Giving up caffeine: It’s not you, it’s me.

coffee_lambentlifeWe met when I was 18 years old. Fresh faced and ready to explore all that the world had to offer, I ran to you with open arms. They say that college is a time for exploration and experimentation. While some of my college peers tried uppers, downers and round and rounders, I dabbled in flavored lattes and energy drinks. Your bottomless cup was my support during those all-night study sessions at the diner. My 48-count of Red Bull was the only thing there for me when my computer crashed at 2 a.m., wiping my entire Women’s Studies final project just hours before it was due. Through the turmoil of self-discovery and navigating quasi-adult relationships, you were there to lend a comforting lift.

I grew older and wiser and you grew stronger. No longer satisfied with the sickening sweet beverages of my youth, I graduated to the grande triple shot latte. It was more than the temperature of my beverage that warmed my body and stirred my mind. You, caffeine, were the muse to volumes of publications and articles. You sat with me through hours of edits and acted as my meeting and media event side kick. There was no water cooler conversations in our office – only those friendships built during frequent Starbuck’s runs. As time marched on, our relationship evolved from one of convenience to one of necessity.

When I got pregnant, things became a bit awkward between us. Everyone said you weren’t good for me and, truth be told, they were probably right. But I couldn’t just give up on you so easily. We had history. So we met secretly in the diluted cups of half-caff and an afternoon Coca Cola to soothe the nausea.  Childbirth didn’t do much to fix our broken relationship. Taunted by fears of an insomniac infant, you gave me pause. So I mentally packed you away with my expensive lacy bras and turtleneck sweaters, not to be fully enjoyed again until all babies weaned.

Parenting young children brought new life to our friendship. With the whack-a-mole bedtimes and questions of sanity, I was thankful to have you back in my life. Despite the messy house, cranky toddlers and sleepless nights, you were there for me. You saw me at my worst and still shared your mind clearing goodness. You were a key figure in the early years of my motherhood. And I wasn’t alone. As I made new mommy friends, there was as much discussion regarding the location of our next play date as to who would pick up with Dunkin’. We knew each other’s secrets and coffee orders by heart. I traded the fancy (and expensive) Italian beverages for the simple joys of a morning and afternoon cup of coffee. Your predictability was a small comfort in the midst of motherhood’s chaos.

I loved you and was leery of those who doubted your goodness. You were a litmus test to easily determine my compatibility with a potential friend. But as time goes on and I learn more about myself, I began to see a dark side to our friendship. I needed you. At some point, a long history wasn’t enough to ignore how toxic our relationship had become. What once brought me renewed energy and inspiration turned me into an anxious, slightly manic version of my otherwise copacetic self. I hate the way I relied on you to get through the day.

It won’t be a clean break – more of a slow fade – but I’m already feeling the simple pleasure of being less and less addicted to you. I don’t want my mood and abilities to be controlled by a drug (no offense, but that’s what you are). The joy of a caffeine rush simply isn’t worth the racing heart and shaky hands. My heart isn’t pounding hard enough to be visible to others. I have more patience and I’m less on edge. I’m giddy to be exhausted in the evenings and look forward to building a stronger relationship with my other friend – my bed.

I’ve grown and evolved and you’ve stayed the same over the millennia. So really, it’s not you – it’s me. I wish you well and perhaps we’ll cross paths someday during a late night road trip or a particularly vicious migraine. But until then, I bid you adieu.

Why parenting never gets easier – and why it’s amazing.

The countless diaper changes, sleepless nights and dirty dishes create a blur of beautiful chaos those early years of parenthood. Add in siblings close in age and you lay your head every night thankful everyone survived another day. The kids get older, you become a bit wiser until eventually one day goes by unnoticed as anything other than unremarkable. And it becomes two and soon a few weeks and then you realize that without the pomp and circumstance that celebrated your entry to parenthood, you’ve entered an entirely new phase that involves noticeably fewer tears from everyone.

I am never so naive to think that I’ve got this parenting thing down. But we seem to have travelled through the survival phase known as babydom and toddlerhood and arrived at the other side: school-aged.

And things become markedly calmer and you think, “This is easy! We could totally have six kids.”

Then you’re kid does something awesome like break her arm in such a way that it’ll require surgery, pins and a full arm cast. Because, you know, God is hilarious and has awesome ways of gently reminding me when I’ve become too big for my britches.

