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.