Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Food Wars

I am currently elbow-deep in a death match with a two year old over dinner, which pretty much means every night between 6 and 7, I have the prospect of hard work and frustration, with no chance of a positive return on my investment.

I'm lovin' them odds.

Tonight, my patience for the IF/THEN game ("If you eat a bite, you'll get a drink of milk!") wore thin quickly. Instead, he's watching Yo, Gabba Gabba on the Kindle in my bed while I catch up on my blogging.

I don't intend to harbor even a second of guilt over this. We're both happy right now and nobody's screaming or crying. Least of all, Mama.

Deal with it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I love Fall. People can say whatever they like about the season--weather is iffy, season of decay, etc--but I love every blustery, cold morning/hot afternoon, layer-requiring, squash-eating, bonfiring, World Series watching, footballing, Halloweening, orange, red and brown bit of it.

We've already taken to the woods more times in the last 15 days than we did during the entire 3 months of summer, just because it's Fall so I'm more motivated to get out and commune w/Mother Nature.

Ahhh...the smell of rotting leaves...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'd Tell You, But I Forgot.

The toughest part for me of being a working mom of a 2 year old (besides the tantrums) is the sneaking suspicion that I'm no longer interesting because I don't have (insert: time, money, energy, et. al) to do anything...well...interesting.

Or if I actually do get out of the house for fun, not errands or work, nobody knows about it because my brain is fried from exhaustion or I'm too distracted trying to keep this little person from killing himself to remember to talk about it when someone asks me what I've been up to lately.

Someday I'll laugh about it.

I read this blog (what I do when I can't sleep) where this guy said, 'Don't shame yourself for not being where you are "supposed to be." You are where you are; be in your actual life.'

Good advice, I guess; and way easier than trying to remember to tell people stuff.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Midnight Musing

I might be a bobble-head.

I realize that this may feel like it's coming out of left field to you, but I've had a great deal of time to think about this. I first considered it when I read an article about body proportions and perceived attractiveness. The study showed that when 100 pictures of people were flashed across a screen, the majority of those described as "attractive" were people with regular, symmetrical features and with heads that were proportionally large for their body sizes. The study also noted that most sex symbols and more particularly, movie stars, had proportionally large heads for their bodies. Also of note, they mentioned that large heads on small bodies present well on the big screen. Go figure, it all makes sense. Bobble-heads make the world of entertainment and sex appeal go 'round.

At the time I remember asking a select few loved ones if I had a big head. I'd become suspicious when I noticed that my face, at least, always looked big in pictures, especially if I was with another person. On more than one occasion, I was assured that, no, my head was no bigger than the average Jane's, so I let it go.

My loved ones are liars. Maybe they did it for my own good. They didn't want me to (pardon the pun) get the big head and start thinking I was a sex symbol or something, so they lied to keep me humble. Regardless of their reasons, man, they're liars, one and all.

I blame myself. The signs were all there. I already mentioned the pictures. I never like the way I look in hats. And perhaps the most damning sign of all, my son has a big head. In fact, he's in the 10th percentile for height among 2 year olds, but in the 85th percentile for head circumference. Future sex symbol in the making, folks.

Until recently, I blamed his father for this. He's got a big head. Lots of men in his family do. I come from a family of pin-heads so it couldn't come from me. Must be his genes, right?

Noooot necessarily...

Exhibit A

That's a big melon. I have to come to terms with it and raise my head (slowly and with great effort under the weight) to accept my plight.

All hail bobble-heads! Long may we rave.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Down In My Heart to Stay

I recently got to spend a kid-free weekend with two dear friends, Nikki and Angie. We hadn't seen each other for 2 years and are all so busy that regular phone calls aren't practical, but no matter how long the separation, we always pick up where we left off, as if no time has passed. I hit the jackpot with these two.


One of them is a social worker for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She's gorgeous, smart as a whip, cares deeply about people and can find the redemption and humor in most situations. Everything I know about bad-naked, I learned from her. The other is a current stay-at-home mama and former Pediatric Occupational Therapist with a heart as big as her home state. She's also gorgeous, can spot a good beer at 20 paces and I've never cried alone in her presence.

