Bath Time: A Vignette of the Insanity That Is Parenting

bathtub toys

What evil lurks inside your bathtub?

I’m baaack!

It’s been several months since I’ve posted — far longer than I intended, actually.

But the insanity that has become my life as a working mom simply didn’t allow me the time to write. But the months away have been a good thing. It’s given me time to think hard about what it is to be a mom, a writer/editor/manager, a wife and … well … me.

That’s the good part for me. The good part for you, dear reader, is that I have a ton of stories saved up — tales of parenting foibles, daycare mishaps, a trip across the world, what it’s like to start work again, and hitting rock bottom only to build yourself up again.

Intriguing, right?

But for today, I’m going to start with something simple to ease us all back into the world of my two boys: bath time. But this isn’t really a story about suds and squeaky toys. Because it’s my boys, this is a story about poop. Lots of poop.

It was just a few days ago. I had picked up the boys from daycare and given them their dinner. All was going according to plan. The kiddos had just finished their spaghetti and meatballs. Judging by the amount of sauce on their faces and chests (now that it’s summer, they eat outside shirtless), they had eaten their fill. After several handfuls of blueberries, I released them from their booster seats, stripped them down to their diapers, and corralled them upstairs to the bath.

First thought: This is going pretty well! Not a single meltdown this evening.

Second thought: Hubby should be home by now. Traffic must be bad. No matter! I can totally handle bath time on my own.

Little Man #1 wants to try pee pee in the potty. No problem, I set him up and get the bath running while keeping Little Man #2 from unrolling all the toilet paper.

Once the bath is ready, I plop them down, hose them off and commence the soaping and scrubbing process while they play with toys. Everyone is happy.

Third thought: I’ve got this down cold! Hubby will be so impressed/jealous when he comes home and hears nothing but joyful noises of play and sees how I’m crushing bath time.

Then it all falls apart.

 

While soaping up Little Man #2, I notice a smell. “Did you do a little fart?” I ask in a silly voice.

I look up. Not a fart.

Little Man #1 is midway through his second bomb. The first one already floating around among the toys.

I panic. “Out, out, out!” The boys both look at me like I’m the one who pooped in the tub.

I pull them out one by one. Now, I have two soapy babies standing naked next to a tub of toys and poop that is quickly breaking up in the water.

Fourth thought: I’d be awesome if Hubby came home now.

While keeping both boys confined to the bath mat with my leg. I drain the tub and start to collect clumps of poop with some paper towels. I go to drop the whole thing in the toilet, but then remember paper towels will clog it (a lesson learned the hard way many years ago).

So now I’m throwing out soiled paper towels in the garbage while grabbing bleach and the scrub brush.

That’s when disaster #2 strikes. Little Man #2 pops a squat on the bath mat and lets out a giant poo.

He’s going for a second one, when I manage to scoop him up and hold him over the toilet, still corralling Little Man #1, who is about to step in the poop on the floor, with my foot.

Little Man #2 poops in the toilet. Success! I put him down and start cleaning both the mat and the tub.

Thought #5: I got this. I totally got this! 

But Little Man #2 is not even close to done. For the next 15 minutes, I am simultaneously cleaning the tub, keeping the kids from slipping on the floor with their wet, soapy feet, and scooping up the subsequent five poops from the bath mat — at this point I’d given up trying to keep the little guy from pooping on it.

Thought #6: Where the f$%*#k is Hubby?!

Finally, the tub is clean, the soiled toys are isolated to the sink, the bath mat is crumpled up in the corner and replace by another, and the boys are back in the tub.

Meanwhile, I’m a sweaty mess. My hair is plastered to my head, I’m soaked to the bone, and there’s poop on my shoe.

Thought #7: Look on the bright side. The boys aren’t constipated.

As I’m coming down the stairs with two clean, diapered babies, one who insists on walking down the stairs himself while the other tries to wiggle out of my arms, my husband walks in, all smiles until he sees me.

“Hi baby — oh god, what happened?”

I explain. Without a word he takes the boys. Later, he cleans the bathroom.

Final thought: Every day with these little crazy people is a lesson in survival. I need a beer.

