Truth in Parenting

Money makes you crazy

Welcom too are Shop of food and clour

The girls have become financial tycoons. 

Every single day they and their gaggle of friends come up with some way to try to get money out of us.  It's mostly been shops, though this weekend it was a combo of dance performance and concession stand.  Not too surprising when you consider what we do for a living, I suppose.  And their performances are always top notch, complete with twirling, banging on a keyboard, curtsies and yes, even blown kisses to the applauding crowd (read, Me and the Mister).  The concession stand, while adorable, does make me grumble a bit.  See, I've already paid for the cheese and crackers for which you're attempting to collect, kid. 

Mark, who is clearly the much nicer parent of us two, went and found some coins and dropped them into Lily's eager hand.  This lead to Anya throwing a wee fit at Lily about the fact that nobody ever gives her money.  So Lily divided the coins and paid her performer off.  Anya, seeing the effectiveness of such a fit, repeated it to her father who also paid her. 

I'll give you one guess as to the result.

It took all of thirty seconds for both girls to be yelling at each other about their money and another thirty seconds before the kicking started.  

Money makes you crazy, indeed.

When it was pointed out to Lily that she never actually spends her money, her impassioned reply was, "But I like just having it!"  Me too, kid.  It does make me feel safe to know there are piles of coins in a special place, just in case.  But at five and seven, I'm afraid of what this means.

How do we teach kids about the value of money without teaching them to overvalue money, to the point they end up kicking their sister and collapsing into tears?  Does rational thought come with age?  Considering the State of the Stock Market, that doesn't seem a safe bet.

How do you or would you handle financial education?  I'm in desperate need for some tips, yo.

Random guilt talk and then, Oh, look! Shiny things!

Last night I was dreaming that I was sorting photographs into piles.  This pile was for Lily, this for Anya and this for a classmate of Lily's named Olivia.  Olivia's pile grew and grew: Olivia at birth, Olivia dancing on a stage, Olivia holding a puppy, etc, etc.  And only here and there a photo of my own children would emerge, taking it's place in the tiny piles of their life.

If you believe in dream interp, this is highly revealing, though I'm not sure of what.  How could it be that my very documented children would somehow take a backseat to another, more documented child?  Seriously, could another child be more documented than my own?  The obvious answer is yes, there are thousands of blogs out there to prove it.  But it likely does show my recent frustration with myself and this blog.  How do I find time to blog when I cannot even go to the bathroom in peace? 

Seriously, just ten minutes ago, I was sitting on the toilet when one child came to me with a problem with her knitting while the other yelled for me from her bed, unwilling to take a nap. Even now, while I type, I am responding to one child and marching the other back to bed while yelling at the dog to stop fussing at the door (she wants to be outside with the Mister, but has a habit of running off when nobody is looking). 

And guilt, which I am feeling in abundance these days, has been making the rounds in my life as I struggle with how to make all the pieces fit.  I keep looking to some event in the future as the cure: "When Mark's job ends in March," I tell myself, "my life will get easier since he can pick up the slack at home."  But his lack of a full time job won't make things easier on all fronts.  In fact, it's not something I should be looking forward to at all.  The freelance life is difficult, despite the fact that he's already landed a gig in Cancun.  Lucky bastard.

I wish I had time to explore more of this, but alas, I have to go to work.  Instead I'll distract you from my sudden departure of topic with the following video of my big kid on her first day of knitting.  She's a total rock star.

on hair, lies and ideological conundrums

Lily has beautiful hair.  Beautiful, thick, tangly, troublesome when you're tender-headed, hair.  And sadly, it's turned into one of her deepest areas of self doubt, one time breaking down and crying that she hated her hair, herself, her everything.  Just the other day, when wishing on a magic wand, I heard her whisper, "I wish for long, straight, beautiful hair."

And the thing is, I totally get it.

