Monday, February 28, 2011

Apparently, Drunken Debauchery is Cooler than My Kid

As a follow-up to a previous post, I must talk about one of my Facebook pet-peeves.  Ranking just slightly below the people who post daily ambiguous "feel sorry for me" statuses, there are the people who feel the need to insult those of us who take pride in the accomplishments of our children.

I can't tell you the number of times that I've seen a Facebook status that reads:

I don't care how many times your kid has burped or used the bathroom today.  It's annoying and no one wants to hear about it.

These people subsequently get defriended.  Why?  I post regularly about my kid's accomplishments and would hate to annoy these people.  Okay, maybe I don't care about annoying them.  I don't post about Jack's bathroom habits yet, but that's mostly because he doesn't have any.  However, the day he is potty-trained, Facebook will be covered with my excitement.

I don't post stuff about my kid's accomplishments because I necessarily want everyone to know about it...I do it because I couldn't be prouder of my son and I want to celebrate what was, to him, a major feat.

I feel bad for people who can't understand this kind of pride in another person.  Having children definitely changes you, but even if you don't have children, surely you can understand that someone might be proud of their child.

I also feel bad for them because it is these people who subsequently post statuses such as:

I got so trashed last night!  I don't know what happened or who I ended up with...I've spent all day with a hangover.  It was AWESOME!

I'm sorry that the most riveting part of my life is my kid's milestones, but I just don't engage in the drunken debauchery that others do.  So, I don't have exciting stories about getting drunk and waking up in a pool of spilt beer.  Sorry...

For those of you who are of the childhood-accomplishment dissing persuasion, I truly hope that one day you know the overwhelming joy that I feel every time I see my son take pride in something that he has done.  I hope that you know how great it is to feel a little kiss on your cheek and feel so much love that you think you'll burst.  I think my life is more fulfilling for it and I know that yours will be as well.

Until then, prepare to be defriended.  I would hate to annoy you with my pride.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why I Am Not Watching the Oscars...

...or the Grammys/Tonys/Emmys or any other the scores of televised awards shows.  So, if on Monday you happen to ask me who won Best Actor, I'll be one of the few people in America who doesn't have a clue.

Truth be told, I haven't watched one of these awards shows in over a decade.  Maybe that makes me unpatriotic, but I feel that there are far too many awards shows honoring people who get more than enough praise, if you ask me.  So, when I hear of people throwing Oscars/Tonys/Grammys/Emmys parties, I can't help but raise an eyebrow.  I mean, I guess any excuse for a shindig, right?

I have several reasons for my aversion to the adoration of celebrities.  Feel free to debate this, but here they are:

1.  While not all celebrities act this way, there are a great many whose ideas of morality and standard of living border on bizarre.  I'm sorry that I don't consider Mel Gibson worth my admiration; that doesn't mean that I can't be entertained by him, but I don't have to give him a pat on the back for it.  Same with Tom Cruise.

2.  I am all for using fame for the greater good, but celebrities that masquerade as political and social experts (Bono, I'm talking to you) are overstepping their bounds.  I can support the American Diabetes Association without pretending to be an endocrinologist.

3.  In a time when so many people are doing without, watching a bunch of people who have an abundance of wealth walk down a red carpet wearing $5000 dresses seems a little wrong.  Not all celebrities exude decadence, but those that do kinda ruin it for me.

4.  The films that are picked for Best Picture are always ones that I haven't seen and that, in my opinion, appeal to the Academy and not to the general public.  I'm not a film aficionado, and I only watch them to be entertained, not to be enlightened.

The only star I watch these days is Star on The Good Night Show, and that's probably not a bad thing.  I honestly probably know more about The Wiggles than I do about The Black Swan.  While I wish that I didn't have a wealth of knowledge about The Wiggles who, in my opinion, manage to be the only men who do not seem more attractive with an Australian accent, I do not feel deprived of my lack of movie knowledge.  I'd rather read the book before seeing the movie any day.

The King's Speech is an exception.  That's because Colin Firth is ridiculously hot.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Taking Pride in the Little Victories

Jack, like any other toddler, has some challenges and some strengths.  One of Jack's challenges has been with independence.  He is very clingy and prefers to be held and watch the action from the sidelines.  I have tried to be careful about not labeling him as "shy".  I also try to understand when Jack truly needs the reassurance from me or when he can be pushed toward a little independence.

Today was the latter.  Jack and I had embarked on a trip to his favorite destination, the playground.  The walk from the car to the playground is long, but Jack has been unwilling to walk it.  As a result, I have destroyed my back carrying a 27 pound weight around at all times.  I tried to encourage him to walk to the playground, but that turned into a battle.  I relented and hauled my offspring to the communal toddler meeting grounds of the swing-set.

When it came time to go, Jack started walking toward the playground gate.  I thought, what the heck?  I started to follow him.  He kept walking.  Granted, it took 15 minutes to get to the car (there was a lot of pacing and getting distracted), but he walked the entire distance by himself.  When we got to the car, I made a huge fuss over how big of a kid he was, which earned me several stares from the other mothers.  I didn't care.  My little boy had done his equivalent of scaling K2 and I couldn't be prouder.  He was proud of himself and he grinned the whole way home.  He knew he had accomplished something.

It may seem silly that I make such a fuss over walking to the car by himself, or using a spoon, or saying a word, but these things are huge accomplishments for Jack.  I want him to feel awesome about each of them and if it means screaming it from the mountaintops, then so be it.

