Thursday, May 5, 2011

This blog is moving...

It has been fun here up until now... but...

time for something new.

Please come visit me at my new site so you can keep up with the latest Ada and Iain fun.

Be sure to say "Hi" when you get a chance.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Sticker Chart

Disciplining a child sucked. It wasn't fun. It often didn't actually work and just frustrated everyone involved. I was a firm believer that discipline was a form of teaching and didn't have to always be negative. Unfortunately, Ada entered a stage where she didn't want to do anything we said. Every other word from her mouth was "No!". And it was often screamed from the top of her lungs while she was flailing her arms in a windmill motion and kicking her legs in a desperate attempt to hurt me for trying to reason with her. Not knowing how to deal with her, I started throwing tantrums of my own and putting her in "time out" just so I would have three minutes to calm myself down instead of punching holes in our walls or throwing things.

Tired of yelling and fighting and counting to three and doling out "time outs", I moved on to the sticker chart. Ada got a sticker for anything that she did well. She got ignored for anything she didn't do well. I still tried the counting and the "time outs", but I also tried the "If you do this for me, you can earn a sticker. Remember, if you earn ten stickers, you get some ice cream." It has worked so far. Now I just had to figure out how to keep doing it. She earned her first ice cream cone last night, and then threw so many tantrums that she wasn't allowed to redeem it. Maybe redeeming it can be the goal for today.

Moral of the story: There are many ways to discipline children. Finding a method that works for you and your child, and making time to reinforce it is key. Don't expect a miracle overnight.

Construction Curiosity

What is it about watching construction workers that is so fascinating? The gas company was laying new pipes in front of our house and the kids watched the contractors for hours on and off all day. After our walk, Ada refused to come inside (as per usual) and stood there watching the digger as it loaded, spun and dumped its contents. She was in awe. I bribed her with hot chocolate to get her inside (which she never drank since it was too hot and then she forgot about it—since she was too busy watching the guys work outside our front window. I did not need to drink two hot chocolates, but I did. Don't ever tell me moms don't sacrifice.) Once she was inside, she went right back to watching them work.

Me: Ada, do you want to (insert anything fun here)
Ada: No. (Or silence as she ignored me.)

Repeat. That's how it was for over a week. Contractors must have some sort of magical fairy dust they use to mesmerize children everywhere. Maybe that's why Bob the Builder was so popular.

Moral of the story: Construction sites can be sources of cheap entertainment for hours. If you describe what is happening, they could even be considered educational.

Sucker Bunny

I was not a fan of suckers. I was even less of a fan of suckers on hard sticks. And especially opposed to them when they were passed out to kids by men dressed as giant bunnies on playgrounds. I didn't have a problem with the man in the bunny suit. It was the idea that he was passing out suckers on a playground. SUCKERS ON A PLAYGROUND!

Growing up, I was taught that suckers were a choking hazard. I was only allowed to eat them while sitting still. If I ran with them, they were taken away. My mother was so afraid I would trip and shove the sucker stick so far down my throat that I would end up in the hospital for days, if not dead from choking on the candy part itself. It was rare, but it could happen.

If there was even the remote possibility that a child could fall and get injured by something you gave them, would you still give it to them? I wouldn't. And if I did, I would watch them very closely to reduce the risk of the situation. That's called close "adult supervision". That isn't something you always get at a playground. I surely wouldn't give my kids a sharp pencil, a knife or scissors and tell them to have fun at the playground. Maybe someone will put a little more thought into this for next year. There must be some sort of gift they can find that won't be a choking hazard or a dangerous allergen or candy. Might I suggest a sticker? Or a stamp on their hand would work and be more forgiving to the environment.

Moral of the story: As a parent, you constantly need to think about your children's safety. They might not like the outcome, but it could save you a trip to the emergency room and that should be worth it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seven Eleven

Dear Iain,

Seven hours of sleep isn’t the new eleven. Just because you wake up refreshed from your eleven, uninterrupted hours of sleep, doesn’t mean the same applies for the rest of us. You go down at seven, I go down closer to eleven. You get eleven hours of sleep, I maybe get seven.

Mommy really loves you, and hopes you will agree, more sleep is necessary for your daddy and me. Even eight would be great.


Your mother

Moral of the story: Parents sleep is inversely proportional to the number of kids they have and their ages. The more kids and older they get, the less sleep for Mom and Dad. Hopefully this phenomenon will reverse itself in the coming school years


Ada recently became obsessed with computers and computer games. One day she was sitting innocently at the computer playing with the mouse and clicking on random things. Then next day she was demanding games, games and more games. I was trying to limit her total screen time since she also loves movies, but it wasn’t working. As a persistent toddler, she would inevitably wear me down after hours of begging and whining and having tantrums for “puter” games. When I finally gave in, she was on a computer without an Internet connection. Her game options included Solitaire, Hearts, Minesweeper, and Pinball. Pinball won. The bouncing of the ball, flashing lights and sounds, flapping of the flippers had her hooked from the start. Her name was entered in the top five highest score slots (previously empty since we didn’t even know Pinball was on the computer). She was in love…for a day…until she got bored and wanted Sesame Street.

While Ada was busy playing Pinball, Iain was playing his own version of Pinball around the house. He was the ball bouncing from the bookcase to the coffee table to the dining room table and down the hall. He started crawling and was so excited to explore with his new-found freedom of mobility. If I stepped out of the living room to wash my hands, I returned to a quick round of “find the baby”. He was never in the same spot for long.

My hope was that Ada would find Iain more entertaining now that he was mobile. Maybe it would distract her from the “puter” just a little while. Anything to reduce her screen time would be good.

Moral of the story: Kids are meant to be entertained. Know that having a second child might eventually provide entertainment for the first, but be patient. And understand that they are competing with more high- tech gadgets than ever.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New New New

Change is a good thing right?

We recently changed dishwashers, windows, and nannies at our house. The dishwasher was good to us and lived a good life. After several years of making our silverware sparkle, it finally stopped cleaning and told me where to go. The new dishwasher took some getting used to but seemed to be working well.

The windows weren’t ever all that great to us. Some were missing storms and screens while others weren’t able to stay open. They all had to go. The new windows had child safety stops at two and four inches to prevent our precious little monsters from falling out of our house. Not something I put much thought into, but I was sure glad I had them and could rest more easily now. Ada was excited that she could see out of them more clearly since the installers actually washed them.

And the nanny. We were sorry to let her go but we learned that hiring a non-English-speaking nanny for an infant worked for awhile. Once you added a toddler into the mix, things started to fall apart. After three months, we realized that we needed a sitter to speak Ada’s native language to discipline her and teach her to communicate more clearly. She was a great nanny and no doubt loved our kids. The new nanny was fluent in both English and Spanish. It took a few days for Iain and Ada to accept her, but that was the same for most things in life.

Moral of the story: Change can be a good thing. Especially when it makes your children more clean, safe, disciplined and smart.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ada = Choking Hazard

Iain wasn't the one I was worried about putting things in his mouth that he shouldn't. Ada was. I mean that Ada was the threat because she was putting things in Iain's mouth while I wasn't looking. We knew she liked to feed my parent's dogs. Apparently she liked to feed Iain too. And it wasn't anything I would ever expected her to feed him. She had pealed foam sticker letters off an art project DD gave her and started stuffing the bits of foam letter into Iain's mouth while I was in the kitchen. I came back and noticed pink foam on the floor. Then I noticed Iain chewing on something and Ada looked at me like, "What mom? I didn't do anything wrong." Uh huh. Right Ada. Sure.

What would come next? Sticking crayons in his ears? Shoving his head in the toilet? Surely she would find a way to draw on his face with Sharpie markers at some point. Time to activate the eyes in the back of my head.

Moral of the story: Don't expect your older child to behave around siblings because they know better. They don't know better and are testing you to see what they can get away with.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dollars, Euros, Yen, or Tickles?

Things haven’t been going very smoothly these past few weeks. Ada hasn’t been cooperative at all. I have been stressed out and distracted. She has wanted all of my attention and I have wanted to give her a lot less than that. It was a recipe for disaster. Major meltdown was exactly what we got. And I do mean “we”.

I have tried to blame the challenges on being a mother and a daughter and the stereotypes about how we aren’t supposed to get along. I’ve written our fights off as Ada going through the terrible twos now that she was three. The reality was that I wasn’t paying enough attention to her, didn’t know what motivated her, and didn’t have the patience to figure it out. That was why I married Rick.

