Saturday, July 31, 2010

Growing Your Family: A Survival Guide

My dear friend and fellow blogger Heather, has just given birth to her second child - a gorgeous girl she has nicknamed Sweet Pea, little sister to darling Peach.

This cheeky guideline is my gift to her, and to every mother whose world has been turned upside down by the arrival of a second child.

Part One: SLEEP
 (or decided lack thereof)

Old Wisdom: "Sleep when the baby sleeps."

Belly Version: What? Are you effin' KIDDING me? And who, pray tell, will watch over my Firstborn, my Very Heart, who is presently shoving books into the dishwasher in a fit of rage because for the zillionth time this morning, instead of playing trucks, I have settled into the couch with the Interloper and cannot move for the next 45 minutes while he suckles at a boob that is bigger than his head?

To survive:

First of all, let go of all your pre-children notions about limiting TV and sepia-washed fantasies about playing age-appropriate games on a white, stain-free carpet, devoid of all but a small wicker basket filled with brightly-coloured books and finger puppets.

That's right...let it all go.

Release yourself from the desire to be perfect and remember that this is about survival and nothing else.

Make a comfy nest of pillows and blankets on the floor in front of the TV. Turn on Treehouse/cartoons/soap opera/Sex in the City. Whichever. Anything will do as long as it holds your Firstborn's attention for more than 10 minutes.

 If you have a golf umbrella, open it up and plonk it behind your nest, supersititon be damned. If your living room is big enough to house a tent, pitch it. Gather snacks. Put the potty next to the three baskets of laundry you've not yet managed to fold, let alone put away.

 Better yet, bring out your secret stash of Pull-Ups and ruin weeks of potty-training. Whatever. Firstborn won't go to university in diapers so cut yourself some slack and ignore the clucks of disapproval from neighbours, family members and strangers, all of whom had their children potty-trained and reading before they even walked. (Insert eye-roll here)

Plop irritable, formerly angelic-but-morphing-into-the-Devil-right-before-your-bleary-sleep-deprived-eyes Firstborn in front of TV. Watch his/her eyes widen, jaw fall open and body finally, finally still. The electronic babysitter is on the job.

Relax. Breathe.

 Balance the Interloper on a pillow next to your ginormous, swollen boob and let yourself drift off to the high-pitched urging of a swollen-headed Dora. Dream of Boots the Monkey. Be still. Ressssttttt....

Alternate ways to catch some ZZZ's:

Load both children into the car. Drive to the nearest coffee place and buy a large coffee. Do not worry about the caffeine intake, reasoning that it's better to have the contents of a Tim Horton's double-double buzzing through the Interloper's tiny body for the 10 minutes it's in there between a nursing session and a blowout diaper, than to fall asleep behind the wheel and kill everybody.

 It's all about perspective.

Drive aimlessly until the children fall asleep (which, blessedly, mine did within minutes of being strapped into their car seats) and then steer yourself home. Park. Turn off ignition, but leave the music playing, battery power be damned. Crack the windows, ease back in your seat and close your eyes.

(During winter, roll the windows all the way down - your little darlings are snug as bugs in their snugglie car covers/sleeping-bag-thingys/snowsuits. Bellymonster Family Motto:  Have toque? Will travel.)

Do NOT worry about drool. Do NOT entertain a sick and twisted daymare about a masked bandit stealing the children from behind you while you snooze. Stuff like that only happens on TV. Or to really rich people. Or at gas stations. Or all of the above, but it will NOT happen to you so rest easy and sweet dreams!

2. Seize the Moments:

Foist the manic, clingy, whiny child that is your Firstborn onto your partner's/father's/neighbour's/Jevhovah's Witness's lap.

Unlatch the Interloper from your breast while tugging on your stretched-out yoga pants and grimacing. Gag, for effect. Announce that you NEED a shower RIGHT NOW and quit the room.

 Lock the bathroom door, turn on the water and climb in. Curl up in the bottom of the tub. Never in your life will chilly enamel feel more like fluffy cloud than it does at this moment.  Enjoy the warmth and the steam and the feel of something other than baby-spit up, formula or breast milk coursing down your body. Revel in it, but be sure to turn your head away from the spray:

You want a nap, not to drown with your ass sticking up in the air.

3. Relinquish Control

This is harder than it seems. At first.

But after you've stopped expending precious energy on making it look like you've got it together, you'll feel tons better and the lack of sleep won't seem as bad. Don't get me wrong, you're still gonna feel like you did during the drop-into-a-coma-exhaustion-first trimester of your pregnancy only now your hair is falling out and your nether region is unrecognizable, but you won't MIND as much if you do the following:

a) Stop putting laundry away. Seriously.

Get four baskets, five if you've been ambitious and done the sheets and towels instead of hauling the holiday stuff out of the basement and spritzing your bed with Febreze. Put 'em in the living room, next to the umbrella and the potty. Don't fold it, just rummage as needed.

