Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dear Santa -- Listen Up

Peanut and I were waiting to see the doctor yesterday and I decided to ping Peanut a bit on what she might want for Christmas. I was thinking a camera but she loved the Loving Family dollhouse at a friend's so I just started tossing out suggestions.

"What would you want more, a dollhouse or a camera?"

She thought for a moment. "A dollhouse."

"Okay. What would you prefer, a dollhouse or a big Disney princess doll?"

The answer was surprisingly quick for someone who loves princesses. "A dollhouse."

"Okay. What would you prefer--"

She cut me off, staring at me. "A dollhouse, mommy," she said seriously with her "WTF aren't you getting here?" look.

Oooooookay. A dollhouse. Got it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Backseat Driving starts so young...

We were on our way to the zoo the other day and crossed over a freeway overpass. Peanut worriedly told Mr.P "Daddy! Be careful! Don't let the car fall down!"

He assured Peanut that he would not let the car fall.

She reminded him again about 20 feet later.

And a few more feet after that.

And then instructed him to watch out! -- the other cars were going to fall down and hit us. Then a building was going to fall down and hit us.

After an amazingly harrowing experience, we managed to make it to the zoo in one piece by some miracle of God.

Backseat driving starts so young. I am so proud.

The Peanut Dictionary

Peanut has many interesting ways of describing things. Her massacring of words is both common and downright adorable. Hence a desire to preserve them.

Stove = her stepstool. Or it can mean the actual stove. Depends on usage.
Eskimo/alligator = escalator.
The bed dogs night = the bed bugs bite
roast beef isle = produce aisle (from the Veggie Tales theme song)
Beauty and the Beast = Sleeping Beauty. The real Beauty and the Beast is referred to as 'Belle'.

It's crazy what her mind comes up with. We'll see what happens next.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rules of the Road: The Teen Years

There was a couple that helped out with the youth group at the church my family attended while I was in high school. I babysat for them once. They were younger, fun and cool.

But the one thing I really remember about them was a very brief conversation we had once. My friend and I were in the midst of some teen angst and the husband looked at us, shook his head and confessed, "you couldn't pay me enough to be back in high school." His wife nodded in solemn agreement.

I loved them for that.

Finally, someone acknowledged that life was not all roses for teens or that it should be. Sure, we didn't have to work. Sure, our parents took care of us. (Disclaimer: I realize other teens had it worse than me by far but talking from my own experiences.) But it was still hard.

And that's what I want to tell you. Those teens years can be what you make of them. But they will not always be rosy and they will, at some times, suck. And yes, I agree that I could not be paid enough to go back to that time. And I wasn't even tortured in high school!

There are a lot of different factors that swirl about, constantly changing, which can make things difficult. Peer pressure. The social standings of a small pond (i.e. high school). Gossip. Friends/enemies (often the lines are blurred or camps are switched instantly). Dating. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. The maturing process. The overall drama.

It all adds up to an interesting time. The important thing is to keep it all in perspective. This is critical. Crucial.

Look at your overall life -- your teen years are but a tiny fraction of what will otherwise hopefully be a long and full life. Some actions (like getting pregnant/impregnating a girl, drug use, tattoos) can have long-reaching impacts on that future life and consequently deserve heavy thought prior to action. Other actions (like being shunned by a popular person or walking around the quad with toilet paper stuck to your foot) will be forgotten relatively soon and only serve to cause you a chuckle at the torment you put yourself through about it.

Honestly, once you even get to college, things are different. Your standing in high school is irrelevant. You start over. And everyone fits in somewhere in college. As my mother wisely said, "there is nothing lower than a college freshman." So true. So yes, prom queen and high school star quarterback -- you get to start at the bottom. Good times all around.

It's tough when you are in high school. Because it is a VERY small pond. Things easily seem monumental when you are tootling around a puddle. And it is easy to be caught up in the drama that is high school, in part due to the small environment and in part due to the hormones at an all-time high (only rivaled during pregnancy). That small environment can make you do stupid things. Welcome to the mob mentality.