Somehow, in his seemingly infinite wisdom, Rick figured out that Ada’s main motivation in life was to be tickled. By observing that one thing that ruled her world, he was able to create a currency of tickles. If we wanted Ada to change her diaper, put on her shoes, or stop yelling, we just had to pay her in tickles. Amazingly, it worked. It didn’t solve all of our problems, but it sure helped with a lot of them.

Moral of the story: Find what motivates your child (other than money or food) and use it to encourage good behavior.

Shouting Matches

I’m not a yeller. I’m not a fighter. I don’t like confrontation or conflict. But if you really cross me, I will remove the gloves and throw down.

Unfortunately, that applies to Ada too.

She pushes my buttons, says “no” as her default response, and refuses my every request to do the simplest tasks. When my repeated requests and explanations don’t work, I shut down. Not knowing how to deal with her, I’m ashamed to say it but, my blood boils quickly. I lose it and start yelling back at her. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t make me feel better—I actually feel worse and end up apologizing later. And to make matters even worse she calls me out whenever I am mad by getting really close to me with her puppy dog eyes and saying, “Mommy crabby.” It is kind of cute in the “Boy, I wish I could give you away sometimes” kind of way.

So why do I yell? Because the things I’m trying, like timeouts and counting to three, aren’t working either. My parents yelled and swatted our butts when we were bad so maybe there is something to that. I don’t want to start swatting her, but I do want her to start listening to me and stop aggravating me so much. Maybe I’m just not implementing the timeouts or the counting properly. Or maybe she just wants more attention. Maybe this is just a phase. Maybe I need to start reading a book on discipline. And maybe a solution will present itself. Surely I’m not alone in this battle.

Moral of the story: As parents, it is our job to remain calm. We don’t always succeed but we must always try. When in doubt, give yourself a time out.

Iain the Bruiser

Iain fell off the bed. Well, he actually crawled off the bed, fell on his cheek, possibly landed on the corner of a hard-cover book (about making parenting easier of all things), and was fine. He didn’t look so hot the next day though…

It was completely my fault. I got distracted—my life was one long string of distractions—and although I left him on the bed with Ada to entertain him, he must have tired of her antics and he went looking for something more exciting. Hitting the floor with his face probably wasn’t what he had in mind.

I knew I needed to be more careful. Just seconds before he fell I was checking in on him to be sure he wasn’t getting close to the edge. Looks were deceiving and it only took a few seconds for him to fall off. We were at orange alert level and being cautious but obviously red alert—constant safety watch—was more appropriate. I should have been at that level two weeks ago after he jumped out of the high chair. Apparently my interpretation of safe wasn’t safe enough. Safe was now defined as right next to me in the same room or locked into an apparatus with safety straps, and even then still within my sight.

Moral of the story: The line between being overly protective and safe is a fine one. Try your best to keep your child safe and when in doubt, error on the side of being too cautious.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Little Lefty

Apparently, Ada's a lefty. We've had our suspicions but this leads me to believe it really is true. She purposely moved the computer mouse from the right side of the keyboard to the left side so she could play more easily.

Obviously, I don't have any say in the matter so I will be supportive of her "handedness" either way. If she really is a lefty, I intend to do a lot of research on how her brain functions differently and what we can do to make things easier for her. My brother is a lefty and I've seen him struggle with math specifically because he does it differently and his teachers always marked his grade down since he didn't do it their way or couldn't show his work. And I remember going to a left-handed shop in St. Charles, Illinois that had sissors and notebooks designed for left-handers. It is such a right-handed world that, as parents, we'll have to be sensitive to her environment. More so than just having Ada sit on the left end of the table so she doesn't knock elbows with Iain.

Moral of the story: Parenting is more than feeding, clothing and protecting your children. It also entails providing them with an evironment conducive to learning and development based on their needs. We as parents have a lot to learn.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Iain's Flying Leap

I know better. I know I'm always supposed to buckle Iain into his high chair. Especially when I have it in the kitchen on the tile floor. But occassionally, I get distracted. This time, I got distracted by Ada doing something on the computer. As I was working with the mouse, surely trying to prevent her from deleting important files, I heard a loud thud behind me. I turned around to see Iain laid out on the ground with his mouth wide open taking in that big inhale that comes right before an enormous scream. And then the ear shattering wale followed as I scooped him up, checked for signs of major injuries and consoled him. He wasn't happy, but I was relieved to see that he wasn't hurt. I think he rocked himself free of the chair, hurdled himself over the plastic divider bump between his legs, laid himself out in a sort of side flop, and then dropped his head to the ground after the initial impact. He had a light red mark on the back right side of his head which didn't appear to be serious.

For the next ten minutes I just kept thinking, "Dumb, dumb, dumb. You knew better. Your gut told you this would happen. You didn't listen. You're lucky he's okay you moron of a mom." I then promised not to ever do it again and went on with my day, being sure to give him extra cuddles to make up for my mistake. Then I justified my carelessness by admitting that something like this was bound to happen since Ada fell off the bed a few times--once landing on the charger for the Dust Buster which made a nasty indentation near the base of her skull--and the couch a couple times too. This was Iain's first major wipe out, and surely won't be his last.

Moral of the story: Always buckle all safety harnesses for anything you would not want your child to fall from. Those harnesses are there for a reason. Use them.

Ada's New Words

One of Ada's new words this month is "big". That's good because she's learning to be more descriptive and becoming more expressive. That's bad when she comes up to me, puts her hands on my mommy tummy and says, "big belly." Cute, but not all that funny. I laughed anyway and didn't take it personally. I did use it as motivation to attend pilates class that night though. Then, while Rick was getting her dressed in the morning, she was in front of our bedroom mirror looking over her shoulder at the reflection of her butt and said, "big butt." Rick immediately corrected her (while laughing hysterically mind you) that she in fact had a "little butt." No need to give her a complex at age three.

Another new word of hers is "crabby". If Iain is crying, she says "baby crabby". If I'm having a rough day, she crawls up on my lap, looks at me with a frown and says "mommy crabby". And while looking through pictures of my family, she came upon Grandpa Bobpa and said "Bobpa crabby". It fits him perfectly even if it is just his tough outer shell that gives way to his much softer inside.

At least her expressive language skills are growing. Now we have to help her learn how to use all of these new words a bit better.

Moral of the story: Once your child starts talking, you'll likely wish they wouldn't and will surely be surprised by what they finally say.

Creative Damage Control

While at lunch today, Ada had an accident. Her diaper overflowed soaking her pants and the bottom of her shirt. Of course I didn't have a backup outfit for her in the diaper bag. I didn't even have a full backup outfit for Iain and of the two of them, he was way more likely to need it.

What's a mom to do? If you were me, you took your daughter into the ladies room, removed her wet clothes, changed her diaper, washer her down with paper towels, and then re-dressed her in your zippered sweatshirt, rolled up the sleeves and pretended it was a toddler dress.

Yep. That's what I did.

Moral of the story: You can't prepare for every mishap that might happen as you go out and about with your kids. You can, however, wear layers and get creative when you need to.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stupid Car Alarms

Surely I've complained many a time before about how we have this car alarm that we don't want and can't seem to get rid of on our Honda CRV. My mother-in-law gave us the car because she hated the alarm so much that the benefits of trading us for our Honda Civic that was half the value of the CRV was worth it to her just so she could maintain her sanity. I completely understand her frustration since the siren goes off at the worst times for the most random reasons. The worst times being when I am trying to be really quiet unloading bags from a weekend trip or groceries while the kids are asleep in the car. And stupid reasons being that we opened a door thirty seconds after opening another door, without first pushing the unlock button to disarm the alarm, and the car screams at us with horns blaring and lights flashing as if to say, "Don't touch me!". We can't win.

I've tried to get it disarmed and have a plan to take care of it myself with limited guidance from an online mechanic's suggestion, but I haven't had the time to start dismantling my dashboard and was hoping our mechanically inclined neighbor would be available to supervise. Since that hasn't happened yet, I am even more upset to learn that someone was in our car and stole a few items from it this past week. It doesn't bother me that someone took a few things since they didn't damage the car and the coin purse and tool kit they took weren't of any value to us. What irritates me most is that we never heard the car alarm. If the sirens went off, we didn't hear them. (Maybe I did since I thought I heard an alarm in the middle of the night, but it didn't sound like our alarm at it shut off too quickly. I can only hope the thief managed to disarm it permanently. In that case, I would have given him more than just the empty coin purse and the tool kit.) The alarm seems to only work when it wants to and it didn't want to when it would have actually been convenient for us.

