Crazy Mommy Lady

A blog from a mom living on the edge of joy and insanity all at the same time.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Yes, that will be fine.

Guess What? We're going to Florida. We're buying four round trip tickets and hauling our little brood to the East Coast. Yes, we are going to Walt Disney World.

But, we also had the BRILLIANT idea of flying to North Carolina first to take the kids to visit their new cousin and her parents, huz's brother and sister-in-law. Then we thought we would rent a car and drive 5 hours to Jacksonville to spend four days, including New Year's Eve and Day with Grandma MIL. How exciting to have us all come and visit right at Christmas Time, when she is on Christmas break and everything (She will not miss one solitary day of work for any West-Coast garndchild related reason).

the MIL is always upset about the huz and his brother not getting along, so how wonderful it is that we are visiting them.

Huz emailed her the details of our trip - flights, cars, dates, EXCITEMENT!!! Moira has even sent handmade cards - with letters on them in her own writing. And I have been sending pictures and notes, and everything to cheer this woman up.

Her email reply to all of this hoopla?

"Yes, that will be fine."

Seriously, that was it (the entire email message). It will be fine.

You know what would actually be fine? If we just went to Walt Disney World and let her drag herself to visit us. Or, how about if she purchased one plane ticket for her one self to fly more than once every three years. (She doesn't work for 12 weeks in the summer, two weeks in the winter, and one week in the Spring). Or, if she doesn't want to visit us, and likes having little pen pals and a weekly phone conversation with someone in California who happens to be her son and her grandchildren - that would be fine, too.

Here is the letter I would like to send:

Dear MIL,

We have heard your complaints about never seeing your grandchildren, and your sons spending more time together. We are coming - to see you - in Florida. And, we are making a special trip to North Carolina to see the new baby. So, please, be a little bit happy. Of course, you are always welcome to come and see us in California, even if you don't need a West Coast vacation - you could just come see the kids!

By the way, when you do see the little ones, you might want to focus on them, and not so much on the sightseeing that just doesn't work for small children. They don't really like to see the Producers, and the Queen Mary is just not that special for a 6-month old. You might be a little more energetic when they want to do things like go to the park. And, when you bring a camera with you, you might want to take pictures of the KIDS. Then you might have some pictures you actually like.

Another helpful idea for visiting new parents with new babies: be helpful instead of helpless. We're tired, and it is hard work to go on any outings, let alone antique shopping with a stroller and a 4-year old. Instead of being afraid of driving on these crazy California roads, maybe you could take a chance and come and visit. We really do drive on the same side of the road as in Florida!


If you complain that we never visit, then we will probably have to visit you once in a while, even if it is against our better judgement and our budget. And if you don't want to visit us, then you'll have to stop whining and complaining to everyone about how you never get to see your grandchildren. You can't have it both ways.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Having it Easy

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." - Teddy Roosevelt

We've been hearing a lot of talk lately about how easy we have it with such wonderful, easy babies and well-behaved, bright children.

I absolutely consider the deepest compliment when anyone says or even implies that my children are wonderful. And, I don't ever take it for granted one little bit that my kids are happy, and most of all healthy. I couldn't ask for any greater blessing.

But I wouldn't call it easy.

My first pregnancy and birth were downright SCARY at times. Besides the unexplained bleeding at 6 weeks. (CLICK HERE and read this post again), I was 30 seconds away from an emergency trip to the operating room immediately after her delivery, and earned myself several extra stitches and an extra night in the hospital when the placenta didn't want to follow the baby, but wanted to tear and cause trouble instead.

My daughter's arrival ushered in a complete revolution in my career objectives - she was a happy surprise. I started my current business (see before I was even done with my maternity leave. This huge change is what has allowed me to work only 20 hours per week, but still maintain the income I had while working 40+ (not to mention that being the boss means keeping a playpen and hopscotch in the office!) While this has proven to be the best change that I could have ever made, and I am so thankful for the support Huz and my family gave me to help me make it happen, unexpected, big changes are still hard work, especially simultaneous with learning how to be a mother.

