Friday, December 23, 2011

Toddler Holiday Quirks

This Christmas season has been such an experience! It's really the first year Monster has been able to understand and participate. He learned about Santa and wish lists and Christmas trees and reindeer . . . the whole shebang really. What I find most hilarious and endearing are the little holiday quirks he's already developed.

Like, he has no idea that the Grinch turns good at the end. Which, if you ask me, is pretty much the whole point of the story. But Monster seems to think the story focuses on how sad Max (the dog) is which is a valid point. Throughout the whole ugly business of that Grinch stealing Christmas, the only time Monster expresses outrage is when he removes the star from the Who tree. Which leads me to . . .

Monster thinks the only ornament allowed on a Christmas tree is a star. I mean, obviously a string of lights is ok but anything else he pulls off and throws to the floor. This is why I'm glad I had the lack of preparation forsight to not have ornaments. 'Cause they would be broken. Even the ornaments he makes at daycare aren't acceptable adornment.

One can only sing Jingle Bells if one is wearing a Santa hat. So, I got him a Santa hat except that, when we were out getting our tree, he got to wear his cousin's Santa hat and now he thinks that's his and any other hat I try to bestow upon him is 'mama hat' and therefore unacceptable.

Quirks and all, this Christmas is going to rule! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

From me and mine

Friday, December 2, 2011

Every Extra Second

One thing I was happy I did this morning, even though it took seemingly FOREVER, was to let Monster help me scrape the ice off the windows of the car. Really all he did was hold the scraper while I did most of the work, but he was so happy to help and it kept him from running away behind the house again.

I'm lucky to have a job that is flexible so that I don't have to rush Monster into the car and to the babysitter's. We can take a bit of time to snuggle on the couch, play Gruffalo, or scrape the car windows.

I love every extra second. Well the pleasant ones anyway.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Much Is Too Much?

I had a strategy for Christmas this year: buy throughout the year so as not to stress or go bankrupt. When I saw different things on sale, I'd pick them up for Monster. The problem is, now I have a ton of presents for him and I'm wondering if it's too much.

The custody schedule is such that Monster will be going with the Ex at noon on Christmas Day so chances are good he won't even get to all of his presents before then. He still hasn't caught on to the whole present thing. He opens one and plays with it, ignoring all those still wrapped. I'm fine with that, don't get me wrong. I'm just wondering how it will go on Christmas morn.

What's an appropriate amount of gifts for a toddler? What's everyone else doing?

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Very Muppet Thanksgiving

When I was a kid, my parents alternated holidays with my brother and I. And since my dad's family is all out West, we always had a very casual and untraditional day with him. Thanksgiving meant we were at the movie theater. I loved it. It's one of my favorite childhood memories.

Then I became involved with a man who has two children whom he has every Thanksgiving. This meant that we always went to his parents' house. Don't get me wrong, the food was always delicious and we had a great time, but I did start to miss my own family's celebrations.

This year, however, Monster is with the Ex for Thanksgiving (I had him for Easter). My mom postponed our family's dinner until Friday which frees up my Thursday. I am honoring my father by heading to the cineplex and enjoying The Muppets.

I'm sure I will be a bit sad thinking of Monster being elsewhere but a Jason Segal-written Muppet movie will ease those blues for a few hours, at least. I love all things Muppets. From Fraggles to Ewoks, the Dark Crystal to Labrynth, Yoda to Cookie Monster; I still remember what it felt like as a kid to watch them. I feel the same way all these millions of years later.

This year, I'm not thinking of Thanksgiving as a tragic separation between my son and myself, but as a wonderful opportunity to relive a bit of my own childhood.

PLUS, I can pretend I'm in college again by getting extremely drunk on Wednesday night -- yet another delightful Thanksgiving tradition.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I LOVE Halloween! What a wonderful holiday. Maybe it's because it's during a wonderful time -- Fall. Maybe it's the candy. Maybe it's the costumes. Maybe it's the fact that I don't have to perpetuate a lie to my child about a magical being that breaks into my house and bestows gifts. There's magic at Halloween and it's for all ages.

My mom always made our costumes. I guess you had to back then. Now there's incredible and affordable costumes for purchase practically everywhere. I decided, though, that I was going to make costumes for Monster. He's in love with our next door neighbor's dog -- a Golden Retriever named Cooper, or, as Monster says, Poop Poop. I bought a ton of fleece and went to work.

Basically I made fleece pajamas and added a tail to the pants. Then I made a hood and added some ears. Monster won't wear the hood and prefers his new fedora so this is what we ended up with.

Oh, and that's Yellow Tool Box he's holding in his hand. It's his latest obsession. He doesn't carry anything in it and don't you dare call it a brief case.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Almost Like Having a Daughter

Monster does NOT like getting ready in the mornings. I've spent a lot of time chasing him around the house with diapers, clothes, breakfast, shoes, his coat, just trying to get him presentable (which, seriously, doesn't measure up to what most people would find acceptable). He also takes issue with me getting ready in the morning. Not too long ago I jokingly asked if he wanted to help me pick out my clothes. He was all about it. Of course, he thinks I should wear things from the dirty clothes pile but we're working on that.

He really seems to enjoy this new routine. He likes to feel the fabric of the clothes before he makes his decision and then he gets very excited when I coordinate his outfit to mine. Yesterday we both wore gray pants and today we both wore brown. So, I'm getting some much needed fashion help AND I found a way to get that kid excited about getting dressed. I rule at this mom shit!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dating? Yeah, I don't think so

Recetly I've been feeling like I might be ready to start dating. I have this mega crush on a very good friend of mine and was thinking to myself, this could work! We've tried the dating thing before and we do ok for a while until he realizes that I'm an empty shell with nothing left to give anyone. So, I've been kind of bummed thinking about how he probably doesn't like me like that and blah blah high school stuff blah.

