The Trouble of Two

Words haven’t been easy to come by. That’s not quite right. It’s time that hasn’t been easy to come by these days.

I’ve got plenty of words. Most of them have four letters. The one I use the most has ten.

F-R-U-S-T-R-A-T-E-D.

Everything seems tricky these days. Even eating lunch is a full scale production that takes nearly an hour. Getting the three of us dressed and ready in the morning? 45 minutes on a good day (2 hours the other day. 2 HOURS.) And don’t get me started on naps. And that’s just the normal things we have to get done every day.

Our home, our life, even my car seems to be disorganized, disheveled and chaotic.

It sucks.

When Cedella was born and I was learning how to be home and how to fill our days and how to get along in a new city, life seemed so incredibly hard.

And then being pregnant chasing a toddler was just so challenging.

We walked into the house from the birth center on the day Isora was born and perhaps a bag of crazy followed us in the back door. Cause it’s been pretty cuckoo ever since.

Truth is that The Biz is only 8 months old. Only 8 months old? And holy shit she’s already 8 months old.

Seems like once I recovered from her labor we were fast to get into a routine and our leisurely pace to things. The three of us took naps together, or I let the girls sleep and was actually able to ::gasp:: mop the floor! It was as if Isora had always been in our family and our lives hadn’t really changed too much.

We had a summer full of travel and playgrounds and pools and fun. And maybe because we were so busy and so relaxed about things I didn’t see the Beautiful Monster growing right beside me.

Cedella is 2 years and 10 months old. And she thinks she runs our household. Over the past year as she has grown in independence, she has grown in bossiness. The more she learns the more she feels empowered and the more she thinks she’s in charge of all of us.

In the first few months of Isora’s life, Cedella was never mean to her sister. In fact she smothered her with love and affection. She reserved all of her anger and meanness for Michael and me.

But for the past month, now that Isora is sitting, crawling, standing and getting into everything? Cedella is being downright nasty to her sister. There’s a lot of snatching toys out of the baby’s hands, pushing the baby over, tackling her to the ground, shouting in her face. Which means there’s also a lot of shouting and time outs happening.

I talked all about the gentle discipline methods that we try to use in my guest post on Hormonal Imbalances The Gentle Road… and we are still very much attempting to practice these methods but it is just HARD.

There are moments when it takes every single cell in my body wants to grab my child, throw her over my leg and spank her butt. But I know that I just can’t do it…because I have. And it was HARDER.

Yes. I spanked my child. I was trying with absolutely no success to get her to settle down and stop messing with her sister. She began screaming “NO!” at the top of her lungs and just wouldn’t stop. She started screaming right into her sister’s face and Iz started crying. And I grabbed her, put her over my knee and smacked her little behind sharply three times.

The air in the room seemed to change. Her whining became a full-fledged cry of pain. When I sat her up and looked at her face she was bright red. She was gasping for air and she wouldn’t look me in the eye. Tears streamed down her face and I had an instant and guttural memory of being spanked as a child.

I grabbed her and picked up Izzie and held them both in my arms, all of crying and shaking and screaming. I knew I could never put her through that again. I couldn’t put myself through that again.

So I try. I really really try to be more patient. Not to immediately raise my voice. To look at things from her perspective. To let go of the small things and laugh things off. But I can’t handle the violence between the girls.

I know siblings fight. I’m not expecting them to always get along and never argue. But this early? It’s just too much. And it’s all Cedella being aggresive right now. What’s going to happen when Iz gets big enough to fight back? I shudder to think.

At this point I don’t know how to get anything done if I can’t even put Isora down for a few minutes without Cedella giving her a black eye. Load the dishwasher? Can’t do it with Izzie in a carrier and can’t do it with Izzie on the floor. Something as simple as loading the dishwasher becomes a major problem and takes three times as long.

Organize the toys? The second they’re all away, Cedella takes them all back out again.

Put the books on the shelf? She’ll take them all down.

