Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aren't They Adorable?

Post-partum Woes

I’m thinking of writing a children’s book. I would call it “The Saggy Baggy Ass.”

What, you don’t think that will sell?

Some of the 60 pounds are coming off, which is super. But what of the stretched out skin left behind? I would tell the tale of the skin on my neck and belly, and its wiggles and waggles, how much the baby loves to grab the skin and yank with all his five-month-old might (which feels especially invigorating if his nails haven’t been cut in awhile). But loose skin on my butt? Really? Can’t I just keep the nice round badonkadonk I was cultivating while pregnant and lose the still-pregnant-looking belly instead? It’s not fair.

But that’s not what drove me to sit and rant today. What is on my mind, Dear Reader? Post-partum hair shedding. People, I have lost so damn much hair in the last two months, it’s a wonder I am not as bald as Mr. Clean. Which got me to thinking of a whole list of things you could do with the hair I have lost. Why waste it? I will commence with said list now:

1. You could clean up the oil spill in the Gulf. And still have hair leftover to clog about a dozen shower drains.

2. You could make a whole other Valley Girl with a bangin’ hairdo. Just add some Forever21 sweatpants, Reeboks, and a nursing bra -- Done!

3. You could glue a big stick on the hair and have an eco-friendly mop. Your floors never looked so shiny!

4. You could glue the hair all over your body – voila! Blond gorilla suit for next Halloween!

5. You could prop up the hair on a chair, put sunglasses on it, and set it by the front door like Cousin It to frighten off door-to-door salespeople or those that might want to share their religious material with you.

6. If you’re looking for a good excuse for being late to work, or just really want some attention, slam the hair into the trunk door of your car and get pulled over. And you’ll have a great story to tell your friends!

7. Bake the hair into a pie and give it to someone you really hate. Like Meg did on Family Guy.

You see, the possibilities are endless! I could come up with a dozen more, but I have to go haul the latest load of hair to the trash before the kids wake up.

(Thank you, Kimo, for the nudge. This one’s for you!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Mama Rules

So here I am, the mother of two boys. How do you do it? That was the question I asked a lot of mothers who have more than one kid while I was pregnant with Noah. I never really got any concise answers. I read a book on having a second baby and it was all pretty much common sense. No tricks, no real tips. I want tricks, dammit! So I have been winging it. But I keep getting told by people while I’m winging it that I “seem so calm.” Even my chiropractor tells me I am so very calm and have an aura of serenity whilst she is adjusting the hips that are still jacked up from having to accommodate my 9+ pounder and the 50+ pounds it put on my person. I personally believe it’s because I was just so darn happy when the little bugger was finally born and I didn’t have to be pregnant anymore.

But upon reflection, it dawned on me that I do have certain rules in my job of being mom to my two boys. And that perhaps I should share these rules with others in my position, or about to be, who are not finding the helpful tips they seek. They are meant to be helpful and nothing more. And they likely will not apply to people with special needs kids, colicky babies, single moms, etc. There is a special place in heaven for you, and however you get by day-to-day is a damn miracle. But you can read these and have a chuckle nonetheless, and see if any apply to your situation.

1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. I know, I know. There is so much I have to do and that’s the only time I can do it, blah blah blah. You know what? Bullshit. You can let the dishes sit. You don’t HAVE to check your e-mail and guess what? The laundry will wait. Turn off your phone, lay the hell down and get some sleep, or at least close your eyes and be still. I have a small window of time during the day that both boys are asleep, and that’s the time I forced myself to lie down. Your emotions and mental functioning will be light years better if you do yourself this one huge favor.

2. See your girlfriends. No, not text your girlfriends, not e-mail or even phone your girlfriends (though this is helpful in a pinch) -- get your ass out of the house and SEE your girlfriends. You can have the kid(s) with you or not (though the break from them is nice and this gives them a chance to bond with Daddy), but you need to see and hug and be in the physical presence of those core women in your life who are supportive and love you. Yes, after you have kids, this takes a Herculean effort to coordinate. Everyone is busy and you are really busy, and especially if she has kids too, she is busy! But figure it out. It’s important.

3. Do not stress over how your body looks right now. Are you Heidi Klum? Do you have a Victoria’s Secret runway show coming up or a cover shoot for Cosmo? No? I didn’t think so. Then give your body a break. Your body did some amazing-ass things to bring your beloved children into the world, so why don’t you cut it a slackburger with cheese? Or even a turkey burger with cheese? It will get back to normal in its own time, especially if you are breastfeeding. But the really important thing I have learned after all these years of self-body-loathing is to marvel at the awesome power my body has demonstrated through having kids. We moms are absolutely mind-blowing in our strength when you really think about it. So think about that, and not about how much longer it’s taking you to lose the weight than some ass-clown on the cover of Us magazine who has a personal army of hired help and probably doesn’t even change diapers and “got her body back” in like six weeks. She is perpetuating an image that is just not realistic for 99.9% of the mothers out there, and you need to realize that.

