Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sunrise, sunset...

I am feeling especially maudlin lately. I took L back-to-school shopping last week and barely made it through dry-eyed. Isn't it weird when suddenly you can't just zip into Target and pick out clothes simply based on their age and a rough estimate of their weight? For the first time she had to try everything on. Some size 5 things fit, some didn't. Her feet have gone up almost a whole size since the spring and she's grown a full inch taller since Memorial Day. Hard data aside, she just looks different. Her chubby cheeks are gone, replaced by a slimmer, more angular, less "cute" and more "stunningly beautiful" (I say with a complete lack of bias) face. Her body has stretched, revealing long, athletic legs. I've turned all of her jeans into cut-offs because they were all so ridiculously short.

Thank goodness not everything changes at once. My amazing L still has her same vibrant imagination and highly entertaining personality. She loves robots, and is currently saving her allowance up to purchase a robot who will do all her chores for her (clever girl). She went to Lego camp and was the only girl. She had a blast (building robots, of course). She still has a few words she regularly mispronounces ("callerpitter" is my favorite) and I'm desperately hoping she won't learn the correct pronunciation anytime soon because that will mean she is really growing up on me. She is full-on reading now, but would much rather be creating elaborate scenarios with her animal figures, often involving lots of Kung Fu. She equally thrills and exhausts me with her wit, stubbornness, and capacity for absolute joy. Not a day goes by that she doesn't, at least once, suddenly hug me tight and murmur, "I love you, Mom". It's as though, in that moment, she is so overcome with love she has to drop everything and EXPRESS it. I love that about her. How many of us DON'T say what we're feeling when we feel it and miss out on an opportunity to tell a family member or friend how much we love them?

Right now L is asleep next to me in my bed. Her face is peaceful and there are tiny shadows of the baby she was (not so long ago, if you ask me). Her arms are splayed out and she's secure and content. I can easily see the tiny 8-month, 12-pound baby that slept in my arms the entire way home from Ethiopia back in 2008. Soon she'll wake up and start chattering about becoming a rock & roll drummer/robotics engineer and my tiny baby girl will be gone until tomorrow's nap time.

When did she get to be a beauty?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

This Modern Mom is NOT Conflicted

This morning while working out I had the misfortune to stumble upon an interview with Elisabeth Badinter in Marie Claire magazine (don't judge me, I was just looking for some light reading). I rarely take part in these so-called "Mommy Wars," but this interview made me angry enough that I feel compelled to add my two cents. Let me start by saying that I am not upset that Ms. Badinter doesn't seem to care for SAHM's. That's cool with me. I'm totally fine with that. What I cannot abide is name calling. I cannot hold my tongue when someone calls me "infantile" for the choices I have made, at the same time insinuating that I have made said choices lightly or without considerable thought.

The funny thing is that I don't disagree with one of Ms. Badinter's main points:

"Nature knows only one way to be a mother. This is not the case for women, who are endowed with consciousness, personal histories, desires and differing ambitions. What some do well and with pleasure, others do badly or out of duty. By failing to take account of women's diversity, by imposing a single ideal of motherhood, by pursuing the notion of a perfect mother -- one who has the exclusive responsibility of making or breaking her children -- we fall into a trap. We neglect the other business of modern women: the unfinished assault on the glass ceiling, the fight to close the salary gap, the struggle for equality at home."

I do think that there are significant pressures out there to be this natural/mother earth kind of mother. That you are somehow failing if you are not an attachment parenting, breast feeding, cloth diapering, baby food making, co-sleeping, home schooling, organic eating, sign languaging, baby wearing mother. One needs only to look at the recent Time Magazine cover to find evidence of this pressure. I mean seriously, could the text on that magazine cover be more incendiary??

Call me naive, but I think that despite these pressures, most mothers will ultimately do what is best for them and their families, current parenting trends be dammed. For a feminist, Ms. Badinter seems to have a rather low opinion of her gender. Yes, I have a college degree. I also went on to receive my Masters and Doctorate from one of the best music schools in the country. I made a thoughtful choice, however, to stay home with my kids. I was not, nor am I now, under any illusion that I will have an easy transition back into the workforce if/when I choose to go back to work. Nor did I choose to stay home because of some outside societal pressure. I chose to stay home because it was the best choice for me, my husband , and my children. Being a SAHM makes me happy and fulfilled. In the whole, I am happier doing this than I ever was working outside the home. Do I think this makes me a better mother than my sister, who is a working mother? Not at all. Are there days/moments when I am not 100% thrilled with my job as a SAHM? Hell, yes. I'm pretty sure everyone in the workforce feels that way about their chosen profession from time to time. I definitely have moments (like when I see my student loan balance, for example) when I feel as though I'm missing something by not pursuing my field of study. Yet I never became a SAHM assuming that I wouldn't miss working outside the home. I knew that I was giving up one thing to have another. And that was OK with me. I most certainly did not become a SAHM because I felt pressured or guilted into doing so. Give me and other SAHM's a little credit, Ms. Badinter.

