Friday, February 26, 2010

Continuing Parental Education (CPE's)

It happened Saturday morning. Right after Hub and I set an imaginary timer to see if we could actually sit and finish eating breakfast in a three minute span before one of the masters rang. Sure enough, nothin' doin, because a mere thirteen seconds passed before one of our kids chirped "Milk!, Milk!," and the other called with escalating urgency, "Boogrz! I got BOOGRZ!!!"

After fishing through the paper heap called our kitchen island to find a tissue for T, I asked "Dad" if he wanted more milk for his cereal. At the time, Hub didn't take note of it. He had enough milk.

But I thought, dude, no. Dad? Did I just call Hub, Dad? Like my Dad?!

While it couldn't possibly have been the first time in my almost four years of parenthood that I have addressed my better half as "Dad," this time stood out as awkward. And as the day unwound, I got the feeling that Hub had the same thought. Later, when picking up crap in the living room, Hub casually asked me, "Mom, what do you want to do with these shoes?"

Ewwww. Mom? Did he just call me Mom, like his Mom? I did not like that, fo sho. It made me feel old and also like maybe he when he looked at me he was seeing a woman in practical pink pajamas and an old wool sweater identifiable as nothing other than a mom. Mom period. No room for a smokin' hot babe with an actual name. At that moment, I felt like channeling Beyonce and demanding that he "Say my name," bro! Never mind the sweater.

An old co-worker, who is about fifteen years ahead of me in the parent trap, advised that I probably wouldn't really identify as a parent until my kid was about three years old. I think. I finally. Get it. He was referring to my necessary Continuing Parental Education requirements, or my "CPE's."

Like licensed attorneys, docs, engineers, accountants, or any other number of professionals, parents need CPE's to maintain the identity. To keep it fresh. To build street cred. I get it! I'm building credits, day by day. And I'm sure something magical, like a "Thanks for Participating" certificate with a foil sticker and a faux wood frame is certain to come of it. Here are some CPE's I earned this week:

• Don't let blue sidewalk chalk sit out in the rain because T will be drawn to it like a bee to honey and he'll grind his shoes in it.  Then he'll track the neon stuff into the carpets and seats of the minivan, otherwise known pathetically as our "new" car.

• Those cute, flowy, skim-right-over-the-belly, cashmere blend sweaters that are all the rage for the advanced maternal age set, do not mix with babies named Nar slathered in Aquaphor.

• Don't even dream of viewing ("read" is too strong a term) the Fashion Police report in US Magazine for the upcoming flight with the babe. And don't bother packing that cashmere thing either.

• And finally (I know this one is worth conference level credits), entertain the thought that the name "Mom," when uttered by your spouse, may one day become a term of endearment. Like "love ya, schnookums."  Right back at ya, Dad!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Tigers and Love

Among the Chinese, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. And according to my random internet sources, people born in this lunar year are "capable of great love," but must "guard against being too stubborn." My event to toast the Tiger, a/k/a President's Day romper room with a Chinese twist, is now officially over.

Like it's honoree, this little Tiger party, conceived of and played out in 2010, came about due to some stubbornness, mostly on my part. Too stubborn to sit and stew with the kids on a less than balmy President's Day, and always eager to share this brand of misery with friends, I put the party on the calendar. A chronic procrastinator, I started thinking about what to do last Friday, bought supplies on Saturday, got weird flu like symptoms Saturday night and then worked like an elf on double overtime pay on Sunday to make ten copies of an internet wonder called the Crepe Paper Dragon. As the pictures below demonstrate, it was worth every hot glue gun burn and eye roll from my Hub:

Not visible in these pictures are the completely gracious, where's your cookie sheet, don't worry about it, I'll find it, friends.  These folks make me feel like it is absolutely reasonable, maybe even admirable, to pull an all nighter for a paper craft.

After the party, I sat in my living room easy chair, homemade lo mein noodles on the side table next to me, and nursed my goobering, teething, soaked through two onesies and a denim dress, baby. From that vantage point, I could view the tidied remnants of the party through the French doors of the dining room.  Those remnants included four oranges left behind after the others were sliced for lunch and luck; the red gold stamped fan that Dee and I made as a sample; and T's cute but forlorn felt tiger puppet whose barely affixed google eyes peered out from a whiskerless face. On top of the armoire in the hall, lay two crepe paper dragons, well loved by Dee and T, but barely recognizable after handling by someone other than a museum curator.

