Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oh, who needs sleep anyway?

This is actually not about my children.  Well, it is, but it's mostly not their fault.  Today's exhaustion is brought to you by the third child, the one not yet born.  Even when my other boys give me the opportunity for plenty of sleep, the third child keeps me from resting. 

Last night Pete and Chester, exhausted from a birthday party,were in bed by 7pm.  I was into my pajamas and snuggled in bed at 7:17pm and by 7:30pm, there was no more noise from the boys, they were both asleep!  Then the party started.  The party in my belly.  Baby Three had a grand time, rolling and punching and pushing for almost two hours.  At first, I enjoyed identifying body parts and picturing this little two pound baby inside of me playing around, but by 9pm I was just annoyed.  This is my chance to go to sleep early, don't you understand that Baby? 

Sometime during the Wisconsin/MSU game I drifted off, only to wake again just after midnight to pee.  (Also Baby's fault).  Just after 1am, the toddler came crying down the hall.  It only took 2 minutes to soothe him back to sleep in his bed, but I was officially up and staring at the ceiling.  Just when I thought I might fall asleep, the dog flipped out.  He rarely barks, so I was seriously concerned and hopped right out of bed and grabbed my phone ready to call the police, only to find the dog was still in his bed, asleep under his blankets.  He must have been dreaming about the squirrel who taunts him in the backyard from the neighbor's tree.  Back in bed, I gave up and pulled up Facebook on my phone for a little entertainment. 

You know you're old and boring when most of your friends from the East Coast are already in bed and not playing on Facebook around 2am.  I used to see lots of funny status updates and embarrassing drunken pictures posted by friends when I first started using FB while Pete kept me up all night on a Saturday night three years ago.  Now, all I see is other Moms commiserating online as their children vomit all night.  At least I have friends in other time-zones to keep me entertained!  It was nice catching up with you Hawaii and Alaska ladies last night! 

Let me just pause to send hugs and prayers to little CTK who broke his leg last night in a bouncy house in Hawaii!  We hope you're comfortable while you heal, and that your Mommy can keep you entertained for the next six weeks.

The final straw last night was Pete.  He started quietly crying in his bed, and then mumbled "I want a sprinkle doughnut" before crying a little bit more.  I went into his bedroom to find him still asleep as well, but when I covered him back up with blankets, he woke up and asked for water. 

With everyone watered, snuggled and back in bed, I headed back to my bed just after 3am. 

And the boys were up and ready to play just after 5am.  That's right, total count last night, approximately five hours of sleep between 7pm-5am.  That score is pretty close to the average test scores in my Monday night Financial Accounting class.

Pregnancy insomnia is like practice for your newborn, but I've done this twice already, I don't need practice!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Helicopter parents vs. Chip dip parents

I've complained about this topic before, and my husband continues to tell me to keep my nose out of other people's business, but I just can't leave it alone.

We went to a wonderful birthday party today (um, sorry for arriving late, I didn't take into account that the route to your house takes us directly through downtown Salem, MA right in the middle of Halloween season!).  It was clear my friend had put a LOT of effort into her son's birthday party.  The house was decorated, there were themed games and themed snacks and drinks and cupcakes and treats.  She literally thought of everything, down to the skull straws and the sensory bucket for the children to dig through and hunt for spiders and bugs.  The kids were all outside playing a pin-the-bones-on-the-skeleton game when we arrived, and the fun never stopped, with a pinata and another pumpkin bean bag game. 

LW, if you did all that prep work with your husband out to sea AND made all those chocolates yourself, I'm going to have to hire you to put together Chester's birthday party in February!

Anyway, the point is, she put a lot of work into this party, and there were parents who basically sat in the kitchen and munched on her wonderful snacks and completely ignored their children's behavior.  I am not talking about a momentary child escape (because Chester ran out the door to play with the pumpkins plenty of times, and I swear I got an extra mile on my workout chart for chasing him!) and I'm not talking about children who got into the treats early (because Pete definitely managed to stick his finger in a cupcake while I was chasing Chester out the door).  Not shockingly, the most attentive parents were other Coast Guard moms, who not only watched their own children to keep them in line, but also helped with the other children.   