When I first became a mom, I was very aware of this natural mom ideal and BEFORE I became a mom, I totally bought into it. I was going to cloth diaper, make my own organic baby food, co-sleep and do all the attachment parenting I read about in Dr. Sear's books. Let's face it, if time magazine thinks that biological parents feel pressured to attachment parent, the pressure on adoptive parents is insane. At this point I did what I believe most moms do: I made my own decisions in how to parent. I took what I liked (what worked for me) from attachment parenting and quickly ditched what I didn't like. Co-sleeping was the first to go. Hated it. Mama needs her space. Cloth diapering? Didn't work for me. I have friends who happily cloth diaper. Are they better stewards of our planet than me? Yep. Are they better mothers than me? No, and I don't believe that is why they chose to cloth diaper. I am sure they have well thought-out reasons, financial and environmental probably topping the list.

My beef with Ms. Badinter's words is this: although I will agree that there are considerable pressures out there to be this all-natural mother earth kind of mama, I absolutely do not agree that we SAHM's make important parenting choices because of said pressures. I do not agree that we are somehow "infantile" or naive because we chose, after finishing our degrees, to stay home with our kids. I can only speak for myself, but I would bet that all of my SAHM friends not only have differing and compelling reasons for staying home, but that we all made the choice with our eyes wide open. We KNOW it will be challenging to re-enter the workforce if and when we decide to do that. We KNOW what we gave up to stay home and not pursue our careers. We all made intelligent, thoughtful decisions taking into account our own, our spouse's, and our children's happiness.

If that makes me infantile, well...I'm rubber and you're glue. So, there!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blogging for the technophobe

*Update: Ugh, celebrated too soon. Anyone know why the pictures look so wonky?

I am sitting here utterly amazed that this worked! Much of the reason for my blogging absence has been due to complete and total laziness. I cannot stand the multi-step process I am required to complete in order to publish a post with photos. Connecting camera to laptop, downloading photos to laptop, editing photos, and then finally uploading them to Blogger which takes FOR-FREAKIN-EVER on my tiny and slightly crappy computer. Sad, but true. I don't post because I am way too impatient to go through all of that sh*t which generally eats up an entire naptime and hey, I could have been doing many many many other things than sitting on the couch trying to mentally will my computer to upload pictures faster. Also, for those of you that know me and my family, you are aware that me in close proximity to a slowly moving piece of electronic device is a recipe for having said electronic device thrown.

So yay for figuring out the Blogger App on my phone!!! Here is my trial run: some pictures of the summer fun we've been having during this weirdly hot spring.

Happy Boy after getting some Rita's Italian Ice!
My girl, frolicking in the sprinkler. Bathing suit courtesy of Mimi.

We took L to a Clippers game a few weeks ago and it was so hot I bought her this adorable hat. So sporty! I'm always jealous of girls who look cute in baseball hats because I DO NOT EVER look good in baseball hats.
This was just so crazy. Look at how tiny my babies are compared to the bears. I knew polar bears were big but sheesh.
My girl is pretty darn picky, but watermelon is one thing she will eat without complaint. And being the thrifty gal that she is, she doesn't waste one drop of juice!
This is the gesture E uses every time he gets near the sprinkler. I think it looks like he's appealing to it for mercy. Not gonna happen, kid.
A use for our water table that I did not see coming. I finally gave up trying to tell them how gross it was and now just try and keep the water as clean & fresh as possible.
And, done! I can't believe that entire post, pictures and all only took 30 minutes. I might actually be able to get some recreational reading in this naptime. Blogger App on my phone, so far so good!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Not-quite-so-new year resolutions

Obviously, my first resolution will be to blog more frequently. Jeez, I can't believe it's been so long. I think there are times when everyone else's blog seems so darn relevant that I totally freeze up, feeling like each and every blog post has to be poignant, meaningful, controversial, thought-provoking...etc. Not so. I am trying to remind myself that that point of this blog was to keep a diary of sorts about all those things that I want to remember: motherhood, my kids, my house, my marriage, my family. I want to be able to go back and show my son the blog posts I wrote during his adoption. I want him to see how much he was loved, even before we knew him. When my kids have kids and call me complaining about how tired they are, how messy their kids are (hee hee, makes me smile) I can serenely direct them to the many blog posts I wrote about the more, er, frustrating aspects of parenting.

