Thursday, August 23, 2012


I recently came across this great Erma Bombeck quote from The Ties That Bind...And Gag.

I thought it was worth sharing with you:

"The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."

This quote reminds me of growing up one of three kids in my family and helps me envision what my "new" family will look like in the years to come.

It's been happening before my eyes.  My kids are now starting to experience the same challenges and joys of growing up that I did.  Their relationship as siblings is blossoming and their reliance on each other is increasing.  I hope theirs is a bond they will maintain well into the future.      

As the babe prepares to start Kindergarten on Monday, I am dwelling on the fact that my little family's grand adventure has been flowing by at what sometimes feels like warp speed, and at others, like molasses going up a hill.  Joy and pain, hand in hand.

Before I send my first born off to her first day of elementary school, I just wanted to share how blessed I feel to trudge through this life with my extended family.  Love to you all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Tooth Fairy

I've always had a special place in my heart for the tooth fairy.  There's just nothing bad about her.  She is magic and she makes kids happy.  I may have trouble lying about Santa, but a big part of me still believes in the good 'oll tooth fairy.

And last night she paid my family a visit for the very first time.

The babe has been playing with her first lose tooth for the past three months.  She has asked me countless times when it will come out.  I have replied that I can't really tell her when it will happen because it's up to her body.  I did, however, offer to tie a piece of string to her tooth, attach the string to a door knob and slam the door for her, but for some reason she wasn't down with that.

Last night as she watched a pre-bath episode of Max and Ruby, she managed to yank the cute little tooth out.  She ran into the kitchen bursting with excitement and waving her tooth around in a state of shock.  She was sporting a noticeable gap in the front lower section of her sweet smile.  I picked her up and twirled her around for a few minutes sharing in her absolute joy.  It was really cool to be a part of the experience and I was so glad I was with her when her first tooth came out.

I have kept my childhood tooth fairy pillow all these years.  I had it stowed away safely for my first born child.  But a few months ago I took it out to show the babe and after that it was swallowed into the abyss of our home.  Guess what we couldn't find last night?  That's right; the pillow I have safely kept for over 20 years.

No worries.  We set out the babe's original hand knit (by my Mom) baby blanket and placed the tooth in a little plastic container for safe keeping.  We set everything up neatly on her bed side table.  My husband, who was working late, packed up his stuff and came home as soon as we called him with the good news.  He made it back in time to share in the excitement of our daughter's first lost tooth.  Good Papa.

In the end, the tooth fairy left out a US dollar bill, a US quarter, a US dime, a US nickel, a US penny AND a Canadian (CDN) loonie, a CDN quarter, a CDN dime, a CDN nickel and a CDN penny.

I awoke to the sound of the babe dumping out her tooth fairy stash on our bed.  The kid was seriously thrilled.  For a moment, I believed right along with her that the tooth fairy had dropped by while we were all sleeping.

She has another lose tooth, so we may be having some more chats about fairies and international currency soon.    

Monday, August 20, 2012


I have a question for you: is it possible to go on "vacation" with children and not come back needing another vacation (without children)?

On Friday afternoon my family returned home from a week at the beach in Lewes, Delaware.  It was our "summer vacation" and involved all the typical trips to the beach, the park, the ice cream shop, back to the beach, back to the park, and back to the ice cream shop.

On Friday night, after recovering from the drive, catching up on a week of Facebook posts (I had been offline all week) and consuming a few glasses of wine, I managed to pull off an epic 12.5 hour sleep.  I was THAT tired.

Don't get me wrong.  I love getting out of DC, especially in muggy August.  I love being on "vacation" and the sense of adventure I feel packing up our car and driving hours away from the safety and predictability of my home.  I LOVE being by the ocean and listening to the sound of the peaceful waves.

I think it's important to change your routine every once in a while.  And I think it's critical my kids see the "world" that we're able to access right now (eventually we'll get them to India, Australia and Europe, but for now this is about as much as we can pull off).

I can honestly say there were many awesome moments with my kids that have already become cherished memories.  

But man oh man, family vacations are SO much work.  I can't tell you how many times I thought to myself, "there is NO way I'm ever doing this again."  And the funny thing is, I said the exact thing to myself during our first "family beach vacation" last year.  I do tend to be a bit overly dramatic while under duress, and beach vacations can sure bring out some duress.  But for some reason, I still have this crazy expectation that I will get a chance to relax and chill out a bit.  Silly Mama.

My husband stayed back in DC working for the first part of our trip which meant I was the only one coordinating the kids lives for numerous days.  My lovely girlfriend from NYC, her husband and their darling and extremely well behaved 7 month old daughter were brave enough to be sharing the house with us.  I frequently felt lousy that my kids didn't seem to respect the fact that my friends were also trying to have a "family vacation."

When you rent a place instead of committing to an all-inclusive resort or cruise, you still need to plan and cook meals, do laundry, clean up, and think of things to entertain little people for about 14 hours a day. And while we were in a sweet beach town, there are only so many hours you can spend at the actual beach with a 5 and 3 year old.

The word "vacation" simply doesn't go hand in hand with "break" anymore.  In fact, it is tougher than being home because you're out of your element and having to make due with the limited supplies and activities you drag along with you.  By the time the kids are in bed and the adults are fed, the adults are too tired to relax because they need to try and clock 7 hours of sleep before the kids rise with the sun.

I must return to my original question:  is it possible to go on "vacation" with children and not come back needing another vacation (without children)?  If so, how do you make it happen?  Please feel free to share your secrets and experiences with me!    

And in case you're wondering, yes, I am planning on doing it all again next year.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

14 Days and Other Things

It's official.  We have made it to the other side.  This side is a beautiful place to be.  This side includes no diapers, only underwear.  After 5.5 years of diapers, we are done.  I can say this because it's been 14 days since the little guy wore a day time diaper and 2 nights since he wore a night time diaper.  The freedom is setting in.

Some of the awesome benefits of having NO kids in diapers:

  • We will have more money 
  • I will not need to carry as much stuff around (back-up underwear is lighter and smaller)
  • I will  not have to clean stinky, mushy, poopy diapers anymore
  • I will no longer be polluting mother earth with my kids disgusting diapers (I was really feeling guilty about that)
  • My son's garbage can/room won't stink like stale pee diapers
  • I can finally get rid of those nasty Diaper Genies 
  • We will have more closet space as I will no longer be buying boxes of diapers at Costco
  • Can I still carry around a diaper bag?  They fit a lot of stuff and come in really handy.  I have a secret obsession with diaper bags and don't think I'm ready to move on.

It is safe to say my little man has grown up a lot this summer.  First he was the "ring boy" at my brother's amazing wedding at the end of May (an awesome responsibility for any 3-year-old).  Next he moved from his toddler bed into a big boy twin bed (we now preface everything with "big boy").  More recently he quit his pacifier cold turkey.  And as of 2 weeks ago, the little man is diaper-free.  Wow!  I hate to say it, but my kid is growing up fast!

Sometimes I just want to document the amazing progress of my offspring on this blog because I'm afraid I will forget when all these milestones happened.  I am amazed at how much child-rearing related information I have already managed to blank out on, but I take a certain amount of comfort from the fact that I will always have this blog to look back on and remember the crazy ride that has been raising my children.

So that's it, consider all the little guy's "summer 2012" progress officially documented.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Miss Preschool/Summer is Very Long

The truth is, I am not that great entertaining small children for extended periods of time.

I have no degrees in early childhood education.  And to this day, despite my 5.5 years experience hanging out with kids pretty much non-stop, I am baffled, overwhelmed and emotionally and physically exhausted after spending large chunks of time with them.  Why don't kids just listen so we can all get along?  Would it be so hard to just cooperate?  Really?