We did it all and we did nothing. Apparently, girlfriending draws a crowd. We drew conversation from strangers wherever we went. :) We ate good food, drank good wine and beer, got mani/pedis, lounged in our jammies and talked until we passed out. Literally.

We also got tattoed.

The first stroke.

I've been talking about getting a tattoo for two years and thinking about it longer. It's been something I wanted to do but have always been a tiny bit too chicken-gutted to follow through on. The original plan was to get one on my 35th birthday. Instead, I got a baby. At 36, I was nursing, so it got pushed back again. By the time 37 rolled around, I'd pretty much given myself up as yellow-bellied and let it go, but neither of these chicks would let me get away with it. Soo...

We did it!

Did I mention that the offical girlfriend code also includes a clause that prohibits getting body art alone? It's a subset of the "no crying alone" clause.

It was so great! I give props to Sarah, our tattoo artist at Hearts of Fire Tattoo in Springfield, MO--she patiently accommodated each of our choices and gave creative ideas if we hit a rut. She was also quick and steady-handed. We got tattoos that reflected our personalities and that were meaningful to us, at a good price. My tattoo is Hebrew and is pronounced simcha. It means joy, or joyful. It's used in one of my favorite Old Testament scriptures, Zephaniah 3:17. The reasons behind the other girls' tatts aren't mine to tell, so I won't. :)

People say that getting tattooed is addictive, which could be true. Nikki was planning her second before the first was done, and this was Ang's 3rd rodeo. As for me? I think I'm probably good for now. I got the best of what I wanted out of that single experience and the body art is the least of it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Frazzle Dazzle

Due to childcare issues beyond my control, I've needed to stay home with the man-cub for the last two days. He's been frustrated with the amount of attention that I've been devoting to my work and has decided to let me know it.

He just put his entire foot into a glass of juice. That I was drinking. On purpose. My only response has been to consider drinking what's left in there. You know, so I don't waste it.

I think it's time to go back to the office now.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hope Is a B!@#*

I watched The Shawshank Redemption for the first time a couple months ago. No…I wasn't born under a rock. I’d tried to watch it a couple of times over the years, but never got very far. I couldn't handle how unfair it was. No matter that Morgan Freeman is a cinematic god or where IMDB ranked it on its Best Movies of All Time list, I couldn’t get through it. This time, my boyfriend (who loves it) razzed me enough that I submitted to sit through the whole movie with him. I cried the whole time. It was all still there—the blunt portrayal of prison brutality, the misuses of power, the miscarriages of justice, the sadness—and I’ve finally figured out what bothered me most. It was the unrelenting thread of Hope, against all reason.

I hate to be a downer, but I’ve been angry at Hope for a long time. She makes it worse and sometimes, I wish she’d go away.

I've seen loved ones disappointed to be living lives off course of where they hoped they'd be. I've seen a friend start a new career with ideals, talent and work ethic enough to change the world, bogged down by office politics, adult mean girls, overwork and the tension of work/life balance. I’ve watched a dear friend watch as those she loved married and started families of their own, while this secret wish of hers hasn’t been granted. I've watched a sister wait months for a call about adopting a newborn. I saw her joy in finally being chosen by a birth mom. I participated as she loved her sweet baby as if she came from her own body and I watched her struggle to survive the pain and disillusion of each day after the child was returned to her birth family, while everybody else in the world went on with their lives. I've listened to a friend try to make sense of the roller coaster that is her new marriage. I’ve listened as a beautiful friend described her hopes for a child that she hasn’t been able to conceive, apologizing for the tears and the naked longing in her voice. To them all, there is nothing to be said, except, “I wish you had what you long for. You deserve it more than anyone I’ve ever known.” I understand longing; I’ve lived most of my life aching with it. Often, I don't sleep for it. I blame Hope for the sleepless nights. Maybe if we didn’t want IT, whatever IT is, so damned badly, we could get some sleep. We could be happy and content where we are, instead of grieving what’s lost, what’s revealed as impossible/impractical/insurmountable or what’s simply out of reach.