We aren't sure what exactly happened. We assume Rick forgot to push the lock button when he used the car last but either of us could have bumped the keys and unlocked it accidentally. It was parked on the street right in front of our house in clear view of our front window which means two things. First, if we did bump the unlock button, it would have been in range to unlock the car. Second, the thief stole our stuff from almost right under our noses. Even if we didn't lock the car, the alarm typically arms itself and will sometimes lock the car for us as if to say, "Hey, idiots! You forgot to lock the car. Don't worry. I'll take care of that for you." That's when you find yourself in a situation where the keys get locked inside the car and you're in for way more drama getting the car unlocked again than you would have been if the car had just left itself unlocked. You can only hope you don't have the kids inside when it does decide to belittle you.

This all makes me reflect back on a time when we didn't have to lock our cars. Life was a bit more simple then, or at least a lot different. I think parenthood must have been easier or at least a little less stressful then too. I just can't imagine how it could have been much worse than it is today. Surely "the good ol' days" were different from today's parenting. My hope is that all of these technological advances will one day actually advance us in a way that makes parenting easier.

Moral of the story: Car alarms can do more harm than good. Consider that fact when shopping for your next automobile.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Speech Therapy Update

I met with a speech therapist a few weeks ago with Ada. She was very nice and suggested that we consider taking Ada to a group speech therapy class to save money and see if that helped her. The catch with that being that she couldn't be the most advanced in the class or she wouldn't really be learning much. That seemed like a challenge since Ada isn't really all that delayed and doesn't qualify for speech therapy through the city's Early Intervention program.

Her other suggestion, assuming we could afford it since our insurance excludes speech therapy, was for us to do one-on-one therapy for a little while just to see how it worked. Point being that, Ada doesn't need a lot of help and will probably correct any delays she has on her own with time so we don't have to worry about it too much, but some sort of speech therapy would benefit her. It can't hurt unless our wallet has feelings and then maybe the wallet will be thankful for the lighter load?

Another speech therapist contacted me with referrals for three other places to look into that were closer to our house but she noted that many of them had waiting lists. I really didn't want to take time away from other kids who really needed these services when Ada wasn't all that bad.

After being preoccupied with other things for a few weeks, I finally called the woman I originally met with and had her get started. She gave us a discounted rate and their first session was this week. She got Ada to talk the whole time. It was great. Just seeing her interact with Ada and her suggestions at the end of the session were worth it. I'm optimistic that things will really improve and Ada will be talking our ears off. We'll have to find a different solution for that when the time comes.

Moral of the story: A little speech therapy can go a long way. Be sure to research your options to find a solution that is right for your child and your budget.

Potty Training Continued

When I say "Potty Training Continued" I really mean "This is the potty training that never ends...yes, it goes on and on my friends..." Sorry. I know that was mean and that song will be stuck in your head for days. But then maybe you'll better understand just how annoying potty training is when your child isn't quite ready.

Ada might be close to "getting it" when it comes to grasping the concept of potty training. But then again, she might not. The fact that every pair of underwear she puts on gets a little wet and has to be changed every time she uses the toilet, leads me to believe she isn't what most people would call "trained". The other clue is her failure to successfully or consistently wear pants without going to the bathroom in them. And the final nail in the coffin is her inability to actually poop in the potty on her own.

So, as much as I'd love to admit it was a successful attempt and we are done with diapers for her, I'd be lying. My new strategy is to wait another month or two, let her use diapers or underwear or whatever she wants, and then try again later. I won't stop her from using the potty. I might let her run around the house half naked. I will encourage her to poop by feeding her high fiber foods and plenty of liquids while banning bananas and cheese from her diet as much as possible. But I won't beat myself up over it. She'll be ready when she's ready and I'll be ecstatic when it happens.

Moral of the story: Potty training takes time and a child that is ready to be trained. Don't rush it and stay positive.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Weekend Air Travel

I was tired before I went to visit my sister-in-law, Heather, for the weekend but now, I'm exhausted. I got several funny looks this morning from neighboring passengers as I slogged through the airport with my sunglasses on. I even wore my sunglasses in the underground tunnels. Getting up at two in the morning to catch a flight after being up early and out late the night before does not agree with me. And the one hour time change completely kicked my butt. But I had fun, got a break from the kids, and got to visit Boston for the first time.

For those of you who may attempt to fly while nursing at some point in your life, take note.

The morning we left for the airport, I had to wake Iain up to eat and get into the car. In hindsight, I should have pumped while he slept and gotten a bottle ready to feed him on the way. Instead, I tried to encourage him to eat and when he didn't, I gave up and said, "I'll just nurse him before I go into the airport." That might have worked had we not been confused about Continental being bought by United, and what terminal I was supposed to be at, and the security folks moving the cars along in the departure drop-off area, and me just completely forgetting that I hadn't depleted the milk supply in my chest yet. Despite the recommendation of several friends to check my luggage, I followed my gut instinct and carried it on.
At bigger airports like O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, chances of being stopped and searched for your breastpump are more rare. They let me right through with not even a second glance. (The woman next to me bringing Greek yogurt with her wasn't so lucky.) I remembered to chug my bottle of water right before going through the TSA line, and then forgot to take off my shoes. Luckily, the guy in line behind me let them pass through the x-ray machine in the bin with his laptop. The whole process made me really nervous.

Being that I was boarding a small plane that didn't have much storage space and I really didn't want to lift anything overhead for fear of injuring the herniated discs in my neck, I checked my bag at the gate. Things went well on the flight until we had about twenty minutes to go. The captain turned on the "fasten seatbelts" sign as I realized I had to go to the bathroom thereby foiling my plan and forcing me to hold it. Then, about five minutes later, I also realized that my chest was starting to hurt from the buildup of un-pumped breastmilk. It dawned on me that my right breast had gone sixteen hours without being drained. Youch. Not good. Somehow, I survived the twenty minutes until we landed, and didn't bulldoze the twelve rows of passengers in front of me as they removed their bags from the overhead bins. As I stepped off the plane I was given two gifts from the gods; my bag was there waiting for me and the bathroom was right next to my gate.

Peeing was my first priority and was easy to take care of. Pumping was going to be another issue. The handicapped priority restroom was being cleaned and the main women's restroom didn't have an outlet within reach of the bathroom stalls. I had read a suggestion somewhere to bring along an extension cord but didn't pack one. And I wasn't sure how long it would be before I reached my next destination so I figured pumping now would be the best option. Not wanting to set up a public pumping session in the main women's restroom, I went out to ask the janitor if the airport had a nursing room or other space where I could pump. She suggested the handicapped priority restroom she had just finished cleaning and I set up shop.

I learned a few things while in that airport bathroom...
  • Don't set things in the automatic sinks as if they were a countertop. They will turn on whenever they want to and you're stuff will get wet. (In my case, it was my makeup in a Ziplock baggie so I was okay.)
  • Bring along a small hand towel or two. Not every bathroom will have paper towels and you'll need something to dry off yourself and your pump supplies after you rinse them.
  • If you are carrying on your luggage, use the handicap stalls whenever possible. The extra space is great for storing your bag.
  • If there is any chance that you might, maybe, possibly need to pump even the slightest bit before, after or during your flight, carry-on your pump. The stress of worrying if it will be lost in your luggage or stuck on the plan during a delay isn't worth the convenience of not having to carry it.
Twenty minutes later, I was feeling much better and on my way to meet Heather outside the security entrance for our weekend adventure to begin. Since Iain was eight-months old, I was able to get by with only pumping twice a day. I was disappointed with how little I actually extracted, but thankful that I didn't have to carry a lot of milk back with me.

On the way back home through the much smaller Bradley Airport in Hartford, Connecticut, they did a much more thorough search. As I loaded my luggage on the belt, I explained that I had a breastpump in my suitcase, and breast milk with frozen gel packs in the cooler. I was a bit surprised when they pulled me aside to search my entire suitcase, cooler and pump. The TSA employees were very professional and explained that they would be taking my cooler of milk away for a minute to test it but that the test would check the air around it, not the liquids inside. I was sure they would make me toss out the gel-filled ice packs but they said those were okay. I had extra Ziplock baggies and was ready to ask a vendor on the gate side of the security line to fill them with ice for the rest of my trip if that was needed. After a thorough search of my suitcase (during which I noticed the chocolates I had purchased for Rick and Ada had melted into a blob since I left the packed suitcase near the wood stove overnight) they removed the breastpump and took it away for testing as well. Then the TSA gentleman returned, repacked my luggage and set me on my way.

I'm pretty sure I have a bit of anxiety when it comes to dealing with authority because the entire process made me very nervous. When they were done, I wanted to sit down and cry. It wasn't that I felt violated or anything like that. The experience just made me very emotional. Blame hormones. Blame exhaustion. Maybe it is just the seriousness of flying these days and the fact that we need such a long list of rules to follow for the TSA. Anyway you slice it, it was stressful.