And she did cry. A lot. All night sometimes. All day sometimes. It took a lot of work and trying many different ideas before we found her rhythm, and could understand what she needed from us. I called my mother more than once during the day begging for a 30 minute reprieve, just to sleep. But, then we figured her out, she relaxed, and I relaxed, and she started sleeping through the night, and everything got much better - wonderful, in fact. (That doesn't mean that I didn't completely enjoy her and her delicious little smiles through it all).

My second pregnancy was much easier in many ways, but not simple. When I was 8 months pregnant, we moved out of a house that we had lived in for 5 years, and I made my brother's wedding cake in the same week as Christmas, all while chasing after my daughter while very, hugely pregnant - nothing to chuckle at. Easy? Not really.

My son's delivery was much easier and smoother that Big Sis's had been (I was in labor for 48 hours, but it was very mild), until the first night in the hospital. I told the nurse that I wasn't feeling well, and when she helped me into the bathroom, I passed out - an bled a lot. One of the 10 delivery room nurses who came to help commented that she had never seen a blood clot so large ever in her 15 years delivering babies.

For the first two weeks of My son's life, Huz and Big Sis both had colds. Since RSV (a cold virus) is a complication in newborns that sends them to the hospital and can even be fatal, neither one of them could be around Baby Bro. Huz was able to take care of Big Sis, but for Baby Bro it was me, and only me 24 hours a day - no breaks. I couldn't help but feel angry when everyone else in my house was getting plenty of sleep, while I was up all night and day, even though I understood that there was no fault. And, I was incredibly heartbroken by the change in my relationship with Big Sis - she went with Daddy, and I took care of the baby. It was a hard transition.

To digress for just a moment - bear with me, it is relevant - I remember watching the Winter Olympics with my dad when I was about 12. I was admiring the figure skaters and the great ease with which they flew and twisted through the air. I commented on how "easy" it was for them. My dad decided to sieze an opportunity. He explained how the very fact that I thought it was easy, meant that they were very, very good at it. Those girls were skating from 5 AM to 5 PM 7 days per week, and what they were doing was so hard that no one else in the world could even do it, let alone do it so well as to create the illusion that it was easy.

The better you are at something, the easier it looks to someone who doesn't observe the work you put into it. There are many, many people who work very hard, and it looks like they work hard. But, if something that many people find hard looks easy, it's probably because of hard work and skill.

Baby Bro is a wonderful baby, as was Big Sis. Big Sis is smart, and lovely, and (usually) well behaved. And while that does have a lot to do with their own temperaments (lucky), it also has a lot to do with a lot of hard work.

We have had to work hard to understand our children and find structures that work for them. We have had to put ourselves aside and work together as a team, even when we disagree, to offer consistent values, expectations, and boundaries. We have had to figure out, by trial and error, how much sleep everyone needs and when they need it, what and when everyone needs to eat, and every other trick we now have up our sleeves for setting them up for success.

For example, it was no miracle that Big Sis was potty trained in one week when she was barely 2 - it was months of studying and preparing on my part, deciding what would work for us, a lost 4-day weekend spent doing nothing else, and the supportive phone calls on a moment's notice to family members who were willing to celebrate with us, no matter where they were, a little pee pee in a pot.

We also work hard to accomodate all of the decisions we have to make in our lives. We don't own a house with a yard for our spritely 4-year old to romp around in. So, we have to manage A LOT of outings - big outings - every day, and outdoor class tuitions. Huz commutes to work, so that I am closer to my work and my support system, but that means two hours per day (at least) less time when Huz can help (and he is a fantastic helper). We spend way too much money on our 10-15 hours per week of child care, since we double up on pre-school, and our best babysitter ever, who comes to our house to take care of Baby Bro and picks Big Sis up after school. It's not easy.

We confidently accept misunderstanding and criticism for our focus on them rather than, well, anyone. It was what we needed to do to get us where we are now. They didn't come with instruction manuals, after all - we needed to study!

And most importantly, we are happy to do it all, joyful in fact to have work worth doing - which is why someone might think it must be easy.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

What I remember of Rough Days

Five years ago in October, Moira became a twinkle in my eye. She was a surprise; We had only been married two months. It was a big idea to get used to, but I had known that I wanted to be a mother for a long time (I am the oldest of 6 children, after all).

