Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monster Mash!

We had a wonderful Halloween this year. Lots of family, lots of laughs, lots of chances to dress up my little dude as the cutest dragon that there ever was with the most smooshiest cheeks and the most kissable nose and the most hilarious toothy grin.

First up was the annual costume party at Dan's grandma's house on Friday night. Another year where we waited until the last minute to find something to wear. Ugh. I hate last minute costumes because I am just not one of those creative types who can make something amazing out of empty paper towel rolls, duct tape, and old sparkly tube tops. But since I'm a procrastinator in everything that I do, most years I end up trying to come up with something just a few days before the party. This time, it was the day of.

Gus and I took a trip to the Halloween super store on Friday morning after I decided Dan and I would be a somewhat haphazard prince and princess, to go along with Gus's dragon diggs that we got months ago for about $7 at Costco. (What what!) Well... I couldn't find a crown for Dan to wear, and had to buy a child's sequined tiara for myself. Ended up spending $50 on that, a black hooded cape for Dan, and some stupid midevil looking weapon and king's crown. Thought, hmm... Dan could be an evil king holding me hostage in his castle, guarded by an adorable dragon? Ok, whatever. It's something.

I think Dan wanted to punch me when he saw the crown and strange spikey-ball weapon I spent that much money on. Also, the crown just was not going to stay on his head. It was cheap and rubber and a completely regrettful purchase. Then I tried on the pink strapless bridesmaid dress from Betsy's wedding that I had planned on wearing, and when zipped up, my boobs were absolutely crushed to the max. Those suckers were not going to last a whole night smashed like pancakes. (Damn breastfeeding!) So the dress was a no-go.

Instead, we dug out some wigs we wore a few years ago as Daphne and Fred. I sorta looked like Princess Fionna from Shrek when I put on this old vintage thrift store green dress that I had in my closet. Sorta. Well, the hair did. Sorta. Not really. (The Little Mermaid might have made more sense but I certainly was not going to wear a shell bra, nor would I be creating some sort of mermaid fin in the next hour.)

And Dan in that ridiculous 70's wig with my recently purchased princess tiara? Total Prince Charming. Basically him in that wig is just hilarious. So yeah, whatever. We had our costumes. No one knew who we were dressed as, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that we participated. And really all anyone cared about was that we brought our cute baby to the party.

The party was a blast, as usual. I love how the whole family goes all out with the costumes and childrens crafts, pin-the-tail-on-the-cat, and the toilet paper mummy game. It's all pretty awesome.

(Yeah, that's Gus's little blonde head sticking out of that pile of toilet paper. The mummy game gets pretty crazy, and where there's crazy kids screaming, there is my child wanting to get in on the action.)

Saturday evening we carved our pumpkins. Carving pumpkins with a toddler is a lot different than carving pumpkins without a toddler. Basically, there was no messing around with pre-printed templates and poking little holes for an hour before even getting to the carving. It literally took me about 4 minutes to carve Gus's little pumpking. I just grabbed the knife and went to town. If I'm honest, I think I like the haphazard "homemade" carvings we did better than any professional-looking template. Cause they're totally us, mistakes and imperfections and all.

We made a huge mess of the kitchen, and I completely forgot about my intentions to roast the pumpkin seeds until after they were all in the trash with the rest of the pumpkin guts, but it was so worth it to see Gus sticking his head in pumpkins, hesitantly squishing the cold insides between his fingers, wandering the house gnawing on the tops. (Raw pumpkin is ok for babies right?!)
Of course just as we finished them and were trying to take a good picture out on the front steps that wasn't blurry, my camera battery died. So you get lots of the before pictures, but not a lot of the finished products.

On second thought, maybe it was the hat. Gus just wouldn't sit still, and I didn't have the where-with-all to take a picture of the stupid pumpkins without my kid in it. Before the camera died that is. Oh well.

Finally, today, on the actual Halloween, we had a birthday party to go to. My grandpa turns 83 tomorrow, so the whole family got together to celebrate. I think once you hit 80, every party should be a big one! We skipped the trick-or-treating, because we were all three of us tired after a long day, plus Gus is 14 months old for goodness sake, and only this weekend had his first taste of candy. (I couldn't help it, I was hit by the holiday spirit!) But Gus of course went to the party all dressed up and adorable. And so you get just a few more pictures. Because I am obsessed with this kid!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shrug it off

There were a few days last week (Dan might say more than a few) when I was just, I don’t know… tired. Cranky. Sullen. Last week was just one of those weeks when I found it hard to cope with the drudgery of everyday life. I was worn down, glassy-eyed. Blank. I don’t know what was wrong with me, really it was nothing. It was a regular week, but for some unknown reason I was not of the frame of mind where I could just shrug stuff off.

