Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

My brother in Thailand has been geeking out a little too hard on his Mac. This time, he dug up some old video clips he has stored of me, T, and the kids...dancing. Yes, we love to dance -- ridiculously. At any given time in our home, there will be music playing and someone making an ass of themselves.


Gymboree Sucks

Ok, maybe it doesn't suck. Ok, maybe it does.

Whether it sucks or not, I've bought in. Sort of. J and I have signed on for a bunch of classes this summer that involve him flinging his body around a padded cell of primary colors, bopping around to music that makes my back teeth hurt, and frolicking on this enormous parachute-thing that never fails to elicit my "Ew, Bacteria" face when it is pulled out.

But we're doing it. Why you ask? Well, with M, I remember doing baby yoga, music classes, water babies (a lot of good that did), and more. She was my first and I was determined to make the most of those precious first years. Plus, let's face it, I had a lot more time on my hands.

With J turning 18 months I realized that I wasn't really putting forth the same effort that I did with M. It suddenly became clear. I needed to get with the program and start indoctrinating him into the time-worn tradition of Forcing Your Kids to Do Lame-Ass Shit. I needed to get him out there and expose him to some other kids with neurotic, suburban moms that feel like they always need to be doing SOMETHING.

And there we were. A class of about 10 kids about J's age -- 18 months. Running, jumping, screaming, spreading germs...J kind of watched. (He's one of those kids that surveys the scene to see if it's worthy of his time and energy. Not the jump-right-in type.) Then the teacher called everyone to the center by shaking a tamborine. The experienced Gymboreerers froze and immediately ran to the middle of the room. It was like little, wobbly mice sprinting toward cheese. A few of them face-planted during the frenzy.

Our first activity was a mini-obstacle course that involved a number of padded tunnels the kids were expected to crawl through (see, I wasn't completely off base with the mouse comparison).

No kid wanted to climb through the weird padded tunnel. No mom was willing to NOT have her kid climb through the weird padded tunnel. So there we were trying to coax them through using the often-used, but never-effective High-Pitched Voice Technique. "Come heeeeeere, sweetie! Come to momma!"

No dice.

The first kid finally made it through after his mom dangled something to eat (or maybe it just looked like something to eat) on the other end of the tunnel (again, mice). The second kid was not having it, but his mom was a fighter. She just kept it up at the other end. Her voice got higher and higher and higher until I half expected the windows in the place to shatter, her head to explode, my head to explode, or some combination of the three. I had this incomprehensible (or comprehensible, depending on how you look at it) urge to take my hand and...SHOVE. Yes, I said it. Shove that diaper-padded hiney right through. Thankfully, High-Pitched Harriet stopped squealing and just grabbed her kid's hands and pulled him through.

Then there was the mom with THAT kid. You know. There's always one kid that no matter what methods of coercion or bribery a mother uses, absolutely refuses to do anything except run around the room like his ass is on fire. I just thank my lucky stars that J wasn't THAT kid...this time.

The poor maniac just started off on the wrong foot. He came right into the class and just started snatching things left and right from other kids. And, when his mother -- who looked pretty much like the definition of "hanging on by a thread" -- would calmly and sweetly attempt to have him return the ball, puppet, etc. he would lose his noodle. You know what I'm talking about. We've all been there.

I could also tell this was her first kid. You're SO much harder on yourself with that first one. You analyze and over analyze. You worry and over worry. You are like a friggin' nervous flea jumping around like YOUR ass is on fire. I knew what she was thinking. "Why? Why won't my kid just get in the gd circle with the rest of them?" I saw her clapping her hands in the circle, alone, while all the other moms sat with their kids. She would forcibly smile and laugh with the other children while her son was off in the other corner of the room, jumping inside an inner tube and madly waving his arms in the air with his tongue sticking out.

And, ladies and gentlemen, this is why Gymboree sucks. It's not because of those germs lurking in that nasty parachute or the lame teacher that never, ever remembers your kid's name when it comes to Bubble Time...It's because Gymboree gives you yet ANOTHER reason to second-guess yourself and your kid. That mom was miserable, and her kid could have given a flying fig about circles and tunnels. They'd probably both be happier running around in circles at the playground.