The kids get bigger and so do the problems. I’m not talking strictly about physical injuries. While I’m no longer concerned with the perils of potty training, I’m now facing the challenge of raising two young girls with healthy body images and leading them through the maze of mean girls and self esteem. While this chapter of parenting is typically less physically demanding – although the shuttle service between school carpool and ballet classes and traffic is exhausting – it is a race of emotional and mental endurance. I’ve shifted my energy away from the day-to-day and toward the long task of character-building and emotional development.

They ask Big Life Questions that I usually feel wholly ill-equipped to answer. You must formulate a concise, spur-of-the-moment response when your five year old explains that sometimes she feels like God isn’t close and wonders if I’m sure He really thinks she’s special enough. Or when she confides that she isn’t sure she’s pretty enough. Or if I’m sure there isn’t even one thing that would ever make me stop loving her – what if she steals a rainbow? Because to a five year old, there is nothing worse than stealing a rainbow.

I want to blame the influence of peers and society but truthfully, I’m confident most women struggle with the same questions regardless of our age, social circle or upbringing. The lessons that we instill now – or don’t – will have a lasting effect far into adulthood. Nurturing a sense of value and self-worth, cultivating grace and generosity and taming arrogance and superiority. Are we ever good enough? Interesting enough? Thin enough? Strong enough? That stuff is hard.

When Josh and I decided to have kids, it was a pretty short conversation and a sudden shift from my career-oriented life goals. And my view of parenting was very short-sited and I, embarrassingly, didn’t think what it meant to be a parent past the first year. I never entertained the idea that God may bless us with daughters instead of the enviably less dramatic male option. Instead, He gave us and one then another incredible little female human with tender hearts that need guarded and guided and given a safe place to flourish.

I want them to grow strong – physically and emotionally. I will teach them to shine brightly and boldly. I will show them that vulnerability is not weakness. I will encourage them to embrace difficulties and remain joyous through the challenges.

I miss the simpler days of parenting when snuggles and Momma milk made everything better. But how fortunate am I to be tasked as steward of such precious gifts?

Please, please don’t let me screw them up.

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No rest for the weary.

When Emery was a mere 3 or 4 months old, friends would share the horrors of children who had terrible sleep habits. Bedtime routines that lasted hours, kids wandering the house at night, awake for the day at 5 a.m. To them, these stories weren’t terrifying – they were life. But they horrified me. The prospect of waking up multiple times every night to deal with a child who should be physically, mentally and emotionally capable of securing a full eight 90-minute sleep cycles sounded like torture. I stared at these tired mommas and couldn’t fathom how they were feeling and their tired eyes and weary shoulders described more than their words ever could. In those moments, I was certain there was no worse fate than a child who doesn’t sleep.

Emery has always been a fantastic sleeper. She was essentially sleeping through the night at 4 months and woke only once for a 5 a.m. snack before hitting the crib sheets for another few hours. We never had to teach her to sleep. The girl was just born to do it. Thirteen hours at night, 2 hours in the afternoon. Clearly, my awesome parenting skills were being rewarded.

Sleep was a priority. If we missed the window of opportunity for a nap or bed time, all hell broke loose. Overtired and overstimulated, we could guarantee an evening of tantrums and tears before sleep finally arrived. Bedtime was sacred and we declined many evening activities to ensure our golden-haired tyrant was in bed by 7 p.m. She went down without fuss. A book, song, prayer, kiss, lights out. And never another peep until 7:30 a.m.

When Blair came along, things changed a bit. The bedtime routine got a bit more complicated and longer and featured a stuffed animal roll call. Emery always noticed when one was missing, sending the parent who drew the shorter straw on a 15 minute search for the “right” teddy bear (the one with the scarf, not a hat) while the other sang four more rounds of This Little Light of Mine. Blair never slept so by comparison, Emery’s new demands were tolerable.

Slowly and steadily, like a frog being boiled, things deteriorated.

Sleep? No thanks.

Hi. Sleep? No thanks.

We traded the pacifier for a cup of water which requires multiple refills on a good night. Potty training led to mid-night bathroom breaks, courtesy of the aforementioned cup. And then she started being afraid of the dark, so we got a nightlight. And with her room lit light a department store, she was now able to wander about throughout the night. Just reading books and doing puzzles like it was 3 p.m. – not 3 a.m. And since she was already awake, she may as well take a stroll out to the living room to see what Lucy is up to at such a fine hour.

Then she began noticing that Josh gets up for work around 4:50. So Emery started getting up at 4:50. You know, so they could drink their morning joe together and catch up on the news.

This is what my nightmares are made of. If I only got to sleep long enough to have nightmares.