To quote Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

Yes, Tommy, I do know it. He's right. You individually might make a good decision. But the minute you hear others talking around you, start gauging their reactions to your reaction, it is far too easy to get swept up in the drama that is created and far too tempting sometimes to create the drama yourself. Suddenly one person's comment of "hi!" turns into "OMG, he is totally into you!" or "she is so going to get you -- watch your back!" It is tough but sometimes you need to say "I need to think about how I want to react to that" and do just that -- take some time, alone, step back and ask yourself if you are indeed reacting to what the person said or are being swept along in the rising tide of melodrama that high school society inures to itself.

It is incredibly difficult because high school is not just small but a strange environment thanks to the maturing process occurring during that time. Not just physically in terms of pubic hair and boobs -- although that posts its own host of issues. But emotionally, psychologically and physiologically. And when I say physiologically, I'm talking about your brain. Do you know that during the maturing process, in the teen years, your brain changes? Yep. In childhood, children are intuitive thinkers. They go with their gut. Hence they do things like gorge on candy not thinking about the impending stomach ache or dart out into the street to retrieve an errant ball without looking for cars. They just react. There is no thought necessarily before that. An adult (in theory) is a logical, rational thinker. Someone who looks eagerly at a double fudge devil's food cake but realizes that eating the whole thing would like make her very sick (not to mention the additional pounds). Someone who stops and looks for oncoming cars before retrieving a basketball that has gone off the court.

So in the teen years, the change begins slowly and there are moments of intuitive thinking and then moments of rational thinking. And that will slowly edge over to rational. But people mature at different paces and in different ways so you are surrounded by people who are all maturing at different rates than you might be. That creates a constantly changing dynamic that you have to deal with. Hence you might find yourself "outgrowing" certain friends and might find certain friends have "outgrown" you. Don't worry -- it all evens out eventually.

The key again is to realize that it all passes. And that we are there to support you and help you no matter what.

Rules of the Road

This is a series for you, my dear children. All those lectures I intend to deliver in a tender, meaningful yet solemn manner one day. Things and lessons I learned the hard way growing up.

Now you will have them for eternity to ignore. Because you will. It's what teens do usually. But even if you can take some small comfort or cue from these and save yourself the trouble of learning it through mistakes and errors of your own, I've done my job.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's Cookin'?

Um, today, after my rhapsodizing over risotto last post? Yeah, Chik-fil-A. Hey, I bet even Julia Child got tired of whipping together fabulous meals.

For the most part, I like to cook. And occasionally bake. But cooking is nice because it is incredibly forgiving. No precise measurements are needed. You just mix stuff together until it smells good.

My dad taught me my basic philosophy -- think of things you like and think of them together. If they sound good (i.e. appetizing), it'll work. If not, back to the drawing board.

My sister-in-law taught me this rule of law -- with fish, less is more. Fewer the ingredients the better. As she wisely pointed out, most great dishes don't have a ton of ingredients. So true.

My husband taught me to make gravy. No, no, no -- not himself really. He just loves the stuff with everything. I had never made gravy before until I met him. I was used to my mom's which was most often lumpy with flour or cornstarch and not the tastiest (sorry, Mom, but it's true -- gravy is not your forte). So because of the constant demand and my distaste of most prepared gravies on the market, I learned to make my own.

That's just it -- you can learn cooking by trial and error. And now, for example, when I'm stuck for what to do with some freshly purchased sole fillets, I can google a few ideas, combine some of this and some of that and whip up a dinner with breaded sole fillets with a lemon butter caper sauce. (And risotto. But I thought that went without saying.)

So the advice is try it out. Don't be afraid of cooking. You will inevitably have meals that fall a little flat. But you will have many others that are truly delicious. And others that are from Chik-fil-a. And all of that is okay.

Cook on.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Prairie Days

You know, there are days. Days when it is hard to concentrate at work. Days when I wish I could just leave and go home and start making my parmesan risotto, grilled zucchini and opa, perhaps festively arranged on a beautiful patterned platter (not that I actually own one) with real true garnish, as in edible decoration no one eats.