The babe finished the extended program at her preschool last Friday and we have been together since noon of that day.  First I was overwhelmed with the emotion surrounding the babe finishing 3 years of preschool and saying good bye to all the people who have been a part of our daily life for years.  Now I am just overwhelmed by the prospect of making it to Kindergarten start day on Monday, August 27th.

To make things more interesting, I decided last Thursday that I (or more precisely, the little guy) was all done with diapers.  That has meant the little guy has been in "big boy" underwear for almost 6 days.  Perhaps I didn't chose the best time to embark on this potty training adventure, but I just couldn't take it anymore.

The little guy's best buddies have all started wearing big boy underwear and I was running out of excuses.  I realized that I was the lazy one, not my son, as I was engaging in more of my typical "enabling" style of parenting.  By continuing to put him in a diaper, I was continuing to signal that it was OK if he used it instead of a toilet.  When things require more work (like breaking pacifier habits and potty training), I tend to want to put them off until I feel strong enough to deal with them.  My strength comes from hitting my breaking point, and the last diaper full of stinky poop was apparently my breaking point.  Now I am cleaning up stinky poop from underwear instead of diapers, but I have committed to seeing this through to the other side...however disgusting the process may be.  

In terms of being a good stay-at-home mom, I am fully aware that I am better with one kid at a time than two.  It's the truth and I am not ashamed to say it.  For now, and for the next month, I am with two kids and since I love them, I know we will make it through.  But it is not always going to be pretty.

To all you mothers out there who are overwhelmed by the summer months, you are not alone.  To all you mothers out there who are having a blast with your kids this summer, I salute you.

And now I must head upstairs to intervene in the screaming of my children.  Today's "quiet time" was apparently a "failure."  Luckily it's summer break and we can always try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Her Hair

You may recall me mentioning the babe's amazingly awesome black hair.  My daughter was blessed with hair from her father's side of the family and while it has a few red streaks from my side, it is mostly just stunning black hair.

Last week as we were driving home from school (she is in the "extended program"), the babe asked me when she would be able to dye her hair.  We were at a red light and I had to turn my head around to look at her and see if she was being serious.  She continued, "when am I going to be old enough to dye my hair, Mama?"

I took a deep breath and asked her why she wanted to dye her hair.  She told me she wanted it to be blonde like a lot of the girls at school.  My heart sank.  I told her what I just told you above, "Sweet heart, you have amazing black hair and you are lucky to have it.  You don't need to look like everyone else."  

This all reminded me of an independent film my husband and I watched recently called Shades of Ray. The 2008 film is about a twenty-something American man raised by his white mother and Pakistani father.  Throughout the movie he questions his identity and struggles to figure out a way to "fit in" despite the fact he is from a mixed family.

The film struck a chord with me.  It had me wondering if my kids will have similar experiences growing up in a pretty white culture and if they will struggle with their half and half identity (my husband is of Indian descent - the South Asian kind).  Is the babe's desire to dye her hair blonde at age 5 just the beginning of a longer process or was it just a one off experience?  I have a feeling it may be the former.

While Washington, D.C. is culturally diverse and there are a lot of kids of mixed descent, you can still easily find yourself in a room full of only white people.  Is that something the babe is starting to notice?
I suppose all I can do is help guide her as she starts to figure out her place in the world.  I truly hope both my kids realize how cool it is to come from such a rich background and that they'll be able to use that knowledge in positive ways as they become their own people.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Critics

My recently published article on being a stay-at-home mother has brought out a few choice comments on my selfishness, calculating and not likable nature, and general immaturity.

I appreciate a good debate but never want to shove my views down other people's throats.  You can believe what you want and I don't feel the need to try and convince you otherwise.  All I want is the opportunity to be honest about all this motherhood stuff, because frankly, I think that honesty is lacking in most of the motherhood conversations I see.

Not to draw attention to my critics, but the following comment, which was published on Forbes, is too unbelievable not to post.  Did she actually read what I wrote?

"Thanks for sharing this.

I had a stay-at-home mother and breadwinner father and hated it, so I really like to see women get out of this victimized mentality. Taking adult responsibility for yourself is really important for your children.

I don’t understand why you are seeing your husband as not responsible for half the unpaid work of the family. And if he wishes to outsource some of that by paying for child care or housekeeping or something, that is his responsibility.

And you need to be making money to shoulder your share of the burden. You should be taking responsibility for earning the money to cover half the basic expenses of the family, such as housing, health insurance, food, taxes, education. That is what adults do.

This is not just about you and your indulging your husband and his career as though he is an infant himself or indulging yourself and your victimization as though you are an infant yourself.

Please, for the sake of your child, consider becoming an adult."

And here I was thinking being a stay-at-home mom was a responsible thing to do.  While I am not always the most mature person around, I like to think being responsible for a home and two children is pretty "adult" like behavior.

Before Their Time

It started a few months ago with Charlotte's Web.

We decided it was time to dive into the all time classic tale with the babe.  I love the book and have always had a special place in my heart for Wilbur the pig.  As we made our way through the story, I began dreading Charlotte's impending death.  I wasn't sure how the babe would take it and I wasn't sure what I would say to comfort her.  When Charlotte died I had to stop reading as I couldn't stop crying.  The babe yelled down to my husband, "Mama's crying and she can't read anymore!"  Apparently I didn't need to explain anything to her.  I was the one who couldn't handle the tiny spider's death.

We recently traveled to Canada for my dear little brother's wedding.  It was a spectacular event that brought much joy to our family and friends.   

Right before we left for Canada, a dear friend of my husband's family passed away.  My husband and I managed to make it to the funeral in Ottawa to pay our respects.  While I have only known the family a few years, I could not help but weep during the service.  To see so many people grieve and go through such an extreme loss is an overwhelming experience.  How do you say goodbye to a loved one and carry on?    

A few days later, on the day of my brother's wedding, we received news that my Uncle's youngest brother had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 51 while on vacation with his family.  The news shook us all.  I can not stop thinking of his wife and two children.    

This past week my husband's colleague lost his 47-year-old brother.  He also leaves behind a wife and two children.

And yesterday 12 people lost their lives while attending a movie in Colorado.

How can we make sense of it all?  And how do we adequately celebrate our lives and the lives of our families and loved ones while we are living them?  Too often we get stuck in the crap that life throws at us.  Where do we find the strength to remember that every day is a gift?  

I am not sure I will ever be able to adequately explain death to the babe and the little guy.  I am not sure we ever grow up enough to understand or explain it.  It will happen to each and every one of us at some point and as yesterday's events solidify, we don't know when, where or why.  All we can do is try to live our lives in the best way we can and love those who bring us joy.  As my Uncle's late brother said, it is not the years you have lived but the life you have lived in those years.     

Friday, July 20, 2012

The New Superwoman

My son and I have been doing a "superman" pose in swimming lessons every morning.  He puts his hands above his head and pushes off from the steps into a superman glide...or a three-year-old's version of a superman glide.

Sometimes the teacher mentions doing a "superwoman glide," but not too consistently. 

Needless to say, I was blown away when I heard about a real superwoman, Marissa Mayer.  Not only is she the new CEO of Yahoo Inc., but she is only 37 years-old and is six months pregnant with her first child.  I was glancing over the Wall Street Journal when I saw an article, For Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Two New Roles, discussing her upcoming dual roles of CEO and mother.  

