Category Archives: parenthood

Guilt Free Saturday-What Not to Wear

Welcome to Guilt Free Saturday:The Long Weekend Edition.
Or, perhaps I should call this the “What Not to Wear” edition.

Are you familiar with “What Not to Wear”? If not, you are missing out. Here is a short synopsis: Stacey and Clinton work makeover magic in one week with a $5000 shopping spree on a fashion disaster that has been nominated by friends and family. The nominee has to surrender all their clothes and shop in NYC by Stacey and Clinton’s rules.

This past Saturday, I could totally hear Stacey and Clinton yelling at me.

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See, they give each nominee a set of rules that assists that person in finding clothes that are practical, comfortable, fashionable, and figure-flattering. Most of these rules change to fit the nominee, except for one: when you leave the house, WEAR REAL CLOTHES. No pajamas. Nothing you would wear to paint the house or to work out at the gym.

Now, I am hardly a diva. Or even high maintenance. To be honest, I rarely do normal things like comb my hair (I wish I was joking, but hey, I have curly hair. Combing it sometimes is a bad scene.) However, I always wear real clothes when I go out. Oh, and shower. It is part of my self-care. It is part of my, “Even though I am a mom I can still look young and cute,” needs.

But…

This Saturday, I majorly broke that rule.

I was tired. My daughter is on this new kick up waking up at 5:45 AM and not going back to sleep. We had to do a major shopping trip at Wal-Mart. I was comfy. I was like, you know what, SORRY Stacey and Clinton, I am about to become a mom stereotype. Out I went, in my electric green fleece pants and hooded sweatshirt and snow boots. Unwashed hair in a ponytail.

I did not feel one bit guilty. Or as if I was “letting myself go,” as my mother (who, by the way, has NEVER left the house in pajamas in her entire life. Or sweatpants.) would say. It’s Saturday. I dress for work every day of the week. I’m not a person you have to worry about showing up for a wedding in jeans. I just needed a day off.

Emboldened by my success in non-real clothes wearing, I decided to push the envelope. After we went shopping, I took my daughter to McDonalds’, to the giant Play Place that is five minutes from our house. Where, I would like to say, I was NOT the only mom not wearing real clothes AND some dude hit on me and was like, “I used to be a police officer!” (Ummm, that’s nice. You obviously didn’t do a ring check, dude.)

Eat that, Stacey and Clinton. Even in my pajamas in public, I still got it.

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Adventures in Toddlerland:Epic Mom Fail

Over the Blizzard Weekend, we made the decision to start potty-training. We had purchased the potty, and since we had nothing else to do, it was all hey, why not?

We aren’t using any special method, or formula, or book. We are using the old “keep sitting them on the potty at regular intervals and act like its a big deal if they pee,” method. Also, my daughter is a little young, so I also don’t want to stress her out. I have all these Freudian nightmares in the back of my mind. But I digress.

It has been going pretty well. We camp out on the potty. We often pee. We use the iPad to relax and entertain ourselves. I think I have seen every cat video on YouTube. This one is particularly effective, as it shows a cat USING the potty! When there is success, we clap, cheer, high five. As my daughter says now, when she looks into the potty, “Proud!”

However, I am always one to push the envelope. She wasn’t asking to use the potty, and that is where success really lies in this whole endeavor. So I think to myself, maybe I can sweeten the deal. Who doesn’t like an incentive? Toddlers love incentives! All the books say so. And I had a bag of Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips. A chocolate chip is the perfect size for a toddler!

(Just a side note-I don’t really do incentives. I will probably go into why in detail another time. The short story is, you should do what is right just because. But peeing isn’t a moral or behavior issue. So I wavered.)

So she pees in the potty. And I tell her, “You pee peed in the potty! Mommy so proud! When you go pee pee in the potty, you get CHOCOLATE!” I hand her the chocolate chip.

Keep in mind my child eats a 90% Mom Food Nazi health food diet. When she asks for “cake” she means a salt free organic rice cake.

She puts that little chip in her mouth. I swear, she heard a choir of angels so loud, I found them deafening. I think a little taste revolution took place on that tongue. “Mmmmmm!” she shrieks, “CHOCOLATE!”

She finishes eating it. “Mamma. More chocolate?” she takes my hand and leads me to the cabinet.
“No more chocolate. Only when you go pee pee. Go pee pee, get chocolate.”

MAMMA, MORE CHOCOLATE!

Guys, I was in serious trouble. This was totally not what I had in mind. As you can imagine, “No,” did not go well.

Ten minutes of crying later, all I could think of was, “Epic Mom Fail. Worst decision yet.”

And secretly, in the back of my head, “Demanding more high quality semisweet chocolate? THAT’S Mamma’s girl!”

Maybe we aren’t asking to use the potty yet, but Mamma’s still proud.

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Mom-cation

This post is coming to you in celebration of my spontaneous Mom-cation!
What is a Mom-cation, you ask?

A Mom-cation is an unexpected period of time when there are no immediate, pressing responsibilities competing for your attention, your child is otherwise occupied (mine is napping) and you are actually free to relax.

Generally, Mom-cations are unexpected. Today, I came home from work unusually early. Just in time to put my child down for a nap! I threw in a load of laundry. And I am now lying on my couch, watching some show about sausages on the Travel Channel and typing this. Oh, and eating caramel popcorn with dark chocolate, cashews, and almonds, which I totally recommend.

Mom-cations are, I believe, a necessity. For most of us, there is always something that MUST be done. A child to watch, a meal to cook, a meeting to attend, a client to see. Most exhaustingly, there is always someone to engage with. Those moments when not only do you not have to do anything, but you don’t have to interact with anyone, are precious, and few and far between.

I have a pre-plan in my head for my Mom-cations. Three, actually. In the winter, I do what I am doing now-lie on the couch, watch TV only I like, and fart around on my iPad. In the summer, I go outside and stay in range of my baby monitor (if my child is sleeping and home) and read. If I am not at home and am, say, in-between appointments, I go to a book store. With my pre-plans, I can relax, QUICK, for the 35 minutes I usually have.

I encourage you to plan for your Mom-cations. I am going to go enjoy the precious few minutes I have left!

Guilt Free Saturday- Television

If, like me, you are stuck in New England, you have noticed it is negative degrees outside, with no let up in sight.
What do you DO with your life if you are stuck in this sub-zero catastrophe?
You could take up ice fishing, or ice climbing, or perhaps ice skating.
Or you could be the parent of a toddler who is not quite ready for these advanced motor skills, and who stands still yelling, “Mamma! Stuck!” when you dress her in the appropriate amount of layers for said weather.

So you improvise. You go shopping at big box stores. You go to drive-thrus for donuts. You visit every friend and relative you know. You check out the PlayPlace at McDonalds and at the mall.

And it’s still cold.

And so you watch TV.

So. Much. TV.

The American Pediatrics Association urges no television time at all for children under the age of two.

If you had asked me, before I became a mom, whether I would let my child watch TV, I would probably have told you no. I grew up in a very TV restricted environment, and I believe, despite the huge stink I put up as a child, that I am better for it. I am rarely bored and almost always able to figure out a way to pass the time.

But now, as an adult, I watch a lot of TV. Bad TV. Rot-your-brain type TV. It’s like my ongoing adolescent rebellion.
But not with my child. And so I digress.

When it was above 10 degrees outside, we played outside all afternoon, both on the weekends and when I got home from work. TV was not the first choice. Or even the back up. But now, with a stuffy nose and full-out cold every two weeks for both my child and her parents making up most of our winter thus far, sleepless nights from said colds and the eruption of an entire mouthful of teeth, and a heavy work schedule, my brain, for one, is mush. My energy is down.

But you know whose energy is never down? The gang from Yo Gabba Gabba. They are always ready to jump, shake, and shimmy.
And when I feel blah from the weather, and my full-time job, and the fiscal cliff, you know who is always, always cheerful? Elmo.

When I say “watch TV” I should clarify: we watch exactly three things here: Elmo DVDs, DVR/On-demand episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba, and YouTube Videos of cats. I always wondered who actually watched videos of things like “cats playing piano” on YouTube. Now I know. My child DELIGHTS in cat videos.

In fact, here is our favorite:
The Mean Kitty Song

This media diet eliminates the two things about TV that are, perhaps, the worst for kids: commercials, and violence.

But it doesn’t eliminate the #1 reason that kids shouldn’t watch TV- when you watch TV, you aren’t interacting with your child. They are watching a picture.
And the guilt sets in.

I am using this guilt to motivate me to use TV as an activity we do together, as opposed to a baby-sitter.

Today, for example, when we were watching the Yo Gabba Gabba episode about dress-up, my daughter ran to get her own “party hat” (they wear hats to dress up). So I ran and got my own party hat. We spent several minutes swapping hats, and trying on each other’s hats. Then we danced. (In Gabba Land, it is time to dance fairly often).

Am I saying I never turn on Elmo so I can cook dinner or go throw in a load of laundry or eat dinner with my husband? No. I totally do that. And I absolutely admire people who don’t. I do know real people who allow their children no screen time at all, ever. And I am in awe of those parents. Did my daughter rip my iPhone out of my hand yesterday because I was spending time texting while I thought she was occupied, watching TV? Yes. Did I put them phone down and play with her after she did that? Yes. Lesson learned that time.

If TV can get us through this winter, and teach my child to say “Mamma, party hat! Awesome!” then I totally think its worth it.
Guilt, be gone! ‘Cause now it’s time to DANCE!

Comfort with Chaos

What is your comfort with chaos?

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Having a toddler makes me ask this question to myself each and every day. How much should she “experiment.” How much direction should I give? And, most importantly, how much FUN can we have?

At this point in my 18 month long crash course in parenthood, I have finally come to a very important conclusion: you can do anything-literally anything-with your child if you are not set on a specific outcome.

This was not an easy lesson for me. I am a control freak. I also like to GET IT DONE. I have had many long, frustrating days on this journey where nothing went as I wanted it to.
And I have an easygoing kid, people. Even when she was an infant she just ate, slept, and pooped.

At the end of yet another frustrating day, I finally figured out that I wasn’t having any fun. And if I wasn’t, my child wasn’t going to either.

I had to give up control. And, at the same time, take back control.

I have decided parenting is the intersection between what is good for me and what is best for my child. For example, I don’t believe everything we do should be about her. Nor should it all be about me. But I have 31 years of living behind me, and I felt sure there were some things I could show her that she would like, and we could do them together.

Shockingly, there is!
Exhibit A:

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We really enjoy cooking together.
But I had to let go of my process to make it a success.

I had to find some comfort in the chaos of cooking with someone who, at any moment, could take the entire thing we were working on and either: 1) eat it 2) dump it on the floor-on purpose or 3) get bored and make me stop. Also, she is super mobile, curious, and quick, so I have to make sure nothing around her is 1) hot (either as in the opposite of cold or too spicy, though she does like things with a zip!) 2) sharp 3) breakable or 4) Inedible (like an open bottle of vanilla extract or a bowl of raw eggs).
Several unfortunate mishaps (none serious, thank god) and many messes later, I have finally come up with a cooking process that works for US.

Today we made bacon cheddar biscuits. Which, I am sorry to say, were ok, but not awesome. But we had a blast. I didn’t flinch when she ate a spoonful of raw flour. Or took the dough and started spooning it into her own mixing bowl. Or offered a lump to the cat.

And through including her, I learned that my child can COUNT! I was spooning in tablespoons of buttermilk, going, “1…2….3…4…”and I paused to adjust my grip on the bottle and I hear her little voice go, “Five!”

I almost dumped the entire bottle on the floor.
I squealed “Yes! Five!” and she responded with, “SixSevenEightNineTen!”

If I had not let go, and learned to do things with my little love, and kept only cooking when she was asleep, this moment never would have happened.

So, accept that anything can happen-and you never know what will.
Now, who is going to help me clean my kitchen?

Guilt Free Saturday: Anything Goes

It’s Saturday, before noon! In an amazing twist of fate, my child slept through the entire night last night! This is especially amazing because she has a cold!

Naturally, she was up at 6 AM, ready to go.

A quick aside-I am going to save these posts for when she is a teenager and sleeps till noon and I am all bent out of shape. It will remind me to lighten up and go back to bed and be grateful she can use a toilet.

We are now having a “nice nappy” (that’s the vernacular around here) but whoa. Did we ever have a morning.

Before 7 AM, in the 30 seconds it took me to grab some coffee, my daughter managed to brush her hair with the toilet brush. Thank god she also currently has a hand washing fascination.
We played coloring.
Then, she demanded hummus, crackers, and olives for breakfast. She consumed about 3 bites, then said she was done.
Then, we settled for an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.
We did laundry. We chased the cat.
Then, we needed breakfast for real. I made turkey sausages and ketchup. And juice. She ate about 1 sausage and about 2 tablespoons of ketchup with a spoon. Mmmmm. Then proceeded to drink her juice, take the straw out of the juice box, and drink the juice directly from the little hole, without the straw.
This is messy.
Then, we looked at Mamma and said, ” Poopoo.”
Yes! She knows when she poops!
We then went to take a shower and clean up the poop. This involves getting in and out of the shower 18 times (her) while attempting to, you know, shower, (me) and steam the room up to unclog her faucet nose.
My bathroom looks like the changing room at a water park. For reals.
But was that enough water? No.
In a genius move, a few weeks ago, I took the suggestion to do dishes with my child. Now, that is all she wants to do. All the time. To point where after the shower, she tried to move the bench I let her stand on all by herself, while screaming “Mamma! stuck! Heavy! Dishes!”
I HATE doing dishes. She is obviously not related to me.
So, we did dishes.
After yet more water had been strewn about, I finally got her dressed, and we watched YouTube puppy and kitty videos. She began to randomly cry. This is code for “Holy God I need a nap.”
And now, she sleeps.
Whew.
I’m tired.
And I am glad we made all these messes. We stick to such a brutal (for everyone) schedule during the week, with Mamma and Daddy both working full time, that on weekends, I like to do anything goes. Like, oh! I forgot to mention how she draped me in a few yards of dental floss, stepped back to admire her work, and deemed it, “Pretty.”
It reminds me that childhood IS fun-and parenthood-CAN be fun. It can stimulate the imagination. It can help re-frame household objects. I remember my job goes beyond saying no, teaching life skills, and giving, giving, giving. That my little person wants to give back- through sharing, through “helping” with dishes and laundry, through feeding Mamma a sausage she so thoughtfully dipped in spilled grape juice. By making me prettier with dental floss.
So lighten up, and play a lot. Remember, in parenting, that as long as it works for you and your child, anything goes.

Adventures in Toddler Land, Part 1-Waste not-Waste A Lot

I am child of the eighties. Reduce, reuse, recycle were the themes I grew up with. I am hardly a militant conservationist, but I do most of the day-to-day things you are advised to do to save the earth, like turn off lights, drive a fuel efficient car, turn the heat down, etc.
Then, my baby became a toddler.
Or, as I like to think of it, The Era of Waste. When I see what, and how much, I waste in the day-to-day of living life with my toddler, I feel immense guilt. I cringe. I have adopted little strategies to reduce this waste. But yet, the following things remain true:
1. The best way to brush teeth is to allow her to hold a second toothbrush under a running faucet.
2. A nice, full bath relaxes her at the end of the day.
3. Food served on a plate always-ALWAYS-ends up on the floor when I encourage independent eating (aka mom steps back and eats her own dinner and ceases to physically hold the plate down).
4. Juice is dumped/poured/squeezed everywhere.

Wasting food bothers me the most. Wasted food is a pet peeve of mine, in general. I will eat leftovers whether I like them or not. I will eat the ends of bread, the crumbs at the end of the chip bag, and the last swig of milk. I make chicken stock from my roast chickens. I can be so extreme, in some ways, that my husband jokes I act like we are living during the depression.

Now, I can find my way home, like Hansel and Gretel, due to the trail of Goldfish crackers that we leave wherever we go. I give her very small portions, but there is always some leftover. Plus, she makes almost daily floor-dumping offerings to the cat, despite my explaining that kitty thinks blueberries are yucky.
*sigh*
I keep telling myself that this a phase. But until it ends, you’ll find me if you follow the trail of crumbs, leading to the endless sound of running water.