Apparently, we need to visit Disney every.single.day. if we want her to sleep.

Apparently, we need to visit Disney every.single.day. if we want her to sleep.

When you’re child doesn’t sleep, you aren’t just tired. It sucks the life out of you. You feel physically ill. You completely understand why sleep deprivation is used to break prisoners of war. And there is no end in sight. Logically, you know that eventually it will end. Maybe in a few weeks, maybe when they head off to college. But in the moment, there is nothing – short of a terminal illness or your coffee pot breaking – worse than looking ahead at a night of not sleeping.

Emery’s sleep has been the constant that I can count on. Em is a difficult child – and I say that from the very bottom of my overflowing heart. She has more energy than anyone I have ever met and everyone loves to tell me the same. Regardless of how intense or high energy she can be, I’ve always been able to bank on her sleeping well. Until now. There is no rest for the weary and no chance to decompress. And when a child who is easily influenced by her moods and feelings is running on 9 hours of sleep total… Well, it’s not a great result.

A brief reprieve.

A brief and rare reprieve.

I tried the Ok to Wake clock, which terrified her. I tried a reward chart with moderate success. I tried a child lock on her door knob. I tried flat out bribery. I tired yelling. I tried begging. I tried threatening.

Her explanation? She’s lonely. And just not tired.

So in the morning, I told her she could come and sleep with me after her Daddy leaves for work – but she had to stay in her bed all night long. So at 4:55 a.m., she climbs into my bed. And for the next hour she fidgets, twitches, tosses, hums and asks to have her back scratched. The most restful hour of the night, clearly.

She asked to share a room with her younger sister. She promised-promised-promised that would resolve her nocturnal wanderings and begged her Daddy to move her big bed into Blair’s room.

We acquiesced.

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It lasted 27 hours. To Em’s credit, she’s ready. Blair is not. She found the whole thing equally exciting and unnerving and spent the majority of the night alternating between giggles and screams. Girl hates change. And the next morning began at 5:50 a.m. with not one, but two little girls ready to start the day. It ended with a certain child’s mattress being drug back to her respective bedroom while I screamed threats and promises.

I’m in survival mode. I’m throwing all my best parenting tricks at this almost 4 year old and admitting defeat. Every morning, she’s greeted by two books and her Ipod Touch waiting on the couch to entertain her until 6:15. Because I simply cannot hang.

I’ve become that defeated mother with dead eyes and a short temper. I’m the one who texts you at 7 a.m. because I’m already awake and had my morning coffee. I know that Little Einsteins comes on at 6 a.m., followed by Chuggington and then Octonauts. My husband has learned to have the coffee ready to brew when he leaves in the morning. Realistically, he could actually brew it and it would still be warm when I stumble to the kitchen 20 minutes after he’s gone but desperate mothers don’t get to be picky.

Oh, and Blair? Still not sleeping through the night. It’s party central over here.

So if you have a child that sleeps, hug them. Give them candy. Maybe even a pony.

And then buy an exhausted Mother a cup of coffee. Or a bottle wine. Maybe both.

Street cred’ in the (mother)hood.

I know nothing about parenting.

Really. It’s pretty embarrassing. I’ve never finished reading any of the parenting books I’ve purchased. Really, there are only four of them on my bookshelf so that’s not too bad. Or maybe that speaks louder to my short attention span.

But if I’ve picked up anything in the past four years, it’s that…

… Shoot. I forget. Blair started chanting “snack! snack! snack!” and my brain crossed wires.

Oh, I remember. I’ve figured out that it really doesn’t matter how many books or blogs you’ve read, how many parenting classes you take or if your degree is in early childhood development. When it comes to respect in motherhood, there isn’t much of a need for book smart. Street cred’ is the only thing that matters.

I would rather pick the brain of a mom who is living a parallel life to mine than spend time reading a $29.99 book by Dr. Whoever that was written in his faraway cushy office lined with diplomas. He probably gets to pee alone and that nullifies at least two years of education. I want to hear from someone who’s been in the trenches and knows for a fact that my child will, indeed, stop peeing her pants when she’s mad at me.

And now that I’ve been doing this mothering thing for almost 4 years, some people seem to think I’ve earned a bit of credibility on certain parenting skillz. Which is hilarious and flattering and a bit frightening.

Because nothing says awesome like ballpoint tattoos.

Wake up before 6 a.m. and know your fate.