Only a couple of weeks after getting used to the idea, we thought that she was gone. I had even gone to the doctor in a panic, and she had told me that the baby was, in fact, gone. As I cried in her office, my doctor tried to comfort me with statistics - 1 in 7 pregnancies end in this early phase, and it doesn't mean that the next pregnancy wouldn't be just fine. None of it soothed me at all. I sobbed, and felt so deeply how much I had wanted to become a mother this time. She took me next door to have an ultrasound and make sure that I was all right, so that she could give me advice for that next time.

As I lay on the ultrasound table with tears streaming down my face, I thought of how it was suuposed to be - I was supposed to be in this room to see the first pictures, full of fuzzy static, of the baby who would soon arrive. I imagined that this was one of the most unpleasant jobs the technician had to perform, so different from the optimistic new parents that would be visiting her the rest of the day.

As she scanned my belly, she took on a suddenly stunned expression. "There's a heartbeat," she said. THERE SHE WAS, like a tinly little flashing Christmas light. Nearly a speck, flickering on and off. The tech labeled the tiny black area around the pulse "baby," and said "The baby is still there."

The doctor was summoned in, and rejoiced with me in a kind of confused stupor. She suddenly had to take on a new attitude, and had new things to share with me - prenatal vitamins to prescribe, and a due date to calculate (she also assigned me 2 weeks bed rest, just in case). I had to go to work in a wheelchair, to protect that precarious little life, but I celebrated the reason - she was there.

All of the bad symptoms went away, and were never explained. But, the rest of that pregnancy went so smoothly, that I would have very easily taken for granted the miracle that Moira really was had it not been for that rough start. Because of those two tearful weeks, I marvelled at everything that was perfect about the experience. I appreciated every day that she was with me, every time I heard the swoosh-swoosh of her little heartbeat, and every kick and stretch that I felt. She never made me sick in the morning, and she sat in a comfortable position with her little head pointing down and her legs pointing outward for the entire last two months. I remember looking up a an especially blue sky, with especially dreamy looking clouds, and saying out loud "I can't wait for you to see this." She even arrived quickly after my water broke, 10 days early.

Now, when Moira is the independent, strong-willed little woman that she tends to be, and she drives me a little crazy with her clever stunts, I remember that feeling that day. I remember how deeply I wanted her, and how much joy I felt when I learned that she would still arrive. I remember what a miraculous gift she was and is.

When Dillon was on his way, we didn't have any rough starts. He made me a little more nauseous, but I figured that was his way of reminding me that he was there. He was also kind to his mother, and I didn't appreciate it one bit less. He, too, arrived quickly, although he was a little late. We had a few close calls after they were born, but those, too, were small blips compared to the many things that went smoothly.

That is why I feel so much joy and excitement for everyone who summons in a healthy little life. It is such an incredible thing that should never be taken for granted. So many people have so many sad stories - the numbers are one out of seven that never arrive at all - that every time it works out to perfection it is truly a miracle.

"We enjoy warmth because we have been cold.
We appreciate light because we have been in darkness.
By the same token, we can experience joy because we have known sorrow."
-- David L. Weatherford (of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Daughter Loves Friends

My sweet girl loves friends - all shapes, ages, genders, sizes, and colors. There are many times that my daughter gives me a glimpse into how we all should live our lives, but none so powerful as when she makes "friends."

Granted, some might say that she isn't selective enough, but I say that we're all just way, way too picky. She can make friends with an 80 year old woman in line at the grocery store, or a tiny baby in a clothing store, or her dancing buddies at ballet class, or a ladybug, or the grocery bagger who's really way too cool to pay any attention but just can't help it, or a stray dog, or her babysitter, or the eight year olds on the playground who pretend to ignore her, etc, etc...

But yesterday my mother told me a story about her natural affinity for friendship that made me pause, and made me proud. My mother is a school nurse in a school district that serves literally hundreds of special needs children from pre-school through adolescence. She is also our primary caregiver, and often takes my daughter to her school in the afternoons, since my daughter thinks that it is amazing that Grandma has a park at her work (all I have is a copy machine).