All in all, while stubbornness prompted this little shindig, it ended with some serious love. I'm feeling it now, the kind of validation adults seek out since the grownups of our childhoods stopped doling out field day ribbons. There have been many occasions in my life, and yours too, I imagine, where the hours you spent meticulously decorating the cake, or compiling and editing the anniversary photo album, or doing whatever else, went unnoticed or innocently forgotten simply because of the craziness of the day. Many times in my life, the take away thought and snarky comment later on the phone to my mom included "they didn't even appreciate my blah blah blah...."

This time, however, I was on the money - and my dear friends told me so - all while jostling babies, baking red dot almond cookies, picking up crumpled crepe paper in the front yard, and leading story time. And that makes all the difference, doesn't it? Validation, sweet validation, makes all that stuff that is usually so elusive - self confidence for one - part of us again for a little while.

For me, it gives me the freedom to be myself more often, like stay up most of the night to make a crazy craft because I like to do it, or to run out in the street with a pot lid and a spoon to make silly fireworks sounds for the kids' dragon parade. It feels good to let go, laugh, and to observe others delighting with you in a moment you created.

Yesterday, the delight of the day rolled over and around me like I was wrestling and cuddling with the kids on a wide expanse of super thick padded carpet, or at least on wet grass in a strange snowless winter. Take a look:'s to many more moments of validation, love and friendship in 2010.  Cheers to the tigers, dogs, pigs (that's me), and all the other animal signs among us.  And a Happy New Year from my quarter Chinesers!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ittle Big Man

We spent the weekend away for a conference and I was too lazy to pack a bottle for T and the milk that goes with it.  With all the excitement of everyone in the same room and coasters to chew on, T didn't seem to mind that "Ba Ba" wasn't around for his morning pick me up.

Yesterday, however, the context was right.  Monday morning came like it always does and T peered out from the crib bars in his green monkey jammers and asked, "Where Ba Ba?" 

As Hub and I had discussed on the seven hour drive home, it seemed like a good stopping point.  Plus, we'd get a slight respite from cleaning the fermenting bottles that tend to collect near the kitchen sink.  Is that on my chore list?  I forget....

When I explained to T that bottles were banished, old news, for the weak of heart, scat...he whimpered for a moment.  Then I told T that he is too big for bottles.  That he is a big boy and that he can drink his milk out of a cup.  I even gave an inch and offered to serve the milk in a sippy cup.  A stopover point between baby and man.

"No want sippy cup!" T spat.  Then, taking a different tactic, T gathered himself and calmly said, "I'm not big.  I'm" 

Funny, T couldn't quite say that he's plain "little."  To acknowledge his littlenes must cut into the core of his being.  At this proud stage in his life, all of two years and six months of age, T identifies as a bigger than life Superman, who confidently offers, "Mama, I help you," when my road rage spills over at the driver of the car in front of me at the coffee drive-thru line. 

T's preferred nick names include, in this order:  Big Guy, Big Boy, Superman and Bo Bo (not to be confused with Ba Ba). 

But...but, but, but, but...but (as T always says when he's gathering his thoughts), NEVER in a million years call the kid CUTE, even if you need a Superman because the guy in front of you in the coffee line orders seven variations of an extra quarter shot, no whip, but nutmeg sprinkles, mocha latte.  Because to T, cute and Superman don't mix.  Cute means: tiny, tiny baby, BabyN and people too small for spotting punch buggies (VW bugs).  And T can most definitely spot a punch buggy.

So yesterday, without a tantrum or big crocodile tears to demonstrate his loss over dear old Ba Ba, T stated his position and also acknowledged that bridge he's crossing between babyhood and something...bigger.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Sunday Morning on the Island of La Grande Tootay

Just like any challenging expedition, it started innocently enough. A relatively easy activity that might buy me thirty minutes with another adult, one that I especially liked. Plus, a park, so the kids would have something to tell Daddy about. My girlfriend, E, was also facing a Sunday with the kids by herself. We talked briefly while I nursed BabyN about meeting for a morning walk at 10:00. The mid thirties degree drizzly weather and wet ground weren't deal breakers. And while I still needed to dress, diaper and feed all the kids, an hour and twenty minutes seemed like plenty of time. It wasn't. As always happens in the mornings, the time that stretches like Hubba Bubba gum around and around and around the dinner hour, shrunk into nothing. Suddenly, it was ten minutes to ten and Dee and T had yet to belly up to the yogurt and Rice Krispies knock off bar.

