Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bon bons would be nice...

Recently, a childless friend of mine said to me (with no hint of irony) that she could never be a stay-at-home mom and just "sit around eating bon-bons all day."

I guess since I work part-time she figured that I didn't qualify for membership into this extremely lazy group of women.

I sat on the other end of the phone speechless. Oh, how I wish I came back with some sarcastic and witty retort. Something like, "Today, I cleaned up five shit diapers; read 543 books; made sure They were clean and fed; practiced walking with one; practiced writing letters with the other; made sure both get enough sleep during the day so as not to avoid dinnertime meltdowns; stopped 3-year-old from strangling one-year-old; did dishes 62 times; cleaned up various and sundry juice, milk, cheerios, yogurt, etc. messes; wiped noses; gave hugs; answered 662 questions that all began with 'why'; cooked dinner for everyone; did laundry for a small army (spills equals more dirty clothes)...Wait, there's something else...Oh, I know...I always forget to add 'Eat bon bons' to the list! Thank you so much for reminding me, seriously."

But, I didn't. And, it still haunts me.

Then, on my blogosphere travels, I came across this article in the Washington Post Carolyn Hax column that just ...nailed it.

So, I know I'm a little late here, but this is my own personal valentine to all you mommies out there whether you stay at home, work part time, work full time, or whatever.

Much love and enjoy,

Tell Me About It by Carolyn Hax : Friend really doesn't get the kid thing

My best friend has a child. Her: Exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): Wow. Sorry. What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group . . .
OK. I've done Internet searches; I've talked to parents. I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please, no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners. . . . I do all those things, too, and I don't do them every day. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day, and why don't moms have time for a call or e-mail?

I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events), and I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy — not a bad thing at all — but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth?
Is this a contest ("My life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids, and all us child-free folks get the same story and have the same questions.
— Tacoma, Wash.

Relax and enjoy. You're funny.
Or you're lying about having friends with kids.
Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them.
Internet searches?

I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand — while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom friends are either lying or competing with you — is disingenuous indeed.

So, since it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. In list form. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries and questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family members and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It's resisting the constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.

It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity, empathy. Everything.

It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy — and then when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, you wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend — a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you to mutual friends or marvel at how much more productively she uses her time.

Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.

● E-mail "Tell Me About It":; fax: 1-202-334-5669; or write: "Tell Me About It," c/o The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Full Circle

We are back.

As I sit here reflecting on our month-long sojourn to Thailand, I am thankful for so many parts of our trip: Having my mother and brother meet my year-old son for the first time; seeing my 3 1/2-year-old embrace Thai food, culture and life; spending time with my extended family; and our mountain and island adventures.

We have Kodak-style memories that will last us a lifetime. What all the pictures didn't capture, though, but will be forever etched in my mind is the vomit. Yes, I said vomit. I'm talking nonstop bucketfuls of baby and preschooler vomit.

I knew there would be some illness and discomfort when we embarked on this trip, but the level of stomach ailments my children exposed us to was unparalleled. I think my brother summed it up best when he said, "I've never seen so much puke come out of two such little bodies."

It all started before we even left the country. We were on our hour-long flight from D.C. to New York City when Vomit Episode #1 hit us (me) unexpectedly. I was giving Jack a bottle as we were taking off (ears) and he dozed off. Aaaaah, things were getting off to a great start. Marley had also dozed off next to her father. About half-an-hour into the flight, Jack woke up (was hoping for sleep the whole way, but I can deal). As I held him, he looked out the window into the darkness. Little did I know this peaceful moment with my boy would soon come to a crashing halt.

A little history...Jack has never just spit up. When the boy upchucks he really gets after it. Let me spray myself, my mom, the floor, and maybe a wall for good measure. No half-assed vomiting here.

The plane incident was no exception.

Now, when you are on a plane and your kid vomits all over himself and you, there is a moment when your mind goes completely blank. Immediately after that initial shock passes is what I like to refer to as the "FUUUUUUUCK!" Moment. That is what is going on at 110 decibels inside your head, but hopefully is not coming out of your mouth. Then, when that passes, you realize you better figure out something...and quick. Do I have enough wipes? What if he does it again? Is he OK? Oh God, oh God, oh God.

I quickly got my husband's attention, but all he could do was sit there wide-eyed and speechless. I couldn't completely blame him. The sight of his wife and child covered in vomit was probably more than his mind could process at 6 a.m.

I was on my own. I quickly got the wipies out and cleaned up the boy's face and shirt. Then I got to work on my jeans. (Have I mentioned that I don't know how I would function on a daily basis without baby wipes?) After about 159 wipes, we were presentable again. With the wipes disposed of handily in the puke bag (fitting), the plane began to descend.

Little did I know as I sat there, basking in my victory over vomit, that this was only the beginning:

Vomit Incident #2 -- Jack in the Van on the way to the island
Vomit Incident #3 -- Jack again on the way to the islands
Vomit Incident #4 -- Marley in our Bangkok condo
Vomit Incident #5 -- Marley at the shopping mall in Bangkok
Vomit Incident #6 -- Marley in the cab on the way to the airport for Chiang Mai
Vomit Incident #7 -- Marley after lunch in the hotel in Chiang Mai
Vomit Incident #8 -- Marley in the car on the way down From Doi Suthep (tallest mountain in Chiang Mai)
Vomit Incident #9 -- Marley in the middle of the night, sleeping between Travis and me in our Chiang Mai hotel. That was a super duper fun.
Vomit Incident #10 -- Marley on the way back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai

There was so much pukery, I took to scoping out vomit bags as the first order of business after boarding any plane. We actually had a "vomit bucket" for a while as well (see picture). Don't judge the vomit bucket. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And I also took to carrying around plastic bags in taxis, out shopping, etc. There were a couple of weeks there when, before leaving the house, I'd go down my list of must-haves...diapers - check; snack - check, wipes - check, milk - check, vomit-catching receptacle - check.

I should note at this point that neither child ever ran a temperature. Any and all vomiting was purely the result of motion sickness, fatigue (possibly), and maybe some ill-advised food.

I'm not the type of person that gets sick to my stomach easily, either. My husband is. So, I lay our children's performance during the trip squarely on his genetics.

The last two weeks of our stay, any and all vomiting ceased. We settled into a nice quiet routine. The vomit receptacles made it off my list and every time a child coughed or gagged, I didn't spring to my feet, do backflips like a ninja over to to said child, and shove a bucket or bag under his/her face.

You could say I got soft on vomiting. But how could I know?

And...drum roll please....

Vomit Incident #11 and #12 -- Jack on the plane during the 11 -hour Tokyo-Dallas leg of our trip home.


As I sat there on my hands and knees in the aisle of the plane, cleaning up two pools of puke (#12), I started laughing. The passengers around me must have thought, "Well, she's just gone and lost it." Maybe I had, but I didn't care. I couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect way to end our trip.