Sometimes life just feels overwhelming. Our house is almost always a DISASTER. I’m not exaggerating. It is overwhelming. And I hate it, but I just can’t seem to dig myself out of the clutter, the dust, the piles of laundry, the dog hair. So I ignore it. I try to brush it off, tell myself that it’s not a big deal. But it sort of is a big deal, because when it gets that bad, I can’t relax. I tell myself that I’ll tackle one thing on the list when Gus goes down for a nap, but then, somehow, I waste away the majority of his nap emptying the dishwasher, wiping down the counters, organizing the mail. I still never get to the actual cleaning… the stuff beyond the everyday load of laundry, the sink full of dishes.

Speaking of Gus. The everyday mom stuff can be hard if you’re not able to get into the “shrug it off” mode. And last week that just wasn’t happening. I had a meeting one night that I had to go to right from work. I was feeling ok about it, actually feeling like it might be nice to have a day where I wasn’t rushing home to help get dinner on the table, struggling to get Gus to eat something, doing dishes, squeezing in some fun time with the boy, then onward to the bedtime/bath routine, getting his bag packed for the next day, vegging out in front of the TV for an hour with a glass of wine before going to bed by 10:30, only to be woken up by crying on the baby monitor within twenty minutes of my head hitting the pillow.

So yeah, I thought it might be a sort of nice break to not have to rush home for all that. I met Lisa for coffee, after which we headed to the meeting where I got to talk “business” with adults over a nice meal. But then the meeting went a bit late, and I felt guilty. I needed to get home. At nine I was finally home, and I immediately snuck upstairs and peeked into Gus’s room to find Dan rocking and singing to a little toddler who did not look like he was cooperating with this whole “bedtime” thing. So I took my boy and nursed him and a half hour later he was asleep in his crib. By that time, Dan was almost through with dishes and putting together everything for the next day, and instead of feeling relieved, I felt guilty.

Guilty for not being there to help out. Guilty for having spent absolutely no time with my kid the whole day. Guilty for being pretty much the only one who can (relatively) easily get my son down at night. Guilty that Gus went to bed so late and because the next day was Thursday, he would have to be woken up at 6:00 AM so Dan could drop him off at his parents. And then guilty for still just being super exhausted and worn down, despite a night off.

I don’t know, I just couldn’t seem to shrug anything off last week. I mean Dan had just spent the evening doing day-care pickup/dinner/bath/stories/bedtime all by his lonesome, but I was the one that got all cranky about it. From the guilt! Ridiculous.

It’s so easy to let the little stuff get to you. I’m always worried about how much sleep Gus gets, because the “experts” all seem to say he should get more, but he just doesn’t nap very well for other people, and he’s at three different places each week, making a routine really hard to come by. Some mornings when I’m getting up for work it is impossible to get him from our bed to his crib without him waking up. So on those days, he’s up at 6:00.

And then I stress even more because I’m dropping him off somewhere where he will probably not get much more than an hour’s nap throughout the day. And then if that’s the case he’s a crankfest when Dan picks him up. So he has to decide to either a.) put him down for a nap at 4:30 PM, meaning bedtime is inevitably pushed out to 9:00 and thus perpetuate the cycle of not getting enough sleep, or b.) keep a tired and weary little boy content enough to make it through dinnertime and a bath, then it’s bed by 7:00 – one whole hour after I get home from work.

One guess as to how many mornings I was able to successfully transfer Gus from our bed to his crib last week. Zilch. Nada. None.

Good news though, we’ve started out this week much better than last. Gus slept until 7:00 this morning, at which point I actually had to wake him up to get him dressed and ready to go to Jasmine’s. And then at Jasmine’s, instead of sobbing when I said goodbye like he has the last few Tuesdays, he smiled at me from her hip and looked excited to run around and terrorize the rest of her household. Thank goodness, because my heart just can’t take those tearful goodbyes.

I made a much needed hard-core trip to the grocery store this weekend, so the refrigerator and pantry are stocked, making week-night dinnertime much less stressful. And the cherry on top of that sundae is that I made a big batch of chili this weekend so we already have one dinner ready to go! Leftovers are awesome.

