People think Christmas is about the birth of Jesus or the spirit of giving or spending time with your loved ones. Think again.
I propose that it's about wearing matching pajamas not just with your spouse, but your small children. If you don't have small children, a dog will suffice.
We did it this year for our Christmas card, and let me tell you...it changed our lives forever.
There we were, frolicking about in our living room -- laughing, joking, hugging each other in our matching red and green stripes. Not a shred of self-respect as far as the eye could see.
Not a chance in hell would I have been caught dead in such pajamas pre-children, much less have them MATCH someone else. But, that is what children has done for me. It has freed me of all those oh-so-pesky constraints of good taste.
So, that is Christmas for us this year...two children, matching pajamas, and liberation (at least temporarily) from that silly thing called dignity.
It's been blue around our house the past week. We had to put down our 14-year-old dog who had cancer and a whole host of other maladies.
So, I've been reflecting...
Cheeba had been with my husband and me for about five years. He was my brother's dog since he was a puppy and when Denis moved overseas, he became our dog.
He was an adorable mix of lab and beagle (I know what you're thinking and I'm guessing it was an extremely ambitious beagle and a very docile lab). When he first came to live with us, life was good for ol' Cheeba. He was the apple of our eye and there was no want for doggie treats, cuddles, walks, etc. He was our baby.
A year later, Marley came along. And, as is a common story for canine pets when a baby enters the picture, Cheeba quickly became...a dog. I'm not talking Lady and the Tramp-style neglect, but things did change.
Although I don't think he ever got over being displaced by that loud, wrinkly little thing wrapped in a blanket (or being further displaced when the second wrinkly thing in a blanket came along), he did find a happy little spot in our family.
Most of the time, Cheeba would find places in the house AWAY from the kids. This is usually how the scenario would play out: Cheeba in playroom, kids enter playroom, Cheeba exits playroom and runs downstairs. I don't know how many times I would watch him scurry off to sleep in some dark, quiet nook and wistfully think, "Lucky fucker."
Then, there would be those sweet moments that are forever etched in my mind. Cheebs was half hound dog and you would be reminded of this every time you walked him. He would pull and sniff as if nothing else in the world mattered except that neighbor's dog's piss on the ground from two days ago. When I say he pulled on that leash, I'm talking about being dragged behind him like a rag doll anytime we went outside.
As Marley got older, she would ask to walk him. Knowing his penchant for forcibly hauling us around the neighborhood, we were reluctant to let our preschooler take the reigns. We eventually caved, though, and were shocked by the results. Anytime Marley would hold Cheeba's leash, he instinctively knew not to pull. The two of them would walk along looking like something out of one of those kid-and-animal-are-best-friends Disney movies. Travis and I would walk behind them half melting at the cuteness of the scene before us and half bitter that Marley didn't even have to break a sweat to walk the dog.
Then, there was the time that we discovered Marley feeding Cheeba doggie treats -- about 30 high-calorie peanut-butter flavored doggie treats. It was no wonder our friends were always making snide comments about our dog's rapidly expanding waistline. I'm not above blaming my 3-year-old for his not-so-svelte appearance.
Jack and Cheeba didn't have as deep of a relationship, but it was blossoming. Mostly it would be Jack making rudimentary barking noises at Cheeba that sounded less like a dog and more like him cat-calling some hot woman on the street ("Wooo wooo. Wooo wooo.")
The last day Cheeba was with us, we found Marley sitting with him in our bedroom. She was holding onto his neck and had one of her toy spoons held up to his mouth. She looked up and told us very matter-of-factly, "I'm giving Cheeba medicine because he's sick."
I know, I know....cue the "Aaaaaw." But it is one of those moments that I know I will never forget.
Now, Marley informs everyone that Cheeba is "dead" (don't you love how blunt preschoolers are?) and in "doggie heaven." Sometimes she likes to add a little color to doggie heaven by saying, "He's eating lots of food and playing, playing, playing."
I'm always surprised by how happy it makes me to hear her say that.
Why so self-congratulatory, you ask? Well, lately I've discovered that how good I'm feeling is wholly dependent on the little successes throughout the course of my day. It used to be reaching a challenging sales goal at the shop, writing a story I was really proud of (still is to a certain extent), earning a fat paycheck,...
These days, it's my ability to navigate through (or circumvent) daily minutiae that sends me into high-fiving, chest-bumping, and chest-pounding territory.