Then this morning happened and as I was running around like an idiot trying to get Monster out from underneath his crib so I could get him dressed and out the door so that maybe I could get to work on time (note: that didn't happen), I realized, logistically there is no way for me to have a relationship. And strangely, that made me feel better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sort Of a Good Experience Sandwich

It's fall which means it's time for flu shots! I can't think of a better way to spend my time than holding my precious child down on an examination table while a stranger stabs him in the leg and injects him with pharmaceutical soup.

That being said, it's necessary because I'd rather have two seconds of terror for him than a week of vomiting, chills, and wretchedness for both of us. I'm a big picture kind of gal.

To make it more bearable for Monster, I took him to his favorite playground right after I picked him up from the babysitter's. I let him run around and go down slides and swing and kick a ball around and lie down on the ground face down. He even left without a fight. Why? Because I told him we had one quick stop to make and then we would go out for ice cream! You know, sort of a good experience sandwich.

And, btw, it totally worked. He had ice cream for dinner and a hot dog and peaches for dessert. I'm certain those are the parts he'll remember. At least I hope so.

The title of this post and the phrase "sort of a good experience sandwich" came from a Facebook thread started by my dear friend and fellow blogger, Megan. She posted how she got her daughter a flu shot and immediately treated her to fruit snacks and her favorite DVD. Not to be outmommed, I planned before AND after activities. So there Megan! You can read more about Megan's adventures here at Motherhood of the Toddling Pants. And I recommend that you do because she's actually a good writer. I've been jealous of her skills since we met working at that small town and now defunct newspaper.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why I Let My 2-Year-Old Pick Out My Outfit

I guess this is kind of a deceptive title because I have no clear answer to this. I mean, other than it was 7:45 on a Monday morning and my dear sweet child walked away from the Disney Channel in order to climb the stairs to spend time with me and the joy I felt because of that overwhelmed me to the point that I actually thought it was a good idea to wear my Wonder Woman t-shirt to my corporate office job.

So here I am, in a pink Wonder Woman t-shirt and a black cardigan with some sparkly  beaded embellishment on it, and gray pants. Granted I'm wearing red patten leather heels (oh gawd, it's sounding worse and worse) so that really dresses it up. And I wonder why my co-workers are avoiding my gaze. And also why I'm still single.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Summer of Self Improvement Fail

I just realized that I never did follow up on my quest for self improvement. That could mean that I'm already at the top of my game but I think we all know that's not true. You know, while I was reading The Happiness Project, I was really into it and was doing some of the things she suggested and I was happier. I don't know what happened. I just stopped. And I feel not as happy.

Is it the time of year and the fact that it's been raining here about 90 % of the time since July? Is it that I'm freaking busy? I can't be any busier than anyone else. Probably less busy than a lot of people actually. Do I lack stamina and the ability to commit? What is it people???

And does anyone want to do a group happiness project? I sent away for the materials a while back. She offers a whole package for doing a group project.

Has anyone else read the book or gone on her blog?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Who’s the F&#@- up Now?

Hint: It’s not me

Remember that time when I met my new neighbors? And then the time after that when Monster locked me out front but then let me in after a minute? Oh, those were good times. The Ex was so smug and superior. I can imagine his mother rolling her eyes when he told the story of my epic parenting fail at a family gathering. But whatevs, I don’t care. I don’t need them or their stupid approval.

But here’s where things get pretty sweet. Last week the Ex took off work so he could take Monster to Sesame Place. He came and picked him up and I left for work. Luckily I stopped for gas down the street and luckily I was reaching for my phone to check my bank balance because at that exact moment I received a frantic phone call from the Ex saying that Monster had locked himself in the van and could I help him “call someone?”

I could hear the panic in his voice. Luckily for everyone, I have AAA (thanks Mom!). I called them, told them my 2-year-old was locked in my van and could they send someone immediately. Also luckily, AAA is less than a mile from my house. So we waited. Monster was already strapped in his seat so he was sitting there playing with a small toy. The Ex was so anxiety-ridden and kept asking questions like: is he going to run out of air in there?; and are you sure you called? I passed the time by playing a peek-a-boo game. I’d duck down below the window and pop up and say, “Surprise!”

It took about 20 minutes for the AAA tech to get there and only a minute for him to unlock the door. As soon as Monster was free, I hugged him for about 10 minutes. I also wanted to hug the AAA guy but thought he might find that inappropriate.

All was well and I don’t even think Monster knew what was happening. It was just really nice to not be the f&#@-up for once.

I also recommend AAA to everyone! I, myself, am a platinum member.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Toast to Mom Friends!

All of a sudden, Monster seems to have grown up. Not just in size, but in spirit. He’s becoming more social, remembering his little friends and looking forward to seeing them. Ever since the great floods of ’11, we’ve been having weekly play dates with my friend who is also my step second cousin (wrap your brain around that one) and her son. My friend’s house flooded and her family moved in with her mom (who lives right near me) until the house is livable once again. Her son is a little older than Monster but is such a nice playmate for him. And not that little kids need a ton in common with their friends but they both enjoy cars, trucks, running around, and TV.