We eventually made it out to the garage and the double stroller I had elected to use (this mind is like a salad spinner, capable of spinnage, but usually stored in the basement). My efforts to get to the garage were hindered by the bundling process. Both Dee and T needed long underwear, snow boots for puddle jumping, their fleece coats, their "big" coats (Dee complains this constrains her freedom of movement), and the all important mittens. T refused to wear his mittens and promptly pulled them off and squirreled them away somewhere in the living room. Saving them for the winter, I guess. I looked, for a second, but then my anxiety over lateness took over. Toddler knows best.

I planned to carry BabyN close to the chest. I couldn't find the Baby Bjorn, touted for its ease of use, if not a killer on the shoulders. Crunched for time, and really getting frantic, I opted for the cumbersome Moby wrap. Like an anaconda, long and lean, the Moby can extend itself twenty feet and then wrap itself tightly around your body. While great for an afternoon of housework with the babe (a practice I don't believe in), the Moby does not lend itself to transitions. Once the baby's in, she's in. You wanna nurse or scoot down the slide, you're in for a process. Despite these well known facts, I wrapped BabyN in the Moby, facing out, and hurried one mittened kitten and one non mittened kitten out the door for stroller loading.

Once I pulled the summer plastic play equipment out of the stroller, I discovered a flat tire. No stranger to a little set back, I located the bicycle pump, attached it to the tire valve and began my only cardio exercise of the week. BabyN and I were both sweaty by the end of it, if not a little dizzy. BabyN cleared her head by promptly vomiting on the garage floor. It looked like a clean stream. No residue on the baby or me. Dee confirmed my observations.

So I proceeded to place the kids in the stroller. After much fiddling to expand the "summer sized" straps, we were ready to roll. I unpacked the diaper pad and wipes from the backpack, threw the snacks in the double wide, and called it good. Then I looked at the tires. The tire I had just pumped up was flat AGAIN, as well as the front tire. The sucker was damaged, sand burr damaged. This was the first time during the morning that I wanted to cry. Cry because it was already 10:07 and I couldn't reach E to tell her we were late. Cry because I was ridiculously frantic over the tedium of my life that keeps me from meeting my scarce and self imposed deadlines - on a Sunday morning, for God's sake!

I pulled myself together enough to yank the kids out of the double and put T in the single. I managed to move the diaper pad to the new stroller because diaper rash from a poop at the park is a lesson not worth repeating. I also got Dee running along beside me, stiffy coat and all. By the time we turned the corner toward the park, T was complaining about his cold hands. My girlfriend, E, was already three blocks from her home and headed up the sidewalk toward me, her daughter out front, with all the speed of a twenty two month old.

We began the actual walk toward the park, when another girlfriend called. Like a good little moocher, I talked her into driving for coffee and then meeting us in the drizzle. But by the time she arrived at the park, T had already interrupted every breath of my TMZ style story about John Edwards' love child. Something about red and chafed hands. He screamed for mittens. Adult gloves were inferior. He wanted a snack. I searched, but found nothing in my back up stroller. Finally, I bundled him in E's stroller and fed him E's snack, all while drinking the coffee provided by my other dearheart.

Dee, working from T's playbook and noting the benefits of the continuous cry, began to whine with abandon. She'd stubbed her toe on the playground mulch. Waaaaa! Her bangs were in her eyes. WaaAAA! T had half a strip of fruit leather. Beyond words. All the while, BabyN was revving up. I tried, per usual, to ignore her early mumblings. But by the time Dee hit full throttle, BabyN could no longer indulge me. Loath to do so, I begrudgingly plodded over to the wet park bench, removed my jacket and uncoiled the Moby. Ugg. I pulled BabyN, stiff like a starfish in her snowsuit, out of the jaws of the wrap, and sat down with a squish to nurse her. We nursed. My other little dingbats screamed. Like the short cycle on the dishwasher thrity minutes before guests arrive, I didn't have time for a two boob feed. So E held BabyN's foot on the bench while she rocked her own crying twenty two month old, who was mourning the stroller seat occupied by my twenty some month old. Once the proper kids were placed in the proper strollers and the snake was wrapped safely around my most unsatisfied babe, we began our departure.

My girlfriends yelled bon voyage and offers of help over the super white noise called my children. We walked for a bit away from the park and Dee and BabyN began to settle down. I was dying to fart, out of the earshot of non-relatives. I did, but was immediately greeted by a dad with a stroller about eighteen inches behind me. He said, "Wow, you've got a kid coming out of every...." Then he trailed off. I swear, he meant to say "orifice."

LOOSELY inspired by "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," 1884, by Georges Seurat: