CLOSE THE DOOR

We are experiencing a bit of an early summer, which is all kinds of wonderful. The weather is fabulous but I’m not completely thrilled about the “open door policy” that comes with the sun and heat. It’s not the kind of friendly and voluntary “open door policy” that I’m sure you’re  thinking of. It’s the kind where our door is always open because no one can remember to CLOSE THE DOOR.

It’s that special time of year were insects and rodents take up residence in our home because my kids never CLOSE THE DOOR. It’s not that hard; You remembered to open it before you tried to walk through it, now please, CLOSE THE DOOR. You are skilled and coordinated enough to open the door, so I know you are physically capable enough to CLOSE THE DOOR. 


If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, but I have to be real careful about not yelling it, since as I previously mentioned, the door is wide open. The neighbors have to think I’m a crazy lady at this point, so I’m not sure why I try to keep up the charade of “normal-completely-sane-person-who-doesn’t-yell ‘CLOSE THE DOOR!’ every -3-minutes.” I’m living a lie, because that’s not the woman I am. I’ve been forced to wear these crazy pants and they actually fit quite well.

It’s not just the constant indecision between playing inside or playing outside that causes the tiresome slide of the patio door. It’s the running commentary I receive on every thing that my children experience while playing outside.

*slide* “Mom! The bumble bee is back!”

*slide* “Mom! We found a dead June bug!”

*slide* “Mom! We filled your garden with sand!”

*slide* “Mom! Nolan ate an ant!”

I’m experiencing most of these happenings in real time as I constantly poke my head out of the door to ensure that no one has expired or done irreparable damaged to the exterior of our home. So logistically, I don’t need to hear about the June bug for the fourth time. I can appreciate the sense of wonder that comes from being a child, but is it asking too much for efficiency in wonderment? Could they save up three exciting insect sightings and then open the door (probably still inviting at least one of said insects into our lovely home) instead of reporting each one independently? It would cut the door openings by a third. I don’t want to be the efficiency-over-fun Mom, but I’m already the neighborhood crazy person, so I’m feeling pretty good about starting the lessons in efficiency early. 

Lesson one: CLOSE THE DOOR.

5 Ways Parenting Toddlers is Like a Day at the Beach

If you are currently in the trenches parenting toddlers, it goes without saying that you could use a vacation. Unfortunately, you might not be able to escape for that much needed R&R. Fear not; your toddlers can bring the vacation to you! Kick back and relax, here are five ways that parenting toddlers is likea day at the beach.


1) The feeling of sand between your toes.
Don’t you love stepping onto the beach, barefoot, and feeling the sun-warmed sand between your toes? Having toddlers is a similar sensation, only it’s the soft crunch of Cheerios beneath your feet and the feeling of tiny pieces of everything-your-child-ate-today between your toes. Why go to the beach when your toddler can create a sand-like experience covering your entire kitchen floor? Every meal is a new experience, a new sensation. Might I recommend day-old dried peas combined with crusted who-knows-how-old Playdoh crumbs? Pure paradise!

2) The sound of waves crashing against the shore.

The repetitive and soothing sound of loud waves crashing into the shore is universally relaxing. There’s a reason ocean sounds are included on most white noise machines; they drown out other noises and offer a sense of calm and focus. The constant dialogue and questions that toddlers emit can offer an equivalent sensation. Since toddlers will summon you no less than ten times, you can relax to the therapeutic soundtrack of “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommmmmy!” Or “What’s that? What’s that? What’s that? What’s that?! What’s that?!” Much like the lapping waves at the seashore, your toddler’s questions can take you to a place of serenity and calm. As you learn to drown out the noise, (wine also helps with this) you’ll eventually start imagining yourself on a beach. Without toddlers. And more wine. Voila, vacation!


3) Long walks searching for seashells.

The quest for a delicate unscathed seashell is a challenge, as the force of the ocean and its journey to the shore often shatters or damages most shells. It’s the search to find beauty in the rough. Living with a toddler is similar, in that they will destroy everything that you own and hold dear. Searching for a piece of unstained clothing, a pair of unbroken sunglasses, or a book without a freaking page ripped out can give you the same sense of delight as a peaceful hunt for shells on the beach. Such a satisfying scavenger hunt!