I don’t tell you this to be pompous but because it seriously boggles my mind that I’m qualified to offer advice on anything parenting-related. Yes, I’ve dealt with issues that some parents haven’t. But when friends or friends of friends ask me how to deal with a dairy allergy/ crazy separation anxiety/ unusual vaccine reaction/ strong-willed child/ eczema flares/ cloth diapering/ breastfeeding/ a child who never sleeps, and my initial reaction is, “Whaaa? Why are you asking me? Go ask someone who had time to brush their teeth this morning.”

And then I remember that although any advice I offer may, in fact, be insightful, what people really want to know is that it will get better. Whatever is plaguing them will end. Or it won’t and they’ll figure out how to deal. And one day, someone will mention that their child is having an issue and they’ll be able to offer advice or a sympathetic ear. Because credibility is earned in the messiest, most heartbreaking and exhausting moments of mothering.

You don’t read a recipe and call yourself a chef. Being a mother is the same. You need to experience it, feel it and live it along the way.

And then you earn street cred’ in the (mother)hood.

One becomes Two.

On Friday, my sweet little one year old became a spicy little two year old.

She’s still sweet with her never ending kisses and hand holding.

SONY DSCPractically overnight she developed a borderline unhealthy independent streak. In addition to the typical amount of times a 2-year-old shouts, “NO! I do it” in one day, Miss Bossy also wants to do everything her older and more capable sister can despite just not being physically able. Last week, we managed to fall not once, but twice and land squarely on our forehead. Once after going potty (my fault) and again after insisting she climb into her car seat unassisted (still my fault). Matching bruises, left and right. As if she was sprouting little bruised horns.

With some purple shading and a little road rash, we celebrated my little one turning the big dos with a party of balloons, lollipops and everything yellow. The perfect Blair approved trifecta. A party isn’t really a party without guests but, you see, sweet Blair isn’t really one for crowds. In fact, she isn’t really a fan of people with the exception of a few privileged folks. She’d rather hang out with the big girls (an entire year older) than other toddlers her size. So really, Emery enjoyed a party and shared it with two of the four toddlers who’s presence Blair will acknowledge.

SONY DSCIn all sincerity, despite all of her weird allergies, intolerances and the personality quirks, I wouldn’t change a thing about this girl. She is my sunshine. She’s my laugh. She’s the right amount of sweet and spicy.

She loves princesses and makeup. She can count to 12 and sing you a song. She’ll steal your nose and heart.

Welcome to the wild world of being 2.

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Mommy Meetings.

“Mommy, where are you going?”

“Out, sweet girl.”

“Are you going to work?”

“…No sweetie, mommy doesn’t go to work. You are my work.”

“But you’re wearing a working shirt, Mommy.”

“Yes, E, you’re right. This does look like a shirt someone would wear to work.”

“Mommy?”

“Yes?”

“What time is your meeting?”

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With that, I gave up. Truthfully, it was a shirt combination I wore to the office years ago when I had a job that provided intellectual stimulation/adult conversation/a pretty little paycheck.

Right now, this is my job. And last night’s meeting was a much needed dinner with a group of lovely mommies and my very own crème brûlée for dessert. And I didn’t share one bite.

Happy Friday, readers. It’s another damp, chilly day so the girls and I are off to the gym and a child-mandated trip to Target. The boss-girl needs oranges and “we don’t have any” isn’t an acceptable excuse. She’s relentless.

Potty Training Nightmares.

***This post discusses poop, pee and other natural, albeit, gross functions. If that disturbs you, you probably aren’t a parent***

I was stolen from my slumber at an obnoxiously early hour by a very not sleepy 3 year in my bed, an almost 2 year old shrieking from her crib, and the sound of tornado sirens blaring through the neighborhood.

Hello, Tuesday.

We’ve had constant downpours since Monday morning and this cold, wet weather paired with a set of runny noses has us under house arrest. And in perfect display of my “life on a whim” mentality, I decided today was the perfect day to start officially teaching B to use the potty.

This is monumental because there is nothing I dread more than potty training another child. While B has been showing signs of being ready to potty train since she hit 18 months, I haven’t been ready. Getting E out of diapers was the single hardest, most emotionally draining and challenging experience in parenting thus far. I still have nightmares about it. I’m not kidding. Potty training that strong willed child of mine was a nightmare.

E was out of diapers when she was a hair over 2 years old – 26 months, I believe. In hind sight, it was a little early. It didn’t take long for her to figure things out but those first few weeks were unimaginably messy and frustrating. I read the books and blogs and studied various methods. But there was no convincing E to sit on the toilet every 15 minutes or loading her up with liquids until her bladder nearly exploded. Like everything else, that girl wasn’t doing it until she was good and ready.

