Saturday, December 31, 2011

Life with Nauntie

         As you know, the world pretty much sucks financially these days. Little families like mine can rarely get by on a single income.  When Thing 1 was little we were at our wits end trying to juggle night shifts and the colicky-baby-from-hell.  So what was a new mommy to do but guilt-trip her younger sister into becoming her Nauntie in exchange for free room and board?  (I may have also promised that the Tyrants will care for her when she is old and decrepid…)

Nauntie: (non-tee) A childless Aunt who fills the role of Nanny to her nieces and/or nephews while being paid in room and board.
And yes, I just made that up.
         Now I know what you are thinking, how can my life possibly be so crazy if I have 3 adults raising 2 children? That is an excellent question. (Unless you have met the Tyrants, or their Father, it is hard to explain just how much energy they have and how much chaos they can create.) It can be a tricky situation.  I have broken down the basic pros and cons of having a live-in Nauntie:

1.     Trusted nanny.  Since she is my sister we have a common language when it comes to raising children, which is awesome to me and slightly annoying to my partner. But ultimately the girls are bonded to someone who is going to be in their  lives forever and who actually loves them in a non-inappropriate way.
2.     In home childcare. Tyrants are possibly healthier, and in a comfortable familiar environment.
3.     On-call help. Technically Nauntie’s day is done when I get home from work, (ha!) but lets face it, if Thing 1 comes running up to her at 7:00 pm and wants to watch “Kipper the Dog” for the hundredth time on her computer, chances are Nauntie will say yes.
4.     Food!  Nauntie can cook like nobodies business, as my non-shrinking waistline can attest.
5.     Cheaper (in some ways) than other childcare options of equal value.
  1. The back talk. Since Nauntie is my little sister, she has on occasion felt compelled to comment on my parenting methods. Normally this would get a nanny fired, but under the circumstances I just  remind her that I am older than her and always right, and if she isn’t nice to me I will tell our Mom. That shows her…
  2. In home childcare. Yep, this made BOTH lists!  This means that my children are always home. ALWAYS. No playing hookie and having the house to myself for me.  I haven't been home all day alone in YEARS.
  3. I live with my baby sister. That means that when both babies are napping and my partner and I are home and feeling a little frisky THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT, because my sister is in her room trying hard to pretend she didn’t just see us making out in the kitchen. Trauma for all.
  4. Big people = big messes. While Nauntie is an amazing cook and does more than her share of our laundry, in general she tends to leave a trail of chaos in her wake. Add that to the clutter of 2 babies and an ADHD man, and my inner neat freak dies in screaming agony a little more each day.
  5. Cozy Quarters. As I said, times are hard, which means we all still live in a two bedroom house. So we have Thing 1 and Thing 2 sleeping in our bedroom for the foreseeable future. Privacy? What’s that?
            Regardless of pros and cons, I am incredibly grateful that I am such a master manipulator and convinced her to move in with us, especially when Thing 2 informs me that the moon and stars live in OUTER SPACE, and I know I didn’t teach her that. Not to mention her ability to count to 10 forward and backward, know her ABC’s, be gentle with animals, say please, thank you, and I’m sorry in English and sign language, and in general be a fairly awesome almost-two-year-old kid.
            When she graduates Magnum Cum Laude she isn’t going to mention her father or me. Nope. She’s going to say, “I would like to thank my Nauntie for teaching me everything I needed to know to be a super AWESOME person.”
            And you know what? I’m kinda OK with that.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry, Merry, Quite Contrary

           Every once in awhile I decide that I am probably an amazing photographer who just hasn’t had time to realize my hidden potential. I also feel this way about baking, cooking, making money, raising children, and blogging. However, there is one area that I have always failed at: sending out cards. Of any kind. Thank you cards. Invitation cards. And yes, Christmas Cards.
            When it comes to sending out cards, I am a victim of the classic procrastination/shame cycle. I start out with the best of intentions, gathering addresses, making lists, feeling motivated and mature and responsible. I can do this! I will send out the BEST cards EVER! Everyone I know will be impressed and want to be my best friend and bring me cookies. I will be COOL.
            And then SOMETHING happens, probably involving teething or groceries or deadlines or a marathon of Doctor Who reruns, and I get behind. I try to remain optimistic. I still have my list near the top of the pile on my desk, and the addresses are saved …somewhere. I most definitely have beautiful blank cards in a shiny box sitting on my desk just waiting to be written on, which I plan on doing tomorrow, or next week.  Eventually so many weeks have gone by that I am too embarrassed to send anything because the chances are the event has already past, or was so long ago that the recipient won’t remember what the card was for. 
            Which is why at the beginning of this week I had a panic attack regarding the fact that we had two beautiful children and NO CHRISTMAS CARD. I had a stack of the most-awesome-cards-ever from other mothers who somehow are managing to raise their children and fulfill their roles as functional adults with jobs and cards and mailing lists. You know who you are ladies, and I tip my imaginary hat to you.
            This is where my dubious genius in photography comes into play.  It was only a few days until Christmas, but I decided I could at least post a most-awesome-christmas-image-ever on my blog and maybe no one would notice I hadn’t mailed anything. I sneakily dressed the girls in cute outfits, (since they can smell a special occasion a mile away and will save up all vomit and diarrhea until it arrives) and broke out my camera.  Then I casually asked Thing 1 to sit by the Christmas Tree.
Apparently that area of the floor is actually a death trap full of rabid elves, because this was her reaction:
"Not the Christmas Tree! Dear God Nooooooooo!"

