One Overly Analytical Mother's Obsessive Musings about Raising Small Children

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"I WANT DAT!": Teaching Children about the Non-Commercial Aspects of Christmas


So went the whiny tirade from the backseat as we drove by Barnes and Noble and my son remembered that four months ago, he desperately wanted a Klutz book with tiny, baby-will-choke-on cars. (That was the object behind the explosive tantrum that got us kicked out, which I wrote about in my first blog post.) The whine continued as he followed me around the house, his little whiny self stuck to my rear end like a little toddler caboose. It went on and on, as I made dinner, and tried to get the kids bathed and into their pajamas. He wanted it. He needed it. He had to have it or else he would just die.

For some reason, kids seem to be the best consumers out there, albeit with one problem: they have no money, so they whine to get what they want. I'm sure there's some sort of evolutionary purpose to this: back in caveman days, kids must have needed their whining skills to get their most basic needs met. Those who whined probably were the ones who ate, and thus, survived.

It's the holiday season, and everywhere you go, there's immense pressure to buy more stuff. It feels like the pressure is even greater when it comes to toys. Piles of toys greet you as soon as you walk into any store; toy stores like Toys R Us and other big box retailers mail out glossy toy catalogs; and the Sunday newspaper is heavy with colorful advertising booklets of toys, toys, and more toys. I cannot enter a store with my three year-old without encountering these tantalizing displays, and hence, I cannot leave fast enough with said three year-old screaming. The whining ensues as soon as the fire storm subsides. So far my solution to the problem is to just avoid stores altogether. But avoiding stores from Thanksgiving to New Years'--even grocery stores--when you're home with kids is getting difficult.

The problem is that there's too much focus on toys and stuff. Children are too vulnerable to the colorful toy displays; they don't understand that getting stuff is not really what Christmas is about. This hit me hard as my son tried to take a toy out of the Toys For Tots drop off box in our local library for himself. "That toy is not for you," I explained. "It's for kids who don't have any toys." My son, who never ceases to amaze me with his comebacks, replied: "I don't have enough toys, mommy!" As if to say: I need to take this toy from Toys For Tots because I need more toys! This, you should know, is absolute balderdash. Over his almost four years, he's accumulated quite a stash.

How do you teach children about the non-commercial aspects of Christmas? One answer to that question is through religion: take children to church, and they will learn. Perhaps volunteering at a soup kitchen could help, but on the other hand, my eldest is still only three. Are there other ways? My son asked me: "Mommy, what is Christmas?  Is it about giving thanks?" I suppose he said this because that's what I told him Thanksgiving was about. Caught off guard, I mumbled, "uh, yeah, Christmas is about being thankful, sure, uh-huh." It was then that I realized that I had never talked to him about Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the story of the nativity, or taken him to church for an occasion that was not a baptism.

My religious failings aside, I'm really wondering how parents keep their sanity during the holidays. How do you tolerate the whininess and desperation of kids who are convinced that they need a forty dollar remote control crane that was made in China and will probably break within a day or two? How do you achieve moderation? How do you teach children about the non-commercial aspects of Christmas? Or, as some of you are probably thinking, am I fighting a losing battle and will in the end, just drive myself batty?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

When NY Firefighters Read Arabic Books: Thoughts on Raising Bilingual Kids

My husband and I are attempting to raise our two young children to speak both English and Arabic. Attempting is the operative word here because raising bilingual kids is one heck of a difficult task. You have to make a conscious and conscientious effort every single day. Even when the entire world around you is speaking English, you have to speak in the other, or second, language.

Foreign language acquisition experts argue that the best time to learn a new language is in early childhood. The earlier the better. The baby's developing ear attunes itself to hear the sounds of language, as the child learns how to actually verbalize, or copy, those sounds. There's an anecdote that goes something like this: If you haven't heard the particular sounds of a language by the age of two, unless you have a very attuned ear, it will be nearly impossible for you to ever reproduce those sounds with native accuracy in adulthood because your ear literally cannot hear those sounds in order for you to verbalize them.

But the experts also tell us that children do a remarkably good job of keeping all of this in their little heads. Sometimes they have a hard time sorting out which language is which, or which alphabet is which, but eventually it will all make sense. It's not unusual for a bilingual kid to start talking a little bit later than "normal" (whatever that is). I have to remind myself that now because my daughter isn't saying a whole lot, even though she should be. But when she does, I can't seem to understand it--it's as if she's speaking both Arabic and English. For example, one of her favorite foods is a tomato, which is "bandoora" in Arabic. During mealtime, she'll point to a tomato, and say something like "doo--ta," as if she's combining the two languages into one mishmash of the two.

