Sunday, April 26, 2015

bathtime

Yesterday, I gave the boys a bath, and it was a disaster. I dread bath time all the time, actually. Holden is that age where he tries to do everything big boys do, but without any of the coordination. So he loves splashing around in the bathtub, standing up, sitting down, dunking a ball in the hoop, turning over - all while being held in my two hands as I attempt to save him from himself. We have one of those bathtubs with the sliding doors on it, which means I have access to only half the bathtub while Holden has access to the entire thing. I am outnumbered and out-resourced.

Yesterday was especially bad and I spent the entire time nagging, admonishing, and yelling at my kids ("Don't drink the bathwater! It's icky yucky!"). After wards, I swore I was done giving them baths. "Sponge baths only for you two from now on!" But then, of course, as boys will be, they were boys and filthified themselves today in the backyard. So of course I gave them baths again.

And today, the boys were the same - Holden on the move, Brandon sucking down bathwater. But this time, I was calm(er). I laughed at their shenanigans and realized how much more fun it is not to ruin their fun. Kids love baths. I get it - what's not to love? Baths are the best. But damn, I wouldn't like them if I had some pissed off woman kneeling outside the tub nagging at me the entire time.

Not too long ago, I read this quote: "the difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude." And if I remind myself of that, buckling them into their car seats, errands, hell, even bathtime is an adventure. I'm much too young for acting this damn old, after all. The rest of my life I can be grumpy and haggard. But not while my kids are still filled with joy. I don't want to rob them of that during this tiny window of time called "childhood" where happiness is the norm, not the exception.

Monday, April 20, 2015

mom stress

It's easy to forget how much our kids can understand. They may be small, but they certainly aren't dumb. I say things mostly to myself, to verbalize it and vent, and Brandon hears me and knows what I'm saying. I remembered this the other day when he said, "I'm so stressed out." That is one of those things I say to myself aloud. "How can you be stressed?" you ask. "You don't even have a job!" Let me tell you: this stress is mom stress. It might be worse than your work stress. No, each situation doesn't last as long, but it is still very real.

Like when I'm buckling Holden into his car seat and Brandon is in the parking lot and sees a leaf he decides to chase. Or when I go check on Holden and see a blanket over his face and quickly check to make sure he's breathing. Or when one of them gets hurt and it's too late for me to prevent it. Basically, seeing my child in danger of any sort is the greatest stress I've ever had. And yes, it is a moment, not a week or a month, but it is intense.

Yesterday I went swimsuit shopping and brought Brandon with me because he would have cried for dad if I had left him. That was a mistake. He was crawling under the dressing room door, trying to run away while I was trying to find this elusive not-skimpy but also not-middle-aged-mom swimsuit that would cover all my mommish parts (so of course I had to go with the middle-aged-mom swimsuit because there is no in between - oh, and Steve reminded me that I am a mom and I am middle-aged. Thanks, babe).

When we got back, in my discouragement (probably mostly about my age and body, but also a touch about Brandon's behavior), I said that Brandon wasn't a good boy at all today, but at least one thing got accomplished: he made me decide that we weren't going to have any more kids. I was venting aloud to myself mostly, maybe a little to Steve. But Brandon ran to the living room and laid on the couch, looking depressed.

After the dust had settled, I went over to Brandon, gave him a hug, and told him I said some mean things because I was upset but that I love him and I know kids don't usually want to do what the adult needs to do.

My kids will certainly never grow up thinking their mom is perfect, but hopefully they see that I'm trying to be someone better. When I'm not too stressed out to be rational, that is.

Friday, April 17, 2015

April sun

 It feels like summer! I already have a sunburn/Holly tan!
Holden was diagnosed with a double ear infection and put on Amoxicillin. Then he broke out in these red bumps that cover his body. I thought he was allergic to Amoxicillin like his mama, but the doctor said this is the virus interacting with the medication and it should go away. It's still here and getting worse so I'm hoping it's gone tomorrow.
 Got him some shades so he can be like the cool kids.
 Want to give your kids endless fun without leaving the house? Fill a sink up with water for them.
 I love the color of my house next to our tree's blossoms
 What's going on up there?
 I also love these dangly things. I have no clue what they're called, but I have a suspicion googling "dangly things" will not yield my answer.
 Watch out! This kid loves to play the iPad.
Holden half sneering, half smiling at me is fine by me: I'll take what I can get.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

walkin' tall

This kid took his first steps two weeks ago, and hasn't made much progress since. I blame it on the walker that he's been scooting around in for six months now. It gets him from here to there, sure, but doesn't teach him walking as much as thrusting his belly forward to propel it. He can't seem to break that habit yet. But yesterday, this happened:
  video
Then today I saw him standing on his own. We're almost to his much-more-independent phase. I think I'm ready for this. Some things get easier when they walk. And then, of course, some get harder. I have a feeling I will have to worry about this one in parking lots.