On the way home, I wasn't worried about needing my pump so I again checked my bag at the gate. I didn't realize that I'd then have to retrieve it from the baggage claim since this was a bigger plane and they only did gate pickup for United Express service. Either way, I was home. I took a train to a bus and then walked three blocks back into reality, complete with hugs from Ada and a napping Iain.

Moral of the story: Traveling while nursing isn't always easy, but it doesn't have to be impossible. Plan ahead, ask friends for suggestions and try not to stress out about it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Now that I know how to cook, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to learn how to compost and get a compost bin started. I've been researching it for a few months and originally thought about getting a big rolling compost bin to set up behind our condo building. The biggest issue I had with that idea was the cost of the bin since they are a couple hundred dollars, and the fact that I'd need two of them. One to "cook" the compost, and one to add to while the other one "cooks". I still might eventually go that route if I find bins on an amazing sale but until that happens, I ordered worms.


Yes. Worms.  I ordered a cute terracotta colored worm factory that has five bins to hold worms and compost and compost tea--which is supposed to be a great fertilizer. And I ordered a set of starter worms--about a thousand. I'm not going to count them. Unfortunately, the worms were delayed since it has been too cold for them to survive the shipping and at twenty dollars a thousand, you don't really want these things to arrive dead or frostbitten.

While I was explaining my recent purchase to my neighbors at a blizzard party, our friend Kelly expressed her displeasure with the word "Compost Tea". In typical man behavior (always finding a solution), our neighbor Stephen suggest we call it "Composty" to make it sound "cute" and less disgusting. In a few months, we'll be able to have Compost Tea parties. It's going to be great.

Moral of the story: Composting can be cute, educational and fun.

Our Tiny Bathroom

My plans have all been foiled by this whole potty training experiment. I used to be able to hide in the bathroom at least for five or ten minutes with a book without anyone really noticing that I had disappeared. Not anymore. Now that Ada needs the potty urgently and her stepping stool blocks the door from shutting unless I take the extra effort to move it over, privacy and my bathroom sanity sessions are gone. All gone.

To make matters worse, the door doesn't lock. Even if she doesn't need to use the potty, Ada comes in to check on me every chance she gets. I know I'm cool and fun and "mommy" and all but there comes a point where I just want a few minutes of peace and quiet all to myself. Our bathroom was that place for me and now I too have to learn to share. Not cool.

And this potty training thing isn't helping in other ways. Our bathroom is already really small. By the time you have Iain's cloth diaper pail, Ada's potty step stool, Iain's diaper covers waiting to be washed, and all of the clothes soaking in the sink that Ada has soiled during various accidents throughout the day, we don't have much room to turn around. Ada had an accident in the kitchen and ended up getting poop on herself and on the leg of my pants somehow. We then dumped her in the shower to wash up. After she refused to stand up and let me rinse her off, I turned off the shower and threw a towel over her while she was still in the empty tub. I thought she would give up and want to get out of the tub, but after half an hour thinking she was with Rick on the couch, I realized she had fallen asleep in the tub under her towel. And, of course, while she was in there sleeping, I had to go to the bathroom. I tried to be quiet about it but she stirred and Rick moved her to her bed, but not until after taking a picture of her passed out in the tub. That's something I expect from a college kid after a good party, not a three-year-old after lunch.

Now I get it. I know why everyone wants a house with two bathrooms. And I get why they want a place with a bedroom for each kid too. It just makes life easier when everyone has their own space.

Moral of the story: "The more the merrier" applies to having bathrooms, too.

Potty Training Weekend

Last weekend, Rick declared an all out war on Ada's use of diapers. She's three-years-old and he thought she was ready to use the potty. I wasn't so sure about that but was willing to at least watch him wage war and offer ground support. To my complete surprise, she was ready, but I'm not sure I was.

Potty training can be a lot of work. We started on a weekend knowing that we would both be home and that we had completely cleared our schedules. We rolled up all the rugs, covered the couch and chairs with waterproof tablecloths and reusable hospital bedding pads, and found a potty dance video on the Internet. I spent much of Friday doing all of the laundry so we would have plenty of clothes and towels to clean up any messes made along the way. We had a bag of Pull-Ups in Ada's closet, several pair of underwear in her drawer, and enough elastic waist-banded pants to get us through a few days at least, or so I thought. I didn't really inventory our supplies since I wasn't confident that she was ready or that this was going to work. After all, the experts said she was supposed to tell us when she was going pee pee or poo poo in her diaper and she wasn't. She never told us when she was pooping or poopy, and a soiled diaper never bothered her. Diaper changes were still a big struggle in our house, as was the occasionally bout of constipation which is common among children.

Even though she wasn't showing the typical signs of being "ready", she was interested in watching us use the toilet and she would sit on her little potty and pretend to pee or poop. Occasionally she would have little successes but very rarely and never while pooping. At least she could say pee pee and poop so there was that.

Rick and I didn't really know how to train Ada to use the potty, but we'd heard a method that involved letting her run naked for a few days until she got the hang of it and started using the potty. So that's what we did. She ran naked for two days and understood the urge to pee very quickly. We had her use the big potty from the start since she didn't seem to like her little potty much. And it worked. She was ready, we just didn't know it. Each success brought cheers from Rick and I, and then the potty dance video. We really only had to spend the first morning encouraging her to use the potty and she was pretty well trained as far as peeing on the potty goes.

That first afternoon, I thought it would be good to introduce pants and underwear as a trial. Unfortunately, almost all of the underwear we had was too small. The few pairs we did try got wet pretty quickly. But only a little wet and then Ada realized what she had done and ran to the potty. Rick insisted on two days of naked to make this work so I acquiesced. She was making a lot of progress and at least understood the concept. We were elated... until it came time to poop anyway.

Pooping was a whole different story. Ada has been constipated in the past and doesn't really like to poop for fear that it will hurt. And when she does poop, she doesn't want to be changed since the wipes tend to hurt even though they are "sensitive". She fights diaper changes and doesn't deal well with pooping in general. Not the best scenario for anyone involved. Potty training didn't help matters. She dealt with pooping by just bearing down wherever she was and pooping. If we caught her, we'd swoop her up, run to the potty, hold her hand and encourage her to "put the poopies in the potty". When we didn't, she pooped in the hallway, the living room, and the bathtub. Thank goodness for the tablecloths covering the rug. Unfortunately we didn't notice one incident where she had pooped until it was too late for her furry pink rocking unicorn, which later got a series of serious scrubbings.

In two of my attempts to swoop her up and onto the potty, she fell in. I didn't make a big deal of it and quickly showered her off while mentally chanting "bad mommy" and holding back belly laughs as best I could.

I spent so much time figuring out if she was showing an interest in using the potty that I didn't check to make sure we had enough underwear for her. When Monday finally arrived, Rick got to go shopping for little girls' underwear on his lunch break since we didn't have enough in her current size. What a great dad. He came back with Dora the Explorer and Princess undies for her. She's a lucky girl.

After two days of nakedness, I didn't have a plan for how we were going to get her to wear clothes again. Whenever I tried pants and underwear, she would wet them. I added a PullUp over the underwear and that helped contain the accidents when we went out of the house. But we kept trying.

A week later we were still in training. Maybe there was some truth when people say their kids were potty trained in a day. That wasn't been the case for us. Eventually the training will officially be over. When? I don't know. We'll just have to be prepared to clean up the accidents along the way. We'll get there.

Moral of the story: Potty training is a lot more complicated than it might originally appear. Accept that there will be accidents, be patient and stay positive.

Flying Anxiety

I don't consider myself someone who is afraid to fly. Maybe a tiny bit, but not enough to worry about. I don't like to fly, but I'd much rather fly somewhere than drive. That all dates back to my frequent bouts with motion sickness as a kid. I used to throw up on every trip over forty minutes. Not fun. And on airplanes, I threw up on every landing until I was in high school. But this isn't about motion sickness.

My current flying anxiety is about traveling by myself with my pump and frozen breast milk and clothes for the weekend while following the three ounce rule and carrying on my luggage in case I get laid over and have to have access to my pump. Stack all that on top of my herniated cervical disks being on the verge of getting really, really aggravated if I make even the slightest move to set them off--such as lifting said luggage--and I'm a mess. Just researching suggestions for how to manage getting the pump and breast milk through the TSA screening process has me on the verge of tears.

I have to learn to accept that my days of being a pack mule are over. I'm no longer able to pick up anything more than about twenty pounds, and even that can be a stretch. Imagine how I feel with twenty and forty pound kids. There are still times when I have to risk it and pick them up to get them out of the tub, up to the sink, into the crib or into bed after they fell asleep in the car. Sanity ranks higher on my list than having a painful back episode. I don't think you can easily come back once you've gone crazy, whereas a back flare up can be short lived, or at least managed with rest and medication.