I remember hating my hair and wishing it was straight like most of the girls I knew.  I remember despising how it tangled and dreading having the back brushed out, so much so that I once let a tangle grow to monster proportions and my mom had to cut most of it out. 

As I got older, I grew to appreciate the loveliness that is naturally curly hair.  I started understanding how far people would go to get what I woke up with.  I started to see my hair as one of my greatest assets.  Even now, with it going rapidly gray, I know it's the thing about me people notice and most often compliment.

the white door with the white heart

so happy

There's a discussion going on in the back of my car about bad dreams.  Anya is describing her dream, which involved a big white door with a white heart on it that breaks into people's homes and steals all their stuff.  "It's got lots of patterns on it," she tells me.
"Can you draw it for me?" I ask.
"Yes.  It's a beautiful door, but it's very mean."
"Yeah, I'd like to be on the look out for it, so would love to have your drawing."
Lily speaks up then about her own bad dream involving a little dog, a beach and a crab.

I thought I had a few more years...

tree walker

I hear a light slap from the back of the car, then Anya's voice questioning, "What you doing, Lily?"
"Just checking to see if your legs are fat."
"What did you say?" I react, trying to figure out if she said what I think she said.
"Anya's legs are nice and skinny.  Not like mine.  Mine are fat."
Yep.  She said what I thought she had.  "Baby, your legs are not fat."
"But they're bigger than Anya's."
"Yes, but you're bigger than Anya.  You're two years bigger.  Besides, Kid, what do we use our legs for?"  I catch her confused stare in the rear view mirror.  "Our legs have to hold our whole body up.  Without strong, healthy legs we couldn't run and skip and jump."
"Yeah," she contemplates, "that would be hard."
"And legs," I continue, "have to be strong enough to support everything.  To help us lift and climb and stand tall.  Could you do all that if you're legs were tiny, unhealthy chicken legs?"
"No!  I couldn't!" 
"Your legs are not 'fat', they're perfect.  And even if they are bigger than someone else, that's because your body is strong and healthy and needs your legs to keep you playing.  People are all sizes and shapes, Kid.  Being healthy is the most important part."

This body image crap is only going to get harder, isn't it?


Monster Mash

We had a storm roll through here a couple nights ago complete with a sudden drop in temperature, intense bouts of hard rain and a couple roars from the sky in the form of thunder. This seriously freaked Lily out. Luckily the thunder only forced Mark out of bed and up into the girls room to comfort twice with explanations like, "The sky is talking to the clouds, it's OK." *** click on over for the rest ***

Tips for Grocery shopping with kids

With the girls being ultra clingy lately I've been finding myself feeling spacey and disconnected when I'm away from them. I keep running out for little breaks when Mark gets home hoping that I'll feel restored and refreshed and all that crap. Not so much. But as I wandered through the overly packed aisles of Trader Joe's today I started thinking about the tricks I use to make grocery shopping much less insane when I have to bring the girls. Here's what I do:... *** please click over for the full post***

the nth degree

Mark comes home tomorrow and a week of single parenting has me feeling like a frayed rope held taunt, just ready to snap.  It never ceases to amaze me the random thoughts that will pop into my head during times of stress like these.  I mean, I would never EVER lay a hand on my children violently, but I will find myself at the end of the day with one of them mouthing off and this random little thought will pop into my brain urging me to just hit her to make her quiet.  Um, how is that in any way logical?  Hitting a child to quiet them?  That's like saying, "Hey, I notice your pants are on fire.  Let me see if a little lighter fluid will put that out for you."  Luckily, logic follows random and reminds me I'm not that mother. Besides, a violent mother is not the kind of memories I want to build for my children. 

But I can sometimes see it.  I can sometimes understand why some mothers DO go there, even if I can't agree with it.  Motherhood takes everything in your life and pushes it to the nth degree, making you love more, fear more, hurt more, feel joy on a deeper level and well, make you crazier than you ever thought possible.  In short: that shit's dangerous and brilliant, all at once. 