Friday, April 10, 2015

an old short story

What a crazy invention the internet is: it prevents old memories from dying. I found a link in an email folder to a short story I wrote six years ago. It didn't win, and I know why, but it was fun to re-read and reminisce.

If you're dead bored: scroll down to the seventh story.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

look to the stars

Astrology is probably a crock of shit, right? I mean, most likely. The premise is that their are twelve basic types of people in the world and their characteristics hinge on when they were born. Sounds a bit far-fetched to me. But even still, I find myself venturing to one of those websites every now and again, to try to make sense of people that way.

I am sure all of the characteristics used in these things could relate to anyone, but maybe once we realize it about ourselves, we allow it to be more, agreeing it is a part of us rather than trying to fight it off. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe. Once we know there is a reason for it, we allow it. And that reason can be stars, the way we were raised, whatever. I guess once you stop fighting what you didn't feel you should be you can just be.

I guess the other reason I get curious about these things is because my husband is the Virgoiest Virgo there ever was. I mean, someone must have studied him, then written down all that stuff about being analytical, reliable, and skeptical. I am a Pisces, but I never thought it described me very well. That is, until the last time I looked at it and realized it's mostly true. I thought I was more of a Leo when I was younger, but as time marches on and I have left jobs that didn't suit me and I have felt free to relax and be myself, I am realizing more and more that I am a Pisces.

Anyway, I looked it up again awhile ago because I realized that both of my boys are the same sign. And they act very opposite now, so I was curious as to what characteristics they could potentially have in common. One key word is independent, and although I've always found that in Holden, I didn't see much of that in Brandon. But tonight he asked me to leave his room rather than fall asleep with him and when I went up there to check on him, he was fast asleep: curled up in the corner all by himself. Damn it. I liked feeling needed.

Some of their other words are generous, optimistic, enthusiastic, courageous, moody, short-tempered, self-involved, impulsive, impatient. (Wait, am I an Aries too? Astrology must be a crock of shit because I'm all of these signs!) I definitely see much of those in both of them, in different ways while manifestations still of the same quality. It's funny how you can be so similar yet so different at the same time. I guess that is astrology in a nutshell, if you think about it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Aspiring yogi

On May 15, 2014 I first tried yoga. I know because I wrote this Facebook status:
"Holy shit! How do people do yoga? It looks so easy but it certainly isn't. I'd rather run 4 miles."

I got through 12 minutes of my 45 minute DVD. That was all I could do. I was falling all over the place, sweating profusely, and confused. But believe it or not, I did it again. Every Wednesday, I made myself try the same DVD. I got over my first hurdle: I got all the way through it. And not well, mind you: I was still falling all over the place, stopping to rest when I shouldn't, taking the easy modifications and making them easier.

But pretty soon, I found myself wanting to do yoga more than once a week. I liked flexing and using all of those muscles I have that otherwise lie dormant. I liked the feeling of strength I got from all the Chaturangas. I was running too, but running did something different for me than yoga: running was my sweat therapy, but with yoga, I found myself folding deeper into stretches and being able to move in new ways and that transformation was addicting. I got a couple more DVDs and started adding those in: doing each DVD once a week so bringing my yoga up to three to five times a week.

Yoga is the practice of constantly losing and regaining your balance, and I find that parallel to my daily life beautiful. People always talk about the mind benefits of yoga, and although I have never done any meditating or humming of any sort, I have noticed that yoga clears my irrational emotions, centers me. If I am in a bad mood, I know yoga will calm me down, chill me out, and balance me again. Once Steve and I were in the middle of a fight and I went to the basement, did a yoga DVD, then came back upstairs and apologized.

Then today, about a year after that first day I tried and hated yoga, I was able to lift my body off the ground using only my hands. This is as close to levitating as I get, people, and damn right I felt like a Superhero. I think yoga is here to stay.

