31 March 2011

Creatures of Habit

One of the complaints I have about my life after kids is that it has zero spontaneity. None. Zilch. Before we had kids, G and I had settled into a slightly routine life, but nothing like this. I cannot remember the last time that one of my friends called me to ask me what I was doing THAT night. I'm pretty sure that some of them still make last minute plans, but having kids to tuck in at night pretty much guarantees that no one is calling you to see if you want to grab a cocktail after work. Maybe they're afraid I'll show up wearing sweats covered in food.

The routine may be boring to me, but my kids love it. They love going to bed at the same time every night right after Daddy gives them a bath together and they brush their teeth, comb their hair, choose one book each to read and then get tucked in. They love that we keep going back to music class every week. They love that we all sit down to eat dinner together and that there will be a cup of milk waiting for EC and a cup of water for LR. How do I know that they love these things? Well, when the order gets mixed up or the timing is off - if dinner is an hour later than usual and their bedtime gets bumped - they get all wacky. They whine and crank and wake up early, refuse to nap and even throw (gasp) tantrums!

Vacation was a nice change of pace for G and I. We loved being in a new place, not really knowing what was on the schedule for the next day or where we were going to eat dinner that night. And the kids really liked vacation too, but they were obviously happy to get home and back to their routine. LR isn't fighting her naps this week and EC isn't fighting bedtime. And they were oh-so-happy that we went to music class today. Of course, that could have just been because it was ABBA week - my girls are Dancing Queens!

I'm sure that not all kids are creatures of habit like mine. I know plenty of parents who take their kids everywhere with them - keeping their social lives intact post-parenthood in a way that I just haven't. I've seen toddlers snoozing in their stroller at late night restaurants and I sometimes envy those parents whose kids have just adapted to their lives much in the way that I've adapted to my kids lives. But I do enjoy the hour all to myself that I can count on getting every afternoon because my kids have an afternoon nap that they take together. I wouldn't trade family dinner each night when the kids recount the adventures of the day to Daddy for any restaurant experience. And that fresh clean kid scent when I tuck them in and kiss them goodnight is always followed by a few hours that G and I have to ourselves before its our bedtime.

So, I realize that while some spontaneity would be a nice addition to my life, I've grown quite fond of some of our little routines and traditions and I wouldn't trade them for anything. However, I would just like my friends to know that my workday ends at 7 pm. If you're heading out after work around that time, give me a call! I might just be willing to swap my sweats for a sparkly shirt and meet up with you.

30 March 2011

What's Yours is Mine and What's Mine is Mine

What is it about us that makes us want what someone else has? That geeky guy crushing on you in high school science class didn't seem remotely attractive until he started dating someone else. Keeping up with the Joneses is a lifelong ambition for Americans. Guys are always comparing the size of their televisions. We all do it. And I'm discovering that its a phenomenon that starts early.

My two kids are struggling with toy envy. EC will mope around the living room telling me she's bored and that there is NOTHING to play with until LR plucks something from the toy bin and starts playing with it. Suddenly, it is the only thing that EC can think about and she'll risk everything to get her hands on it - timeouts included. This phenomenon is not limited to the older toddler. LR does the same thing. She wants nothing to do with her fleet of matchbox cars until EC has lined them all up and is racing them along the window sill. Then she screams and pitches a fit until they are returned to their rightful owner.

I'm pretty sure that we wouldn't have a financial crisis in this country if someone could find a cure for toy envy in toddlers. What is this need of ours to possess what belongs to another? Is it something biological? It must be something rooted very deep because my kids would sooner see the toy in question taken away and not played with by anyone than to simply wait their turn for a go with it.

I know that some people choose to just buy two of everything and solve the fighting that way, but I feel like that's cheating a little. The girls need to learn to share and they need to learn that sometimes someone else gets to have a cool new toy and we should be happy for them for our turn will come. I want EC and LR to learn that they aren't entitled to everything exactly when they want it - that sometimes in order to play with the really neato new toy that your sister got for her birthday, it will involve being nice, waiting your turn and appreciating the 10 minutes you get with it. Of course, I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to teach this to them, because every time I have dinner with a trendy friend, I leave a little green at the swing of her skirt and the soft leather of her bag. How can I fight biology?

29 March 2011

Are We There Yet?