At least I know how very lucky I am to spend most of my time parenting in concert with Mark.  When he's not traveling he's home a whole lot, working a couple hours most days and home during the week more than your average dad.  In some ways, this brings his absence into sharp focus and makes it all the more painful.  But at least I get to steal away on dates in the middle of the day after dropping the kids at Grandma's or get to sleep in late during mornings when he gets up with the girls. 

But right now, on the edge of a full week, I'm just going a little insane.  Send patient vibes until Sunday afternoon when we go get him from the airport.  Let's just see if I can hold it together until then! 

what hospital birth should be

I have a lot of distrust for the hospital system of birthing which is largely why I had neither of my children in one.  And while the link I'm about to share with you is not what you will usually find in a hospital birth, it is what hospital birth SHOULD be.  The photos are stunningly intimate and show everything, so please don't look if that would upset you somehow.  But this series made my day and I wanted to share it.

Click here to see a powerful mama birth with a doctor who clearly knew he was in the presence of magic. 

The Mommy Effect

Today while at yet another birthday party, Lily slipped on the corner of a set of brick porch steps and somehow made a dramatic twirling flight down them. It would have been awesome, if not for the fact that it was horrible. Mark scooped her up and ran into the house with her before I could see how bad it was and since I had my hands full with Anya I went with the fact that Mark is highly capable and he’d call for me if I was needed. I could hear her cries coming from the living room and so when I could, I slipped away from Anya and went to check on the big kid. I saw her before she saw me and noted that she was sitting quietly in her Daddy’s lap, holding her legs up close to her and sucking her thumb. She had calmed down, there was no blood, it was OK.

Then she saw me.

She burst back into tears, sobbing and wailing as I came closer. I crouched down next to her, stroking her hair, trying to comfort. Finally I asked, “Do you want me to go away?” To which she replied with a tearful yes. As soon as I left the room she calmed down. I was heart broken by this. How could I possibly make her feel worse? How could my presence be so awful that it would make her cry instead of feeling comfort?

That’s when I ran into our host, who was coming to see if Lily was OK. “She started crying when she saw me.” I told her.

“It’s the Mommy Effect. Everything is OK until they see Mommy.”

I smiled at this explanation, but to be honest, I don’t get it. Naturally, I thought of you people, happily living in my computer so you can dispense wisdom at the drop of a hat. Have you all noticed the Mommy Effect? Do you understand it? Am I crazy for not totally getting it?

Public service announcement

A couple weeks ago when Mark’s mom was visiting we put the whole lot of us in the minivan and headed up to a little mountain town for the day. We’ve been driving around in our smaller car, what with gas prices being totally suck so we set up the van the way we wanted it. We usually put the two middle captains chairs right next to each other so I can reach Ani when I’m driving if need be. It’s kinda cool, really; you can have the middle row set apart from each other creating a center aisle (you know, for when the kids arms get long enough to hit each other) or close together. To switch them, you pull out the floor caps, press a paddle flipper do-da (yes, that’s its official name) tilt the seat forward, slide it into position and then tilt it back to lock into place. Turns out that last step is really important. We hadn’t yet made it out of town when Mark had to bring the car to a rather sudden stop, sending the not-at-all-locked seat holding my tiny person swinging forward and crashing into the passenger seat in front of her. She had been asleep, but when she was suddenly propelled through space, she woke up. Loudly. I was in the way back and before Mark could stop the car, I had whipped off my seatbelt, yanked the seat back into place, started to unbuckle her and was getting her ready to nurse. The whole time this was happening I just kept saying, “Oh my God” convinced that when I finally got her to me, her tiny face would be smashed in and I would win the worst parent EVER award since it was all my fault. I should have checked that it was properly latched into place. I should have made sure. I was the one who had set up the seat, therefore I was the one who had almost caused the untimely death and/or maiming of my youngest child. AND THEN? Then I took her out of the car seat while the car was still moving!