I mentioned that she could hold her sister if she did, which she translated as death by electrocution:
"My own Mother has betrayed me!"


And that I would let her have some chocolate, an offer which was so far beneath her that she chose to leave the room in a gloriously dramatic fashion:
"This is what I think of your cruel attempts to bribe me..."
( I’m not sure if this one is blurry because she is moving or because the camera is shaking from my unsympathetic laughter.)

            The end result being that THIS is the best we could do for a Christmas Card. The sparkly blurs are the Christmas tree, the pink/gray blur is Thing 1, and that black/white/pink blur in the middle is Thing 2 in her swing:

So whether you have Tyrants or Angels, Dogs or Cats, or blessed SOLITUDE,
Happy Holidays from my house to yours!

(Next year I’ll send you a card. No, really. The Most-Awesome-Card-Ever! You’ll see!)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Itchy Beaver

       Thing 1 picked out a new show from the library all about nature and animals with cute animation. Excellent.  I like nature. I was a PBS kid.  Educational programming will make my child a future genius. Right? Little did I know the parental humiliation this show would cause.  I hold it responsible for Thing 1 running around in a public library with a delighted grin declaring, “Find da Itchy Beaver! Itchy Beaver! FIND DA ITCHY BEAVER. SCRATCH’A DA ITCHY BEAVER!!” while respectable librarians and homeless gentlemen and mothers of superior children looked on in horror and judgment and contemplated calling social services. The facts are these:

There is a character on the show named “Benita”.
“Benita” is a Beaver.
A female Beaver.  (That alone is inexcusable for the creators of children’s shows.)
There is an entire episode devoted to the Itch that Benita the Beaver cannot reach.
That’s right, she is an itchy Beaver.
She needs some help to reach that itch.
Izzy the owl helps out her gal pal as best she can.
Sammy the (male) Skunk tries to scratch it for her, but his hands are just tooooo soft. “Ooooo Sammy, that tickles!” (true quote in a ridiculous high pitched voice.)
It becomes imperative that the Beaver learn how to scratch her own itch to be truly satisfied. Hmmmm…..

            I realize that it is my dirty mind filling in the gaps and trying desperately not to laugh out loud every time we watch it, but the writers of this show are obviously 15-year-old boys that have the munchies and are giggling maniacally at their own cleverness.  All I know is that Mr. Rogers never scratched any itchy Beavers…. not even in the Land of Make Believe….

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Keep the Diaper Bag Packed

         When I was 8 months pregnant with Thing 2, I was exchanging horror stories with a coworker who was pregnant with her first. She is one of those women who runs marathons and grows all her own food and serves on committees and probably is really a body snatcher from another planet. Realizing I was a straight shooter, she asked "What is the hardest thing about being a new mom?"

            I said, “Sacrificing all personal agendas. Like going out when you want. Or going anywhere when you want. Or just going. Anywhere. To do anything.”

            She looked politely puzzled, “I have heard that is hard. Why is that? I mean, you keep a diaper bag packed and ready to go, so why can’t you just walk out the door?”
            I blinked at her out of my sleep deprived eyes. “Ummmm….hmmmm….good question…why hadn’t I thought of that, just keep the diaper bag packed….good idea…”

