Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Everything is a Toy

I was reminded yesterday of one of the many habits of babies that I've known for years, and, yet, somehow always manage to forget: they can turn anything into a toy - and not only turn it into a toy, but turn it into the best toy ever.

Last night, I got a flashlight out of storage.  Amazingly, my two year olds had never seen a flashlight.  They were intrigued.  More than intrigued.  In fact, I have rarely seen anything delight and confuse them more.  (Thank you, Home Depot, for selling flashlights in a two-pack.)

"Light!  Light on!  Flash... light.  Flashlight!  Ball!  Ball?  Light?  Light!"

With each exclamation, they excitedly flicked their wrists and ran toward the light they had been casting on the wall, only the light was no longer there.

Confused, they would stop and look for it.  Oh!  There it is, on the ceiling.  They would start talking about it enthusiastically, waving their arms around for emphasis.

Wait a minute!  Where did that light-ball go?  It was just here!

We're now on day two of this.  It's clear the flashlights are going to provide our family with hours of tantrum free, hilarious, entertainment and all for the price of four D batteries.  This is a steal.  Christmas has come early.


This is a great lesson to be reminded of at Christmas time.  Sure, my kids get enjoyment out of their more expensive toys.  A year later, they're still playing with the talking Elmo from time to time.  They'll dance along to their music-maker if I point them in that direction.  They make sure to pour out all of their blocks on the floor several times a day, although it's been months since they've shown any interest in actually building with them.  It's not as if these toys go to waste.

But in this economy, parents might do well to remember that a cardboard box and a cooking spoon can be a drum.  Blankets and a flashlight can be a fort.  Wiggle a string, and you're taming a snake.  The toddler's imagination is the true Christmas coupon.  With a little make believe, a $20 Christmas has the potential to be even more fun than a $2,000 Christmas.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ten Years Later

Last Friday, a large percentage of the other hundred people that graduated with me in 2000 dressed up in their fancy finery, glad-handed their old pals, tried desperately to one-up each other, and drank themselves into oblivion.

At least, that's what I say happened at our 10-year reunion.  I wasn't at there.  In fact, I hear they chose to play laser tag, instead.  Maybe my graduating class is even cooler than I remember it being.

I have mixed feelings on missing the reunion.  On the one hand, it would have been great to see the children (because we were children) that I grew up with.  Having a small graduating class means I knew every one of them.  I still remember all of their names.  Still, with the advent of facebook the ones that share anything in common with me already keep in touch.  In 2010, there is no shocking reveal, no adult makeover, no amazing success that hasn't already been talked to death on a social networking site.  So, really, I didn't need to go.  They already know I'm a married mom of twins who used to be a television journalist.  The introductory conversation that has traditionally been the backbone of high school reunions has been rendered moot by technology.  No wonder they played laser tag.  More running around and hiding behind things means less talking about things you already know.

A 10-year reunion, though, regardless of social media interruption, must be a magical event.  Five years is too close.  In this day and age, it is rare that anyone has gone through any major changes in the five years after graduating high school.  At ten years out, I feel like I am completely changed.  I looked at my two-year-old children watching television and think, this is it.  This is real life now.  I have children.  I have a family.  I must be an adult.  I have children.  Still, I could wake up tomorrow to the sound of a buzzer at 6 a.m. on the top bunk, fretting about the algebra homework I didn't understand and looking forward to the soccer game under the lights - so deeply ingrained are my high school years.

Growing up is something no parent can explain to a child.  As that child grows and experiences his own life changing in the strange lengths that are the days and the strange shortnesses that are the years, he will most likely remain in a confused state as to who he is and who he is becoming.  Just as he gets a grasp of what life should be for him at that very moment, the moment changes.  The flux of life is at odds with the permanence of snapshot memories.

And, of course, I am conflicted about who I am now versus who I should be.  Is that something I really wanted to 'share with the class,' so to speak?  While I am happy to be in a position to be a stay at home mom, and I love staying with my kids, watching and helping them grow, it's simply not where I thought I would be right now.  At the five-year reunion, I was up and coming.  I was going to be somebody.

What I need to remember is that I am somebody.  I am somebody very important to those little twins sitting in my living room right now.  Life doesn't always pan out as you expected it would when you were 17.  That doesn't make it worse.  If we could let go of our old definitions and of our old lives, we may even find that it's even better than we could have imagined.

Happy 10-year reunion, Somers High School Class of 2000.


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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Toddler Tricks - 15

Ways to Trick your Baby:

Problem:  Your babies need an object.  Right now.  They need their lovey that they lost somewhere, and you have no idea where it is.  They need some pudding, but you ran out of pudding two days ago.  They absolutely need to pet the neighbor's dog, but the neighbor is not home.  Obviously, as their parent, you have all of these things.  You clearly are just hiding them from the babies out of some adult perversion that gets a kick out of their intense suffering.  Should you not be able to procure the object that is lost, does not exist, or is out, no amount of reasoning with the children will convince them that this monstrosity is not your fault.  You are the parent.  Make it happen.

Solution:  Sometimes, babies will accept that you don't always have the answer, if you make a show of attempting to help them.  Whether the item is lost, doesn't exist, or is gone for the time being, I find that if I can get them listening to me before they hit full-on freak-out mode, we can make searching for the necessary item into a game.  This puts us on the same side.  It's no longer mean mommy who doesn't give out treats that we don't have.  It's mommy and babies setting off in search of treats. 

Are they under the couch?  No.  Are they on the porch?  No.  Let's call out to them!  "Hello!  Hello!  Pudding?  Hello!  Come!  Pudding, come!"  Nope, no answer.  Are they in your room?  No, not here either.  But look what is here!  Your favorite book!  Let's take a break from searching to read this.

And, sometimes, they do forget about the search and move on to other, more attainable, goals.


Ways Your Baby Tricks You:

Problem:  They didn't forget about the lovey, pudding, or puppy that you were never able to find for them.  They're working themselves up into a frenzy over it right now.  They are repeating themselves nonstop in the hopes that you are just not understanding them.

Solution:  Continue to patiently direct their attention to other things.  It may take a long time.  You may feel like it is an exercise in futility, but, eventually, something will catch their attention.  Many times, I think, it's not even that I found something incredibly interesting for them.  It's more likely that they got bored of crying.  I'll take what I can get.  As long as it's not this:




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Friday, November 26, 2010

Colorless Thoughts on Black Friday

I don't like Black Friday.  It's not the starting at ridiculous a.m. that gets me.  It's not the notion of big, bad capitalism taking over the holidays.  It's not the fear of being run over by thousands of parents who need just the right talking baby doll for their littles ones.

It's a timing thing.  Each year, it seems Black Friday creeps further up on Thanksgiving, and we don't have much wiggle room left.  On Thursday, we are expected to bask in the warmth and ease of our family and loved ones, giving thanks for all we have.  On Friday, and recently, on Thursday night, we are made to forget all of that thanksgiving and concentrate instead on what we don't have, on what we need, right this second, at 70 percent off.  The turkey isn't even cold on the counter before many families turn their attention from laughter and forgetting to bargains and strategy.