4) Easy breezy wind-blown beach hair.

When you hit the beach, it’s time to let your hair down and feel the breeze flow through your locks. Beach hair is a natural and effortless look that you can also accomplish by caring for toddlers day in and day out. Usually you’re too tired to shower, so your hair takes on a matted and tangled texture sure to impress. Combine this with the number of airborne foods your hair will intercept and you’ve mastered a style similar to that casual and simple beach look. Your wind-blown beach waves will be easy to pull together, since most days your brush will get stuck in your hair (probably on some yogurt or applesauce). So just scrunch it a bit while your toddler tugs on the other side and you’ll have instant trouble-free tropical tresses!

5) The fresh ocean air.

You know that smell unique to the ocean, a combination of salt water, sea weed, fresh air and freedom? Having toddlers kind of smells like that, only what you’re really smelling is poop. It always smells like poop. So maybe this isn’t that similar to the beach. I just wanted to remind you that having toddlers smells a lot like poop, all the time.

So suit up ladies! Although I’m guessing that since having kids you probably dread wearing a swimsuit. A smock or just your bathrobe would be fine too. Ain’t life a beach?

3 Reasons I let my kids watch Frozen

There is a lot of Frozen in my life right now. This might be a cry for adult conversation or television targeted at people over the age of 5. Whatever it is, I’ve found myself appreciating the themes and messages in Frozen and have compiled a list for your reading pleasure.

  

Spoiler alert: The song “Let It Go” is no where on this list. As I previously posited, you might love it after the first few listens, but after you find yourself singing it in the shower for the 419th time, it becomes much less amusing. Get out of my (very limited) brain space! As much as I love my daughter’s sweet singing, after hearing her screech it out (with the wrong words) countless times every day, it starts to wear on you. 

1) Frozen portrays love more realistically than other Disney movies.

A common theme in Disney movies is “love at first sight” and whirlwind romances where people fall madly in love very quickly. I’m inclined to think love is portrayed this way, at least in part, for convenience in a 90 minute movie. But I also know that love seems so much more romantic when it is reckless, unrestrained and unabashed. We all know (Don’t we?) that’s not how it works. In today’s “Bachelor” culture, I’m starting to think people may actually think that’s what love looks like. I certainly don’t want to give my children such unrealistic expectations, or have them make lifelong relationship decisions based on an elated feeling after a handsome stranger returns a lost shoe, or gives you a rape-y sleep kiss. (I didn’t say you could kiss me, dude. I’m in a magically induced coma and we’ve never met. Get up off it.)

I don’t some of their first impressions of romantic love to set unrealistic expectations. I don’t want them to miss out on true meaningful human connections and imperfect but genuine love because they’re waiting for a grand gesture or great romance.

I want my kids to know that in real life, love comes from truly getting to know someone, finding out what is most irritating about them, and then deciding that other people are more irritating. That’s real love. In Frozen, Anna meets Hans, immediately “falls in love” and becomes engaged. In what seems to be an interesting commentary on other Disney movies, all of Frozen’s  main characters completely disagree with this decision. Krisftoff brings it up numerous times by questioning her judgment, since she’s the kind of person willing to get engaged to someone she just met. Elsa refuses to “bless” their union for the same reason. Anna spends most of the movie trying to justify her rash decision with “true love,” despite all the other characters constant jabs that mock the notion of “true love” between strangers. The message, even before any of the predictable plot twists, is that “love at first sight” is irrational. 

2) Frozen reminds us that all people are not good people.

Big surprise, Hans ends up being a bit of a sociopath, which most of us should have picked up on the minute he proposed to a woman he just met. Ever met a guy genuinely willing to commit to marriage after a first date? If you have, he was probably later featured on 60 minutes after it was discovered that he had 4 wives in 4 different states while simultaneously running a Ponzi scheme that kills kittens. It doesn’t add up, y’all.

I like that the antagonist in Frozen is a real person. He’s not a witch, or a beast, or a sorcerer; He is a real person with ulterior motives and aspirations of power. He uses Anna, lies to her and manipulates her. While I hope this never happens to my kids, it certainly could, which is why I don’t mind them seeing it happen to a movie character.

