Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh....Driving to Preschool. How it Sucks.

When do kids fully understand The Quiet Game and sincerely want to win? I want my children at that point, ASAP.

I have been spending a lot of time alone with the boys and honestly their incessant conversation and questions are about to drive me over the edge. I do admit that I prefer their chatter to their fighting or tears, but my children are incapable of keeping a thought to themselves these days. We have six 40 minute trips in the car per week for preschool and these are the most brutal.

Things usually start with just one or two questions from Aiden about something I say to myself in a mildly frustrated flurry of trying to get us all out the door. I should know by now that I should never, ever say anything to myself because I will be asked to explain it. It will not make sense to Aiden. I will have a series of why questions thrown at me that will make me confused about what the hell I was saying to begin with....was I really talking to myself about the location of the charger for my phone in relation to the bathroom?

For being two years old Cole can talk almost as well as Aiden. Unfortunately he doesn't have a lot of original thoughts so he finds most of his amusement in the car by repeating portions of Aiden's comments and questions. This not only often doesn't make sense, but it infuriates Aiden....much to Cole's delight. Cole has perfected his timing so that he can start speaking a mere second or two after Aiden has begun his next comment or question, confusing and frustrating Aiden so much that Aiden loses his train of thought. Cole really is pretty smart about it and reminds me to a frightening degree of my brother. If you know him, you understand my fear...really funny but often teetering on or fully is annoying.

Frequent fights will begin not only due to the over talking. Mere observations can turn into vicious verbal wars. Aiden might see a dump truck (a highlight of any car ride) and simply say, "I see a dump truck." Cole will quickly say, "you didn't see a dump truck." And it begins.

Periodically they get confused about which side they are fighting for and are forced to switch sides or join together to fight one another while saying the exact same thing. I no longer interfere with these discussions/arguments because fighting crazy never works, it's a lesson I feel they are going to have to learn on their own.

I am extremely skilled at locating ambulances, police cars, any and all types of machinery and anything else with a light on top of the vehicle. These are my best bet for a moment of silence. I never, ever should point out anything obscure like someone with a flat tire or I will never be able to talk about anything else for the duration of the ride. It will take quite a while to satisfy every angle of that problem for Aiden.

Turning on "kid" music should only be done once things have already gotten to a negative point. Any music turned on during peaceful times will promptly be the source of frustration. Requests for songs will range from the reasonable, "Can we listen to Ants Go Marching?," to the indecipherable, "I want The Hanging Song!" (The Hanging Song does not exist in my world, though when asked Cole will sing a few bars of the song...usually the title he made up set to a tune he created. My kids do not have a future in music making.)

I readily admit to giving them all sorts of "treats" in order to improve the chances of a peaceful drive. Chocolate milk, chewing gum and trail mix are currently on the rotation for the highest success rates of quiet. None of these choices are positive for their sugar intake or the appearance of my vehicle...something I more or less gave up on after some musical baby toys leaked battery gunk down the back of the driver's seat. I have resigned to driving a vehicle with Cars stickers stuck to the back windows for the next 5 years, at least.

At the end of May I will no longer have to make the 40 minute drive to preschool in Austin as they are registered for school 10 minutes from our house for the fall. I wonder what kind of argument or confusing discussions we can cram in during that time? Maybe by they they will be up for playing The Quiet Game and I can get 20 minutes of silence? Oh....except I bet that new baby will want to cry, she'll only get 10 minutes though.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friends for the Stay at Home Mom

After Aiden was born, it was an easy decision for me to decide to stay home. Like a lot of things in my life, I just sort of assumed that was what I would do. My husband supported this so it worked. I never really thought about what that would be like. I had moved to Austin 5 years earlier, had friends and felt comfortable with life, why would that change? Oh boy, how good I was at underestimating the impact that baby would have on my life.