Not to put even more pressure on parents who are also attempting this feat of raising bilingual kids. Do it now or forever lose your window of opportunity!

The day to day realities of raising bilingual kids range from the hilarious to the gently thought provoking. Of course, there's a lot to think about when one of the languages belongs to an ethnicity that Americans associate with terrorism. My kids are too young to know about September 11. They do not know that, as a result of 9/11, some Americans harbor prejudice and fear against Arabs. They do not even know that not everybody else is like them. Not everybody else has a daddy who is from somewhere else, speaks another language, and eats tabbouli and olives for breakfast. Because they are too young to know any different, all of these things are normal to them. And why not?

But now and then we'll have a moment that causes me to chuckle....and then to really think. The other day, I was reading a bedtime story to my son who is infatuated with fire trucks and firefighters. The picture book we were reading was about a New York City fire department, and some of the things that they do. In one of the last pictures, it showed a group of weary firefighters relaxing after a hard day of putting out fires. One of the firefighters was reading a book, and his small book's page was a bunch of squiggles. My son looked at that and said: "Is that an Arabic book, mommy?" It made perfect sense, though. Before I learned how to read Arabic, I too thought that Arabic looked like a bunch of squiggles and dots. When we were kids, my sister and I used to pretend to "write Arabic" by making lots of squiggles, dots, and loops. Everything looked all flow-ey, punctuation was backwards, and you read from right to left. How weird is that?! That's not a's just squiggles. 

 But seriously. I think of the NYFD and I think: these are the people who were on the front lines, who not only had to deal with the immediate destruction of the Twin Towers, but also with the toxic aftermath. They put their lives in danger to save people who were in danger. They saw the death of their fellow firefighters during the attacks, and are now discovering lingering health problems as a result of their heroism. I don't know for sure, but I don't think that NY firefighters kick back after a hard day and read Arabic books. Ten years out, things still feel too raw. Too edgy. The way that being Arab still causes people to look at you out of the corner of their eyes and wonder if you have a bomb in your diaper bag. I just hope that by the time my son is old enough actually to be a firefighter, reading an Arabic book in the firehouse won't be cause for alarm.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Am I Still Wearing Maternity Clothes?

When I was pregnant for the first time, I couldn't wait until I got a little bump so that I could wear maternity clothes. By the time I was pregnant for the second time, however, that novelty had worn off, even though there was something oddly comforting in only having three pairs of pants and four tops to choose from. Even though I kept wearing the same few things over and over, I knew that I would do so for a finite period, and then boom!  I'd return to my fashionable digs again.

This brings me to the question: Now that my daughter is sixteen months old, why am I still wearing maternity clothes? I can--finally--fit into my jeans (only three pairs), but more often than not, I'm reaching for those long maternity tops to pair with the jeans. Have I "let myself go?" Become just another of those tired-faced moms who can't be bothered with what they wear? Am I just "so over" the need to look fashionable? To match? To appear in public without stains and other toddler...residue?

At first it was a  question of nursing and of baby spit up and orange baby poop that leaked through two layers of baby clothes. Who wants to wear something nice only to have a baby spit up all over it? I needed clothing that facilitated frequent nursing also. Except for the rare mishap, those days of spit up and explosive baby poop look like they're in the past. I do not go through outfits at the same pace as my baby does but I still am dirty and stained by day's end. So my "good" clothes are still packed away in bags in the storage closet. You know, the stuff with tags that read:  "dry clean only;" "hand wash only;" "lambswool;" "silk;" or the rare "cashmere." And then I have a few things that have tags that actually say "do not wash." What? I bought a pair of summer wool pants from Mango that actually say that. You've got to be kidding me. I never wear those now.

But I think that it's time to move beyond maternity clothes. Last weekend I gathered all the maternity clothes together, washed them, put them in a huge bag, and took them to Goodwill. I also put the Mango wool "do not ever wash" pants in there. This has left my closet looking rather empty because other than the maternity clothes, I haven't bought new clothes for about four years. No kidding. I walked into the Gap the other day and saw stirrup pants on display. Does anybody want to wear stirrup pants...again? Weren't they bad enough the first time around? After four years of wearing the same stuff to death, I think it's time to acquire some new digs that will be fashionable and suitable for mothering two kids who love to play outside in the dirt, eat messily with their hands and then use mom as the "human napkin."