To be a successful Black Friday shopper, one must have a route planned out.  Store visits are put on deadline.  If we don't get out of Toys R Us at 5 a.m., we'll never stand a chance at Kohls!  Do people even go to bed on Thanksgiving night anymore?

And what about the moms and grandmothers in all this?  Somebody had to make that dinner for 18 people.  Somebody had to fret over getting the turkey just right and setting the dip out on time, and hiding the bread loaf that didn't rise.  After all that stress, the peace and tranquility that comes after the meal is needed to preserve the day's meaning. 

I've got nothing against consumerism, but when it encroaches upon and nearly redefines a holiday I love, I do feel a bit put upon.  Even if you choose not to partake in the event, someone in your family is going shopping, and they are going to tell you all about it.  Memories of your beloved ones, talk of family ties, and chit chat about the day tend to be drowned out by anticipation of standing, cold, in line for eight hours to get that new computer. 

Why not put a little space in between them?  Would Black Saturday be such a bad idea?

I'm not saying everybody should stay home and buy presents at full price, or make little trinkets themselves.  I'm not saying the rush is necessarily a bad thing.  I'd just like a few hours to enjoy my Thanksgiving before being flooded with news stories about maulings and arrests. 

Thanksgiving is for being grateful for all you have; Black Friday is for ignoring all that you have in favor of all that you want.  I simply think they are too close together.


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

Here it is, Thanksgiving Day, and I am not making a turkey.  There is no bread in the oven, no pie cooling on the rack, no clink of glasses, no shovelling of forks.

It's not that we don't like Thanksgiving over here; we definitely do.  It's one of my favorite holidays, in fact.  But I don't know how to make a turkey.  And I've never particularly enjoyed sweet potatoes.  With only the four of us here, and only two of us really eating, it just doesn't make a lot of sense to attempt a big meal filled with exotic things that definitely don't come out of a box.

I will miss the laughter of my mom's dining room table.  I will miss the awkward pauses as members of my extended family try to catch up on one another's lives without getting too involved.  I will miss the slice of custard pie I always swipe from my grandfather's kitchen.

While the festivities of the holiday may be lost on me this year, the meaning is not.  I have never in my 28 years been so thankful for everything I have.  Everybody always says how thankful they are that they have food to eat and that they have family to share that food with.  I'd be lying if I said that as a kid I didn't roll my eyes at the sentiment as I waited impatiently for my brother to pass the mash.

Only now, this year, do I truly understand the meaning of Thanksgiving.  Ironic that this meaning should come to me on the first year I'm not doing anything by way of celebration.

The intense struggle of the past two years has culminated in a beautiful family, secure in love and (right now) finances.  I look around at my cluttered living room, and I am at peace.  I hear my babies laughing, the extent of their problems being that I no longer allow them to wear shoes to bed.



No matter how you are celebrating Thanksgiving - or not celebrating, as the case may be - I wish everyone not only a happy day, but a happy life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Different Take on Thankful

- I am thankful for my husband.
- I am thankful for my children.
- I am thankful for the puddles of urine on my carpet because they mean that my children are working hard to learn the ways of the potty.
- I am thankful for the constant barrage of babble that assaults me every minute of every day because it means my children want to talk to me, want to share with me, and value my opinion.
- I am thankful for the cheerios scattered all over the floor because we have the money to spend on them.
- I am thankful for the 7 a.m. wake-up call because it means another day with my kids.
- I am thankful for the dirty dishes in my sink because they remind me that I don't need to be a perfect housekeeper to be loved.
- I am thankful for the stains on my carpet because I know one day I'll have wood floors.
- I am thankful for the stretch marks on my tummy that I hate because they remind me that I was lucky enough to be able to carry and give birth to healthy twins.
- I am thankful for the tantrums because they show me that my children have strong personalities and will stick up for themselves when they perceive any injustice.
- I am thankful for the messes I have to clean up because they mean that my children are inquistive and explorative.
- I am thankful to be a stay at home mom because it gives me the opportunity to shape my children and to see them grow each day.

I am thankful for my life.  Thank you.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Because I Said So

Routine changes, as I've said, are hard to deal with both for the toddlers and the adults involved.  Even the slightest change can cause a ripple effect that will last for weeks.

When my mother in law visited us, not much changed.  We went out to eat a bit more.  The babies had more attention.  There was an extra person with us.  That's about it.  They still napped at the same time, ate at the same time, went to bed at the same time.  They were still allowed the same things, and not allowed other things.

Still, as they learn that not all things will always be the same, it shifts their definitions of their lives.  If their grandmother is suddenly here, and not living in the phone, for instance, then maybe they are now allowed to eat lollipops for breakfast.  It's worth a try, right?  If one thing has changed, perhaps everything has changed.  And what better time for rebellion than when there is an outside audience present?

We overcame many tantrums this past week about minor issues that I never thought I would have to fight against.  Which video we would watch, when we would watch it, when they could have chocolate milk, whether or not they were allowed to stand in front of the fridge and pick out any number of miscellaneous items and throw them on the ground.  Issues I thought we had conquered months ago were now apparently up for rediscussion.

And since discussions with a toddler invariably end up in fish-flopping on the floor in anywhere from one to four minutes, we suffered an inordinate amount of timeouts and count downs this last week.

As frustrated as I became with them (and I did become very frustrated - it's one thing to have your children act out around you, it's another when they do it in front of someone you respect and, let's admit it, are trying to show off for), I tried desperately to remember that two year olds not only have the right to test boundaries, they need to test boundaries.  A huge amount of toddler growth comes from taking a leap of faith and overcoming boundaries.  How else would a toddler learn how to climb stairs, or go potty, or use a fork?  Things that were previously impossible become possible everyday for them.  In their minds, lollipops for breakfast should be no different.

As much as I admire their gumption and persuasive arguments, as much as I see the toddler logic ticking away and making sense, I am afraid there will not be any lollipops for breakfast.  There will never be any lollipops for breakfast.

Because I said so.

And here, at 27 months, the "because I said so" begins.


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Monday, November 22, 2010

Puzzling Perceptions

At two years old, my babies have perception confusion.  This makes sense.  When we Skype with my mother or with their uncle, for instance, they want to give them things, hug them, kiss them and touch them.  They see the image of a real person on the screen, therefore, that person is here.  This, logically, extends to regular phone conversations.  When I'm talking to my mom on the phone, and they can hear her but not see her, they run to the door and demand that she come in.  They can hear her, so obviously she must be here.

An interesting twist on this that I did not expect was how they reacted to my husband's mother's visit.  She walked in, followed by my husband.

"Hi!  Hello!  Hi! Vovo!  Hi vovo!  Vovo?  Vovo?  Phone?  Phone.  Vovo phone.  Phone vovo."

This kept up for the next few days, until they got comfortable with the idea that their grandmother did not live in the phone.