Yesterday my mother took my sweetie to a classroom with some of her lowest functioning kids (they are operating developmentally at the level of one year olds or so even though their bodies look like those of much older school-age children). They were playing with musical instruments: maracas, tambourines, drums and the like. My daughter shook the maracas to the delight of one of the children. Every time she got "crazy" and shook the maraca the other little girl squealed with delight. My daughter loves nothing more in life than to make people laugh (a career as a professional clown perhaps?), so she kept taking it up another notch. Pretty soon she was a one-kid show - dancing and singing all while shaking that maraca. She didn't think these kids were strange, or too big, or scary - she was having so much fun with her friends.

Let's all try to make friends.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Learning to Read - The Ordinary Way

My mom and dad were both incredibly busy kids (kids is the right word), in school, working, and with a toddler. In spite of all of that, they managed to find creative ways to spend lots of quality time with me in the most ordinary of ways.

I was born when my mother was 19 years old. She was in her first year of college and my father had been drafted during the Vietnam War. By the time I was old enough to start learning about letters, my dad was out of the army and started school himself on the GI Bill.

Money was tight. My mother used to enjoy nights out by visiting my dad when he was working at Straw Hat Pizza (my dad still boasts that he once served Clint eastwood a beer while working there), where they showed movies for free on one of those old projection televisions. They really couldn't afford to see the theater variety. And I learned all about letters from the paper placemats on the tables.

No, really - I could read before I went to pre-school and I never saw a flash card - just those paper menus at Straw Hat Pizza. Oh - and the greeting cards at the Hallmark Store in the mall. My mother used to take me in the midst of the aisles and aisles of cards, and I would pick one out with a favorite character, or a nice picture of an animal, and she would tell me what it said. Snoopy was my favorite in the day, and so revealing one of his one liners in a greeting card was quite a reward. It was like a llibrary full of knock-knock jokes. Later, when I was a pretty good reader, my uncle used to take me on the same outing to try to pick up girls (more on him in another post).

My parents both finished college, and went on to have five more children (that's right - we're six)! Now that I have my own little pre-reader, I try to be inspired by my own parents way of finding way to learn in ordinary ways. We all want our children to be smart and excel academically. It is my sincere belief, however, that love of learning and self-esteem are the keys to every other kind of learning. Take the pressure off and keep it fun and REAL. The rest will follow.

Gotta go check out some Happy Meal boxes!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Time for a Big girl Bed

My daughter recently turned 3, an occasion that gave her the official title of "big girl" and made it time for a big girl bed. She had always slept well in her crib, and we were very nervous about making this transition smoothly.

The first tool we used was propaganda. We pitched the wonders of life as a big girl for weeks (maybe even months) before the big day. The big girl bed would be the greatest birthday gift any big girl could ever want. We even looked at catalogs and stopped to ooh and aah at sheets and comforters that she might be able to pick.

The next trick of the trade we used was "buy-in." When the time finally came, there was much fanfare as we went to the store to shop for the bed. She picked the bed (after a short amount of time) and the bedding (after a long, long time). I let her hold each of the pillows, touch each comforter, and decide on her own what she would like her room to look like. Her final decision was based on a matching purple and blue rickrack trimmed pillow, and that was fine.

Third, we established expectations from the beginning. We made a huge, momentous occasion out of the completed bed, and had grandparents, aunts, uncles, and babysitters reinforcing the excitement. We said over and over, as did our accomplices, how she would have to be a big girl and stay in her bed all night, as long as it was dark. We also emphasized how much fun it would be to "surprise" Mommy in the morning, as long as the sun was up. (Perhaps a bit of a mistake, as my morning blood pressure has risen about 50 points.) It also helped that we didn't disassemble the crib right away (leverage).

Lastly, we continually praise her success. I make a point of telling her every morning how proud I am of her in her big girl bed. We also still marvel together at its vastness and how big she is to have such a gigantic bed. She still takes great pride in showing any new visitors her new bed. That doesn't mean that we don't have an occasional jail-break. I have checked on her at 10:30 at night, only to find her having a late night tea party under her covers. But, we move on and focus on the positive.