My jaw seriously dropped to the floor.  I couldn't process it all!  Not that I want to compare myself to her or make this about me, but reading the article made me realize what you can accomplish by such a young age and made me wonder about my list of accomplishments.  I'm about to turn 37 and I'm still serving as the Director General, Ministry of Home Affairs for the Ryan Jyoti Clan (although I used to write and do advance work for the former Chairman of Yahoo when he served on the board at my old think tank...but I digress).

My husband and I went back and forth about how challenging her dual roles will be.  Yahoo needs serious help and being a new Mom is pretty exhausting work.  Our discussion ended up focusing on what help money can buy you, and if money is enough to make the role of new mother "easy."  There are some things people feel comfortable paying others to do for them, and the more money you have, the longer the list grows.  Where do you draw the line?   

Is Mayer's compensation ($100 million over the next five years) enough to pay for every service a new parent would need?  My husband thinks yes; I think no.  Can you really off load ALL the responsibilities new parents face?  It is the outsourcing of parenthood.  I hope Yahoo gives her the support she will need to fulfill some of the more critical aspects of her upcoming role of mother.

I remember how I felt in the weeks and months after having my babies, and I tell ya, I could barely return congratulatory emails, let alone put on a suit and go kick corporate butt.  While Mayer may be confident she can handle it now, I wonder how her perception will change once she is in the thick of it.  There are things that happen to a woman's body, brain and heart after she has a baby, and no amount of "help" can change that.  While I admit I'm a total light weight, I wonder how many women can effectively work through their maternity leave without having a breakdown from the pressures involved?

Anyway, all the power to our newest version of superwoman.  I sincerely wish her and Yahoo all the best and hope she proves that you can have a new baby and be a successful CEO.  It would be an awesome first.   

Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I just had a piece on being a stay-at-home mom published on a great site, LearnVest, that you may want to check out.  The article is also up on Forbes.  

Let me know what you think!

Monday, July 16, 2012


According to our friends over at Merriam Webster Dictionary, an "Enabler" is "one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior."

I hate to say it, but for many, many years, my husband and I have been guilty of enabling our children's secret addiction...the pacifier.  I am talking about one bedtime pacifier in the mouth, and one in each hand.  Minimum.

My 5.5 year old and 3.5 year old have been in love with their pacifiers (or "baas" as they call them) since birth.  To say the pacifier has played a VERY important role in our lives would be an understatement.  My kids would "need" pacifiers to fall asleep, run to their rooms to take a "hit" off them when they were upset, and tried daily to sneak them out of their rooms so they could enjoy more frequent use.  The babe would suck on one pacifier, switch to another and suck on that one, switch to another and suck on that one, and so on and so on.  I found it disturbing, to say the least.

It became evident our offspring were not going to give up the pacifier on their own, as my husband and I had hoped.  We repeatedly encouraged the kids to stop "using," but for years our words fell on deaf ears.  And frankly, we didn't have the guts to do anything about it.  They say to pick your battles and we already had a long list.

More recently, however, the babe started to clue in that other kids her age do not use pacifiers and have not used pacifiers for some time.  She was at the point where she was embarrassed by her pacifier use and was openly talking about wanting to quit.  Whenever she would boldly state that she was going to sleep without them, she would break down and give in to her desire to be soothed by her baas.  It hurt (for numerous reasons) to watch her battle with what had become a true addiction.

The little guy was at the point where he would run to his room countless times a day just to suck on his pacifiers.  He would wail for his baas whenever he was upset and frequently agreed to nap because he would get to use his sweet plastic pacifier.

Our amazing pediatric dentist had indicated that the extended pacifier use was altering their tooth and jaw development and needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later.  She suggested poking holes in all the pacifiers so the kids would not enjoy the same sucking sensation and would quit on their own.  We tried.  It didn't work.

It was evident the problem was not going to handle itself.  After researching different "methods," we came to the conclusion that we had to go cold turkey.  We didn't make a big deal out of it.  We didn't psyche the kids out.  We didn't bury the baas in the garden or give them to a baby in need.  My husband simply collected all of the pacifiers, "threw them away" (i.e. hid them in his sock drawer), and told the kids they didn't need them anymore.  The process of breaking up with the pacifier had begun.  

Long story short, the kids have now made it 10 nights.  It is now safe to say they've kicked the ugly habit.  The babe, who has relied on her pacifier for two more years than her brother, had a tougher time with it.  There were some very sad withdrawal moments which were tough to deal with, but ultimately, both our kids have proven to themselves that they can self soothe and fall asleep without those nasty little things.

My kids aren't relying on a crutch anymore.  My husband and I are no longer enablers.  We are a better family because of it.  We have achieved a new level of freedom, and it feels good.  Really good.

The Stories Stuck in My Head

Greetings!  I have logged on to explain my recent absence.  The little guy has been done "school" and home with me full-time since mid-May (about the time of my last post).  He is not a fan of watching me write, and I am not a fan of plopping him in front of the TV while I write.  This means, I do not write.

You may recall I have no ability to write/focus/make sense in the evenings.  As such, I have sadly been unable to share all the stories stuck in my head with you.  All I can do is ask for your patience this summer as I muddle through my least favorite D.C. season with my kiddies.  I will be back at it with gusto come September when the little guy enters preschool five mornings a week.  Until then, I will try and share some periodic updates from the front lines of summer parenting.  Hope you're all doing well out there!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

This was my fifth Mother's Day and it is my five year anniversary of blogging here at 24-7 Mommy. I am about to crawl under my covers and say good night, but just had to check in quickly to wish all you amazing Mamas a very Happy Mother's Day. You keep the world turning and the love you give your families is inspiring. I also wanted to thank my little family for all the special things they do. My favorite part of my fifth Mother's Day actually began on Friday afternoon. The babe brought home a white bag with a card tied around it from school. I figured it was a special present she had made and didn't mention it. When we got home she forgot the bag in the car so I carried it into the house and left it in the entry way. When she noticed the bag sitting unattended, she quickly grabbed it and ran upstairs. She didn't say anything about it but I did happen to come across it in her closet later in the day (I swear it was unintentional). Fast forward to 6:20 am today. After being woken up way to early by the little guy, I decided to creep downstairs for some toast before taking advantage of some extra shut eye. I was confronted by my sleepy daughter and her mysterious white bag. "Happy Mother's Day, Mama," she said as she handed me her special gift. I read the very sweet card which included a picture of her on a surfboard on one side and me not on a surfboard on the other side. And inside the bag I found a cookie in the shape of an "M" and a cookie in the shape of a heart. Now how freakin sweet is that? My second favorite part of Mother's Day was my husband giving up his sleep in day so I could enjoy a few extra hours of precious rest. I hope you all got to enjoy some pockets of bliss today. You deserve it.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Feeling the Shift

Some days it feels like nothing happens.  Other days it feels like everything happens.  And some days you can kinda feel your world shift, even if just a little.  Thursday was a shifting kind of day.

After dropping off the little guy at his morning nursery program, the babe and I headed over to her "new" school...that's right, we paid a visit to the local elementary school.  At the end of August, the babe will be officially entering kindergarten at our neighborhood public school.  I am excited about moving beyond private preschool, but intimidated by the prospect of her joining the world of the "big" kids.

The orientation went well.  I think we both felt good about it and neither of us ran into any speed bumps (she had some time with her future classmates in a real classroom while the grown ups chatted with the Principal).  I had a good meeting with the school nurse about the babe's food allergies/Epi pens and can say that overall, I was impressed with the people.  Sadly, I was not impressed with the physical building and am glad the babe can't see the public elementary school I attended in Canada as a youngster.  That said, if I had to chose, I would rather be impressed with the people than the building.