So, first not-so-new year resolution: blog more.

Second resolution (very much related to first resolution): TAKE MORE PICTURES. I've seriously slacked on this one, y'all. I can't even really blame it on my phone, as there are some pictures on there, but not so many that it makes up for the complete and total lack of pictures on my camera. Oh, this leads to a sub-resolution to Resolution #2: learn how to use my camera. It's a pretty nice one, but what I don't know about my camera could fill a rather large "how to use this camera" manual. And finally sub-resolution 2 to Resolution #2: once pictures are taken, get them onto blogger so I can achieve Resolution #1.

Third resolution: SIMPLICITY IN ALL THINGS. I feel the need to simplify. To get rid of the amazing amount of (pardon my french) shit that has taken over our house and lives. I was going to take a picture of our basement to show you just how bad it is, but alas, I have no idea where my camera is at the moment (probably part of the problem re: second resolution). Seriously, the basement is bad, folks. When the cable guy had to go down there I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, such was my shame. My plan? I'm going to order and dumpster and throw out all that cannot be sold/donated/repurposed/saved & organized. Hopefully this will allow work towards another sub-resolution: start work towards turning the disaster area basement into a functioning room for the kids. I will also be going through the house and doing some serious thinning out of the kids' toys. I feel like we do a fairly decent job of rotating toys, keeping the bulk of what we have stored away. Yet I can't get past this basic fact: WE HAVE TOO MANY TOYS. Too many stuffed animals, too many plastic animals, too many random things for which I cannot find a place and so they get stuffed here and there, taking up precious room in my house and slowly killing my spirit.

Fourth Resolution: take advantage of the resources in my neighborhood. I am blessed to have amazing parks in my area, not to mention a kick-ass community pool. We have a nationally ranked zoo and waterpark, a minor league baseball team where you can spend an afternoon seriously on the cheap, bike trails, camping sites, splash parks, and my beloved Community Center. I challenge myself to take advantage of these things, most of which are free or crazy-cheap. I also want to do new things this summer: visit The Wilds (I hear it's amazing), hit the different farmer's markets around c-bus, take the kids to an outdoor concert, take the family to our neighborhood's fourth friday event each month (I'm ashamed to say we've never done this)...and, um, do more research so I can add more to this list.

Fifth Resolution: make time for friends. I've been bad about this. I have some pretty amazing friends in my town and I don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. I want more playdates! More girl's nights! I will not choose working out over a park playdates with my friends (totally embarrassed that I've done this...I'm kinda psycho about my runs). If I take pictures of said playdates and girl's nights, there's another check in the Resolution #2 box!

So, there ya have it. Out there for all to see so that I can be held accountable. There are so many other resolutions I want to add, but I'm going to stick with these top five and see how things go. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cabin Fever

My goodness, do I have a horrid case of cabin fever. Two sick kids mean no going to the Community Center, play cafe, local science center, or even school. I even hesitate to take E to the grocery store, his nose is leaking mucus so profusely I can only imagine the looks of disgust I would get. It's a frustrating age when they are too big to use the suction thingy on their nose, but too young to fully understand how to blow one's nose. At any given moment E has two giant RIVERS of snot coming out of his nose...generally funneling into his mouth. Ick.

Being stuck in the house for days at a time has its benefits: all of the laundry is done, kitchen is spotless, toys organized and put away (for the moment), meals prepared, floors vacuumed, and beds made. But there are definitely a few downsides to this house arrest of sorts. Oh! Dear friends, how I wish I were one of those moms who dream up crafty and fun things to do, don't freak out over the messes created by said crafts, and manage to keep their sanity intact and children happy without turning on the TV. I will shamefully admit that A LOT of TV has been watched these past few days. I can honestly say that PBS Kids is probably the only reason why I'm not currently wandering the streets in my robe, walking an invisible dog, and muttering to myself all while clinging desperately to a very large glass of red wine.