As a Christian, I know there are answers to comfort me. I can recite them if prompted and mostly believe what I say, but I'm being as honest as I know how to be when I say this stuff is way harder in practice than in theory. In the real world, marriages end in divorce. Children die before their parents. Mean people win. People cheat, lie and steal from others. People I love let me down and hurt me in ways that leave slow-healing wounds. My mistakes get bigger, and the consequences cast a broader wake. The pain of disappointed hopes sends us to therapy, to the bottom of pill bottles, to affairs, or to religion. But against all odds, Hope hangs on.

When the world says, “Give up;” Hope whispers, “try it one more time.”

Hope had been playing the same broken record in my heart for years and now I have to hear it from Hollywood, too? That’s why I couldn’t stand the movie! But this time, it got through. The message didn’t change; I did. In watching others struggle and looking inward at my own journey of Hope, I am finally developing the depth to see that the redemption part of the story is only possible if you don’t give up Hope that it’s possible. Even since I started writing this post, I’ve grown. Choosing not to give up hope on your heart’s deepest desire might be the bravest thing any of us can do in this life. While theirs are not my stories to tell, I can attest to the beauty that can come from continuing to reach for what Hope tells you is possible. Andy Dufresne’s words are certainly true, when he writes:

Remember…hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Hang in there, friends.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If You Only Knew Him

At the risk of being redundant, the Zimmerman/Martin trial shook some things to the surface in me, not because I think I know what the verdict should have been, but because I can't believe we're still here--it's the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century and skin pigment still drives public perception. It's wake is far-reaching and it's undermining what I'm trying to do, here.

You see, I'm an African-American mother trying to raise a 2-year-old, biracial man-to-be and I don't appreciate the roadblock in his way. I wish you knew him. His current favorite thing is to "help" mama and daddy--he throws things away, he unloads dishwashers, drawers and laundry baskets--whether we want him to or not. He gives great cuddles. He delights in taking running starts toward me, lips puckered, then making (often painful) contact with a decisive "mmuah!" to let me know I've been well and truly kissed. While that baby sweetness won't last forever, I will always remember him this way even while I thrill in watching him grow up. As his mama, my primary goals are to encourage him to love God, to work hard, to be kind and to leave a positive impact on the world. That's the most solid influence I have over who he will be and I hope some day to take pride in that measure of his success. What I can't control that will impact his success in life, perhaps unfairly, is the color of his skin.

I'm an African-American sister and aunt who hurts when my loved ones hurt. I wish you knew them. I have a father, two brothers and a nephew who were all raised to say please and thank you, to open doors for others, and to be respectful of people who have different beliefs than they. My heart breaks to imagine anyone distrusting them because their skin is brown. The only legitimate reason I have for distrusting my brothers growing up was my fear of being de-pants-ed in front of company. But regardless of that shortcoming, to judge them by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character cheats them of who they have worked so hard to become. I feel sorry for anyone who misses out on any opportunity to know these quality human beings. They are definitely worth the second look. 

We can talk about race relations in America all day, but the question I need answered will remain the same, as I'm sure it will for countless other parents of little boys at the mercy of the color of their skin. Knowing what I know now, how am I supposed to explain the world to my son and help him to find his place in it, when the rules might not be the same for him, even as they are for his blond-haired, green-eyed father? And how much longer do we have to wait for this particular scale to balance out?

I wish I knew.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Ode to Mothers of All Kinds

I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to mothers, in all their many forms, on this, our special day. Mamas of the world, this one's for you.

To the stay-at-home mama whose gynecologist appointment might be her only chance for adult conversation before her husband comes home, you teach me humor, even if the laughter has a bit of a hysterical edge to it.

To the mama who works all day outside the home, you teach me to multitask. Two full time jobs with no days off is tough, but damn, you make it look easy!

To the mama who found conceiving to be harder than she expected, you teach me patience.

To the foster/adoptive mama who loves her child as if he were born from her own body, you teach me generosity.

