Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happy Anniversary WTSD!

On August 21, 2010, I wrote my first blog. One year later so much has changed, but one thing remains the same… I love writing it.
When I first starting writing it, it was merely a way to be creative, keep my brain moving to avoid mental atrophy and to share my stories with others. What I found is that not only did other people like reading my blog, but they could relate to it and then would tell me their stories. In the end, I think we all feel better knowing we’re not alone on this crazy ride called parenthood.

When I look back on the last year and read some of my previous blogs, a few things cross my mind. The first is that I should really do a better job editing. I have found so many typos and errors in grammar, but in my defense I usually write them at 5 a.m., during nap time when I am trying to accomplish several other things and in situations like what just happened…

Picture this, Lake In The Hills, July 2011.  Tom is away on a camping trip...drunken debotchery known as Country Thunder.  The kids are playing nicely while I try jot some ideas down. Suddenly Colin walks up to me and I realize he has his second dirty diaper in 20 minutes. As I try to finish my thought and then change him when Maddie proclaims she has wet her pants because she was concentrating too hard on making her Barbies talk to each other. Luckily it was a leak and not a flood. I got her to the bathroom before any major cleanup was in order and grabbed her wet underwear and wet shorts and threw them in the laundry room and they landed behind the dryer. I got a kids hanger that was in there, crawled on top of the washer and dryer and tried to fish the articles of clothing out. I determined I needed a larger hanger and then proceeded to drop that behind the washer. I used the kids hanger to fish out the larger hanger and then was finally able to save the shorts and underwear from becoming a laundry casualty. Keep in mind the whole time I am doing this maneuver, Colin is behind me kicking my feet and pushing my head and neck that is already lodged in a precarious position between a shelf and the dryer. I hopped off and at that point he had moved on to playing in the dog’s water bowl. I grabbed him to change his diaper and unbeknownst to me, he had the diaper cream and by the time I noticed, he had smeared it all over himself.

Ok, so now that we have established why I lack technical writing skills, I’d like to take this opportunity to do a “Year In Review.”

1) Maddie is now 4 and Colin is 2.

2) I still hate grocery shopping and despite my vow to never use the cartoon cart EVER again, I occasionally cave and 99.9% of the time regret it.

3) I still do all the “dirty work.”

4) I can’t wait until November when I can bring “Bubble Pop” our "Elf On A Shelf” out so I can start using him to threaten my children again.

5) Maddie has taken dance class consistently since last fall and does not try to kick a soccer ball during dance class like she did pirouettes during soccer.

6) We have not had any major stomach bugs (knock on wood) since February.

7) Maddie has expanded her eating repertoire by adding cheeseburgers and the occasional raw broccoli. The good news is that whatever she doesn’t eat, Colin moves over to her plate and finishes.

8) I continue to be late for everything, but received vindication when my mother-in-law came to pick us up to go to American Girl and saw Maddie freak out over wanting to change outfits while I was trying to get Colin to our neighbor’s. When I returned, Maddie had on a pair of pants that were two inches too short, a shirt where her belly was hanging out, socks and sandals. By the time we got her in suitable outfit that wasn’t out of the Goodwill bag, we missed our train.

9) Colin’s incidents of getting kicked out of the daycare for biting have decreased, but he did just get kicked out for pushing a baby to the ground on Wednesday.

10) I am dreading when the bees, wasps and hornets come out in full force.

11) Cowpants only comes up every so often now.

12) Colin is doing great in his big boy bed while Maddie continues to struggle with her transition into “No Naps.” She still needs the light on every night, door open just a crack and her Cinderella CD on repeat all night. We have developed a very unique system where she gets two quarters when she goes to bed; one to use to pay for a question, a drink of water or whatever excuse she has to leave her bed once we put her down. The other is for the middle of the night. If she can avoid sleeping in our bed, she gets to keep the quarter in the morning. The first night she came into my room at 3 a.m. crying, threw the money on my night stand and said, “I don’t want your money!” Thankfully things have improved since.

13) Maddie is still the boss of me.

14) Colin still licks inappropriate things and has even been known to put a handful of dirt in his mouth in the yard and then proceed to throw it up all over himself.

15) I still haven’t found that magic wand I’ve been hoping for, but have become better at realizing my house is just a perpetual mess and that I have little, saggy boobs.

16) I have not gotten on a plane since February and I plan on selling my Sit ‘n Stand stroller in an upcoming garage sale.

17) I am down a dog because Taz bit Colin. There is a blog about it that I never finished and never posted. Maybe someday I will. I can tell you Colin still asks about him to this day and Maddie has been the strongest of all of us through the whole experience.