For example, today I hauled the dog and two kids to the vet. The appointment was at 11:10. We got there at 11:08! I'm not always on time, but I have a pretty decent record. Early,though? Unheard of. And, without breaking a sweat? Never. But, there I was, pushing the baby in his stroller with one hand, directing Marley (calmly) to walk alongside the stroller, and holding Cheeba's leash with the other hand. And, miracle of miracles...I managed to get through the door of the office without accidentally smacking a child or animal in the head. Bravo, Rosana! (Yes, I do little cheers for myself too.)
We all sat down to wait our turn. I had packed some snacks so as to avoid any pre-lunch hunger meltdowns. I have forgotten snacks before and have suffered the brutal consequences. So, the two sat munching on their crackers while we waited...
Ding! Our turn. As the doc checked out Cheebs, Marley sat in the examining room chair looking at the diagrams of cats' innards on the wall while Jack continued munching on his cracker. Not a peep, not a whine, not a sound. Hallelujah!
Even the vet commented on how well-behaved MY two children were. Did you hear that? I'll say it again. Even the vet commented on how well-behaved MY two children were.
We leave Cheebs there for some tests and head home for lunch and a nap.
I hummed on the way to the car...and all the way home.
So, I'm reading one of my favorite blogs, The Cut, and I stumbled upon an older article about a fashion trend that was ubiquitous on London runways this past fall -- nipples.
According to the article, the New York sheer-clothing trend was taken to new levels during London's fashion week extravaganza in September. Apparently, every designer was serving up see-through sundaes topped off with cherry nipples.
I couldn't help but imagine what it would look like if I was to sport a sheer top.
First of all, after breastfeeding two children, my nipples just don't take it easy anymore. They are super high-strung and prone to acute anxiety. They also look like they're on some sort of warpath -- ready to attack any and all strange intruders. I'm always a little surprised when my husband makes it to second base that he doesn't scream out, "Ow! Damn! I've been cut!"
A friend once told me she had seen her mother topless and was alarmed by the sheer length of her nipples. She said they "looked like they could cut glass." At the time, I remember thinking. Holy shit, what mutant form of human teat was this woman born with? Not until years later did I realize she was not BORN with those glass-cutting nipples. Some baby sucked the bejesus out of them and she'd been left with the wreckage.
Second of all, it just wouldn't be cute. All the girls in the runway pics had small, but supple breasts, and perky nipples. If my boobs actually had any breast tissue left in them, the nipple issue probably wouldn't be so...dramatic. But, the deflated-balloon boobs actually HIGHLIGHT the nipple issue. Hot.
So, I digress. But, my point is, no sheer tops sans bra for this mommy, unless the "slashed" look suddenly becomes in vogue again. If they can cut glass, they'll certainly slice through chiffon.
Marley's preschool teacher informed me today that my daughter and another little girl in her class had engaged in spit-fire combat. When the girls were pressed about who started the playground war by way of saliva, both pointed to the other.
Now, the other little girl -- we'll call her Cecilia -- has gotten significant airtime at the dinner table over the last couple of months. Marley, no stranger to drama, has this little girl rapidly rising from take-it-or-leave-it status to full-blown nemesis.
It all started with the playground tunnel. As Marley recounts, she was in a tunnel with a bunch of other kids when Cecilia approached.
"We were playing in the tunnel and there wasn't any room. So, I said, 'Sorry. There's no room in here, Cecilia. Go away.'"
At this point, I've started racking my brain for poor examples I may have set that have caused my daughter, at 3 1/2, to be on the road to being a Heather.
"Then Cecilia said to me, 'I'm going to tell Mrs. Mitchell.' And, I didn't think that was very nice of her to say to me at all."
I point out to Marley that it wasn't exactly nice of her to tell Cecilia to beat it from the tunnel. How would she feel if someone had told her to leave? How about next time taking turns?
Ms. Thang was not budging from her "Cecilia's mean" stance.
So, from that point on, she has regaled us with stories each week about Mean Cecilia and, honestly, we haven't been very parent-like in our response. I think part of it is Mean Cecilia is kind of entertaining. Marley, when telling her stories, lights up like a Christmas tree, gesticulating, laughing, playing off our response like a seasoned comedienne.
Now that spitting has entered the picture, though, it's time for US to grow up. Sometimes I wonder about growing up and learning lessons. Harder for a 3-year-old or for her 30-something parents?