Sure it’s great to see a budding friendship but what’s better is the friendship I have with Playmate’s mommy! We like to let our kids play, drink, listen to music, and eat dinner. It’s so nice to have a mommy friend. I can’t believe I’ve survived this long without this kind of relationship. I have a ton of friends who are moms but to have a regular weekly ‘date’ with a mom who has a child near Monster’s age has changed my life.

I’m not exactly isolated but I’m no social butterfly either so as soon as Monster and I get home, it’s been just he and I chilling at the house. Which means I usually turn the TV on around 6 and it stays on until bedtime which I feel kind of guilty about. But now, friends come over, the kids play, the music is on and we’re talking over a glass of wine about all kinds of things. It’s a nice change of pace. Monster is happily exhausted by the end of the evening and I’m not dying of loneliness after he goes to bed.

Yay to mom friends! Yay to play dates! Yay to not feeling like a pathetic loser everyday!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happiest Memories

Yesterday my dear cousin and I were gchatting and she reduced me to tears by sending me this link and encouraging me to watch it (and I'm glad she did!)

It got us talking about our happiest memories (many of which included each other). Inevitably, our conversation came 'round to our sons and how watching them out in the world are some of our happiest memories. Seeing my son hug her son for the first time nearly reduced me to tears.

Fast forward to this morning as I was taking Monster to the babysitter's. He started saying goodbye to me right as we were getting out of the car. But he did something entirely new today. He said, "Hug, mama," and he squeezed me and held onto me the whole walk up the driveway.

Just wanted to share one of my happiest memories with y'all.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Life

Remember that sunflower I was growing? The one that Monster then destroyed? I never really did anything with it. I just left it out on the back deck to see what happened. Maybe it was denial, or maybe it was hope. Either way, two days ago it caught my eye.

These pictures aren't great, I know, but I'm obsessed with my retro camera app. The point is, there's new life in my sunflower!

There's a lesson in this, I just know it, but I haven't quite put my finger on what it is just yet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Avoiding an International Incident

In my former life I was an international woman of mystery. That was before Monster and my almost marriage and my corporate life.

That's actually not true at all. My dad retired down to Mexico but I did live with him for several months about a million years ago. The point being that in order to go see my dad I need a passport. In order for Monster to go see Grandpa he needs a passport. In order to get Monster a passport, I need the Ex on board because he needs to be there when we apply for it.

We’re in the throws of a family emergency and I need to get out of the U.S. and into Old Mexico in a hurry. I’d even settle for in the next few weeks but the amount of money I have to pay for expedited passports and the hoops I have to jump through to get Monster a passport and then across the border without creating an international incident are huge hurdles over which I’m tripping. So I guess they’re hoop hurdles that I’m both jumping through and tripping over. That really tells you something there.

“But don’t you have brothers who can help you?” you ask. Why yes, yes I do. I have two brothers to this particular father. They don’t actually communicate with each other for whatever reasons so I’m the hub. I’m also the one our dad calls when shit goes wrong (interestingly, I’m the last one my mom calls in a crisis but that’s another therapy session post) so I’m managing all of this via my cell phone whilst a certain needy toddler clings to me and forces me to watch Cars.

Plus I still have a job and crazy life things only seem to pop up when I’m in the midst of a huge project with a looming deadline.

The bottom line is this: my dad needs me and he wants me to bring Monster with me so he can spend time with him. The Ex isn’t sold and I absolutely need him on board in order to get Monster out of the country. And I don’t know how to navigate this. Granted, it’s quite an unusual situation. Separated parent relationships are always a balancing act and up until now I’ve not had to resort to threats. I will totally use bribes. I’m not above that. But I really just want him to agree to it because it’s the right thing to do.

I need a sales pitch.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


No, this is not another post about how Disney is ruining my dear, sweet child. Instead, this is me telling you that my stupid car broke down again (second time in 2 months) and that it's time to start the hunt for a new one. I'm taking suggestions.

That is all.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Look What the Flood Dragged In

Here in my neck of the woods, we’re having historic floods. I’m talking the once-in-500-years-type floods even though, really, it’s only been 38 years since the last 500-year-flood. Still, there’s lots of water everywhere where it shouldn’t be: covering roads, filling up the local amusement park, and in people’s homes. It’s been scary and stressful and overwhelming even though my house is completely dry.

But the Ex’s house is in the flood zone. He has water in the basement which, in the scheme of things is no biggie, but electricity service was shut off for safety purposes last evening. So, because I’m the nicest fucking person on the planet, I invited the Ex and the dog to come stay out here on dry land with me and Monster.

I’m tired. So very tired. And when I start pining for a puppy, please remind me of this. Obviously, whenever the routine a puppy and toddler are used to gets meddled with, neither of them are happy. This was no exception. Monster was so confused as to why the dog was here and why Dada wasn't leaving. Bedtimes and usual wake up times were totally ignored. Monster ended up in bed with me but at a strange angle with his feet in my face and his head dangerously close to the edge. So, yeah, I didn’t sleep. Plus the damn dog was pacing and her toe nails tap tap tapped all over the floor all night.

Despite my sleepless night, I’m so very lucky to be safe and sound with only a boil water advisory. I hope all is well with y’all out there also. It’s been crazy in the Mid Atlantic region over the past few weeks. We’ve had an earthquake, a hurricane, and a tropical storm that caused massive flooding. Oh, and PA’s capital city is near state takeover so it’s pretty much Armageddon up in here. All the while I’m doing my best with a testy 2-year-old whose schedule is so out of whack I don’t know how/when he’ll recover. But, what can I do? Keep on keepin’ on.

