Four Against Mom

March 24, 2017

It was that day. The day I managed to piss off all four kids. It started with Layla’s snarky slamming of the front door in a huff on her way to school and it ended with Liv’s matched slamming of the bedroom door on her way to bed. It was one of those days, the one I realized that I had two full-blown toddlers, and two full-blown teenagers on my hand, and the one where I ended up inadvertently turning on my windshield wipers hoping to clear my face from the sobbing tears that occur when I am  just past my threshold.

It started with Layla slamming the door and my internal questioning gears spinning. Don’t be mad! I yell out to the empty doorway. When do I trust her to start making her own decisions, or would it be better if I just made them all for her? I asked the living room air, still lingering from her departure. I could blame it on the morning or her pending high school application essay that we (of course) waited until the last-minute to fill out. Her phone isn’t charged and her day’s fate a mystery, and I am too tired to care right now. It is early and I need coffee.

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Ode to “Me-Mowe”

January 7, 2017

Ode to Me-Mowe

(Pronounced like cow, but with an M. that is Cece’s word for Mickey mouse)

Dear Mickey Mouse-

Let me start off by saying I am a big fan. I have been since I was in diapers. You and your crew were my first friends. It is nice that you now spend so much time in my home again. At the risk of being judged by other parents, I am just going to come clean: I let my kids watch a lot of TV. I don’t mean to, but we are all happier people when the TV is on. See, you still bring joy to my life. But you already knew that, you are a smart mouse. I can’t quite figure out why you are still friends with Pete, he is seriously an asshole. But I am sure you have a reason, I won’t doubt you know what you are doing. You, little mouse, have become generation-less. I like how you have become quite musical in this new generation. The hot dog song? And kids eat it up. (pun intended) Anyway, like Goofy trying to remember quite how to say Toodles, I am stumbling over my words. What I really wanted to say was thank you for being there to help out this week.

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Mission: Bedtime

August 9, 2016

The art of bedtime as told by a tired ass Mom.

Every night I enter the bewitching hour of 8 PM with a guilty excitement that the kids are going to bed – followed by dread of how the process will unfold. I have not always been the best at keeping routines or doing the same thing every day. Example – remembering to take a damn pill at the same time every day was too much to handle since I ended up with three surprise pregnancies. (that’s 25% planned/75% unplanned) I have always struggled with organization and routine. My right brain is too powerful and I live in a world of chaos and (gasp) sporadic bed times.
After Cece was born, bedtime became a series of hopes and guesses. I hope she goes to bed before midnight. I guess Jackson is tired. There was even a few weeks where the bedtime routine was: Get in car. Drive until kid falls asleep. I was getting desperate. After a long day at the office followed by toddlering all evening- I needed a few hours  to do what moms across the globe do when their kids go to bed: wear fat pants; sit in my chair; drink wine and glue myself to social media then TV. I craved those times. I have mom friends who would tell tales of a mystical 8PM bedtime and my head would spin with delight of all the possibilities that an evening that began at 8PM would hold. I could watch TV. I could knit a blanket. I could blog again, or read again, I could finish the many activities. Tell me more about this 8 PM bedtime, I ask. Tell me about this unicorn. Then there it was. That word again. Routine. (making Daniel Tiger face) routine. Yes, a routine: a timeline that would occur at the same exact time every night, routine.

So here goes. 8PM was unrealistic- we were trending around 11PM -so 9PM was the goal. When we crossed the Colorado boarder from Kansas, I expected the scenery to magically change into a mountainous paradise. It didn’t happen right away, but we drove on and finally scenery exploded with beauty. This was the same for bedtime. It didn’t happen the first or the second or the third night but dammit I was committed. I made up a song. Bath time. Brush Teeth. Bottle. Bed. 

Judgment moment: My son is two and a half and still has a bottle at bed. Ok its out
there. I know it is bad, but getting my son off the bottle is on my long
list of things to do behind clean garage, pay off credit cards, removing
chipped toenail polish and oil change. I accept it as his security blanket and
know that one day that phase will be over.

The seven thirty alarm sounds off in my head. They are happily playing and I step outside for a mental pep rally. Breathe in and out. I am ready. Preparing for the after bath squirm fest, I set out pajamas and diapers. Cece likes to curl up like a potato bug at the site of a fresh diaper and Jackson  runs around the house naked (or air-drying).