Two Under Two, Or How My Sons Are Plotting to Kill Me

7263712016_3ff5798b69_zThat’s right. My babies — who are 12 months, two weeks, and one day apart — are trying to off me, Stewie-style. I’ve suspected this pretty much from the day the two met in the hospital.

I think the conversation went something like this:

Little Man: Dude, welcome to the outside.

Little Man 2.0: Thanks, man. So what’s the deal here?

Little Man: Well, we’ve got these two people who take care of us. I like to call them Clown Man and Milk Faucets. They’re pretty nice to have around, but they can kind of get in the way sometimes.

Little Man 2.0: Bummer.

Little Man: Yeah, but tell you what? The house we live in is pretty sweet. If we can get CM and MF out of the picture, we’ll have the run of the place.

Little Man 2.0: Yeah, okay, bro. I’m in.

Unlike Stewie Griffin, however, ray guns and boobie traps are not their weapons of choice. Instead, it’s come down to a battle of wills. Who can break the other first? The boys are using everything they’ve got. So far, it’s kids 1, parents 0.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is very popular among the torturing set — those who see the Geneva Conventions more as guidelines. There’s no quicker way to make someone completely lose their mind, and my boys seem to know that.

When Little Man 2.0 was on the way, our older son still wasn’t sleeping through the night. About two weeks before we went to the hospital, he suddenly started going down 10 hours at a time, and we considered it a miracle.

When we brought the baby home, we expected to go back to sleepless nights. Why wouldn’t we? He’s a newborn.

What we didn’t expect was some kind of weird sleep remission from our older boy. He started getting up at about three in the morning, right when the baby fell asleep.

I guess we’ll sleep when we’re dead, which will be soon if the boys have their way.

Teething

My oldest has been teething at a pretty regular pace for the last two months, but it hasn’t really bothered him. He’s grouchy and drooly for about a day and a half and suddenly another tooth appears.

But then he started getting his molars. What followed was restless sleep, fevers, and all-day temper tantrums. All this in the middle of the baby’s battle with . . .

Colic

That’s right! One kid is teething while the other is colicky. Basically, once I get one kid to stop screaming, the other starts. The real fun begins when they’re both screaming, right around bedtime, and I’m running back and forth trying to comfort them both.

Defiance

Of course, the baby isn’t defying me, at least not in any conscious way. My oldest boy, however, has suddenly developed an attitude. He doesn’t like the meal I give him? He tosses it on the floor like a well-rehearsed diva. He wants to be held? He grabs onto my pant leg for dear life and won’t let me move until I pick him up.

I can only assume that he’s feeling insecure about his place in the family, now that the new little guy is here, but jeez! Give a chick a break!

And Just Generally Losing Their Shit

It never fails. The boys are perfect angels when I have help. They take long, alternating naps so that I have time to feed one or the other and then get some work done. They do as their told and they almost never cry.

My happy helper wonders why I ever needed them in the first place.

Then, they leave and all hell breaks loose.

One kid is running naked around the house, sobbing because I won’t let him play with the TV remote, or my cell phone, or some other expensive electronic gadget. The other is crying for his bottle, or for a change, or for absolutely no reason at all.

The second I get them to stop crying and go to sleep is the same second my husband walks through the door.

Go figure.

Everyone told me having two babies so close in age would be hard at first. I believed them, but I didn’t imagine anything this difficult. I take comfort in knowing that life will be easier when they’re older. They can pal around and entertain each other while I take a few minutes to write . . . or eat.

Of course this is all hinged on the assumption that I’ll survive the year. If not, tell my boys I love them.

Photo Source: Flickr

Breast Is Best: The Worst Advice I Ever Got

64861062_484c563466_zI just finished pregnancy number two, and I’m done. Don’t get me wrong. I love the end result: my two beautiful boys. But the actual process of creating life is not all it’s chalked up to be. There’s the aches and pains, the nausea, the diet restrictions, and the advice. Yes, the little pearls of wisdom everyone seems to have would drive you to drink, if you could.

I heard it all: sleep while you can, avoid Pitocin, quit your job and open a daycare (that from the guy who fixes the office coffee machine). The worse piece of advice I ever got, however, is the one that’s most pervasive when you’re pregnant, the one that comes at you from all directions — doctors, friends, family, and the media. Breast is best.