To the mama who has buried a child but lives and loves on, you teach me to stand up under the weight of the world.

To the mama with no children who smiles when someone offers to let her babysit their children for extra money--even though she's 30-something, owns her own home and vacations overseas every year--you teach me graciousness.

To the mama who molds children who aren't hers all day, often with no thanks from their parents, you teach me that sometimes it's worth it to grin and bear it. Would I put up with that crap for somebody else's kids? I hope so.

To the single mama who struggles to be both mom and dad, succeeding at it more than she fails, you teach me there is transcendent power in a mother's love.

To the mama of a child with special needs, you teach me not to take a single victory for granted and that self-pity wastes time. You're too busy helping your child figure out how to take the world by storm for such things.

To the grandmother who over the table of an imaginary tea party is asked, "Nanna, did you ever have any children, back in the olden days?" simply smiles and says, "Yes." You are a sensory delight for a small person. Your years of stories for history, your silver hair for brushing, your soft waist for squeezes, your cheek for kisses and your lap for cuddles are some of the best memories I have of being a kid.

All of you have mothered me by the examples you set when you didn't know I was watching. If I manage to resemble you in any, small way, I will be better for it. So, today, as I get cosseted and celebrated for doing nothing more than what each of you has taught me to do, I tip my mama-tiara and tap each of your beautiful shoulders with my scepter in gratitude for your courage and faithful service.

God bless you, you beauties. Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Discipline to Discipline

We've in a new phase of parenting around these parts and I'm not gonna lie, it gets ugly.

There was a time, not too long ago, where my son did everything I wanted him to do, no questions asked. There may have been some unwillingness on his part, but I rarely noticed it and it was nothing I couldn't get around. It was rare that setting boundaries of behavior for my kid caused me to break a sweat. Before you write me off as a smug mama with a big mouth, let me share my secret. He was immobile and had no facilities to attempt to assert his will over mine. Times have certainly changed.

Now he's a rip-roaring almost-2-yr-old who's got all these new tricks up his sleeve--saying (screeching) no, whining and begging, running away, arching and struggling, or my personal favorite, scrunching up his little face and hitting the object of his ire. That would be me.

I'm quibbling over semantics, I'm sure, but when I could tell myself, "he doesn't understand what no or stop means," or "He's just curious about his environment, he's not being disobedient," I was a lot more patient when he ignored my directions or corrections. It was also easier to have patience with re-directing his attention away from the outlets over and over again, when he had the attention span of a gnat and boundless curiosity. He still has boundless curiosity, but now he has developed a focused intent, by fair means or foul, to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. My patience is seriously running thin. And the biggest injustice of all? By some completely unfair imbalance of parental power, daddy doesn't struggle to the degree that I do. If he even raises his voice at the kid, he melts into a penitent puddle. Or, (possibly even worse) he asserts his will, realizes upon eye contact w/dear, old dad that this isn't a battle he's prepared to join, and concedes. Concedes, I tell you! I wrestle to the death with him over every little thing, and dad gets the belly presentation. Balls.

Since Miles has all this will but limited common sense, motor skills, discernment or impulse control, my job as his mother is to make sure he's scared of me so that when I tell him not to do something that could kill him, he listens and obeys. He needs to fear death-by-mama more than death-by-running-into-oncoming-traffic. I'm over-simplifying, but you get my point. This is also supposed to work in other areas, like teaching politeness, or cleaning up after oneself, or even just saving mama some time and effort by not resisting every, stinking diaper change or morsel of food I put in front of you, for crying out loud. I'm not finding it to be quite that simple, though.