So, readers and fellow moms-who-are-more-together-than-I, I need some advice from you. Without sounding like a whiny teenager, what can I wear? What can I wear that will withstand being washed at least once a week? That will repel toddler stains (dirt, food, and other mystery stains)? That will still look halfway decent?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Potty Training: 1, 2, and 3!

I love overhearing other people's conversations. Like most writers, I'm a shameless eaves-dropper, a lurking listener who loves to overhear a good dish. Trouble is, sometimes I overhear a conversation that tempts me to pipe in, which I know I can't because then I'd be caught out.

But here's what happened. I was at the park the other day and overheard two mothers talking about their kids. No, they weren't really talking, but doing that sort of pretending-not-to-be-bragging-about-my-amazingly-gifted-child thing that mothers can do. One mother said to the other with a pleading look in her face: "I'm not sure what to do about little Y!  She potty trained herself when she was two and a half. She goes to the bathroom all by herself, and even gets up at night to go pee and then goes right back to sleep without even disturbing us!"  The other mother was nodding, obviously waiting for the punchline that would indicate that there was something wrong going on here. "My problem is that little Y does so much for herself but that she oftentimes does things in the wrong way! She puts her own shoes on, but puts boots instead of sandals on; she dresses herself but wants to wear summer clothes when it's cold out!"  Finally, she gets to her query: "How do I direct her without being, well, directive?"

I'm discovering that I have quite the inner grouch these days. I was a lurking listener who wanted to jump into the conversation, and to give this mother a little bit of perspective. What, for instance, did this little scenario have to do with her little Y's miraculous feats of potty training? Absolutely nothing. I wanted, really, really wanted, to give this mother a counter example, which would really put things into perspective.

My son will be four years old this December. This past summer, through much cajoling, M&Ms, Jelly Belly candies, and gummy worms, we accomplished the feat of getting him to pee in the toilet. Now he does so, but insists on standing up, and is in such a rush to pee and be done with things, that his, er, aim is often all over the place. Sometimes the rim of the toilet bowl will carry the remnants of his excursions but I've learned that I also have to peek onto the floor next to the bowl as well. I know that he  has washed his hands when the hand towel is tossed onto the floor. We go through about three pairs of underwear and pants a day because, you see, the kid is too busy to pee, and often finds himself rushing to get to the bathroom in time. I cannot take him to the bathroom, either, because the more I try to get him to pee, the more he holds it and will not pee, just to make a point. For goodness sake, this is a kid who might get a UTI just out of spite!

This brings me to number two. Forget about it! When the kid needs to, he asks for a "nappy" to do his business. I decided this week that we need to move on, and try using the toilet for number two. I picked my bribe carefully: a LEGO fire truck that he was desperate to have was promised if he would just "go poopy in the potty" for three days in a row. This ended up backfiring hugely and there was a kicking-and-screaming-ruckus. You would have thought that the boy was being waterboarded in an American prison in Iraq. Now the boy won't even ask for a nappy to poop in, and instead holds his poop all day until bedtime, when he gets a nighttime diaper. As soon as the diaper is on him, he goes poop. I've traumatized him, you see.

Number three is using the potty at nighttime. I think that children who are accustomed to nursing to sleep develop deep associations between sleep and drinking milk and perhaps, drinking in general. My son drinks sippy cups and juice/milk boxes as though he is nursing: with the spout over his tongue, and all in one great, bit gulp. Even though he's now almost four, he gets a faraway look in his eyes and I know that, for the moment, he's not to be disturbed because he's "nursing."  The only way that I was able to wean my son off nursing to sleep (this happened when he was 22 months) was by substituting a sippy cup of milk. He is stubbornly clinging to the milk at night routine, which means that he is peeing all night long. My husband and I are afraid to forego the nighttime diapers because we know that he will just pee all over the bed, which he oftentimes does anyway, wtih the diaper that frequenly overfills its capacity. Remember, these are super-absorbent nighttime diapers.

I know, I know. I keep trying to remember those consoling adages:  All in due time. He is a boy after all, and some boys are notoriously late in their potty learning. The more you push, the more they pull. But all I seem to want for Christmas, my birthday, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and every other holiday is for this kid to just do this one thing that to some parents, seems so simply achieved.