After being traumatized by the presence of another human in my life, it now turned out that I didn't really have many friends. I had worked for a company with several women I really liked, but unfortunately I was often the boss and this did not bode well for healthy, outside of work relationships. Most of my friends were wives of my husband's friends....great women but I didn't usually do things alone with these women and unfortunately they weren't reproducing. Turns out people that don't have kids don't really want to sit around and talk about sleep and poop...I wouldn't have wanted to hang out with me either. Besides, none of them were willing to quit their jobs with me so we could hang out. So selfish of them.

I have always had a lot of friends in life. I am pretty outgoing, not usually intimidated or nervous with new people....friendship making had always been easy. I had the advantage of living in the same town, going to school with the same people until I was 18, and this gave me my best friends in the whole world that I can't envision my life without. I went to college where I quickly joined a sorority and instantly had 100 women that were my sisters! (Ok, I didn't love everyone, but I did love a lot of them and was so grateful to have that network for friendship building.) Post college wasn't as easy, but work, boyfriends, and trips back to my hometown fulfilled my need for girlfriends.

So after the baby I was lost. I wasn't exactly feeling my best and there isn't really a formal meet and greet for new moms so if you don't have something (turns out I did not) that connects you to other mom friends, life is lonely. So what do I do? Well, I start stalking other Moms. Yep, stalking.

I lived in a cute, young neighborhood. I had a dog. I went walking and found other Moms that were out walking or running with their small bundles of joy. I followed one girl for about a week through the dog park before I just stopped her and basically asked her out. Lunch, nothing overly weird like cocktails but it did feel like dating. I didn't care if it was akward, she seemed normal and she was going to be my friend. Alex stalked for me as well. Any Moms walking by the house while he was working in the yard were forced to stand there while he went to get me so I could meet, question and then collect their info so I could call them. I made more mom friends near-by that I felt connected to and friendships grew. Once Aiden started preschool I met more Moms that I really liked. I lingered at drop-off and pick-up and soon playdates were scheduled. Other friends eventually had babies and being a stay at home Mom was feeling less isolating. And then.....

About nine months ago Alex and I decided that we wanted to move. We loved our adorable home and neighborhood (particularly the neighbors) but with two little boys and an idea of a third, we were out-growing the house and the busy street on which we lived. We dreamed about a cul-de-sac lot with tons of playmates for the kids, and us. We envisioned a spacious home where we could invite people over for dinner or a birthday party and not have a pile up of people crammed in our mini-house, or have to ask everyone to whisper past our kids' 7 pm bedtime. I personally just wanted to be able to get up at night to pee and not be afraid of waking up a child due to the very close proximity of all bedrooms and the bathroom. I had learned how to contort my body so that my bladder didn't feel as ready to explode so I could avoid getting up. I did not want to have this skill. It was time to relocate.

Well, we successfully sold our house and found a house that we really liked. It was on a cul-de-sac, in a good school system, it had character and space. It had forest green carpeting and a glass bedroom door which read, "Silver Saddle Hotel and Bath House." Ok, it needed some work but we were still really excited. The only drawback....our new address was in Round Rock, which required us to drive by several cows, some buffalo and a donkey to reach our lovely new home.

Umm...who lives out here?

I have done several circles around the neighborhood with my two kids, my dog and my belly, doing my best to advertise that I am home and I want to mingle. Guess what, no one is home. Every Mom I have met in my new hood works. The post-5 pm scene is great, the weekends are fine, but Monday through Friday from 8 am until 5 pm the neighbors are gone. No one to hang out with me or rescue me. I still have all my friends from Austin and I still see people, but having someone nearby is just a million times easier. My vision of my kids playing with the neighbor children while the mom and I hung out and made margaritas (it did happen in my old hood) was crushed. Who am I going to make a margarita with if everyone is working? Now, my focus has shifted from stalking to trying to convince someone to quit their job. Turns out this is much more difficult than just trying to get someone to have lunch with you.