You see, the person that he wants to please more than anyone is me, so if I take pride in his accomplishments, there is no greater reward for him.  It is rewarding to me, too.  I can take pride in the fact that my baby just did something that he had not done before.

So, to all the people out there who give me a puzzled look when I jump up and down in the store clapping at my son for doing something challenging, stare away if you must.  It's not going to diminish my pride or excitement in the accomplishments of my child.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Freezer Can Feed Us All

I cook as though I am preparing for a famine.  In my defense, it is difficult to prepare a meal for two people and Jack still eats separate meals from us.  So, I no longer try to cook for just Brian and I...I cook for an army.  After I have cooked for six, I stow the leftovers in the freezer.

I cannot stand to waste food.  I may not reflect this now, but when I was younger there were periods in which we did not have enough to eat.  I know that isn't a reality of my life now, but in the back of my mind I am always trying to stretch our food anyway.  It's probably something I'll never stop doing, but maybe that's okay.  You know, waste not, want not?

If you were to look in my freezer right now, you probably would find about three weeks worth of meals.  Seriously.  Anything that doesn't go in the freezer goes with my husband for lunch the next day.

I don't think that's an awful lesson for my son to absorb, either.  I don't believe in teaching your children to always clean their plates.  In my opinion, children should self-regulate their food intake.  You should only eat if you're hungry.  You should not force children to eat what they don't want to eat, but you also shouldn't cater to their tastes if they are at the age to understand this concept.  Children should be mindful that food is a resource for our bodies, fuel to keep us going, and like any other resource it shouldn't be wasted.

I am one of the lucky ones.  Truly.  In this recession when so many people are going without, my husband has a good job and provides well for us.  We do not have every luxury, but we get by.  Others aren't as lucky as I am.  Maybe, the one good thing that will come from this time of sacrifice in our nation's history is that our children will grow up a little more grounded than we were.  Maybe they will take joy in the little things rather than the material things.

So, I'll continue to save my leftovers and reuse everything that I can.  Maybe my son will take some lessons from me without having to know the hunger that I did at times.  If he comes away from it being a bit more respectful of what he has, then I will have accomplished one of my goals as a mother.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Can See Myself in Pajama Jeans

I am someone who has never been known for her fashion sense.  Call the fashion police on me now, because I'll admit that pajamas are in fact my fashion statement of choice these days.

I spend many days in a pair of scrub bottoms (a throwback to my college days) and a t-shirt.  Jack isn't exactly a fashion critic at the moment, though I'm sure that'll change when he's a teenager.

Being a stay-at-home mom, it's too easy to not care about my appearance.  Dressing for parenting a toddler has been more about comfort than style...for me, at least.

Now, I'd never actually buy Pajama Jeans, though I admit the concept intrigues me.  I imagine my butt would look awful in them, though.  Any way to look okay while being comfortable is a step in the right direction, though.

In the battlefield that is my little boy's playroom, one must dress for combat.  Combat can mean anything, from hurled yogurt and Spaghetti-Os to being tackled to getting covered with vomit...and yes, it's all happened before.

So, when making my fashion choices, I avoid the nicer clothes that I once wore.  I know that they can't withstand what Jack can throw at them.  I'll also admit that being a stay-at-home mom is a much more physical job than being an engineer.  I don't ever recall getting vomit on my clothes on the job when I was an engineer.

Sure, some moms at the playground (uber-moms, you know who you are) dress like a rock star, but I'll wear my mom uniform with pride.  Jack doesn't care how I look.  He probably thinks that my sweatpants and sweatshirt make me that much more cuddly.  I like dressing for cuddling, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Unusual Eating Habits of a Mom

Remember the carefree days of eating out every night?  Getting a hot meal when you wanted it?  Getting to eat what you wanted?  Well, I don't.

Instead, eating has taken on a new meaning in my house.  With the exception of the meals I consume when Jack is asleep, any food I eat is either demolished in record time or it is finally eaten after everyone else has finished and my food has cooled to a less-than-lukewarm temperature.  My in-laws kid me that I'll burn my tongue when I actually get to eat a hot meal.  I think they are right.

Being a stay-at-home mom, daytime meals serve only one purpose - sustenance.  I eat during the day merely to keep me from collapsing as I chase Jack across the room in an attempt to rescue whatever breakable object he has acquired.

I use the term "meals" loosely, by the way.  The food I consume runs the gamut these days.  Some things I manage to cram in my mouth are healthy, like dried fruit (dried mango slices and prunes are my favorites), roasted seaweed, popcorn, pickles, fruits and veggies.  Others, like Girl Scout Cookies (which I did not buy...but they made their way to my home!), are not so much.

Being a stay-at-home mom means that you inevitably will have to eat in a manner of which you would otherwise disapprove.  I eat on the go constantly, which I don't advocate at all.  On Gymboree days, my breakfast is always consumed in the car.  Sometimes, lunch consists of only croutons (don't judge), because I am too exhausted to cook and I value the promise of a nap while Jack naps.

At least I eat a decent dinner...usually.

I am good about beverages, for the most part.  I am not supposed to drink caffeinated beverages, so the occasional cup of coffee I consume is not really the best.  Other than that, I drink water during the day.  I may only eat croutons for lunch, but at least I had water!