Then again, maybe I need to just let go of this, take off the pressure, and accept the fact that I'll be potty training him and his baby sister at the same time next year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is There a Boss Baby in Your Life?

                      Some babies are just easy. They sleep and eat well. They're content to just be there. Some mothers say that these easy babies "fly under the radar" or fit "seamlessly" into the already existing routines of the family. They go with the flow, and parents, if you have a baby like this, you better appreciate what you've got because you could have a Boss Baby.

Is there a Boss Baby in your life? You know the type: they're demanding; they don't sleep well--if at all. They're picky eaters (and yes, they can even be picky nursers who force mom to avoid whole categories of foods like dairy). They're gassy, colicky, and plain old fussy. These babies change the whole dynamics of family life and parents bend over backwards to accommodate them, get them to nap, be content, or eat. Attachment parenting books euphemistically calls these kids "high need." Marla Frazee calls it for what it is in her new book, The Boss Baby. In this picture book for ages 3-8, Frazee tells the story of a boss baby who arrives one day to his employees' (parents') house in a black sleeper with footies, white collar shirt and tie, and toting a big briefcase full of an accordion-like trail of papers.

The first line will immediately catch your attention and invoke your parental sympathy: "From the moment the baby arrived, it was obvious that he was the boss." He proceeds to set up his office in the middle of the living room (in a baby walker) and conducts lots and lots of meetings with mom and dad, such as get me outta my crib NOW, you fool; spoon-and-food-throwing highchair hysterics; changing table conniptions; and the good old just-won't-stop-crying-jag). Mom and Dad may be suffering from sleep deprivation but make no mistake about it, the Boss Baby's got the good life. Like other tycoons, he's got mad perks: a lounge, spa (baby bath); executive gym, 24/7 room service, and a private jet (his jumper).

Frazee is a two-timed Caldecott Honor medalist (A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and All the World, a collaboration with author Liz Garton Scanlon) and this book is probably destined to be a third. The illustrations are rendered in her usual style--pencil and gouache--with a beautiful 1950s-inspired theme. The retro colors, dress, and decor make the pictures unique and fun to look at. The facial expressions and renderings of various baby antics will make you and your children laugh out loud.

So if there's a Boss Baby in your life, hang in there, and keep this book handy for when you need to see the humor in your little creature's frustrating antics. They're bossy, they've got you wrapped around their tiny little fingers, but make no mistake about it: they're little people who are going places.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is This Normal?

The other night, my husband and I were watching a little TV in the evening, after putting the kids to bed. Well, as I cannot just sit there (sound familiar, multi-tasking mommies?), I was folding three loads of laundry, thanks to my three year-old who is still getting the hang of not peeing in diapers.

Anyway, a commercial came on for a movie that would be coming out soon in the theaters. My husband turns to me and says, "I cannot remember the last time I watched a movie in a movie theater! It must be at least three years! Is that normal? Are we letting our kids totally take over our lives?"

I stifled my urge to correct him--that every year I take the kids to my mother's and I know for a fact that in those times when he is not on parent duty, he has been known to take in a film or two with his buddies. The pitiful voice within me wanted to say: "It is I who have not seen a movie in almost four years!" I wanted to up the ante, to play the I'm-more-deprived-than-you game, but I didn't.

Instead, I thought of his question: Is it normal that we really haven't gone out alone at night since the birth of our first child? Is it normal that on the few occasions that we've gotten nighttime childcare, we've been too tired to actually leave the house and do something? Or that, if we did drag our tired selves to the theater, we'd probably fall asleep as soon as the lights went down?

My answer was, well, diplomatic. Let's take the situation in a larger context, I argued.When you raise your young children by the principles of attachment parenting, as we've invariably found ourselves doing, then leaving them alone at night becomes rather tricky. My fifteen month old still nurses and wakes up--sometimes quite frequently--during the night expecting to nurse. There's just no way that you can hand over a child like that to a babysitter. Show me the people who have babysitters and have "date night" each Saturday night. Are their kids this young? Then again, I am too jaded to expand my "circle of trust" outside of the bounds of family and a select group of close friends, which is rather limiting as those people are extremely busy.