How are your kids at dealing with disasters?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Disney Is a Treacherous Bitch

I kind of think of Disney movies as the pinnacle of family entertainment so I was really excited that Monster got into the first Cars movie (mostly b/c it meant less Caillou. See ya later sucka!) I love how, even though we’ve seen it a gazillion times, he is still surprised at the wrecks in the beginning. And he still throws his arms up in celebration when Lightning McQueen stops right before winning the Piston Cup to go get The King who has just wrecked (oops, SPOILER ALERT!) So, there are good lessons.

However, the other night, when the Ex was returning him, Monster started yelling at him to “go away.” I was trying to be civilized and offer the Ex a drink and a seat but Monster was having no part of it. He does like for the parent dropping off to then continue on his/her merry way and often says, “bye bye!” like a not-so-subtle hint to get the F out but hearing him say “go away” was more than a little disturbing to me.

First, I felt bad for the Ex because no parent wants to hear that from their child, especially their 2-year-old. Second, Monster doesn’t get to decide when people come and go at the house. Third, where the hell did he learn that? I’ve never said that to him, near him, about him. I can’t imagine the Ex saying it or even the Step Twins. And I know it wouldn’t fly at the babysitter’s.

So, I thought and thought and thought about it and it finally hit me that Doc Hudson says it in Cars. Yeah, that’s right. He says it to Lightning when he follows him home after watching him race.

Damn it Disney! I know you’re creating drama but can’t you do it more politely? And while we’re at it, do you have to use the words “moron” and “idiot” too? It’s only a matter of time before he picks those up.

I emailed the Ex and told him the source had been found and he asked if I was going to ban Cars. I started shaking a bit. I don’t think I can ban it. It’s like crack to Monster. He loves it. He wants to watch it every day. I did some early Christmas shopping this past weekend and it’s all Cars-related merchandise. I can’t go back to Caillou. Don’t make me go back!

This morning, as we were getting ready to go into the babysitter's, Monster told me to "go away." I looked at him and said, "we don't say that." He responded, "Ok, mama." Then, remembering that you're supposed to give them an example of what to do rather than just tell them not to do something, I told him, "we say 'I love you mama.'" To which he responded, "I yuv oo, mama."

Problem solved? I hope so. Should I ban Cars? Am interested to hear what others think.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This Post Isn't Funny

When I came into work this morning, I was greeted by an email from the future president of the company stating that the son of one our co-workers was in the hospital and no one knew what was wrong with him. He was found listless and then had several severe seizures.

I’ve talked to this co-worker about his kids. He and his wife adopted two children from China. Their son has had developmental issues his entire life. I think they knew he had them and still adopted him and had made great strides with him through therapy and love and time. Even with his history, no one expected this and I can only imagine what the family has been going through waiting for test results that will hopefully provide answers. Throughout the day news trickled in, news that some ailments had been ruled out as causes. It’s not meningitis; it’s not a brain tumor – all good news.

Stories like this terrify me. One second our kids seem indestructible – just needing a kiss on their boo-boo and then they’re back running full tilt. It seems implausible that inside them, where we can’t see, something could be really wrong. I don’t know how I would handle Monster being seriously sick as it breaks my heart to see him with the sniffles.

I am thankful that my co-worker’s son has the parents he has – ones who went half way around the world to make him their son. They’ve already proven they would go to the ends of the earth for him.

Thoughts and prayers are with them and with all our kids. Hug ‘em tight y’all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From Toddler to Teenager in No time Flat -- awesome

Lately I've had to wake Monster up in the mornings and this has been around 7:30 - 7:45. His first words? "Noooooo, I'm sleeping!" And that is how my precious baby went from toddler to teenager in no time flat. The end.

Friday, August 26, 2011


All summer I had been talking about taking a day trip with the kidlet down to the beach but it never seemed to be a good time. I am lucky to have a very generous friend who rented a beach house and said I could bring Monster to stay at the end of the week. I jumped on the opportunity. One, because she's a very good friend who was celebrating her 30th birthday and I wanted to see her. Two, because not having to drive 8 hours in one day in order to enjoy the beach was a welcome gift.

Because I am a dumbass, we had to run to the store to get diapers, wipes and sunscreen before we hit the beach. That taken care of, we were ready to go. Well, mostly Monster was. I found myself out of breath and seized by panic for most of the time. The. Child. Is. Fearless. He ran toward the water. He was undeterred by the loud crashing of the waves or the cold water. If a wave knocked him down, he would pause but then he was right back in there screeching with joy and laughing his head off.

I have to say, I love his fearlessness. Yes, it means I have to be on my toes constantly and I can never relax or blink, but I swell with pride to see him run to the surf or edge of the pool and just jump right in. He’s not afraid of a tall slide or to swing high and I hope he never is. My challenge is to nurture this almost insane confidence. I don’t want him to be afraid. My wish is for him to always move forward no matter what lies in front of him, be it crashing waves, loss, the objections of his peers, or any obstacle, literal or figurative.

Yes, I’m exhausted from the day at the beach but I would rather be tired from keeping up with him as he experiences everything than coaxing him just to get him to do anything.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Is There Anything Worse Than A Sick Child?

I say "nay."

When Monster was a week old, he had a bad case of the jaundice which required us to get a UV blanket (not covered by insurance, those greedy bastards) and blood draws about every other day. Newborns get blood drawn from their precious little feet and it is horrific to watch someone take 20 minutes to draw the tiny amount of blood needed to check for whatever it is they're checking for. The first blood draw was a doozy but it got progressively easier.

Then Monster started getting ear infections. Enough that we had to get tubes surgically implanted. That poor, sweet pathetic baby waking up confused and in pain from anesthesia was just about more than I thought my heart could take.