I would love to know what EC had imagined when I told her two weeks ago that we were going to Vermont for a little vacation. I showed her Vermont on a map puzzle we were putting together. I talked about what we would see while we were there - the place were teddy bears are born and the place where ice cream is made! And I talked about how the hotel where we would stay had a pool to swim in and that there was a lake nearby. Teddy bears + ice cream + swimming pool + lake must have equaled some fantastical amusement park in her young mind, because when we got to Vermont, I quickly realized that she didn't quite grasp the concept of going to another state.

We piled into the minivan for our road trip north - we stopped along the way for pancakes and the girls watched movies on their individual tv screens. They were loving vacation so far. When we crossed from New Hampshire to Vermont, G and I cheered and announced that we'd arrived in Vermont, but EC was a little too engrossed in Veggie Tales to notice. And when we stopped for lunch at Friendly's to kill some time until we could check in at the hotel, EC asked when we were going to get to Vermont.

"We're here," I said, "we're already here - this is Vermont."

"Mommy, this is not Vermont," she said, "this is a restaurant."

I wasn't really sure how to explain it any better. The next morning, we visited the place where teddy bears are born and sped through the tour at Ben and Jerry's. LR was not a fan of factory tours - or perhaps just not a fan of missing her morning nap for them. EC had clearly forgotten all about what Vermont was by the time she was licking her vanilla ice cream cone coated in rainbow sprinkles. I guess maybe she decided that it doesn't really matter where you are as long as they have vanilla ice cream and teddy bears and swimming pools.

23 March 2011

Playing Mommy

The other day, EC told me that when she grows up, she wants to be a Mommy just like me. What a sweet compliment. But then, I'm the person she spends most of her time with and, therefore, the one she's most likely to imitate. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Not always, sometimes, I think its the sincerest reminder that you have to watch what you say.

The girls are having nap time now. This means that EC has fallen fast asleep and LR is crying and fighting the urge to close her eyes. However, before EC fell asleep, I overheard the following:

EC: LR, do you want a timeout? You can't do that. You're gonna get a timeout. Is that what you want, a timeout?
LR: Yes.
EC: Okay, you're in timeout.
LR: Okay.
EC: Stop running around your crib, you're in a timeout!

Imitating me giving a timeout is fine, but a little scary when I think of all the words that come out of my mouth in a given day and whether or not I want to hear them from my three-year-old. Not just words, but EC makes an exasperated sound like, "Urrrrgggghhhh!" when she's frustrated. This is a sound that she could only have learned from me. Its harmless enough, but I wince every time I hear it thinking that this is how I've taught her to deal with her frustration.

She picks up on these small things that you think she's too young to notice. Every time she does it, I think of all the stuff that I teach her every day that has nothing to do with letters or shapes or turning dirt into mud and I vow to be a happier, more loving person. Because, that is really what I want her to learn from me - that she is loved and that I want her to be happy.

22 March 2011

Flying Ponytails

I have these moments in the day that remind me - even if only for a moment - why I have the greatest job in the world. I have some days when I feel like this all day long, like those first really warm days of the year when its 70 degrees and fully sunny and everyone is stuck in their office hoping the weekend will be nice and I'm outside soaking it up with the girls. I also have days when I know I must simply be insane to have volunteered for this gig.

This morning, I had one of those "best job in the world" moments. EC and LR got new shoes over the weekend - sparkly, pink and purple, girly shoes. They are over the moon about them, not just because they are girly, but because every kid knows that new shoes make you run faster and jump higher. We were getting ready to head out for the day, so after she was dressed and coifed, EC put on her new shoes and started running from one end of the living room to the other.

"Look at me, mommy, I'm superfast!" she shouted.

I finished up LR's ponytails and she brought me her shoes. She wanted to be superfast too. I put them on her and she took off in her new pink sneakers, racing with her big sister. They ran back and forth, ponytails flying. They were giggling in the way that only sisters and best friends can - laughing as they bounced off each other and the bedroom door. Sprinting back and forth like it was the most fun thing to do in the entire world. They had matching laughs and matching ponytails. And I stood there watching them and thinking that this is the exact reason that we had two - so EC would always and forever have someone to be silly and superfast and giggly with. That whenever she was doing the most fun thing in the entire world, that she could look over and see that she had someone to share it with.

21 March 2011

To Work or Not to Work?