Meanwhile, I strive to ensure that Jack and Brian eat well all day long.  I made extras of the food I make the night before so that Brian can have a home-cooked, healthier lunch vs. a daily dose of fast food.  Likewise, Jack doesn't eat fast food, either.  His recent favorites are English muffins, yogurt with fresh pureed fruit added in, macaroni and cheese with broccoli, and split pea soup.  He also gets the occasional bowl of Spaghetti-Os, but as I said before, don't judge.

I long for the days of better meals, but I know that realistically that may be about 18 years off.  Until then, I raise my glass of water to the food that I long to enjoy again.  Gastronomic pleasures, I salute you!

Photo:  Travel Channel's Man v. Food

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Could Have Been a Bond Girl...

The oh-so-attractive Daniel Craig and two bimbos who I
could care less about.
...okay, not really.  One can hope, though.

Among my bizarre tastes in entertainment is that I am an absolute nut over James Bond movies.  Goldeneye is probably my favorite, with the newest Casino Royale being a close second.  I guess then it goes without saying that my favorite 007s are Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, but for totally different reasons.  Pierce Brosnan is a more polished 007, while Craig is a bit of a bad boy 007.  Either way, you can't go wrong.

Maybe it's that James Bond movies represent something so completely the opposite of who I am.  Girls in Bond movies, besides looking flawless, live on the edge.  I live as far away from the edge as I can get and I'm far from flawless, as evidenced by the stretch marks that will never disappear.

Despite the monotony of mommy life, I think it's important to step out of your comfort zone every now and again.  I'll admit, I like my little bubble and social situations just make me nervous, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't challenge myself.  I'm not talking about jumping out of a plane, though.  The only way I'll do that is if the plane cannot land me safely on the ground.

I am incredibly shy and self-conscious.  I have an hard time just looking people in the eye sometimes.  Blogging, in a way, is the perfect outlet for me, because it allows me to express myself in a way that is more comfortable for me, since I do not have to talk to an actual person face-to-face.

That doesn't mean I shouldn't try.  So, I'm going to challenge myself to do something this week that is just slightly out of the norm for me.  Maybe I'll talk to another parent at the playground, so long as that parent isn't a creeper.  It may not be parachuting out of a burning airplane holding 007's shaken-not-stirred martini, but it's something.  I'll keep you informed.

Photo:  Casino Royale

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Used to Smell Nice

I consider myself a connoisseur of aroma.  I am a mom, thus I have smelled the absolute best (new baby smell) and the absolute worst (I'll leave that to the imagination).

These days, I imagine that the worst probably rubs off on me.  As a mom of a former refluxer, I imagine that I smelled of baby spit-up for months.  Now, after a long day of play outside, my son smells like the wind, grass, and earthy smell.  I imagine I probably do as well.

As a teenager, I smelled good.  One of my indulgences was the lotion and shower gel from Bath and Body Works.  In the mornings, I would slather it on and breathe in the scent of Cucumber Melon (my favorite, at the time).  I may have been gangly, tall, and nerdy, but I smelled like a rock star.

This morning, as a pick-me-up, I cracked open travel bottles of Pantene shampoo and conditioner and Bath and Body Works Japanese Cherry Blossom shower gel (my new favorite scent, tied with Coconut Lime Verbena from the same store).  As the steam of the shower mingled with the scents of the cleansers, I was in heaven.  With the smell of Pantene heavy in my hair, I felt myself relax.

The reality is that I don't do enough little things for myself.  My normal shampoo and conditioner is Suave and I now buy whichever shower gel is the cheapest.  I think that has become a common mantra in my adult life...sacrifice so that others may have.  So, I buy the cheapest for myself.  No more $40 haircuts for me.  Great Clips gets my business now.  Pantene and Bath and Body Works are luxuries I now forgo, but should I?

Moms tend to sacrifice too much.  Really, when it comes down to it, shouldn't moms indulge in things like shampoo when we give so much for the happiness of others?  It is these little indulgences that keep us sane.

Maybe the next time I need shampoo, I'll get Pantene.  It may be small, but it's just a little something for myself.  That's important, too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Counting Your Blessings

Jack in recovery...just a few minutes old.
I just got back from my college roommate Christine's son's baptism.  Despite my inability to find a place to park legally in Athens (I'm one of a few people in Georgia who didn't attend UGA), it was a lovely to be present for the welcoming of another person into a community.

That, and I have a huge weakness for babies.  It makes me miss the days when Jack was that little.  I miss that new person smell.

On my way home, I couldn't help thinking about my own son.  You know, it's easy to feel exhausted and frustrated with a toddler.  They have a limited vocabulary and a set of emotions far too large for said vocabulary.  It's frustrating for me and him, and by the end of the day we're both exhausted.

Then, I think back to when I was pregnant.  I am so lucky to have Jack, because so many things could have gone wrong.

I had a lot of complications with my labor and delivery.  From a blood clot in my 1st trimester to developing preeclampsia towards the end and an emergency c-section, there were many things that could have gone wrong.  However, at the end of it all, I had a healthy and beautiful baby boy.  For that, I am truly grateful.

It is easy in the day-to-day of life to get wrapped up in the here and now.  We have schedules to keep, places to be, and errands to run.  We never really stop to consider what a house of cards we all live in.  Life, and everything in it, is so fragile.  We don't really consider how one misstep could have made our lives so different.