I heard someone say that parenting will reveal more about you, the parent, than it ever will about the kid(s) you raise. It couldn't be truer for me than in the area of consistent discipline. Most things I like to do come easily to me. Not because I'm a prodigy, but because I don't do stuff that's too hard. I'm lazy that way. I'll always seek the path of least resistance to accomplish a task and if that's not possible, I'll pick something else to do. Discipline is hard and there's no way around doing it well, so in this case, I'm stuck. Also, I've discovered that while I have high expectations of behavior, apparently I'm squeamish about corporal punishment, especially at his age. I worry that he doesn't understand what it's all about, since he can't repeat back what I say to him. It doesn't make much sense to me that when he hits me in defiance of a direct request, I should turn around and hit him back. Seems to reinforce that hitting is okay, since I can't explain to him the subtle nuances. Can you imagine me hunkering down to say, "Kid, it's not okay for you to hit me, so I'm going to hit you to make sure you don't do it again. You don't understand why I'm hitting you? Well, let's just hope you get it when you're older." Asinine. Also, it seems to shake his idea about my place in his world. He sees me as the one who fixes hurts, not causes them. Each time I swat his little hand, which I only do when he's defiant or doing something that puts him in danger, it about breaks both our hearts. He looks up at me in shock, starts to cry, babbles something that I translate to "why do you haaate meee?!" and reaches his arms up for comfort. He needs to know that I still love him and, by golly, I need to know that he still loves me! Sadly, that's all he'll respond to from me, so I have to knuckle down and keep at it. Or he'll have to start thinking of me as an alpha-female in his life real quick, so I can stop punishing us both. Hell, I think I'm supposed to stay consistent w/it, regardless of how much we both hate it. That's the real point.

Maybe it's okay and I'm not scarring him for life. I mean, if I enjoyed it and looked for opportunities to beat the stuffing out of my sweet boy, I guess then we'd have a real problem. We'll see which of us ends up in therapy, first.

Wait! I've already got him beat on that score.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tonight, We Spun Tupperware

I wage a near-daily battle with mommy guilt.

I have to work to support us and I'm glad to do it. I'm also grateful that I have skills that someone is willing to pay me to use. A lot of people can't say that these days. But even considering that, it bugs me that I don't get much quality time with my boy during the week and that our weekends are swallowed up with errands and chores I couldn't accomplish during the week. And the time we do have (about 3 hrs a night between pickup and bedtime) is fraught with land mines.

Both of us hand it all out during the day--him with play and me with work--so by the time we're together, neither of us is at our best, to say the least. He's tired and crabby, I'm tired and crabby. And, I'm in a hurry (Ever tried to rush a toddler? How 'bout a crabby one? Yeah. Super fun). Because it takes the better part of an hour to get home at night and I KNOW he's going to whine and crab for his dinner until it's served, I get it started right away, leaving him to entertain himself as well as he can. I won't mention his hunger is because of his stubborn refusal to eat anything all day but crackers and Nilla Wafers at daycare. That's how generous a mother I am.

Anyway, we sit down to eat. Well, I eat. He makes a mess with some chewing and interjections of "nummy!" or, "no!" thrown in there. Then there's time for a bit of rough housing, a bath depending on the day of the week, a book, a prayer and bed. This is the Cliff's Notes version of the story. The unabridged version also describes tantrums, head bumps, diaper wars, messes and broken stuff (always mine). In my effort to take care of him, I might only make eye contact with him 4 or 5 times before I put him to bed. Even typing that crushes me.

I walk a fine line. On one side, keeping to a rigid schedule with him because every parent I meet, parenting book I read and motherly instinct I have tells me that structure and consistency give a child a feeling of safety and security, two things I desperately want to provide for him. Possibly because they're the only things I can afford. On the other side, giving in to the urge to let it all go, either from exhaustion or a simple desire not to plan every, blessed thing. I'm sure neither of those is good for us, nor are they sustainable over the long haul, so I'm working on finding some semblance of a middle ground.