I am talking about the children who basically climbed into T's lap while he was opening his presents.  It was total chaos, and at one point, even T said "you're too close, you're in my space!".  LW was unbelievably cool-headed and asked everyone to make a circle and sit back, but it was too late.  Kids were opening presents and playing with T's new toys.  I was so sad for him!  And while the veggie dip and the homemade butterfinger candies were unbelievably tasty, I managed to drag my pregnant butt away from the food, out of the kitchen and into the living room to keep my kids from bum-rushing the birthday boy.   Now, I was barely able to hold a conversation with my friends because I was busy chasing my toddler, but the PARTY IS NOT ABOUT ME hanging out with my friends, IT'S ABOUT T celebrating his birthday and having a good time and I think this is where we have the huge schism between parenting styles.  The chip dip parents were there to have their own good time, while the helicopter parents were there to ensure our children weren't being hooligans ruining anyone else's good time.

Though I am always looking forward to a day or evening with my girlfriends, I cannot imagine sitting in the kitchen to chat with them while my child is at a birthday party.  Now, if my children were perfect little angels, they would have sat in that circle all by themselves and I could have enjoyed my carrots and dip in the kitchen.  But left to their own devices, my children do things like eating the icing off their cupcakes and then wander the room to steal other children's cupcakes and lick the frosting off their cupcakes too.  In fact, that happens even when I'm sitting next to one child.  It's like they discuss the game plan before the party- "you get Mom to help you with your cupcake and I'll make a run for it, grab three more cupcakes and we'll meet back by the pumpkin to split the loot".

So, to my CG moms who kept watch of their children, and helped me with mine, thank you for being helicopter parents, your children were very pleasant.  And to the chip-dip parents, I hope you enjoyed your party.  My little boy went home asking why all those kids were getting presents and he couldn't have one.  I  had to explain that they were playing with T's birthday presents before he even had a chance to play with them and that wasn't nice, but that he had been a very good boy at the party and I was very proud of him. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Proud Mommy Moment!

About two months ago, I was sitting up late at night worried how my three-year-old would adjust to pre-school.  I wasn't worried that he would miss me and cry all day or anything, just that we've spent the last three years trying to form him into a decent human being and pre-school is the first big test.

Last night the Robinson's hosted a "Meet the Pre-school  Parents" night to meet and mingle with the other parents.  Some of us are first time pre-school parents, while others are celebrating the last of seven children finally making it into preschool.  That's right, I said seven children (ages 16-4).  This is, after all, a Catholic pre-school!  

Now I have names and numbers of other Moms to help arrange pre-school drop off when I'm too big or tired to drag my toddler out of the car to drop off Pete at his classroom.  I have to carry Chester because he refuses to hold my hand, and either sits down to cry or successfully escapes my hand-holding to make a run for it.  Oh, I had forgotten about this fun stage when Pete was nearly two!  The thought of dragging a pre-schooler, toddler and newborn out of the car to walk to the classroom had been seriously weighing on my mind, especially since it will be January, with plenty of snow and ice. 

Miss Angela, Pete's teacher, also attended the party and we chatted a bit about Pete's first two months at school.  She confirmed there have been no "Wipe me please!" incidents at school so far.  That worried me, but he's not the only three year old who can't sufficiently wipe his own butt, and luckily, he just hasn't had to poop at school yet!  I've been spared the horror of Pete explaining that "I'll wipe first and I'll be the passenger cars on the train, then you wipe last and you can be the caboose".  Where does he come up with these things?

My proud Mommy Moment of the night:  Miss Angela confirmed for me that Pete DOES say "yes ma'am" at school.  Though he is occasionally confused, like on Tuesday when he asked Miss Angela for "more apples please, sir!"  At least he's making an effort, right?

When was your best? Now? Now? How about Now?