Friday, June 09, 2006

My Mother (not in-law)

So, this time I would like to keep it positive. Let's talk about my mom, Grandma S.

My mother and I have usually (not always) enjoyed a very close relationship (things got a little cloudy there between years 15 and 19). She is a free-thinking, free-spirited person, full of adventure and love. I was fortunate to have her as a mother, and my daughter is even more fortunate to have her as a grandmother.

When my daugher was born, our relationship blossomed into something even more fantastic than it already was. I am like many women who find new appreciation for their mothers when they have children of their own. She was as excited as a grandmother to be could be. After all, I was 30, and it was about time. I am the oldest of 6 children, and there hadn't been a baby around since my youngest brother was born (he was 12 when my girl was born). More on him in another post. She went shopping with me, calmed my irrational-hormone driven fears, and generally made me feel wonderful.

When my daughter was born, my mother was in the delivery room with her calming, easy style. She also happens to be a registered nurse and served as my technical advisor, qualified both by education and experience (6 kids, remember).

When we came home, my mother made a habit of stopping by ever so briefly to bring us home cooked meals, relieve me for a much needed hour or two of sleep, or even just to do the dishes. When I went back to work (albeit part-time), my mother became our primary caregiver. I don't really know what we would have done withour her.

Since my daughter has grown older, they have become such great friends. The larger part of Grandma S's living room has become a dedicated play space, full of fun things to explore, especially with arts and crafts. She gets to do all the messy studd I would dread at home when she's there! I think she would love it even more if her living room were teeming with dozens of grandkids.

If I am the crazy mommy lady, she is the even crazier grandma lady. Yesterday, my daughter was especially wired, running around like a wind-up toy gone haywire. I finally asked her in an exasperated tone, "Who made you so crazy?" She replied, "Grandma S did." It's true, she makes us all crazy, but remember that crazy is a compliment in my world. My daughter manages to have so much fun at her house that my husband can hardly pry her fingers from the door when it is time to take her home. Sometimes she thinks that I might worry about her keeping things too wild, but what a great gift for my daughter to have someone in her life who bends the rules just exactly the right amount.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Getting Ready for My Mother in Law

So, did I mention my mother in law is coming to visit two weeks from today? Oh, and did I mention that we live in a rented two bedroom townhouse with no guest room? Funny story, my mother in law...

Two years before he met me, my husband moved from Florida to California to go to his dream graduate school and then get his dream job (which happened after he met me). The job turned out to be less than perfect (more on that in another post), but California stuck, and so did we. We got married, had a great kid, and are generally very happy with each other. But my mother in law is not.

It turns out that she had been holding out hope that my hubby would move back to Florida after he got the masters degree thing out of his system. Enter me. Since he didn't move back, and he DID marry me, I am solely resposible for my husband being so foolish as to settle down HERE! In fact, my husband works in the entertainment industry, and there is only one place you can really work. But, I digress...

I have been a dilligent daughter in law, mailing pictures every month (at least) and even learning how to be a webmaster. I created an entire website with her in mind so that I could post videos (which I also spent time learning how to edit on our computer). I send her greeting cards printed from Shutterfly with pictures of her cutie, photo gifts for holidays, and I make sure she get her favorite fresh flowers on Mothers' Day. I have compassion for her struggle, and I would miss my son, too. But it turns out there is a reason for his geographical choices.

Imagine when my daughter was born how delighted she was, becuase now she could feel soooooo sorry for herself that her only grandchild in the whole world lived on the other side of the country. You thought I was going to say "Because she was finally going to have the grand-daughter she always dreamed of..." She had two sons and no daughters, so that's what I thought, too. I felt her pain, and I sympathized with her even more than my husband did at first...

She came to visit for the first time since the wedding when my daughter was 8 weeks old. I was a new, first time mom, working hard at breast-feeding, with a new 8 week old that I was attempting to protect from the entire world (we didn't even take her outside for 6 weeks). And now - hooray - my mother in law was coming, and we needed the help. I imagined she would be so excited, and eager to spend time with her new grand-daughter, even watch her so my husband and I could sneak away for a couple of hours...