My first son was born three weeks early. Babies at 37 weeks are notoriously terrible latchers, and he was no exception. His inability to feed from my breast made my stay in the hospital like a stay in the second circle of Hell. Lactation consultants poked their noses into my room, shoving my baby’s head into my breast and exclaiming that they just didn’t understand. I had “great equipment,” after all. They kept goading me to try again, try again. It was humiliating.

Meanwhile, my son lost a bunch of weight. Finally, a kindly nurse gave me some formula. The little man took right to the bottle and began to eat. My husband and I were relieved.

The other nurses and lactation consultants pursed their lips and sucked their teeth in disapproval. I never told them who gave us the formula. I feared they would flay the poor nurse alive.

We checked out of the hospital one day early and never looked back.

Still, we both wanted to give our boy as much breast milk as I could produce. I pumped exclusively every two hours, every day for two months. That meant that no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had to drop everything every couple of hours to hook myself up to a machine for 15 minutes.

All of this would have been fine if I was making tons of milk. You see, some women are prolific. They can produce enough milk to feed a small island nation. Me, however, not so much. I was barely keeping up with the little guy, and we were still supplementing with formula.

After two months, when he upped the ante and started drinking four ounces at a time, I gave up completely. I let my milk dry up and switched him permanently to formula.

You can’t imagine the mommy guilt. Was I being selfish? Was I not pumping enough? Should I try harder?

It was a friend of a friend, seated at the same table at a wedding, who helped me see the light. Another, fairly toasted, woman at the table exclaimed several times how she couldn’t believe I was out so soon after having a baby and how I was getting away without pumping. She had already been out to her car twice to pump, herself.

I don’t know why –perhaps I was a bit tipsy myself – but the floodgates opened and I confessed my breastfeeding dilemma to the other women at the table, as well as their uncomfortable husbands. The friend of a friend looked at me and said “Is your baby healthy? Is he happy? Then you have nothing to worry about. You feed him the best way you know how.”

That’s why when my second son started out eating four ounces at a time and struggling with his gas, I didn’t hesitate. I switched him over to formula right away. No pumping, no special diets. After all, I have the health and well-being of myself and my older son to think about, too.

So, while recommending breastfeeding isn’t necessarily bad advice, it is bad advice if it’s recommended as the only choice. There are plenty of women out there, like me, who just can’t do it. They don’t make enough milk. They work. Or, god forbid, they are the survivors of mastectomies.

I would like to thank the lady at my table for helping me get over myself and out of my own head. Every mom feeds her babies differently, and as long as the little guys are happy and healthy, they have nothing to worry about.

Photo Source: Flickr

7 Reasons Why Moms (and Dads) Should Be Hired as CEOs

987182_69843541It’s come to my attention that many of the working gals I know fear the same thing after they get pregnant: If I take time off for my kids, will I be able to jump back into my career in a few years?

This is a tangible concern, one that I shared when I got pregnant for the first time. Lucky for me, my skill set allowed me to strike out on my own and redefine my career. But what if I wanted to go back? Would I be punished for leaving the editorial industry for three or four years?

Probably, and it’s not fair. In fact, I think stay-at-home moms and dads who are re-entering the workforce should be hired for major leadership positions. Companies should rejoice in their rejoining their respective professions and snatch them right up.

Why, you ask? As parents, we have developed some incredibly desirable skills. Here are just a few.

Time Management – Let’s start with an obvious one. Every parent works 24/7, but still feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. We develop little shortcuts (hacks, if you will), schedules, and Google spreadsheets to keep us on track. We run our homes like a business, with deadlines, family meetings, and working lunches.

Tough Love – Okay, we can’t fire our kids, but we can discipline them. We can mentor them, recognizing their skills and talents, and nurture them. We are the leaders of our families and the kids look to us for guidance.

Balancing the Books –  I actually leave this to my husband. He’s the numbers man. But many stay-at-home parents, including my mom, keep the family budget on track, recognizing when the family needs to cut back or when they can afford to expand or move to new space.

Flexibility – Another obvious one. Every day brings new challenges. Your kid slept through the night for a solid week? It doesn’t mean they will this week. Your plans change on a dime, and so must you, like any good CEO in the business world.