 (Incidentally, freshly-washed piles of teeny-tiny diaper t's make a pretty good pillow. Actually, smelly towels and soiled footy pj's work well too, in a pinch.)

b) Hubby needs things pressed? Give directions to the iron and ironing board. Heck, you can set the ironing board up next to the umbrella too, and he can starch his way through the hockey game. If you duct tape an old coffee tin to the metal rack where the iron sits, you've got a ready-made beer holder.

c) Two words: Kraft Dinner.

Toss in some cut up hot dogs, maybe some salsa for colour, some carrot sticks and a juice box and you're done. Two boxes of every child's comfort food and your Firstborn AND your husband can have leftovers for lunch the next day. Around here, we are big fans of  "Snacky Supper" which is essentially this: crackers, cheese, keilbasa, grapes and applesauce.

Naturally, this is eaten in front of the TV, under the umbrella. And if you use paper plates emblazoned with the Backyardigans? You are just about THE coolest Mummy ever.

d) Rethink your sleeping arrangements: Do you have a spare room? Couch? Beaten-up old armchair in the garage? Good. Move your husband there and bring the Interloper to bed with you. I realize that tongues are clucking even as I type this and yes, I am aware that both the American and Canadian Paediatric Societies frown upon co-sleeping, but this is my blog, so there. And for spluttering husbands/partners/disapproving mothers-in-law I must gently remind them that this is about Mama survival, NOT domestic bliss.

Shove a body pillow into the space where your husband used to be, but underneath the fitted sheet. Doing so will alleviate any concerns that the Interloper will roll off the bed or roll under a pillow and suffocate. Nursing whilst lying down takes some practice and you may find yourself contorted into all sorts of whacky positions but at least you'll be lying down in a dark room.

Ah, bliss.

I'm not sure that I ever really slept while nursing my Interloper 6,328 times a night, but at least I rested my eyes and my weary body. And while I wouldn't wish a 12-hour night shift on anyone, I definitely leaned toward inappropriate glee when my husband announced that I'd be bedding down without him.

 I enjoyed the special kind of freedom that comes with stretching out diagonally across the bed and not feeling my husband's feet with mine.

Alternately, you can haul the mattress from the guest room into your Firstborn's bedroom and have a cuddly camp out there, Interloper on one side of you, Firstborn on the other. In doing this you'll be resting your aching body AND alleviating a teensy portion of the guilt weighing down your soul re: the state of your Firstborn's sense of self/place/sanity/security.

You may be lucky enough to snatch five minutes of peaceful slumber in the Nursery during Sunday Mass. If you can manage to sneak away for a haircut and have an understanding and sympathetic stylist, you can don a pair of sunglasses and saw logs right there in the chair - the hairdryer should drown out the worst of your snoring.

Tip well.

In combination with all of the above, or as a stand-alone, make this your mantra, prayer and wish:

This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.

Because it will and it does and someday soon you will wonder how the heck you survived it, but you will.

You are.

Coming Soon:

Part II: Mama Guilt (aka: The Soundtrack of Motherhood)

Growing Your Family: Part II (Mama Guilt)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is THIS what little boys are made of?

A small recap and a disturbing add-on:

So, last week, we went to my friend J's house to play. While I was inside with J. the boys stayed outside with J's son L. who's 8 and his friend, "T", also 8.

After awhile, Matthew came in looking distressed and worried and wanting to whisper a secret in my ear. I bent down and heard this:

"L's friend just said to me, 'If you open your mouth and say another word, I'll shoot you down dead."

Apparently, "Tom" was pointing a toy gun at Matthew's head while uttering this threat.

I mumbled something about  Matthew playing on the swings for a bit, assuring him that "Tom" didn't really mean to scare him and reminded Matthew that hurting someone is never acceptable, either.

But in my head/heart? I wanted to kick that kid's ass to the moon whilst ripping his face off.

Tuesday, I had L and G (little sister) over to play while J ran errands. Yesterday, out of nowhere, Matthew goes all quiet and contemplative. Gets that worried, anxious look on his face and refuses to engage while clearly working through something in his mind.

Finally, with tears streaming down his dirt-covered, popsicle-smeared little face, he confessed what he'd been thinking about:

"Yesterday when L was here, he said that I'd better beware because he's the Joker in real life and he's gonna kill Daddy."

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? What the HELL am I supposed to do with this? I wrapped Matthew in a huge hug and told him that L was very naughty to say such an awful and scary thing and that it's a lie. L can't hurt Daddy, EVER and if L ever says ANYTHING like that again, that Matthew should come directly to me or Julie and let a grown up set L straight.

I'm at a loss, otherwise. I LIKE J and until now, I've really liked L, who's been good with the boys. But this is not acceptable to me and I'm not sure how to approach it with J.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dear Neighbours,

Please don't call the Children's Aid or the police even though I know that it sounds as though I'm am torturing redheads over here. I promise that I am not.

Yes, I know you can hear the shrieking over your shower AND your daughter's hairdryer. May I suggest earplugs?

It's Luke, you see. He's grouchy and would like the entire world to know about it.

 What's he grouchy ABOUT? Well, he's awake.

It's the simple things that get to Luke...


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Motherhood = The Kingdom of Lost Minds

So, I've just returned from dropping the Reds off at the (air-conditioned) trailer, where their doting Nanny will let them frolic in the lake long after bed time and eat too many sweets. Bliss.