A new baby is a blank slate.  There is a life waiting to be shaped.  This little person has limitless possibilities.  A baby sees no need for bills, gossip, stress, or any of it.  They live in the here and now.

I need to do the same, on occasion.  I should just stop and enjoy spending time with my son.  I need to count my blessings.  I was blessed with a healthy little boy when the outcome could have been drastically different.  Tonight, I'll kiss his precious little forehead an extra time and hug him a little longer than usual because I am so blessed to have him as my son.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Can I Have a Side of Guilt with my Vent?

There is a prevailing opinion among the uber-moms that motherhood is so glorious at every moment that it is sacrilege if you dare complain.  It's not just the uber-moms, either.  It seems as though any mom that complains about being tired, frustrated, or any other emotion other than freaking elated is made to feel like she must be a horrible mother.

This is so wrong...and we all know it.

You'd think with the advent of mommy-bloggers and books such as Stefanie Wilder-Taylor's Naptime is the New Happy Hour, a fantastic and humorous read, we might be more sympathetic to the realities of motherhood...and yes, they are realities.

When you first see that little plus sign on the pregnancy test, no one thinks about the temper tantrums, sleepless nights, mealtime battles, or any of the other trials of parenthood.  Parenthood is, simply put, the hardest job you'll ever have and the one at which you absolutely must succeed.  I you mess up, it isn't just a report you have to's a person.  If you are a stay-at-home mom, throw in all of the other tasks associated with running a household, which tend to fall on your shoulders more than if you were working a full-time job outside of the home.

Talk about a pressure-filled environment.

In my house, we're going through a period of definite assertion of toddlerhood.  There have been lots of tantrums and mealtime battles, with a little hitting and the appearance of dark circles under my eyes.  If you asked my husband, he would say that babyhood was the period that he liked the least.  I would say that this is, but I'll admit that we had it really easy with Jack when he was a baby.  He was a refluxer, but that was it.  He slept like a dream.  I know other parents who would say that their babies' first year was the absolute most difficult one of their lives.  Different things get under the skin of different people.

So why is it that when we admit that we're tired, frustrated, or the like, someone feels compelled to say something crappy like, "You really should treasure every moment" or "Don't you enjoy motherhood?"

What kind of question is that?!?

Of course we enjoy motherhood!  It's a unique experience filled with really high highs and really low lows.  So is marriage, but no one questions a woman's right to complain about her husband.  Mine, for example, insists on the toilet paper being a certain way on the roll.  That doesn't mean I don't love him and enjoy being married to him; it just means that he's a little odd when it comes to the arrangement of toilet paper.  If you are one of these people who is as well, don't reprimand me about it...I have learned over the years that people have definite opinions about toilet paper.

There are moments with my son that make me want to go stand in the corner and take a time-out just for Mommy.  However, the good moments, even if they are fewer (luckily for me, they're not), make up for the bad ones.  Getting a kiss after a tantrum that makes your toddler act like Godzilla suddenly makes the outburst okay.

So, maybe we should all honor a mom's right to vent to another adult occasionally.  Motherhood isn't easy, and for stay-at-home moms, it's an all-day thing.  So, uber-moms out there, maybe we should all be a little more sympathetic to each other.  Perhaps if we were all in this together, it might make it feel a little easier.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pressuring Your Preschooler

Oh, the things you hear at the playground.

Jack and I took advantage of this week's gorgeous weather and headed to the park to play.  Our park has a playground specifically for toddlers and preschoolers, which is awesome.  However, any mom can tell you that with the playground comes a new type of crazy...the uber-competitive mom.

These women seem genuinely disturbed that their 4 year old can't manage to master both Russian and Swahili.  I tend to ignore these women, seeing as my kid hasn't yet mastered English.

These moms also feel compelled to yell their conversations at the playground.  I have no choice but to listen.  Below is an actual exchange I overheard at the park today (the names have been changed to protect the uber-moms):

Mom 1:  I was at Samantha's school the other day.  She can write her name, but her friend Ezra can't.  I mean, he only has 4 letters in his 3 years old he should be able to do it.  I told his mother that he might need remedial work.

Mom 2:  (awkwardly)  Yeah...

Mom 1:  But you know, I'm really worried about Samantha.  I've been running spelling drills with her, because kindergarten's only 2 years away, and she's just not getting it.  I'm concerned because they split them up into reading groups based on ability in kindergarten, and I don't want her put in a reading group that is beneath where I think she should be.

Really?!?  I held my tongue, even after this same mom pointed out that my son must be cold since he's not in a parka, hat, and gloves in 60-degree weather.  Isn't 3 a little young for spelling drills?  Kids have at least 13 years of mandatory schooling ahead of them, why can't we just let them be toddlers?

Also, my kid is nowhere close to being able to write anything, much less his name.  It's a 4-letter name, too.  If he should be at that point by 3, which I seriously doubt, then bring on the "remedial classes".

Maybe I'm a really lax parent, but I am definitely not a tiger mom.  I wouldn't say that I'll just let my kid coast, either.  I think that there are certain expectations that are realistic, and some that aren't.  I want Jack to look back on his early childhood and remember playing at the playground with Mommy, not doing spelling drills.

Meanwhile, as this mom is passing judgment over the rest of us and her child's lack of spelling prowess, the slide proved too much for her kid and she fell off without uber-mom noticing.  Her kid's screams jerked her back into a temporary reality.