To work or not to work? This is the question that has been plaguing me lately. A good rational argument could be made for either side. I loved my job as an architect and part of me would like to resume life as someone other than just Imperfect Mommy. I've been staying at home with the kids for more than three and a half years. It will be four years by the time I would consider going back to work. And that feels long enough to avoid the working mommy guilt, right? Probably not.

I've already considered that LR has only been alive for two of those years. Wouldn't it be nice if she got four years of mommy at home like Emma? And then I think about money. Living on one income in this city can be a little brutal at times. Of course, will I actually make any money after I pay someone quite a lot of money to take very good care of my precious charges?

I feel strongly that EC is ready to be challenged more and to interact with other kids on a regular basis. Maybe even make some friends whose parents we aren't already friends with? Does sending her to preschool mean that I have to go back to work to swing the tuition? Preschool tuition can rival college tuition around here. But can I find an option that would allow her to get her interaction and allow LR to get some alone time with Mommy?

Of course, this opens up other questions about where they will go to kindergarten? Public or private? And the biggest one of all... how will I ever be able to concentrate on my job when my kids are with complete strangers??? I thought that leaving them for an entire workday would get easier as they got older. And in some ways it has. But then my two little best friends and I have been hanging out every day for years and what will I do without them? I mean, what will they do without me? Or what will they do without each other? They've gotten awfully used to fighting over the same toys and screaming in unison to drive mommy nuts.

Living in the city provides us with so many choices in this area. Its nice to have choices until it means you have to make one. When I was small, my parents didn't have a choice of where to send me. Where I lived determined my elementary, middle and high schools. Childcare was slipping the neighbor some cash to look after your kids as well as her own. There are more than fifty elementary schools in the city. Even more if you add in K-8 schools. That many choices can be intimidating. And I have to consider if I'm willing to send them to any of those schools or if I feel like private school would somehow give me a little more peace of mind (I'm aware of how snobbish this sounds).

And maybe I'm being crazy to think this far ahead. But maybe I'm crazy not to. All these parenting decisions feel so huge. To stay home or not to stay home? Send them to preschool or just keep winging it at home? And finally, how do I take the emotional aspect out of all of this in order to make a rational decision? Because I'm pretty sure that I'll never be ready for anyone else to have as much time with them as I do now. And I can only imagine that it will be more than a little hard the first time I hear one of them profess that someone other than me is their best friend.

17 March 2011

Terrible Tantrums

For quite a while now, I've been the parent of a rather perfect toddler. I really, rather smugly, thought that we were going to escape the terrible threes. We made it past two without the tantrums typical of the terrible age and I thought that, perhaps, my child was immune. Clearly, my stellar parenting had gotten my daughter through her toddler years with her tantrums in check. We could make it through the toy aisles of Target without her insisting that she "get something" and if I had to tell her that she couldn't do something, my "no" was not met with a meltdown. I was mentally patting myself on the back and fist pumping simultaneously. I've seen toddlers melt down and although mine occasionally threw a fit or misbehaved, my stern reminder to behave or the occasional timeout had done the trick to keep her in line.

As we rounded past three and a half and steadily progressed toward four, I thought we were in the clear. However, this week, EC has decided that she, not I, is in charge and what I say has been met with willful defiance and, well, tantrums. Clearly, I am not a superior parent, my daughter just waited a little longer to drop the misbehavior bomb.

And this defiant little girl is pushing all my buttons. When I tell her to stop doing something, she looks at me, considers what is about to happen and - drum roll please - does it anyway! I have been struggling with keeping my own tantrum in check all week. Finally, today, when I dropped her off at her art and sports class, I have to admit that I was a little happy to leave her in someone else's capable hands for a few hours. And LR and I headed off to the park for some quality time without The Defiant One. Little did I know that while we were sliding down the slide repeatedly that EC was sharing her defiance with her teachers. I came to pick her up and was greeted with the information that EC had trouble listening in both of her classes today. I was a little relieved that it wasn't just me she was acting out against, but mostly, I was sure that, somehow, I had to find a way to get this under control.

I'm pretty sure I'm being tested. Its like the big exam at the end of the toddler phase. She's about to be finished with toddlerhood and this is her last hurrah. I'm just hoping that it doesn't last until she actually turns four. If I have to suffer through five months of this, I will require a lobotomy. Or at the very least, a spa weekend. Nightly bottle of wine, perhaps?

Here's hoping that her stint in the terrible ages is brief and that I pass the test. I'm not sure what happens if I don't - do they just revoke my right to be a parent or am I forced to live with a defiant toddler forever?