I know it will get better. Every new place takes some time to start to fit, but I am not an overly patient person. I would really enjoy a person down the street that wants to drop in for dinner or margaritas (in 12 weeks). It will probably help when the boys start going to school in Round Rock instead of their continued schooling in Austin. If not, we'll just have to move back and I'll rework that bladder control position so I can keep everyone sleeping.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Do Not Be Concerned, Turns Out I Love My Kids

So, I have been taking a few days off from writing anything to process a few things. I have recently had an influx of emails, comments on my FB status and casual mentionings to me about my feelings toward my children. No one has come out and asked if I really love them...well, my Mom did warn me that other people might be thinking that, due to my constant sarcasm regarding everything my children do and my capabilities of coping with them, maybe I don't really like them.

Also, several comments could have just been innocent but I skewed the words to say something like, "Leslie, you are funny, and I get what you are saying, but I love that my kids do that and have learned to appreciate and value them rather than bitch about the things they do. I'm a really good Mom, and you are an ungrateful and sucky Mom, poor Aiden, Cole, Indiana and unborn child." Like I said, they didn't write that but I'm prettty sure that was what I read.

I tend to worry a lot about other people's perception of me, which is really unfortunate for someone with my sense of humour and view on life. If you don't know me well, you need to know that I am sarcastic about a lot of things. Ok, I am sarcastic about almost everything. But, I am a good person, I truly care about other people, I have gratitude and extreme awareness of how fortunate I am...but I do have a very sarcastic, dry sense of humour and I think a lot of things are funny....even maybe when it isn't perceived that I should. This is tough to carry in the role of MOM. No one wants to hear that someone thinks that their kids suck or that they truly understand how child abuse happens or that they have no clue what they are doing because it is really, crazy hard to do this job well. Oh yeah, and judgement of one another in this role is rampant.

So, do I like my kids? Well, here's the truth people, sometimes I don't like them very much. That's right, sometimes I do not like them at all.

Here's the thing...that's ok. I always love them. They are my children, my amazing children. Unfortunately, that love does not dimish the frustration they bring into my life or the brutal process of raising them to be good people. I don't just love them, I actually feel it is my gift, my challenge, my privledge to make them into fully functional people that don't need me or their father for everything. I am to make them into people that feel it is their job to be good and do good in the world. No big deal, no wonder it makes me cranky sometimes.

A few years ago I was watching Oprah (pre-children, sick day....oh those were the days!) There was an author on the show who had written an article about how her husband was her first love and then her children. She was being attacked all over the place by a million moms that I felt were twisting this lady's words. Most of them were attempting to defend their own choices to view their life through their children's lives rather than focusing on their own.

I didn't even have kids, but I totally understood her. She had fallen deeply in love with her spouse and choosen to spend the rest of her life with him. She wanted him to be her partner, her companion through all of life's stages that were to come. She couldn't envision growing old without him. She could, however, envision her life without her children as a constant presence. She of course loved each child. She just viewed her role to be to love and support them, while not making them feel they were the center of anyone's world (amen to trying to fight rampant sense of entitlement) and someday they were going to be without her, functioning in the world and doing their own thing...while Mom went on growing old with Dad. I loved this lady.

After having children I relate even more to this woman. I do love my kids, but I feel overwhelmed by the task of doing a good job for them. I often feel alone in the task of raising them due to my husband's work schedule. (Yes, I am grateful for his job and no, I wouldn't rather him be lazy than a hard worker.) I did not choose my children. I was given them and they are their own people, filled with all sorts of challenges and complications that I have to help them work through. I didn't get to pick any of that, but it is a constant in my life now. I love it, but I don't always LOVE it.

I think it is ok for me to complain about them, while keeping gratitude heavy in my thoughts and words as well. I think it is probably best for all of us if I am selfish sometimes and choose myself over them, or occasionaly choose my husband over them. And I definitely think I am a good Mom, even if I periodically wish that I could lock them in the closet for just an hour so that I can sit down without someone asking me to fix them something, wipe something, explain something, or get something back for them....I'm a fantastic Mom because I only wish I could do it, I never do...yet.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Potty Talk

Oh the potty. Such a joy when they start using it, not so fun when they discuss it...all the time.