            I didn’t have the heart to tell her that THIS is what happens when you try to go somewhere with an infant:
You wait for the infant to wake up.
You dress the infant in clean clothes. The infant thinks you are trying to kill it by exposing its skin to the air.
 You feed the infant. As stated in previous post, you are paralyzed while nursing and can do nothing else.
You lay it down so you can get dressed. This is when you realize that all your clean socks are in the dryer. In the basement.
With infant on hip you dig out infant jacket from behind couch, and attempt to put on your shoes.
You get one shoe on and grab your purse. Infant vomits the excess milk you just fed it all over its outfit, must change their clothes.
Put on second shoe and infants jacket/snowsuit/hat etc. while infant cries and you mutter over and over “It’s ok, you’re ok, Mommys here, your ok, it’s ok…”
You place the unconvinced infant into their car seat and look for the purse you were just holding.
You find the purse under infant's dresser and look for pacifier.
Infant is strangely quiet when you enter the room, and you think you might just make it out the door.
You get one arm in your coat when you hear the grunting. Yup, here comes the poop face. You want to ignore it. You do. But you know that if you do the chances of fecal matter leaking through everything are greatly increased.
SO you take infant out of car seat, strip off snowsuit/coat/hat etc. Remove your coat. Remove recently clean infant clothes. Remove blow out diaper. Clean butt, feet, legs, and back of child.  Put on clean diaper. Throw out soiled diaper and 200 dirty wipes. Wash hands. Find clean outfit. Put outfit/coat/snowsuit on infant. Find shoes. Grab purse. You are going NOW, damn it. You are an adult and you will not be defeated by this very very tiny pseudo person.
Pick up infant. Infant smiles at you and throws up down your cleavage. This is when you look at the clock and realize that in 15 minutes it will be time to start putting infant down for second nap. Which is exactly when you would be arriving at the grocery store if you left RIGHT THAT SECOND. Which isn’t going to happen unless you go with warm squishy vomit in your bra. You and infant stare defiantly at each other.  You take off your shoes, change your shirt, sit down with your now sweetly cooing infant and decide that you really don’t need bread.
            So yes, it is a brilliant idea to have that diaper bag packed and ready. If you get to the stage where you are actually walking out the door.  And you didn’t run out of diapers late last night and use up the two you keep in the diaper bag. Or have a toddler to dress too.  And you don't care if you are wearing socks....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lactation Paralysis

Technically I should be cleaning, because my living room looks like toys-r-us vomited all over it, but instead I am going to sit at my desk and write a NEW BLOG POST!
            Today I would like to raise awareness for a little known condition in new mothers. Particularly those that decide to breastfeed. No one ever warns you about it. Not the midwives. Not the nurses. Not the doctors. Not your own mother who really should have said something, except I am pretty sure she has blocked out the first 16 years of all her children’s lives.
             It is called “Lactation Paralysis”.
             At first I didn’t notice it because I didn’t have the energy to do anything but sit on the couch/bed and wonder how I was still alive after pushing a human out of me and then sleeping 4 non-consecutive hours a day for two weeks. But as my energy began to return, I became aware of things… things like the dirty diapers under the couch keeping company with a petrified apple core. And the soda bottle on the bookshelf. And the books on the floor next to the laundry basket full of clothes that may or may not be clean. And the family of empty toilet paper rolls that had moved in under the bathroom sink. None of these things would be hard to fix. 15 minutes of cleaning tops. Easy. Right?
            This is when I notice that I CAN’T MOVE. Why? Because there is a tiny human being attached to my breast for a half an hour, every two hours, all day long.  So I stare at the apple core, the fine layer of cereal crumbs on the floor, the coat that has fallen off it’s hook, the toys and cds that are having a mixer under my dining room table, and panic begins to bubble. I have to move.  I have to clean. I want to clean. I can’t live like this. I start to make lists in my head, because I am holding Thing 2 with my right hand, and I can’t write a list with my left hand.
             I take deep breaths and force myself to stare out the window and think about green meadows and unicorns and Jedi Masters.  I wait for her to go to sleep. (note: lactation paralysis only affects non-infant-holding activities.)  Then I attempt to lay her down. And then she says, “Psych! Just kidding mom, I was never really sleeping because I have GAS!” By the time she has burped my mental list has been transformed into a blazing mental scream of “MUST MOVE! MUST CLEAN! PLEASE GOD LET ME CLEEEAAANNN!” And then another adult enters the room, and casually tosses something where it DOESN’T belong, and I turn into a psychotic weeping bundle of paralyzed nerves.
            The good news is that lactation paralysis doesn’t last forever. My mind can’t maintain that level of stress for long, so I slowly stop caring about anything while nursing except that I am actually keeping her alive and that is probably more important than dusted bookshelves.  As she gets older, the paralysis begins to recede, and I discover I am able to do things with one hand. Like anyone recovering from a serious illness, progress is slow. Most of this post, for example, was written after Thing 1 decided it was a good idea to break out the xylophone while Thing 2 was trying to sleep. Which means my right side has been lactation paralyzed while I laboriously typed one handed with my left. For someone who can type 70 words a minute with two hands, it has been a special kind of torture. BUT I DID IT, GOD DAMN IT! Because I refuse to be a victim. I conquered lactation paralysis once before, and by golly, I can do it again.