Sometimes, though, through the white noise of all my struggles with balancing work and parenthood, there are moments of clarity. Moments where it feels like the stars align and I get it right. Like tonight, for example. Most of the time when I'm making dinner, Miles plays around my feet. He doesn't mind independent play as long as we're in the same room. I kind of like it, too. He mills around the room, moving all the kitchen-y things he's allowed to play with from place to place. He babbles, sings the ABC song, jumps in circles, dances and occasionally wraps his arms around my knees for a cuddle and a smile. He also empties the Tupperware cabinet. Nobody says Tupperware, anymore, they use Rubbermaid, you say? I say, get your own blog post. Tupperware is like Kleenex to me. It covers all plastic storage containers and also has the added benefit of dating me. But I digress. Tonight, I made a casserole, so after dinner prep, I had 15 minutes of oven time to kill. I looked down to find Miles spinning plastic bowls on the floor. With a flip of the wrist, he gets upwards of 30 minutes of cheap entertainment. He loves spinning things; especially circular things--bowls, lids, coasters--he's spun 'em all. I decided to join him. I didn't think he'd pay me much attention since he can be so focused on the task, but it turns out he was thrilled to have me--as a jungle gym, as an obstacle to dance around, a fellow bowl spinner and best of all, a lap to crawl into for a cuddle. He put down those bowls to snuggle and to play Name-That-Feature on mama's face. When we got to cheeks, he cupped mine with his chubby little paws, looked closely into my eyes, babbled something I couldn't understand and planted two, sweet kisses on my mouth.

I swear to God, that kid knows how hard I'm trying.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


In a former life, a boyfriend of mine wrote me a love note with these lyrics:

Black is the color of my true love's hair

Her lips are like some roses fair
She has the sweetest smile the gentlest hands
And I love the ground whereon she stands

I love my love, and well she knows
I love the ground whereon she goes
I wish the day soon would come
When she and I will be as one

Such a sweet memory. The sentiment isn't bad, either...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Mystique Has Lost Its Mystique

Spoiler Alert: this post is very whiney.

I'm enjoying a rare moment of solitude. The buddy has a cold--one of those slimy, sniffle-y, cough-y, whiney ones--so I can't take him to church. Church ladies frown on bringing carrier monkeys into the nursery, even if they look like cute, little men in their sweater vests. He's sleeping, so I could nap, but I think I'd rather be awake while it's quiet for a change.

I'm an introvert--in the need-to-recharge-by-time-spent-alone kind of way. Every now and again, I like to slip away some place solitary to refuel, but that doesn't happen a lot these days. From the moment my eyes open to the time they close again, I'm on duty. My life is constant interruption, and frankly, I'm not handling it with much grace, lately.

When I was single with no kid, this wasn't a problem. After a long week, or even just a long day, I could disappear any time I needed. Now that I have a toddler and a baby-daddy to love on every day, it's become a tad more complicated. I'm never alone--not to eat, to watch tv, to shower, to pee--unless I'm asleep. My life is on a constant loop of family time + full-time work + chores/errands - solitude - sleep = terminal exhaustion. Lather, rinse, repeat. And the worst part? I miss them when they're gone, so I'm complaining about stuff I really wouldn't change. I hate when I do that.

I guess I just wish I could sneak off for a few hours to plug in somewhere every now and then. What is that reminding me of? A movie where the characters plug into an external power source? Seems like it was an outlet or maybe a glowing orb...doesn't matter; I'm too scatterbrained to focus on it long enough to figure it out. THE MATRIX! Thank God. That was going to drive me nuts.

If I ever get to meet Betty Friedan, I'm gonna give her a stern talking to. She didn't say having it (or doing it) all would be this hard.

Thanks for stopping by. Good talk.

Friday, February 15, 2013

What on Earth Was I Thinking??

In a moment of blind sentiment, I decided to take my 1 year old on a date for Valentine's Day.

I planned to do a little window shopping at the mall, eat at the food court and play at kiddie land, all while I smiled benevolently at my busy, beautiful and well-behaved offspring. When it was time to leave, I would quietly give him a five-minute warning, after which he would walk over to me, reach for my hand and we'd go home. There I would help him wash his face, brush his teeth, we'd read a book, cuddle and pray. Then, I would tenderly tuck him into bed for the night.

What happened was quite different. At 5:30, I picked up a surly toddler who'd had a very long day. He was hopped up on sugar from his daycare Valentine's party an hour before. He was also ready to eat dinner and be left alone. Instead, it took us an hour to get to the mall (note: he sucked down 12 oz of milk on the drive), where he protested (loudly) to being confined to a stroller while I looked at earrings. I rushed through a purchase I now regret then moved on to dinner. I eyed our choices at the food court and realized, "yeah, he's not gonna eat any of this crap." Instead, I spent $10 of a hard-earned gift card for a turkey and swiss sandwich and more milk.