I’m all about protecting my children’s innocence, to a certain extent. I’m not interested in exposing my children to harsh realities before their little brains are ready to process them, but I also don’t mind the idea of them knowing that all people aren’t good people, and some people lie. Sure Hans is mean, and says hurtful things to Anna, but that’s real life. People won’t always tell you the truth, and it’s not a bad idea to guard your heart. One of the best ways to do this, is to avoid getting engaged the same day you meet someone. Also, rigorous background checks.

I’m sure I’m coming across as a cynic here, and I’m ok with that. If you think I’m too cynical, you probably also think Beauty and the Beast is romantic, a movie where a woman is held captive, developes Stockholm Syndrome and lives happily ever after with her captor. We can agree to disagree.

3) Frozen shows us that true love does exist.

I’m not dead inside. I do believe in love and happy endings. The final reason I like Frozen is because it shows us that true love does exist. It’s not a prince coming to save you, it’s not romance saving your life and completing you. Elsa accidentally freezes Anna’s heart and only an act of true love can save her. This is when she must quickly return to Hans for a kiss, because true love’s kiss heals all. Unfortunately, she finds out Hans is just a youngest child with delusions of grandure and no real affections or plans for marriage beyond spousal homicide. It’s a rough breakup. 

A selfless act from Anna and the true love that exists between sisters is what finally saves her. True love does exist, between family and friends, and yes, romantic partners with whom we’ve invested the time and energy to get to know. True love requires self-sacrifice, it is not selfish or self involved. True love is not about how it makes you feel, but about how you want the best for the other person. Olaf, the lovable dope of a snowman, ends up offering the most insight, saying that true love is putting someone else’s needs before your own. That’s a message I can get on board with, even if the messenger has twig arms and a carrot for a nose.

That time I joined a gang.

My friend loaned me a Fitbit in an attempt to recruit me into her Fitbit gang. I use the term “gang,” because I’ve noticed that people with FitBits band together, talk about their FitBits and then peer pressure other people into getting FitBits. This ruthless gang just happened to be a bunch of suburban moms challenging each other to get 10,000 steps a day…or else. It’s all very West Side story. Although, instead of knifings and street fights, the loser buys coffee at the next play date.

They all sing the FitBit’s praises and honestly seem healthier for it, so I decided to give it a shot. What did I have to lose, except a few pounds? A week in, after my brutal gang initiation (kidding), I gotta tell you, I’ve got a beef with the Fitbit.

Aside from the fact that it sat on my wrist judging me all day, pressuring me to do more cardio, I found it to be unprepared for my Mom lifestyle. For starters, steps are only counted when you aren’t carrying or pushing anything, which for most Moms, is never. I’m always carrying something, whether it’s a misplaced toy, a human, clothes, dirty clothes, a dirty human, or old food I found under the couch.   Don’t act like you know me, FitBit. You think you’re better than me?!

When someone or something isn’t being carried, it means I’m pushing a shopping cart or stroller. I was outraged to find that the Fitbit did not record most of my steps at the grocery store. Much like all my weekly grocery trips, I clung to the cart for dear life, praying that no one would go all orangutan on me before I acquired the items on my grocery list. Ends up, the Fitbit requires that I’m gently swinging my arm in a rhythmic fashion to properly record the steps, which doesn’t sound like any outing I’ve ever had with my kids. Don’t judge me, FitBit, and then neglect to count those hard-earned steps! Didn’t you notice my heart rate was through the roof? Maybe my wrist was too sweaty from loading and unloading three squirmy toddlers, but go ahead and draw some conclusions; I’m sweaty with a borderline panic attack level heart rate, throw a couple extra steps my way.

The one silver lining to all those precious lost steps was that the pleasure of my kids’ company at the grocery store induced an elevated heart rate, which resulted in my time at the store being recorded as “active fat-burning minutes.” Thank you, Fitbit, for giving me hope that my stressful daily mom-tasks may somehow contribute to a slimming waistline.

In addition to ignoring most of my multi-tasking steps, the Fitbit also doesn’t distinguish between the varying degrees of difficulty that certain tasks require. For example, it may have only taken me 25 steps to haul the screaming toddler down the hall into timeout, but the Fitbit didn’t know that while I was doing that, another child was clinging to my leg. Yes, we went for a walk around the block to the tune of 1,500 steps, but the Fitbit didn’t know that I also had to drag all the bikes home after my kids decided, halfway through the walk, that they weren’t going to ride them anymore. I should get additional steps for that kind of monkey business. Don’t act like you know me, Fitbit!