Just the other day, I was thinking about how life is pretty darn good right now.  This may be the best part of life.  Of course there are frustrating days (no sleep, crabby kids, single income) but those are all minor speedbumps on the road of life.  And where we are on that road right now has some lovely scenery: A handsome and generous husband, adorable mostly sweet kids, great friends and family, and literally lovely scenery- we live by the beach in New England!  The end of twenties and beginning of thirties is great, even going to bed at 9pm on a Saturday can't damper the fun.  Ryan once said of the 17 weeks he spent at Officer Candidate School "the days drag but the weeks fly" and I think that applies to the last 4 years of motherhood, the days sometimes suck, but the weeks give us memories to cherish.  I do my best to cherish the moments, even at 5:17am...

Looking back, the mid twenties were also amazing.  Some highlights include travelling the world with friends, running two marathons, getting settled in a career, meeting and marrying the man of my dreams.  Okay, actually I never dreamed of anyone like him- I like to say he's everything I needed instead of being everything I thought I wanted.  Things I thought were important mean nothing and things I never considered have become the basis of an extraordinary love.  God clearly had better plans for me than I had for myself!  I may have not have saved a ton of money while I could have, but I certainly won't ever forget hang gliding off a mountain in Alaska with BCS, serving as a bridesmaid to friends like EAAL and  LVdMF, frequent flier miles to Nashville, weekends in Boston with KP, NI, CFC, and CR, camping in the White mountains with CP,  and Thanksgiving in Amsterdam.  Again, there were bumps along the road back then, but they don't really pop to mind when I think of those roaring twenties! 

Oh, and the memories of those early twenties and college!  I won't even write out the details as half of them are probably illegal and at least immoral and ill-advised, but let's just say I had a lot of fun, and in the midst of heartbreak, betrayal and other life lessons, I have some very special memories of my sorority sisters and 14 days straight at CJs.  Been there, done that, I even literally got the t-shirt.   

So many of my friends say they hated high school, but I loved it.  When you can live with all your needs and most of your wants provided for you, and merely spend time studying and learning and "hanging out" with friends with no real responsibilities, there's really nothing to complain about.  I loved seeing old classmates at my 10 year reunion, and I love that Facebook reunites us with them in a community, even while we are spread around the country and around the world. 

I can honestly say the only part of my life that I hope I skip if/when my life flashes before my eyes is middle school.  Let's just pretend those awkward years just never happened okay?  I think that's allowed. 

But back to the point, so far, every phase has been the best phase, which gives me hope that these grey hairs I've been sprouting recently aren't the beginning of the end.  When I wonder "how can it get any better than this" I just have to look back and see how many times I've wondered that before only for life to get even better.  Long ago in Sunday School, we discussed what Heaven might be like.  The general consensus was that we, as humans, can't even imagine God's glory.  Yet, I prefer the idea that Heaven is simultaneously living in every happy moment, so as I collect all of these cherished memories, and enjoy all the best times of my life, I have an even happier time to look forward to:  Eternity. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another score for toy rotation (or our ridiculously messy playroom)

Recently, the playroom has been carpeted with toys.  No matter that we rarely buy toys for our children, we receive such a blessing in hand-me-downs and gifts from friends and family that the toy room is filled to the brim with trucks, trains, dinosaurs, animals, legos and stuffed animals.  Just a glimpse into our playroom will leave you no doubt that we are a family with two (soon to be three) little boys. 

The boys can barely walk into the room, and every time I have it cleaned up (and yes, they help!), it is trashed again within an hour (sometimes two hours if they cleaned it before naptime).  No matter that there is a toy box for the toys, they must pull out every single toy looking for the one they want.  And yet, inevitably, there are still toys at the bottom of the toy box that haven't been played with for months.  I started toy rotation by accident, actually, just thinking I'd pull out some of their favorite toys for a summer trip to Grandma's house.  The boys played happily with the chosen toys for six weeks, and when we returned, the toys at home were suddenly cool again.  I just slipped the packed toys upstairs into a closet, and thus began the toy rotation.

I'm pretty sure Pete knows I put toys upstairs in the closet.  He's seen the closet, he's even asked for some of the specific toys from the closet.  Occasionally I give in and pull out the requested toy, but for the most part, the toys stay upstairs for a few months at a time.  They're gone just long enough that when I bring down the banished toys, it's like Christmas morning all over again.  This effect is especially helpful when I'm at my wit's end because they're being total hooligans on a rainy day. 