The orientation ended with a little tour of the neighborhood in a big 'oll yellow school bus.  When I asked the babe what her favorite part of orientation was, I bet you can guess what she answered.  Yup.  The school bus ride.  While the babe was fascinated by everything about the bus, I spent the whole ride wondering why school buses don't have seat belts.  I really don't understand how it is so important for me to carefully buckle my kids into their car seats yet they are able to flop around school bus seats as if they were on solid ground.  But I digress...

The babe is growing up.  She is heading to kindergarten.  I am growing up.  My oldest daughter is heading to kindergarten.  But what really made the day monumental was that my folks put their house on the market and sold it in a day.  This is a house I lived in.  This is a house I have visited for the past 18 years.  And this is my folks downsizing and moving on from our "family" home.

The combination of kindergarten orientation with the prospect of losing our family home made it a "growing up" kinda day for little old moi.  And while part of me wanted to buy the house, move back to Ottawa and enroll the babe in a nice Canadian elementary school, the other part of me realized that time passes and things change more on some days than others.  You just gotta roll with it.  And maybe shed a tear (or two).  


Monday, April 23, 2012

Steak, Margaritas and Poop

To eat: Six ounce Fillet Mignon (cooked medium) with blue cheese crust served with garlic mashed potatoes and a side salad.
To drink: Two margaritas and some water.

That is a pretty ideal meal in my world.  It is a meal I don't get at home.  And sadly, it is a meal I only get when my family and I venture out for dinner together every five or six months.  Last Saturday we decided we would take the chance and head out to the Outback for a family restaurant dinner.   

There are numerous reasons we never go out to eat with our kids, and they include:
  • The babe's food allergies make it scary
  • The little guy acts like an animal
  • My husband and I barely get to look at each other, let alone talk
  • I have to eat WAY too fast as any second the scene could dramatically change and we will be leaving with take out containers instead of enjoying our hot meal
  • It costs a lot of cash and I don't find it a particularly relaxing experience.  Quite the opposite, I'd say.
We should have known it wasn't the best idea after we wasted half an hour trying to encourage the little guy to have a poop in the potty before we left.  He hadn't gone all day and I was in no mood to deal with a blow out in a public bathroom.  As such, we went back and forth with him, knowing it was a losing battle.  We were all pretty cranky by the time we decided to give up and get in the car.  We were also fed up with talking about poop.  As we headed out, I selfishly mentioned to my husband that I would be happy to stay home and save the money we were about to spend for a date night for him and I.  Apparently that wasn't fair to the kids (what a nice Papa they have).  

Sadly we had to make a pit stop at the park near the babe's school as we had left her jean jacket there the day before.  Jean jackets aren't cheap and I really wasn't ready to permanently part with it.  Sadly that meant dealing with DC traffic and the always stressful Connecticut Avenue, which added a nice chunk of drive time for us.

We made it to the restaurant in one piece and managed to dodge quite a few potentially nasty children losing it type scenarios (example: my daughter is so competitive she was getting upset when my husband beat her at the tick tack toe game on the children's menu).  Our food arrived and everyone seemed to be doing OK.  The little guy, who has become a terrible eater lately, managed to eat all his burger and start demanding "more burger" from our poor waiter.  The babe seemed more into her apple juice than her chicken.  And my husband and I managed to polish off everything put in front of us, although in a seriously rushed fashion (I am a slow eater and eating fast really irks me).

Then it was time to take my juice consuming daughter to the bathroom (the ride home is a trek). We settled into one of the two stalls and the babe proceeded to have a good pee.  When she didn't immediately finish up, my heart kinda sunk.  "Oh No.  She's not doing what I think she's doing, is she?" I panicked.  The babe is extremely comfortable doing her business pretty much anywhere....public or private bathroom doesn't seem to phase her (probably because she's five and all).  The line of people grew outside the door and I could tell the babe (and the person in the next stall) was in for a long session.  I tried to encourage her along in a positive way, realizing everyone is the bathroom was listening to me babble on like a loon.  After a few minutes I realized I couldn't chat anymore.  I needed her to focus, and I told her so.  I know you can't rush a pooping five-year-old, but man oh man, as people started leaving the bathroom out of annoyance, I also started to feel pretty annoyed.  And I knew the little guy and my husband were probably starting to feel the same way.

By the time we made it back, we had been gone for over 25 minutes, which is longer that we had taken to "enjoy" our meals.  The babe seemed pretty clueless about the whole situation but my husband and I automatically exchanged looks and discussed on our way to the car how we keep forgetting how stressed out we get going to restaurants with our kids.  

Now maybe us parents need to chill out a bit, or maybe our kids don't get enough practice in public eating establishments, or maybe we should move to Europe so our kids can see how well behaved all those kids are in public.  Regardless,  I am fine with another six month break before we try that again.  It just doesn't seem worth it to me, and if that makes me a negative, crotchety Mama, than so be it.  I can wait for my steak.       

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ready For Those Lightning McQueen Undies?

The little guy has been making some progress on the toilet training front.  He will use the facilities a number of times a day, and sometimes he will use them without being prompted by a concerned parent.

As we drove home from picking up the babe at preschool yesterday, the little guy announced he had to go potty.  He had not pooped all day and I had been waiting for a blow out.  I was so excited I almost lost track of the fact I was driving the car.

Luckily we were close to home and I managed to get him on the toilet in time.  He spent the next 15 minutes doing his business while the babe and I clapped every time we heard a fart or a poop hitting the water of the toilet bowl.  We are clappers around here. 

My husband, good man that he is, has been taking the little guy to the potty first thing in the morning to help him get used to this daily ritual.  This morning the little guy's diaper was pretty dry and my husband felt it was time to try out the underwear.  After they did their potty thing, my husband put the little guy into his Lightning McQueen underpants.  My husband was pretty psyched and was feeling as if we had turned some sort of potty training corner. 

He suggested we send the little guy to school in underpants.  While I appreciated my husband's enthusiasm, I did not want to put my son's teachers or a co-oping parent through the "accident" scenario.  I put my foot down and said that the little guy was just not ready.  I believe in my kid, but I have been down this potty training path before, and I am all too aware of the harsh realities of mastering bladder control.

So we agreed he could hang out in the underpants until it was time to leave for school.  As I was making the babe's lunch downstairs, I heard my husband call out, "honey, he peed on the comforter."  I am not into saying "I told you so," but come on now, honey, I told you so (and thanks for admitting you were wrong about that one)! 

As I write, my comforter cover is in the dryer and my comforter is in the washing machine.  I support progress.  But I don't support my son wearing underpants while hanging out in my bed.  So is the little guy ready for those fancy Lightning McQueen undies?  Not so much.  Not. So. Much.


Well folks, guess who is the newest (and only) "staff writer" for the neighborhood newsletter?  That's right.  You guessed it.  Moi.  Pretty cool, right?

I thought I would share an article I wrote for the spring edition:

Raising Responsible Children

My husband and I were recently discussing how we could encourage our kids to take more responsibility for their actions. As we picked up Cheerios from the dining room floor and scrubbed food marks off the walls, our conversation focused on how to determine the appropriate level of discipline and instruction necessary in dealing with our three- and five-year-old children. How do we raise responsible children while promoting our family’s version of the “happy medium”?

A few days after our discussion, I received an invitation to a lecture, “Raising Responsible Children,” at Concord-St. Andrew’s Cooperative Nursery School. The speaker, Robyn Des Roches, is a certified parent educator with the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) based in Kensington, MD. Having taken a few parenting classes with PEP last winter, I knew I should take advantage of this timely opportunity.