Or is my husband right--are we totally--gasp--not normal? Are the mothers and fathers of pre-school children still having "date night" every Saturday? And if so, how? Are they keeping up to date on the movies in the theaters? We can't even keep up with what's out on DVD, let alone the theaters. I hate it whenever I'm with a group of people and the conversation turns towards TV shows and films they all watch because I have no clue what they're talking about.

My husband, ever the wise one, sighed and said, "we might as well admit it--they are our life now. They run the show, and will for a long time to come." Strange as it may sound, that admission somehow that made me feel better. It was as if he was saying: I know this is tough, but it will get better. We're together in this crazy journey of parenting, even if our way of doing it--our state of being normal--might not be for everyone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One of Those Days

It's one of those days. I can tell already.
It began with the usual--an early wake up call. The room was still dark, but the way the dim light was visible around the corners of the dark window shades (oh let's be honest--the dark green sheet that I had clipped over the blinds with binder clamps to darken the room and encourage the kids to sleep past dawn) told me that it was not yet 5:30 AM.
My son was the first to wake up. This time it was with a diaper that had, shall we say, exceeded its capacity. He was so loud that he woke my daughter up. Babies have the amazing ability to be sleeping one minute and sitting upright and smiling the next, which makes you wonder if they were ever really sleeping. Still, I was not fooled by her act since she was so tired that every time I'd put her down, she'd cry and reach up for me to hold or nurse her. My son hid his tiredness in a display of hyperactivity. He bounced around the house, and careened around corners with am amazing speed and vitality. This couldn't last long, I thought.
We tripped downstairs and my husband put on the coffee--he was kind enough to make a double batch since we'd need it today.
It's one of those days when you feel like it must be time for lunch and can't believe it when you look at the clock and see that it's only--ONLY--9 AM.
It's one of those days when your clingy, too-tired baby insists on taking a bite of tomato for breakfast (it's the height of tomato season and everybody has to eat their fair share of tomatoes, including one at breakfast!), only to vomit it all back up an hour later because the skin of said fruit had lodged itself in her little throat.
It's one of those days when by the time that NORMAL people must be waking up, you feel you've already done it all for the day and are ready for the day to be over.
Wish me luck today. With a toddler who has not napped since he was two unless strapped in his car seat on long, slow cruises through the neighborhood streets, I sure hope that today will be an exception.
So if you see a frazzled, discombobulated lady driving around and around the neighborhood later today, give her a wave. She might be having one of those days too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On Getting Kicked Out of Barnes and Noble

I love books. When I enter a library or bookstore, I feel completely at ease. My blood pressure drops, my worries retreat, and a sense of possibility overcomes me. (I could read about teenage vampires! I could knit that funky hat! I could learn to roast a chicken!) Curling up with a good book is my idea of a good time, which is why it was particularly painful when my children and I got kicked out of Barnes and Noble bookstore yesterday.

It was a horrendously hot day and some indoor activity seemed appropriate. So we headed over to the mall to run around. I know--malls are disgusting to me too, but I was desperate. On our way back to the car, I thought: why don't we just pop in to the B&N (it's attached to the mall) to browse for a bit? So what if it was almost lunch time and the kiddos were probably hungry? There was a small cafe inside the bookstore that served bagels and chocolate milk that we could stop by if needed.

There's a book that my three year-old son has been asking for for the past year. It's one of those Klutz books--a spiral bound book that comes with a plastic pouch of teeny-tiny cars. Inside the book, there are activities and mazes that you can do with the cars. That is, activities you can do before you a.) lose the cars or b.) your infant or your cat accidentally swallows them. I refuse to buy this for him, and each time he throws a bit of a tantrum.

On this particular day, he ran to the Thomas the Train table in the children's book section and started playing. The baby grabbed some stuffed animal with the intent on slobbering all over it. So far so good, I thought. But then the boy remembered the forbidden book, located it, and presented it to me with the expectation that I would buy it for him. All toddler fury broke out when I, as usual, refused to buy the book. He started screaming so loud that everyone in earshot stopped what they were doing and looked at me. I hate to have attention drawn to me, and I felt like my evacuate-now button had just been pushed. It was when he started kicking and biting me that I thought: I have got to get out of here now. I was wearing the baby in one of those backback things, and had a stroller with me for the boy. I attempted to put him in the stroller but he fought so hard that I couldn't squeeze him in there. As he was screaming and biting, I worked hard to maintain an outward appearance of calmness. To outward appearances, I was a mother who was unfazed; I calmly explained that I would not buy the book because it clearly said it was for an eight year-old, and that when he turned eight, he could ask for that book. Maybe I even said something about Santa Claus. On the inside I was a furious, seething wreck; I was angry that my son was making such a scene, and wondered if this was the "mother's curse" that was finally haunting me for the all the pain that I supposedly inflicted on my own parents as a child.