My kids thought their grandmother lived in the phone, that she belonged in the phone.  Her arrival challenged their perception of reality, and instead of simply accepting it, they first tried to remedy the situation.  They tried to right it within the confines of the truth they had already defined for themselves before broadening their scope to include the possibility that their grandmother could actually be here in our house in three dimensions.

Allowing themselves to admit that their grandmother did not live in the phone probably caused them a bit of confusion.  Something they knew as fact, they no longer knew.  As a bigger picture became clear to them, they not only had to navigate that new picture, they also had to discard the old one, to rid themselves of flawed perceptions.

Even at two years old, that was a hard feat to accomplish.  The upside is they did it willingly, with trust and eagerness.  They wanted to see the rest of the picture.  They were happy to change their perception, even though it was difficult for them.  That's a good sign because as they continue to grow and learn, they will have to trash many theories that they had previously assumed were correct.

It's also a lesson adults can take away from children.  So often we think we know everything about our lives, about our loved ones, about our friends, about politics or religion or national issues.  We don't know.  We will never know.  Every definition we have is based on the circle that we have erected around ourselves.  It's tainted by our past experiences, our tendencies, our weaknesses and strengths.  It's tainted by who we are.

If we dimiss additional information because it may force us to re-evaluate our possibly incorrect assumptions, we will miss out on a lot of life, most of which is going on right outside the circle we made for ourselves.

It's funny to see my toddlers rush to the door to see someone who is on the phone.  It's cute to laugh at them when they try to hand a piece of pineapple to the face talking to them on my computer screen.  As we grow up, our perceptions become more serious, at least to us.  We hold onto them more tightly, even when it becomes clear that we are wrong, or only working with partial information.  Change is difficult.  Changing ourselves is the most difficult of all.

I look at my kids, though, and I think, if they can do it with such innonence, grace and levity, perhaps I can, too.


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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Toddler Tricks - 14

Ways to Trick your Baby:

Problem:  Your toddler is insane.  She's literally nuts.  She wants a cookie.  No!  Not that cookie!  That one over there.  No!  She wants to pick it out herself.  No!  Not off the counter.  From the package.  Actually, she doesn't want a cookie.  She wants a video.  No!  Not Sesame St., not Dora.  Blue's Clues.  No!  Not Blue's Clues, Thomas the Train.  Actually, she doesn't want a video, she wants a CD.  She wants to sing.  Wait!  Why did you shut the video off?  She wanted the video!  She doesn't want a CD, after all.  Ad nauseum.

Solution:  Breathe.  Seriously.  Take a breath first.  Drown out that tension, whining, crying, tantrum or whatever it is you know your child is building towards.  Get down on their level, look at them quietly.  This will usually quiet them for the crucial three seconds you need.  Then, speak slowly.  Not only will this temper your own anger if you have any (like I usually do) it will also make things more clear for a person who is just starting to grasp the language.  What you say, offer, do or don't do is entirely up to you.  But the low-speaking, slow-speaking method is the easiest way to stop a simmering toddler from boiling, in my experience.


Ways your Baby can Trick You:

Problem:  Your baby looks at your calm slow-speaking self and laughs in your face.  "No, woman!  I do not wish to be placated.  I am on a roll here!"  she says clearly, and proceeds to thrash about while you stare on in dazed astonishment.

Solution:  Wait.  Tell yourself that tomorrow will soon be here, and this awful day will end.  That it's just a phase and this too shall pass.  Tell yourself whatever you need to, to make it through this day.  In the meantime keep up consistency.  A time out, a countdown, a swat to the backside, whatever you do in your family.  I'm not here to tell you which brand of discipline works for you.  I will tell you that whatever disciplinary acts you take may or may not work depending on the day.  If it doesn't look like it outright worked, at least you were consistent.  Consistency is key.  And so is waiting.  I cannot stress that enough.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nurse In Rocks Out

Joella Jarosh nurses Delilah.
Are you turned on?  Neither am I.  I am experiencing a warm and fuzzy feeling as I see a beautiful baby in the cutest leggings I've every laid eyes on filling her little tummy with her mother's milk.  But that's in my heart.  In my groin?  Nope, still nothing.

And I'm not alone.  More than 7,000 people are attending the "nurse in" on Facebook.  That's quite a haul for a four-day event that got little press publicity.  For those of you unfamiliar with the cause, the nurse in is a cyber event in which breastfeeding mothers, or those who support them, change their profile pictures to show people nursing their children.  You see, Facebook has a habit of taking them down.  The pictures are flagged under pornography.

Pornography?  Really?

Monika Whitney nurses Aias.
I'm sorry, does something about those big blue eyes and that bright green diaper cover scream sex to you?  Oh, that's right, it's his foodsource that's inappropriate.  A baby's foodsource is being labelled inappropriate.  And not just by Facebook, but by the public in general.

Maybe people don't realize this, but babies get hungry, just like everybody else.  And when a baby gets hungry, a baby cries.  Hungry babies don't care if they are in the mall, at the beach, at the park, at a coffee shop, in a restaurant or on the moon.  Hungry babies are hungry - regardless of location, they must eat.  And people would deny a baby food because the act of eating offends their sensibilities?  You don't have to hide your husbands or turn your older children away from the sight.  It's not a lapdance, it's not a skin flick, it's food.  Maybe we, as a society on a whole, should rethink our definition of porn.

Every time we go to the beach, we see string bikinis, lowcut suits, thongs.  That's not publicly frowned upon, nor should it be.  That is what the beach is for.  Are those people walking around embarrassed and shamed?  No.  No one gives them the hairy eyeball, the judgemental frown.  Why should mothers feel ashamed of nursing should their babies  be hungry at the beach?

Emily Walkerden nurses Molly at the beach.

I only breastfed my twins for three months, and even then I exclusively pumped.  My babies were born prematurely and would not latch.  But you don't have to be a prolonged breastfeeder, or even a breastfeeder at all, to support those who are.  Those mothers are doing the very best they can by their children.  They are loving them, holding them, nurturing them and guiding them.  Why can't they feed them?

We need to change our thinking.  As a society, we need to reassess our priorities.  The sooner we rid ourselves of the stigma that hinders a breastfeeding mother, the sooner we will be able to rid ourselves of the irrational fear that somewhere someone is getting off on the feeding of babies.

Facebook could start by leaving the pictures alone.  More than 7,000 women banding together, fighting for "the cause," when really, there shouldn't be a cause to fight for.  We don't have to fight over whether or not we eat a sandwich, do we?

Babies are beautiful.  Feeding them is normal.  I shouldn't have to write an essay plastered with breastfeeding pictures to say that.  But I did.  Maybe one day those women will win the battle that has been forced upon them.  Until then, they'll continue to post their breastfeeding pictures in defiance.

Nicole Erb nurses Javin.

I can only hope that one day they will be posting them in celebration, with no foe in sight.

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For more on judgement and breastfeeding, check out Food for Thought.
And visit Dear Delilah, Fine and Fair for a touching personal story.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Speaking in Tongues

This week, I'm living in a tri-lingual household - English, Portuguese and baby.  It's an interesting dynamic because not one of us understands fully all three languages.  My husband's mother does not understand English, but is fairly fluent in baby.  My husband speaks both English and Portuguese, but I translate baby into English for him for the most part.  And me?  My rudimentary Spanish brings me no closer to understanding the Portuguese language than it brings me to understanding a Nirvana song.