I can't believe my baby boy is about to be one. It seems like yesterday that you were born, following two weeks of bedrest. You were the second baby of 2008 in our county (even got in the paper) but your dad always tells people you were first.
I'll get straight to the point...mommy is a pushover. I never believed in the whole "Mama's boy" thing, but I do now. You make the slightest peep and I'm there. At your service, sir. What can I get you sir? A bottle? A cuddle? Rock you to sleep? A lullaby? An intricately choreographed tap dance routine for your viewing pleasure? Right away sir.
You have an easy smile, a laugh that won't quit, and this happy, joyful squeal that would make anyone want to join the party you're at (usually with a phone, remote control or some other electronic contraption).
These days, you like balls. You can play a form of rudimentary catch where we sort of toss (ok, roll) the ball back-and-forth. Your dad has already deemed you a superior athlete. So much for not living vicariously through your children...
You also like toilets -- no surprise since farts, poops, burps, and the like still send your parents into Beavis and Butthead territory. If you could, I know you'd jump right in...just like it's your own miniature pool. For now, when my back is turned, you settle for splashing your little hand around in that lovely, clean toilet water. Yay! Great news for a mommy who thought the Anal Retentive Chef actually had some pretty decent ideas.
You and your sister have sown the seed for a loving (physical assault can sometimes be sort of loving right?) relationship. These days, a lot of times either you're in her business without her approval or she's in yours without your approval. But, then there are those sweet moments...wait, I just lost my train of thought...
Oh well, trust me, you guys have sweet moments.
My favorite, though, is when you're so happy to see me that you bury your head into my shoulder and then try to bite my nose. I know what you mean. If you could, that would be a smooch. I squeeze you, cover your face with kisses, and then bend over so you're upside down. I blow on your neck. You laugh and laugh and laugh. Every part of you is laughing -- even those two lonely bottom teeth, your curled-up toes, your fingers grasping my face.
I know you have to grow up, but please don't do it so fast. Please?
There I am. In my bathroom. Expressing. Milk. From. My. Boobs. Funnel-like cones attached to said boobs, pump pistons workin' on the chain gang, and milk flowing like the salmon of Capistrano.
I'm not sure my nipples have and will ever forgive me.
Travis is downstairs giving Marley* a bottle. She is not taking to the bottle at all. But good Asian and German stock breeds determination. Practice, practice, practice.
I'm upstairs in a zone. The rhythmic sound of the pump reminds me a little of this really cool house track that I used to love to dance to in college...
"Oh no. She finished it," I hear Travis say from downstairs.
The milk receptacles (plastic bags) are just about full. Why defrost another bag?
"WAIT! I'M COMING!"
I run downstairs, tits a-blazin', and fists wrapped around the bags of magic elixir that are going to render my baby immune to...everything.
Without missing a beat, Travis grabs one of the bags. Ok, maybe the sight of me topless, running full-speed down the stairs with two bags of milk, and cone imprints around my boobs gives him slight pause.
But he knows his mission. He dumps the milk in the bottle, screws the top back on, and...aaaaah...Marley continues her tentative love affair with The Rubber Nipple.
I walked back upstairs, victorious, and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
Not bad for a cow. *Marley was about four months old when the topless/bags of milk/running down the stairs incident occurred.
My son just beat the crap out of me. In fact, he's been roughing me up for months now. A fist to the chin, a bop in the nose, a scratch on the cheek, a kick to the chest...
Never mind that he's 11 months old. When I'm changing his diaper, he IS Randy "Macho Man" Savage, I'm Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, and we're facing off at Wrestlemania III.
Just now, I went for the diaper change, which only happens a couple times a day because of the physical transformation it requires me to undergo. And, so, we re-enact what has become a familiar scene in our house.
I place him on his back and he immediately starts with the squirm tactic. Like a seasoned boxer, I go into distraction mode, giving him a lotion bottle, a wipey, the whole wipey container, a ball (bounce it off his nose a few times -- he seems to be entranced), a towel, a remote control...aaaah, the buttons did it.
I have to move quick. I get the pants off, unsnap the onesie t-shirt. I slip the new diaper under the old one on him (there is a method to my madness -- need that new diaper ready to go before I even take the old one off). The wipey is already in-hand and ready for action. I am sweating. I know I don't have much time. He knows what's happening and immediately chucks the remote across the room (yes, I said ACROSS the room). My mouth drops.