Cleaning House

One of the many ways that I am imperfect is my inability to keep my house neat and tidy. I like to blame this on my second child. When I had only one child to run after, it seemed easy to keep the housework current. I had a child who took two long naps a day and slept from 7 pm until 6 am after she was only a few months old. That provided me with 3 or 4 hours during the day to rest myself and keep the floor scrubbed and the toilet sparkling. Its certainly not LR's fault, but staying at home with two kids is far more challenging than with one. I can't get everything done and I've had to choose what I'm willing to let slide. For me, that has been the neat and tidy house.

My house is generally clean - not eat off the floors clean - but not filthy. However, on any given day, should you walk into my house unannounced, you will find toys on every floor in virtually every room - strewn about as if by some crazy weather. I teach the girls to pick up their toys twice a day. EC does this pretty willingly, but LR is still in the refusal stage and, at her age, I'm not pushing it. But they live and play in the same space and, especially during the winter months when we spend much of the day indoors, the house can go from tidy to tornado in mere minutes.

I can recall a day when EC was only a few months old and the fire department had to gain access to my apartment to get to the back stairs to gain access to my neighbor's apartment where she was inside unable to open the door for them. Many people tracked through my house that day and I was a little proud that there wasn't a dirty dish in the sink, the floors were immaculate and all the laundry was done, folded AND put away. Fast forward to last week when my poor little LR required the same treatment - a slew of firemen, policemen and EMTs coming in to take her away in their ambulance.

There have been days when my house was in such a state that I might have been mortified to let them in. But that day I got lucky. Unfortunately, my daughters had been not feeling well for two days and we'd stayed inside. However, they were watching more television than usual - laying on the sofa and recuperating from their colds. I, on the other hand, was going stir crazy from being cooped up and went on a cleaning binge. With the toys all put away and no one feeling well enough to take them all out again, I went on to mop the floors, scrub the bathroom and even clean the kitchen counters.

It was pure chance that that team of emergency workers found my house in such a neat and tidy state. It seems a little shameful to be even thinking about any of this under the circumstances, but I was relieved that my house was so clean. Not in the moment - there was no time to think about that then. However, I thought about it when I got to the hospital. I was thinking about how lucky I was that my neighbor wasn't working that day and was able to take EC to her house and how fortunate that my husband hadn't yet left on his overnight hiking trip. And I was thinking thank goodness my house was clean. I know that I'm imperfect and most of the time I can accept this. But it doesn't mean that I'm always comfortable with it or that I'm not judging myself for my shortcomings. I do feel guilty for not keeping a neat and tidy house. I try to remind myself that, in order to maintain it, I'd have to sacrifice play time or time spend cooking a nutritious dinner. Still, I couldn't help feeling lucky that day when all those people showed up, that they had one less thing to judge me about.

16 March 2011

Jeeped Up on Albuterol

When G and I became parents, we followed the same approach toward medicine that we have personally - only take it when its absolutely necessary. We aren't freaks about it, but colds are lived through or treated as naturally as possible - saline and honey, anyone? And headaches are endured unless they are migraines. Not because we think medicines are "bad", but because we want to make sure the medicine works when we really need it. And when EC came along, we chose not to ask the pediatrician for antibiotics every time she got a cold. And to ignore the advice of well meaning friends and relative that suggested that cold medicine for babies was fine. And with EC, we were very fortunate. She didn't get sick very often. I'm sure that staying home with mommy helped. But since she was my only child at the time, I had the time to be obsessive about hand washing and bringing along a shopping cart cover to keep her hands away from the germs of the previous occupant. She also didn't have any chronic childhood illnesses. So, EC made it to age three before she ever had to take antibiotics and she passed a relatively illness-free existence. That is before she had a little sister.

Adding another baby into the family put a quick stop to my obsessively clean ways. Both, when we were out and about and at home. Poor LR had to crawl around on a floor littered with cheerios and my obsession with washing EC's hands before every meal went by the way side. I just didn't have the time to obsess - I was too busy juggling two kids.