In addition to tracking steps, the Fitbit claims to track sleep, calories burned, heart rate and distance. Unfortunately these are also ignorant to my actual level of mom-tivity. I was insulted when it claimed I got more sleep that I actually did. My Fitbit didn’t see me laying motionless in bed, NOT sleeping as I listened to the snores of my husband. Just because I wasn’t up walking around with a natural and leisurely arm sway doesn’t mean I didn’t startle and wake to any slight stirring. How about I tell you how little I slept, Fitbit, and then you rub my back and tell me I’m pretty. Now that’s something I could get on board with.

 I’m not sleeping, FitBit. Those snores are not my own.

So make yourself useful, Fitbit. Track my caffeine intake and warn me before I go from “caffeinated enough to make grilled cheese sandwiches for the third day in a row” to “my eyes are bouncing in my skull and I keep calling you all the wrong names.” Start tracking my alcohol intake so those play dates that involve day drinking don’t get out of control. When my blood alcohol gets too high in the evening hours, send me a “you know your kids are going to wake up at 5:45am tomorrow morning” alert and cut me off. 

Feel free to add these features to your next model upgrade, the “Fitbit Mom.” All I’m asking is that you track my curiously frantic and spastic movements and assume it’s because I’m tip-toeing away from a sleeping child or crawling under furniture to obtain lost toys. It’s definitely worth some sort of extra credit. 

Why I Love My Minivan

I’m not going to say that I was cool before I had kids, but I definitely showered and wore pants more often. I also didn’t struggle to complete sentences. With the birth of my children, certain standards for “cool” have taken a back seat role. A third row minivan back seat, to be precise.

 

 When I was newly pregnant, we agreed I would just keep my Ford Taurus. As a practical, safe, mid-sized car, this made sense and didn’t require purchasing a new vehicle. Fast forward a couple weeks to when the ultrasound tech dropped the “I see two” bomb. My mind immediately began to process the logistics involved with mothering, feeding and transporting two newborns, two infants, then two toddlers. Initially we were in denial; we could still use the Taurus! She was so reliable and large enough for two car seats! But then what do you do if someone parks too close and you can’t get the door open? Put one baby on the roof, back out of the tight parking spot, and then open the door, remove baby from roof and secure into car seat base? It stopped making so much sense. Then we rationalized an SUV – so much more room! Lots of cargo and hauling space, but yet, the unable-to-open-doors-baby-on-the-roof problem still existed. Finally, acceptance; sliding doors were a must. 

My husband tried to pitch the idea of modifying an SUV to add sliding doors, but shockingly none of the car dealers we spoke with were amused or enthused by the idea. We settled on a minivan. How was this possible? We were so cool! (Kind of.) We agreed that the abomination, I mean, minivan, must have leather seats. The idea of scrubbing spit up, vomit, milk, snacks or any other substance capable of rotting and growing mold out of fabric seats did not sit well with either of us.  So the search began. 

On Valentine’s Day 2012, my husband called to see if I could check out a minivan after work. After exhaustive research, we had been unable to find a suitable candidate in our area within our price range. This one might be the one. I dolled myself up for our hot Vday date and headed to the Honda dealership. She wasn’t pretty, or new, or cool, but she had automatic sliding doors, heated leather seats and cup holders galore. In the most cliche and poetic fashion, on that Valentines Day, I fell in love.

It was most unexpected, partly because I had been so cool, but also because I’d spent most of my adult life swearing I’d never drive a minivan. I was 7 months pregnant with twins, thus getting in and out of the Taurus had become both moderately embarrassing and genuinely harmful to the structural integrity of the vehicle. I was immediately pleased with the lack of bending, grunting, and hoisting required to enter and exit my minivan. Maybe it was the ranging pregnancy hormones, or the doors that opened with a push of a button, but I was head over preggo-belly in love.