All the way home (note to self: 28 through Bancroft and down is NOT just a bit longer than your normal route, you moron. Check the map BEFORE being spur-of-the-moment-y.) I worried.

Worried that Luke will fall in the lake and no one will get to him in time. Worried that Matthew will see Luke fall in and go after him...and that no one will see him in time, either. That the hypnotic lure of a campfire will be too much for both boys and that they'll be burned and traumatized for life.

Worried that my mum will fall ill, or fall period, and Matthew won't remember the "911" drills I've done with him.  Worried that a dog will bite Luke (Matthew's too cautious to get close) or that Matthew will fall down the trailer stairs, a misguided Superman. Worried that the car won't start, their carseats won't be fastened properly or that some drunken fool will run them over.

Yes, I recognize the sheer lunacy of these worries and yes, I sometimes worry about my sanity. Well, ok. I worry about my sanity more than sometimes, but that's not the point.

The point is - at WHICH point will these fearsome, ulcer-inducing "what-ifs" stop? As a mum, I mean. At which point will I actually sleep through the night, uninterrupted? Even though both boys are given to nocturnal wanderings, they DO sleep through until morning and do so quite often. Unfortunately, I can't remember that last time I did, because if they don't wake me, I wake up anyways, just to check on them.

When will I let go of the irrational idea that the boys are safest with me and that I can in any way control their destinies? (In and of itself, this idea is ludicrous. All things considered, the children are probably safer with their grandparents, really. I'm forever telling them to "Go outside and play!" while Nanny will actually play WITH them.)

Matthew believes that I have magical, all-seeing eyes in the back of my head. He also believes that I know the answer to everything, it's just that sometimes it takes me awhile to remember the answer. (Really, it just takes me awhile to sneak off to Google to find the answer, but I digress...)

The problem now is that I have begun to believe that I have magical, all-seeing eyes in the back of my head and that if I'm not there, something terrible's going to happen.

 Nope, no God complex here. Uh, uh.

Is it me? Am I the only mother on the planet who feels this way because if so, I'd better book a few more therapy sessions and quick. Deeeeeepppp breath, Bellymonster.

Now that I am home and there is no frantic message from my mum saying that someone has stolen the children (Yes, I checked the phone straight away. Yes, I am paranoid beyond all reason) I need to relax.

I need to go to the gym and work out withOUT wondering if the boys are fine in the daycare at the Y. I need to grab a book and go sit on my back porch withOUT reaching for the monitor so that I can hear the silence that is their empty room. I need to relinquish control and simply BE.

Must remember to enjoy these precious hours to accomplish all the stuff that usually gets left until they've gone to bed. Must remember that Nanny is also a mummy and she has magical, all-seeing eyes, too.

New mantra: Nanny has magical, all-seeing eyes. Nanny has magical, all-seeing eyes.

Must call Nanny's cell, just to remind her...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Random Rambles..

1. It's hot. Holy hell, it's so hot! Spent last night on the Reds' floor, as theirs is the only room with air-conditioning in it. Oh how I envy people with central air!

2. Waybuloo. It's that children's TV show about floating, yoga-teaching creatures. You know what else it is? Early childhood mind control. You mark my words. This same generation of kids who've learned downward dog from Treehouse will one day rise up and salute the makers of Waybuloo, eager to do their bidding.

3. It's not even 9:00 a.m. and I've already swept the floor. Twice. What does this say about me?

4. The Reds love flip-flops. I can't stand the feeling of anything between my toes, but oh, how I love the "flipflipflipflop!" sound on the sidewalk. Luke wears his on the wrong feet so he sounds like this: "flopflopflip!"

5. I miss snow.

6. This morning, Grumpy McGrouchypants (Luke) tumbled out of his bed, delighted to find me curled up on the floor. He flung himself into my arms and said, "Mummy, I kiss you!" except that when I puckered my lips to receive his kiss, the little bugger licked my cheek and then bit it. And then he growled and crossed his arms all "Hmphy"-like.

7. I think Luke might benefit from therapy. And I'm thinking of changing his name to "Hmph!"

8. I let the Reds watch TV during breakfast. Every. single. morning. And I only feel a little, tiny bit ashamed of it.

9. Another boy to Matthew recently: "If you open your mouth and say another word, I'll shoot you down dead," while pointing a toy gun at my son's head.

Poor Matthew looked so bewildered and a little bit afraid when he passed this story onto me.

I imagine that my face held the same sentiment with a little bit of irrational Mama Bear rage tossed in. I explained that Bully-Boy was likely only playing a game (he wasn't) and that the boy surely didn't mean to harm Matthew (he's 8 and wanted Matthew to go away, apparently) and perhaps Matthew might like to play on the swings for a bit? I then gently reminded Matthew that gunplay is discouraged and that hurting someone else on purpose is never acceptable.

But honestly? I wanted to march outside and rip that kid's face off. Still do.

10. Me, just now, to the Reds: "Who's my best boy?" and they both raised their hands, waving madly.

11. I have the smartest boys in the whole, wide world.

12. Holy CRAP, it's hot.