Cheerfully, if quietly, we move ahead.

Having my mother in law here has shown me yet another magical component of babyhood: its lack of self-consciousness.  Because baby is an ever-changing language, it often takes me dozens of times to truly understand the message my children are attempting to get across.  That does not deter them.  It does not deter me.  For months now, I have happily been having half conversations with little understanding of the details.  If I understand enough to give them a lollipop after they have spent ten minutes giving me precise instructions as to how it's supposed to be done ("Mama. Pop.  Oop, pop.  Pink pop.  Punkin.  Bowl.  Pop.  Oop pop, mama.") they are content.  We strive for the big picture here.

They wait patiently for my adult brain to slowly make sense of what must be crystal clear to them.  If I am obviously missing the point, they try another, equally obtuse and cryptic, way to show me what they are talking about.  It's really quite fun.  Their lack of self-consciousness saves me from being frustrated at myself for not understanding them.

Sadly, this is lost as we move into adulthood.

Yesterday morning, my mother in law wanted to feed them breakfast.  She managed, by using a few key words in English, to tell me she wanted to give them a banana, orange juice, cracker mix.  Being who I am, I grabbed a banana, some orange juice, and graham crackers.  No.  That's not it.  She wanted something else.

She pointed at the graham crackers and shook her head.  "Maria," she said.

Maria?

I tried a different kind of cracker.

"No, no.  Maria."  She started gesturing around the counter top area, but could not find an object to help clarify her meaning.

I tried something completely different.  "Do you mean the juice?"

"No, no."  She put her hands up in frustration and looked at me a bit sadly.  "English I no understand."

Her reaction confused me at first.  Was she upset?  Was she giving up, already?  We'd just started the game I play with my babies dozens of times a day.  Then, I realized that not understanding baby is different from not understanding other languages.  It's more acceptable, for some reason.

"Don't give up, yet," I said, giving her my brightest smile.  "We'll figure it out.  Try again.  Say again."

She looked at me, handed me the graham crackers, and said, "Maria."

And it hit me.

"Oh!  Maria!  You!  The crackers that you brought!  The green ones!"  I searched my counterspace.  There they were, in a bag under my purse.  And wouldn't you know that not only is Maria her name, it's also the name of the product.

Needless to say, she used real banana, juice from a real orange, and authentic Maria crackers to make the babies breakfast.


It's a shame that we are so hard on ourselves all the time.  It's as if life continually beats us back into an area of self doubt and self disappointment.  Though our languages may be different, and we may have trouble understanding the specifics, the big picture is clear and needs no language.  We all love those babies.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Affirmation

"No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye.  No bye bye."

I remember the days when I yearned for them to start to talk.  I wanted so badly to understand them, as they intrinsically understood me.

"No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go.  No go."

Now, I wonder if I'll make it through the day as the words pierce through my every thought, interrupt my conversation and never ever stop.

"Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange.  Dulce orange."

Okay!  Okay, babies!  Okay!  I hear you.  I hear you.  I understand.  It's your orange, your grandmother's not going anywhere, and we don't have to say goodbye to her.  I heard you the first time!

The thing we have to remember as parents is, the babies don't know we heard them if we don't acknowledge them.  Statements like "dry hands," "wet hair," and "no outside" may seem like they don't require a response.  They're simply observations.  They're not aimed at us specifically, or so we think.  But, really, they are.  Everything coming out of the babies' mouths are aimed at us.  We are their sole audience.  It seems to us that they talk just to talk all the time.  But they're not talking just to talk.  They are talking to us.  They are having a conversation.

And we may think we are the patient ones, but really, the babies are the ones being patient.  Instead of fuming over the adults in the room completely ignoring them, they innocently assume we didn't hear them, or we didn't understand.  Obviously, to be heard they need to say it again.  And again.  And again.  Until their words are recognized.  Until they are recognized.

We should recognize our children as they make huge steps in the communication process.  It's easy to tune them out, but even something as unimportant as "blue shirt" is important to them.  And so many times they are making connections that we are unaware of, and they're doing their best to communicate that with us - telling us a story, two words at a time.  Dulce just came up to me to alert me that she needed a diaper change.

"Big poop."

We went to change her, and as she's laying back, she changes her wording from "big poop" to "outside poop."  She was reminding me of the duck poop I had warned her about earlier in the day, when we were outside, looking at the duck pond.

And these conversations are person specific, so that if the babies are telling their father "no night night," it will do absolutely no good for me to acknowledge that.  They will continue to repeat it until he says it back to them.  Then, satisfied, they nod sagely, stick their thumbs in their mouths and quiet down.

All they are looking for is acknowledgement, recognition, validation, affirmation.  And really, isn't that all anyone is looking for out of life?

___
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Family Visit Anxiety


Are the carpets clean enough?  Does that candle smell fresh enough?  Why is the kitchen dirty again? I swear I just cleaned it.  Is that table sticky?  I just washed it.  I need to wash the countertops, and the cabinets, and the floor, and I never noticed the splashes of sauce in the microwave.  Should I clean out the fridge?  What are the chances she'll go into the fridge?  Fairly large, I'd say.  I'd better at least wipe it down.
And I haven't even started on the upstairs.

My husband's mother is visiting us for a week.  She's here now, and all those cleaning questions I had yesterday have almost vanished.  Luckily for me, the babies are a good distraction from the mess.  Of course, I have just now learned that floor-crackers will be unacceptable foodstuffs for this week-long stay.  That's a lot of food wasted, but maybe it's for the best.  Maybe the babies are old enough to learn not to knock, spill or pour their food on the floor at every given opportunity.

She's been gracious enough not to comment on my housekeeping, which is lacking at best.  She's been able to sit on my (freshly washed) couches, and crawl around on the (freshly vaccuumed) floor.  But, in this house, even freshly washed couches and freshly vaccuumed carpets leave much to be desired.  This place needs a deep clean.  And we've only been here six months.  Two babies make a lot of mess.  Two babies are basically made of mess.

And even in my frantic tidying (because I can't honestly call it cleaning) yesterday, I see now so much that I missed.  I have what people call "counter blindness."  I'm stuck in this 15-year-old state of mind when it comes to cleaning.  I simply don't see the mess.  The bowl of old cheerios that's been sitting on the counter for three weeks?  Part of the decor.  The baby smudges that have streaked the windows since July and are only getting worse?  Well, I could have sworn the windows came that way.  I will literally be cleaning a room and walk over a big pile of toys in the center of that room.  Clearly, they don't need to be cleaned up.  A pile in the middle of the room must be where they belong.  Simply put, if it's been there long enough, my mind assumes that's where it belongs.  I can't clean all the things if I can't see them.