Even just your run of the mill everyday little colds and viruses that a toddler in daycare will inevitably get are enough to bring me to my knees. My son is so very pathetic when he's sick. He's lethargic and just wants to be held. His eyes swell with tears when I get up to go to the bathroom without him. Asking him if he wants to eat or drink something is as upsetting to him as if I killed his puppy or something. (That's pure speculation b/c I have never, nor will I ever, kill a puppy.) And God forbid I want to watch something other than Caillou. Even the mere suggestion of Special Agent Oso or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cues the waterworks. And his tears spur my tears and then we're just a couple of pathetic crybabies hugging on the couch and watching DVR'd episdoes of a Canadian cartoon.

Luckily this little bout of illness sped by. It was about two days. I chalk that up to the fact that I don't give him Tylenol or Motrin for a fever anymore. The pediatrician told me that ibuprofen will actually halt the healing antibodies from moving to the virus. He also said that our bodies heat up for a reason -- to kill the virus or bacteria causing the illness. So, by reducing the fever, we actually slow the healing process. Fevers, he told me, aren't dangerous until around 105 or 106 and that's because dehydration is setting in. Obviously check with your pediatrician but I did want to pass that on.

What are your kids like when they're sick? Is there something they like to watch or eat? Are they sad little critters or do they even notice they're sick?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nice Things My Ex Did (a short list)

I was chatting (gchatting, that is) with a friend not too long ago and I recalled a nice birthday gift I had received from my Ex before he was my Ex. I told my friend that I should remember these things because one day Monster will want to know about them. To know about how our relationship was before it wasn’t one anymore. So in an effort to record and preserve history, here’s a list of some of the nice things Monster’s dad did for me when we were together.

For my birthday one year, he got me the movie Waitress on DVD. He even found a recipe for one of the pies in the movie and made it for me.

When I was in the hospital trying not to have our baby, he made me a playlist of relaxing songs.

He sent flowers to my work on the day I handed in my resignation for what I thought would be a better job and then he sent me an Edible Arrangement when I went back to work there.

He introduced me to Veronica Mars and we laid on the couches one winter weekend to watch all three seasons on DVD.

When my dad was visiting due to some health problems, he picked him up from the hospital and took him to put a deposit down on a temporary apartment.

Without his help I wouldn’t have Monster. So no matter how much he pisses me off, I can never hate him. He’s Monster’s dad for better or for worse.

I speak to my step twins’ mom fairly regularly and am always shocked by how much hostility she still holds toward the Ex. I don’t want that resentment trickling down to Monster. He will make up his own mind about his father and I want it to be based on their relationship, not my feelings. I think one of the best things I can do for Monster is give his dad a clean slate. Navigating your own feelings toward your parents is tough enough without being stained by someone else’s too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We Are Family

What is it about family that seems to defy the time/space continuum? How can the family bond be so strong that even cousins who live thousands of miles away from each other be so close? Is it instinctive? Is it because their parents talk about the years they spent together growing up? Can our kids sense our excitement about getting together with (some parts of) our family?

My mom and her cousin were best friends growing up even after her cousin’s family moved to another state. The next generation grew up together and my relationship with my second cousin is what I imagine sisterhood to be like. But she now lives in Boston and her sister lives in Texas and although my brother lives about 20 minutes away, I rarely see him.

The stars and planets aligned last week though when we were all in the same town at the same time and so were our kids. Monster has only met his cousin, Superman, a handful of times. Plus, he’s 2 so he has no real understanding of what it means to be cousins, yet he couldn’t wait to see him. He even pretended to talk to him on his toy cellphone.

Even the cousins who had never met before seemed to have a comfort level that spanned generations. It seemed like we had been getting together like this every day since the dawn of time.

Despite the differences in age, hometown, upbringing – we’re the same. We’re family.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Broken Dreams, Broken Flower

Yesterday a power struggle between me and my toddler resulted in this

And I'm not sure what else to say about it except that I'm completely heart broken.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Me + Potty Training = FAIL

Be prepared people. Probably every post from here on out will involve potty training and how I’m not qualified to teach a 2-year-old how to use a toilet.

This morning Monster was fussing around a bit whilst I was in the shower. I thought he was just upset that I was not attending to his every need. He kept crying, “Mama! Poop!”

It took me a minute to figure out that’s what he was saying anyway, mostly because I was kind of ignoring him. His crying seemed half-hearted so I knew nothing was seriously wrong. Don’t judge me. I got downstairs and, sure enough, he had, in fact, pooped. He also removed his diaper that was filled with the poop, and scooted it away from him. Then he just continued lying on the floor, watching Special Agent Oso.

It was a little messy but not as bad as I anticipated. I was so proud of him for knowing he was poopy and not wanting to stay that way. Usually when we ask him if he pooped, he’ll deny even though, clearly, he had. I told him I was proud of him and he beamed.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m reading about potty training but most of what I’m reading is how to coax your child to do it. My kid is leaps and bounds ahead of me. I’m unprepared. I’m lost. I'm taking suggestions.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Super Mom

It’s rare when I feel like I’m rocking this single mom sh*t but yesterday I had a moment when I felt confident of my skills to work, parent and not lose my freakin’ mind. And it was because of such a little thing that maybe most people wouldn’t think twice about. I put a delicious dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time using little to no brain power!

I will forever divide my life into two parts: before I found this wonderful summer freezer meals blog post and after I found this wonderful summer freezer meals blog post. I even e-mailed Natalie (the mastermind behind it) to let her know this and now I’m pretty sure she’s concerned about my mental health and has perhaps gone into hiding.