Bu instead, I sit there, sight at the unfairness of it all and trod on.

I don't have a choice. The trodding pays the bills. This doesn't.

One can always hope that changes one day, that my writing will take off and soar into new unfound heights of financial freedom. But today it sits like a cement pigeon on my stoop. Flight potential is, uh, unlikely.

Probably one of the reasons I am inspired to cook is because right now anything sounds better than the daily grind I am doing.

Oh, and I rediscovered the Pioneer Woman.

I got turned on to the Pioneer Woman by some women on a mom board. Someone raved about a recipe, posted the link and the rest is history. Well, sort of. I fell in love with the site and then lazily drifted off doing silly things like having a baby and enduring ensuing sleeplessness. Apparently it was love of convenience only. I'm fickle like that.

But last night, looking for distraction, I happen back upon her site. Dang, it's busy! I read her Black Heels saga and learned about aperture (bless you, PW). And that I should get to bed earlier but that is a different post.

And true to past form, she makes cooking look fun and relaxing. Like I should be popping a frittata in the oven and sitting down on my porch a spell with my iced tea in hand.

Cooking is so deliciously different from my Daily Grind (yes, I decided it needed to be capitalized as I will continue to use that phrase in favor of the more colorful ones I sometimes use to describe my work -- I'm sure HR knows Google) that some days I look forward to it. Especially when there is risotto involved.

Bathroom Adventures, Toddler Style

First, you enter the bathroom. At this point in parenthood, you don't even bother to shut the door. Because you have a 3YO who prefers not to have a closed door interrupting her proximity to you and a husband who thinks it is hilarious to open it a crack to let in the kids anyway. Privacy is futile.

You sit down to do your business.

You hear the fateful stomp-stomp-stomp of your toddler's angled unsteady walk heading your way.

He is in the doorway and smiles and yells in glee. He's found you!

You are not so gleeful at the moment.

He enters the bathroom and promptly shuts the door. And locks it. He does like his privacy.

You pray your bodily functions speed up.

He spies the toilet paper and his eyes light up. He toddles over to it and whump-whump-whump -- down on the floor puddles a pile of toilet paper.

You gently admonish him and begin to roll it back up.

He tries to grab at the streaming paper. And manages to latch hold and begin to shred the toilet paper. What a fun new game he's discovered!

You shout for your husband to get the *#$#% in here and get the baby.

You forget your toddler has locked the door. You curse again. You lean carefully over to open it, trying to retain some contact with the seat as said toddler is as fascinated with playing in an open (and used) toilet as he is with the toilet paper roll. Enough destruction has occurred this time. Despite frequent sweater sleeve issues, you are grateful for long arms.

Your husband retrieves the errant toddler, who is shouting protests at his removal, and blessedly shuts the door.

You make a mental note to go to the bathroom upstairs next time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The 1 to 2 Jump

About a year ago, we entered the realm of having multiple children. As in more than one.

I honestly was not prepared for how hard it is. Part of the difficulty is the age gap. Which we deliberately (and naively) chose. Only 2 years difference means I have a toddler who needs help with many things adn can only stay entertained for short bursts of time and an infant who can do nothing for himself. Basically 2 highly labor intensive individuals both looking to me and my husband for help. And when he's out of town enjoying quiet dinners out or room service, just me.

I remember it being hard with the Peanut. I clearly remember being in bed with her and Mr. P and Mr. P looking at me and saying "now I understand why some people only have one child." And here's the thing -- she was an easy baby. A VERY easy baby. She was amazingly happy, even when sick, a good eater, not terribly gassy or fussy, great about putting herself to sleep from an early age. But like all babies, very labor intensive.

Now I realize there is a reward (hopefully) that the kids will play together, entertain each other, that I can double up like bathing them both together. And some of that is happening. But now I also hear the beginnings of "NOOOOOOOO!!! That's miiiiiiinnnneee!" and the don't-touch-me's and "no, I want to sit with you" and all the other harbingers of the typical sibling relationship. I'm just booking our appearance on Jerry Springer now well in advance.