A perfect example of this?  I have never, in the 27 months my children have been alive, thought to make their beds.  When I walked into their room this morning after breakfast, I was greeted by this scene:













Other things will change, too, this visit.  I see that we will be cleaning the toys up when the babies go down for their nap.  We will be tidying the kitchen right after we eat, instead of three hours later.  We will find other areas of the house that perhaps should not be ignored in our puttering frenzy.  These are not bad things.  I could stand to learn them.

I realize as I write this (as my mother in law is sweeping my porch) that perhaps my anxiety was unfounded.  This visit will mean an uptick in cleaning for me because I clearly cannot sit idly by while my husband's mom tidies up, but I am not opposed to this.  Perhaps, if I'm lucky, it will become habit, and she will leave me better able to live a clutter-free life.

At the very least, this week, my house will be clean.

___
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Parenting Online - Part 2

While there are dozens of articles and resources you can google on the internet to find out more information on any parenting topic you're interested in - or be validated in any decision you've made - sometimes, you come across a specific situation where anecdotes and stories of others who have already gone through it will help you.  Reading walls of clinical texts can be boring and time consuming, so many parents prefer to go right to the source and ask their questions to other parents.

There are many interactive sites catering to this need, in the form of forums often called communities.  You can find a community for any specific label you apply to yourself, be it stay at home mom, working mom, young mom, older mom, potty-training mom, mom of toddlers, mom of twins and many more.  No matter who you are, there are several groups with dozens of members just like you out there to help.

Or to hurt.

As the name indicates, communities are exactly that.  They have rules and regulations.  They have hierarchies and popularity.  They have helpful people and people who are there to snark.  They have running jokes and taboo topics.  If you thought you left high school behind, let me introduce you to mommy communities on the internet.

If you are going to use them, here are some things I've learned that may give you a flame-free experience, although nothing on the internet is 100 percent snark proof.

1)  Lurk first.  Pick a community and watch it.  You'll get a feel for the types of questions people ask there, and how they ask them.  How you ask a question is almost as important as what you're asking because people often get tied up in semantics and forget to answer your question.  Or they read a bigger debate into your particular situation and go off on that debate as a whole.  Something like this can hijack your entire thread and prevent you from getting the specific stories you were looking for.

By lurking, you will also be able to assess the relationship different members have with each other.  Many people stay with communities for years and know a lot more about each other than you would assume at first glance.  Friendships start up, battle lines are drawn, and memories carry.  So that someone may ask an innocent question and be flamed for something they posted months ago, as other members remember that they previously disagreed.  It's not always this way, but many new members of parenting communities find themselves turned off or intimidated when it is.  Don't be.  They're all just parents like the rest of us, and even if 80 of them decide to tell you you're doing it wrong, that doesn't mean it's true.

2) Ask in the right place.  A debate community is not the place for an advice question, and a question community is not the place for a cute story. Consider your audience.  If you're formula feeding, for instance, a breastfeeding community will not help you. 

The answers, stories and judgement you'll receive from the internet depends on where you post your question.  For instance, I posted in a general question forum about the reaction of people to a toddler's public tantrum.  The answers there were exactly what I expected.  They told me I needed to be a better parent and discipline my child more effectively.  Had I asked in the parenting community I frequent,  people would have commiserated with me.  I would have been told similar stories and advised to keep on keeping on.  Parents understand that babies cry and toddlers tantrum, other people might not.

3) Don't be discouraged; there will always be people out there who think they are better than you.  No matter which community you post to, if you're asking a sensitive question, people are going to have mixed opinions, and some will not mince words in telling you about them.  Whether or not you respond to these comments is up to you, but, remember - even if someone is personally attacking you - don't take it to heart.  They don't know you, they don't know your story, and they'll never understand the choices you're making or the reasons behind those choices.  A personal attack is only as personal as you allow it to become.

4) Only take what's helpful to you.  Remember these people are not experts, they're just other parents who have read other things who feel differently.  They may have had similar experiences that may be helpful to you.  They may have had similar experiences that help you in no way whatsoever.  If you don't cosleep and they tell you the only thing that worked for them is cosleeping, then that's great for them.  Their comment may be useful to someone else reading your post.  That doesn't mean you have to take it into consideration if you've already decided against it.  On the other hand, if you were looking for the benefits of cosleeping to help you make that decision, their story may very well help you a lot.

5) Don't post a follow up.  Many of these sites will have a profile page for you.  If people are curious as to how your situation played out, they will look there.  A follow up is usually forgiven if new problems shoot up, and you think more advice could help you.  The key here is that communities are about the topics at hand; they are not about you.

Parenting communities are the internet's answer to the old adage "it takes a village to raise a child."  Not everyone in that village is going to approve of the choices you make, or even like you, but in the end, they aren't the ones raising your child.  You are.

____
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Moment of the Week - 13

In case anyone thought eating was something to be taken seriously -

video

But it's not all violence at the lack of dinner table!  Sometimes, there's even a lentil soup kiss.

video



____
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Toddler Tricks - 13

Ways to trick your baby:

Problem:  There are crucial times in babies' growth cycles when they seem to be fitting in the diapers you've always used, but they start overflowing them at night.  Each morning, or sometimes even in the middle of the night, you're greeted with cries of distress and discomfort instead of smiles and hellos.

Solution:  Go the next diaper size up.**  Even if you think they will be way too big, they're usually not, and they have the extra padding and space to absorb more.  Some people try putting the same sized diapers or the bigger diapers on backwards.  I've not tried it, but it's apparently pretty successful.  What I've found myself doing lately (because even the bigger diapers aren't doing the trick) is going in for an after-midnight diaper change.  The babies sometimes do wake up, but I just explain to them what I'm doing, and they usually let me and fall right back to sleep.


Ways your baby can trick you:

Problem:  Once your toddler is old enough, he or she may take the diaper off completely.  You'll end up with wet sheets, wet pillows, wet beds, and wet babies when this happens.

Solution:  Use a zip-up footie pajama style so they can't get in there.  Eventually, they'll figure out how to unzip that, and you'll be back at square one.  Buy bigger-sized pajamas if you have to and put them on backwards.  It's incredibly hard for a toddler to unzip from the back.

(**This is for people who use disposables.  It may be the same for cloth diapering, but I don't know anything about it, so it could be totally different.)

____
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Go with the Flow

A while back I posted about how hard it is for toddlers to deal with a change in their routine.  While adults may not get scared when their routine changes without their permission, they can get irritated.  Yet another way in which adults are not so different from toddlers after all.

We used to have a system in this house.  We'd wake up at 8 a.m., I'd give the babies a glass of milk and some dry cereal to munch on while I made breakfast, we'd eat breakfast, my husband would go to work.  This system worked because the babies could not get up the stairs and were content to play downstairs for a little while, as I got myself ready for the day.

The change in the clocks just happened to coincide with my twins discovering they could easily scale the stairs in the morning.  So that my easy morning that started when I was ready for it is no more.  Bright and early at 7 a.m. I inevitably hear the stomp (let's be honest, it's no pitter-patter) of little feet ascending to my bedroom.

"Up!  Up, mama!  No night night.  Wake up. Wake up!  Wet.  Mama, wake up."