Ah. Deep breath.

I've flown before with a pump and milk. I just didn't have to worry about my back...and I borrowed a soft-sided cooler from my in-laws...and it was summer so I didn't have to lug winter gear with me...and I stayed with a friend with a freezer instead of a hotel where I have to either clear out the mini fridge or ask for them to store it in the hotel kitchen. But at least I've done it before. I can do it again. And it will be fun, right?

I don't understand why breast feeding has to make travel and life so difficult. And why someone hasn't already figured out all of this and gotten everyone else on board to make it easier? Motherhood is hard enough as it is. If breast feeding really is better for our children and the experts want more women to nurse their children, then we need to make the entire process more easy, acceptable, and supported as a society.

Moral of the story: Breast feeding is a huge sacrifice as a mother. To be successful, seek out other nursing mothers for support and advice on how to make it manageable.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three Carrot Noses

Ada's first snowman was quite a hit in the neighborhood. During the snowfall a few days after the blizzard, Rick took Ada out to run an errand and returned to say, "Quick! Grab the camera and a carrot." He tagged into the house while I tagged out since Iain was just waking up from his nap and hoping to be saved from his evil crib. Ada was all bundled up waiting in the vestibule for me to document her latest masterpiece. I quickly donned my coat and scarf, grabbed the camera and two carrots, and ran to see what they had made. I handed the carrots to Ada as I steeped outside and looked all around expecting to see some huge snowman under our front tree. Surprisingly, there was no snowman to be found. I asked Ada where it was and she pointed him out. He was tucked into a nook next to the front entry to our building. Standing half her height, her little snowman was in desperate need of some facial features. I went to get the carrot back from Ada, but she had already eaten it. And his back-up carrot was in her mouth. I buzzed the door for Rick to bring carrot reinforcements and he appeared with two almonds too. Ada had already picked out his stick arms so the hard work was done. I added the almonds and carrot to his head and she posed with her new snowman friend (alternate nose in hand).

Moral of the story: Keep extra carrots in the fridge during winter in case your child likes to eat snowman noses.

Snomagedden 2011

Earlier this month, on February 2nd, we were blasted by quite the winter storm. All told, we were just shy of two feet of snow in twenty-four hours. It was amazing. So amazing it's being called "Snomagedden" since the city went into emergency mode and virtually shut down. It was deserted and a bit creepy, but beautiful and serene all at once.

Being the snow-loving people that we are, we went to our neighbor's house for a blizzard party the night it started. We took the kids, cosied up to the fire with good food and drinks, and hunkered down with a great third-floor view of the world outside. We spent hours watching traffic fishtail down the main street near our house. We watched as emergency vehicles crawled past on their way to a rescue. We listened to thundersnow for the first time in our lives. And we cheered on dozens of people pushing stuck cars out of their snowy entrapments.

Ada loved being allowed to stay up late and celebrated the blizzard by running up and down the hallway around eleven at night. The neighbors in the unit below our friends didn't really appreciate her method of celebration and came up to complain that we were being too loud. I immediately blamed Ada, but they didn't really care that it was just a tiny little three-year-old having a little fun. She spent the last hour of the party tip-toeing back and forth down the hallway to compensate for her previous thunderous footsteps. It was adorable.

At midnight, we decided to call off the fun and get our kids home to their own beds. We bundled up to walk down three flights of back porch stairs, through snow drifts up to our knees, and up a flight of stairs to our home. Iain wasn't excited about having a blanket tossed over his head but it was that or cold, wet, whipping snow in his face. I thought the blanket was the better option by far. Our friends had to shovel the snow mounds from the stairs just so we could get home. Thankfully we lived that close.

After a warm evening all nestled snug in our beds, we awoke to a snow covered calm on the streets. The street in front of our house was completely impassable with four foot snow drifts stretching the entire block.  The sidewalk in front of our condo appeared as if it had been shoveled, but was really just blown clear by the intense winds. I went out to explore a bit before the kids woke up and enjoyed the peacefulness of it all. A quick check of the weather report explained that we still had another big wave of snow heading our way so it was best to stay home. Within just a few hours, we were blanketed with another five or six inches. At that point, I took Ada out just to see how she would react.

Eh, she's not such a big fan of snow whipping up into her face and she didn't really like walking through snow up to her knees. She wanted to hold my hand the whole time so she didn't slip and fall. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was slip and fall into the snow. That's what made it fun.
Somehow, I coaxed her into the middle of the street to show the drifts. She wasn't very excited about that plan either and quickly insisted we go back inside. So much for our snowbunny adventure.

After seeing these drifts, it was clear to me that we would not be getting our car out of its parking space on the street for a few days.  It was in the back corner of a dead end side street that was surely on the bottom of the snowplower's list. With a thousand cars stuck on Lake Shore Drive overnight, the plows had other priorities and us going anywhere in our car wasn't one of them.

The brunt of the storm came between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Rick had to get the car out for a Friday morning meeting in the suburbs so he dug it out Thursday night and deemed the street passable. Unfortunately, the maintenance crew for the parking lot at the end of the dead end street we were parked on decided to shovel their snow onto our car sometime during the night. Rick again had to shovel out the car at six in the morning while dressed for a client meeting. And his fun didn't stop there. Once home Friday night, he had to shovel a new spot for the car to be parked in since there weren't any shoveled spots on the street and most cars had yet to be moved. After forty-five minutes of shoveling, he finally had a parking spot fit for a king. It was beautiful. That's what happens when you have a perfectionist digging out the spot. You can imagine, after shoveling parking spaces three times in twenty-four hours, Rick wasn't about to move that car for anything. And he surely wasn't going to let me move it the next day (I took a cab). From now on, if a blizzard is predicted in the city, we will hide our car in a covered parking structure with an entrance on a main city artery so we can get to it if we need to.

Moral of the story: Snowstorms are a time for being patient, helping others, and having fun. Be prepared to stay put for a few days and stay safe. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Each year, instead of holiday cards, we send out Valentines. Getting a photo is always the hardest part, and even more challenging with two kids. We're learning new tricks each year. This year, we learned how to take a photo indoors since it was too cold to get both kids outside and smiling at the same time. And next year, I'll start a little earlier so I'm not getting all of the cards mailed out at the last minute--three weeks wasn't sufficient. Rick made a good point by saying that I'll have double the labor force next year since Iain will be old enough to color on the cards, lick the envelopes, and maybe even stick on a few stickers. It could be double the help, or double the chaos. We'll just have to wait and see.

Moral of the story: Give yourself triple the amount of time you think it will take to complete a project when you have kids, and have fun along the way. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Juggling Naps

Getting two kids on schedules that allow you any freedom to accomplish much of anything is one of the great challenges of parenting. I've been talking about getting the kids on a schedule and building more structure into their days for weeks now. I'd love to say that I'm succeeding but I'm just not sure that is even possible. With one child, you have at least a chance of knowing what their nap schedule will be and how you can plan around that. Granted, it changes every few weeks in the beginning so any schedule you make is temporary, but at least there is something that can resemble a schedule. With two kids, it gets complicated.

When Iain was taking three naps a day, one tended to overlap with Ada's afternoon nap. Sometimes they aligned quite well and I got to play catch up or take a mini siesta myself. Now that he takes two naps a day, with an occasional third cat nap, there isn't much overlap. His morning nap tends to be long, which is great if I want to spend a lot of time entertaining Ada, but awful if we want to leave the house in the morning. They just aren't on the same page. And it isn't like you just set the alarm an hour later and they magically synchronize their schedules. Or is it? Maybe that's something I should try?

Iain typically wakes up at six. I have to say "typically" because it could be five thirty, or it could be six thirty. Everything on his schedule is a range which makes planning anything firmly on the calendar next to impossible. Maybe that's why, as the saying goes, we should "pencil it in". I'd like to add "...and carry a BIG eraser." Ada could wake up with Iain, but she is more likely to wake up around seven thirty or eight. Now I could see this two ways. A) I get to spend quality alone time with each kid while the other sleeps or B) It would be so much more efficient if we could all just play together at the same time and let me take a nap and get stuff accomplished too. My personality screams for option B, but I'm trying to accept option A.