My kids might not be good sleepers and we might have more than our fair share of tantrums over the most ridiculous of events, but my kids can pee and poop in the potty with no problems. It is a gift. I have had zero effort put in to getting them to use the potty and both have been done by age 2 1/2 . I don't have good advice for anyone on how to make this happen. I claim no responsibility other than putting underwear on them and placing them on the toilet when they asked. It is great.

Unfortunately, with the recent transition of Cole from diapers, we have a new fascination in our house with "potty talk." His heightened focus on pee and poop, coupled with his big brother's giggles at the mention of the word poop, poopy, or toot has magnified their use of these and related words to a level that I find, well....really freaking annoying.

Cole takes an excessive amount of time to poop on the potty. Other children in his mother's day out class are actually wetting their pants while waiting for Cole to get off the freakishly small child potty in their classroom. We have been late (ok, even more late) to almost anything we are going to, due to Cole's need to sit forever, claiming to still be pooping. During these long trips to the restroom he most often attempts to demand my presence right next to the toilet so that he can talk to me about "the talking poo-poo." This is a long conversation about how the poo-poo wants to come out and take a bath in the water, needs to be coated in the magic sprinkle soap over his whole body and likes to play. It doesn't sound like much but this conversation can last a long time, is very repetitive and honestly gross.

I can ask what they would like for a snack and they will tell me "poopy snack." What are you doing? "Tooting." What is that adorable picture you just drew? "Poop." Seriously? What is wrong with you? As I type I am currently being shot with a "poop gun" by Cole. (Do not be alarmed, it is actually a foam, blue bat. No actual poop is being used. They have not gone so far with this fascination that they have learned to construct something that will actually fire feces...yet.)

We have entire arguments between Aiden and Cole about whether the other one is, or is not, a "poopy head." I try not to intervene because really the only thing I can think to say is that they both are in fact both "poopy heads" and I am gravely concerned for their future. Their suggestions for names for their baby sister on the way consist primarily of Poop, Garbage, and Kate (because that was Arthur's baby sister's name.) Believe it or not we are not actually considering any of these names, primarily because Poop Dadidakis just doesn't sound like a potentially shining future for a young lady.

Our neighbor recently asked if I would be willing to let her give Cole a language development test as part of her job. As she is giving the test to him he was doing really well, entering the 3 and sometimes 4 year old levels of language comprehension (this I do claim responsibility for because I feel it is more exciting to be the reason someone is excelling at language than basic bodily functions related to the toilet.) I do admit I was proud, perhaps even feeling a little smug, some might say. Then, he decided every answer was poop. Not feeling so awesome anymore. I know I shouldn't be embarrassed by these things because he's two, but I just don't enjoy the word poop being used to my 60 year old neighbor, she seems really classy and like she might not find that cute. His reputation and mine were ruined, Aiden's only slightly tarnished because he just giggled a little and moved on.

I have always known that having boys would probably mean an excessive amount of burping, farting and potty humour. I had predicted, however, this would be concentrated in the late elementary to junior high years, I was very wrong.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why Do You Pee Out of Your Bottom Mommy?

As my body becomes more and more distorted by the growing child in my belly, my boys are increasingly fascinated by how things work for me, the only woman in our house. The opportunities for questions to arise about my mysterious body are everywhere. The fact that I am rarely even allotted time to use the restroom without a gathering of 2 or 3 others (I do count my dog as an extra intruder on my time in the bathroom, it's just a little weird,) allows curiosity to abound, primarily in my four year old.

I do try to always be factual and to not appear to be flustered when answering questions about things like my body. I really want to strive for a very open relationship with my children so they feel they can talk to me about anything without judgement...well at least not any judgement to their face, I can't promise I'm not freaked to my friends behind their backs. I don't make up cute names for things and I don't avoid questions, with the exception of the millionth "why" in a series of unanswerable questions about why things are the way they are. I only have so much time and patience, I'm doing my best.