It became apparent that the stroller was a no go. I was wearing the baby, so at least I had my hands free. I picked up the screaming, kicking, and biting toddler and somehow pushed the stroller towards the door as fast as I could. It was at that moment that a snooty, pinched faced lady approached me and asked if I could leave the bookstore since my child was disturbing the peace. As if she couldn't tell that I was trying to exit the building as fast as I could, and that carrying two children (a total weight of almost 60 pounds!) while pushing a stroller and trying to maneuver it all through the door was a bit challenging. The baby, who up until now had been calm and quiet, figured out that if her brother was screaming, she needed to also. Pinched face just stood there looking down at me and did not try to help me open the door so that I could push the stroller and the now two screaming children out of the bookstore and into the vestibule. I wanted to say something mean to her but was too busy sweating and getting bitten to think of anything.

Once in the vestibule, my son wriggled out of my arms and started hitting me and flinging himself around frantically. I remember thinking: so that's where they came up with the idea for the Tazmanian Devil on Looney Toons. I really don't know what happened next, but I lost my balance and fell down, which made the baby cry even more. Somehow the stroller fell over too, and with it my purse, which (of course) tipped over, spilling everything out onto the floor. I just laid there on the floor for a minute thinking: it can't get any more ridiculous than this!

Just then an angel of a woman came out of the bookstore and said something like: "you look like you could use some help!" I resisted the urge to say something ironic, and meekly accepted her offer of help. She uprighted my stroller while I took care of the purse, and insisted on pushing my stroller to my car, which was parked around the corner from the bookstore. All the while, I carried the two children, who were both still crying and carrying on. As I walked back to the car, I swore to myself that I would never, ever, have any more kids, and contemplated entering a nunnery that very evening. In the very least, some serious birth control. Maybe I would broach the topic of a vasectomy with my husband.

It was an impossible feat getting the boy strapped into the car seat, because he was still screaming at me. He tried to bite and squeeze my hands as I as fastened the straps of his car seat. But finally the deed was done and I retreated to holiest of mommy sanctuaries--the driver's seat.

What amazed me was the speed at which he turned off the crying-biting-and-squeezing switch and started on something completely different. My mobile rang at that moment, and he wanted to talk with his daddy, who was on the line. With a tear-stained face, he smiled as he listened to his daddy telling him all about the fire trucks and UPS delivery vans that he had seen that day at work. For him, it was all over in a few minutes. He had forgotten and forgiven whatever had happened. However, it took me the rest of the day to recover my lost bearings. The next day I would wake up and discover bruises on my arms and legs.

Needless to say, I don't think that I'll be going back to that bookstore for a long while....maybe until my son is eight! After speaking with my mother, she said, "Oh, stuff like that happens all the time with little ones!" It does? How come I've never witnessed scenes like this before, with other people's children? Have I just turned a blind eye like pinched face, my nemesis? In the meantime, this mommy is going to be getting a thicker skin and is pledging to help all the other mommies in distress out there.

Have you ever been kicked out or asked to leave a place on account of your children?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shopping with Small Children: A Comedy of Errors

A friend is getting married on Saturday and I just realized that I have nothing to wear. Well, that's not true. Actually I have lots of things but they are not suitable for nursing a baby, who I'm bringing to the wedding (a fact about which I'm becoming increasingly anxious). I have lots of dresses but if I were to nurse, I'd basically have to disrobe in order to nurse. My husband suggests I just go to the car to nurse, but I really hate this idea. Why are nursing mothers always expected to hide in a dirty bathroom or car, to miss all the fun and feel like a recluse? This brings me to the topic of shopping with kids. I jaunted over to my local mall today with the intention of running in and out very quickly. Of course I had the two young kids, but I was desperate. There was just one store I'd stop by and I'd park in a place where I wouldn't have to walk by any toy or candy store en route to it. So far so good.