Anyway, last week I grilled and shredded and froze the chicken. I pulled one of my little packets out of the freezer with zero clue about what I was going to do with it. Around 5 pm I realized I still had no plan for it so, while I was stuck in stupid traffic yesterday, I used the Epicurious app on my phone to look up BBQ sauce recipes. I found a simple one and then tweaked the hell out of it. Here’s a tip y'all: if you’re like me and have quarter-filled jars of spaghetti sauce left over, use it in a BBQ sauce! It’s already spiced up so that saves a step. Then I just added the shredded chicken to the sauce and let them get to know each other while I threw some Pillsbury biscuits in the oven.

I found these at the grocery store I never go to due to it smelling like raw meat and it not offering organic milk (wtf??). Of course, I didn’t know there was no organic milk there until the other day when I really needed some milk for Monster and that was the closest place. I did find these biscuits though and they don’t have them at my normal grocery spot.

Then I served the BBQ chicken with a biscuit for dinner. Monster and I suppered on the lanai (said in snobby rich person voice) and had a great evening (until it was time to take a bath, at which time things went to hell quite quickly. But, that's another story).

But for that one moment, that glorious fleeting moment, I was Super Mom.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Private Parts

Monster is becoming fascinated with body parts and bodily functions. A couple of weeks ago we were playing Name That Body Part and when I pointed at his little bottom, he exclaimed, "Poop!" Not quite right but I’m impressed that he’s made that connection. I did let him know that it’s called a ‘bum.’ But this leads me to wonder, "what are we going to call private parts?"

I’m very much like an adolescent boy. I giggle whenever anyone says balls or fish tacos. I’m giggling right now just typing those words. I wish it ended there but there’s something about small children using the proper names for private parts that sends me to fits.

Lately Monster has been pointing at my privates and saying, “Poop,” and it’s making me self conscious and quite frankly it hurts my feelings. But I don’t have a word in mind to transition him to.

Now that potty training has started, parts are going to have to be named and I’m taking suggestions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What I Realized On The Way To Work This Morning

I had one of those moments in the car this morning. A moment when my heart got lighter and a smile formed without me having to put in any effort at all. I realized I am happy.

I am happy despite being a single mom – or maybe because of that. I’m happy even though I have no disposable income. Seriously, every penny must be accounted for. I’m working a job that I find uninteresting and quite frankly, I have zero idea about what my company does. But, whatevs.

On my drive this morning, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the love of my life, eyes bright, mouth full of fresh blueberries, no pants on, and a feeling came over me. It wasn’t a jolt either, it was a gentle realization that I love my life. Even though I realized that I never changed out of my flip flops before leaving for work, even though I picked up a piece of poop with my bare hands thinking it was a dropped blueberry, even though I had to scrub my toilet this morning because someone – not me – peed in there the evening before and never flushed it (it really wasn’t me, it was a ‘guest’ who thinks that’s acceptable behavior and who also thinks it’s acceptable to park in my parking spot – the one closest to my house – and then give me a hard time about it when I ask him to stop doing that).

I’m happy despite being 15 pounds overweight and so out of shape that I thought I was going to throw up on the treadmill last evening, despite fighting with Monster about going to sleep for more than an hour and then not having any alcohol in the house to chug after he finally did fall asleep.

I'm happy knowing that life can certainly turn out to be a wonderful thing in spite of my best efforts to f*&@ it up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Potty Training Parent Fail

Monster is entering an important, albeit frightening, time (for me at least). It’s potty training time! And I’ll admit, I have no f*$@ing clue what I’m doing. I have not prepared for this in the least. In fact, I was quite surprised when, at Monster’s two-year checkup, the nurse practitioner told me that at the next checkup he’d be checking on our progress in this particular area.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for the signs that it was time to start trying. It seems Monster never has a dry diaper so obviously he’s not interested in holding it. He is capable of taking his diaper off but not putting it back on or even wanting it back on. According to the babysitter, he likes to take off his clothes but mostly shirts, not pants. Basically, all signs point to ‘he’s not ready.’

Then this weekend happened. Monster looked at me and announced, ‘Pee pee,’ and walked into the bathroom. I asked him if he wanted his diaper off and he said yes. I asked him if he wanted to pee pee in the toilet and he said yes. So I put him up there and he got really freaked out even though I was holding him. Back in his diaper he went. I could kick myself! If I had been at least a little prepared I could’ve introduced him to the wonders of not peeing in his pants.


On tonight’s to do list: get a training potty and a clue.

My Sunflower Is As Tall As a Seated Toddler

Here is the sunflower a mere 25 days old and already it's taller than Monster (when he's seated). Not too shabby. I was hoping I could leave the flower down on the deck instead of up on the railing but it seems Monster thinks it's ready to be picked. He thought that with the cilantro also and so now we're a plant down.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First Day Back = Total Bummer

Coming back to work from a three-day weekend is a horrible torture for me. Especially after such a wonderful one. This past weekend was one where I really felt like I was doing everything right. I felt like I was doing a great job at being a mom. Then Tuesday rolls around and I was in such a foul mood at work, which never happens to me anymore. Sure, I get irritated about things but I was so mad that I actually had to have a co-worker/friend edit an e-mail I was sending so I didn’t end up pink slipped due to cussing out a manager.

And it’s hot here. I know it’s July and everything and this is normal but the heat pisses me off. Monster took his time getting into my car at the babysitter’s and honestly, I was just plain done by about 5:30 pm EST. But I did my best and tried to persevere. I think my grouchiness was rubbing off on Monster though. Everything seemed to be pissing him off. At around 6 he was asking to watch Caillou and you know what? I turned it on for him.