4. Do some cardio. No, not because you need to be concerned about how your body looks right now (see #3 above). But because you are emotionally still in a very fragile state, and you need to get high on all the endorphins you possibly can. Put one kid in the stroller and the other in the Baby Bjorn, and go for a walk, get some fresh air, every day if you can. If you’re breastfeeding the World’s Hungriest Baby like I am, and are a little nervous about straying too far from the house, do your cardio at home. “But I don’t have an elliptical,” you may whine (like I did). “And I can’t afford a gym membership,” you may also whine (also like I did). And just then, my eyeballs settled on the brick step down that leads to my back patio. I’ve taken enough step classes in my day to remember the basics, so with the baby strapped to my torso and McLean running around the backyard doing his “workout,” I am able to work up some decent cardio. It is just as great of a workout now as it was in the early 90’s! The baby sleeps the whole time (even with the Black Eyed Peas blasting away) and I don’t have to be in public with my dirty hair in a bun and mangy sweats. To cool down, I pick up dog poo in the yard. Hey bitches, it’s squats with weights when you have a 14-pound baby attached to you! I’m just sayin’! Work with whatever you have.

5. Honor Thy Date Night (or Day), And Keep It Holy. This is where Grandma and Grandpa come in especially handy for me. When they offer to babysit, I jump on it and calendar them on the spot. They get to have quality time with the grandkids, and Derek and I get to be a normal couple for a couple of hours and talk about something besides nursing, diapers, bathtimes, food choices, etc. – all the business of running a family that takes up all our normal conversation time. I can wash the spit-up out of my hair and put on make-up and wear cute shoes and feel something resembling sexy again. And I can appreciate my husband in a whole new way. Yes, he is a great dad, and that is sexy, but he’s also a great date, and we have fun together. Date Night can also be Date Day if that’s when your babysitter is available. As long as you leave the house together and do something you both enjoy, who cares when it happens?

6. Sit Down To Eat. Three times a day. Yes, you read that right. We get so caught up, running around taking care of the needs of others, we too often forget about ourselves. Even if it’s only a few minutes to sit and shove a few bites in my mouth, this is a little care-taking gesture I give myself, and also a good example to set for my kids. I want them to see that you should respect your body and the food you are putting into your body by paying attention to it. I also want them to know that I am a person who needs to be cared for, too. There is a fine line between taking care of kids and becoming their servant. I find it is easier to keep that boundary clear when you demonstrate for them how you treat yourself. The intake of food is only one small part of this concept.

7. Sometimes You Just Have To Cry. There will be times, in spite of the best-laid plans and adherence to the rules that all hell just breaks loose. This is just how it is with young children – you can never predict the next milestone or meltdown, and sometimes they happen simultaneously. All. Day. Long. Sometimes you have to step into another room for a few minutes and just cry. Sometimes you have to call someone and cry to them. Sometimes you have to call someone to come over and watch your kids so you can leave the house and cry. You’ll know which option is the right one, but choose one and save your sanity. Don’t hold it in. Being a mom is a very hard job -- the hardest job I’ve ever had (and I’ve had several), and also the lowest paying and least appreciated. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, so it’s up to me to take care of myself when the going gets tough.

So I guess that is the main rule here when you boil it all down – TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, MAMA! You have to be good to yourself before you can be your best for others. You are kicking ass every single day and don’t you forget it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Stay-At-Home-Momness: A Freakin' Manifesto

It’s a “rock and a hard place” location to be. I can’t stand how blogs are so self-obsessive and really want to move this blog away from that, but sometimes I will have to relay things from my point of view. I tend to want to see things from all sides and many points of view, but my own experience is the one that is most clear and most telling to me, the one that shouts out “Write about this, beotch!” So here goes.

I am in a weird limbo place between heaven and hell (both of which I believe we create right here on earth). I am a Stay At Home Mom. A lot of people proclaim this makes me “lucky.” Actually, it was a planned occupation, and a lot of sacrifices were made to achieve said occupation. What’s funny though, is that for most of my life, the life I live now was what I considered to be a living hell. Constant responsibility for a small child and pregnant with a second, the vast majority of my time is spent cooking, doing dishes, laundry, changing diapers, wiping a little tiny snotty nose and poopy butt, brushing little tiny teeth, changing little tiny clothes, feeding and caring for a dog and cat, repeatedly reading the same cycle of 20 children’s books with animation and enthusiasm, exerting multitudes of patience during teething and growth spurts and power struggles and the near-constant spills and bumps and falls that happen when dealing with a person whose efforts at coordination and speech resemble a tiny little drunk person.