I made a quick pass around the store, scanning for dresses that might be suitable for nursing. At this point, I wasn't even looking at what the dress looked like, its colors, or if I even liked it. Was it suitable for nursing? Not a single one did the trick. So I did another pass for skirts and tops. What the heck--if I found a nice ensemble, I might be able to pull it off as wedding attire. It was at this time that I noticed my toddler boy doing the "potty dance." He was crossing his legs, grabbing his crotch, and hopping up and down, all at the same time. I asked him if he had to pee, and of course his answer was "no." It was then that I noticed that he didn't have to pee because he already had: he had wet himself. We hightailed it out of the dress shop for the nearest bathroom, where he used the toilet, and I pulled out the spare outfit I had stashed in my diaper bag. We all couldn't fit in the bathroom stall, so we just did the changeroo out in the open while others went about their business (Thank God he's still young enough to be uninhibited about his body!)

With new, dry clothes on, we returned to the dress shop. The baby was starting to get fussy so I just grabbed a skirt and top and tried to flag down a salesperson to open a fitting room for me. Once in the fitting room, I nursed the baby, and then put her down to walk around and get her wiggles out. I gave the toddler a gummy fruit snack, which kept him busy for all of sixty seconds. After ten minutes in the room, I finally got the chance to try on my clothes. The skirt fit great but it was wool (why didn't I realize that when I picked it up?), which wouldn't do for a summer wedding. The top didn't even match. It was a no go.

All told, we spent an hour and a half at the mall and I tried on one skirt and one top. One emergency trip to the bathroom, one outfit soaked through with urine, and several snacks down the line, we emerged happy but without the much-needed wedding outfit.

Better luck another day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

For a long time now I’ve wanted to write something, anything, about my journey through this strange thing that is motherhood. I began to keep a journal and then thought, “what the heck,” and decided to start a blog. I’m still anxious about sharing personal information over the internet (the viral nature of blogs and facebook is both compelling scary at the same time) so am just trying this out. At the end of each day, I’m so tired that it’s tempting to just call it an early night and go to sleep because before you know it, tomorrow will be here, and I’ll have to do it all again. (Or, more likely, many nighttime wakings with a still-nursing baby will pass, and then, blurry eyed and before you know it, tomorrow will be here.) Yet increasingly I feel compelled to write—it feels like an absolute necessity—so here goes. I’ve been postponing writing this out of some strange assumption that my first post needed to be something of an overview—who I am, where I come from, and why I need to write about mothering. But the energy, perspective, and time to write such a post never happened, so I’ll just begin, like so many things, in the middle; instantly interruptible.

Sometimes I feel like my day is full of starts and interruptions, and that I rarely get to actually finish and accomplish anything. Why is it that mothering, despite all the time and energy, frequently lacks a sense of accomplishment? I begin the day by starting to drink a cup of coffee but that much-needed cup of caffeine rarely gets finished before it goes cold; I begin getting dressed before having to run after a toddler who is running around the house with a sharp screwdriver (where did he get that?!) and settle with half an outfit and no makeup or hair done; I start to check email but can read but not write back to messages. I recently got a gently used piano and am enthusiastically trying to get my skills back but can only play a few measures worth of Clair de Lune until tiny hands join mine on the keyboard, and run up and down the keys. The ensuing scene resembles Sesame Street's Animal on the drums but on the piano. Several years ago, I was finishing writing my dissertation when my first was just born. I thought that writing a dissertation and caring for a newborn would be a snap but I soon learned that the two are not easily compatible and that, in the long run, if a mother is to write, read, or create something, it will have to be on her own time, in the margins of her day. The problem is that when mothering duties are done, mothers are likely exhausted to the point where any creative or intellectual activity becomes difficult. Anyone with young children can attest to that fact.

I’m calling this blog “Instantly Interruptible” because I feel such a resonance with Tillie Olsen’s quote. I sympathize with her desire to create something, and her frustration at having to balance the very urgent needs of young children with the longings of the soul for creativity, thought, and…some peace and quiet. To that end, I often end my day by curling up with a good book. Ah….after hours of pots and pans (and yes, pianos) banging, and children engaging in screaming competitions, introversion looks pretty darn good! I am an avid reader—I need to read in order to put myself back together, to calm myself, and nurture some much needed stillness. In this blog, I hope to share thoughts of mothering, writing, and reading with you. Like my life right now, it will probably be a bit unstructured, maybe a bit erratic in its schedule, but it will be from the heart, urgent, and, like mothering, a labor of love.

I would be honored if you would join me.