Also, I vacuumed the whole main floor yesterday, and Dan (is awesome) hung some hooks in our living room/dining room that I bought a few weeks ago. So there is finally a place to store and hang our coats/bags/miscellaneous items that usually end up on the backs of our dining room chairs.

At my ECFE class yesterday the instructor totally blew my mind during our talk about toddler eating. I stress out a lot about how much Gus is eating, because not only is he becoming so much pickier than he used to be, but he also seems to be eating so much less. I’ve tried to stay zen about the whole thing, I know that at this age he’s not growing as rapidly as he was in the first year of his life, and he doesn’t really need as much food as I think he does. But who am I kidding, I’m an obsessive first-time mom.

Anyway, my instructor is awesome, love her, and she showed us actual visual representations of the portion sizes a 12-18 month-old should get. One serving of cheese, for example, is a pair of dice. A PAIR OF DICE! Um yeah… so it’s probably a good thing, rather than bad, that Gus is no longer eating whole sticks of cheese in one sitting, and I need to calm down. As for grains/carbs, (i.e. pasta/waffles) a toddler’s portion size is about the size of two dominoes. Like for reals.

Consider my mind BLOWN.

And finally, last night we had one of those nights where Dan and I both kept prolonging bedtime for Gus, not because we were dreading it or feeling super worn out, but because he was just being so sweet and wonderful and hilarious and adorable. He was starting to get to that point of the night where we were crossing over into over-tiredness, but he just had us in stitches, chasing a spinning bowl around the dining room, uncontrollable giggling, I just didn’t want to say goodnight to him. He was just too much, makes us so happy.

So anyway, here is to a good week! Not like last week was even that bad, I made it through, even if I felt a bit like a zombie at times. Really, I should say, “Here’s to shrugging it off!” because that seems to be the moral of the story.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

My way

I’m not going to pretend this is some sort of enormous revelation, but grilled cheezus if I am not at all the type of mother I envisioned myself being, way back when. “Way back when” being… I dunno, as a 22 year old newly married know-it-all? The girl who thought this family she married into had a bit of this crazy-hippie thing going on with their homebirths and homeschooling and non-vaccinating ways, and she was a little… dare I say judgy?

I give myself more credit than that, I didn’t openly judge any of the parenting and personal choices my in-laws made, but I certainly dismissed a lot of it as “out-there” and unquestionably not for me. I didn’t get it. I didn’t know. I was young, and I had only my own upbringing to fall upon as “the way”.

Well that and TV and the Movies.

I may have concocted somewhat of a Hollywood-ized version of what it was like or should be like to start a family in the 21st century. I saw myself as a latte-sipping, suit-wearing, daycare dropping off, city-dwelling, working mother of 2 (a boy and a girl of course). All of my baby’s clothes would be unique and perfect and come from specialty boutiques rather than big-box stores. My kids would grow up eating sushi and using sign-language, and would certainly be potty-trained well before the age of two.

They would be well-mannered little angels who always did as told. We would go to church every Sunday as a family and I imagined the compliments we would receive from the elderly couple behind us about how wonderfully behaved our children were. We would still travel as a couple quite often, I mean what is wrong with those people who can’t leave their children for someone else to watch? Cut the umbilical cord already!

My house would not be cluttered with offensive plastic toys and baby contraptions, specifically the living room would be off limits for those kinds of messes. Oh, and HELL to the NO would I be bringing my baby to bed with me, that is horrifying! Babies belong in cribs!

In short, my life would be somewhat of a cross between Ally McBeal and the movie Stepmom, except I wouldn’t be a stepmom, I would be the real mom, and I wouldn’t have cancer and my daughter wouldn’t be a total snot. That’s really confusing because I need to reiterate that I wouldn’t be divorced, and my husband would not have left me for a younger woman, and neither would I be that other woman. Basically I would just look effortlessly beautiful like Julia Roberts all the time, live in a fantastic and chic loft, and have some sort of amazing kick-ass professional career. And my kids and I would spontaneously break out into song in the car as a way of cool-mom/kid bonding.


What I’m getting at here is that it’s interesting to see where I’m at, a little over a year into this whole parenting gig. A lot of the clothes Gus wears were purchased at thrift stores and garage sales by my mom, or given to us as hand-me-downs from Dan’s mom. Otherwise they’re from Target, Kohl’s, JC Penny, or Old Navy. Gasp! All very mainstream, big-box retailers. My inner 22-year old yuppie is horrified when she sees another kid wearing the same Carter’s dinosaur onesie that Gus has. Yeah, not really.