While my oldest is (and always has been) amazing at entertaining herself, my youngest is clearly working through something as his clinginess has recently launched into overdrive. I remember worrying about L for a good year after bringing her home. I so desperately wanted her to need me more than she did. Sure, she sought me out when amongst strangers, she came to me when hurt or scared, but she rarely needed me to be physically present with her at all times. She started imaginary play pretty early, which meant that I could get stuff done while she happily played solo. This is NOT the case with E. To say he is a "high-need" child is a massive understatement. His neediness has never gone away, but tends to increase and decrease in waves. Right now we are slogging through an intense increase. In addition to wanting to be held constantly (did I mention that he's HUGE??), he will now only eat if sitting on my lap. If I try to sit near him, he simply picks up his plate, plops it down next to mine and attempts to climb up onto my lap. He seems to crave physical contact with me. He only allows me to change his diaper and put him down for naps and bedtime. If he's standing near me at a moment when I simply can't pick him up, he puts his hand under the bottom of my shirt just to touch my skin. When I'm holding him, his hand is down my shirt. In the car ride to my parents' house last weekend, he became hysterical if I didn't reach back and have one hand on his knee. He just wants to be touched. By me. ALL THE FRIGGIN' TIME. What makes me feel like a shit is that I'm starting to resent it. I love him so much it boggles the mind but oh-my-God-just-give-me-some-personal-space-before-I-loose-my-mind (not to mention my sense of being an individual.) This afternoon after hubs got home I managed to slip upstairs for some alone time. After about 3 minutes E discovered I wasn't with him and spent the next 10 minutes SCREAMING at the bottom of the stairs (I caved and went back down. Turns out alone time isn't so relaxing when accompanied by someone hysterically screaming, "Mama!". No movies, games, treats, toys or candy would calm him down. Only me.

While I feel secure in his attachment, I still hesitate to push E away during these high-cling phases. I know many think (and some have told me) that I'm just being too lenient, that E is manipulating me, that I need to put my foot down and just say no. But then I think about how he's only been home for 20 months. Not so long when you consider that he spent the first 9 months of his life with no one to hold him when he needed to be held. No one to comfort him and give him the physical contact he so clearly craves.

I know that tomorrow will be better. Hopefully, E will be healthy enough so I can head back to the gym (which always does wonders for my mood). Hopefully, E will either be a little less demanding, or I will respond to his demands with a little more grace. Hopefully, I won't have to turn the TV on quite as much tomorrow (but if I do, I'll try not to make myself feel like a failure).

And tomorrow is Friday! And my birthday is next week! And I start a teaching gig soon! All good things. Ok, maybe getting older isn't so great, but at least I get some cake and presents out of it. I do love cake. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lila Day!

My sweet L, this post is for you in honor of Lila Day. On this day (December 29th) in 2007 we met you for the very first time. You were almost exactly 8 months old and just barely 12 pounds. You were tiny and gorgeous and alert and happy and did I mention TINY?

This was the exact moment we met. You were the size of a large newborn but had the alert eyes of a much older baby. We could tell right away that you noticed EVERYTHING (this, by the way, has not changed). You smiled almost the whole time and were fascinated with my necklace & glasses. I just remember being so stunned that this tiny little gorgeous amazing baby was mine.

You, of course, became an instant Daddy's girl.

This was taken on New Year's Eve, 2007. You can see how adorably crazy your hair was - long on the very top and at the nape of your neck with almost no hair at all around the sides and back of your head. What was most impressive was when the nannies would gather that top part into a very very small cornrow. Those are some serious braiding skills right there.

We soon realized at least part of the reason why you were so very tiny: you spit up almost all that we attempted to put in you. I remember each and every time I gave you a bottle you would gobble up all 7oz and then throw it all back up soon after. I remember crying and being overwhelmed with the helplessness any mother feels when they cannot nourish their child.

Finally home in Chicago, you didn't waste any time catching up. When we first came home you were not even able to sit up on your own. Within 2 months you were sitting up and crawling, and you took your first steps just 2 days after your first birthday. Some pictures from the early days...

All dolled up to meet your Great Grandpa! Oh, and your Daddy picked out that outfit. So girly! This is so funny to me, knowing you now as the-girl-who-will-only-wear-Superman-shirts-and-jeans.

This has always been one of my most favorite photos of you. There was a stretch of time where you would make this face every time you saw a camera. This expression is 100% you.

We all learned that you may be small but your personality was (and still is) HUGE. There is a Shakespeare quote that has always reminded me of you: "Though she be but little, she is fierce."