But the laundry, the different needs, remembering that Peanut could use one type of lotion but the same lotion made Sock break out in a rash -- it takes a lot. Mr. P would continually ask me for medicine dosages as the kids would invariably be put on the same meds but require different doses. Plus the realization that we no longer outnumber our offspring. We're even. The revolution could happen one day -- and they could win.

In a sappier streak, I have to say the bad of having two is outweighed by the good. Overall we are happy with our family of four.

But it has heightened my desire for a live-in chef/maid/nanny...

To Three or Not To Three

My husband and I are somewhat torn. When Sock was born, who is in reality a fairly easy baby with few quirks, we looked at each other in a quiet draining realization that we simply could not do this again. Quite frankly I think everyone goes through that in the newborn stage. Probably like getting your first bikini wax. I remember distinctly thinking that with Peanut who was supremely easy and saying if she wasn't our first, she'd be our last.

But time goes on and we knew that. Hence our wrestling with family planning. We initially blithely planned to have 3 children. Well, sort of -- I originally said 2 or 3, depending on how the first 2 went. But I was easily swept away by Mr.P's enthusiasm. And both of us being from families of 3, well, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Until we had 2.

The work of 2 is not just double -- it's oddly enough some exponential multiplier that varies according to the draw of the day. Like PowerPlay. To begin to imagine the work load of three had me in hives.

Plus, there were the results of our informal survey. We hungrily questioned every parent we found of 3 -- neighbors, coworkers, my hairdresser, a flight attendant on a flight to my grandfather's funeral, our doctor. Basically, if you remotely mentioned you had 3 children in either my or my husband's vicinity, you were fair game. I would ask with a panicked spark in my eyes whether they preferred 2 or 3 children.

The results actually surprised both Mr. P and me. I would say easily about 80% (probably skewing lower rather than higher) said wearily that while they loved their third child beyond belief and wouldn't trade him/her for the world, stop at 2. For the love of God, stop at 2. (Okay, I added that last part but it seemed implied by a lot of them.) Reasons varied but there were some common themes. World is designed for a family of 4. Costs. Schedules. Someone was always left out. Kids ganged up and it was always 2 against 1 for something. You only have 2 hands. The chaos three involves cannot be fathomed. There is no downtime, alone time or couple time. And my own personal concern -- the older I get, the more of a roll of the dice it is in terms of health both for the baby and me. And the thought of a newborn at 40, to my lazy bones at least, is exhausting.

All of these reasons echo our own thinking of the moment, which is why we are fairly certain -- I'd say 85% -- we are done with two, barring some huge lottery windfall that blesses us with a full-time live-in nanny.

But the family planning decision is never one made by logic (see e.g. the Duggars). It's an emotional, damn the torpedoes decision. Which is why we are leaving that 15% in there to discuss down the road...


I sat there tonight, rocking Sock to bed for the umpteenth time during this 4 month wakeful period. After cooing, laughing and squealng to me, he was asleep again, his tiny hand gently holding my thumb. I studied how my hand completely and loosely encircled his dimpled fingers, the bullseye to my target. I wanted to remember this perfectly. I kept wishing that I had a clone I could call to come and photograph our entwined hands, to blow it up in striking black and white so I could remember that moment as some emblem of all the times I rocked him to sleep. But sadly, my clone does not exist and the moment passed with his stirring.

Why so delirious with desire to remember a simple rocking? Because of Peanut -- who I also rocked to sleep and instead of promptly putting her down drowsy but awake as experts dictated, held longer than I "should" knowing those moments would pass. As I look at her 2 year old ever-more-independent self, I cannot remember those times as clearly as I want to. As much as I would sit there and study her sleeping face, basking in its gloriously chubby babyhood, trying to memorize every detail so I could recall it with laser-like precision years later, my memories have become hazy. I rely more on photographs than my own memories. I merely remember sitting there, holding her, with a burning desire to remember that moment forever.