Yesterday I removed all the firetrucks, teddy bears and little people and replaced them with duplos and train tracks.  The boys haven't played legos/duplos in months and of course they were instantly enamored with building trains and train tracks.  It was especially fun for me to see how Pete has improved his hand-eye coordination in building with the duplos, and his problem solving skills in putting together the trains.  Last time the trains were out, Pete just pushed around a train made of the chassis, and ignored the duplo pieces that actually form the body of the train.  Chester, well he still just destroys everything we build, but at least now he brings me the broken pieces and says "uh oh, sorry" instead of laying down on the table and creating lego-angels like snow-angels. 

I may be scarring my children for life with this toy rotation scheme.  Tonight when I asked the boys to pick up their duplos, Pete asked if we were putting them back in bags to go back upstairs.  They had the train tracks spread all over the living room today, but after dinner, Pete and Chester cleaned.  By cleaned, I mean they picked up everything in the living room and tossed it in the playroom.  Good enough for government work, as Grandpa says.  In true Pete fashion, he's already found a new favorite in the bunch, and wanted to take it to bed with him.  I compromised, allowing the sacred train to stay in the living room overnight instead of being banished to the playroom. 


Salty, on the Bridge.  Pete's work of Art on display all night.

Oh, and if you were wondering, the playroom is still ridiculously messy, tonight it's carpeted with duplos.  Some things can't be solved by toy rotation, I guess.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Funny sh*t my kid says.

Right now only one of them talks with any real communicative skills, and I'm rolling on the floor already.  I can't wait for both of them to talk, I imagine I'll be laughing too hard to type when that finally happens.

I try to weave the new Baby into some of our daily conversations, just to prep the boys for their soon-to-be baby brother.  I didn't really bother with this when we were expecting Chester, I just pointed out pictures of babies and said "baby", while Pete repeated "baby".  Whether he knew or understood that a baby was coming to his house is still up for debate, but it worked out in the end.  This time, I just bring up the new Baby randomly and see Pete's reaction.  Chester... he still doesn't care about a baby, and just spends his time pointing to pictures of large cartoon characters, saying Mommy. 

This morning, I served Pete and Chester their eggs and toast.  Pete specified that he wanted "Bagel Toast" so we had a few extra minutes to chat while the bagel toasted.  I asked Pete if the new Baby would eat eggs and toast for breakfast too.  He said "No, babies drink milk."  Oh, that's right, good job!  We probably should have just stopped there and considered the conversation a success. 

Pete asked if he could feed the new Baby Dinosaur and I told him that some babies eat milk from bottles and some babies eat milk from boobies.  I asked Pete if he remembered when Chester was a little baby, did Chester eat from a bottle or boobies?  For the record, Chester did take bottles sometimes too, and both of my boys have done bottle and breast, and Pete usually answers this question correctly.  This morning, however, he skipped my question and went right to his own question, "can I feed the Baby Dinosaur too?"  I explained that I could make some Mommy milk for Pete to put in a bottle for the baby.  Oh, but that wasn't good enough, he wanted to tell me more about his plan to feed the Baby Dinosaur. 

Pete has decided that I should put milk in his belly and sew it up so he can give the baby some boobies.  Oh, and we can practice with Killer.  Killer will like Mommy milk, and Pete will give it to him from Pete's boobies. 

Score:  Mommy- 0, Pete- 1

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sing along with me: I've had the time of my life...

Walking Waddling along this morning on the treadmill, I spent some time rehashing the previous night's date night. It was a beautiful evening and we had a sitter swap arranged, so we were planning a romantic dinner with NO CHILDREN!  A date night before children used to consist of dinner, wine, and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.  These days...