We quickly discovered that our little theory about medicating our kids was a bust, too. LR was born with reflux. Most babies at least have a few days of newborn contentedness before the reflux starts around day 7, but LR came out screaming and just didn't stop. We were quickly sleep deprived AND desperate to calm her pain. Selfishly, we just wanted her to stop screaming. Round the clock screaming is good for no one. So, when at 6 weeks old, she was diagnosed with infant GERD, we forgot to ask about the side effects and just greedily accepted the prescription for Prilosec. And, we are fortunate that as far as medicines go, Prilosec is pretty side effect free. LR quickly became the happy baby that she was meant to be, but the special formula that she was on required her to be on an additional medicine for constipation and sometimes she had breakthrough pain with the Prilosec and had to take Mylanta. Before we knew it, there was an entire section of the kitchen cabinet dedicated to LR's daily meds.

Without those medications though, her life would have been miserable. She probably wouldn't have grown well because of the pain after feedings. Not to mention that my marriage might not have lasted through 15 months of that kind of screaming. I don't know anyone whose marriage could withstand that kind of torture. I would imagine that it would have been difficult to bond with our new baby too. It is really hard to feel badly for someone when they are screaming at you. So, we weighed the options and medicating her won by a lot.

When LR was diagnosed with asthma, we agreed to put her on daily inhaled steroids with albuterol as needed. But, this time we labored a little longer over this decision. LR's asthma trigger is viral infections. Even in the winter, she has a cold maybe once a month. Would putting her on daily medication for a once a month occurrence make sense? Plus that word steroid is scary. When she's taken oral steroids in the past, they make her aggressive - she hits her sister and throws tantrums at an alarming rate. The albuterol makes her heart race. Was all this really necessary?

We decided to try the medicine. Messing with a condition that affects your child's ability to breathe seemed a worse option. And that was all proven to us last week when LR had to stay in the hospital. Her condition got worse so fast while she was on the medicine, I hate to think what might have happened if she wasn't taking anything. And watching her go through what they had to do to her to get her lungs functioning normally again was just heartbreaking. This is something that I don't ever want to have to witness again. LR was given three albuterol treatments before she even got in the ambulance. Another in the ambulance and four more in the emergency room, plus a dose of oral steroids and another medication just to get her bronchospasms to stop. She was coughing so hard she was vomiting at one point. And all that albuterol and steroids finally fixed it, but at a price.

Poor LR was so jeeped up, she couldn't sit still. She was wringing her hands and jumping all over the hospital bed. She nearly jumped out at one point - I barely caught her by one arm. Her heart raced, setting off all the heart rate alarms - up to 220 bpms at times. And still, she coughed. Finally, after about eight hours of this, her lungs relaxed. She was exhausted by all of this, but the alternative was not being able to breathe properly. I've had people suggest to me that perhaps there is an alternative way to treat this condition - that I should pursue a more homeopathic approach. I have researched those, but I have to say that when it comes to a basic function like breathing, I'm going to err on the side of caution and give her the medicine that she needs to keep doing it.

11 March 2011

Helpless Mommy

I think the worst feeling a parent can have is that of being helpless - at least where your kids are concerned. Today, I felt totally helpless as I watched my little LR struggle to breathe during an asthma attack. Her asthma presents as coughing episodes that just don't quit. After giving her breathing treatments and consulting with the pediatric nurse over the phone, I finally realized that I could not load her into the car in this condition for a drive to the doctor's office. So, I dialed 911 with shaky hands. My fear of being a crazed, overreacting mother was surpassed by my fear watching my daughter unable to draw a breath between coughs. She was shaking herself and looking rather troubled by her current state. Distressed is the term they use and it described not only LR's current state, but mine as well.

The paramedics arrived with the fire department and the police. As I told her story, I broke down, crying. Forgetting for a moment that I had no time for dwelling on the helplessness. It was time to be a hero for LR. The EMT quickly responded by commanding me to look him in the eye and reminding me that LR wouldn't know to be afraid if I didn't act the part. A calm mommy equals a calm baby. I was momentarily embarrassed, but there was no time. I put a smile on my face and started talking to my little Peanut. She calmed noticeably.

After an ambulance ride and her fourth nebulizer of albuterol, we made it to the hospital. LR immediately started to act better, of course, and I questioned myself for being so dramatic, but a short while later, her cough was back and she was struggling to catch her breath. I was back to feeling helpless. She coughed and cried and gagged and looked at me with sad, pleading eyes. And I could do nothing. It is frustrating to be unable to fix it when you're a mommy. That's what we mommies do. We fix things.