The Before Me, the version of me I was whilst still in a relationship with my Ex, would have felt like a terrible mother for resorting to turning on the TV this early in the evening. I mean, we have to stick to our schedule, dammit! But the Now Me thought it perfectly reasonable for two grouches to turn on the TV and veg out for a while simply because there’s nothing longer than the first day back from a three-day weekend (well, except for the first day back from even more time off).

Then I read him an extra book before bed to make up for the brain cells he lost by watching all that TV. I guess it all evens out.

The Sunflower Chronicles Part Quatro

Here she is. The sunflower. Ain't she a beaut? Or maybe it's just my RetroCamera app for my phone that I'm loving.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Here's What's For Dinner

Yesterday I grilled three pieces of chicken, shredded them and packaged them in foil pouches. I froze two and kept one in the fridge for dinner tonight.

My grandma gave me a bag full of basil from her "garden" which is actually just two herb plants in two pots outside her kitchen door. I took that basil

I looked up pesto on but realized I only had two of the ingredients I needed for it: basil and olive oil. So I tossed them in the food processor together. Wasn't exactly pesto but it was close enough for me and a two-year-old. I mixed it with the chicken

I grabbed a piece of Naan and spread some tomato sauce on it

Put the chicken "pesto" on top of that

Put shredded cheese on top of that

I baked it in a preheated oven (425 degrees) until the cheese had bubbled and browned a bit

Then Monster and I sat on the couch, watched Caillou and stuffed our faces with it.

What’s For Dinner?

A big source of my stress which then leads to discontentment is that I’m quite unorganized when it comes to dinner.

I like to cook at home for a couple reasons. One, I ain’t rich! And eating out really adds up. If I’m spending money on going out, I prefer to spend it on breakfast. Another reason is that I like to know what’s going in my food. I try to make as much as I can from scratch and I use organic as often as I practically can. And the third reason is that dinnertime is the beginning of The Witching Hour. That magical time of day when tantrums are plentiful. I’d rather be in a more controlled atmosphere when things start getting thrown and Monster starts getting loud.

But I’m a single working mother (have I mentioned that?) of a toddler (does any of this ring a bell?) so I don’t have a ton of time. I’m also extremely unorganized and scatter brained so what little time I do have is spent scrambling on last minute dinner ideas.

I’ve tried the meal plan thing – you know, planning a week’s worth of meals in advance. This helps with grocery shopping by making the shopping trip both more organized and less expensive, but by Tuesday I forget the recipes I had picked out. In fact, I bought a can of coconut milk several weeks ago to use in a recipe and I haven’t been able to find that recipe again. Did I imagine it? Maybe.

My dinner schedule looks a little something like this:
Saturday/Sunday – cook big
Monday – leftovers
Tuesday – leftovers
Wednesday – forgot to pull the chicken out of the freezer so grilled cheese sandwiches or scrambled eggs
Thursday – that chicken is still in the freezer. Let’s eat snacks for dinner!
Friday – when Monster is with his dad, I’ll eat cereal for dinner. If it’s my Friday, we both eat cereal for dinner.
And it starts all over again.

Then one day, as I was out blog hopping, I stumbled onto this little gem. Summer freezer meals! I didn’t know you could do that! This woman posted her whole schedule of making more than a month’s worth of meals in one afternoon. Which is great for me, because I love it when other people have already done the work for me!

(Author's note: In a weird twist of fate, after I read this and forwarded the link to everyone I know, my sister-in-law told me she knew this woman and was actually talking to her when she received my email. So now I know she’s good people.)

I have not done the four-hour session she describes but I have taken little bits and pieces from it and adapted it to my little family. It’s amazing the difference it’s made. Now it doesn’t matter how long it takes Monster to get out of the car because dinner is already planned and mostly ready. That is, if I remembered to take it out of the freezer.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Summer of Self Improvement

This has inadvertently become The Summer of Self Improvement for me. It all started when I finally got my hands on a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin from the library. It’s been out for months. While reading about Ms. Rubin’s year-long journey to being happier (as she already considered herself a happy person before the project), I came across some very good tips about interacting with children. She referenced the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. And while reading reviews of this book, I came across a recommendation for The Pocket Parent by Gail Reichlin and Caroline Winkler. I have not finished any of these books yet (what part of single mom don’t you understand?) but already I’ve changed my mind set about how I’m going to deal with, not only Monster, but everyone in my life.

The sunflower, the cilantro, and the bell peppers (which sprouted yesterday y’all!) are part of my own happiness project. I made the goal of planting some things, which is something I’ve been talking about for years but never actually doing. There was joy in finally dragging my ass to the gardening store, buying the supplies I needed and actually planting the stuff because I took the first step. Then there’s been the overwhelming joy that the stuff is growing. Every day I see it and I get a jolt of happiness. I think Monster gets it too because now he demands to be held up to see the “flar.”

I’ve decided to fight less with Monster. I believe I have mentioned that he hates getting out of the car. He wants to play in the driver’s seat but it’s been too hot and I’m afraid he’ll bake so I’m putting my foot down about this. I’m also carrying my purse, my work laptop and usually a lunch bag so I don’t have the strength to carry a fightin’ toddler too, mostly because I don’t want to drop him on the pavement. I’ve decided to do a small struggle to get him out of the car, then shut the doors, but then hand him my keys and let him play beside the car while I go put my stuff inside and take off my shoes. He doesn’t leave my sight. I sit on my front step and watch him and eventually he makes his own way into the house. It’s been great not getting my ass kicked by my two-year-old right after work every day.