I tried not to stare during class, but I was fascinated. It just made me remember how small things -- like sitting in a circle and singing Itsy Bitsy spider using bizarro Gymboree lyrics -- can seem so huge when you're tired, haven't had a second to yourself in lord knows how long, and have been beating yourself up for falling short of being the mother you want to be instead of giving yourself kudos for the mother that you are.

I caught eyes with the mom and we smiled at one another. And then it hit me. Maybe there was another side to Gymboree that I hadn't thought about. Yes, the kids get a chance to learn some songs, dance around with a creepy stuffed clown, and if they're lucky, even get involved in a physical altercation or two with another toddler. But, it's also about that knowing smile YOU get from other moms. The acknowledgment that this is some hard-ass shit we're all embarking on. That sometimes it's confusing, frustrating and exhausting being alone with your little maniac -- no matter how much you love him.

And with that, the class ended. We gathered ourselves together, got our Jimbo stamps, and went our our merry way. We knew we'd be back next week, ready to immerse ourselves in some more Willy Wonka, acid-trippy kid fun that sometimes makes your head spin to the point of vomiting. But, maybe we'd also get an understanding smile. A knowing nod. A word of encouragement.

Maybe Gymboree doesn't suck that bad after all...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Steps

For M the swimming equation has been simple, albeit frustrating: water + face = screaming. Her father and I -- both swimmers as children, preteens, adolescents and adults -- could not for the life of us understand the explosive reaction that would erupt when water and face would meet.

No blowing bubbles for this kid. No dunking. No splashing. No even trickling a few drops on her cheeks. No thank you. You think that's loud? Get me a towel you water nazis before I blow your eardrums out.

And so, summer has arrived along with pool season. She has taken swim lessons in the past, but we were hoping to make this summer count. Maybe group lessons weren't doing the trick. Individual it is. Found an instructor -- a young, energetic, sweet woman who was sure to entice M into full-on facial immersion. She talked bribery with treats. I got nervous. Did she think was dealing with a golden retriever, here?

And there go the wheels.

What if she hates it? What if she refuses to cooperate? And, worst of all, what if, just what if...she is forever doomed to live her aquatic life -- gasp! -- doggy paddling?

So Saturday came. I sent T because who the eff wants a back-seat driver who ALSO knows everything about swimming? (Knowing when I'm either being annoying or about to be annoying, and then stepping aside has got to count for something, right?) I stayed home dreaming up various failure scenarios.

There's M. In the pool. The instructor is holding her under her stomach, trying to get her to put her head in and blow. M's arms and legs are flailing violently about as she yells, "NO! NO! NO! NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! TOWEL! TOWEL! TOWEL!" She kicks so hard she ends up socking the instructor in the gut. It's the last straw. The instructor says, "I'm sorry. She is hopeless. She will never swim. Set aside savings for arm floaties. She's going to need them for the rest of her life."

But here she REALLY is.

She's in her bath showing me how she can put her head under water, goggles and all, and blow bubbles. She did it. We gave her some pep talks, a little push, and linked her up with her own personal cheerleader. But my girl did it. All by herself.

(Insert glow from mommy pride here.)

And my lesson in all this? When it comes to my kids tentatively taking those first baby steps, learning new things, taking chances...Before I try to control, protect, want, freak out, I need to take a deep breath...and have a cookie.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Even Mommies Need Help...

Most of the time, I think I can do it all. I am a rock star mommy and I don't need you, you or you to tell me my business. As I sit here at 6:30 a.m. with my 1 1/2-year-old, I am reminded that I don't do it all. I have a partner and he's usually the unlucky bastard who gets up at this ungodly hour every morning with a kid who shouldn't legally be permitted to have this much energy before 9 a.m.

I don't tell him enough, but my husband is a balls-to-the-wall amazing father. Not just because he is an engaged, attentive, loving, fun and sincere with our kids, but because he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves, dig in, and get into the not-so-fun, and often tedious, grunt work of raising them (i.e., he helps mommy not completely lose her noodle).

I have a lot of friends who bitch and moan about their husbands not helping enough with the kids; that they feel marooned on this island inhabited by small, whiny people who spill milk and Cheerios everywhere. Although I can log some complaints about T (don't get me started. I'm determined to be nice on Father's Day), this ain't one of them. The boy works full-time and is our family's primary breadwinner. But, not only does he bring home the bacon, he also throws it in a pan, fries it up and serves it to his family.