Grace Under Fire – This one kind of goes with flexibility. When your kid has a 105 fever, or a total meltdown in the middle of the grocery store, you can’t cave. You need to clear your head and deal with the problem. You can cry after the crisis is over, but do it privately.

Mad Conflict Resolution Skills – Your kids will fight with each other. They’ll fight with you and your partner, and you need to be able to resolve the problem no matter how silly it may be. Same thing with employees. One worker is invading the space of another and they can’t work it out on their own? Put on your parent hat and figure it out.

Managing the Details, but Seeing the Bigger Picture – From the day your baby is born, you are guiding they little guy through milestones, educating them with a goal in mind. For us, that goal is for two MIT grads who start their own Fortune 500 company and take care of their parents for the rest of their lives.

Just kidding.

What they will become may be entirely different from what we picture, but that’s they way it goes. But as long as they are well-adjusted, independent, and intelligent gentlemen, we’re happy. We break that goal down into smaller benchmarks to hit as they grow.

A company is the same way. A founder or CEO may have one vision for the organization in mind, but as long as the endeavor is successful, it doesn’t really matter how it evolves.

So there you go, my case for hiring all stay-at-home parents as leaders of the business world. Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think.

Nana, or Parenting and Life Lessons I Learned from my Grandmother

Cabbage Patch Picture0001

Me with the Cabbage Patch dolls, Christmas 1984

My Nana’s birthday is coming up, so I’ve been thinking a lot about her. She was the unconventional matriarch of our crazy family, who came into a room like a hurricane and shook everything up. Whether she knew it or not, she had lessons for all of us – lessons I bring into my own, new life as a mother and a freelance writer. Here are just a few of the things I learned from my Nana.

Dare to be different. Nana despised the notion of the typical grandmother. Where my Grammy made us chicken soup and cookies, my Nana gave us Cheese Doodles and Diet Coke. She took us to smoke-filled bingo halls (before we knew secondhand smoke was bad) and yelled at my mother for forbidding dangly earrings when I was 12.

And don’t be afraid to stand out. Then there was the time Nana dyed her hair blonde. Remember that scene in Grease where Frenchie dyes her hair? Picture that, only yellow. She really did look a bit like an Easter egg, but she pulled it off, somehow. God bless my Nana. She never did anything halfway.

Learn to do one thing really, really well. Nana may not have been a cookie-baker or soup-maker, but she made a mean batch of piccalilli. She didn’t make it often, but when she did, she made mounds of it that we could all take home.

Dirty jokes are okay. Speaking of mounds of piccalilli, there was the time my mother and grandmother made it together, chopping piles of tomatoes side by side. After a while, Nana realized the mounds looked like two C-cup-sized breasts. Without missing a beat, she added two nipples and kept on working.

And you can make jokes at the expense of little kids. When I was little, I had a lisp. Nana thought it was adorable. When my Grammy bought me a baby doll, Nana insisted I name it Suzie, just so she could hear me lisp and laugh her head off. It was all in good fun . . . I think.

Do anything for family. It was 1984 and the hottest toy for Christmas was the Cabbage Patch Kid. Maybe you remember them –over-caffeinated eyes, weirdly lipless mouths. My mom couldn’t find them anywhere. So Nana drove to the next state, found two, and snapped them up. She was a hero to my mom and two little girls that Christmas.

Love appears in the simplest gestures. The summer before I went to college, Nana found out my Grammy was buying me all kinds of dorm necessities. She was embarrassed that she was on a fixed income and couldn’t get me nice things for my room. So she went to her kitchen cupboard and took out two matching mugs with pineapples on them. She gave them to me bashfully. I still have those mugs in a glass case with the toasting glasses from my wedding.

Find true love, but not right away. I was home from college my freshman year and I told Nana about a guy I was dating who I just thought was the bees’ knees. Instead of getting excited for my first serious relationship, however, Nana said, “Don’t settle for one boy right away. You play the field, okay?”

I was bemused to hear Nana say that, particularly since she had been utterly devoted to my grandfather, even decades after his death.

Turns out, Nana was quite the looker when she was young, and she did play the field. But when she found my grandfather that was it. They were married nine months after they met and Nana never looked back.