I try to delay them, but to no avail.  A wet diaper is a wet diaper and a wet diaper needs changing.  I stagger out of bed, rubbing sleep from my eyes, and if my husband attempts to get up to help, he is reprimanded.

"No, dada.  No.  Dada night night.  No up."

Oh, okay, babies, thanks.  We stumble downstairs and I start my day.  An upside to this new schedule is that my husband has some time in the morning to himself.  I get to drink my coffee in peace as the babies snack on their cheerios and meander online for a few minutes instead of having to rush to get breakfast ready.

Still, the shift hasn't come about without a few hiccups.  It takes me a few days to adjust, and sometimes breakfast is ready too soon.  Sometimes it's not ready in time.  Changing routine on me can make me forgetful, too.  I find myself remembering at the last second these days to pack lunch, whereas before packing lunch was a built-in response to finishing breakfast.

I want to complain about it, but I know it won't do any good.  No reason to stick my heels over something I have no control over.  It's easier for everybody if the adults sometimes accommodate the little ones.  Plus, I'll be used to this new routine before I know it - just in time for my kids to change it up again so that I can be disgruntled and disoriented.

Oh, well.  At least they're cute in the morning.

____
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

It Is What It Is

Very few parents are exempt from the terrible twos.  Whether the stage manifests in tantrums, or tears, or sneakiness, or general malaise, it tends to haunt parents of toddlers wherever they go.  For the most part, babies are well behaved, but one never knows when a bad moment will strike.  If it happens to be in front of people, all you can do is brave the embarrassment with a smile and know that given enough time, everything evens out.

When I first met my friend, she stopped by with her adorable 14-month-old son.  He was perfectly well behaved, happy, quiet, and all-around cute as could be.  My two-year-old children, on the other hand, were rambunctious, loud and annoying.  I had to put them in 'time out' three times during her short visit.  I was mortified.  Through the tears and the screams and the fish flopping, I thought surely I'd never see my friend again.  And when we did end up seeing each other again, I found myself ever-ready to apologize for their behavior, to blame myself for my children's apparent shortcomings and to congratulate her on her effortless parenting style that seemed to work so well.

What I failed to realize is that my children didn't have any shortcomings other than the fact that they had just turned two.  Unless you're incredible lucky, your child will never be an angel all of the time, and somehow during that traumatic visit and the weeks afterward, I had totally forgotten that at 14 months my babies were divine company.  All I could see was the tantrum they had thrown the day before, the tantrum they were throwing today and the tantrum they were surely going to throw tomorrow.

But one day they didn't.  And the day after that, they didn't again.  Are we tantrum free now?  Not by a long shot, but I've gotten my amiable babies back in a big way.

This afternoon, I took those amiable babies over to my friend's house.  She'd invited us for lunch.  When we arrived, her son was not yet back with his father, and when they came in, the boy was crying.

"No, baby.  No cry.  No cry.  Happy baby," my babies chanted at him, giving him hugs and kisses.  They continued this model behavior, sharing toys, dancing, laughing and playing quietly.  At one point, my friend's husband said to me, "What have you been giving the twins to keep them so quiet?"

I laughed and said, "I gave them a couple of months.  Your baby is just getting to the stage mine were in when you met me.  But the good news is, we're proof that it will only be a phase."

When your children drive you nuts, when they whine and grovel and yell and hit, when they scream and bite and cry and flop around, remember: this is a fleeting moment in their childhood and a fleeting moment in your parenthood.  It is not a reflection on them, and it is not a reflection on you.  It simply is what it is.

On the other hand, maybe her son freaked out because she served this for lunch:


I know I did.

____
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Say Bye Bye!

One of the things I've learned since having twins is that they are not nearly as rare an occurrence as I thought they were.  It seems everybody is a twin, has twins, knows a twin or knows someone who has twins.  They all want to talk to me about it, too.

Everywhere we go, we are stopped.  Twins, apparently, remain a novelty forever. 

These conversations don't usually go smoothly.  I don't mind stopping and talking, but when I'm out with my toddlers, time is of the essence.  The babies have to be amused, and mommy talking another adult they don't know isn't exactly scintillating conversation for them.  Too long and they get restless, they get restless and the remaining portion of the outing is ruined.  This leads me to be less engaging than I otherwise would be.  A conversation typically goes like this:

"Oh!  Are they twins?"

"Yes."

"They're beautiful!"

"Thank you."    Pause.

"... They must be a handful."

"Yes, they can be, but they're usually good."   Pause.

"... You know I'm a twin (my niece has twins, my aunt has twins, my dog's cousin's roommate has twins)."

"Really?  A lot of people have twins; it's crazy!"  Pause.

"... Are there any other twins in your family."

"Nope.  These are the first ones."

Insert personal story of twins running in random stranger's family or not.

Pause.  Pause.  Pause.

"Um, okay.  Well, say bye bye, babies"

"Bye bye! Bye bye!"

"Oh, okay, bye!"

I feel horrible letting people linger like that, but I simply cannot respond to their incredibly interesting anecdotes with the proper enthusiasm while I have two babies staring up at me, wondering when we're going to hit the road.  Surely this must happen to parents of toddlers regardless of whether they're singletons or twins or triplets or what have you.

My thought process is that since our babies inadvertantly get us into these conversations, they can get us out.  Depending on their mood, we have anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes to have a conversation with someone we don't know.  The key is this: "Say bye bye, babies!"

This key phrase can be inserted into a conversation at any point.  If the babies are showing signs of crankiness, I can tell them to say bye bye after the first compliment is given.  The best part of this solution?  It isn't rude.  Or, if it is rude, the rudeness is forgiven because the emphasis remains on the babies.  The stranger is usually appeased by having the babies talk to him or her, even if it's only to end an unwelcome conversation.  It is my best trick.  I have never seen it not work.  The babies' bye bye is final.


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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Babble Blogger List!

I was nominated for the Top Mommy Blog list at babble.com!  I see there's a lot of traffic coming from there, and I am so excited and honored and thrilled!  My blog is pretty new, so I'm amazed anyone knows of me at all!

Anyway, if you like this blog, you could vote for me!

The babies and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts! 

(PS - This is so exciting!)


(PPS - Anyone out there know how to add a button to the site?  A gadget, or something?  I had to make a post because the internet is hard!)

Targeting Target

The babies and I just got back from a "shopping spree" in which I bought them shoes, slippers, nighties, socks and jackets.  Gone are the days of meandering through boutique after boutique looking for purses, perusing the dress selection and impulse-buying that adorable centerpiece.  When you're shopping with toddlers, you've got one shot, and you had better make it count.  We chose Target.



The trip went well - no meltdowns, no screaming, no merchandise ruined - but I still came away with a few complaints:

1)  You cannot find anything.  Why is it that toddler socks are not near toddler shoes, and that toddler shoes are not in the regular shoe department, nor in the toddler clothing department, but hidden away in a little off-the-beaten-track nook?  I have twins sitting precariously in a Target shopping cart.  We don't fit into nooks.  Someone should rearrange the children's section so that it makes sense.  Everything should be out in the open, and one item should transition to the next.