He'll wake up in the middle of the night with the kids and suffer through work the next day. He'll institute "Movie Night" for our 4-year-old, complete with popcorn, tickets and theater seating. He'll change diapers and deal with a constipated one-year-old (I'll leave it at that. You don't want details). He'll fold laundry, mow the lawn, and clean the bathroom. He'll vacuum. He'll build forts and wrestle with the kids. He'll read seven Berenstain Bears books in a row -- cheesy voices and all. He'll do dishes. He'll let me boss him around like he's 10 years old and only calls me out if I start talking to him like he's five. He tells our children and me that he loves us above all else -- every day.

So, on his fifth Father's Day, I'd like to say, "Thanks, T." You're the wind beneath my wings, the light in my sky, my eternal flame. There's no one I'd rather be stuck with in this land of never ending Double Wipes than you.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Have There Been Any Documented Cases of Adults That Still Drink Milk From a Bottle?

Because I'm getting a little nervous. J is 18 months old and loves his bottle. When I say "love," I mean I'm sitting here looking at him right now standing next to me, with his bottle hanging halfway out of his mouth like it's a huge rubber cigarette. Oh, wait, here he goes...straight to the head. (That's when he cocks his head backwards and chugs from the nipple like he's just finished biking 10 miles and is electrolyte-loading with a refreshing bottle of Gatorade.)

Pre-J, I clearly remember seeing toddlers cruising around town drinking from a (gasp!) bottle. I remember thinking, "Christ. That poor kid. Just look at him. What respectable 2-year-old does THAT." Then, I'd look up and see the kid's mom and think, "How could you let him just run around like that? Just look at him. And his teeth are probably rotting as we speak."

Glass houses. Yes, I know. Glass houses.

There really wasn't any weaning to be done with my oldest. M just up and decided her bottle was yesterday's news when she was about 11 months old. One day it was "in" and the next it was just SO Spring 2005. Still, I took most, if not all, of the credit for her smooth and easy transition. There I was all high and mighty wondering why in the heck any parent would CHOOSE to keep his/her kid on the bottle. Now I know.

If your kid gets stuck on the bottle, I have one piece of advice -- Watch. Your. Back. You might find yourself dodging flying sippy cups, flung from the tyrannical hands of a 1 1/2-year-old. I have faced such attacks.

"How dare you? What kind of fool do you take me for? You think you can hand me that spout-shaped piece of shit and I'm actually going to drink from it?"

Then the screaming starts. The sound shatters my steadfast No-Bottle stance, and I am left desperate and fumbling. I tear through the cabinet looking for a bottle. Shit! Where is our one bottle? (We only have one because I keep telling myself he's going to be weaned soon. Idiot.) I find a nipple. "Here! here!" I stick the rubber nipple in his mouth to tide him over. He holds it in his mouth for a moment and then furrows his brow. Oh no. The nipple comes flying at me like a torpedo. I duck. My life flashes before my eyes.

Oh thank GOD. Here's the bottle. He lets out another shriek and I spill milk on the counter. I screw the top on and rush over to his seat.

"Here ma' lord! Your bottle master! Forgive my transgressions!" I bow. He drinks.

I sit down next to him, defeated. Another battle with the bottle lost. Well, at least I was able to subdue and defeat the Pukeness Monster... That's got to count for something.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Wheelchair, a Mortar and Pestle, and a Hug

The other day I was at the park with the kids and ran into a neighbor and her 2-year-old. We struck up a pleasant swing-set conversation. About mid-way through our talk of neighborhood events and happenings, M, who had gone down the slides a few times, came running up to us. She stopped, faced our neighbor, and randomly (loudly) declares, "My Khun Yai is in a wheelchair!"

My neighbor looked at M in a moment of awkward silence, but quickly recovered, pulling from her bag of talking-to-preschoolers tricks the Repeat What They Say card.

"Oh, your grandma? And, she's in a wheelchair?"

"Yes!" M answered proudly. And, with a little fairy-dance twirl, she was off. There I sat, wondering if I should explain further or leave the word “wheelchair” -- always accompanied by its best friends “sad” and “tragic” -- alone. And, so I did. No need to go into a lengthy explanation about my mother's 30-year struggle with a neurodegenerative disease that has methodically and heartlessly stripped her of her ability to speak, walk, and feed and bathe herself. No. No need to ruin a perfectly beautiful spring day and pleasant small talk with such…heaviness.