By the time both kids are changed and fed in the morning, we have about half-an-hour or an hour until Iain's first nap at nine thirty. Since we can't leave the house while he's sleeping, that makes Ada and I home bound until he wakes up about two hours later. You can imagine how hard it is to explain to a three-year-old that she can't go outside because her brother is sleeping. This is when a back yard would come in handy. We could always go out and have Iain nap in his stroller, but he might not nap as long and many experts claim he wouldn't get the same quality of rest. That also means I would have to have my ducks in a row early enough to actually get out of the house and plan a destination that would burn Ada's energy and entertain her while being quiet enough for Iain to nap. Not easy.

After his first nap, we can go out and play for a little while until everyone gets hungry, or we can eat and then go play. His second nap is around two and Ada's could be around two if she burned enough energy in the morning, but it is more likely not until three, if at all. Age three tends to be when kids start dropping naps altogether. That doesn't mean they don't necessarily still need naps. That just means they are no longer willing to take them. And a day when Ada skips her nap frequently turns into a night of crabbiness, whining, tears, and an early bedtime. Not exactly the recipe for a good time.

If Ada does take a nap at three, then Iain wakes up at three fifteen and my dreams of taking my own nap are shattered. A) Yeah, more one-on-one time with Iain! B) Poor me. If only I could catch up on some sleep.

To make matters more challenging, if Ada takes a nap it tends to last anywhere from one to three hours. The longer it is, the less time we get to go out and have an afternoon play adventure, and the more time we get to spend cooped up in our house. Again, I could see it two ways. A) Such well-rested kids surely won't be cranky and will grow up big and strong.  B) Damn it! Why can't I take a nap? I'm the one who got up early this morning and was woken up last night. I need a nap too. So what if I'm not three years old anymore. Moms need sleep too!

On the bright side, at least Iain can hang out in his exerscauser while I empty the dishwasher, make dinner or take a shower. He's at an age now where he can entertain himself for windows of time that are long enough for me to accomplish minor chores. And he's really good at sitting on our bed and playing with a toy while I fold laundry. And Ada is in love with movies just like her father. She loves to sit attentively watching an episode of Dora the Explorer and that gives me just enough time to knock a chore or two off my list. Not all is lost.

And then we arrive at dinnertime and bedtime. Somewhere between five and seven Rick comes home and we eat. Iain eats first since he will crash and burn if we don't get him in bed at or before seven. Ada might eat with him for convenience unless she is actually going to eat what we are having for dinner. We do the bedtime routine with her around eight and then we hope to be in bed ourselves by ten to do it all again tomorrow.

This all assumes that the kids are healthy, they are sleeping well at night, we haven't been traveling, and no appointments were scheduled that would totally throw off our schedules. Once you add those into the mix, then you really do need to be a professional juggler. Again, you have two choices. A) Accept that you are frequently going to be late and can't do it all. B) Get stressed out at how late you always are and how little you get accomplished.

Moral of the story: Draft a typical schedule but accept the fact that it will always be a draft in constant flux.

Brotherly Love

Iain really loves Ada. He wears the biggest of grins when she plays with him, even if she steals his toys and says, "No! No! Iain!" with her open palmed hand just inches from his face. She can be kind of bossy like that, but he doesn't seem to mind much. He watches in awe as she runs around the room or sits playing a game. And he often just stares at her. Ada doesn't seem to mind until she is pooping or newly awakened from a nap and just wants to be left alone. Then she will try to move behind him or to his other side in hopes that he won't turn his head around to follow her. She is struggling to learn that I can't make him stop looking at her. How happy she'd be if I had superpowers that could control his much would I love those superpowers? "You're getting very sleepy baby Iain..."

When she's not bossing him around or telling him "No", Ada actually likes Iain too. She enjoys taking his toys away from him. She likes feeding him, even if she does jam the spoon into his mouth a bit far. She likes tickling him. And she's already becoming protective of him. Whenever I do something he doesn't really like, she yells at me to make me stop hurting him. If he doesn't want his diaper changed or the goobers in his eyes cleaned out, she's convinced that I am torturing him and I should stop immediately and do something to make him happy. And she is finally at the point where she will give him random kisses without being prompted. Her kissing technique still needs some work since she doesn't purse her lips while making the lip smacking noise but instead just brushes her closed lips against his head. We still count it as a kiss.

There will likely come a day when they aren't as fond of each other as they are now so I'm going to treasure these times and hope the love continues. I'll be on the lookout for superpowers in the meantime.

Moral of the story: Take time to notice love between siblings. It may or may not last.

Friday, February 4, 2011


The day has finally come where I can honestly say that Ada and Iain are consistently sleeping in the same room at night. We attempted the merge about three weeks ago and things were hit or miss with Iain spending the second half of alternating nights back in the living room in his Pack-n-Play. Rick spent a week going in to flip Iain over after he got stuck on his tummy or push his feet back into the crib after they poked out of the crib slats. Occasionally, Iain would get too loud and Rick would move him out to the living room to spare Ada's sleep. Thankfully, she is a great sleeper and has been very tolerate of the whole process.

Last week I finally made time to fetch Ada's old crib bumper out of the basement since Iain can roll over now and is strong enough to move himself away from the bumper to breath if he needs to. With the bumper attached, things were going much better. Maybe he just needed to be a bit more contained and protected from bumping his head into the crib slats during the night. Who knew?

Rick also gets credit for teaching Ada how to sneak into bed at night without disturbing Iain. Since Iain goes to sleep around seven and Ada gets to stay up until eight (or nine or whenever she stalls until we finally insist she retires), Rick has taught her how to sneak in to pick two books to read on the couch. They quietly creep back out of the room, books in hand, and read for a few minutes. Then they sneak back into Ada's bedroom with Iain sleeping soundly. Ada climbs into bed. Rick tucks her in while quietly singing a song and then he slides out for the night. Occasionally Ada opens the door to protest for another book or song or a diaper change, but that is rare since she tends to be exhausted and embraces the comfort of her bed and the stuffed animal cuddles that accompany it.

Moral of the story: It might take a long time to transition the kids to sleep in one bedroom (seven months in our case) but it is worth it. Having the rest of your house back is liberating.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Go with the Flow

I get the saying, "There is no use crying over spilled milk." But after having someone spill something somewhere in the house every single day for the past week, I'm kind of tired of cleaning up messes and doing laundry. We stopped using sippy cups months ago when the health inspector came into Ada's daycare and said two-year olds didn't need them anymore. That was a good decision since Ada was good with an open cup. Unfortunately, accidents happen and open cups spill.

Earlier today, Iain knocked over Ada's cup of water from lunch and it went all over my pants. Yesterday it was grape juice and water with her breakfast at the table. Before that was juice on the dining room table she dumped on her cousin sitting next to her. And before that was a cup in the kitchen next to the sink that landed on the opened mail. Friday night Ada knocked Rick's beer over while he went to get ice cream. And if it isn't caused by her complete lack of attention to what she is doing, it happens because she is just being a three-year-old. She frequently moves her placemat out from underneath her cup while trying to get down from the table and causes her beverage to come with her, albeit unintentionally. At least she doesn't yell timber and giggle right afterwards.

And it isn't always Ada spilling. My mom set her mug of tea at the base of the rocking chair this past weekend and one of the girls knocked it over. Maybe it was physically Ada's fault, but I still give the credit to my mom for putting it on the floor in the first place.  And I'm not much better since I constantly have a water cup with me and frequently overturn it while distracted trying to do too many things at once. Or I over fill it at the refrigerator door and create a puddle on the kitchen floor. I downplay my clumsiness with the fact that it is typically only water that I spill and that doesn't tend to be as destructive, but still.

I think it's time we make some new policies on beverages around here to mitigate our messes and conserve some water and energy cleaning up all the time. It might help to avoid leaving cups of anything unattended, limit all beverages to the kitchen or dining room table, and make my bedside cup of water a sippy cup since I tend to spill that one the most.

Moral of the story: Accidents happen. They happen a lot more often when you have small children. On the bright side, you get really good at cleaning them up so learn to just go with the flow.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What's Worse?

What's worse than being sick?
Being sick when you have to watch your kids while you attempt to recover.

Worse than that?
Changing poopy diapers after you've been throwing up.

Even worse?
Not having groceries to make easy meals and having to feed the kids when you yourself can't keep food down.

Worse still?
Getting one kid down for a nap, then the other, only to have the first one wake up so you have to skip your nap thereby ruining any chance you had of getting recovery rest.

And the worst?
Having your kids and spouse get sick with you to the point where there are mounds of laundry to be done and no clean towels in the house.

I'm still at the "worse still" stage trying to entertain Iain while having Ada and my niece Anna asleep on the couch. Rick left work early to stop for essential groceries to get us through the weekend. Now I just hope we skip the "worst" stage and this illness stops with me.

Moral of the story: Being sick is never good, but is even worse when you have kids. Prevention. Prevention. Prevention.