18) I’ve discovered a few other things I don’t like playing with my kids and they involve sitting in a kiddy pool talking like Little Mermaid’s mom and pushing the kids on the swings with the sprinkler on.

19) I have received my Group Fitness Certification despite trying to study in the yard while the kids played and was asked 415 times if I could talk like Little Mermaid’s mom, 244 times to push them in the swing and had my name called 4,531 times. And I thought college provided a lot of distractions.

20) I now post a weekly blog on a local community website, but it is called "Write This Stuff Down."

21) I write a monthly column for Kane County Magazine.

22) I've been told I'm too vulgar and to that I say, "Tough shit."

23) I now own the URL www.writethishitdown.com, .org, .net. etc. But they are under construction until I can cut the apron strings from blogspot.com.

24) I have written 34 blogs and have only posted 32. One is the aforementioned blog about losing Taz and the other is about Sex and Marriage that I couldn’t get approval to post (from Tom). Maybe someday I can edit it to make it suitable for posting.

25) Just when I think I have nothing else to write about, these two knuckleheads provide me with inspiration. They are a bottomless pit of blog fodder and enjoyment.

26) I have received so many comments, compliments, words of encouragement and general sympathy for my blog that I cannot even express how thankful I am that people are actually reading my writing and enjoying it.

So, who knows where this writing thing will take me. I never in a million years thought I would run into a guy at my college homecoming, who I haven’t seen in 12 years, and have him tell me he and his wife read my blog all the time and love it. For all of you who have given me encouragement and positive feedback, I cannot even tell you how much it means to me. Putting your writing and your life out there puts you in an extremely vulnerable position. It is all this support that keeps me writing and sharing my little world of Madelyn and Colin. All this for a bunch of stories about my crazy life and my crazy kids who are likely just like your kids. Oh, and my mom wants everyone to know that she never said “shit,” but I have to tell you my first word was “shit” and I will give you one guess who I learned it from.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ode To My Minivan



Oh minivan, how I love thee. I know what you are thinking, I’ve completely lost it. You should know I wrote my high school graduation speech about my 1986 Dodge2.2 Charger, so paying homage to my vehicles is nothing new for me.

I took the time to wash my beloved minivan yesterday, and I started to feel a little sentimental about my old pal Odessa the Odyssey. (I just came up with that name, what do you think?) I really took the time to vacuum out all the crumbs, sucker sticks, stickers from the doctor’s office, ponytail holders and stray M&Ms that have collected over the last several months. I scrubbed the floor mats and every other sticky surface with Clorox bleach wipes and then suds up the outside of the van, hosed it down and dried it carefully as to not leave any streaks. With every crispy, sticky and crunchy “discovery” I found myself feeling like a guy tinkering with his classic car remembering all the “good old days” and time spent with his vehicle.

Classic car the Odyssey is not, but it is part of my identity. I know many women who refuse to drive minivans for fear they will fall into the stereotype of a “soccer mom” or suburban housewife. Before I had kids, I saw many a woman with a hat, a pony tail and no makeup driving her minivan and I vowed I would never become “one of them.” I admit I had a bit of a hard time when we bought our van right before Maddie was born. After all, I was 8 months pregnant, turned 30 and became the owner of a minivan all within a week. I knew deep down that this was the most practical thing we could buy, but me, in a minivan? I even went so far as to pick out a black one thinking it made it slightly cooler. Once we bought it, I realized how snazzy it was. It came equipped with a DVD player, GPS, satellite radio and leather seats that also had seat warmers. I mean this thing was sweet…for a family truckster.

Once I had Maddie, I really began to appreciate how great this thing was when I would lug the carseat carrier to the car and all I had to do was hit a button on the remote and the door would open up. I didn’t have to hoist her up into an SUV or crouch down into a car with the 45 pound thing either. I realized that if I was out and she needed to eat, I could nurse her in the third row of the van, watch a DVD and no one would see me! I could even plug my pump in the back as long as I had an adapter so I could take the kids to Disney On Ice and give Colin a bottle inside Allstate Arena.

I knew that the van would not stay clean forever. There are usually fingerprints and smiley faces drawn on the outside of the car. There are a million toys sliding around the floor in the second row. There are often crushed up Goldfish, melted cereal bars and the above mentioned things I scrubbed out of the car yesterday, but that is why I got this thing, so I could transport my kids who happen to make a mess because they are kids.

Of course now I am often “that mom” with my hair pulled up in a messy pony tail, no makeup and wearing a t-shirt stained with spaghetti sauce driving around town. I certainly am not anywhere near Christy Brinkley in “National Lampoons Summer Vacation” driving her Ferrari. I do not turn any heads and I rarely feel sexy or powerful in my car the way we all know a cool car can make us feel. I suppose if I closed my eyes and tried real hard, I could muster up some inner Christy Brinkley, but closing your eyes while driving is completely unsafe and crashing your car is completely unsexy.