These two small things have made such a huge difference in my life this week. And by making myself a happier person, I’m becoming a better mom.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Sunflower Chronicles cont. cont.

Hmm, maybe I should come up with another title for this series.

Here is my beautiful sunflower at 9 days old. I am so happy with its progress. And so is Monster. Now he demands to be lifted up to see it and the cilantro. Our peppers still haven't sprouted so I'm thinking they're a wash.

I've been saving an empty egg carton for weeks now and this weekend, whilst Monster is with the Ex, I am going to plant some bell peppers and squash in it. Then I will transplant the seedlings. I bought a Topsy Turvy during that incredibly long week for around $5 at Bed Bath & Beyond and I'm gonna use it! For squash though and not tomatoes because I don't really like tomatoes.

Gardening has proven to be very therapeutic.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Face Time

Since becoming just plain single, I’ve been battling a new kind of loneliness. Maybe not exactly new since it’s reminiscent of the first few months I moved to Alabama with a traveling salesman and our Rottweiler puppy. So, basically with a Rottweiler puppy. It was long days of only minimal human contact. I found myself being very chatty with grocery clerks and telemarketers.

I still have all the friends I had pre-break up, it’s just that I never realized how little I actually hung out with them before. I’m an e-mail and text friend. I have several theories as to why I’m like this but that’s not really what this post is about.

This past week, my former neighbor invited Monster and I to go hang out at the pool where she is a member and then over to her house for dinner. I was so excited that I answered her (e-mail, of course) with multiple exclamation points.

The anticipation of this “date” got me through a dreadfully long Friday afternoon of work even though our plans weren’t until Sunday. It’s funny though, because I used to dread plans. For some reason, knowing I had an engagement coming up gave me anxiety. I have no theories as to why I was like that but I hated even scheduling a haircut.

That never happened in this case. Surprising, really, considering I had to pack three bags, stop at the ATM and drive 20 minutes up a winding road to even get to the pool. Plus I get nervous anytime I’m at a place where my son could drown. But my anticipation never wavered even though it never really got sunny or as warm as the Weather Channel predicted (jerks!).

And we had fun the entire time. Monster’s lips and fingertips turned blue because the water was so cold and he peed while we were snuggling on the bench trying our best to stay warm (swim diapers do not protect against pee, in case you didn’t know), yet none of that could spoil the fun we were having.

Monster fell asleep on the car ride to our friend’s house and stayed asleep as we laid him on a sleeping bag in the middle of a bedroom floor (God bless swimming!)

For the first time since having a baby, I was able to relax being somewhere other than my own house. That may have been the glass of wine (likely) or it may just be that I’m finally growing into motherhood.

The Sunflower Chronicles cont.

Here is the sunflower at 7 days old. Not the best photo but it's taken on my phone, people, so give me a break!

It's amazing how much this flower changes on a day-to-day basis and I'm surprised at how much joy this brings me.

I planted cilantro at the same time as the sunflower and it just sprouted. It was like Christmas morning seeing that.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Sunflower Chronicles

One thing I did whilst my sweet Monster was away for that very looooong week was plant a sunflower. I also planted cilantro and some yellow bell peppers but for the sake of this post, we'll just focus on the sunflower.

I had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish and me, being deadline driven, did most of them on Sunday afternoon. But really, does it matter when it got done or that it got done at all? I vote the latter.

My point is that the sunflower has already sprouted.

See it? See how it's lifting its little green head out from the soil? Amazing! I was not expecting such quick results but I have to say, this is very satisfying indeed. I lift Monster up to look at it every day. He is not nearly as into it as I am but, whatevs, he's only 2.

So I will be posting pictures of the sunflower's growth often. Like, every day.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just Plain Single

I have moved from being “practically single” to just plain single. I am mostly fine with this since the in between stage proved to be confusing and riddled with uncertainty and anxiety. I took that giant leap by making the decision to move out and then actually moving out. Not to sound cliché but, it’s been totally liberating.

And honestly, I don’t find being a single mom that much different than being a non single mom. I am still in charge of every single aspect regarding Monster while his dad takes care of him one day per week allowing me to sleep past 6:45.

All that changed this week though. This week Monster is with his dad. For the whole week. Just in case you’re not following, I have relinquished custody of my precious child to a man I never fully trusted to take care of him even while I was in the shower. For a whole week.

I am trying to view this time as an opportunity to improve myself on a few levels. First, I need to appreciate that Monster’s dad is willing to spend this kind of time with his son. This is good for Monster even though it’s like torture for me.

Second, I need to get a freakin’ life, for reals! I seriously don’t do anything outside of work, baby raising and Facebook. This cannot be healthy.

Third, maybe loosening my grip on Monster will inspire his dad to step up. Maybe all he needs is the opportunity. This is probably just wishful thinking though. Ugh, I’m backtracking!

Must. Move. Forward.

Fourth, I have the time to nurture some of my relationships that too often get ignored completely.

Fifth, I have the brain capacity and energy to write. So, you’re welcome!

Who am I kidding? I just want my kid back! Who needs relationships, hobbies, and shared parental responsibilities? I want evening snuggles, goodnight kisses and the first hand knowledge that my son is A-OK. The brief phone calls from my ex with updates that are meant to ease my worries only exacerbate them. It’s equally painful to me for Monster not to be missing me as it is to hear him crying for me in the background.

I can say, though, that not having to watch Caillou has been pretty sweet and perhaps makes this all worth it.