The discussion started off with a review of what responsibility means in today’s society. While responsibility used to mean obedience, it now refers to “a process of making choices and then accepting the consequences of those choices.” Ms. Des Roches explained that every child needs to belong and to have a sense of purpose. By providing our children with positive and constructive roles around the home, we are able to harness the enthusiasm young children naturally have and take advantage of the ages when they are most motivated to help (between two and four). Children used to have a lot more stake and responsibility in the day to day operations of the home and by giving them valuable roles, we are giving them a sense of self worth and ownership.

According to Ms. Des Roches, the real goals of family work are competence, contribution, cooperation, confidence and independence. While we as parents are not exactly “lightening” our work load by getting our children involved, we are encouraging our kids to develop these amazing qualities. We are helping them see outside of themselves; an important skill, no doubt.

Here are a few basic guidelines parents can follow:

• Never do for a child what he can do for himself

My three-year-old son loves to help get the oatmeal ready for breakfast every morning. The day of the lecture, I had gone ahead and made the oatmeal before he came downstairs to help (I was running late). When he saw I had made everyone’s breakfast, he proceeded to have a melt-down of epic proportions. I had stolen his thunder. He loves to help out, and I took away a job that made him feel independent and useful.

As parents, we should be focusing on the process and effort, not the final product. That means we can throw our ideals of perfection out the window (adopt the “good enough” standard), and allow the process to become fun, not something we have to do.

After the oatmeal debacle, and still running behind schedule, I made another parenting faux pas. I jumped in to tie my daughter’s shoe laces because she was taking too long. She could do it for herself, but I took over the job because I am faster.

Ms. Des Roches discussed how parents should be encouraging their kids to help at every opportunity, even if it slows everyone down. Not to blow the shoe laces out of proportion, but by taking over a task my daughter is mastering, I was sending her a message that she wasn’t good enough (although at the time I was truly just in a rush and running short on patience).

Parents should teach their kids to make friends with mistakes. We are not perfect; nor are they. It is only natural to want to shield our children from unhappiness, but kids need to be allowed to experience struggle and negative emotions. Learning how to deal with these difficult emotions and scenarios allows them to become stronger.

• Use consequences (instead of punishment) and problem solving

As the old saying goes, experience is the best teacher. Let your kids make mistakes and allow “natural” consequences to teach. Consequences should be related, reasonable, respectful and helpful.

I’ll be the first to admit that I find it much easier to yell off a list of random punishments in the heat of the moment, but in the long term it is best to allow the kids to learn from their experiences in a more logical and less emotional way. For example, if your kids are playing around at bath/bed time and not cooperating, a natural consequence is that there is not enough time for stories before bed. They made their choice and have to live with the consequences of their actions.

• Allow time for training

Sometimes I forget that my kids weren’t born knowing how to do everything. I’ll be the first to admit that I can have a pretty unreasonable level of expectation when it comes to the skills and abilities I think they should already posses.

In reality, kids need to be trained how to complete a task. As Ms. Des Roches explained, it is up to us as their parents to choose the right time for this training, use routines and to break tasks down into smaller parts. I was surprised to learn that it takes a child two years to master a skill. Considering my son just turned three, perhaps I should be lightening up a bit.

• Beware of power struggles (don’t come on too strong)

It is helpful to change up jobs once a week and to offer choices in how and when to tackle a chore. It is not whether our kids will do the job, but how they will do it. This allows them to feel like they have a choice and helps us all avoid power struggles.

Instead of using non-specific praise (like good job!), we should try to express detailed appreciation for help provided (thank you for loading the dish washer!). If our kids know exactly what they did well, they will be more encouraged to do it again.

Leaving the lecture I felt slightly less overwhelmed by the heavy responsibilities of parenting. While I would not say any of this is easy, it certainly is helpful to have a few guidelines to follow when dealing with the daily challenge of raising responsible kids.

Next time we’ll have our children pick up those Cheerios and scrub the dining room walls.

To find out more about the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) or to register for classes, please visit or call 301.929.8824.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I'm Going Back to Cali...

I recently received an email confirmation for my upcoming stay in Beverly Hills.  It had all my information and it appeared as though I was going to have a lovely 4 day visit.  But wait a minute, I haven't been to California since I was pregnant with the babe.  I called my husband and asked if he had made plans for a romantic get away to the City of Angels.  I think you can guess the answer to that question.

The crazy thing is, the reservation was at a hotel I had stayed at numerous times back in the days when I used to wear suits and travel on business.  I had a rush of memories and was struck with a pang to board a plane and head out West...alone.  I can't explain how much I miss being able to do that.

After a few phone calls, I learnt that the reservation had been made by a travel agency in Australia and they had incorrectly typed in a rewards number linked to my name.  I sadly cancelled the reservation.  No Beverly Hills for me.

As I was bringing the little guy up for a nap yesterday (which he ultimately chose not to take), I told him I would read him a story because I hadn't had a chance the previous night as I was at my leadership training class.  I told him I had given a presentation and got to be a teacher (which was true, I had to give a presentation with a partner on co-parenting).  He looked at me all confused and said "No.  But you're a Mama."  I looked at him and smiled and told him I indeed got to be a teacher and that I actually do things like write.  He didn't believe me.  I realized it was a losing battle and I didn't need to try and prove myself to my 3 year old.

Sometimes when I am feeling run down and beat up and like my kids take me for granted, I want to put on a suit, leave the house, go to a meeting or something, and see how they deal with that.  I want my kids to see that I am capable of being more than just their Mama.  I want them to see a Mama who made the choice to stay home but who also tries to maintain some sort of existence outside of serving their every need.

I think this will be easier in the Fall when both kids are at school 5 days of the week (yay!).  I am pretty excited about having the opportunity to try and kick off some sort of freelance career.  I love getting to hang out with the little guy so much, but we are both ready to change it up.  He is ready to be with people his own age 5 days a week, and I am ready to ease out of the role of full-time child care provider. 

We are now on the official countdown to September.  I am not going to be boarding a plane to LA anytime soon, but if I can start pursuing more projects outside of the responsibilities of my family and home, it will be good for everyone.  Eventually I will be getting on those planes again, but it certainly will not be simple like it used to be.  It may, however, be more appreciated, by both myself and my kids.  Because there's nothing like leaving, but there's nothing like coming home.

How Was Your Spring Break?

The past week I have fielded many questions about spring break.  The most popular question being, "how was your spring break?"  I have been smiling and responding, "long."  Depending on who I'm speaking to, they seem to either get it, or they don't. 

Lot of families take advantage of the 12 day chunk and travel.  We are not one of those families.  We were here, out of our routine, for 12 long days.  And that is why I have been responding the way I have.  Because 12 days with 2 little kids out of their routine is a long time, no matter how you slice it.  If that kind of thing doesn't phase you, than you are a better parent that I.

That said, we were lucky enough to get a spot for the babe at a very cool art camp at The Children's Art Studio that ran Monday through Friday.  She loved it and I loved that she had something to focus her endless energy on for a nice 5 day spread.

By this past Monday, I was, however, wondering why Easter Monday really needs to be a holiday.  It seems almost like cruel punishment to drag a break out like that.  So by Tuesday, we were all rearing to go and jumped back into our routines with gusto.

The babe was psyched to see her peeps at school (yay!).  The little guy was psyched to play with his nursery school buddies (yay!), and I served what will probably be my last co-op stint at his school (which made it easier to face since I wasn't exactly in the mood to play with 12 kids after having spent 12 days with my own 2 kids).

I don't think I will ever be the kind of Mom who enjoys things like spring and summer break, and I am OK with that.  One thing's for sure, it certainly makes you appreciate the value of your regular routine. 

And now that I have survived spring break, I can start stressing out about the summer.  Because summer, my friends, is just around the corner.    