Saturday afternoon, the boys and I enjoyed a playdate and ran errands, allowing Ryan some extra time alone to work on a project in the basement.  When we arrived home, I expertly (if I do say so myself) balanced making dinner for the boys and their sitter with my limited time to shower and get all dolled up for our date.  I managed it all in just under 90 minutes, splitting time between steaming broccoli and a steamy shower, spicing the spaghetti sauce and slathering on Blushing Cherry Blossom lotion.  I wore the Little Black Dress, makeup, jewelry, heels, the whole package.  As my other Mom-friends know, this amount of effort in 90 minutes is a big deal at 27 weeks pregnant, and the fact that we left on time is practically a miracle.  Add the happy smiley faces on the boys with no crying when we walked out the door and you have a successful date night before ever leaving the driveway. 

That's where the success of date night nearly turned into disaster.  We had 7pm reservations at Cafe Polonia in Salem, a new North Shore location of our favorite Polish restaurant from downtown Boston.  Clearly it's been a while since I've been out to dinner at a reasonable hour because I neglected to think about parking at 7pm on a Saturday night in Salem in October.   (The 4:30pm Early Bird special on a Tuesday doesn't have such problems!)  We couldn't find a legal parking spot any closer to the restaurant than our own house, so we detoured to an Italian place in Swampscott instead. 

I've been meaning to try Paradiso Ristorante since we moved here in 2006, so cross that off the North Shore Bucket List.  We talked about everything except the kids while savoring lobster ravioli and pescatore.  Did I mention I'm 27 weeks pregnant?  That means there's not a lot of room in my stomach for food these days!  Skipping an appetizer and dessert makes dinner awfully short.  I can't exactly savor a bottle of wine (for obvious reasons) or an after dinner coffee either (keeps me up all night suddenly!).  And besides, it was getting to be my bedtime... so we went home.  At 8:30pm.  We're the life of the party, I tell you!  Date night was perfect, I had the time of my life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

School, work, family, work?

The other day, I had a great conversation with another adult (doesn't happen often) about our career choices, and the family choices we've made that have altered the course of our careers.  We both spent years working towards our education and building careers, then married men we follow around the country, and had babies.

I love my children very much, but I miss my career a lot too, and I make no excuses, I simply can't hack it as a working Mom with my husband in the Coast Guard.  My old job requires the kind of hours that daycares don't handle, and his schedule require the kind of hours/days/weeks/months away that daycares don't handle.  So either I bring in a Nanny (not a huge fan for a few reasons not for discussion here) or work a reduced schedule (aka a normal 9-5 workday), which just barely pays for two daycares, or I stay home and do a better job of balancing the budget than our Congress seems to be able to do.  I'll take the stress of balancing a budget over the stress of getting two kids ready for daycare by 7am! 

I'm still in contact with my old coworkers and the head hunters in the accounting world, which often leads to solicitations for my resume.  They dangle a generous salary in front of me, and promise family-friendly hours (which we all know is a lie) but I just can't bring myself to go back and add the stress of a job to the stress of two kids 21 months apart and a third one scheduled 23 months after the second.  And the other day, after a wonderful conversation about balancing family and career, I had a lovely dream with THE SOLUTION:  Soon Chester will be old enough for pre-school when he turns three, and I can go back part time! 

Umm, until I woke up and remembered I'm pregnant.  Going back to work will just have to wait. 

As another wise friend said later in the week, "The light at the end of the tunnel is really far away right now, but it is there."  She's proof- her lovely children are in high school, middle school and 3rd grade.  It's a different kid of busy, a different kind of stressful, but she's also beginning to reclaim herself.  She can go on dates with her husband on last minute notice because her oldest can babysit her youngest!  She can work part time without paying ANY daycare!  There are, of course, scheduling issues with school activities that we don't have yet, but like she said, it's a different kind of stressful. 

I'm taking my time, trying to enjoy these babies while they're little (which is wicked easy some days and definitely a challenge other days!), and counting my blessings that I can stay home with my babies until they're older and I will re-enter my career (as long as Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan doesn't pass and make my job as a tax professional obsolete).  I can't spend my time worrying that I'll be hopelessly out of date when I prepare to go back.   I shouldn't bother wondering if all those years of school were the best plan when I'm not using them.  This is my role for now, and I just have to remember that I won't be the only one in the applicant pool with a 7 year gap in my full-time employment.

Of course, I might just change my mind and career path midstream, and go back to school for something else, you never know!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

You drove your tricycle where?