My boobs are frequently giggled about by my four year old, primarily because he likes the word boobs (which I admit is a little silly and I probably should have said the more clinical word, breast, when initially answering the what are these question). They are perceived to be significantly more silly since doubling in size with this pregnancy. (I was thinking they were significantly more attractive than my sagging tiny boobs, but what do I know.) A recent early morning attempt by me to pick up a toy off the floor resulted in Aiden's giggles and questions about why I wasn't wearing my boob protection. Bras are extremely strange to him, and I totally agree with him.

When we first told the boys that I was pregnant there were countless questions about how the baby got in there. I tried all sorts of ways to answer that question without bringing up the stork or good old fashion magic. Usually the mention of God's work will seal almost any discussion with Aiden, but every response was met with, "but HOW?" I finally explained that Daddy put something (good Lord, please don't ask what it was) inside Mommy and that connected with stuff inside Mommy and it grew into a baby, just like when we mix things together for making pancakes. Yeah, just like pancakes. Aiden accepted this answer, or just thought I was crazy and decided he should talk to someone else.

A recent trip to the restroom at Target spurred all sorts of questions. As I finished peeing, squatting over the toilet due to my disgust for public restrooms (this also allows Cole a great capability to put his head right next to the toilet and my bottom to stare at where the pee is coming from,) Aiden asked me why I peed out of my bottom? This is a legitimate question I suppose, given that all other members of our family have a visible object that that their pee comes out of, for me it probably does appear to just come out of my bottom. I told Aiden that Mommy has a vagina, which is a hole near near her bottom where the pee comes from. This was met with further big is the hole? I'm not sure, pretty small right now, I think, I hope. Does it touch my poop? I don't think so, I hope not. Does anything else come out of it? Um, at times, but most often just pee. Will a penis eventually grow out of it? Not likely. Do I wish I had a penis? Definitely not. Is that where the baby went into me? Umm....sort of?

Now, being in a relatively busy, but frighteningly quiet public restroom, I think first of the fantastic public service I have yet again accomplished by bringing my young children into close proximity of the young teen girls I hear giggling and washing their hands. I feel like I should come out and give a brief speech of how this could be you too girls. It only takes one time and you will be peeing in a small square of space while two little boys inspect and question every aspect of the process. Watch your afterschool specials and fear sex until you are ready to be having a conversation about your vagina in a public restroom with a small boy. I should tour high schools, I could really put a dent in that teen pregnancy rate.

Both boys accompanied me to the ob office a few weeks ago and Aiden could not have been more fascinated by the whole process. First, Mommy peed in a cup...out of her bottom! I then put the cup in a small cabinet that you could open on both sides of the a hidden passage way for pee! Do I poop in there too? I then changed into an outfit made entirely out of pink paper! Aiden could barely breathe at the rate he was asking questions about why the hell this all was happening? Why doesn't this happen at his doctor's office?

I brought snacks and books to occupy them since I knew I would be having an exam. Cole happily played with the matchbox car I brought and ate his snack while sitting on the carefully positioned love seat near my head. God bless his lack of genuine interest in me. Aiden, however walked to the end of the examining table and, while eating his yogurt covered raisins, literally stared in fascination through the whole process like he was eating candy during a very good movie. Yes, I did try to tell him to move back to his seat. I did try to bribe him to move. I did threaten him. The truth was though that he had a million questions for the doctor about what he was doing and he was not going anywhere, so I gave up and started brainstorming ways to raise money for the significant amount of therapy that he was going to require in future years.

I'm sure there will be a lot more of these types of questions from both the boys. I recently realized that since Cole was out of it for most of these discussions with Aiden, I will most likely have to repeat all of this for him. I should perhaps carry a tape recorder? I also am attempting to brace myself for the onslaught of questions from my future daughter about life with a penis, a discussion I feel significantly less prepared to successfully handle. Maybe I should just go back to spending more time on the fundraising for therapy?