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pass the Almonds, Please

About a month ago, I took the babe in for a food challenge.  Our allergist, Dr. E, believed the babe was ready to try her first ever nut.  The almond.  The beautiful, tasty, and seriously missed (by me) almond.

For 5 years I have not had almonds in the house.  And for 5 years I have missed those tasty little buggers.

When the day came, the babe and I packed off to the allergist office for our 7:00 a.m. start time.  We had our books, games, crayons, DVDs, and of course, a container of pure almond butter made in a dedicated almond only (i.e. peanut and other tree nut free) factory (not so easy to find, and in case you're wondering, it's called Barney Butter).

To say I was nervous would be an understatement.  To say the babe was nervous would be a serious understatement.  But we were there on a mission, and we were both in it to succeed (thankfully, the babe had passed her previous 3 food challenges).  On a side note, my feisty girl can really amaze me; at times I truly wonder how a 5 year old can be so strong.  Dealing with life threatening food allergies at such a young age has shaped her and caused her to deal with issues other kids her age couldn't imagine.  You've gotta respect the hell out of that, at least I do.

And guess what?  After six hours of gradually increasing amounts of almond butter and more vital checks than I could keep track of, it was determined that the babe can now eat almonds.  She has outgrown her allergy.  And I can not explain how thrilled I am. 

We are making so much progress, and by knocking off almonds, we can now look at knocking off a few other nut candidates over the next year.  While it is unlikely we will ever be able to say good bye to the dreaded peanut allergy, there is a good chance that the babe, over time, will continue to outgrow her tree nut allergies.  And that is progress my friends; THAT is progress.

So here's to almond butter and jam sandwiches. Because frankly, soy nut butter just wasn't cutting it for her anymore.

The Ice Cream Truck

Dear Ice Cream Truck that shows up at the park at 4:00 p.m. AND 5:00 p.m.:

What is wrong with you? 

Why do you come to a park filled with children right before dinner time? 

Don't you know that your products are filled with crap which will mess with our kids bodies? 

Don't you know our kids are going to be fed their dinners within a few hours, if not before? 

Don't you know that you create a "have" and "have not" situation every time you show up at the park? 

Don't you know you cause moral dilemmas for parents who struggle to do the right thing for their kids? 

Don't you know that parents don't want to deal with kids on a sugar high at the end of a long day? 

Don't you know that there are always kids on the playground (like my kids) crying because they can't have the crap you're selling and other kids can? 

Don't you know that all the food dyes in that crap you're selling can make kids even crazier? 

If you are going to come by with your little sing song van, at least have the decency to come after the lunch hour.  Because even a mean mommy like me would consider OCCASIONALLY buying your crap for my kids every once in a while.

I used to call you the music truck when you drove around my old neighborhood, now I have another name for you and I can't write it here.

I am glad there are parks you don't frequent, because those are the ones we'll be at if you keep showing up at TP every day.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let the Countdown Begin

Today marks day one of twelve.  It is the twisted marathon that I like to call spring break

We kicked it off in style yesterday with soy ice cream and water color painting after school. 

This morning we cuddled in bed a little longer than usual and then headed out for some sandal and short shopping.

By 12:30 p.m. my children were hysterical and showing off their screaming voices and their ability to physically intimidate one another (my favorite being I'm going to smash you and dash you which comes with a karate kick for extra effect).  I kept my cool until I didn't. The kids threats of physical violence were becoming more than just threats.  That's when I showed off my screaming voice.  And that's when they managed to talk it out over bagels (so mature, my kids).

The little people didn't sleep well last night.  Spring fever or hay fever...not sure which.  After a prolonged lunch (the babe now eats as much as a grown man), I got them upstairs in pajamas.  There was no way I was going to deal with their nuttiness all day without an attempt at napping.  An hour later, after three separate trips up the stairs, I made it downstairs to safety.

And once that kitchen was all cleaned up, I went a bit nutty myself and made a "mocha" with my fancy dancy coffee maker and sat on down at my ancient desk top so I could type out a quick hello.  Now I am ready for a screw driver.

As always, I miss you.  I miss my writing.  But I am, as always, just trying to keep my head above water.  Hope that if you, like me, are not a fan of spring break, that you make it through the next chunk of time in one piece.  Spring break sure ain't what is used to be. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bedtime Songs from the Serengeti

This post is a pretty selfish one.  I want to remember this ridiculous song I recently invented and sing to the kids every night (for some crazy reason, they both love it).  We had been doing Silent Night and Twinkle Twinkle for the past 9 or so months, but we have moved on to these two masterpieces (please contact me if you are interested in purchasing the rights to either version of this soon to be bedtime classic).

The babe's favorite:

The Elephant Song by Christine

"There once was an elephant name Elly, and she was very big.
There once was an elephant named Elly, and she was very big.
Her Mama's name was Fanny, and she loved her very much.

There once was a giraffe name Rafi, and he was very tall.
There once was a giraffe named Rafi, and he was very tall.
His Mama's name was Gerri, and she loved him very much.

And they all lived together, on the Serengeti, in Africa."

The little guy's favorite:

The Giraffe Song by Christine

"There once was a giraffe name Rafi, and he was very tall.
There once was a giraffe named Rafi, and he was very tall.
His Mama's name was Gerri, and she loved him very much.

There once was an elephant name Elly, and she was very big.
There once was an elephant named Elly, and she was very big.
Her Mama's name was Fanny, and she loved her very much.

And they all lived together, on the Serengeti, in Africa."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Our Fear of Failure

The babe has recently started Bollywood/Indian folk dance classes.  The first class was a mega hit.  We wrote a check and committed to driving her to class every Sunday morning until the end of May.  Then a funny thing happened.  The babe didn't want to go. 

After much drama and discussion, we got her out the door and into the car.  And you know what the problem was?  She was afraid of not being good at it.  She was so afraid, she only participated in half the class.  You see, the babe is so competitive, she's scared she won't be able to perform the moves and won't be able to keep up with other kids.  It is unfortunate that we signed her up after the session had already started (which put her at a disadvantage), but I really thought she'd jump right into things with gusto.  I forgot how quickly perspective can change in the world of a five-year-old.

The experience serves as a reminder that my husband and I have to help her through her issues with competition, her fear of failure and her apparent desire for perfection.  While there are benefits to being competitive and aiming for perfection, we are concerned that she will stop trying new things if she can't master them immediately.  My husband and I both had childhoods where we were afraid to fail and actually avoided tackling new interests if we thought there was a chance we wouldn't succeed.  That said, I suppose she comes by these issues quite naturally.

I am glad we've identified this streak in the babe but it is hard to see these issues arise at such a tender age.  I want her to believe that she can try anything she puts her mind to and to confront these feelings and not allow them to control her.  We have had numerous discussions over the past few days about the importance of practice and have shared stories of our own struggles.  Hopefully things will go a bit more smoothly next week, but regardless, I am oddly grateful we are being confronted with this before she starts elementary school in the fall.

High Expectations

Wow.  Where did that month go?

Well people, it's good to see you.  I think of you often and can't wait for life to calm down so I can sit at my computer and type out my joys and sorrows.

I've recently realized that when you volunteer time, you have less of it.  You may recall I have been serving as the editor of the little guy's preschool's newsletter and that I am also writing for our local community newsletter.  These things take time, and when I agreed to take them on, I didn't really think about how it would effect my blogging.  Apparently it has effected my blogging quite seriously.

So here I am.  I have so many subjects I want to write about, I don't really know where to start. Instead of backtracking, I will start with today.