Clothes hung in the closet? She decides to put on a fashion show and take everything off the hangers.

And poor Izzie. I spend so much time talking to and disciplining Cedella that the Biz always gets the short end of the stick. And right now she’s going through a growth spurt, wants to nurse constantly and will not be set down. Ever.

I can’t pick up my phone to make a phone call without it directly signaling at least one of the children to have a melt down. I cannot go to the bathroom without an entourage. My house is a complete disaster area and I’m pretty sure there’s a whole other dog’s worth of white fur on my floors. I can’t find clean socks or underwear for the kids because if they’re clean they’re in a laundry basket and if they’re dirty they’re in a laundry basket and it’s hard to tell which is which some days.

I know that with Cedella I really didn’t start feeling like a had things together until around 11 months. And then she learned to walk and got a mouth full of teeth at once. And all our scheduling and sleeping and organization went to hell again.

So I know that some day things will get easier. But right now? They are hard. And as Isora enters this clingy phase and still has no teeth (I am waiting with bated breath for that shoe to drop already) I know it’s going to get harder before it gets easier.

My whole second pregnancy I felt like people were trying to prepare me for the Trouble of Two. That it is just so much harder when there’s two. But it’s not that much harder than one. So you have to pack slightly more in the diaper bag. A bit more food. More clean clothes. More diapers. But not THAT much more. Just more. (BTW my Mom has already said that three is nothing once you get used to two. Is that for real though?)

Since I’ve had the pleasure of having more than a few nights of putting the girls to bed on my own I have to say, once I got the routine down, it wasn’t too bad at all. Maybe a bit stressed, but not horrible.

I think where the Trouble of Two comes in is the personality of the kids. Something you could never never ever prepare for. If Cedella was the easy kid and Isora was the tricky one made things would be easier. I could just pop the tricky kid in the carrier and call it a day. But no, I’m not popping my tricky kid into the carrier and going on about my day. My chiropractor would NOT be pleased with that!

So what’s the solution? Obviously spanking is out. Time outs are pretty much a joke. Taking away toys or sweets or cartoons doesn’t really work. Taking away playdates gets her thinking but still doesn’t curb the bad behavior. What else should I try?

Suggestions and comments are always welcome because I trust all of you and am literally at the end of my rope here…

And just so that you don’t think my kids are always so unreasonable and evil…

Thanks for giving me the opportunity for a good old fashioned rant. I needed that.

On Being a Parent: My Guide Book

It happens to each of us when they hand us those squirmy wrinkled little balls of blubber called newborns, we immediately become parents.  There is no class.  There is no manual.  There is only whatever YOU have done to prepare yourself for the nanosecond that your child is handed to you and becomes totally and completely all your problem.

I always wanted to be a mom.  I mean I love kids.  Always loved babysitting and never minded changing diapers.  Watching and playing with kids was always so much more fun than work.  My attitude was very much ‘how hard could it be?’.  Like seeing someone with a hysterical baby in the line at Target.  Something inside my pre-parenting brain always made me look at the offensive child’s parent out of the corner of my eye to see what kind of neglectful idiot would take such an obnoxious child out in public.  That’s right.  I judged.  But in that nanosecond I could no longer cast that sideways glance…cause it was bound to happen to me someday.  As much as I always wanted to be a part of the club there was no way of ever knowing just how difficult it was going to be.
So I went back into my archives to figure out just what (if anything) I had learned over the past 12 months, hoping to impart on you faithful readers some of my Mama wisdom.  P.S. If you click on the ‘titles’ they will take you back to past blog posts of mine.  
Month One – Sleep is for P@#$ies – That’s right.  Who needs to sleep?  Those first few days home are like the first few days of a love affair.  You’re so cuckoo crazy about this new little person that you can’t bear to be apart from them for a second, let alone close your eyes, for fear of missing some precious moment between the two of you.  And then, the oxytocin wears off and you’re just frakking exhausted.  At this point ‘They’ tell you to sleep when your baby sleeps.  To take it easy, leave the house disgusting and don’t worry about showering.  ‘They’ are stupid.  There’ll be plenty of time to sleep when you kids go off to college.  Do ‘They’ care that they don’t have any clean underwear?  Do ‘They’ think the dishes are going to wash themselves?  Maybe ‘They’ have a Rosie the Robot like the Jetsons to do all their work for them?  I think ‘They’ need to grow a pair…or maybe ‘They’ have kick ass MIL’s.
At least someone was sleeping
Month Two – Breastfed Babies Should be Fed BEFORE Going into Public.  This is a practical issue that Mamas with formula-fed babies don’t even remotely have to consider.  They whip a bottle out of their diaper bag and BAM! Instant calm.  However a Baby on the Boob needs to have a full stomach before you attempt any manner of errands big or small.  Their little baby stomachs are only the size of their fist.  They need to be fed constantly.  So you better have a pretty tight grocery list together too.  The days of lingering in the International Food aisle and browsing soup labels for the least amount of sodium are over.  This lesson was learned the hard way.  Literally whipping out the boob in the shoe department at Meijer.  It could have been worse though, at least there’s a bench in the shoe department.  And when I got home I STILL didn’t have everything we needed for the week.  Probably forget something essential like toilet paper. It does get better and eventually you can go out for longer and their little tummies can hold more, but really, always wear something that always you to easily access the Boob.  I’m still wearing nursing bras…
I will be pissed if I don’t eat soon…
Month Three – Cloth Diapers Rule.  No, really, they do.  You’re already doing laundry.  What’s one more load every other day or so?  And there are so many options in the cloth diapering world I’m still trying to figure out why in the world anyone uses disposables.  Oh, wait, right, cause of the billions of dollars in marketing that the diaper industry spends every year to get us to use these obscenely expensive little earth destroyers.  But I digress.  The cloth diaper world is pretty damn addictive.  They’re constantly adding new patterns and colors and technology.  And yes, it’s a piece of fabric that covers your child’s ass and collects their waste, but they can be sooooo damn cute.  And you know what, even with my slight obsession with fluffy butt covers, I have spent less total than I would have spent in 6 months last year.  And I’m done.  I don’t need any more diapers for Cedella and hopefully can use her first ones for Baby #2.  How cool is that?  Imagine what you could do with all that extra diaper money…  
GroBaby & Sofie what a crunchy combo
Month Four – Always Wear Stretchy Pants on the Train or else you face a big old disaster when you try to pull up your pants while holding your infant in a moving vehicle.  This one would have been really helpful to know before getting on the train with Cedella by myself.  But now you can apply this to your own travel adventures.  Other helpful travel tips?  Check out how to install you car seat in a cab on Youtube before you go.  Get a map of whatever public transport you’re going to be using and make sure you locate all the handicap entrances and exits, otherwise you’ll be carrying your child, diaper bag and giant stroller up and down several flights of stairs.  Don’t plan on visiting the zoo when it looks like it’s going to rain.  Protest marches can be a fantastic learning opportunity.  But really, the most important tip?  Don’t schedule too much, relax and have fun.       
Taking some time to just relax in Chicago
Month Five – The Bathroom is no longer Your Sanctuary.  It’s sad but true.  What used to be a lovely place to go and get some quality reading done or grab a quick game or two of Jeopardy on your iPhone, has now become the room you spend the least amount of time in.  There is no loitering allowed.  Hurry up and do your business cause if you’re in there too long someone WILL interrupt you.  And well, that just sucks.  There is no privacy here and poop is now a regular topic of discussion between you and your husband.  Whuck?!  That’s right.  Sexiness and mystery have left the building and have been replaced by flatulence and a constant need to say “TMI”.  

Month Six – Camping with a Baby can be Fun.  And if you plan it right, you know, like weekend full of thunderstorms, your child may sleep through the night for once.  We thought our tent was going to float away and/or be struck by lightning, and Cedella slept through the whole damn thing.  Could have been all the fresh air or having a busy day full of new experiences.   Maybe she just really digs storms.  As long as you come prepared to keep the baby occupied and safe and again, not do too much, then your camping trip can be pretty damn cool.  Really it’s never too early to get your kids into nature, right?
All the fresh lake air makes me sleepy…
Month Seven – Martha Stewart can Suck It Cause Nobody’s House is THAT Clean.   Really…this probably doesn’t need much more explanation than that.  Your baby is only your baby for such a brief time.  Are you going to remember how little dust were on your bookshelves or are you gonna remember the first time you took your baby to the beach?  What’s it gonna be?  I’d rather have a messy (not disgusting but messy) house and tons of great memories of spending time with my kids.  All that time cleaning you could be spending teaching your child to love the outdoors, develop their imagination or just be silly and dance to the Beastie Boys for a little while. 
Making memories at Lake Huron
Month Eight – Your Child is the Cutest Child in the Entire World and no one can ever take that away from you.  Also, you take much better pictures than the weirdos at Sears that charge you a pint of blood for each half decent shot.  A baby is going to be way more comfortable and smiley with you than with a stranger in a strange place.  So while I’ve seen some beautiful baby and family pics done by real photographers (that I’m sure cost more like a liter of blood per excellent shot) the best photos of your child are the ones you take when you’re just enjoying each other and not forcing something to occur that just isn’t gonna happen.  

Month Nine – Your Birthday and all Subsequent Holidays are No Longer About You and that’s ok.  Cause it’s your baby’s first everything and it’s your 32 time around this track.  Besides, who wants to have a party when you’re turning 30-something?  That’s not worth celebrating.  You know what is?  The first time your daughter has a donut.  Now that is milestone.  32…not so much.  And don’t worry that your family people don’t notice you or say hello when you come into the house.  She’s kind of a big deal.  Just think of it like being the mother of Lindsey Lohan Brittany Spears Miley Cyrus Selena Gomez (she’s still a virgin right?).  Cedella is a super star.  Glad I learned this already, to save myself years of embarrassing myself trying to steal her spotlight (a la Mrs. Lohan, Spears & Cyrus). 
  
Mmmmmm…Donuts.
Month Ten – Mamas Need Friends Too.  Life as a SAHM in a new city is lonely.  You need need need need NEED to have people (preferably women) to talk to.  You need someone to connect with, to commiserate with, to suffer and triumph with.  I can’t even remotely believe it took this many months in the trenches before finding someone to hang with.  Just because you’re a Mama doesn’t mean you have to stay locked up in the house and never have a social life again. I am so thankful and happy to have met Leslie and her beautiful baby Anna.  I can’t imagine how crazy, fat and bored I would be without them!       
Month Eleven – Christmas Morning is for Starting Traditions.  Those things we do each and every holiday, whether it is the food we eat, the activities we do or who we spend our time with, had to start somewhere.  Those traditions started with your grandparents, your parents or your besties choosing to make something their own.  We’ve taken from these things to make our own Christmas.  Cutting down our tree, decorating it while listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas album, making Breakfast pizza and opening gifts in our jammies.  These are our new/old traditions.  The ones that we hope to continue for many many years to come.  Adding more traditions as we add more children, as they grow older, as we move through this life.  These are the little things that make our family Our Family.  
Christmas Morning Pajama Family
Month Twelve – Parenting is a Constant Work in Progress.  If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned this.  You are always changing, you are always growing, you are always having to readjust and relearn.  The trick of being a parent?  Being fluid…going with the flow.  And more important than anything else, take the time to step back and breathe it all in cause if ‘They’ are right about one thing (and that’s all I’ll give ‘Them’) it’s that time does indeed fly.

When Did We Fire the Maid?

This summer has been full to say the very least.  Full of car trips down to Detroit.  Full of visits with family and friends.  Full of days at the pool.  Full of mini vacations to all kinds of wonderful places in and around the Great Lakes.  Full of walks to the farmers market and local festivals.  Full of barbeques and soccer games and birthday parties.  In short, this summer has been one big weekend for me and Cedella.  And hence, the Maid has been on a bit of a vacation.

When Michael and I decided that we would move to Lansing and I would stay at home with the baby I knew it would be hard work, but I welcomed it, I looked forward to it.  I had visions of leisurely mornings sipping coffee after my morning yoga and meditation session.  Afternoons laying the baby down for a nap and reorganizing the linen closet and labeling everything with a P-Touch machine.  Evenings, waiting for Michael to get home from work and presenting him with a gorgeously plated gourmet meal straight outta Top Chef.  A cookie jar always full of freshly baked cookies.  Floors and countertops that you could eat off of.

And what happened?  Well…let’s just say that taking a shower and making it to the grocery store became the top priorities.  That, and making sure I spent as much time as humanely possible playing, laughing and taking care of every one of my little girl’s needs.

I wish I could just accept myself for the uninspired housekeeper I am, but I don’t want to.  I want a clean house.  I want the floors to be free of dog hair.  I want fresh and flavorful meals on the table every night. I want the clothes put away in the closets and drawers.  I want the beds made every morning.  I want to love to do housework and do it well.  I want the cookie jar full of cookies dammit!!

But let’s be honest.  What I want is to know that I’m doing something.  I want to feel that I am contributing more to our household.  It was incredibly hard for me to stop working at the library, to not get up every morning and have to get ready for work.  To not get a paycheck anymore.  To feel like I’m not financially holding up my end of the bargain.  I feel like I owe it to my husband, to my child, to make sure our home is in the most amazing condition it can be in.  But for the life of me, I can’t seem to get into it one little bit.  I play my favorite music, make it a game, see how fast I can complete a task.  It doesn’t matter.  There are plenty of ways to distract myself.  Plenty of ways to rationalize doing it later.  Plenty of ways to begrudgingly get through cleaning the kitchen without making it sparkle and shine the way Martha would.  It’s clean enough, but not Martha clean.

Over the winter it was much easier to look around and find little things to do all day long to keep myself occupied (you know, when Cedella was young enough to sleep every couple of hours).  It was easier then to wear my “Do Everything” martyr hat with gusto.  But despite feeling like I owe it to my family, I gotta say, I’m getting a little sick of it.  The novelty of the Stay at Home Mom Who Does Everything has completely worn off.  What happened to the partnership we talked about all those long months of pregnancy?  We talked about one of us cooking while the other cleaned up.  We talked about dividing the duties equally.  We talked about Was it one too many episodes of Mad Men that made me think that my pregnant ass was named Betty Draper?  That I was destined doomed to be a silly frivolous housewife with vacuums and bundt pans on the brain?  Sure, Michael helps out.  Occasionally.  But between Head of Child Rearing, Master of the Front Loader, Dishwasher Commander, Lead Food Procurer, Top Chef and Accounts Payable Manager, I am wearing many many hats at the moment.  More than any one person in a partnership should wear.  It’s exhausting and honestly, not very fun at all.

And so this summer, I’ve decided just to let things go.  I sweep the floor every day, cause Kira is the Incredible Shedding Dog.  I do the dishes every day.  I wash the diapers every other day.  And the rest, well it gets done when it gets done.  There’s too many fun things to do and too few sunny days to enjoy to slave away like Florence in the Jefferson’s place.  Isn’t that enough?  My child is happy and healthy, we all have clean sheets and underwear and food on the table.  And yes, quite often there are fresh baked cookies in the kitchen, baked with a hint of love and a sprinkling of devotion, but without all that nasty perfectionism that Martha reeks of.

My two little Dirt Bunnies

Happiness is a messy baby…who might eat crayons cause Mama forgot to pick up dinner