My love for my minivan grew along with my children. Once #3 joined the family, we removed one of the captain’s chairs to better access the toddlers in the back seat. Oh, glorious convenience. Don’t get me started on the DVD player, which makes our 3 hour drives to Nana and Papa’s a breeze. Apart from the obvious reasons I initially fell for my Golden Gal, (OK, I won’t lie, gold wasn’t my first choice, or even on my list) she continues to surprise me with new traits well-suited to my new motherhood lifestyle. I don’t want to make all you non-minivan driving Moms feel uncool, so I’ve abbreviated my list to the top five reasons I love my minivan.

#1. The doors, obviously. With two infant car seats, all you need is one free finger to open the doors. I have since honed my skills, and I can haul #3, a purse, drag two toddlers and open the doors with just my teeth. Now that my babies have mutated into toddlers, the doors are amazing because it prevents any little mischief makers from opening their door smack into another car. I’ll chalk that off as a car insurance win. 

#2. No one expects you to look good. You see an SUV rolling down the road, you expect a clean cut and well put together soccer mom with cupcakes in tow. You see a gold minivan screech into the parking lot, it’s no surprise that when the door conveniently slides open, 37 broken toys and crumbled goldfish crackers cascade into the parking lot. It’s also no surprise that my hair may still be in the same messy bun I went to bed with last night and I’m attempting to pull off yesterday’s mascara. I’m not pretending to have it all together, and the minivan serves as your advanced warning.

#3. It’s basically a giant diaper bag. I was super organized when the twins were babies. I had a neatly packed diaper bag with any conceivable necessity. By the time I had three in tow, I was literally just chucking a couple diapers and a pack of wipes into the backseat. There is a first-aid kit under one of the seats and probably a couple changes of clothes in there somewhere. An emergency might require that I hike out to my minivan to obtain proper supplies, but there’s a solid 98% chance that what I need is in there. 

#4. No one questions why you are weaving in and out of lanes. If you see a vehicle failing to staying within a given lane, you might assume the driver is drunk or texting. As you pass them you may give them a salty look or curiously examine what they are so irresponsibly doing that would result in such careless driving. You see a minivan weaving in and out of the lanes, you say a prayer for the poor mother because you know she’s yelling “DO NOT MAKE ME TURN THIS VAN AROUND!”

#5. Need a snack? Check the floor. It’s a smorgasbord of tasty toddler treats. We can’t promise it won’t be stale or previously nibbled upon, but in a pinch you can satisfy a craving. Just make sure it’s food before you give it a taste.

It’s not where I imagined myself five years ago, but life has a funny way of changing all your expectations. I might not be “cool”, “well-rested”, “organized”, or “wearing real clothes” but I never once had to put a baby on the roof of my minivan. 

Baby Picasso

My #3 is a rambunctious little fellow, who has humbled me as a mother and taught me that I’m so much less in control that I thought I was. He came along, a singleton after the twins, and my husband and I said to each other, “This will be a piece of cake!!” And he is, but more like a piece of cake loaded with TNT and then detonated in a small room. Never had that kind of cake? Well, it’s not super popular at parties.

I partially blame one of my L&D nurses that I had when delivering the twins, who told me she had three – a set of twins and a singleton. She said, “that singleton was a breeze! We hardly knew she was there!” My #3 has definitely made his presence known.

He is the sweetest, most precious boy. He has completed and brought so much joy to our family, but we were entirely unprepared for him. Our twins were preemies so they slept constantly. He loathed sleep and vehemently opposed anyone in the household attempting to enjoy some precious shut-eye. The twins would “roll with it” and surprised us how well they adjusted to schedule changes and shifts in routine. He was stubborn from the start and completely inflexible. He liked to remind me who was in charge by regularly breaking routine and laughing at any schedule I tried to establish. If babies could punch you in the face, then this guy was Mike Tyson. 

Prior to the arrival of #3, I had naively credited the relative ease of parenting my twins to my own parenting skills. ::punch:: While our parenting decisions and tactics matter, so do the personalities of the critters we are parenting. The feeding and sleeping schedules that worked so fantastically for the twins were an epic failure with #3. ::punch:: The baby-proofing we had done that had worked for 2.5 years and counting with the twins, was no match for baby Tyson. ::punch:: After getting socked in the face enough times, you’re either unconsious or forced to admit your strategies aren’t working. (Yes, I realize the metaphor I’ve just created is a boxing match with my baby. It’s accurate and I’m pretty sure he’s still winning.)