Update: Judging from the amazing amount of STUFF mixed together on my living room floor, blogging instead of cleaning may not have been the best motherhood decision I ever made….is that a cream cheese wonton under the coffee table next to the vacuum filter?  hmmmmm.... must. get. house elf.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Zombie Children

 7:00 – 8:00 am “WATCH’A SHOW!” 
            I once believed I would never let my children watch television until they were, say, 12 or so. Then I was stuck at home with a new baby for three months in the dead of a Minnesota winter and figured she didn’t even know what was going on yet, so it didn’t count. I stumbled onto a cartoon network and I noticed colicky-baby-from-hell-Thing One was alarmingly NOT screaming, but staring zombie-like at the screen. At that moment I decided I would rather have zombie children than, say, werewolf-banshee children. And here we are.
            The day now begins with the afore mentioned “JUICE TIME!”, followed by “Watch’a Show! Watch’a Show! Mommy, Watch’a Show!”, at which point I sleepily ask, “What do you say?” in a vain attempt to redeem my parenting.  Thing One then turns long suffering eyes on me as if perhaps my hearing is already going and yells, “WATCH’A SHOW!!!” This is when I break out my best mom voice, “How can you ask nicely?”  Comprehension: oh, right, that trick; “Please,” with an angelic face and a sign language gesture to sweeten the deal.  Sigh. This morning was Back Pack Jack from the library (I do not recommend.) all about trucks, recycling, garbage removal, etc.  Unfortunately, the only 10 minutes she likes is when they crush cars. Naturally. As I stumble around (with Thing Two wailing on my shoulder because the lactose gas in her stomach is obviously trying to murder her), attempting to use the bathroom and check my email, every 10 minutes there is a heart wrenching cry from the living room, “Smoosha da cars? Smoosha da cars. Skip to Smoosha the cars?! PLEASE! SMOOSHA DA CARS?!” By now she has found me and is staring at me with intense desperate eyes. Must. Smoosh. A. Da. Cars. Here is where I really fail as a parent. Instead of teaching my child that she needs to watch the show until the end or find something else to do, I push the damn skip button right back to that smooshing car machine and buy myself another 10 minutes. Bandaid on Tumor, I know.
            As I finally get a clean shirt over my head and am looking for some pants, Thing One finishes her juice, and begins hyperventilating and running in circles yelling, “More Juice! More Juice. More Juice? MORE JUICE! GIVE ME JUICE OR GIVE ME DEATH!!!!! I am heading for the fridge when Thing Two expertly turns her head and vomits down my clean cleavage, and I contemplate faking a nervous break down so I can go somewhere quiet. Luckily, this is when Dad gets out of the shower and hands me a cup of coffee, refills Thing One’s JUICE, and takes Thing Two into another room so that I can remove my regurgitated upon clothing with BOTH HANDS. We might just survive -  to do it all  again tomorrow.

The Things That Start My Day...

 6:00-7:00 am “JUICE TIME!!”
This is a typical morning at our house. Thing Two starts having incredibly loud, grunt inducing gas about an hour before any living thing should be awake (5:00 am).  Thing One leaps onto the middle of the bed and start spinning in circles like a hyper house cat. At her arrival Thing Two’s eyes pop open and her face crumples into the beginnings of “I don’t know what the hell just happened but I am damn sure not happy about it” screaming mode, so I scoop her up in a vain attempt to get her back to sleep.
Upon seeing Thing Two nursing, Thing One begins to dance and chant gleefully at the top of her lungs, “Nurse on Booby! Nurse on Booby! Baby Mia! Nurse on Booby! Touch’a Baby? Touch’a Babies EYES? Touch’a Booby? Please? PLEASE TOUCH’A DA BOOBY!” At which point I inform her that she cannot, in fact, touch my booby, all the while shielding Thing Two from her sister’s well intentioned but possibly fatal advances. At my denial, Thing One’s lower lip begins a truly impressive quiver and huge tears well up in a precursor to full out hysterics. This is when Daddy gives up, pulls his head out from under his pillow, stumbles to the kitchen for the life-saving-first-sippy-cup-of-apple-juice-in-the-morning and drops it in front of Thing One. Thing One shrieks “JUICE TIME!!”, pounces on it like a giddy pyro who has been handed a fire cracker, and catapults off the bed.
Obviously feeling left out,  Thing Two has an explosive  case of diarrhea.  Daddy sleepily mutters that I should stay in bed while searching for the new diapers under the clean laundry piled next to the bed. I am trying to untangle my feet from the three baby blankets that have somehow come to life and attacked, while telling him that he should just go back to bed, I got it. But we both know, once Thing One has awoken Thing Two, there is no more sleep for mommy or daddy. Not until that magical day when Thing Two no longer wants to “nurse on booby.” Oh magical day. You are my own personal unicorn.