But, when you have a curious 4-year-old, full of questions, ideas, and innocence, it becomes increasingly difficult to push difficult THINGS in life to the back of your mind where they can hide in a safe little cocoon of pillowy cobwebs.

So, there she is. My mother. Not the mother of my childhood, but a different person altogether. A woman overtaken by spasms, shakes, nonsensical talk, and even delusional ramblings. It doesn’t help (or does it) that she lives across the globe in another country – far away from me, my children, my husband…my life. Every two years we visit her in Thailand. She wraps her fragile arms around me and squeezes a little too hard. I squeeze back and shut my eyes, willing myself to be nine years old again.

Aside from these visits, she is the sweet smiling face in pictures that adorn our shelves, dressers, and walls. Easy. And not. She lives in my daughter’s mind not as a real living, breathing person, but a curious, shadowy figure. And, as the busy days pass, she lives less and less in my mind…and more and more on those shelves.

But, she always asks. And, so I tell M stories about Khun Yai “when she could walk.” I tell her that when I used to get scared at night, she would sing Thai lullabies to help me sleep. She loves to hear stories about her mommy as a little girl with a mommy of her own. But, I can only tell her so much. And then that heavy, sinking weight in my chest cuts me off.

I have clear memories of my father. His strict, no-nonsense and often cold approach to parenting had, and still has, a profound effect on me. But memories of my mother – healthy, vibrant, active and devoted – become blurrier with each passing year. I know she was the loving presence in our home. The hugs, I love yous, and fortune cookie-worthy life lessons (“Stay away from the man who doesn’t love his mother.”) – all came from her.

She started to decline in my teens. The strange name for the diagnosis, olivopontocerebellar ataxia, had little to no meaning for our family – even though it is a family disease. We promptly put on our cute, happy denial hats, made some jokes about her “drunken” walk, and went on our merry way. Over the years, I have continued to push her and her illness into the hard-to-reach corners of my mind, to be occasionally awakened for holiday phone calls and visits. Until now.

The beauty of children – especially young children – is their boldness and honesty. M's relentless need to learn, know and feel doesn’t let me forget my mother even though it is often painful to think of her. She forces me to dig deep into the recesses of my childhood mind and draw up pictures of “Maa.” Not the woman in the wheelchair today, but the pretty, young mother with the wide smile and guffawing laugh.

And so, I think of her. The guilt of not being near her, the fear that somewhere in my own genetic makeup is the same twisted, gnarled gene, and the tedium of trying to communicate with her over the phone can be too much to bear. But M doesn’t let me off the hook. And so I go there…to that uncomfortable place. The sadness grabs me, wraps me tight and won’t let go. I miss my mother. I grieve knowing that I’ll never get her back the way I want. I hear her voice -- soft, steady, sweet – and I am angry. Even when you’re a mommy, sometimes you still want your mommy. There’s no avoiding M’s questions, though. How can I tell her life slaps you with a shit hand sometimes?

What do I tell my daughter about my mother? I close my eyes again. We are in the kitchen and I am pounding garlic with the mortar and pestle. My mother is sprinkling chilies in and directing me to angle the pestle so as the crush the garlic more effectively.

I am in the pool. There is cheering all around me. I am not going to make it, I think to myself. My limbs slap against the water and I’m imagining I must look like a windmill churning through the pool as my competitors glide effortlessly by. I breathe to the side and hear right above me, “Go Rosana!” It is my mother. I hear the cheer over and over and over again. I win the race and my mother has lost her voice.

I am 15 and angry. I want to leave home. My father doesn’t understand, will never understand. My mother comes to my room and cups my tear-drenched face. “You’re not ready to fly yet, sweetheart. When you are, don’t worry. I will help you pack.” She hugs me and I cry.

I am 10 years old and ugly. I have glasses, braces and crooked legs. I look in the mirror and hate what I see. “No,” my mother says. “You are beautiful.” And I am.

M will know all these stories because she will live them. I mother the best way I know how because I had a mother who did it the best way she knew how. It’s not always pretty and it’s far from perfect. But it is my mother and it is me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You Can't Die From Lack of Sleep, but You Can Scare the Bejesus Out of the Hair-Washing Lady at the Salon

I finally got my hair done. I needed it. The gray strands of hair were starting to take over and outnumber the black strands. And, the lovely deep red highlights Leo had originally given me had grown out about two inches and turned a brassy copper.