Even then, when I thought we had successfully mastered the art of civilized urination, E still had a few potty training disasters waiting to knock us down a few rungs on the parenting ladder.

A month or so after we started potty training E, friends of ours invited us to join them and a few thousand of his coworkers for a day of family fun, games, food, and face painting. Never ones to pass up a (free) party, we gladly accepted. We were all recovering from a little stomach bug but were well enough to join the festivities. As long as we stayed ahead of the game and were proactive with bathroom trips, E wasn’t having a single accident. Since she was cloth diapered, we skipped the Pull-Up stage and she was proudly rocking her impossibly tiny My Little Pony underwear.

Like any toddler, E loved the bounce houses. Heck, who doesn’t love a good bounce? The bounce house entrance was manned by an unsuspecting 15-year old boy scout who was probably just trying to earn a badge. Or sash. Or whatever boy scouts earn. Anyway. The line to get into the bounce house was long and tense. There were lots of kids cutting in line (and parents not saying a word, ugh) and poor E really wanted to bounce. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes – which is eternity to a barely 2 year old – it was our turn to go. And by go, I mean gooooo. E was so excited to finally get a turn in the bounce house, she wasn’t letting out a peep about needing to poo. So when she started bouncing… well… yeah. Recovering stomach bug + barely potty trained 2 year old + lots of bouncing = disaster. Messy, smelly, poop everywhere. All over her. All over the bounce house.

I was horrified. Mortified. Embarrassed beyond imagination.

I handed off wee baby B to J and with an under-the-armpit scoop, E and I shuffled/ran to the closest Porta-John. Where I discovered I had but two wipes in my bag. And the bathroom was out of paper towels. We were both crying, covered in poop.

Pre-pooping. My stubborn little mullet-headed girl.

Pre-pooping. My stubborn little mullet-headed girl.

That poor boy scout.

Am I a terrible person for not feeling very bad for the kids who cut in line ahead of us and were consequently in the bounce house with my pooping kid?

Excuse me if I’m not thrilled about starting the potty training process again.

I’m not ready to travel that road of pee puddles, smeared poop and wet beds again so soon. There isn’t much recovery time when you have kids so close in age.

So I caught myself off guard with my sudden enthusiasm towards B’s potty training. B is my compliant child. After our ordeals with E, getting B out of diapers will be a breeze! And she’s very interested for quite some time.

At 7:45 this morning, I started potty training B. We spent 30 minutes playing with a towel beneath us, 10 minutes chugging almond milk and juice, and 45 minutes sitting on one of three different toilets. In the 30 seconds it took her to walk from the living room to E’s bedroom, she peed on the floor not once, but twice. By 9:15 a.m., she was back in her diapers.

Maybe she’s not ready. Maybe she is. I thought I was ready. I’m not.

We’ll try again when I’m a bit more prepared.

She’ll probably be wearing diapers to high school.

Potty training horror stories?

Why you’re a better mother than me.

I’ve hit a rough patch in motherhood. A really, really rough patch. Thank you, God, that my own mother was able to visit for a few days and coddle my sorry self. I’ve returned to the land of hands-on parenting for the time being and figured someone should be encouraged by my less than stellar parenting moments of recent.

I told E that she could get her ears pierced if she stopped biting her fingernails. She shocked me when she went cold turkey on her finger nibbling and I realized I’d have to follow through. So I played semantics and told her she could get them pierced eventually. She’s accident prone and needs no help putting additional holes in her body. And she hasn’t brought it up since.

Speaking of nails… I walked around for 5 weeks with the toe nails on just one foot clipped. And I didn’t realize it for 3 weeks. And yet it took me another 2 weeks to actually clip them. At almost 2 years postpartum, I don’t think I can claim baby brain.

I re-gifted Christmas candy in the Valentine’s Day gift bags for E’s preschool class. December wasn’t that long ago and I really didn’t want to drag the girls to Target for the third time this week.

I used diaper ointment on my chapped lips. I’ve reached a new level of lazy. But it was a new jar of my favorite Grandma El’s and my Burt’s Bees was nowhere to be found. 

My tower of laundry. The closet door had to remain open to offer support to the clambering pile.

21313_1I may or may not have intentionally burnt a batch of chocolate chip cookies. The girls didn’t mind the crispy edges but it stopped me from shoveling the entire dozen in my pie hole. Good thing their standards were already low.

Congratulations on being a (relatively) awesome mother!