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


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.