I plopped down in my hairdresser's chair, ready to talk about the dandelions growing from my scalp. I looked in the mirror and saw the last three weeks written all over my face.

I'd spent them nursing various and sundry illnesses that my kids seemed to keep passing back-and-forth to each other. Running to the doctor, picking up medicine, holding the 1-year-old until I thought my arm was going to completely dislocate at the shoulder. Taking the 4-year-old to the emergency room on a Sunday after she started screaming bloody murder (ear infection). Up at all hours with a congested 1-year-old who couldn't fall asleep and then holding him over my shoulder for hours so he could breathe more easily.

On top of it, not enough work accomplished during the day means more work into the night. In other words, I haven't slept for three weeks. Now, when I usually complain about not sleeping, I usually mean that I haven't slept ENOUGH. The last three weeks, I'm talking about not sleeping AT ALL.

So, with the kids finally on the mend (at least for now), I go to get my hair done (although, my mommy martyr instincts nearly won, which would have resulted in a canceled appointment and three more months of buns and ponytails).

Highlights first. Every time I blinked, my eyes would threaten to shut for good. I kept imagining propping them open with toothpicks. The thing is, I'm fine if I'm sleep long as I don't stop moving. The minute I sit, relax, take it down a notch, it's over. Lights out.I'm cooked. Finished. Sayanora, sucka.

Made it through the highlights. Next, under the heat. I got a magazine out and started reading a Cosmopolitan article about how to lose five pounds in one week (drink water whenever you're hungry, thirsty or bored). I found the page getting blurry if I stared at it too long, which makes things complicated because reading involves staring at pages too long. My head started bobbing forward. I think I might have fallen asleep for a minute, but woke up with my head strangely cool and Leo standing in front of me asking if I was ready to get my hair washed.

I shuffle over to the hair washing station and sit down. The woman starts working the warm water through my hair...and that's all I remember. I fell into a deep coma-like sleep probably within 15 seconds of getting my hair washed. Now, only a select few people know what I do before I fall into a super deep sleep. Right before I hit the point of no return, I twitch -- violently. Sort of like a bolt of lightening has just hit me or some supernatural demon has just gained entry into my body. At least that's the way it's been described to me.

So, there I am sleeping, sleeping, sleeping and all of the sudden...I twitch. My body convulses so abruptly that my neck snaps in that little dip in the hair-wash sink. "Aaaah!" I yell. "Oh, sorry. Uh. Who did? Where went? Do that...What?" I mumble all disoriented. And, as if twitching in front of the hair-wash lady, who probably thought I was having some sort of seizure, wasn't bad enough I then sit up and notice I've drooled all over my chin. Cute.

I go to get up and she says, "We're not done yet. We need to still condition." At that point, I see that my hair is still sopping wet. Christ. I'm a mess. Falling on my face, drooling all over myself, not knowing where the hell I am or what I'm doing...What's next? Am I accidentally going to shit my pants?

I'm going to bed now before I cause any more damage to myself.

Good night...pray for me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Ultimate Humiliation

I was at the pharmacy this morning filling two amoxicillin prescriptions for four infected ears. The three of us strolled up to the drop-off window. Correction, I strolled, J wobbled and M sprinted.

I looked down and immediately got nervous. I could see J's eyes flashing and his lips curling as he glanced around at all the destroy options within his reach -- pregnancy test boxes (wouldn't that be poetic for him to knock a whole row of those over), antacid bottles, vitamin containers, band-aid boxes. A couple of swift moves and they'd all be gonners. He made a couple of pre-emptive grunts, and I headed him off by scooping him up.

There are times I wish I was in better shape or just plain bigger and stronger. This was one of those times. Upon being thwarted from his seek-and-destroy mission, J immediately threw his head back, catapulting both of us backwards and nearly hitting the shelf behind us.

"Fuck!" I screamed (in my head).

I quickly regained my composure and put J down, holding onto the back of his shirt and, in essence, turning his tee into a choke collar. Meanwhile, M was perusing the crap toy wall nearby and I could hear her periodically whining, "Mama, I reeeeeeallly like this jump rope. Can I pleeeeeeease have it? Just this oooooone? Paaaaaaalease?" I pretended I didn't know who she was.