My dear Mother left for the airport this morning at 7am.  She had come for a short visit and it went by so very her visits always do.  While shuttling my kids to and fro this morning, I was struck by how badly I felt.  You see, my kids were not well behaved during her visit and I was constantly feeling upset, stressed, embarrassed and frustrated.  I felt like I had no control of my offspring and that I looked like a frantic, crazy Mama who was hanging on by a thread.  And while some of that is certainly true, I know in my heart that the past few days were extreme because the kids had an audience (other than their parents).  There were times when I was at a loss and just wanted to yell and scream, give up, turn on some "educational" TV and go hide in a hole.  My Mom reassures me they were very well behaved whenever my husband and I were out of the house (like on our date night or our furniture shopping escapade).  And while that makes me feel a bit better, why couldn't they have been like that when I was around?

During her visit, I asked my Mom a lot of questions about how she juggled all the craziness of having three small kids back in the day.  She admits she doesn't remember all that much, but she did point out that she always worked part-time and that gave her a chance to get away from the house, socialize and work with adults (not spouses or relatives), and gain perspective on her family life.  She encouraged me to get out of the house more and do things for myself.  She also told me (in a nice way) that my life revolves around my kids. 

When I sit down and look at my family's life, I will be the first to acknowledge that I am the one who is home and running the show the majority of the time.  And without family back-up, there isn't much relief.  Frankly, my life does revolve around my kids and I am not sure how I would be able to change that right now.

The two mornings I get alone when both of the little monsters are at school (3.5 hours a week (after drive time)!), I am pretty overrun with a hefty to do list.  Frankly, there are just too many errands I am not willing to do with the little guy anymore because he has become such a fan of public meltdowns.  And that means there are a lot of things to accomplish when he is not around! 

But I am trying.  I have actually been to a gym six times since late January (thanks to a Groupon deal).  I get out to dinner or brunch with friends every few weeks.  I took an anger management class for parents (which made a ton of sense in theory but is proving rather difficult to implement in reality).  And I just started a leadership training course at PEP (the Parent Encouragement Program) which offers the parenting classes I've been taking over the past year.  Now seriously, what else can a girl fit in??

Anyway, I'm babbling a bit here but I just had to share my frustration over the constant stress of being a stay-at-home parent of a challenging five year old and a defiant, moody and physically abusive three old.  I used to complain that babies were tough (which of course they are--especially the grueling sleep deprivation and loss of self), but man oh man, it's nothing compared to the physical, emotional and mental demands I now face daily.  And when everything gets even more ramped up during a five day visit from Nana, it certainly forces me to ask: "why is this (parenthood) so freakin hard and how do I make this (parenthood) better?"

My solution for today was to rush to the gym, run on a treadmill for 25 minutes, sit in a hot sauna for 10 minutes, and buy an overpriced fancy latte before grabbing a few groceries and rushing to pick up the little guy at preschool.  Endorphins combined with caffeine can be a pretty awesome thing.  It certainly help put things in perspective this morning.

My Mom mentioned that perhaps Mothers today are too hard on themselves.  Our expectations and standards are too high and we set ourselves up for failure because there is no way we can achieve our lofty goals.  There could be some truth to this.  But is it too much to ask to just have kids who listen and don't give you attitude or physically attack you when they don't get their way?  Is that really asking too much?  And if I am embarassed by my kids crazy behavior because I take it as a reflection on my parenting abilities, does that mean I am being too hard on myself?  The truth is, I just don't know.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Friday Night

My lovely husband allowed me to escape last Friday night.  I had tickets to see the spectacular Kathleen Edwards at the 9:30 Club.  I was really looking forward to it, that is, until the babe came down with a fever at school and I had to pick her up, about 8.5 hours before I was to be heading out the door for my big night out.

Luckily my husband reassured me he would be fine and the babe would be fine, too.  "Go and have fun," he said (or something like that).  So I did.  There was a little bit of guilt, but a lot of excitement.  You may not recall, but I am a big Kathleen Edwards fan and if I were a rock star, I'd like to be sorta like her (she is from my hometown, Ottawa, after all).

So, the concert was great.  Hanging out with my old friend was great.  But getting home at 1:00 am to a sick little girl was not great.  My husband had just changed the sheets on her bed as she had thrown up. 

Now, what you probably don't know is that Kathleen Edwards released a new album a few weeks ago, Voyageur.  One of the songs on this album is called "Change the Sheets" and I have been listening to it while driving around town with the kids.  They dig it (excellent taste, those kids of mine).

Now this may not be completely on the up and up, but I had agreed to tape a little bit of "Change the Sheets" on my phone to show the babe (I was trying to make her feel better).  How appropriate is it then that when I got home, just after my husband had changed the babe's sheets, she sweetly asked me if I could play "Change the Sheets" on my phone for her.  That 5 year old sure is a dedicated fan!  And was I ever glad I had figured out how to tape with my phone in a dark night club.

Saturday was a rough day for all of us.  But I sure was glad I'd been able to rock out with K.E.

The babe is back in good health and all is well.

The Kids Were Gone

You know the kind of dreams you feel trapped in?  I believe they're called nightmares.  And I had one last night. 

It was a dream which forced me to wake up my husband for comfort, check on my kids and shed a few tears.  It was a dream that caused me to remember that bad things can happen really fast.  One moment your life is "normal," and the next, your life becomes a nightmare.

My neighborhood, and the general NW section of DC has been experiencing what they call a "crime wave."  People are being mugged at gunpoint on the streets while walking home from the metro.  Homes are being broken into.  And there have even been a few cases of people being attacked and robbed after getting out of their cars in front of their homes. 

It has changed the way my husband and I operate on a daily basis.  He no longer wears his ear phones while walking home at night.  He has stopped wearing his father's watch for fear that it could be stolen at gunpoint.  I am locking our car doors as soon as we are all buckled in.  I am catching taxis home when I used to catch the metro and walk.  What really irks me is that I have given up my after dinner head refreshing evening walks around the neighborhood.  We have been told this is just a phase and once these guys are caught we will be able to return to "normal."  Although it will be a new "normal," as we have now seen what can happen very close to home. 

While I wouldn't say we are living in fear, we certainly have become more aware and cautious.

That brings me to my nightmare.  My kids and I were headed out on a park date in our car with another Mom and her daughter.  The kids were buckled into their car seats along with the other Mom.  I was about to go back up our front path to lock up the house when I noticed a few slightly dodgy guys walking down the street.  I figured it was broad day light and that I shouldn't be overly concerned.  I did lock the car doors, just to be safe.  I went in to lock up the house and set the alarm, which involves momentarily shutting the front door.  I set the alarm, walked outside, and the car was gone.  My kids were gone.  The Mom and her daughter were gone.  And the 2 dodgy guys were gone.

The rest of my nightmare involved panic, calls to 911, and the dark realization that my kids were missing.

Somehow I managed to escape the dream.  But I can't explain how real it was when I was stuck in it.

I don't know why this dream was enough to motivate me to actually update my neglected blog, but I guess I wanted to share it as a reminder that stuff can happen quickly.  Anyone who has lost their child in a grocery store, watched their child run out into a street or parking lot, or watched their baby fall off a bed or couch will tell you that.  Bad s#%$ can happen fast.

As you may have guessed, I will now be more cautious when my kids are playing in the front of the house.  While I am usually on top of them, there are times I have run into the house quickly to grab something.  And while I am not going to live in fear, I am going to step up our families security so I don't have to face any real life nightmares.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

I was so happy to get back from the holidays.  There's nothing like sleeping in your own bed after being on the road with kids for a few weeks.  And there's nothing like returning to your routine.  I would be lost without our routine and I rely on it heavily.  Last Monday I realized that even a "long weekend" is enough to throw me off.  Sadly, I am the kind of Mama who is burnt out after spending a few days straight with my kids...without our routine.