2)  Everything looks ridiculous.  All I wanted for my kids were a few solid jackets in neither pink nor purple.  What is it about a two year old that screams "I need polka dots and stripes!"  Nothing matches polka dots or stripes.  When you finally do find something in a solid cream color, for example, you rejoice until you notice the garrish Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh or Dora the Explorer emblem in neon colors on the back.  In contrast, the little girls' section has more fashionable items than the women's section - cute little coats with belts, newsboy caps and trendy jeans mocked me, all being just a little too big for my girls.  Apparently, four years old is the age for fashion, these days.

3)  Everything is ridiculously expensive.  When we finally did find the socks (a lucky break - I spotted them while we were on our way to the checkout), I had the option of bright pink and green patterned socks in a pack of three or days-of-the-week socks in a pack of (obviously) seven.  They were $6 and $10, respectively.  Meanwhile, a large bag of little girls' socks beckoned to me at $5 for 10 pairs.  Again, way too big.  Why the mark up for toddler-wear?  Less material is used, after all.  Perhaps they're more expensive to cover the costs of the silly designs and colors used to make them.

In my dream world, a Target or a Walmart or a Kohls would have every item I wished for in the same section.  They'd at least give me the option to buy my kids normal-looking clothing, and they'd knock the price down to a rate comparable with the rest of the merchandise in the store.  Of course, while I'm dreaming, maybe they could potty train my kids while we're there.

Monday, November 8, 2010

If Then What

A calm has been ushered into this house since Halloween passed last week.  A calm strong enough to overcome the wacky sugar highs my children can get off of one piece of fun-sized candy.  A calm so soothing, I feel as if the past year of non-sensical toddler tyranny has been leading up to this reward and has been worth it.

It is the calm of bribery.

At 27 months, my children are finally able to understand a core concept of life: If you do this thing, then you can have that thing.

This takes on many variations throughout the day, and my children are patient enough with me that I can put them off several times before having to come up with the goods, which keeps actual candy consumption to a minimum. 

So that our morning often sounds like this:

"Pop."

"No, no pops until after breakfast.  You have to eat breakfast first.  Then we're going for a walk.  So, you can have a pop after your walk."

There is no tantrum, no frenzy of tears, no acting out.  There is only a quiet acceptance that lollipops will eventually be had.

"Choca mook."

"No, no chocolate milk until after dinner.  You know that.  You have to eat your dinner first."

How many meals these days are eaten solely on the promise that treats are coming?  I used to dread meals.  I didn't even want to feed my kids, such was the ordeal.  But with the simple addition of bribery, mealtime went from a time of cajoling, begging, threatening my kids to take a bite, to a quiet time of happiness as the babies think of their treats to come, and I look at their full bellies with approval.

Is bribery the best way to raise your kids?  Absolutely not.  Is it the best way to get a two year old to put her toys away quietly?  In my experience, yes.  Bribery is just another link on the chain of baby evolution.  I look on it as a celebration of their development rather than a weakness in my parenting style.  As they understand more and more of the world around them, the bribery will become less obvious.  It will look more like simple understanding of cause and effect.  After all, don't we all do things based on the hope that something better is coming along?  It's a pity we can no longer be satisfied with a mini Snickers bar.

So, parents who have children not quite at this age, be comforted.  The age of bribery and understanding is coming, and it is beautiful here.

Only one storm cloud lingers in the distance, and that's the question: what happens when we run out of Halloween candy?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Toddler Tricks - 12

Ways to trick your baby:

Problem:  You need food.  This means you have to go to the grocery store.  This means going to a place with forbidden goodies hanging from every nook, cranny and crevice, with a strapped-in, mildly annoyed to threatening-to-blow toddler.  For an hour.  While you try to remember what's on your shopping list.

Solution:  Find something boring that you're already going to buy that the baby can hold while you shop.  For us, it was a big cheese block - one for each baby.  I always hit the dairy section first and even by that time the twins are reaching for various treats (usually in glass containers), so I pick out a few blocks of cheese, make as if to put them in the cart, and then, instead, hand them to the children.  They are gratified, study their haul, and we can move on.  When the magic of the cheese wears off, we're usually in the pasta section, and I switch out the blocks for pasta which the babies can shake endlessly.


Ways your baby can trick you:

Problem:  As your kids get older, they're going to need something a little more stimulating than a cheese block.  At this point, they know what cheese is for, and they have the teeth to do it.


Can you see that?  The flash makes it hard.  That's a hole chewed through the cheese wrapper and a chunk eaten out of the cheese.  First, how awful that my babies were sticking something in their mouths that's been in who knows how many people's hands while I ignorantly perused the seafood section?  Secondly, try explaining to a cashier that, yes, that's your cheese, and you let your kids do that to it.  It's uncomfortable.

Solution:  Bring a few toys your child hasn't seen in a while in your purse when you go shopping.  When you're searching through the foodstuffs, and they start to get restless, you can give them their own toy as a treat to play with while you shop.  This will only work if they really haven't seen it in a while, though, otherwise, it's old news.  If you're still going to choose something from the store itself, my advice is make a better choice than thinly wrapped cheese.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Conversation Stopper

"Hi!  Have I cut your hair before?"

"No.  This is my first time here."

"Oh, okay.  So, where do you work?"

"I don't.  I'm a stay at home mom."

...

That's right.  It's a conversation stopper.  I can't imagine what effect it would have had on a woman whose dream in life was to become a stay at home mom.  I think it would be even more insulting than it was to me, a woman who questions her choice weekly.  I know, in my case, it caused worry and self-doubt.  I wondered, yet again, if I was doing the right thing by staying at home with my toddlers.  At two, they're certainly old enough to go to daycare.  If I were bringing in a second income, we could perhaps afford it.  We may even be able to afford a nanny, who would most likely be a better housekeeper than I am.  And I like working.  I like my field.  I'm educated in it.  I certainly feel like my degrees and my years of experience are dwindling, melting away, diminishing a little more each day I opt out of the working world.

Would I be better off if I took a job?  Would my kids be better off?  Should I once again venture into the working world and become a productive person?  Maybe then people would stop looking at me with pity and slight disgust in their eyes.

But what of those who never question their desire to stay home with their kids?  Are they not productive members of our society?  Of course they are.  Of course I am.  Whether or not others understand, a stay at home mom works just as hard if not harder than those who put eight hours in on the clock.  We're luckier in a sense because our bosses are cute, they'll never fire us, and they love us, unconditionally.  On the same token, we can never quit.  We can never call in sick.  We can never have an off day where we hide in our office and goof around until our shift is over.  Personal days?  Mental health days?  Vacation?  They never happen.

Not to mention, the scope of our duties are more varied than any working person without kids (for those mothers and fathers who work and also have kids experience this, too, just in a more limited time frame) could ever understand.  We are the ultimate multi-taskers.  In the span of five minutes, we could be a chef, a janitor, a teacher and a nurse.  People don't see that because it all falls under the word - the category - mother.