Please note, at this point, I have not even been able to GIVE the prescriptions to the pharmacist who was standing and waiting for me to give her even the slightest hint that I'd be able to pull my shit together. I finally make eye contact.

"I have a couple of prescriptions to drop off," I say. It's just to let her know that I am getting THERE. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it.

I start digging in my purse with one hand (other hand maneuvering the choke collar), which could actually be a carry-on suitcase, it's so gd huge. I'm rifling through diapers, two wipey containers, crumbs, a sippy cup, loose change, a few loose wipes (nothing more disconcerting than reaching in your purse and finding a wet wipe hangin' out and wondering if you just stuck your hand in some toxic combo of saliva, snot and sanitizer), a Matchbox car, a Goldfish, an unopened juice box (thank GOD), three cottonballs (no idea), and a bottle of water. Finally, I pull them out.

"Here they are," I gasp. She takes them from me. I look down. The choke collar seems to not be having any sort of effect on J as he's pulling from my slowly weakening grip. M walks up right as he pulls away.

"Mooooo-ooooomy. I think this jump rope is ADORABLE. Don't you?"

You've got to me kidding me. "Yes, it's very cute, honey, but we are not buying any toys today. We are just here to get medicine." I hope she hears the edge in my voice and throws me a bone. No such luck.

"But, maaaamaaaa. It's just so adorable. Just look. I only want this one thing and I won't ask for anything else..."

Wait, where's J? I scan the perimeter of the pharmacy counter just in time to see him rounding the corner of the vitamin aisle. I take off after him. "It will be 15 minutes, Miss!" the pharmacist yells after me. "Thanks!" I holler back. "Come on M!"

"BAAAAAGAAA! MAMAMAMAMAMAMA! LADAAAAAFAAAAAMAMAMAMA!" he screams just as I start seeing bottles go flying.

"Fuck me!" I yell (inside my head).

It's amazing how much damage can be done in less than 30 seconds. I drop to my hands and knees, holding Jack with one hand, and start putting the bottles back. "Jacky! NO! No, Jacky!" M starts scolding. He starts crying.

Great. Did she say 15 MINUTES???

We walk back up to the front of the pharmacy. I'm hoping that by seeing the chaos, the pharmacist will have mercy (or want us out of there, stat) and get us our medicine in maybe five instead of 15?

I'm holding J on my hip and he's just nonstop wiggling and I'm nonstop sweating. M picks up a tube of Chapstick. "Mama. I want my own Chapstick. This is sooooooo adorable. Please can I, please, please, please have it?" Again, who are you?

I put J down because...well, because I have to if I want my arm to remain attached. He takes off. Again. I sigh and run after him, hearing M in the background crying, "But Maaaaamaaaa! Look at this adorable Chapstick!"

We hit the butt and stomach aisle and he goes straight for the bottles of antacid, which is perfect because I'm starting to need one. Did I mention the kid has gotten fast? I mean, he's still stumbling around but somehow he's able to stumble forward at lightening speed.

So, I run toward him and then it happens: I TRIP OVER MY OWN FEET. I've never fallen face-first into the ground, but this time I actually ate carpet.

"Oh MY GOSH, Mama! Oh my gosh!" I look up and even J has paused to survey what has just taken place. The two of them look at me with a strange curiosity as if they just can't believe their eyes. Both of them have fallen, but to have Mommy fall? No way. But, there I was, on the ground and I think I may have actually scraped my knees too. (Do they make drugstore carpet by weaving together brillo pads?)

"Mommy's ok. It's fine," I say as I glance around to see if there were any other witnesses. None. Sigh.

"Vollmeerhoooosen is ready," I hear over the intercom. I pick myself up. I take a deep breath, brush the hair out of my face, hoist J onto my hip, and take the Chapstick from M.

"Thank fucking GOD," I say (to myself).

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Superhero in Our Midst

I'd heard about such kids. Tall tales of children that, when agitated, used their mutant powers of regurgitated food to silence their enemies. Toddlers with unflinching focus, determination, and sour milk resources. Little ones that leave you in such a state of shock, you are left questioning everything you thought you knew about parenting. I never thought I'd have such a child.

And, then there was J. Ladies and gentlemen, we've got a puker.

Jack has never been a great sleeper. I take that back. He was a GREAT sleeper for the first six months of his life. I remember dropping to my knees and praising the heavens above for giving me a baby that slept through the night after two months. Little did I know that it was the cruelest of all cruel jokes the powers-that-be could play on a sleep-deprived mother who had just gotten a taste of nocturnal bliss.