You knew your ABC's at 18 months and by the age of 2 you knew the names of every dinosaur imaginable. I remember you stomping around the house singing, "T-Rex (ROAR)! I'm a Tyrannosaurus. I'm the biggest carnivore in the Cretaceous forest." I wonder how many little girls have a dinosaur-themed party for their 3rd birthday. You continually astonish people (and me) with your vocabulary. Right now you like to incorporate "ominous" as much as possible into everyday conversation.

Your current preschool teacher put it best: "L sure knows how to hang with the boys." You are a tomboy, through and through. I bought you this cheap Superman t-shirt last summer and it is pretty much all you will wear. That and a silk outfit from China. Our family certainly doesn't blend into the crowd, but you make sure that we are noticed (in the best possible sense). Today we went to Build-a-Bear and you requested an orange cat (named Max) and picked out a Spiderman outfit for him. I love that about you. You like what you like and are not the least bit interested in the princess stuff. You think superheros are COOL. You want to learn Kung Fu. You want to be a drummer in a rock band. You want to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers (sorry, Uncle John). You are stubborn and opinionated and very sure of yourself. Always. While that can make for some rather frustrating parenting, it is truly what I love most about you.

You jumping for joy on your first day of school. Also most likely the last time I ever got you into a dress.

Your very first race, the Flying Pig!

You love your brother. Sure, we have skirmishes here and there, but I often catch you giving E kisses and hugs while murmuring, "E, I love you so much."

My amazing girl. You are smart, beautiful, hilarious, and PRECOCIOUS. I love you more than I ever thought possible. I am positive that if any girl could hold their own with the Pittsburgh Steelers, it would be you. Happy Lila Day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rain, rain, GO AWAY

Seriously, it seems as though it has been raining every day since the beginning of time. Perhaps that is a wee bit on the dramatic side (who, me?), but sheesh. For those of you out there who have to care for curly heads, this is NOT ideal weather. Several weeks ago the news reported that we were well on track to have the wettest year in recorded history. No wonder I feel as though I've been in a perpetual rotten mood. I need me some sunshine! Thank goodness for non-stop Christmas music, holiday lights, and Christmas nougats...it's keeping the holiday glow going.

There is a reason I haven't been blogging so much lately: happily overwhelmed. Last year E was just shy of 18 months, and so while I'm sure he enjoyed the holidays, they had little meaning. Not so this year! I don't think he totally gets the Santa bit, but he loves the lights and we all say "hello, giant Santa" as we drive past this house that has a HUGE inflated Santa in their yard. Not to be critical, but what is it with gigantic, inflatable yard decor? I don't get it. Although, I do love our neighbors whose lawn sports a rather large inflatable Grinch riding on his sleigh complete with sack of presents and Max the dog. But both kiddos are soaking up all of the holiday cheer I can give them, usually leaving me fairly exhausted at the end of the day.

L is practically out of her mind excited. The Santa-threat is as useful as ever this year. She still firmly believes that we have the big guy on speed dial and when we threaten to call him yells, "Oh pleeeeeeeeaze don't call Santa, Mommy! He doesn't need to know what I did!" 

I'm feeling thankful, at the moment. I didn't do the 30 days bit last month, but here is a short list of what is making me thankful this holiday season:

1. A new recipe for peppermint meringues (thank you, Paige)
2. Having so much of my family close by. I love that they come over and there is no need to knock or ring the bell. They just come on in...that's how I like it.
3. Every day when L and I snuggle in bed for our rest time, she with the iPad and me with a book, she takes frequent breaks to lean over and shower me with kisses and "I love you's."
4. My little E still thinks I'm the bee's knees. Even though he is now over 30 pounds, I love that he still wants to be held much of the time. And my biceps look fabulous.
5. My new Miele vacuum cleaner. Lordy, it is wrong how much I love that thing.
6. The Tribe (no, not the baseball team). My refrigerator is covered with holiday cards with some of the most gorgeous children on the planet.
7. My babies. Even at the end of a very stressful day of errand running where E seemed to think it his duty to throw a tantrum in EVERY FREAKING STORE, I still thank my lucky stars every day (hour, minute, and second) for these two little people. They are sound asleep right now and I can't wait to wake up and make pancakes with them in the morning.
8. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. No, I don't care for the music AT ALL. But my kids love it and every time it comes on the radio we have an instant dance party.
9. Brach's Christmas nougat. I have eaten waaaay too much this week.
10. Hubby, kids, and faithful pooch are upstairs snoozing away while I type and wait for my peppermint meringues to finish baking. I love this time to myself all the while  knowing that my family is tucked in bed happy, safe & sound.

Happy Holidays.