Smoking will, indeed, kill you. Nana wasn’t exactly a chain smoker, more an avid smoker. Her children tried to make her quit – my uncles even put little exploding sticks in her cigarettes when they were kids. Unfortunately, they stuck them in too deep and nearly took off her eyebrows.

In the end, though, the only thing that made her quit was the stroke. Fifteen years later, the stroke took her life.

Leave a legacy. When my grandmother passed away, everyone was there: five children and eight grandchildren. If she were still here, she’d be thrilled about her two great-grandsons plus the one on the way.

I can hear her laughing at their antics, now.

What was her final lesson to us?

Leaving behind a legacy, a loving family who will pass your lessons on, is the greatest feat you can accomplish.

Your Partner Is Tired, Too

3934526517_8d71c74523_zNew moms and moms-to-be are so good at supporting each other. Whether it’s through MeetUp groups, blog posts, or mommy circles, there are always ways to meet women who will be there to support you, commiserate with you, and laugh with you.

With all of the blogs, online forums, and even marketing campaigns aimed directly at you, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own pain, sacrifice, joy, and fatigue. If you’re pregnant, no doubt you’re dealing with a dozen or so aches and pains, sleepless nights, and the emotional rollercoaster your hormones never seem to want to stop riding.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, particularly a new one, you’re dealing with healing from labor/Caesarian and adjusting to caring for a child all day. You may even be going through a change in social groups, losing some friends while trying to meet new ones.

If you’re working, you’re dealing with the guilt of putting your little one in daycare, rushing to get your work done to be home for the few hours the little guy is awake. Maybe you’re trying to pump at work and still get up at night with the baby.

There’s no doubt about it: Moms are put through the ringer, and we deserve all the support we can get.

But pan left to the guy or gal standing next to you. Yup, your partner.

You see, as much as it feels like it sometimes, it’s not all about you and the baby. It’s about your partner, too. And let me tell you, there are many days that pillar of strength needs just as much support as you do, if not more.

Case in point: my husband.

Since the day the little man was born, my husband has been sharing night feedings with me, even if it means he gets maybe four hours of sleep before he has to get up and put in a full day of work. There are bunches of days he has to stay late, but no matter what time he gets home he takes off his coat and immediately switches to Dad mode.

He bathes the little guy, plays with him, gives him his bottle, and puts him to bed. Then, he cleans up the kitchen and makes himself something to eat, if I haven’t had time to make dinner myself.

Once this is all done, he relaxes on the couch, but only if I don’t need some emotional support myself. Being eight months pregnant with an infant to care for is no picnic. There are days when I burst into tears the minute he walks through the door. So, he gives up his evening to cuddle with me until I feel better.

If there’s anything I need – a glass of water, my toenails clipped, a back rub — I can count on him for it. He cleans what I can’t, cooks when I’m too tired, takes the little man on endless walks around the house (he’s learning to be mobile) because I can’t bend over.

He’s there for both of us.

It’s very easy to be jealous of, and even resent, your partner, particularly if you’re a stay-at-home mom. After all, they usually get to keep their social circle. They freely walk out of the house sans diaper bag every morning and join the working world. They interact with other people every day, people who don’t necessarily use words like “poopy” and “nap time” on a regular basis. Their whole lives didn’t change in an instant.

But they did. You just didn’t notice. Just like you have two or three hats to wear each day, so do they. They are answering to a boss, worrying about getting paid and then coming home to be moms and dads and supportive partners.

It’s great that there is so much support for moms. We need it. But we also need to get over ourselves once in a while and look to our partners. Ask them how their day was and really listen. Make them a cup of coffee in the morning, especially if they got up early so you could sleep in. Take an extra night shift if you see that they’re really dragging and you’re feeling pretty good.

You guys were partners before the baby. It’s imperative you keep that partnership going. Remember that it’s a two-way street, and that your partner needs you just as much as you need them.

Photo Source: Flickr

Snowmageddon, or How I’ve Stayed Sane with a 10-Month-Old for the Last Three Weeks

74230618_981349055c_zSo, you may have heard that we were hit with a bit of snow up here in the Boston area. For the last three weeks, we’ve gotten a major snowstorm about every three days or so, leaving us buried under more than seven feet of the white stuff. (The major news outlets are alternating between the names Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse. Take your pick, I guess.)