Just about the time he hit six months, the night wakings began. Instead of taking the bull by the horns and teaching him to put himself back to sleep (a la Ferber), we caved. Not sure what it is about that second kid, but you're just not as...regimented. Oh yeah, I remember why's that you're TIRED AS SHIT.

Our mode to get little J to count sheep and get friendly with the man in the moon? The Bottle. Initially, I didn't see that bottle as a crutch. I saw it as a mechanism for survival. My survival. Worked like a charm every time. Sucked down that bottle in the middle of the night and slept the rest of the way through.

I knew one day it would have to stop, but I pushed those unpleasant thoughts to the back of my mind. Then the day came. Exhausted from waking up every night for over a year, I declared to T one evening, "No more! Tonight, is the beginning of a new day. The boy WILL SLEEP!" (My husband has heard enough of these types of I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-take-it-anymore declarations that he simply humors me with a nod and a thumbs up like we're about to partake in some sporting event.)

We'd done it once before with M so it's not like what we were to embark upon was reinventing the wheel. We knew what we had to do. We just had to strap on our balls it. And, I had a plan. You'd think I was mapping out tactics for crossing enemy lines during World War II. I set the plan in motion.

That night, we put him to sleep as usual. And as usual, around midnight, he woke up. Instead of popping that bottle in his mouth, though, I went in and rubbed him, kissed him and bid him adieu.

Kid. Went. Ballistic.

I lay down in bed and looked at the clock -- 12:16 a.m. I'd give him five minutes and then go back in to give him a follow-up rub and kiss. The plan was to keep this up until he passed out, extending the re-entry time 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes. Torture for a few nights, but it's a proven method in this house -- worked wonders with our first.

Well, I think we got three minutes into it when I started to hear some gagging. I jolted out of bed and sprinted into his room. In slow motion, I opened the door. "Noooooo!" I yelled in that creepy, deep slow-motion voice. Too late. The vomit came at me like acid. I half expected his head to start spinning around. With my jaw on the floor, I watched as the projectile puke liquid shot out and then down, landing on the floor with a loud "splat." My mouth still open, I shook my head, ran over to the baby and scooped him up.

He immediately stopped crying and starts talking to me. "Ah goo da doo na mee fa foo," he gurgled sweetly. And then, he did the unspeakable. He smiled. I can't effing believe it. The kid is GOOD.

I'm shaken to the core and it takes me another three months to even consider letting him cry again. When I finally do, my fears are reinforced by Vomit Boy who does exactly the same thing he did that first night. I don't have the stomach (no pun intended) for THIS.

I have read some online discussions on how to handle trial by vomiting. Some folks just suggest walking in, with no reaction, cleaning up the mess, kissing the kid goodnight and quickly exiting. I don't know if I'm capable of staring straight into the eyes of vomit without any sort of reaction. But, I'm ready to give it a whirl.

My kid is 18 months old now. I am strong. I am ready. I am sleepy. Bring the puke on.

Stay tuned for upcoming battles between the powerful and noxious Puke Boy and the sleepy, but determined, Mommy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


1. I am a Valentine baby.

2.I used to chauffeur my little brother and his best friend,Travis (also known as my future husband) to highschool swim team practices. Little did I know then that more than 10 years later, I would fall for and marry...a freshman!!!

3. Without my glasses or contacts, I can't see my hand in front of my face.

4. I wish I was more of a saver.

5. On that note, I am a compulsive shopper and rarely buy anything on sale.

6. Although I am the mother of two, I still feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable holding a newborn.

7. I am easily annoyed, but have been trying patience on for size.

8. My husband and my brother are my two favorite people on the planet.

9. I enjoy cursing, but have curbed such outbursts since I noticed Them listening.

10. I could not live without coffee, bacon, and fish sauce.

11.I have an exceptionally horrible singing voice.

12. I owned a clothing boutique for five years and left a year ago. Because it was such a huge part of my life, I sometimes feel as if I should miss it more...

13. I hated Sunday Thai school growing up, but am forever indebted to my parents for forcing me to go because I still can read, write and speak Thai.

14. Besides the DC area, I have lived in Bangkok, Thailand and Boulder and Denver, Colorado.

15. My husband still regularly makes me laugh to the point of peeing myself.

16. I was a journalist in a previous life.

17. Motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks. The idea that I am affecting the lives of these two little people still freaks me out.