Matchy Matchy

My mom is a BIG fan of matching outfits for the kids. Rick and I are not fans of the idea and value individuality instead, but we humor her occasionally. Our most recent adventure to the Nature Museum was such an instance where we gave in just to make DD happy... and because Anna insisted it would be cool for Ada to dress just like her. Did I say JUST like her? I mean EXACTLY alike.

Same pink shirt with a sparkly heart on it, same black pants, and same pink and white princess shoes, complete with the same white hoodie. Okay, so they weren’t exactly the same sizes, but you get my point. The white hoodie is another issue I have which I’ll touch on briefly…

I strongly dislike and discourage white clothing for kids. Period. My mom, again, is a HUGE fan of the basics. She buys basic t-shirts and pants for the kids so they have their base wardrobes, just in case. My problem with this is that a)kids don’t need “base wardrobes” and b)kids can’t, and shouldn’t be made to, keep white clean and c)I as their mother and primary washer of the laundry, shouldn’t be made to spend my precious time treating and scrubbing stains out of white anything. In my opinion, white is not a color for babies unless it is for fancy dresses for special occasions. I love my mom, but we disagree on this point, always have, likely always will unless she comes to her senses.

In defense of my mother, she does have a small point of wisdom when it comes to this whole matchy matchy thing. Rick and I both admitted openly today, with minor discomfort, that it was a lot easier to pick out our kids amongst all of the kids playing on the tree house exhibit at the museum because we only had to look for one outfit. As an added bonus, the WHITE hoodies really stood out since our kids were the ONLY ones wearing white. Coincidence? I think not.

To make things interesting and a bit more challenging for us, Ada and Anna took their white hoodies off at one point. It was harder to find the pink shirts in the crowd, but again, still easier to look for two of the same shirts rather than two different ones.

And to make things fun, just before we started gathering our things to leave, Anna came over and put her white hoodie back on and then went to find Ada. Rick came over to help me pack up and said, “Where’s Anna?” We quickly found Ada in her pink shirt but then struggled for a minute to find Anna. Then I saw a flash of white coming down the slide and all of my worries subsided. Rick couldn’t find her because he was programmed to look for the pink shirt and didn’t know she had put the white one back on. Maybe this is why the bad guys in movies always change clothes to disguise themselves? Hmmm…

Moral of the story: If you are going to a place where your kids could be in a crowd and you’ll need to find them quickly, dress them in matching colors to make things easier, but know that you are being dorky. If you are dressing them in layers and already having them match, dork-out all the way and have the layers all match so you don’t have to re-train yourself to look for another color in case they add or remove a shirt.

Canopy Collision

Attention all fathers. For those of you who love to hoist your little ones up onto your shoulders for a little stroll down the sidewalk, beware...

While out running errands today with Ada and Cousin Anna and Iain, we got to a point where neither of the girls wanted to walk, and Iain didn't have walking as an option. Our stroller only holds two kids, and it has a weight limit--which we surely exceeded since our kids are big for their ages. At one point, Iain was asleep in the back of the stroller, Anna was sitting in the front and Ada was sitting on Anna's lap. I thought the stroller was going to break an axle. It didn't take long for Anna's legs to go numb so we had to move on to Plan C. (Plan A was for Anna to walk while Ada and Iain rode in the stroller since Anna is older and used to walking. That was quickly foiled once we realized Anna's shoes were too small and her feet hurt.)

Plan C was for Anna and Iain to ride in the stroller and for Ada to ride on Rick's shoulders for a bit. Normally, that would have been a fine plan. Unfortunately for Ada, Rick decided this was the new plan while he was standing under a solid canopy in front of our local grocery store. As I was helping Anna get settled into the stroller, he absentmindedly hoisted Ada up onto his shoulders, thereby sending the top of her head crashing into the canopy with a loud thunk. Realizing what had just happened, and being the rotten parents that we are, Rick and I both started laughing hysterically at the idiocy of it all. We were trying not to laugh (but failing), checking to make sure Ada was alright (which she was minus the initial pain, shock and tears), and continuing on our way toward the museum to avoid drawing too much attention to ourselves on the busy street, all at the same time. Good times.
Then I got to laughing again when I noticed Rick had pink thumb "ears" on his head. Kids. You just never know what will happen next.

Moral of the story: Always look up before hoisting a child onto your shoulders, and watch for low hanging things as you go.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Projectile Pear Puree

There's nothing that says, "I love you, Mom" quite like having your six-month-old son cough in your direction with a mouth full of pear puree. You can literally feel each particle of "love", or slobbery snot cootie, as it showers your hair, face, shirt and hands. I momentarily and mistakenly thought yesterday that I wasn't feeling all that sick for the first time in weeks. I woke up today wishing this new cold would pass quickly. 'Tis the season.

Moral of the story: Babies can't cover their mouth when they cough so either accept that for fact or learn to duck quickly.

The Dentist & The Elevator

I debated how best to get Ada and I to our dentist appointments in the Loop downtown Chicago for my annual checkup and her first cleaning. After weighing the pros and cons of all of our options (bus, El train, taxi, walk, drive) I decided an adventure on the El train would be the most fun for her, least hassle for me and least expensive. She rides the El for free and an adult ticket is just over two dollars. Parking could cost around twenty dollars if you don't do your research -- and I hadn't done my research.

Our appointment was for ten forty-five so I started getting Ada dressed and ready to go an hour prior. The nanny was here to watch Iain but Ada was still in her pajamas and wasn't moving very quickly. I'm not sure when we actually left the house, but I'm guessing it was a quarter after ten since we had to pack a diaper and wipes, bundle up in our winter clothes, and drag the stroller out the vestibule doors and down the stairs. We were already running later than I had hoped, but I was optimistic that we would still be within ten minutes of our original appointment time.

The first challenge we encountered was pushing the stroller four blocks on semi-snow covered sidewalks. I, sometimes audibly, cursed each homeowner who's sidewalk wasn't shoveled from the previous snowfall making our trip way more difficult than it needed to be. Adding to the degree of difficulty of our walk was the lack of air in the stroller tires. They were riding low and in desperate need of being re-inflated.

Once we reached the newly remodeled Wellington Brown Line El stop, our train passed overhead. That meant we'd have to wait ten minutes for the next one. Oh well. So much for being on time. Now we'd surely be cutting into the ten minute grace period I had invented for us, assuming that was all the dental office would tolerate without making us reschedule. Luckily, the remodeled station was equipped with a handicap accessible turnstile door to get the stroller into the station. The elevator was working and took us up to the platform where we waited for our train. Normally, I'd be annoyed and impatient while I waited for the train. With Ada, I was excited to see her get excited about all of the oncoming trains as they passed us or stopped across the tracks to load and unload passengers. She was amazed by it all.

Our train eventually pulled into the station and accommodated us nicely. The traffic was light so we easily got a seat and took up space by the door so that I didn't even take Ada out of the stroller. I should have taken her out to let her look out the windows but I didn't realize that until we were crossing the river downtown and she couldn't see it. Once we got into the Loop, I doubled checked which stop we needed on the overhead map and noticed the little handicap accessible icon indicated that there were only three stations in the Loop with elevators and the one we were going to didn't have one. Of course I figured that out right as the doors closed at our alternate stop with an elevator and we had missed our chance to get off. We were already five minutes late so we didn't really even have an option but to keep going.

Just before our planned stop, I removed Ada from the stroller and collapsed it. It wasn't easy folding up a stroller while on a moving train trying to supervise a three-year old. Ada sat on a chair while I folded it and shimmied closer to the door. When we got close to our stop, I asked her to get down from the seat and come over to me, which she did without falling to my amazement. They announced our stop and I grabbed Ada's hand with a tight grip as if to say, "No screwing around now. We're in The City." We got off the train without incident and I let all of the commuters go ahead of us so that we'd have more room. Some woman was trying to come up the steps we were going down and I tried to make room as best I could but part of me just wanted to say, "Hello lady. Do you see that I'm trying to get down the steps with a child and a twenty pound stroller? Could you maybe wait for us or use the stair right behind you?" But I didn't.

I continued my death grip on Ada's hand while instructing her to hold onto the railing. She was doing well until we got about halfway down the stairs and she fell. I was standing two steps below her just in case and it was a good thing I was. I blocked her further descent with my left leg while trying to pin the stroller against the railing with my right. Somehow I managed to set her upright as she screamed. She was a bit dirty but otherwise unharmed so we regrouped and continued down the stairs. Then we had to shimmy through the exit that is a full height, thin revolving door. I'm not sure how obese folks ride the El because I didn't have more than an inch of space to spare with myself and the stroller inside this tiny turning metal monster. I had to push Ada into the revolving space in front of me as I prayed that we didn't get stuck, or that I didn't get stuck with the stroller while she roamed free on the platform accessing the rest of downtown. Luckily we made it.