We were finally admitted overnight. LR needed to respond to a breathing treatment and not need another one for at least four hours and we were only making it one hour. I must admit that I was oddly relieved that we would be staying. No one wants their baby to stay overnight in the hospital, unless you feel so helpless that you want to be surrounded by people who are not.

Castle Party

G passed another registration exam and we got the good news on Wednesday. I'd been anxiously checking the mail every day for two weeks and calling G to report on the status of his results, so we were very excited when the results came in and doubly excited that they were good news. We headed off to celebrate with dinner out at a local BBQ/Southern fare restaurant. Not stellar gourmet cuisine, but yummy comfort food that the girls devour.

On our way there, we drove past a Catholic church. It was a large stone complex with lots of towers and large arched doorways. G and I were wondering why there was such a stream of people heading inside at 5:30 pm on a weeknight. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I remembered that the day before had been Fat Tuesday, but not that the current day was Ash Wednesday. I just knew that something important happened at the Catholic church on the day after Fat Tuesday. So, it should not have come as a shock to me that my daughter's reaction to this display was, "Look, Mommy, its a Castle Party! Everyone is going to a Castle Party!"

G and I looked at each other and winced a little that perhaps we might need to introduce our kids to a church occasionally so at least they would recognize one when they see it.

10 March 2011

Too Much TV

I cannot have tales of imperfect parenthood without including the topic of television. As a stay-at-home mom, I probably have my kids watch more TV than they should. EC has a limit of two hours and LR usually watches only one hour on any given day. However, I'll be the first to admit that the limit gets stretched more often than I'd like. EC watches an hour in the morning while LC naps and I take a shower, clean up after breakfast and get online to check my email, blog, etc. Of course, there are times, like this morning, when EC is sneezing, coughing and complaining of a belly that hurts, when the morning TV gets prolonged. I rationalize this by reminding myself that I got to watch television all day long on the days I stayed home from school. And if watching TV gets her to rest and feel better, than its a good thing, right?

For an hour in the afternoon, EC and LR watch videos while I prepare dinner. Again, its a choice I have to make - do I want my kids to be TV-free or to have a home cooked dinner. For the sake of our health, as well as my sanity, I've chosen home cooked meals. Cooking each night is a bit of a creative outlet for me - I like to plan the meals and find new recipes to try. So, most days, I'm looking forward to five o'clock when the pots and pans come out and I get to chop and dice my through a new dish. And for as long as I can, I'd like to keep whole, unprocessed food going into them as often as possible.

Again, there are days when I just cannot mentally wait until 5 pm to switch the TV on. Sometimes the house is beyond messy and making me crazy. Some days its just been too much for me to handle and an hour and a half of The Muppets Take Manhattan seems harmless.

I limit the kids to wholesome shows - mostly PBS and commercial-free videos. And they actually learn stuff from these shows. When EC memorized her alphabet so quickly, it had nothing to do with my stellar teaching abilities. She watched a Blues Clues video over and over that week. Perfect way to teach a toddler her alphabet? No, but before I knew it, she was pointing out and correctly identifying letters everywhere we went.

I'm sure that each parent struggles with how much television is too much. And I know that this is the easy part. One day, she'll have an iPod, computer, cell phone, and more to provide electronic distraction. I try to remember that everything in moderation has to be my motto. And the days like today, when EC isn't feeling well and is overdoing the television, need to be balanced by a day of outdoor playtime when she's feeling better.

08 March 2011

Sisterly Camaraderie

Usually when the girls get hurt, they want the person who was farthest away to comfort them. For example, if Mommy is home and Daddy is at work when EC falls down, she wails for Daddy. It works this way when the hurt is not physical, too. If Mommy takes something away from LR, her tantrum is filled with pleas for Daddy to help her out.

An interesting dynamic is developing at our house though. LR is seeking a new kind of comfort when she's in need... she seeks out her big sister. Its touching. And exactly what we had in mind when we decided that two kids would be better than one. We wanted to give our little girl someone to lean on for life. G and I both came from large families - six kids in my family and five in his. We knew that we would never be crazy enough to replicate those numbers, but we really wanted EC to have a sibling because we know just how great siblings are.

I know that this sisterly comfort will eventually develop into the kind of camaraderie that involves sneaking out windows after curfew and commiserating over how evil Mom is for setting a curfew in the first place. However, I don't mind any of that as long as, in the end, they have each other's back.