18. I am the only member of my family (besides hubby and kids,of course) that still lives stateside full-time.

19. I find awkward and uncomfortable situations to be hilarious.

20. I never had a sweet tooth until I got pregnant. Now, I don't feel a meal is complete without dessert.

21. I love going out and the sweaty booty-shakin' kind...and wish I had a chance to do it more.

22. I got my first gray hair at 26.

23. Because I have a horrible memory, I am obsessive about taking pictures and writing down memories. I have documented just about every minute of my life.

24. Key West with my then-boyfriend/future husband Travis will be one for the my head got stuck there...hearing the the inside of a seashell..Travis laughing harder than I've ever seen anyone laugh.

25. I'm one lucky f'in girl and I'm reminded of it everyday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Never thought in a million years I'd birth a child with CURLS. I guess those genes that control my super stick-straight Asian hair aren't as all-powerful as I'd thought...

And, in the spirit of Wordless Wednesday, I created a photo blog on Tumblr of old-school and new-school pics, chronicling life before kids to one kid to two kids. Feel free to stop by anytime.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Helicopters Everywhere

We went to some friends' house for a cookout yesterday and found ourselves in enemy territory. Now, when I say "enemy territory," I don't mean we didn't enjoy every moment with our hosts and friends that were there. I mean that we were on high-alert, child-injury watch the entire time. Booby traps. Land mines. Even weapons of mass destruction.

First there were the horse shoes. How was our host (by the way, no kids) to know that those metal stakes he stabbed into the ground were potential toddler impalers? Or, that the flying horse shoes were actually metal boomerangs of death? Our one-year-old, who has just started to walk, is a heat-seeking missile for injury and destruction. If he can find a way to hurt himself, preferably by hitting his head against something, he will.

I would let J run around the yard while the guys gathered the horse shoes. But, the minute I saw that they were getting ready to fling some Head Smashers across the lawn, all of the sudden I became John Q. Safety. I'd hitch up my high-water safety pants, push up my glasses held together with electrical tape, and bust out in my best mom-nerd voice: "Wait guys. Just wait a gosh-darned second here." I'd then corral J away from any potential metal-meet-head, head-meet-metal introduction and yell, "Safety first, guys! Safety first!"

The single, childless guys thought that was WAY cool.

After about an hour, I was exhausted from physically restraining Jack from the horse shoes, running to protect him from tripping and smashing into the concrete rivets coming out the ground around the perimeter of the yard, and keeping him from falling into the Pit of Death concrete stairs leading to the basement entry.

And, then it hit me. What once would have been a relaxing evening outside with friends is no more. Your perspective changes when you have small children, particularly ones that walk around like they've just had one too many. The world suddenly does seem more dangerous, filled with a myriad of potential injuries. Some parents let their kids fall and get back up. Some parents shield them from any and all injury. I'd like to say I fall in the former category, but I don't. It's a battle I wage with myself on a daily basis while chanting the mantra, "They're fine. They're fine. They're fine."

I'll believe that one day.

Although I am a product of a society of scaredy cats, I will say, in my defense, I'm not as bad as SOME parents. A friend of mine won't even let her 3-year-old ride a see-saw for fear that falling one whole foot to the ground will cause...gasp...a scrape! (By the way, critiquing others is what I do to make myself feel better about my own neuroses...Not nice, but strangely effective.)

I do let my kids fall, but it sends shock waves through my body, which I try not to show on my face as I tell them (probably a little too enthusiastically), "You're ok. You're fine. LET'S KEEP PLAYING!"

I don't want my fears to become my kids' fears. I do have to eventually allow my children to fall, make mistakes, and find their way. I will still try to protect them while they're little, but I recognize the need to ease up a bit. Because, in the end, I can't control everything. Man, that's a hard pill to swallow because I have always firmly believed, without any inkling of doubt, that I am Master of the Universe.

And, wouldn't you know it, at the end of our evening -- after hours of defending, blocking, tackling -- someone got hurt anyway. M opened the gate to the deck and her hand decided to get really friendly with a tiny piece of wood. We ended the night hustling away with our our belongings, a squirming over-tired toddler, and a screaming preschooler with a splinter in her palm.

So much for being Master of the Universe.