I rode the elevator up to the food court to eat (did I mention he's terrified of elevators?), where he objected (loudly) to being confined to a stroller while we ate. Seeing a pattern, here? I scarfed down my food. He scarfed down his. Then he loudly protested that there was no more milk. I wasn't spending $2 on another carton--he'd already had sixteen ounces in two hours. I told him he wasn't getting any more damned milk (no swearing; but I felt like it). He knocked over his stroller in impotent rage. I dragged him, kicking and screaming, back to the elevator, decided it wasn't worth it, and did what I swore I'd never do. I hauled my screaming toddler, an overstuffed diaper bag and an umbrella stroller down the escalator. He wasn't in the stroller, but still...I work for an escalator manufacturer where I get almost daily reports of escalator injuries due to stupid choices that passengers make. Even before I worked here, I judged parents harshly for doing what I was doing. I learned a valuable lesson in humility last night.

During that ride, I discovered his diaper was soaked (Remember sixteen ounces?) and toted him to the family changing room. Thus ensued a 5-minute death-match over changing that diaper. I won, but not without collateral damage and a great deal of sweat. Thank God there were no mandated reporters in there.

Then I thought, "let's end this trip on a high note and go to the play place, instead of going straight home!" Dumb idea. Apparently, Valentine's evening is when fathers take their smart phones and their children to the play place at the mall, so they can ignore them in an enclosed space. These kids, like mine, are also wound up from earlier candy binges. I chased my ecstatic and blissfully unaware boy around a 20-foot enclosure for 25 minutes, begging much bigger children not to step on, roll over, push or otherwise maim him in their sugar-induced euphorias. After his last narrow escape from death, I decided to call it quits, which is when the top of his head exploded.

Okay, it didn't, but it surely seemed like it. I dragged him--arching, screeching, and hitting--out of the mall and into the car. He babbled angrily at me all the way home, where I stripped him, shoved him into jammies and tossed him in bed--no book, no cuddle, no prayer.

Yep. Mother of the year, right here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Daddy Day Care

I’m a mom who works full-time away from home. I’m grateful for my work—I’ve got great benefits, a degree of flexibility and supportive work environment that allows me to respond to family emergencies, a place to interact with other adults on a regular basis and it (mostly) helps me to afford childcare when I can’t be with my son. In my mind, childcare is both a blessing and a curse. It’s so expensive that I know several parents who decided one of them would stay home with the kids because taking a job, simply to afford to pay someone to watch their kid(s) while they worked, didn’t make sense. In our case, neither of us loves that our boy is in the care of others multiple days a week, but it’s a necessary evil. As parents, we both need to work. I work for the benefits and intellectual stimulation and he, because he was born to make music. Were he not teaching young aspirants to play guitar, writing, engineering and performing, he’d shrivel up and float away on a breeze—and not in a good way. Knowing that makes it that much more remarkable that to keep down costs and to have as much face-time with Miles as possible, he’s sacrificed two weekdays of his more-flexible work schedule to care for our son since I went back to work when the baby was 3 months old. And since that first day, back in August of 2011, many hijinks have ensued.

Let me paint you a picture of life on Daddy’s watch:

-Pants are optional, socks encouraged to ward off cold floors. Comfort is the word of the day.

-No loop is ever completely closed. At the end of the day, my apartment usually looks like they were interrupted in the middle of many tasks and asked to vacate the premises, immediately. Or, to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe they were body-snatched by aliens for a father/son mind probe experiment and hadn't yet been returned by their captors. But he takes out the trash and recycling, no matter what.