My absolute FAVORITE place to buy baby/children’s clothes is from, specifically, I am obsessed with Zutano baby clothes. And honestly, their prices are not that unreasonable, but when it comes to buying clothes that my kid is going to grow out of in a matter of months, $20 for a pair of striped cozy knit pants or ridiculously adorable coveralls with little aliens and spaceships all over them is even too much for me. So I save that website for when I need a pick-me-up that only periwinkle sherpa overalls can provide.

Again, I am getting off track, cute baby clothes will do that to you. The point is, any normal day, set me loose on the table of $4 basic sweatpants and t-shirts at Target and I’m good to go.

At about the 6-week mark of my maternity leave I had a meltdown when I realized I couldn’t fathom going back to work full time and bringing Gus to the wonderful in-home daycare we had set up. So now he spends most of his time with his grandmas while I’m at work just three days a week, and I couldn’t feel more lucky or thankful for how everything has worked out. We’ve been able to find the work-life balance that works for our family and of course it looks nothing like what I thought it would.

As for our posh sushi dinners, I don’t even like or eat sushi, so my kids will have to settle for deep-fried sunfish and popcorn shrimp at grandma and grandpa’s cabin in Wisconsin. Sign-language has been a big old parenting fail, something I talk like I’m going to do but don’t actually do, and future Alicia will worry about potty training because this one doesn’t even want to think about it yet.

And the rest of that about my perfect family with well-behaved children who clean their plates and quietly play with their educational/developmental toys in a very specific corner of the house? That doesn’t even sound appealing AT ALL. I mean who are those people? What kind of life is that? Where’s the fun, the spontaneity, the messes, the yelling, the chasing, the chaos, the laughter?

Anyone who knows me knows that becoming a mom has brought out my inner-hippie. I am officially down on The Man, I don’t seem to quite fit in with the moms at my mommy-and-me class, and my friends think I’m crazy because I still haven’t spent a night away from my 13 month old son. I had an unmedicated Bradley birth and am still breastfeeding with no plans to stop anytime soon. My baby spends about 4 hours, at most, in his crib every night, and the rest of it snuggled up next to me and Dan in bed.

He’s nowhere close to sleeping through the night, but I can’t let him cry-it-out. I just can’t. Life is so short, our babies are only young once, and I am pretty sure, one way or another, he’ll be out of our bed someday and I’ll miss his sweet breath on my neck. The inconveniences I feel today of co-sleeping will seem so trivial when my baby is no longer my baby and I would give my right arm to go back in time and cuddle him all night long.

So I pretty much break all the parenting rules, and let my instincts guide my decisions. I “get” why people homeschool (and there are so many different reasons). I “get” why some people choose not to vaccinate. And homebirth? Gosh, sometimes I think I might even consider it if the idea of cleaning up the mess afterwards didn’t appall me so much. ;)

Mostly I’ve learned that there is no one way to do this. We’re all figuring it out, we’re all doing what works for our families, and I’m ok with that. Dan’s mom wrote something in an email to me once that just said it all, explained perfectly how it feels to be in charge of a life. We were talking about child care, my “Tuesday nanny” moved away this summer and I had the daunting task of finding someone new to watch Gus once a week, and of course I was a wreck about it. My brother was a bit dismissive, said something like, “people drop their kids off at daycare everyday and they’re fine, you’re being crazy”.

And I know, I probably was being a little crazy, but no! He is MY BABY and he is helpless and I am in charge of making sure he feels loved and cared for and trusting of his environment. I get why someone without a kid might say that, but gosh, when it’s YOUR BABY it IS different. We’re not just talking about some kid. That’s my kid. Though these days I can’t even look at a child and think of them as just “some kid” anymore.

Anyway, my mother-in-law said this to me, “When you’re the advocate for someone so trusting and small and you’re leaving him there, all by himself… that’s a responsibility that feels very huge and serious.”

YES! That is exactly it! And that is exactly why we all need to figure out for ourselves how we’re going to do this parenting stuff, and we all will probably do things a little bit differently.

So yeah, I’m surprised by what end of the parenting spectrum I ended up falling on, that’s for sure, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of mom of a preschooler, pubescent teenager, and adult I end up being. Life is full of surprises, it’s something new every day, and I can thank God that I didn’t have it all figured out at 22.