soil stuff, some flowers for the empty pots on the deck, and some tomato, cucumber and potato plants.  I felt like I was on a roll.

I got home and managed to get all the flowers planted in the pots, and dug out a patch of grass/soil to create a garden.  When my husband got home that night, I was openly bragging about all the hard work I had done.  The hard work actually turned out to be yesterday.

Despite the insane heat, the four of us spent a good chunk of the morning and the late afternoon working in our yard.  We finished digging out the garden, added all the compost stuff, and planted all our veggies. We got rid of a bunch of ugly bushes beneath our dining room windows and in the process realized it would be the perfect place to throw in some more veggies, so why not have 2 gardens?  Only time will tell if this approach was a tad overambitious.

The kids were helpful with the planting and watering steps, but not so helpful with the digging. No surprises there.  They spent a majority of the time spraying each other silly with the garden hose (I realized we don't own a sprinkler!).

It felt good to work as a family and get so much done, together.  I am excited we now have a garden to love, and that the kids will be eating more veggies this summer, because they helped make them.  I'm also glad I got off my butt because having a family project will be good for all of us this summer.

Next step is to buy some more veggie plants for the second garden.  Perhaps eggplant and peppers?  I'll post some photos soon!   

A Helping Hand

I am all about getting my kids to help clean the house.  They love being involved and I love the idea that they are learning skills that will help our home operate smoothly over the years to come.

Last week my son decided to take on a cleaning mission, solo.  It was technically nap time, so his mission was supposed to be sleeping in his big boy bed.  Sadly he wasn't so interested in the whole nap time scene.  He was apparently more into the cleaning the bathroom scene.

I heard his little feet pitter patter over my head and realized he was in the wrong section of the house.  Whenever I hear the kids in our room I tend to intervene quickly.  I ran up the steps to find the little guy standing in the hallway saying, "water, water." 

He led me down the hall to our bathroom where I found that he had been cleaning the walls and floors with the toilet brush, using the toilet bowl water as his "cleaning" fluid.  I was pretty zonked out that day and had been hoping to get a few basic things done during "nap time."  Cleaning toilet water off the walls and floors of the master bathroom had not been on my agenda.

While trying to hold it together, I walked him to the sink, washed his hands, and then walked him to his room, where I changed his clothes.  I deposited him in bed, again, and called my husband to whine.  After I pulled it together and got over my pity party, I cleaned up the toilet water and disinfected everything.

I probably should have gotten him involved in the clean up but was not in a head space where I could turn the situation into a "teachable" moment. 

He never did take his nap, but I did learn to close our bathroom door at nap time.