When you create balance through a practice like yoga or any kind of discipline—whether it’s running or knitting—whatever it is that puts you in the zone where you’re truly focused, that’s where you can let that wandering stuff go so that you can truly be present and listen to things instead of listening to that negative self-talk.
~ Jes Rosenberg

Monday, April 6, 2015

holiday weekend

Brandon had a pretty action-packed weekend with dad having the day off on Friday, then his birthday on Saturday and Easter on Sunday. He got some pretty cool presents, his favorite being a toy leaf blower from his uncle Chad.

Today I gave both boys haircuts and baths, mopped the floors, did yoga and kept the kitchen clean. I think this must be the most productive day as a stay-at-home mom ever.
I really have nothing new to report, nothing in particular to write about, I just wanted a platform to boast about how cute my boys are with these pictures.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

begins with a single step

When Brandon was smaller, I used to wonder how parents ever stopped marveling at each new thing they learn. Every milestone of his I wanted to write down, so I could remember it when he was older and I was more weathered, less amused. I praise him for the most mundane things, because it is the first time I knew he could do it.

But after the first time doing anything, accomplishments are no longer feats and become ordinary. The first time Brandon pooped in the toilet I FaceTimed Steve, danced and whooped and loaded Brandon up on reward sweets. But then the first time I found poop on the floor, I admonished Brandon repeatedly like a bad dog, now expecting him to always poop in the toilet like he did the first time, but without the jubilation. Things like this lose their luster quickly, I suppose. I used to be so impressed by Brandon's speech, asking him to recite some of his best things for people like he was some sort of circus monkey. Now if ever there was something he couldn't say, I'd probably be disappointed in him for what he doesn't know, rather than proud of him for what he does.

Today, I watched Brandon playing soccer with his friend and I realized we are past babyhood and even past toddlerhood into boyhood. Playing soccer is something he could be doing at three and still at seventeen. He is growing into a man and it is frightening but exciting all at the same time. There will be many more milestones still. And yes, the ones he has already passed have turned ordinary and lost their luster, but the exciting thing about people is that they are always growing and changing.

And just when I thought it wasn't possible to mourn the loss of your children's babyness anymore, Holden took his first step on his own tonight. Right in the front yard, barefoot in our grass. I am looking forward to boyhood with my little guys. And I might sniffle a little at how fast their infancy fled from them, but not because I don't want them to grow up, but rather because I'm so impressed at how well they're doing it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

party animals (pun intended)

This was my first birthday party pulling off without one of my fellow Pelesky ladies here to root me on, give me ideas, and help me set up. Last year my mom was here for Brandon's second birthday right after Holden's birth, and the year before Amber was still in Omaha and was a part of Brandon's first. And yes, I admit that those women were the masterminds behind the details and execution of everything. So I was a bit leery to attempt a party on my own. Here's how it turned out:

I might care more about the stationery than any other detail of the party. I definitely do. My sister says it best: the invitation sets the mood of the party. Cheap crappy invites? Cheap crappy party. I found these beauties on Etsy where I buy most all of my paper goods.
I was going to do a whole Pinterest board for animal theme kid party ideas, but that seemed too daunting. I pinned one idea and then gave up. The one idea I pinned said their local party store sold animal print balloons. Well so did ours. Check check!
I have been cooking a bit this year, but I'm not ready to attempt a feat as large as the focal point of the biggest day of a child's year (aka, the cake at their party). So luckily this world of convenience we live in has a solution for parents like me. We have a fantastic cake shop here in Omaha that makes everything. These cupcakes were so adorable! And yes, there was some animal discrimination as no kids seemed to want a hippo.
Party bags are a problem for me. I don't like filling up bags with cheap crap, but I'm also not going to buy each kid a $10 Melissa and Doug animal board puzzle. So I did the next best thing and bought those Melissa & Doug reusable sticker scenes and gave one to each kid along with a packet of animal cookies and two animal figurines. Wah-lah! Melissa and Doug injected into the party on the cheap.
 
 OK, no more pictures of objects. Time for pictures of these beautiful boys already! 
 
A rare picture of the three of us
So crazy that people think they look so much alike...
Brandon got everything he asked for. One of these days, I need to make sure my boys don't turn out spoiled. But today was not that day.
Hmm...do I have a little more? I shouldn't... but what the hell? It's my birthday party! I'm so bad.
 We got Holden a rocking horse. I love these old-fashioned toys. Had to make the picture look old-timey for effect, of course.
While I didn't have a Pelesky lady by my side today, I did have my secret weapon, Anni. She has been to all three parties and has helped with every one. She is amazing and my boys adore her. Thanks Anni! And thanks to everyone who showed up and added to the merriment. Brandon had the time of his life and Holden fell asleep at six tonight, so that means success!