I won't get into details, but the highlight of last Monday morning was driving around downtown Washington trying to find a parking spot so we could go to the Natural History Museum.  I had forgotten that everyone else would be doing the exact same thing as the museum is located on the National Mall and Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  After 45 minutes of circling the museum to the North, South, East and West, and having every spot I had identified stolen by a more aggressive driver, I lost it.  I hit my steering wheel, started crying and mumbling crazily that I was NEVER going to find a spot and that I was just going to have to GIVE UP.  My daughter was already crying as we were supposed to be meeting her friend inside the museum and my son started wailing because he wanted to see the dinosaurs. 

I like to consider myself a good driver with relatively crafty downtown navigation abilities, but I simply could not find my parking mojo on Monday.  It killed me to do it, but I actually had to give up and create an alternative plan to try and make it up to my kids.  We headed to Georgetown to watch the ducks on the river and grab a snack by the C&O Canal.  I recovered the morning, kind of, but felt so terrible about my inability to keep my cool in front of my kids.  What kind of example was I setting as I blubbered my self deprecating nonsense, occasionally yelling at parking spot stealers while pounding my steering wheel in frustration?

I don't want to be that kind of Mom. I want them to learn how to keep their cool.  I want them to learn how to not take the wrong things too seriously.  I want them to learn how to find humour in the every day struggle (although we did manage to laugh about it on the drive home as I fed them cookies and played their favorite annoying Little People CD). 

All this is to say that I am tired of not being able to stay as calm as I would like when I am presented with life's constant little challenges.  I don't want to yell and freak out when things don't go my way or when my kids do the things that kids do.  I don't want them to be afraid of me and the possible reaction I may have. 

That's a lot of things that I want and that I don't want.  But other than tattooing "Keep Calm and Carry On" in some highly visible location, how can I deal with this unsavory part of my self?

I went to a lecture at the little guy's school last night on "How to Raise a Responsible Child" and I was reminded how important my role is in developing my kids' character.  They learn from what they see and I need to teach them by setting a good example.  This is SO OBVIOUS yet so hard to remember on a minute by minute basis. 

When I lose my cool, they must think that it is OK to lose your cool.  When I am checking emails and not listening to them, and then get annoyed and snap when they keep "bugging" me, they are learning that it is OK to ignore people while you fiddle with a technological gadget.  And when I yell at them in the grocery store (or any public place, really) because their behavior is less than exemplary, I am embarrassing both myself and them because I should be able to think of more creative ways to handle situations that I have been consistently confronted with for the past 5 years.  If I can not be a responsible parent, how can I expect them to be responsible kids?

Yikes!!!!!  They are going to need years of therapy because of me!!

So I am taking a small step.  I got home from last night's lecture and signed up for Managing Anger: A Parents Guide which is being offered at the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP), the same folks who held the preschooler classes I took last winter.  It is only 3 sessions, but I am hoping the 6 hours of instruction, thought and discussion will help me learn how to better deal with my parental frustrations.

Because as much as I'd like to make it to yoga and work on my deep breathing techniques, I think I am in  need of a supportive classroom environment where I can remember that I am not alone in this.  Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and I want to make sure that I am doing it to the best of my abilities.  What is that wise old saying, again?  Nothing good comes easily?  Well I am going to work on this and while I would not call it a New Year's resolution, I am hoping I can become a better Mama so my kids will end up better people. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy New Year!

I meant to say that a few weeks ago; Happy New Year!

I have been thinking of you every day, and when I noticed that there are actually folks who check on this site daily, I felt a huge pang of guilt.

I rapidly progressed from being over run with guilt to feeling plain old overwhelmed.  How am I going to update you on the past month and a half of chaos?

So I have decided I am just going to do a brief recap of all the things which would have been worthy of their own posts.  That is the only way I can free myself and start blogging 2012 style.

My first born child, the one who made me a Mama, turned 5 years old on December 7th.  We hosted a lovely pottery painting party for her.  I think it all turned out pretty well, considering the insane amount of time I spent obsessing over how to handle the politics of a 5 year old girls birthday party (in the end I decided small is sweet and big is just too much to handle, emotionally and financially!).  She seemed pretty thrilled with the whole experience but was bummed to learn that she would have to wait 12 months to experience the joys of another birthday. 

We were honored to attend Art Night with the babe at her school the day after her birthday.  Parents and children get dressed in their finest, bring in a pot luck dinner contribution, and experience a gallery type soiree.  The collection of Mattisse inspired art was stunning, but really, what was stunning was my daughter's amazing piece.  As I can't truly explain it, I have decided to share it here with you.

The day after the babe's birthday party, I cut off my son's long hair.  I sat him at the dining room table, brushed his locks one last time, and hacked of a huge chunk with my trusty little scissors.  That beautiful head of hair had been 3 years in the making and I had decided I was done.  I was done picking out food after every meal.  I was done having to wash it so much because of the blobs of dirt and soy nut butter I would discover at bath time every night.  I was done explaining that my son is actually a boy, not a girl (I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I did this every single day). 

Don't get me wrong, I loved his hair.  I thought he was absolutely stunning with his long hair flowing behind him when he ran.  But frankly, his behavior has become a tad undesirable of late, and I was beginning to associate his long hair with his newly developing rep as a ruffian trouble making punk.  So I chopped it off, put the hair in a Ziploc baggie, and packed my family off to the barber shop where my husband and son both had a hair cut.  A new father-son barber shop tradition was born that day (December 11th) and my son has not been called a girl since.

But wait, there's more.  That Ziploc baggie with my son's beautiful hair has been sent to India with my Mother in Law.  The hair will be scattered into the river where my husband's hair was placed after he had his first hair cut (actually head shave) as part of the (Hindu) Mundan ceremony.  I feel good the little guy's hair wasn't just swept up off the barber shop floor.  And while I miss his hair, I love that my little boy went from baby to boy in one simple act.  It's hard to explain, but something changed the day we cut his hair, and I don't regret our decision.

The kids and I then flew to Canada where we had a 2.5 week long adventure visiting family and friends in Ottawa and Montreal.  During the visit my husband celebrated a birthday, and my son, the little guy, turned 3.  He is a Christmas Eve baby and hasn't really had a true birthday party yet.  Luckily he hasn't seemed to notice and was happy to get a chocolate cupcake with a candle so he could make a wish (although I am not so sure he understands the "wish"concept).  We brought the kids to Christmas Mass with my folks and sister which ended in total disaster but managed to rescue the evening and have our Happy Birthday celebration and cupcake eating together as a family.  I think we may have to step it up for the little guy next year, though. 

We concluded our relaxed visit in Montreal with a smashing New Year's Eve party at my Mother in Law's place.  We welcomed 2012 by packing up our car (my husband had driven up to Ottawa closer to Christmas) and hitting the road.  Yes, we did the unthinkable.  We drove from Montreal to Washington in just under 11 hours.  We made 3 stops and powered through Quebec, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.  And ya know what?  The kids were awesome.  I have no idea how we all pulled it off, but we did.  Now that we know it is doable, my family may become an international road tripping kinda family.  Because we certainly aren't going to be able to keep paying the ever increasing prices for plane tickets!

I think I may have overwhelmed you with all this in one post.  But I had to get it out of my system.  Tackling this update was hanging over my head and while it may not be pretty, at least I have made it official.  I hope you had a great holiday season and I hope you have recovered from all the craziness.  All the best to you and your loved ones for an awesome, healthy and happy 2012!