 #3 is a precocious and ambitious child with no concept for his actual age or physical limitations. His mentors are a pair of clumsy three year olds with questionable judgment, so he’s fearless and constantly trying to keep up. All of his adventures and predicaments are topics for future writings, but one of my main mom struggles is his uncanny ability to open things.

Drawers, cupboards, doors, pens, baby gates, jars, Chapstick, it all started at 14 months. He sits and shimmy-wiggle-fidgets with things until he successfully learns to operate them. The most problematic item as of late is markers. He find them, since the 3 year olds are so great at cleaning up after themselves, opens them, and let’s his creative juices flow all over a long list of surfaces in my home. Since I’ve been victimized in the past by marker misconduct, I only allow ultra-washable markers under my roof. It’s a good thing too, since I keep finding places #3 has been tagging with his baby graffiti. 

I have simplistically entitled the following album: Places my baby has colored.

  
His Face.

  
His pants.

  
His high chair.

  
The Floor.

  
His Brother.

  
The Window sill. 

Most of his work at this point is pretty abstract, but his technique of “press and smear” is flawless. I hesitate to use the term “brilliant,” but I think the kid has a real future. If you’re interested in a commissioned piece, please let me know. 

If You Teach a Toddler to Fish…

My husband took our twins ice fishing. No, you heard me correctly. I love my husband, but clearly not enough to discourage him from taking my two 3 year olds off my hands for the day.

When my husband goes ice fishing, he likes to get an early start so he can savor the daylight hours and get in as much fishing as possible. So his plan for the day started with him waking them up nearly an hour early. I was kind enough to gently express some concerns about bringing mildly sleep deprived toddlers ice fishing for an entire day, but I was quickly admonished. 

“They’ll sleep during the hour drive up north.” He told me. Oh, that’s cute. You have two wired toddlers loaded up into your truck, ready to pee their pants (which they’re likely to do anyway) with excitement over the idea of ice fishing. They’re not going to sleep. The first rule of toddlers is: They never sleep when you want them to. The second rule of toddlers is: never wake a sleeping toddler, and the third rule of toddlers is: AHHHHHHHH! Stop talking about sleeping, you’re going to jinx it!

Ok.” I said in reply. Who was I to argue? I had a day with only one child to care for in my sights and I wasn’t going to risk ruining that by trying to give my husband helpful advice like, “by the way, our daughter usually poops about 3 times before lunch, so have fun with that out in the middle of an ice covered lake!” He’d figure it out, right? “I’ll see you all tonight! Have a fun day!” I said with a smile, as I shoved them out the door and locked it behind them.

Freedom! It was only about three hours later that I got a text that read “I can’t handle another minute of whining! Maybe I’ll try this again when they’re eight.” I resisted the urge to reply, “Welcome to my world, Daddy. I’ve changed the locks and won’t open the doors until our previously agreed upon evening return time, so don’t even think about packing it up and coming home.” Ends up, toddlers aren’t super keen on sitting and doing nothing while they wait for a fish to bite their line. But who could have predicted that?

On the other hand, little dude and I spent the day running errands in record time and remarkable silence. I’d forgotten what it was like to go to the store without fielding 700 questions from the peanut gallery about why we aren’t going to be purchasing ice cream cones or pop tarts. Then, after nap, we kind of just looked at a each other for a while and twiddled our thumbs. I’m not going to lie to you; it was amazing. 

I did feel guilty for a hot second, thinking of my sweet husband and our beautiful children out on the cold ice, attempting to snag fish for sport. I feigned a few “So how’s it going?” messages to satisfy my morbid curiosity. They eventually settled in and snagged a few trophy fish.  Which I’m told they promptly complained about not being able to immediately eat. 

 
Their day on the ice concluded with my son stepping in one of the holes in the ice and one really cold foot. Daddy brought them home at bedtime very soggy and completely exhausted. My daughter put on her pajamas, climbed into her own bed and literally put herself to sleep. In that moment, as I stood watching that scene with mouth agape, I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing. All the great mysteries of parenting and toddler psychology were clarified before my eyes, and I’d be selfish not to impart that wisdom to all of you:

If you give a toddler a fish, he’ll whine about not being able to eat it. If you teach a toddler to fish, OMG THEY COME HOME EXHAUSTED AND GO RIGHT TO BED.