8PM. Bath. They love bath time. Jackson methodically runs his cars along the side of the tub and Cece licks the walls and eats the bubbles. Three nights in a row, bath time is interrupted by floating turds. “Cece poop!” Jackson yells and we immediately abort the bath. I try to remove kids and poop in a rush of towels and toilet paper. (note to self: buy fishnet) I dry and dress Cece first. She fights me  then becomes fascinated by sticking her finger in her belly button so I am able to slip on her diaper and pajamas. “Jackson’s turn!” I say. “Brush teeth?” he reminds me. How dare we leave the bathroom before this step is done. He points to the Elmo toothpaste. I squeeze it on his toothbrush knowing he will never forget the time I accidentally used the Crest. “Mama brush teeth” he says. (My evening dental hygiene has vastly improved since we began this routine.) Once we are done, I wrangle him into his room and attempt to get his pajamas on. He does this rolling bended leg move that makes it impossible enough to get pants on that he is able to jump up and go running. This begins a chase followed by a tackle and lots of giggles.

I let them run off bath energy while I prepare the bottles and make a lame attempt at cleaning. I repeat the little chant so they know that we are still on a mission. Bath time, brush teeth, bottle, bed. Jackson laughs. “Bottle!” he repeats. We are back on track. He runs to the kitchen to watch me pour the milk into their bottles. I set the lid on the counter, playfully close to the edge. He grabs it. “Oh no!” yell, familiar with this daily banter. “give me that lid, Mister!” He takes a mad dash into the living room and throws it behind the reclining chairs. I know exactly where it is because he does this every night.

The three of us march into their bedroom for bottle/book time. I shut the door. Blackout curtains have helped create the illusion of nighttime when the sun is still setting.  Jackson picks out the same four books every night. Three by his favorite author Sandra Boynton and Good Night Blue. They know each page by heart but are still excited. Three singing pigs say, LaLaLa. No!No! you say. that isn’t right. The pigs go OINK all day and all night. They crack up. As  I finish a book, Jackson says “another one”. We are all out of books now so I quickly turn off the light. They fuss a but are comforted as I crawl in bed between the two of them.

Final step – Getting them to actually fall asleep. The three of us lay there-In total darkness and total silence. I have tried nightlights, star projectors and music machines and learned that sleep and distraction don’t mix. Jackson cuddles into my side and I stroke his hair. Cece is more like a fish, flailing on my other side. She starts to burrow, then sits “Hi!” She laughs. “Shhh,” I whisper, “bedtime” She flails away.  I can feel Jackson’s breath getting deeper, he is starting to drift off. I cuddle him close and start kissing his head. His puts his leg on mine. I sigh. Still awake. Cece stands up. “No Cece.” I say. I gently place her back to the sleeping position while maintaining the hair stroke that I hope will coax Jackson to sleep. She plops her thumb into her mouth. I slow my breath to releive a bit of tension. I imagine I am just finishing a perfect yoga class and am laying in coupse pose; deep inhale deep exhale. Kids can sense tension and if I start to let my anxiety take over they will never fall asleep. They can sense my weakness. Jackson is lightly snoring next to me. I roll toward Cece, still holding on to him for comfort. She is quietly sucking her thumb. She doesn’t like too much cuddling when she is tired so I rub her back. The flailing has stopped and I can tell she has drifted off as well. Time to make the escape. I wiggle my arm from under Jackson and roll Cece away so I can get out of the bed. I have to maneuver over the safety rail and find my way through the darkness, to the door, praying for no stray blocks or trucks along the way. The floors squeak under me and look at them one more time as I open the door. One turn of the knob and I am out of their room. Freedom! The mystical unicorn does exist. I am enjoying it right now.