And there are many other moments like that also blurred by time. New things happen each day that I fervently wish to lock away and keep fresh for future recollection: Peanut's face of glee upon seeing a chocolate mini cupcake, Sock's attempts to delay bedtime with his conversing, Peanut's trepid look of awe as the
sleeping beauty crown was placed on her head, Sock's display of ab strength that could shock the infomercial world based on sheer determination to sit, not lay back, thank you very much. All of these small but so precious moments will one day be hazy recollections too, as I hungrily try to drink in and memorize new moments of the day. I know that will happen. And I feel an incredible sadness for the imperfectness of my memories, almost like the death of a family member, both those having passed away and those memories that are to fade. But I know there is nothing to be done but further memorization work and study. And perhaps a blog entry to help jog my failing memory...

Time Warp

I should have posted this disclaimer first to avoid confusion. I started writing blog entries long before I actually got around to the effort of creating a blog. So you will notice a bit of a jump here and there when I refer to my 3YO daughter as a 2YO and so forth. I figured anyone reading this could catch up. I will attempt to post the older ones first but I know at some point it will get to be a bit of a muddled mess. Eh, you'll live...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Mom Pheromone

The "Mom" Pheromone

Pheromone -- noun -- any chemical substance released by an animal that serves to influence the physiology or behavior of other members of the same species. [Thank you,]

I have 2 kids. I battle daily with laundry, dishes and bodily fluids not my own. I am clearly a mom.

But not so clearly. I remember when I first became pregnant with the Peanut. My assistant was very surprised. Shocked, more like it. Why? Because I didn't seem very "maternal." Over and over people are surprised to hear that I am a mom. Even more surprised if those people, usually people from work, hear or witness any exchange with my children. One coworker even exclaimed to me upon hearing me talk to the Peanut, "My lord, you sound so sweet and nice!"

Well that should be somewhat telling as to how I am the rest of the time. All business, matter of fact, sarcastic (can you tell?) and yes, downright bitchy at times. Hey, I'm not mothering my clients. I'm not raising my coworkers. They don't need the cuddles and kisses and cajoling. I'm nice enough (actually downright kind on rare occasions) but hey, let's be very clear on the fact that I'm not wiping their snotty noses for them.

I am clearly missing some mom pheromone. The one that says automatically to anyone in the vicinity of my Carol Brady aura that I am a perfect motherly type. That I have good maternal instincts and can keep living things alive and thriving. That I can nurture and care for a little being, while making amazing works of art using just pasta, glitter and homemade glue. I don't know where I was when they were passing the mom pheromone out. Maybe getting coffee at the career day festival.

But that leads me to another point -- I am eternally both bemused and baffled as to why people think my work personality and home personality must be one and the same. That if I am demanding and unyielding at work, that I must be the same way with those poor little tykes at home. That because I do not mother the people I work with or gush puppies and rainbows on the phone instead of getting straight to business or chatting with my usual sarcastic sense of humor in full bloom that I am not a motherly person. But I am -- to my own children. I fully admit that I am not necessarily a great person with other people's children. I'm hit or miss truthfully. I have cuddled my next door neighbor's daughter who is about my daughter's age but don't do so to her 6 year old son -- we tend to banter and tease more. But yet another neighbor's children I generally stay far away from. And I find the older the kids are, the farther away from my direct experience as a mom, the less sure I am of how to act, of what is expected, wanted or is "proper". I just wing it and hope I don't end up being hated or causing endless therapy sessions later on. Because that sure would put a damper on neighborhood BBQs.

But here's the thing people fail to realize: I have multiple facets to my personality. And I recognize my audience. I expect a 52 year old manager to understand the ramifications of his actions and do not think I am wrong to do so. I also expect that my 2 year old daughter may NOT understand the ramifications of her actions and that she must be taught some causes and effects and lead gently into this big world, careful not to let the experiences hit her full in the face.

End result? My kids are happy. I'm happy. Any one else will have to learn to get over it because I'm not potty-training them any time soon...