-Messes are tolerated, vomit is forbidden. If I’m home, clean up is my job. If I'm not home, I will still get a call for moral support (which is usually an unspoken request to come home, asap). On the flip side, he will stand by and supportively apologize that Miles has spewed his lunch all over me and will verify that yes, this is truly gross and awful. Then, while I tend to the kid, he will spray any affected surface with cleaning enzymes (while swearing and gagging). High comedy. He's much better at poop than I am, though, and is way more respectful of (and patient with) wiener time on the changing table. Fair trade, I'd say.

-Drinks abound. The kid will never go thirsty on his watch. He plies him with a steady stream of liquids the whole day, whether he’s asking for them or not. Maybe he died in a drought in a former life, I don’t know.

-Mama gets all the kisses. He's not totally sold on the idea that it's okay to get kissed on the mouth by his son, but he's always a bit jealous that the buddy kisses me so freely, while considering it a game to avoid giving or receiving them from him.

-No choking. Our boy eats in big mouthfuls and makes gagging faces when he’s bitten off more than he can chew, which drives Daddy crazy. He regularly requests that we brush up on our infant/toddler Heimlich maneuver skills. Heaven forbid, but if it should ever become necessary to use it, I’m not sure if I’d put my money on him doing a bang-up job and saving the day or passing out, cold. We’ll pray that I never get that question answered.

-Sitters must be qualified. When considering outside child care, his concerns have nothing to do with early childhood certification. He wants to know if they remember to take the buddy's shoes and jeans off for nap time. It makes sense, I guess. One should be comfy while sleeping.

-No “babying.” When the boy is trying a new skill, he doesn't hover or help, like it's my tendency to do. He stands by and encourages him to keep trying. The kid always rises to the occasion.

-Good food is king. He won’t cook if he can avoid it, especially for a picky and ungrateful toddler who will reject it anyway. Also, he rarely keeps to any kind of eating schedule for himself, let alone the kid, but he has tasted every food he's ever given him, including baby food, because he wants to know what is good and why the kid likes it. He always offers a veggie, cares that the water is clean with good minerals and will go to three stores to buy organic. I do not have the patience (or stomach) to do this.

-No energy will be spent unnecessarily. He'll take a bath with Miles, forsaking any chance of peace and relaxation and risking unauthorized peeing, to save time and effort. He also still encourages two naps a day, though Miles can go with just one.

-Stop and smell the flowers. He values a meandering walk in the sunshine, daily roughhousing, and would rather hunker down on the floor making cool car sounds than to plop the kid in front of the TV (not that this doesn't happen in an emergency).

-Material things aren’t what matters. Miles plays with and climbs all over his expensive music equipment, because he wants him to learn how to use the real stuff. So I have a one year old who knows his way around a guitar, a drum kit, a Bluetooth speaker and more. I don't know how to work any of these things.

-Certain details are important—others aren’t. He won't notice if the outfit he puts on the buddy no longer fits, especially if it is one he loves. However, my taste will be challenged if the outfit I choose isn't up to his standard of cool. *sigh* There is no justice.

The daily drudgery of caring for a toddler isn’t his #1 choice of how to spend a day, but he does it like he does everything else—to the beat of his own drum, getting all the joy from the experience that he can. I’m sure he will breathe a sigh of relief when it’s no longer necessary, but secretly miss the good times. When it’s my shift, I often do things differently, but Miles never lacks anything important either way. In fact, he thrives. And let's face it, pants-optional isn’t a bad way to live.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

2012 was not my year. There are things about it that I loved—epic travels, building and deepening relationships with family and friends, rekindling my fledgling faith and desire for intimacy with God, and most of all, the precious front-row seat that I had to the buddy’s milestones—those things were delightful. All the rest? Not so much. It was rough and I felt every bit of it—on any given day, you could find me soaking up the hardship like a sponge and wallowing in the slog. I’ll be the first to say that a good mope can be satisfying. Fortunately, I can also say I've lost patience with downward spirals. It’s not who I am, nor is it what I want my son to learn about how to handle the bumps and bruises life will hand him. I choose to reset the balance of power between myself and my circumstances. All I can actually control in this life is my reaction to it. I hope by modeling that, with God and his daddy’s and my help, my son will become a man capable of the same thing.

2013 will be better. I’m certain of it.