Whenever there is the smallest gap of time in these duties, I am able to cram some much-needed exercise in there for me or a shower. Forays out of the house more likely than anything involve walking to the park for some playground action or going grocery shopping for my little bottomless pit and the two adults in the house.

None of it really takes any intellectual thought or talent. I am discovering now that that was probably the biggest sacrifice I made in giving up my day job. I suppose the argument could be made that it requires creativity, especially where cooking is concerned, but even that hobby I once reveled in has taken on a rote feeling. What is odd though is how little time I have now compared to before. I was always a very efficient worker with a strong work ethic. For those legal secretaries of you out there, the last desk I worked on before leaving the business was five-on-one. And they were a prolific five in Intellectual Property. This, in a firm where two-on-one was the norm. I still got everything done every single day that was put before me, had time to sit down to a decent lunch, spend time with friends, check e-mail, view every dumb video on YouTube and read every stupid chain letter sent me. Those days are gone. And though my tasks are menial, I still feel like a slacker if the vacuuming doesn’t get done or I didn’t run that errand I was supposed to do today, or haven’t checked my e-mail in four days. How could I not have time for these things? It's a whole other universe of time management skills.

But what bothers me more is that what I now do for a living is, by nature, a lot of the time, intensely boring. I suppose that’s what happens when you slow life down to accommodate a life starting out – the lack of stimulation can be incredibly crushing when you are used to a controlled fast pace. There is also the isolated nature of the job – it is not a group endeavor. The bulk of my time is spent with someone not yet skilled in conversation, and two mute animals. I am not alone, yet still feel intensely lonely a lot of the time. This, from a person who used to treasure and crave alone time on a daily basis!

So why on earth, you may ask, would a person choose this life when it is clearly not the Sleeping-In-Going-To-Yoga- Eating-Bon-Bons-On-The-Couch-Mommy-And-Me-Bliss that a lot of people imagine it is? The answer is simple: Even before my son was born, I simply could not imagine it any other way. Once I had finally found my Mr. Right and we decided we wanted to have kids, I knew that myself and my husband were going to be the only caretakers of those kids, with occasional babysitting here and there. And I knew that certain sacrifices would have to be made in order to achieve such a goal, not the least of which was financial.

Though my income as a legal secretary was pretty outstanding, it’s not like I had any degree of career satisfaction, and so it was relatively easy for me to leave the job behind. Not bringing home the paycheck, however, was really going to hurt, and we have had to learn to go without certain things in our lifestyle that we used to take for granted. But it’s like my dear friend Tommie told me long ago when she told me about when her daughter Shannon was born: This incredible creature came into her life, and she was in love, and she turned to her husband and said there was no way she was going back to work. He said “We’ll be poor!” and she replied, “Then I guess we’ll have to be poor.” And that was exactly how I felt, and still feel. There simply was no other choice to be had, and it’s not like we’re indigent or anything. We’re fine.

This is not to say I condemn or judge in any way those moms who do return to work – FAR from it. This job is not for everybody, and I think it is a very wise woman who recognizes that she will be a better mother if she does focus on her career rather than stay at home and go insane. Even some of my single mom friends, who HAVE to work to survive, have confided that even if they could stay at home, they just don’t see how they could do it from a psychological perspective. Also in going to work, she is setting a great example of the work ethic for her kids, which is something I really admire.

It is a highly personal choice (like whether or not to breast-feed) with a lot of factors going into the decision, but whatever path a woman decides, I would hope it is not with the intention of “doing it all”. Nobody, man or woman, can give 100% to motherhood and 100% to a career, and to expect to be able to do so, I believe, is delusional, and setting oneself up for failure. I think it’s a load of crap that women put on themselves a lot of the time to believe that they can handle the full-time job of motherhood along with the full-time job of a full-time job, live on three hours of sleep per night, no social life, no time for hobbies or fun or taking care of herself. I just don’t think that is living, and sooner or later, you’re going to burn yourself out completely or have a psychotic break. Neither is good for you or your kid.