In the meantime, I can't help but be a little emotional when I see LR go running off to her big sister for a hug and some comforting words. I'm not jealous that she's not coming to Mommy for that hug. I'm so happy that she knows she has more than just her parents to go to for support.

07 March 2011

Melting Mommy

I've had an assortment of jobs in my lifetime. I was the buffet girl at Kentucky Fried Chicken (required to wear a bright purple apron with "All You Can Eat Buffet" printed across the front, if you can believe it), tossed pizzas at a mom and pop shop through high school (this skill has come in handy to mesmerize my kids when making dinner), and endured the politics of the contractor-owner-architect relationship on many building projects (friendly handshakes are often followed by high drama). I have to admit though, that this "stay at home mom" gig can get to me like no other job I've ever had.

Of course, the fact that my bosses yell at me and each other on a daily basis and my job requirements include dealing with poo and negotiating sharing among toddlers (turns out an even higher drama relationship than the architect-contractor one), may have something to do with it. However, I think that it might just be the stakes that force me into the occasional mommy meltdown. Sometimes the weight of my immense responsibility just gets to be too heavy to carry. And I need to put it down, shut myself in my bedroom with my computer, forcing my poor husband to take care of the mess.

My husband, G, and I certainly share the big parenting decisions - to spank or not to spank and whether or not to spoil them rotten on their birthday. But I'm home with them every day and all those little decisions - is EC ready to potty train, should LR be allowed to eat yogurt at every meal - come down to me and that can be a scary proposition. Because, let's face it, if my kids are ever on the ten o'clock news, its going to be a picture of me next with the caption "Stay At Home Mom" next to it. People already debate the advantages of staying home with your kids or sending them to day care and I really don't want to give them any points of argument against those of us who are crazy enough to stay home with our kids every day.

G was talking to a co-worker the other day who has high-school aged kids and he said that his wife got a lot of flack for heading back to work and sending her kids off to day care. Ironically, I have gotten some skepticism for leaving a career that I love to stay at home. And I feel, what I'm sure moms everywhere do - the weight of that decision. I have been blessed with two incredible little girls - what if I screw them up? What if all these financial sacrifices and days of monotony end up making my kids less smart than their peers, or worse, sentence them to weekly therapy sessions for the rest of their life?

When the weight of all of that gets to be too much, I do what I did yesterday, throw a tantrum that my daughter - who I played with outside for two whole hours - ensuring that she was thoroughly worn out (as was I!) - napped for less than an hour instead of her usual two. My tantrum continued throughout the evening, which was spent in my bed watching Desperate Housewives reruns on my computer. I needed the escape. Of course, that escape came with a big ol' pile of guilt. My husband doesn't need any more added to his plate either. But yesterday, it was him or me and I had to choose me. Because I knew that this morning, he would be off to work, and I would have to summon the courage to do my job well and to believe that its all worth it.

05 March 2011

Stealing Barbie

When I was a little girl, a new Barbie doll always topped my wish list. Christmas, birthdays or any other gift giving holiday I could think of, I asked for a new Barbie doll, Barbie clothes and tiny plastic shoes, or one of my favorites, a horse for Barbie. Alas, my parents were not the overindulgent sort and I never had a Barbie Dream house or a Barbie corvette. And I think I'm better off for the lack of spoiling, but a part of me will always wish I'd gotten to move Barbie into her dream home.

As the mother of two daughters, no matter how young, I've obviously been down the Barbie aisle of Target a time or two. And last year when making her Christmas list, EC put a Princess and the Frog Barbie doll on it. I have to admit that I was excited. An excuse to buy a Barbie doll after all these years! EC was happy to open up Princess Tiana on Christmas morning, but the doll spent most of the past few months in the toybox. EC recently pulled Barbie from the bin and started playing with her a lot and when LR started stealing the doll from EC, I assumed that she'd been smitten by Barbie as well.

So, this morning, off we went to Target, to let LR pick out her own Barbie and to get EC a new outfit for Princess Tiana. We sped through our actual Target errands - pizza cutters and granola bars and made it to the toy aisle. EC immediately went to the princess section of the aisle. There is a whole segment of this aisle just for princess Barbies and their accessories. They had dresses for Cinderella, Belle and Sleeping Beauty, but none for Princess Tiana. And these dresses came without the all-important shoes so, EC wasn't interested. Instead, she settled on a new Barbie altogether - Cinderella. LR chose the most extravagant, expensive Barbie she could find which I quickly vetoed. I may have been Barbie obsessed at age nine, but was a little too practical to spend $40 on a Barbie for a one-year-old.