Forget the distractions. I just need to press on. I'm not sure how I do it, but I get the 56-pound diaper off him. He tries to sit up. I push him back down. He yells. I yell. He tries to sit up again. I'm so close. I press him back down and hold him there with my left forearm. I get the old diaper off him. I am out of breath. The new one is right there and ready to go (see, method to my madness). I unfasten the velcro on the new diaper and all I can hear are his ear-piercing screams. I'm convinced the neighbors can hear him too and have called child services.
I make one crucial mistake in the melee, though...I forget to pull up the front flap of his diaper. All of the sudden, the room goes silent and it is as if we are moving in slow motion. I reach to pull up the front of his new diaper, but it's too late. My ears are ringing as I scream, "NOOOOOOOOO!" I am hit. I am down.
I am a fighter, though. I will not be swayed from my mission. I ignore the pain and humiliation (and spot on my chest). I am more determined than ever. I pull the diaper up, strap on the velcro, and emerge victorious.
The room is silent again. As I lift him off the changing table, I whisper to myself: "As God is my witness, my kid WILL have a clean ass."
My husband was gazing at me across the table at lunch today. But, not in that "You're so beautiful" way. Instead, his eyes were fixated on a very distinct area.
"Oh, you mean my hair? Oh, that's nothing. Just new hair."
That "new" hair I am referring to is right on the front area of my left-side part. It might as well have a huge red humiliating circle around it like grade school teachers used to make when they really wanted to let you know your answer was wrong, wrong, wrong.
Ok, it's not like comb-overs are in my future or anything, but I have lost a decent amount of hair as a result of participating in The Human Milk Project... twice.
It has grown back each time, thank God. The thing is, it has come back looking freakishly unlike my hair pre-children. Sort of like in that movie, Pet Cemetery, when the kid was brought back to life all creepy, freaky, and weird.
Occasionally I'll give my horn-hair in the front there, a little spit-shine, which rectifies the issue for a few minutes while the hair is wet. Gross I know, but effective. I also have put Bed Head on that area so that it will lay flat. No dice. Then it just sticks out vertically instead of straight up. On top of it, the hair has become like a poison dart arrow sticking straight out from my head, ready to stab someone in the forehead, chest, or shoulder, depending on how tall you are.
So, I just need to be patient. Just let the little guys grow.
Why does mama bear (of the Berenstain Bears) wear "that silly hat" ? Why does papa bear have that look on his face? Why is brother bear a boy? Why is sister bear a girl? Why can't we go to the book store at night? Where's my candy? Why do we eat dinner at night and not breakfast? Ew! Why is Jacky drooling? Why can't I eat baby food? Why don't dogs wear clothes like us? Why is it nighttime? Why isn't it Saturday? Why do Chloe and Olivia have the same mommy? Why can't I pee-pee standing up? Why is Daddy going to work? Why is it Monday? Why can't we eat pancakes everyday? Am I big? What is old? Where did Cheeba go? Why can't we watch more and more and more and more and more and more T.V.? Why is my teacher sick? Why is my dress too small? Why are my tights too long? Where is Grandma? Why can't we go to Grandma's today? What's that? What's this? Who's that? Where are we going? What are you doing?
The whole "terrible twos" thing is a completely crock. It's the threes that will send you over the edge.
One minute they love you, the next minute they hate you. You have no idea from one moment to the next what you're going to get so you just end up staring wide-eyed and shell-shocked straight into the eyes of madness.
She'll sneak up behind me, wrap her arms around my neck and whisper in my ear, "Mommy,I love you so much." You could just melt...and I do. So, there you are feeling soft, vulnerable, sort of like a mollusk without its shell. And, here she comes, wearing that little smirk. You want to escape, run and hide, but you're caged.
"I like you a little bit Mommy, but I like Daddy better."
A mind fuck...a true mind fuck. My old college boyfriend has nothin' on my 3-year-old.
Oh sweet heaven. A wonderful, perfect day with the kids. No fits (ok, maybe just one, but that I can handle), no illnesses, all errands and to-do list items accomplished, a beautiful day outside at the park...
While making dinner, I grabbed Marley for an impromptu dance to some Bob Marley ("He's Marley just like me!"). We love to dance. A twirl, a kick, a leap. Jack sat eating cheerios and giggling at our silliness. I grab him, twirl him. Marley squeals. We all laugh and hug.
My kids are amazing. I am amazing. We are amazing.