There have been times when I am driving my van and a tune from my college days comes on and I feel like I am thrown back to being 21, carefree and without a worry in the world except what party I was going to that night and what I was going to wear. Then I catch a glimpse of my car seats in the rearview mirror and I am thrown back into reality. Next thing you know Maddie asks if we can listen to “her songs” and I am forced to turn off Rusted Root “Send Me On My Way” and turn on a collection of Disney Princess songs.

But let’s cut to the chase, while I understand the power of cars and how they can make you feel, I have to be realistic. Yes, it would be nice to drive a car that makes me feel like a super model, but I am certainly NOT a super model so why pretend. I could buy a car that probably costs as much as my minivan that would make people think we are well off, but then I could never actually let my kids in the car for fear they would mess it up. I could drive a less “mom-like” vehicle, like an SUV or cross-over, but I’d rather give up my qualms about driving a minivan and enjoy the extra room, convenience and practicality.

When I stop and think about the stigma surrounding minivans I am reminded of a few things. First of all, before I drove a minivan, I drove a Honda Civic. It wasn’t like I gave up a Mustang or a BMW or some sort of fancy schmancy car. Second, I’ve never been particularly cool so why try pretending I’m cool now. Finally, let’s face it, cars are a status symbol and my status is a mom. Granted, when we purchased the minivan, I still worked, so I hadn’t completely crossed over to total momdom, but I knew before long I would have another kid and be at home and well, the minivan just seemed to fit. Now, there have been times where I feel like I am not accomplishing enough as a stay-at-home-mom, but then I remember what my dreams and aspirations were as a child. I pretended to wear a wedding gown. I played with dolls, dressing them up, feeding them and burping them. I wanted to get married and have babies. I wanted to be and knew I was destined to be a mommy. There was a point in my life when I was single that I actually feared that I would be the work-a-holic, well-off aunt who pulled up in her Jaguar up on Christmas with annoying and expensive toys for my nieces and nephews. Then went home to my lonely penthouse in the city and drank dirty martinis alone.

That’s not to say that I thought my entire purpose in life was to be a mom and wife and that everything else I did was worthless. But if I want people to see what I have accomplished in my life, pulling my minivan up to the valet is fitting. I love being a mom. I love my minivan.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This Is Your Brain On Motherhood

This is your brain. (Holding up one large uncooked egg)

This is your brain on motherhood. (Egg cracked into hot frying pan.) Popping and sizzling ensues.

Any questions?

This Is Your Brain On Motherhood...overeasy and scrambled all at the same time.
 
Yeah, I have a question. How much more can women take? As if they don’t leech enough off of you, turns out they steal your smarts too.

People told me that when I got pregnant I would get stupid. While I certainly have my “blond moments,” I have always thought of myself as a relatively intelligent person, so on one hand I figured losing a few brain cells was no big deal since I had some to spare. Plus, I have always had a great memory. I could tell you what I was wearing on my first day of school each year of high school. I remember details of my childhood and I am fantastic and remembering faces. On the other hand, I had visions of me waddling through the Target parking lot frantically hitting the buttons on my car remote until my I could hear my horn honking because I forgot where I parked my car 20 minutes earlier.

I was working at the time and my biggest concern was that I would start screwing up at work. My job required remembering contract rates, deadlines and at the very least customer’s names. I had also just taken on extra work and had to learn a new part of my job. I was worried I had lost my capacity to learn. Turns out, I managed not to get fired over my inability to think.

I will say that there were certain things that I did that, whether they were because I was pregnant or not, made me think I was losing it. For example, letting the dog out in the morning before I left for work and leaving him out there in the rain all day. I came home to him barking at the back door, wet, muddy and ready to ring my neck if he had arms and hands.

When I decided to quit my job and stay home people said I would get stupid. They said that I would forget how to have adult conversations and when I did, I would fall into baby talk. They said my mind would turn to mush and I would go crazy.

Fast forward three years and I can still carry on a coherent conversation, even though it is usually about my kids. I am not big on baby talk to begin with, so I think I am in the clear on that one. I think it is pretty apparent that I was already crazy before I had kids and as far as my mind being mush? Well, more like a well ripened banana at this point. It seems as though my memory is the real casualty. I sometimes think I need to pin notes to the front of my shirt that say, “Dear Checkout person at Jewel, Please, tell me I need to buy stamps…and don’t let me walk away without them after I buy them.” Of course, this would also require remembering to buy the birthday card for my brother that actually reminded me I needed stamps. I should also include a note that asks them to remind me to use my coupons and did you get ricotta cheese so you can make lasagna tonight? Because most times I go to the store for 3 things and I walk out with a cart full of things I didn’t intend on buying and forget the three things I went there for.