This is all well and good for skiers. It’s not so awesome for pregnant ladies or people with kids, though. I happen to be both. The real killer is I’m also a skier, but you can guess how often I’ve taken advantage of all this wonderful powder. Yup, zero.

But I digress.

So, here I sit, with my giant belly and my 10-month-old son, stuck in a house in the burbs, desperate to keep the Little Man entertained and myself sane.

I’ve gotten suggestions:

“Take him out in a sled and pull him around.” Nope. The snow banks are about 6 feet high and there are no sidewalks to speak of. I can just see it now, me falling on my butt and doing my best impression of an overturned turtle as a plow picks up the sled and my son with it.

“Go play in the back yard. I bet he’ll like discovering the snow.” Again, lots of snow, people. It’s up to my waist — if I had a waist. The minute I set him down, he would fall about three feet into a snow sinkhole.

So, what have we been doing to shake off the boredom and keep ourselves from going completely bonkers? Well, I’ll tell you. Perhaps you can steal a couple of these suggestions for the next storm . . . because we know it’s not over yet.

Banging on Pots and Pans

The toys got old pretty much right after the first storm hit. So, I’ve basically been looking at all the ordinary things around the house, imagining how a baby would view them. Would this tissue box be fun to play with? How about this old copy of Vogue?

The Little Man loves noise, so banging on a little pan meant for egg sandwiches with a wooden spoon has proven very entertaining. So has banging on pretty much anything with a pen. A pen! Who knew?

Making Up Games

This is a page I’ve taken out of my mother’s book. When she needed to wash the kitchen floor, she would line the kitchen chairs up in the dining room, one behind the other, and we would play train in the dining room.

So, I make up games while I fold the laundry (Who’s hiding behind the granny panties?). I make up games while I clean up his toys (Lego HORSE). I pretty much just think of any stupid thing that will make the Little Man laugh.

Watching the Weather Forecasters

As you can imagine, I’m pretty tired by the end of the day. When four o’clock rolls around, the Little Man and the Little Little Man have plum wore me out.

So, thank God for the hijinks of the local news. Every time there’s a storm, the weather team works themselves up into a frenzy. They pull out their fancy animated graphics and climb snow banks with rulers in hand. They stand in front of their green screens with a slightly manic look in their eye.

Their moment has arrived.

It’s hilarious.

It’s the perfect entertainment for Mama and Baby. It’s comic relief for me and wildly interesting to the Little Man. All of the colors, loud voices, and moving graphics are like baby hypnosis.

Practicing Our Moves

Since we have nowhere to go, a snowstorm is the perfect time to work on the Little Man’s motor skills. The diabolical little semi-toddler has decided to skip crawling and go straight to walking.

So we practice. I walk him around the house or just stand him up near some furniture so that he can practice his balance.

But better than walking, the little guy has started dancing. He sits in his little booster seat while I write or clean, listening to YouTube playlists and bobbing up and down to the beat of the music. His favorites are Meghan Trainor, Pharrell Williams, and U2.

Sometimes I combine the music and the standing practice and we dance together. It’s a great way for him to get a sense of balance and the range of motion his body is capable of.

The music is uplifting, and the dancing helps us both get the wiggles out.

Finding Hidden Treasures

When the weather does calm down for a day or two, we venture out as much as we can. We go to the indoor playground, stock up on supplies for the next storm, or visit any local people we can.

But all of this gets a tad mundane, so I try to find little hidden gems to explore. For Valentine’s Day, I discovered the botanic gardens at Wellesley College. Now, you may not think plants and babies really go together, but the Little Man was fascinated by the all the new shapes, colors, and smells. Plus, it was warm and snow-free.

Sure, I could have taken him to a more popular botanic garden, or even to Legoland, but I love the quiet little spots tucked away in little corners of my area. This place wasn’t crowded, it was an adventure for the whole family, and (best of all) it was free.

So that’s what we’ve been doing up here in The Great White North. As Snowmaggedon continues — and I have a sneaking suspicion it will — I’m sure I’ll be wracking my brain for more creative and downright ridiculous ideas to keep us from climbing the walls.

If you have any go-to activities you’d like to share, go right ahead! I and other mothers would very much appreciate it!

Photo Source: Flickr