The conversation at the salon could have easily transitioned into talk about my kids.  What are their names?  How old are they?  Oh, they're twins?  How interesting.  But the conversation didn't transition.  It stopped.  Because the truth is, to some people, it's not interesting.  People, in general, are not interested in my kids.  Rather, they're mildly interested, but they could never be as invested as I am, and perhaps they feel a bit uncomfortable talking about things they don't understand.

The problem with my feelings as stated above is that they don't even remotely resemble reality.  There are dozens of people who are interested in and who would talk to mothers, regardless of their working status.  But, give a mother enough conversations like the one above, and they will start to shy away from talking about their kids, their day, their life.  Perception is powerful.  Stay at home moms perceive the outside world as looking down on them, or pitying them, or, at the very least, not being interested in them - a perception probably based on just a very few instances like the one above.  It doesn't take much to hack away at someone's self-esteem, even if it's not intentional.

We need not shy away from who we are.  Just like those punching a time card, we are evolving, and we will be promoted.  Soon our kids will go to school.  Our lives will change just like everybody else's.  There is no divide here.  We are all people.  We all have the same broad goals and feelings.  It is only the specifics that change from person to person.

We need not be ashamed of what we do.  People will understand or they won't.  Either way, it has nothing to do with us.  We are performing important, life-changing tasks everyday.  We are shaping the future of the world.  Whether we do that from an office, a hair salon or home is completely up to us. 

Be happy with your choices.  You made them for a reason, after all.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

On Choice, in Honor of Election Day

My older twin, Dulce, wants the brown hat.  No, now she wants the pink hat.  Now she wants no hat, but she definitely wants a coat - the green coat.  No, not the green coat, but the polka-dotted coat with buttons. 

We make similar personal choices everyday as adults.  We don't think about them anymore because choosing is our right and our habit - so that when I matched my black top to my jeans and heels, the clothing choices didn't register in my mind.  When I ordered my Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, the hundreds of other drink selections and dozens of other coffee shop choices did not bombard my brain.  I did not fret about whether I had made the best choice - the most sensical choice, the most feasible choice, the most ethical choice - for my oufit and drink.  I just did it.

For toddlers, choosing is a luxury, a treat given on the capricious whims of fickle parents (or so it must seem to them.)  Too many choices can send toddlers into hysterics.  They lose control over the situation, having not yet been trained to automatically rule out any options.  They also have no system in place for evaluating those options, leaving each selection equal to the next.  And how can you choose something over something else if each has completely equal value?  So that if I do not limit their choices each day to small things and give them only two choices at most, if I do not step in as their heads swivel back and forth between the grapes and the cheerios to tell them they are eating the grapes first, and then the cheerios, they quickly whip themselves into a frenzy of indecision, unable to take a step toward the cheerios without stepping right back toward the grapes, in case the grapes were really what they wanted in the first place.  But, then again, what about the cheerios?  And it goes on. 

Parents frustratedly say, "they don't know what they want."  And that's true.  But how can they know when they have so little experience to go on?  Making a choice seems impossible when you're just barely grasping the concept of cause and effect and have no idea what consequences or rewards either choice may bring.

And might that be why so many of us don't vote?  To truly understand which candidate will do the best by you and your family, you have to research policy, you have to take an interest in legislation, you have to make an effort to understand and predict how each candidate will affect the governance of your area.  If we do not take the time to familiarize ourselves with our choices, each choice has equal value, making it impossible to choose.

As I help Dulce with her coat, my younger twin, Natalina, wants something to drink.  No, she doesn't want juice.  She doesn't want water.  She chooses milk.  No, she doesn't want milk in a sippy cup; she wants it in a bottle.  When told that her choice is not available, she instantly breaks down into tears.  She's forgotten all about the milk in her fight over the container in which it comes.

When it comes to political candidates, we'll never find one that matches our standards perfectly.  We cannot shut down when the choices given to us fall short of our ideal.  But we do.

In some ways, I am already training my toddlers to discard certain choices, or, rather, make their lives easier by allowing them to choose instinctively what is theirs.  Natalina will only drink from the pink sippy cup, for instance.  Since they've been using cups, I have given her the pink one, perpetuating the illusion of ownership and allowing her to automatically discount the purple one, which is for the best, since that's Dulce's cup for the same reasons.

Party affiliations make choosing easier, come election time.  Conveniently, candidates run under two different general sets of beliefs, allowing us to do less research and simply vote along party lines.  While not the best alternative, it works in a pinch.  After all, we have laundry to do.  We cannot be looking up every candidate's position on every issue.  We just don't have the time for that.  And that's okay.  An automatic choice is better than no choice at all.

Freedom of choice is a powerful thing.  Our babies struggle toward it everyday.  Meanwhile, we adults have had it so long that it no longer means anything to us.  But maybe it should.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rejected!

Around a year of age, your child will probably choose what's known in parenting circles as a lovey.  My children chose theirs carefully at 14 months.  At first, Dulce tried to make a hot pink plastic watering can her lovey, but it just wasn't cuddly enough.  She settled on a pink blanket.  Natalina took to a bear with which the twins had shared their infancy.


You may remember Blankie and Bear from one of my earliest posts where I told you how to wash them.  Reading back, I agree with my techniques for preservation, but I realized I glazed over the most traumatizing part of the whole affair: the after-wash lovey rejection.

Dulce has gone up to five days and nights rejecting her cleaned Blankie.  She simply refuses to sleep with it unless it smells like her.  She'd prefer it to smell dirty than clean because while dirty, it still smells like her underneath the dried milk and fermenting grape juice.  Once it's clean, it smells like nothing - a fate worse than death, and apparently deserving of total exile.  Of course, without Blankie, she can't sleep.  The days after a wash can be brutal.  I've devised some ways to save you my fate.

First, if you do nothing else I've advised, do this:  wash your child's lovey twice a week.  Do this whether or not the lovey is dirty.  Of course, the more you wash the lovey, the more quickly it will wear out.  Buy multiple loveys, all exactly the same.  Get your child used to the switch early, before toddler stubborness sets in.  Also, wash the loveys using the tips I wrote about in August to keep their lives as long as possible.  If your child gets used to the smell of a clean lovey, that's the smell your child will want.

If it is too late for you, and you suffer clean lovey rejection like I do, here are the less-than-ideal alternatives that I use:  wash the loveys with baking soda only, not soap.  No smell at all is better than clean smell.  If it needs to be a quick and dirty wash, take that literally.  Throw the lovey into the wash at the end of the cycle, so that it only gets half the amount of soap and wash as the other laundry.

Make sure, also, that the lovey is dried completely and cooled to room temperature before giving it back to baby.  The fewer things that are different about the lovey, the more likely the baby will accept it.  If at all possible, wash and dry the lovey without your baby realizing it's gone.  Once it's dried and cooled, put it back on his bed so that he can find it on his own, as if nothing ever happened.

Nothing is more sad in daily parenting life than a baby's rejection of his lovey.  It's as if an old friend abandoned him.  With any luck, if you try these tips, your child and his lovey can remain best buddies in any stage of clean.

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