Friday morning we went to the Children's Drop and Shop in Essex, MA.  It's a twice a year consignment sale of children's clothing and other gear.  I never used to need to shop for children's things, in a store, at an outlet, on sale or at a consignment sale because we received the best hand me downs for Pete and Chester from my awesome sister in law and another friend.  For the first three years of Pete's life, we basically bought nothing.  However, my little monkeys are now super tall monkeys and Pete is outpacing his older cousins and friends, so the hand me downs only help Chester these days and shopping at the seasonal Drop and Shop is the best way to get great clothing at a good bargain.

Having been to the Drop and Shop before, I knew the big ticket baby items would go quickly, but it would be a madhouse right at the 10am opening.  So I devised a plan to put Chester in the hiking back pack and use a monkey backpack leash to keep track of Pete while I hunted down a Pack and Play, Halloween costumes, winter boots and coats (The remaining items could wait until later that night when it would be less crowded and I could return to the sale without children.).  Sadly a search of the house didn't turn up my monkey backpack leash, so I just had to trust that he would not cause too much havoc or run away while I looked through the nursery items.  I explained to Pete what we were doing, and that there were also toys inside, so if he was a big boy and stayed right by me, he could pick out a toy at the end.  I got in line with my friend Lia at 9:50am approximately 300 yards from the entrance and groaned, just dreading what a total debacle this was going to be, but without other options, I just had to grin and bear it. 

I made it inside, and by the grace of God, the boys shoes and boys clothing section was right next to the toys.  I scored slipper, rain boots and winter boots for both boys while Pete debated the merits of a school bus vs. a train set.  I also finished the Halloween costumes and then moved to coral Pete to the coat room and nursery furniture room.  Then God really smiled on me.  He placed a $5 tricycle in our path to the nursery room.  While I inspected pack and plays, Pete zoomed under tables of ice skates and baseball cleats.  As I sorted through coats, he made figure eights around the racks of snow pants all within viewing distance, and never once running into someone, even in the madhouse full of over-caffeinated bargain hunters.

He rode that tricycle while we waited 30 minutes in line to check out, then he rode it down the hill, into the parking lot and over to our van where he lifted it up himself, to store it in the back of the minivan.  I congratulated myself on surviving the Drop and Shop rush, and celebrated my awesome bargains. 

Now nearing noon, both boys, of course, fell asleep on the way home, so I carried in my purchases and retrieved our bags and shopping list to head for the commissary while they continued to nap in the car.  I'm not really sure why I left the tricycle in the car, but I did, and thought nothing of it while we headed for a playdate and grocry store on the Air Force Base. 

When I woke Pete to go into the store, he asked if he could drive his tricycle.  I'm not sure who was more surprised when I answered yes.  I strapped Chester into the cart and again explained the rules that Pete must stay near me and not crash into anyone in the store.  And wouldn't you know it.... he listened!  We took a quick trip through the fresh produce, dairy, bakery and frozen foods (there's nothing wrong with craving blueberry pancakes, but I have to settle for frozen blueberries now that they're out of season!)  Each aisle we turned down, he waited patiently for permission to race me to the end, then returned, without fail, to my side ready to move to the next aisle.  No whining, no running, no begging for snacks or candy.  It was the easiest grocery trip I've ever taken with two children. 

I have not yet decided if the tricycle will make a second appearance at the grocery store.  There is probably a rule against such behavior, especially on an Air Force Base.  At the AFB, at 5pm each night, they call attention, play the Star Spangled Banner, then announce permission to carry on.  For the crime of speeding, they don't bother to ticket you, the MPs just revoke your driving priviliges on base (and it works, I've never seen anyone speeding).  If there aren't already rules about driving a tricycle through the commisary, I'm sure someone is working feverishly on a new directive after seeing Pete riding his around the store on Friday.  But driving the tricycle sure did make that trip pleasant, and if thats the trick to grocery shopping without hissing at my children to be quient and stay right by the cart, I may just consider it the best $5 I've ever spent and leave the tricycle in the back of the van for use during every grocery trip.