I'm sure she exited the above mentioned temporary reality just as quickly when she realized that her daughter did her practice calculus equations incorrectly.

I think I'll be content with letting Jack master the big slide on the playground for now.

Photo:  E-Trade

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Everything I Know About US History I Learned from The Oregon Trail

I forded the river and my freaking oxen died?!?  How the hell did my best friend get dysentery?  If all else fails, I can always eat a buffalo carcass.

If you have ever muttered these statements to yourself, then you too have electronically braved The Oregon Trail.  I can still remember with longing when it was my turn in the 5th grade to step up to the horridly decrepit Macintosh for my turn at fording rivers and shooting bears.  On a side note, do you remember how big those Macintosh beasts were?

I may be dating myself there.

The Oregon Trail represented the promise of a brave, new, electronic Wild West...all under my control.  I chose what to spend money on (mostly rations).  I decided what to shoot (bears and buffalo, yes, squirrels, no).  If things went south, I decided how my party would live on (we can kill an oxen!).  I saw the passing of friends and battled my own illness (crap...I have cholera).

I destroyed my classmates at The Oregon Trail.  I owned it.

So, you can imagine my excitement when Facebook suddenly has a version of The Oregon Trail!  Sure, it is not the old, familiar version in which you hunt bison against a black background with white, pixelated characters, but seeing as I can't think of where to get my hands on a vintage 1991 Macintosh POS, I'll make do.

Facebook's Trail gives you many of the same features as the old version.  You can still buy, hunt, and assemble a party as you see fit.  The color is a big upside.  I always, and still do, imagine that the Wild West is the land of eternal midnight, with nothing but a black background to greet the weary wagon party.  However, the newer Trail gives me hope that Oregon doesn't look like the inside of a shoebox.

The downside?  Your energy reloads in real time, so you can only play for a brief period of time before you have to let your wagon party rest their weary, electronic bones for a while.  Thanks Facebook.  Why must you torture me with games that I can only play for 5 minutes before having to wait 12 more hours to play again?

It's probably a good thing, though.  I would probably stay up all night playing otherwise.

So, assemble your wagon party, get your hunting rifle, and avoid dysentery at all costs.  Maybe Jack will one day enjoy fording rivers, too...until his freaking oxen dies.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jurassic Park - The Greatest Movie EVER

What's cooler than a T-Rex?
I first read Jurassic Park when I was in the 5th grade.  I wanted to be a paleontologist.  I even took geology and paleontology classes at Georgia State on Saturdays during my 6th grade year.  I loved dinosaurs.  I even wrote my admissions essays for college about my love of dinosaurs and paleobiology.

I sound like a 10 year old little boy, don't I?

When I first saw Jurassic Park at the movie theater, I was hooked.  I didn't see Hollywood movie monsters; I saw majestic, albeit frightening, animals.  I loved that the animals that I read about came to life on screen.

Dr. Grant was pretty attractive, too.  That's my 28 year old input, though.  Guys from New Zealand sound dreamy, even when faking American accents.  I liked him in The Hunt for Red October, too.

Careful, there's a T-Rex standing
next to you!
Luckily, I'm the Mom of a little boy.  I've tried to foster a love of dinosaurs in my son.  One of his favorite shows is Dinosaur Train, a show which, oddly enough, is about dinosaurs who ride a train.  The story follows a family of pteranodons that adopts a baby T-Rex.   Whatever gets him interested, I guess.

I've always been such a nerd.  When I was younger, I used to try to hide who I was.  I pretended that I wouldn't rather be reading or learning about dinosaurs or looking at my fossil collection (I had one at the time...mainly trilobites).  I wanted so badly to fit in, but now I'm glad that I was just a little different.

First, it's so much easier to be the Mom of a little boy if you have some background knowledge into little boy culture.  I like baseball and dinosaurs and I'm slowly learning about trains, thanks to Brian.  I hope that one day, Jack looks up to me as being a Mom who knows a thing or two about fun things (like dinosaurs), but who is also just a really good Mom.  Here's hoping.

Maybe I'll add this to my bucket list:  take Jack to a real dinosaur dig.  Talk about fun for a little boy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Love and Valentine's Day

Me and my heart.
Happy Valentine's Day!

First, I'd like to say Happy Valentine's Day to my sweetheart, Brian.  He's been my Valentine for 12 (wow!) years now and I can't imagine a Valentine's Day without him.

I've had a love/hate relationship with Valentine's Day.  Before Jack was born, I wasn't an overly sappy person.  I think most people would describe me as quite the opposite.  I once heard someone call me an "Ice Queen"...yikes.  I'm not sure why I garnered that distinction, except that I'm not overly affectionate.  I'm not a hugger like some gals and I tend to try to keep my emotions to myself.

Regardless of my lack of emotion with the general public, I assure you that I am affectionate with my husband and I'm definitely affectionate with my son.  Poor kid...I think he gets sick of the "Mommy Kissy Monster".  You never know how sweet a kiss can be until you plant one on your baby's soft little cheeks, or even better, until they plant a slobbery kiss on your cheek.

That being said, I feel the need on Valentine's Day to talk about the only person I've ever fallen in love with at first sight.  Of course I mean my baby boy, Jack.

No one can describe that kind of love.  It is all encompassing.  The night he was born, I remember vaguely being in surgery and clutching to consciousness long enough to hear him cry.  From that moment on, he's always been the first person I think of in the morning and the last person I think of at night.

That's not to say that Brian now takes a back-seat to Jack in my heart...they both get to sit shotgun.  The love you have for your spouse is just a different kind of love, but no less strong.  You love the person who will be your spouse more and more over time, but the love you feel for your children is there immediately.

I remember those first few days in the hospital.  I recall holding Jack and feeling almost overwhelmed by the amount of love I could feel for one person soon quickly.  I would smooth his little hair and breathe in the new baby smell.  There is such a thing; ask any parent.  Cherish it, because it goes away quickly.  Now, Jack smells like playground and dirt and the wind.

Now that he's almost 2, I can say without a doubt that you love your children just as much every day as they get older.  Sure, being around a toddler can be trying, but when you get a hug, or a kiss, or a sweet little voice saying "Mommy", it makes it all worth it and your heart feels a little flutter.  It also makes you love your spouse even more, because that little person is a part of him, too.  It makes our bond stronger, because we're both united in making his life better.

So, Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  Jack will wake up to a new Lightning McQueen.  It's red, so it counts as a valentine.  Don't's hard to find valentines that little boys will like.  So give someone a squeeze today and say you love them.  Just make sure it's someone who won't be creeped out by it, like me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Play Group Outcasts

Being left out sucks.

Earlier today, I was reading a post by Babycenter blogger Joyce Slaton in which she describes how her daughter never gets invited on playdates.  Most of the comments were reassuring, saying that people get busy and don't always want to host a playdate.  Well, those people must have missed the section in her post about how the other parents are always making playdates with each other, but they don't include her child.

I feel for this woman.  Moms are mean.

When I was touring preschools, The very first preschool that I toured made Jack a little anxious.  It was loud and disorganized, which is the reason I did not register Jack there, and Jack picked up on the chaos.  He was crying and fussy until he was allowed to go play in a room with a bunch of 2 year olds.  After that, he had a blast.

Afterwards, the director was talking to our tour group and one of the Moms pulls out business cards (yeah, business cards) for her play group.  She proceeds to hand one to every Mom except me.  All of us had boys the same age, but Jack and I were not picked for this elite play group.

Ever since I've become a parent, I've encountered some of the rudest people!  You know, if for whatever reason you don't want me and my son in your play group, that's fine.  Maybe we smell.  Maybe we're social lepers.  Maybe my son seems too high-energy for you, but can't you invite every other Mom into your play group in private instead of right in front of me?  Of course not...

I am a big advocate of being supportive of other Moms.  Mom-on-Mom verbal violence and disrespect is far too prevalent.  In the end, we're all trying to do the same thing, and that's raise successful, good people.  The subtle differences in how we do it and who we are seem to be minor, really.

Of course, if you have a real problems with other Moms, just start a blog.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Tao of Mason

Mason in 2006 (7 years old), right after we adopted him
On the heels of finishing a wonderful book, A Dog's Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron, I have been reflecting on my own relationships with the furry children in my life.

Most people have heard me talk about Champ, our beloved pug who passed away, at the age of 5, from a brain tumor.  Champ battled various health problems and multiple surgeries, so he was a constant topic of conversation in our house for a while.  Many people don't realize that there has been a quieter, but no less important presence in our lives.  His name is Mason.

Let me start by describing the effect of dogs in my life.  I've always been an animal lover, willing to take in anything from pet rats to stray dogs and even orphaned baby opossums (I was thwarted in this attempt).  Dogs, in particular, have always held my heart.

It started with Custard, named for Strawberry Shortcake's cat, when I was 4.  I was terrified of the Great Danes next door and my Grandmother thought I should get a dog to help me get over my fear.  Grandmother had a soft spot for Cocker Spaniels, and Custard was what I got.  She was a typical Cocker in that she was submissive and had a tendency to pee when she met strangers, but she had a gentler disposition than most Cockers.  She lived 12 years and was a good friend.

The first dog that really bonded with me was W.D.  He was bought because my stepdad missed his Bichon Frise, but I seriously doubt that W.D. was pure-bred.  He was hyper, all-boy, and loved to cuddle.  Even though he was bought for another, he bonded to me.  He slept in my bed.  He helped refill my heart after the wounds of my parents' divorce.  We moved multiple times in the coming years, always at the beginning of the summer, and W.D. made those summers less lonely.  Eventually, my parents decided that dogs belonged outside and when we moved to a house with no fenced-in backyard, he was given away.  I never let on at the time, but I was devastated.

It was several years until I got another dog.  I was still at Georgia State and I came home one weekend to my parents' house.  A little Jack Russell Terrier had been living as a stray in the woods behind their house.  My family had been putting food out for him and that weekend I was able to get him to approach.  Not long afterward, he became a permanent resident of that house.  Phantom, named because he snuck around outside for so long, became my shadow once I moved home.  He slept in my bed.  Phantom helped me get through some of the roughest periods in my life.  He was there when I broke up with my boyfriend, not once but twice, and he was there when my family disagreed with my decision to take him back.

Phantom loved me with such loyalty.  It broke my heart when I moved out into my own apartment and couldn't take him with me.  I missed my Phantom so much.  Around the time Phantom was 10, he turned aggressive and my parents turned him over to animal control.  They never told me of this decision until it was done.  I was heartbroken that I never got a chance to say goodbye.  I felt I had let Phantom down.  I pray that he was sent to a sanctuary or a new home and that he lived out his days being loved and happy.

Not long after Brian moved in with me, we decided we wanted a dog.  Brian had never had one and he wanted a pug.  We got Skip, who passed away a month after we got him, and then eventually Champ.  Champ was Brian's buddy and I missed having a dog who worshipped the ground I walked on.  Not long before our wedding, Brian and I started looking for a friend for Champ.

We went through Southeast Pug Rescue and Adoption, a wonderful organization dedicated to helping pugs, because I was not getting a pet store pug again.  There, on the site, was Mason.  I was nervous about him because he was already 7, but I mentioned an interest in him anyway.  I got a call not long afterwards and after a process that I imagine to be not unlike adopting a human child, Mason was ours.

The night when we went to pick up Mason, we were greeted by all 29 pounds of him.  Yes, he was a big boy.  We had to pick him up in Buford, so the trip home took close to an hour.  I agreed to sit in the backseat to keep our new friend company.  By the time we got home, I think Mason was in love.  I was too.

Mason has been there for me in more ways than I can count.  When I was put on bedrest, Mason never left my side.  When I was induced, the people at the kennel said that Mason wouldn't eat...he was too worried!  He has comforted me when my husband is out of town and when I need a friend.  He's been there through family arguments and everything else.  He has been, as Edith Wharton put it, "...a little heartbeat at my feet."  When Champy passed, Mason was hurting, but he was there for Brian, Jack, and me.

Then, there is the debt for which I'll always owe to him...he is Jack's best friend.  Jack is rough with Mason, but Mason tolerates him and is always gentle.  Mason and Jack's friendship actually started before Jack was born.  Mason would lay his head on my stomach and listen to Jack.  Jack would rub his hands (or feet?) along the side of my belly that Mason was pressed against.  When Jack came home from the hospital, it was no surprise to Mason.  He already knew him.  Now, Jack will lay on the ground in front of Mason and just stare into his eyes.  Mason lays still so that Jack can be there with him.

Mason is an amazing dog.  He has this Zen-like quality about him.  Mason always is calm and in the moment.  What a wonderful way to live!  At 12, he's lived longer than any other dog I've ever shared my life with.  I hope he lives for many more years to come.  More importantly, I hope I can be the person that Mason sees me to be, because he thinks a lot of me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Terrible Almost-Twos

Whomever coined the phrase "the terrible twos" clearly never had a one year old.

Chalk it up to teething (please God, let it be teething) or lack of language skills, but the past couple of weeks have been one big "toddler moment" in our house.

I consider myself lucky when it comes to behavior.  It is apparently normal for a kid Jack's age to throw 3-4 temper tantrums a day.  Jack typically throws 3-4 per week, so I consider him on the lower end of the tantrum continuum.

Of course, every time I say something like that, some smarty-pants, my-kid-is-better-than-yours Mom says, "My son/daughter/spawn never has tantrums."  LIAR.  Every child has tantrums occasionally.  You may not remember them or you may block them out or, as I find to be the case, elite Moms simply edit out or tone down the less than desirable things that occur within their lives.  The Moms that tell you that their kids never watch TV probably have children who watch 6 hours of Nick Jr. non-stop.  Your kid eats an all vegetarian/organic/vegan diet, you say?  They probably live off of Chicken McNuggets.

No judging, though.  The Mom-competition is tough.

You'd be surprised at how many people claim their children NEVER have tantrums.  Well, mine does, and they've been worse lately.  I'm also allowed to say that I am hoping that this is just a phase and passes soon.

For those of you with perfect robot children or no children at all, I'll tell you that temper tantrums can be just as much hell on Moms as they surely are on children.  Here is a typical tantrum in our house:

Lunchtime approaches, so I tell Jack unceremoniously, "I'm going to make you some lunch."  Jack whips his head around and whines.  I know that I must go make lunch, because as any parent will tell you, fatigue and hunger only make matters worse.  He leaps up and toddles behind me.  He grips the baby gate at the kitchen and whines/jumps.  I make the mistake of saying either "It's okay" or "Use your words to tell Mommy what's wrong."

Now, I know that the latter is stupid of me to suggest, but I, like all other Moms, feel compelled to do so.  Jack is a bit of a late-talker and doesn't talk very much (don't worry...I've asked our pediatrician multiple times if this is normal and she assures me it is), so he really lacks the verbal skills to answer that question.  However, I want to get him thinking about voicing feelings, so I ask away.  This earns me a scream.

Okay, so I think that giving him a sippy cup of milk will help.  What could be more soothing than a nice, refreshing cup of milk?  It screams comfort, right?  Wrong.  It gets thrown to the floor and I get a look that says "How DARE you suggest that?"  Okay, this is going nowhere, so I go to pick Jack up, only to have him flop down to the floor as I reach for him.  Oh boy, here we go...

What ensues is a 10-20 minute tantrum that involves thrashing on the floor, kicking, and screaming.  I do what the books and the doctor (as well as my sanity) tells me to do...I ignore him.  I sit and watch, in agony, as my little boy struggles to regain control of his emotions.  It pains me to see him like this.  Eventually, he calms down and toddles over to me, arms reaching out, saying "Mama" softly.  I pick him  up and cuddle him in the rocking chair and all is well.

I don't blame my son for tantrums.  They are the result of his little immature body dealing with emotions that have the tendency to get overpowering.  He hasn't learned, as the rest of us have, to keep our emotions to ourselves and then freak out/drink/blog about it later.  However, it is emotionally draining to watch.

So, here's hoping that it's teething or just a phase, and if your child is one of the 3-4 tantrums a day kids, then God bless you.

Snowmaggedon 2011

My street during "The Big One" of 2011.
As I peer out at my deck and its light frosting of snow in the wake of one of this season's many occurrences of winter precipitation, only one thought enters my mind.  It involves the four snowmen of the apocalypse. If you haven't guessed, I am done with winter this year.

Last year wasn't so bad.  With an infant, you're limited in your entertainment possibilities, so being trapped at home isn't such a big deal.  With a toddler, you start to slowly slip into insanity.

Atlanta just is not used to this much snow and ice.  For all of you Northern transplants that post on Facebook "This is nothing...New York/New Jersey/Massachusetts/anywhere other than ATL gets more snow than this and still functions normally", I just have to let you know that you annoy me more than a Barney marathon.

That's a lot, by the way.

ATL has about 10 snow trucks.  May people might see that as ridiculous, but we never get snow like this.  I'd be pissed if my taxpayer money went into a whole fleet of DOT vehicles that only gets used once every 5-10 years.  I'd rather see more cops than snow trucks.  So, the one time a decade that we get significant snowfall, it shuts the city down.  It sucks (I'll elaborate on that shortly), but it's the price we pay for living in a city affectionately known as "Hotlanta".

Atlanta natives have an unusual reaction to this bizarre phenomenon known as snow.  First, let me qualify what it means to be an Atlanta must have lived here more than a couple of months.  One Atlanta summer does not an Atlantan make.  I've lived here all of my life, minus the few months of infancy spent in Florida, so my body is not accustomed to functioning in snow.  I fall walking in it.  I am terrified of driving my car through it.  I feel an instinctual impulse to go buy milk, bread, eggs, and beer anytime it's in the forecast.  I can push my body past these limits.  I have been known to drive through snow, albeit gripping the steering wheel for dear life and screaming "Holy Shit!"  I have discovered that crawling lessens the likelihood of falling in snow.  I avoid stores like the plague the day before snow.  I hide well my urge to buy the last 15 dozen eggs at Publix.

There is something about snow that drives Atlantans slightly mad.  The day before, we do snow dances, wear our pajamas inside out, and send up lots of prayers for the white stuff.  The next morning, when we wake and it's there, we flip out.  No school/work!  Sledding!  Taking pictures of everything shrouded in snow!  Hot cocoa!  WOO HOO!!!  We do it all, as though we've never seen snow before.

Day 2 brings change.  We look outside and, still seeing snow, think, "Hmmm...that's cool.  I wish I could leave my neighborhood, though."  Regardless, we venture forth and repeat the revelry of the previous day.

On Day 3, madness starts to set in.  I only have 3 gallons of milk...what if it lasts FOREVER?  If I have to watch Caillou one more time, I'm going to shove my face in a pillow and scream (all Moms of toddlers know what I mean).  The garbage starts piling up and I get the sensation that we're all living like animals.  GET ME OUT OF HERE!

Day 4 results in a catatonic state for all involved.  Jack and I have played every game in the house 20 times over.  I give up and allow him to make Play Doh sculptures on my head.  I play Misty Island Rescue so many times that I can practically recite it from memory.  You want cookies for dinner, Jack?  Sure, the world's coming to an end and we'll be trapped in this house forever.  Go right ahead.

Okay, so some of the events may be exaggerated, but that's what we Atlantans do when it comes to weather...we exaggerate.  The local media has trained us well.

So, I'm going to start doing Spring dances.  To my neighbors, I apologize in advance that you might see me dancing in the snow, willing it to evaporate.  However, I know that next winter the snowfall will bring that familiar "WOO HOO!" and I'll fall for it all over again.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eating and the Reflux-Recovering Toddler

First off, I have finally decided to make my blog public...and by public, I mean I'm putting it on my Facebook page.  So, if you've stumbled onto my blog off of Facebook...welcome!  My little boy is my life and I hope that friends and family enjoy reading about all of his adventures.

This week, we have seen some real progress with Jack's eating.  Jack, for those of you who don't know, suffered from horrid reflux as a baby.  Luckily, his reflux caused him little pain or discomfort.  We were blessed that he did not suffer from colic or pain; however, Jack had difficulty eating or drinking without gagging or throwing up.  It was the throwing up that held Jack back in terms of his feeding skills and has also caused Jack to reject foods that he doesn't know that he can eat without gagging.  We've been assured by our pediatrician that this is not unusual for a child recovering from reflux, but it still makes my heart ache every time I see my little boy struggle.

His feeding skills have slowly increased, but we are just now seeing a real leap forward.  For example, just this weekend, Jack picked up a cracker and ate it without gagging or requiring any assistance.  A whole cracker!  I was so proud!  He picked it up and ate it as though he'd been able to do so for months!  This may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but it means so much to Jack.

I'm optimistic that he'll continue to improve.  Jack will be entering preschool in the fall and I want so badly for him to be able to eat snack just like the other kids do.  I'm confident he'll get there.  He's made such huge strides so far!