May 21, 2016
Toddler menstrual symptom. The prolonged tantrum. Is it possible that toddlers experience this drop in sanity that we women know as PMS? As many of my friends and family have attested, I get downright nasty. I have a sort of PMS disgust face that usually lasts a few days. It is accompanied by extreme anxiety (meltdown), imposed sadness (must watch: The Notebook), and hyper sensitive taste to all things sweet and salty (fries dipped in Frosty). Every month, I am reminded that Layla has now developed her own version. It usually starts with persistently asking about ice cream and extra eye rolls. Lately, I noticed that Jackson’s inner teenage girl has come out in full force. His tantrums have become more intense and involved. He becomes possessed with anger and rage over the strangest things. 
It started when I changed his diaper- he was wet and gross, but didn’t want to sit still. pinched his butt which made him stop screaming and flailing and manage a slight smile. Then he got all weepy. “Bottle. Bottle” He whimpered. “Milk? Milk?” I asked. We are trying to wean him off the bottle completely and have caved on one in the evening. I wasn’t ready for this fight. It is like being extra menstrual and allowing myself ice cream because i am “dieting”. I was hoping chocolate milk would be an acceptable compromise. (like frozen yogurt). “Chocolate milk ?” I asked, taking the yellow Nestle container out of the pantry. He looked up from his mellow dramatic tantrum and came running toward me. I set the mix on the stove and grabbed one of his cups. As I spooned the mix into the cup, he looked disgustedly at the cup and pointed to the mix. “Yes. Chocolate milk” I say, trying to break the language barrier between mom and toddler. “We need milk,” I pour milk into his cup, put on the lid and shake it. He is still pointing at the yellow container. I hand him the cup and he yells “NO!”. What? It’s chocolate. He is screaming and pointing at the yellow container. His hand is thrusting so rapidly toward the container that I wander if he is trying to activate some sort of arm extension release. (Go go gadget arm!) Mainly, for educationally reasons, I hand him the container. The crying comes to an immediate halt. He runs it into the living room and sets it on the coffee table, takes off the lid and sticks his hand right in running chocolate powder through his fingers. Gross! I snatch the container back away and the screaming returns – with a vengeance. We play a power tug of war for a few more rounds before i get another educational musing. “Help mommy.” I offer. “Let’s make chocolate milk.” I have the container and his cup and he seems to be intrigued as I grab a spoon and set it down. I hand him the spoon and point to his cup. He scoops some powder into the cup and smiles at me. He gets it. Progress. He scoops another little bit. Remember from chapter 1 of this saga- that cup was previously rejected, and already full of chocolate milk. We add a little more mix to the  chocolate milk. He smiles. Then spoons in more mix. Mix. smile. Mix. smile. As he scooped in round four I said “OK-that’s enough”. We took his cup and put a bit more milk. He looked it and our gaze met as I was putting the lid back on the container. A flash of betrayal hit him as he started at the tin and exploded in tears. “No!”He said. He growled (actually, not figuratively) at the cup of milk and threw himself down. Time to abandon this failed experiment. I picked him up and put him on the couch. Sit! I command. He doesn’t physically try to fight but his verbal aggression is in over drive. He is laying on the ground screaming, and kicking his legs in an almost animated tantrum. I stare him down with my best “don’t fuck with mom” look. He is still crying but it is toning down. He climbs off the couch and just as I am about to scold him, he crawls into my lap and nestles his head between my shoulder and ear. The opposite hand slides to the back of my neck and his fingers are tapping my hair. I hug him back an sneak kisses to his cheek and the top of his head. His eyes close and he drifts off into a ten minute snuggle nap. When he wakes up, he smiles at me. “Hi mom” he says as he crawls off my lap, grabs the chocolate milk cup and drinks half of it in one gulp.
There are days when I watch him launch himself onto the floor in a fit of tears and screaming and wonder if he is going to explode with rage. He goes through “tossing process” where he grabs anything nearby and tosses it into the abyss that exists between our chair and side table. This collection of items that make him angry, from a car that won’t fit inside a bus to a non working remote, represent his daily struggles to cope with the hardships toddler life can bring. He hasn’t quite accepted that things won’t go his way and has trouble distinguishing between what is worth crying about (mom won’t give me a bottle) and what is impossible (dogs can’t brush their own teeth). Some days the struggle is just too much for him to handle and he spontaneously combusted into tantrum and rage, TMS. I am ready for him to be off his “cycle” and get back to normal toddlering.

Steps to the Steps

October 21, 2015

Stairs. Every parent’s nightmare. Living in a cape code style home we have been able to shut the stairs away ignoring the danger they hold if discovered. Lately Jackson has become determined to venuture into the world of things we hide from him. Grown up stuff, dangerous stuff, small stuff, un-babyproofed stuff, and a giant fluffy bed to jump on. It is a toddler dream world and our nightmare. I watched as he used his sweet little sister’s newfound playtime in a saucer to maneuver himself into the stairs. He has finally mastered opening the door and is racing up and down the steps faster than we can say “ER trip”. The deconstructing of the stairs happened in a calculated and methodical way. 

Step 1: discover that Cece’s saucer is on wheels and moves. Wheel her from the kitchen where Mom is trying to make something that resembles dinner. The saucer is now perfectly placed in front of the upstairs door. 


Step 2: Climb on saucer. Carefully avoid stepping on little sister so she won’t cry and alert Mom to plan. Success: little sister is still cooing and smiling. Turn door knob, triggering clicking sound indicating door is now un latched. Try to open door. Oops, the saucer is blocking the entry way. 



Step 3: Climb down from saucer. Door is still open. Roll saucer away from door. Sister is still smiling and Mom is still attempting to adult in the kitchen. Open door. Look at Mom. Cue shit grin. 


Step 4: Eye contact made: Mom is on to the plan. Squeel with delight and run like hell up the stairs so she has to give into the chase. Repeat plan over and over and over again.