So why do I stay at home when it obviously doesn’t really suit my personality? Because I need to. I never miss a second involving my son’s growing up, and it would break my heart beyond repair if I did. The times he falls and needs a hug, I am there to give it to him. The times he takes his first steps, I am there to see it and applaud him. Every bite of food or sip of liquid he takes, I know exactly what it is because I bought it and prepared it for his specific needs and taught him how to eat it. The times his mental engines are firing and he needs the stimulation of all those books (or Legos or coloring or play group or whatever), I am there to read the books again and explain things to him with all the time in the world. After all, the dishes can wait, but a demanding boss or nine-to-five or actual career cannot. This is why, in spite of the hardship of a lot of my job, I still love it and am beyond grateful to have it.

Now I have to get back to that poopy butt I mentioned earlier. Otherwise known in our house as an “assex” (short for ass explosion). Peace and love and joy to all my sister mamas out there, stay-at-home or otherwise. I have much love for you amazing women.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Toddler Makeover

Today was a milestone: The First Haircut.
We weren't going to cut his hair at all until forced to do so by his hair becoming a fire hazard, but it became clear that it was really bugging him, being in his eyes all the time, so I decided to just cut it enough so the poor little bugger could see. That ended up being about an inch all the way around, and still left it pretty long.
I strapped him into his high chair outside and did it myself with a cheap-ass pair of Vidal Sassoon scissors, distracting him with a "cookie" (kid's Z-Bar, honey graham flavor). He looks like such a little boy now! And I had forgotten how cute his little eyebrows are!
Here is the "Before" shot, perched on Daddy's shoulders at the creek in San Luis Obispo last weekend:

And here is the "After", in which he seems quite pleased with his new 'do, and hopeful that those bitches at the grocery store will stop thinking he's a chick:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baby Noah Says Hi!

I went in for a gyno appointment yesterday, and turned out I was due for an ultrasound. Which was kind of a bummer since Derek likes to be there for those, but alas, I flew it solo. I find it funny this time around how much less unnerving the whole thing is. First pregnancy, you are hanging on every word the ultrasound technician says, every inflection his voice has that might be a hidden meaning of something regarding the health of your unborn baby. It is nerve-wracking, to say the least. And then with the doctor -- am I eating the right things? Am I gaining too much weight? Am I gaining enough weight? Why does my leg feel like it's being sliced open with a dull butcher knife in the middle of the night? WTF?

This time, I have just kind of relaxed about everything. Brain stem looks great? Grrrrreat. Spinal cord fluid at normal levels? Super. Oh look, he's grabbing onto the placenta! That's so cute! M'kay, see you next time!

Then it became all about food as I was way late for lunch after a longer-than-expected appointment. I didn't even have questions for my doctor other than "Am I clear to fly in March for our Hawaii trip?" (I am.) Yes, I will be playing the part of "Beached Whale" at the luau, but what a beautiful place to be a whale, right?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back From Hiatus

The World’s Slackingest Blogger has some news: I’m pregnant!

This is how much I’ve been slacking: I’m already five months, i.e., halfway through the pregnancy. It was a bit of a surprise. Okay, it was a total surprise, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit bitter about the timing -- that I finally felt cute again for my 40th birthday, was back down to my wedding day weight after nearly a year and a half post-partum, and was successfully navigating the challenges of full-time mothering. There was a feeling of not being in control of the whole thing that was pretty disconcerting, but I have since kicked those weak feelings in the ass and embraced the whole experience for what it is: a tremendous blessing.

It has gone by so fast this time, I guess because I have been so occupied with other things to obsess over rather than what size fruit my fetus most resembles this week and whether or not I should be eating peanuts and what position is best to sleep in and what can I do about the damn stretch marks from coming?

For one thing, taking care of McLean these days is more than a full-time job that requires every ounce of my thought and energy. He’s just so busy! He’s into everything, wants to read everything several times a day, is eating like he’s training for a hot dog eating competition. Then, as with last pregnancy, I immediately became deathly ill with a couple of colds back to back, which turned into bronchitis. Always fun to be hacking your brains out while pregnant. Combine being sick with the usual severe fatigue of the first trimo, throw in a dash of the holidays, and you have one pathetic whiney person, i.e., me. Keeping a halfway clean house and being sociable were out of the question, much less getting on the computer to write.

But as is always the case when you’re too consumed to write, these seem to be the most fertile times that I want to write. There is so much to talk about. I’m kinda tired of talking about myself (downright bored with it, actually), but there are a lot of topics I want to cover in the future in this forum: Being a stay-at-home mom, environmental and health issues, and some more before and after’s around the house. We will be converting our office to a play room, so that transformation should be interesting to those of you who dug my last makeovers.

So more to come, dear readers, now that my health has returned and Little Man is learning to entertain himself a bit more. I have missed talking to you and sharing with you.

Oh, and guess what? It’s another boy.