Turns out she actually was more interested in her California vacation. We dragged that poor little baby all over the three county area sight-seeing. not only did she not "help" in any way, I cooked and cleaned (for the first time since giving birth) for HER, all while trying to manage new parenthood, etc, etc. I even had the pleasure of whipping out my breasts for the first time in public on one of her outings (later it became old hat, but I was still learning how to do it at all, let alone in public!) She was completely put out when I let the little darling sleep or nurse on a schedule instead of going out for a marathon day trip (which I was WAY too tired for anyway), claiming that she fed her babies when she ate, and let them sleep at night and if they were tired they could sleep wherever they were (my daughter started sleeping through the night at 12 weeks thanks to this effort, by the way). She also loved to complain about what a horrible child my husband was, constantly (hmmm, maybe he was tired and hungry). I can't believe I didn't go insane or that my mouth didn't explode with all sorts of post-partum fire and brimstone. My philosophy is my philosophy - and although she was well rested, I was exasperated. But we still stepped up and took care of her and our new baby.

The next time she came to visit was after her first Christmas (she was about 8 months old). We tried to again be ever-accomodating with field trips galore, to each of which she found a reason to be miserable. My husband spoke to her about our disappointment with the first trip, and she made a concerted effort to be helpful, sort of. She wanted to babysit for one night, since that was an example my husband cited of how she could help us out when she visits. She explained that she "bent over backwards" for her mother, and expected us to do the same for her. My husband, bless his heart, actually TOLD HER that the only person in this world he would ever bend over backwards for was his daughter. I love him.

Of course, or inability to accomodate her or entertain her to the degree she felt that she deserved resulted in a weekly stream of complaints to my huband about me and how we do not make her feel welcome enough for her to visit. So, she hasn't been here to see us since (2 1/2 years). But she does so enjoy telling all of my husband's family and anyone who will listen how horrible it is that her only grandchild in the whole world, blah, blah, blah. We have, however, flown to Florida (and paid for three airline tickets each time) four times since then, and I've posted videos glorifying each one of these trips. By the way, I have cooked for her, done the grocery shopping, and run errands while we were at her house. It does seem that one person travelling across the country (who doesn't work in the summer at all) rather than three people (including a toddler) making the 5 hour flight, would a little easier. But if she visited more often, she wouldn't get to complain, and we might.

She is coming to visit us next week for the first time in nearly three years (deep breath). So I have to try to break her determination to be unhappy. Remember that little townhouse we live in also, dear reader. I have redecorated the bathroom, purchased a top of the line air mattress, am willing to forgoe one-on-one time with my husband for the week she is here, purchased new spa towels, hired a housekeeper to fill in for my deficiencies, replaced all of our rugs, and planned lots of 3-year old friendly Southern California sightseeing activities. I even managed to land my daughter's first dance recital square in the middle of her holiday.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ready, Set, Go!

So I'm the Crazy Mommy Lady - a name given to me by my crazy husband and crazy 3-year old daughter. In our household crazy is a compliment, as it was in the household I grew up in.

We live in Southern California and are constantly frustrated with the fact that no one (including us) can afford to buy a home for the first time around here. We have watched friend after friend emigrate and leave us behind. We would love to have a big back yard where all of our dozens of children and large dogs could play and romp free. But, alas we have one child and a hampster and live in a rented townhome. We've set a goal - get into a house before said child turns 5 and has to go to kindergarten.

Our daughter was born on May 10th, 2003 and we are now considering starting all over again with #2. Actually, to be more precise, we have thrown caution to the wind and are no longer insisting upon NOT having another baby. We really prefer not to use the phrase "trying to have a baby" as it has brought to mind way too many visuals from friends of ours. So, no house, no dog, but we are going to go for it. Our first child will be something approaching four years old by the time this happens, and I will be nearly 35.

So, the race is on between the new addition and home ownership in Southern California
On your mark
Get set