You may be wondering why this happened weeks ago and I am just now bringing it up. Most of you will already know why. Yep, GUILT. Lots of it. Piles and piles of it. I’ve been shoving most of it under the bed but did you know that when you do that it turns into monsters and eats your face off in the middle of the night?

Therefore, today is call out your guilt day. I’ve showed you mine, now lemme see what will eat your face off if you don’t share. Come on, give. I promise not to judge you.

Sometimes it’s like this…

Sometimes it’s like this: you wake in the middle of the night to find your nursling nestled asleep in the crook of your arm, warm downy hair pressed against your skin and her little mouth working in sweet little puckers as she dreams of her fabulous num nums. You look over to see your husband dreaming silently, a smile on his lips. Your dog is asleep at the foot of the bed, paw twitching in her own doggy dream world and the kitty purrs happily at your feet. The air is perfect; just cold enough to warrant the light blankets covering you and the smell of rain adding a crispness and promise of fall. On these nights you know that you could do this forever. You know that this moment was made for you to drink in, embrace and cherish. You know that if this is truly what life was, you could sit in this space for the rest of your life and never want for anything.

Sometimes it’s like this: you wake in the middle of the night as you kick the sweat soaked covers off your body and elbow your husband to get him to stop snoring, hoping that as he turns over he’ll somehow get the dog to stop snoring as well. The cat is trying to sleep on your face. The sweet nursling is awake again and is not happy and you know you must resign yourself to no sleep or you will be bitter and unforgiving in the morning. During the day, you want to complete a task but you know there will be countless interruptions and if your husband is home he will likely be napping during one of those times and you will be required to suddenly wake him from his slumber by demanding help. You will feel guilty for asking. You will feel guilty for hating that he is napping. You will feel guilty for wanting a whole day to do as you please. You will feel guilty for not making a perfect meal every night and presenting it to your family on matching plates with perfectly ironed napkins ready to swipe at their perfectly clean faces. You will resent that you have to call a friend in joy when you are out of the house all alone and you will resent that you have to be back at a certain hour, feeling like a child again who must abide by a parents rules. You wonder when your husband will learn to love your body as is and not say things like, “You’re not getting old, honey. You’re just out of shape; what you need to do is…” You realize that he will never learn. He’s a man and this kind of thing is not within his reach. He can tell you what every tool in the garage is called, how it works, what to do with it and what it sounds like when it goes bad; but this he cannot grasp. You know that if life is like this you could easily give it all up and run off to join the circus. Any circus, just as long as they allow you to sleep once in a while and spend a quiet day with a book. For a fleeting moment you even irrationally consider leaving your husband. As though that would somehow make your life easier, but in reality you know it’s just the anger and the resentment and the frustration of having very young children and a strong will of your own. You will feel so guilty for wanting to be away, knowing you will be in love with him again tomorrow. You will feel like a failure and no amount of being told you are not will erase the panic in your heart that you are just doing it all wrong.

Sometimes it’s like this: you realize that you have it good. You also realize that just because others have it worse, it does not diminish your own issues and insecurities. You accept that you are human and fallible and that you don’t have your shit together and likely never will. You hang onto those moments of perfectness and you allow yourself to be pissed off or happy or scared or crazy or silly or awake or selfish or Martha Stewart or whoever you need to be. You cling to the smell of your daughters damp head in the middle of the night and cry a little at how perfect she is and pray that you just don’t screw her up.

Sometimes it’s like this: you write it all down and wonder if you should just delete the whole thing. You think about your children reading this when they are becoming mothers and you realize that they will either be better at this than you or they will feel the same conflicting emotions and burry themselves in guilt and shame. You hope they will read this and think, “hell, if that woman could get through this, then so can I.” You hope they will never have to feel this way, but if they do you hope they will not feel alone. You hope even, for a moment, that they will call you up and pour out their emotion so that you can say, “I know, sweetheart. Hang in there baby, it’ll get better, I promise.”