I honestly never imagined how hard this job was going to be. Parenting blows any other job out of the water in terms of difficulty. And, I have Roslyn two days week so that I can do some work. I still find it challenging...wait, that is an understatement. I find it to be almost unbearably difficult at times. My neighbor across the street is the crazy lady on the block -- stay-at-home mom of three kids. She's been doing what I'm doing now for YEARS. I'd be batshit-borderline-psychotic crazy too. I never thought it would be possible to be bored and unbelievably busy...all at the same time.
Pick up the baby, put down the baby; crap, dropped the bottle; must lean down sideways and bend legs backwards to reach bottle and not drop baby. Put baby for nap; run and hold Marley so she feels loved. Baby wakes up. Load two children into car (about half-an-hour to prepare just to go - coats, bottle, water, shoes) to drive five minutes to get art supplies for Halloween decorations. Buy art supplies while managing 495 questions a minute from the preschooler; load both kids back into car; get into car exhausted already; crap, it's only 11:30 a.m. Back to house to start lunch and squeeze in an art project so as to avoid meltdown from preschooler; thank God they both eat without losing it; breathe a sigh of relief. Put baby down for nap. Start art project with preschooler; try not to be impatient with her mishandling of the glue; finish one witch after an hour..yes, I said an hour. Get preschooler upstairs for nap. Read book and sing song, which is not "long enough." Meltdown ensues. Resist urge to run screaming from the room, out the door, and down the street while ripping my hair out. The neighbors might wonder...Preschooler quiets down.
Aaaaaah, quiet...I run to the bathroom to finally...sit on the toilet, hurry up and take a dump so I can have a few minutes to just...do...nothing. No sooner do I wipe my ass, cries ensue. Baby is awake.
Well, at least I got to take that dump.
Thanks for listening. And, I was laughing as I was writing. Granted it was a little bit high-pitched and maniacal-sounding, but hey, still laughing...
I am going through some crazy growing pains with Marley right now. It's so funny how I've discovered how INflexible I am. I always thought I was pretty laid back, but I have to consciously (and constantly) tell myself to pick my battles with my 3 1/2-year-old.
As it turns out, I am not a flexible person at all! I hope Marley knows one day that I'm "growing up" at the same time she is...
I smeared oatmeal on my 9-month-old's face this morning. Is that wrong? Or, is it only wrong if someone catches you? Either way, it happened. And, truth be told, I did get caught.
Marley has been refusing to eat. Not only does she refuse, but when she actually allows some food into her mouth, she lets it ooze right back out while engaging in FULL EYE CONTACT. Needling me. Toying with me. Mocking me.
So, this morning she oozed and I smeared. I took a spoonful of oatmeal and just did a little blaah-blaah on each cheek. And, I actually made that noise, "Blaaaaaaah. Blaaaaaaah." One for each cheek.
It was sort of like tribal war paint...babyfood style.
She just looked at me, emotionless. "Like I care," her eyes said. "I have food on my face all the time."
Then I turned to find my husband standing at the kitchen entry, mouth open in disbelief. He had seen the whole thing.
I was speechless. No words. He just shook his head.
Life with children started nearly four years ago with the birth of my daughter, Marley. I wish I could say that my husband and I fawned and fussed over our beautiful baby girl, basking in the incandescent glow of parental love. But, the reality was we had a 20-something-year-old father not quite ready to let go of his pre-baby freedoms, a first-time mother embittered by sleepless nights and sore nipples, and an angry, angry little girl whose cry-of-the-valkyrie screams could send the most experienced yogi into a metaphysical tailspin.
My husband may have summed it up most succintly: "Man, I think she's super-cute and I sure do love her, but boy is she cramping my style."
So, there you go...parenthood -- and particularly motherhood-- is the ultimate tug-of-war between the selflessness of caring for your child and the selfishness of caring for you. And, let me be clear, just because you're a woman does not mean you're hard-wired to just give it all up for babies. It's a process. And, man, do you have to dig deep sometimes to get there.
But, before you go running to get the IUD inserted, or think I'm a cold, heartless mother that doesn't love her children, there is joy. The joy of my 10-month-old son reaching up to stroke my face and finding that sticking his finger up my nose proved much more interesting. The joy of my daughter singing "Tiny Dancer" with her dad in the kitchen while helping with the dishes. The joy of watching the two of them sleep, knowing you made them feel safe.
What I'm here to say, though, is that those joys come along with work. Hard, back-breaking work. If you have children, you know. If you don't...you'll see...