Finally, LR picked out Princess Ariel with her long red hair and pink dress. Satisfied with their choices, we headed home. The minute we were in the door, the boxes had to be opened and the shoes removed. EC hasn't stopped playing with Cinderella. LR on the other hand, will play with Ariel, but she really prefers to steal Cinderella. Turns out, its not Barbie she's smitten with. She just really wants what EC has!

04 March 2011

Fasting Fast Food

I keep thinking that I'd like to challenge myself and (much to their dismay) the girls to a period of no fast food. We all eat it way too much. Okay, I'll admit it here and now, but only because I don't think anyone is actually reading this blog. We have fast food at least once a week. At least. Before I had kids, I wouldn't have dreamed of eating fast food once a week. Well, except for during my thesis when I lived two blocks from a Wendy's AND a Burger King. But an architectural thesis requires all sorts of weird vices to get through. Clove cigarette, anyone?

Anyway, I also never thought I'd be feeding fast food to my kids this much. If I think about it too much, I feel terrible. On the whole, they eat well. They eat vegetables, fruit and lots of other wholesome things from Whole Foods. I've stopped shopping at the regular grocery store because I'm pretty sure their meat comes from those scary chicken farms I've seen on those scary documentaries. I try to buy organic produce when I can afford it because I'm scared of Monsanto from all those scary farms I've seen on those scary documentaries. I spend twice as much on organic milk and organic yogurt to avoid hormones and other scary things that can't be good for small, developing children. And yet, I have this blind spot for the Wendy's drive-thru.

I also have a thousand ways to rationalize this blind spot. No time to make lunch, a screaming kid who wants something NOW, a toddler who just really wants to stop at The Chicken Nugget Store, pulleeeezzze. And despite the fact that I don't give in to such demands often, again the blind spot. Maybe I just really want a Spicy Chicken sandwich and a side of fries.

And so, I think of banning fast food from our lives for a week, a month. And I think if I post it somewhere public, I'll be accountable and I'll be more likely to follow through. And then I think of how embarrassed I'll be if I cannot, even with the possibility of a public shaming, quit the drive-thru.

Alas, I'm imperfect. And I can't decide if I'd rather be a shamed fast food mommy who rationalizes my drive-thru runs, or admit that I tried, and failed, to give it up.

03 March 2011

Forgetful Mommy

This morning, I had to give EC a time out. She was throwing a shoe. I gave her a warning - to no avail. She did it again and off to timeout she went.

She sat wailing on the sofa that it was too early for a timeout. No kidding!

After her allotted time, I went over to wrap up timeout. Explain why she was there. Ask her to apologize for what she did - "sorry for throwing a shoe." Explain that if she does it again, she'll get a timeout again. Then I give her a hug and tell her that I love her. This is her favorite part of time out, obviously.

I grabbed her and hugged her tight and said, "I love you, L."

"I'm E," she said.

I felt very small.

01 March 2011

An Introduction...

Let me introduce myself. I am an imperfect mommy. But I am much more than this - a wife, an architect (currently acting as a stay at home mom), a friend, a dancing queen. However, when I'm in the trenches, its difficult to remember I'm anything other than imperfect and a mommy.

I have two beautiful, magical daughters. Toddlers - both of them at the same time. Although, my three-year-old (EC) occasionally channels a teenager and my one-year-old (LR) is still sometimes Mommy's baby. Life is good and hard and adventurous. I never pictured myself being a stay at home mom until I decided to have kids and then it felt like I needed to be home with them if we could somehow contort the budget to allow for all our adventures to take place on one income.

In some ways, life felt much more adventurous before the kids came along... vacations to Costa Rica, sailing with the Tall Ships in Europe, and designing a lab made without any exposed metal for a rather particular professor at an unnamed university. But then I realize that I am never without an amusing anecdote from my zany days spent with the kids.

And so here I am to share those anecdotes. I'm hoping to remember somewhere amidst these entries that I exist as more than mommy - that my talents extend beyond nose-wiping and baby juggling. So, pull up a chair and read along about the Adventures of this Imperfect Mommy. Because I am well aware that I am not the only Imperfect Mommy out there and that sometimes its refreshing to know that.