By this time, we were about eight minutes late and I was trying to hustle but really not even caring anymore because life with a small child is just hard and people need to give me a break. So there. We were going to be a little late and they were just going to have to deal with it as best they could.

We crossed the walkway to the west side of the street and then lined up to go down the second flight of stairs. Ada was again holding the railing as commuters were coming up while we were going down. This time I just ignored them and they moved to the other side of the stairway. At least this stairway was wider than the previous one. No one offer to help us get down with the stroller and by the time we were five steps from the ground Ada's hand was so cold from touching the metal railing without her gloves on that she started an urgent campaign to be carried. At that point, did it really matter that I was adding a forty pound kid to my load? I was already carrying a twenty pound, cumbersome stroller and dragging the kid behind me. Into my arms she went as we descended the last five steps.

At the base of the stairs, I unfolded the stroller and set Ada back into it. We didn't get five steps before a woman, clearly not familiar with the city, started asking me for directions on how to get to "a building". She didn't know what the address was or where it was or who had given her directions or anything about it really. Just that someone had told her to go one block somewhere to find it. After about a minute of my precious dental appointment time, she finally remember it was 1 North State. I pointed her in the right direction and jogged to our destination. Of course, the entry to our destination was clogged with a woman in a wheelchair in between the inner and outer vestibule doors waiting for the outer doors to close before opening the inner doors so as to avoid the annoying wind tunnel effect created when both doors are open at the same time. I attempted to pull the automatic outer door shut to speed things along but it didn't really help. And then we didn't fit in the elevator with the wheelchair so we opted for the elevator next to it. At least they had multiple elevators servicing the building.

We arrived. Late, but with enough time for them to get us taken care of. With any other child, we might have been in trouble. Since this was Ada's first visit to the dentist, we weren't sure what to expect. I had brought along her toy dentist's mirror from her doctor's kit at home and used that to coerce her to go with the other hygienist to see what a real one looked like. Luckily for us all, Ada was all too excited to see what the hygienist had in store for her and was done with her cleaning and exam well before I was. And thankfully, we both have great teeth so there wasn't much cleaning or examining to be done. We were in and out within forty-five minutes. I was amazed. And I was shocked to learn that we could have driven, parked a block away and had our parking validated for three or four dollars. At least I know that for next time since that would have saved us time, money, and drama.

Back outside, we started our trek back up to the El platform. An elderly man coming down the stairs offered to carry the stroller up for us and I politely declined. It didn't feel right having a seventy-five-year-old man lugging my stroller up a flight of stairs. It was a very kind offer though and gave me hope that chivalry is not dead... it's just aging.

At the top of the stairs, we saw a CTA employee. I was temporarily relieved into thinking he would see me and Ada and the stroller and offer to help us up to the platform, or at least through the turnstile. Nope. He didn't unlock the wheelchair door for us. He just told me to have Ada duck under the turnstile and for me to lift the stroller over it as I shimmied through. Nice. Thanks dude. We finally made it up the second flight of stairs, onto the platform, onto our train and on our way home. I let Ada sit up on the seat this time so she could see better but it was a seat that faced into the train instead of out toward the windows and the city so it didn't do much good. Not that it mattered since she fell asleep four stops later. She curled up next to me for a little cat nap until just before our stop when I moved her back into the stroller. She continued her nap as we rode the elevator back down and walked the rest of the way home. Somehow, she slept through me dragging the stroller up the steps to our building, through the two vestibule doors, and into the hallway, where I left her since the stroller wheels were covered in snow, for the following forty-five minutes. It was great.

Moral of the story: The world isn't completely designed for wheelchairs or strollers yet. Be sure to plan accordingly and allow for extra time to reach your destination.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Room Reorganization on Constant Repeat

Every time I turn around, we are reorganizing the kids' room. After every birthday, holiday, change in seasons, growth spurt, arrival of hand-me-downs, purchase of an organizational aid or piece of furniture, we shift things around. We are in a constant state of passing toys, clothes and items we outgrow on to friends and family. We have several areas in our house filled with bags waiting to be passed on. Each trip to see relatives includes the shuffling of these bags into the car in hopes that we remember to distribute them before we return home.

In an ideal world, we wouldn't have too much while others struggle to have barely enough. I am a strong believer that "less is more". Less stuff to me means less time spent reorganizing, managing, and maintaining and more time doing other things I enjoy. Considering how much I value time these days, less is a lot more for me.

Even though I try to explain this concept to family each year during the holidays, we still get bombarded with gifts and clothes and more gifts and clothes. I'm not sure how much time Rick spent reorganizing the kids' room this week, but I know I put in several hours and he did the majority of the work. After all, he assembled Ada's new table and chairs, removed furniture so the new stuff would fit, cleaned out Ada's drawers so her new clothes could squeeze in, reorganized her books to fit on the shelves while making room for the new ones, hung her show organizer, and sorted through her toys so all the parts were where they belonged. I know it took a lot of valuable time he could have spent studying for his Architecture exams since it took me two hours just to sort through Iain's drawer and unpack all of the stuff from their week at Grandma's house. I'd say it was time well spent, but I know we will have to do it again in a couple of months.

I'm very grateful for everything we've been given. I'm also very overwhelmed by the amount of work and time it takes to manage all of the kids' stuff. I'm happy to pass it on to others who can benefit from it too. And I'm trying to balance the sentimentality of giving away things that were given to the kids by family or friends. I always worry the giver will come to visit and notice that their gift is gone. But I'm a practical person and we only have so much space. My dad keeps asking when I plan to take Ada's scooter and Iain's toy four-wheeler home but I don't have room for them a) in the car and b) in our house.  Big toys like that are more likely to get used in a driveway in the suburbs instead of on the congested sidewalks of the city. And once we put them down in storage, we are likely to forget they are down there. Therein lies the problem. I'm hoping I can rent space in Dad's garage for a few more years and pay it off washing the dishes. We'll see how that goes.

Then there is all of the guilt I drag around since I have been so lucky. I wish others were as fortunate and I worry that my children won't realize how privileged they are to have so many people in their lives willing to provide so much for them. I fear them becoming spoiled brats who think they are entitled to everything the world has to offer. At least I'm worried about it. That means I'm more aware of their potential to become spoiled and that awareness might help me prevent it from happening.

Thankfully, I have a year until we get hit by the birthday, Christmas, hand-me-down wammie again. The rest of the year it is more of a trickle that seems manageable.

Moral of the story: It's nice to be surrounded by generous, loving people. Set aside time to manage all of their generosity and be sure to pass it on as you go.

What's Important?

I learned a valuable lesson this past week. It wasn't an easy lesson to learn as it came during an eulogy made by the best friend, Mr. Bill Cox, of my best friend's dad, Mr. Bill Cornelius, who died on New Year's Eve from a massive heart attack at the young age of sixty-three. I actually learned a few things...

First of all, Bill pointed out that a best friend is someone who says two things when you call them in the middle of the night: When do you need me? and How can I help? Unfortunately I got to say those two things at seven in the morning on New Year's Day.

Another message I took away from his speech was that it doesn't matter if you like what you are doing. It matters that you have fun doing it together. You might not like doing laundry, mowing the grass, or golfing, but if you do the things you aren't very fond of with people you enjoy, everything can be fun. This is something I hope to keep in mind as Rick and I struggle to learn how to rebalance our lives now that we have two kids.

I also learned that you really do need to talk to your spouse or loved ones about what you want done with your remains. It isn't the most exciting conversation, but an important one all the same.

This week reinforced a rule we have in our house that we aren't allowed to leave without saying goodbye, and we don't go to bed without a kiss goodnight. I'm big on leaving things on a high note, just in case.

Listening to my friend Cadence and her sister Christie speak about what a great father Bill was, made me realize how important it is to have special things you do with your kids to make them know they are loved. Just spending quality, undistracted time with them will create special moments that they will remember you by. Bill frequently poked Cadence on Facebook and texted her while she awaited flights at the airport. Christie had fond memories mowing lawns together, something she loved to do with her dad. It doesn't take much.

One final lesson is the importance of focusing on your children's successes while forgetting their failures. I'm sure Bill told Cadence how proud he was of her and the successful photographer that she has become, but it was proven by many of his friends from his photography club coming up to her at the visitation saying, "So you're the wedding photographer in Minneapolis. He showed us all of your work."

Moral of the story: As a parent, you are important in so many ways. Try to be the best parent you can be because that's what matters most.