I constantly forget where my car keys and cell phone are. I’ve found the only thing positive about getting a home phone line again is that I can call my cell phone when it is missing and chase the ringing around my house or out to my car. I often stand in front of the pantry knowing I went to get something and simply cannot remember what. The upshot is sometimes while I am staring aimlessly at my pantry trying to figure out what I went there for, I realize I put the milk in there instead of the fridge.

So, what causes this mind-suck? "There is 15 to 40 times more progesterone and estrogen marinating the brain during pregnancy, and these hormones affect all kinds of neurons in the brain," says Louann Brizendine, MD, director of the Women's Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California. In addition to the progesterone and estrogen surges, there is the lack of sleep and the shift in priorities. The lack of sleep and shift in priorities certainly carries over once the baby is born and the surge in oxytocin that occurs can also short-circuit the brain.

Unfortunately, I’m not battling pregnancy or post-partum hormones and I am still a little dense so I guess the multi-tasking and lack of sleep is really what has kept me in a fog for the last 4-plus years. I usually have a hard time falling asleep if I wake up in the middle of the night, because that is the only time it is quiet enough to think about everything else that I couldn’t focus on during the day.

I also have noticed that there are a lot of things from my pregnancies and the kids’ milestones during their first year that I simply just cannot recall. My friends ask me questions and try as I may, I just can’t remember. You would think I would, but the brain protects us from remembering otherwise no one would ever have more than one child. There have been numerous studies regarding forgetting the pain of childbirth, but I seemed to have blocked out my entire pregnancy and the first year of my kids’ lives! Although if you ask me, both pregnancy and the first year are pretty traumatic, so I guess it falls in the “painful” category. Of course, I also just mentioned that I forget to essential items at the grocery store and have also been known to go a whole day without realizing I have my underwear on sideways, so I guess it isn’t all that hard to believe after all.

Let’s not forget to mention who our company is all day. When you surround yourself with children whose focus is how to get a treat without eating their grilled cheese and grapes, twirling around in a princess dress while singing to herself or ramming matchbox cars into each other, you tend to get a little batty. Then there is the incessant calling of your name, usually for no reason. Finally, I think I could probably complete a task or remember to send a birthday card if I wasn’t always on high alert waiting for something to break, someone to get hit or bit or for Colin to open the back door and run out to the swing set and start climbing up the slide. Of course, this usually happens when it is raining, I have a white tank top with no bra on or both, so I am hoping that me screaming “Colin get back here!” does not prompt the neighbors to look out their window.

I’ve gotta say, TV tops the list as main cause of brain degeneration. I really appreciate some of these shows for their creativity, ability to teach my children and give me a chance to make dinner, like WordWorld, but some of the other ones just rot the brain...both the kids’ and mine. For example, Yo Gabba Gabba, Wow Wow Wubzy (the names alone indicates you will get stupider after watching them) and Backyardigans. The worst is listening to these movies or shows in your car when all you can hear is their voices. I’m worried that I might crash my car if I hear Barbie Princess and the Pauper one more time.

I knew I was in trouble when I started doing character analysis on the gang from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. You know, Mickey is the happy-go-lucky optimist. Donald is a self-centered, stubborn S.O.B. who is always complaining. Minnie is the doting maternal type who is also a bit of a worry wart. Daisy is a confident, no-nonsense kind of gal and as far as I can tell is trying to edge out Minnie for Mickey’s attention. Pete is greedy and gluttonous and usually uses deceptive measures to get what he wants. He does have some redeeming qualities, especially when it entails dressing like a bumble bee or a princess, but I’m pretty sure there is a deeper psychological issue there.

Then, there is the issue of children’s books. They say to turn off the television and make your kids read, but based on some of these ridiculous excuses for literature, I’d rather read them US Weekly. I am fairly certain that most of these authors sit around and smoke weed, drop acid or hit the crack pipe when they write these things. Especially Barbie books, most of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse books and anything Disney for that matter. And when you read these books over and over and over and over again, sometimes 15 times in a 30 minute span, you might as well smoke some crack yourself. I even try to make it more exciting by acting out the characters’ voices, but then I have to do it EVERY TIME and I my critics are merciless. Apparently, my Mater needs some work.

Whatever the cause of my ditziness may be, at the end of the day I am “fried.” (see 1980’s Say No to Drugs commercial reference above). It took me awhile to write this blog because I couldn’t remember all the things I forget on a regular basis. Of course, I am sure it doesn’t help that my coping mechanism for the insanity is drinking wine after the kids go to bed. But hey, what are a few more brain cells, right? I’ll just blame it on the hormones.