Friday, March 27, 2015

hardest job ever

It's been a year of being a stay-at-home mom and here's what I've learned: that this is the hardest job I've had. When I used to review resumes, I would laugh at people who would list their stay-at-home mom job as "CEO of family" or "Domestic Engineer" to try to spruce up the title. And while yes, that is still ridiculous, if I ever recruit again, I know whatever you give a previous stay-at-home parent to do, it won't be as hard as what they've already done. Because here's what being a stay-at-home parent entails that you will never find on any job description:

No breaks
Ever. There is no water cooler breaks, no lunch breaks. Your lunch is spent shoveling food into the mouths of little ones, while grabbing a bite yourself here and there. It usually takes me approximately three hours to finish my salad. And bathroom breaks? Nope. Of course you will go to the bathroom, but that will be while holding the infant on your lap or putting him in his walker with you in the bathroom. You can't leave those little guys alone for a second unless you want them to climb and fall down the stairs.

Long hours (all hours)
Think of the job you had that you had to work at the most: late nights, weekends, emails from home. That is nothing compared to be a stay-at-home parent. The hours are endless. Even when you fall asleep at the end of the day, you don't know how soon you will be woken up again and be back at it. There are no alarms, because that would be a luxury: being able to know ahead of time how much sleep you're going to get.

No team in I
At a job, you have resources. You are part of a team that makes the giant machine run. You are a cog in the wheel, not the entire (split-open) wheel. At home, you don't have anyone to be your "second pair of eyes" or someone to "bounce ideas off of" (can you imagine? "Would it be terrible if I left them in the swings so I could take a shower? No, that's a bad idea. Isn't it?") There is no one who will cover for you, to help you out in a jam. You are an island. You are alone in this. Yikes.

Low pay
Biggest understatement ever. No pay, and you are bleeding money keeping the children fed, clothed and sheltered. That also means no raises, and not even a performance review when you finally get to hear a much needed "good job." And because you don't work a paying job, you get the added bonus of people asking you what you do and having to lower your eyes and say, "I stay home" like you're some sort of unemployed loser. I don't know if they think it, but I think they think I have no skills, no ambitions or dreams, when that is the farthest thing from the truth.

No camaraderie
I think this one is the worst for me. I crave conversation that isn't about Caillou or finishing two more bites. I want to talk about pointless TV or make fun of someone's tie behind his back. I am writing to remind myself I know English - the full version, not just the same twenty nags you use on children. Having a friend or at least another breathing adult at work is a very under-appreciated perk.

Ever-expanding job duties
If you drop your child off at a daycare, you're paying someone to take care of your child. So you would think being a full-time caretaker would be taking care of your children. Which it is...And so much more. You also have to keep the house clean and cook meals. You need to do the shopping. You need to do all of this with the kids around - crying and/or getting into things. Or you can save it for when they are asleep and waste the tiny sliver of alone time you have to begin with. Your choice (there is no right one).

Loss of identity
I think the other hardest thing for me to adjust to is being a mom above all else. It feels sometimes like I traded in who I was to be a parent, and in many ways, I did. So I stay up late after the kids go to bed to remind myself of my non-mom self. I run, I read, I write, I do puzzles and take baths. I try to cram all of my hobbies into evenings so I can keep a sliver of the old me alive. Because once 7:30 rolls around (or 6:45 or 5:17, or 4:26 or...) you once again sacrifice yourself for your children. Because that's what parents do: they morph from who they were into what their children need. And stay-at-home parents do it all day every day.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Holden's first year

March 24 2014 marked the scariest day of my life to date. I didn't know if your dad and I would get to meet you. When I woke up, the first thing I heard was your cry and I was overjoyed. Here we are a year later, and you have grown from that tiny crying infant to a large one. Of course you don't cry all the time, but you are a very vocal little man. You like to squeal and screech and babble. Your dad and I call you a pterodactyl. You say "mama" at bedtime and "dada" when you wake up. You started waving and saying "hi" and "bye" two weeks ago. You dance and clap when Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" comes on. And Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" - kids go crazy for that song, it seems.

You are a physically active little guy. You don't like to be confined - you are a roamer. You have been scooting around the kitchen in your walker for months now, and you walk when holding onto people's hands. You started pulling yourself up on furniture in January. You will pull yourself up on just about anything - a door, the bathtub, my leg. You fall a lot, but have learned to do it without hurting yourself (mostly). You are adventurous, wild and fearless. You try to climb the stairs alone, but I come behind you to save you from yourself, which seems to bother you. You have been trying to be independent as long as I can remember.

You love to swing and you laugh loudly when I blow bubbles. You have the most infectious laugh. It is sinister and cacklish in the cutest way. You cut your teeth early and seem to be getting your molars in now. You try to gag yourself in your high chair, and I'm hoping that's just because your gums are bothering you, not because you're bulimic. You like to play at the train table - you throw things off the side. You are a destroyer. It works out well because Brandon is a builder and he will build towers of blocks for you to knock down and then you will both laugh.

People comment on your beautiful large brown eyes. Your eyelashes are growing long. You have the sweetest little dimple. Your hair is still fine and a sandy brown. You were chubby for a long time, people called you a linebacker up until a couple months ago, but you have started to thin out. Now you are tall, but not rolly. You have a voracious appetite and already eat as much as Brandon at mealtimes. You refuse to wear accessories and even pull off your socks.

You seem like an athlete already. Earlier this week you started dunking toys into the basketball net in the bathtub on a loop. Your favorite book has two nursery rhymes in it and you look at me intently, waiting for each word. If I try to read you something else, you bat it down and hang over the chair looking at the books, waiting for me to pick up the right one. You love to shake your head "no." You like "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" and "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," but aren't nearly as into TV as your brother was/is.

You are my big little guy. It seems like you haven't been a baby for so much of your babyhood because you were always moving, always trying to be bigger than you are. You were never much of a cuddler, but I've learned you show your affection by making me laugh. Sometimes I look at you and can already see you as an adolescent and I realize it is going to go fast - you will shoot up quickly and one day I will read this to remind myself of who you were when you were smaller. You are my fiery, wild independent little baby; even if you're not a baby in any way but your age.

Monday, March 23, 2015

backyard hobbies

The weather has turned warm here and we are spending as much time outdoors as possible.
 
Brandon is still dedicated to his garden.
 
Holden is adopting some of Brandon's OCD behavior. 
Sidewalk chalk is always on the agenda.
Brandon thinks he can climb trees. Luckily, it looks like I have a few more years.
Just fifteen years until he can drive legally. These kids don't walk from one stage to the next, they jump.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

not some lark

We have entered the stage of parenting where things aren't so easy anymore. I mean, no part of parenting is easy, I'm sure, but when they are babies you keep them alive, but once they get older, you think about actions, consequences, and how it all shapes their character.

My older brother remembers my dad telling him that it mattered more to dad that his children had good character than a good education. And my dad is an educator. I know what he is saying and I agree. Of course I'd like for my children to be brilliant and smart, but what matters more to me is that they're kind and humble.

Brandon has started talking back, asking for things in the store, saying he's the boss. I know every reaction I have is molding him. I have started saying "no," withholding rewards if he doesn't earn them. It is much harder than the first couple years when I spoiled him and constantly said "yes." I was a fun mom - an older babysitter, really. I took him to the park and bought him toys and played whatever he asked. Now he is learning structure, rules, and consequences and it isn't fun being the bad guy. Not at all. I much preferred being the hip older babysitter.

It will take him years to appreciate, possibly decades. But one day he will appreciate that I was a hard ass so that he could grow into a fine young man. I tell him now that I am the boss because I know what's best and if kids ran the world there would be countless cavities, no haircuts, and broken bones every week. Kids run on impulses, while adults live cautiously aware of consequences.

I am teaching him self-control and contentment by not buying him everything he asks for, I'm teaching him obedience and patience and all those virtues that are not inherent in children.

One day, he will appreciate it. It probably won't be until he has children of his own and he realizes that parents aren't hard asses because they get pleasure out of it, they are only hard asses because they want the best for their kids. He will learn that it rips him apart to watch his child cry incessantly, knowing he can stop it instantly if he just caves in. But he won't cave in, because he will have learned what I have: that people with good character trump the rest.

Raising people is not some lark. It's serious work with serious repercussions. It's air-traffic control. You can't step out for a minute: you can barely pause to scratch your ankle. 
~ Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan