Thursday, October 22, 2015

Perfect World vs. My World

So let me set the scene...

Swim lessons.  Three kids.  Two of them heading into the pool, one eating snacks, watching videos, and terrorizing the lobby.  One mom trying to get said kids to pool on time and hoping that the other one doesn't pee or poop all over himself in public.  Also, hoping she can contain the younger one for the thirty minute lesson.

Child A is very excited and can't wait to get back in the pool after a two month hiatus.

Child B is very nervous and shy and really loves swimming, but insists he doesn't want to do this, but only just this minute, not any time leading up to the activity.

Child C is, as usual, along for the ride.

If you know my children, you know exactly which one is which.

Last night was the first swim lesson for a couple of months.  We took a break at the end of the summer since we weren't around much, and then I just didn't get them signed up again until recently.  My kids love swim lessons.  LOVE them.  Both of them love swimming.  And they have come so far in the 10 months that they've been going to swim lessons.

So Ainsley goes right in.  Freddie holds back and starts crying.  And in my head, I know this is one of "those" moments.  You know.  Those moments that you read articles about.  Like "How to be a loving, caring, mother and raise confident children without ever raising your voice or disciplining at all because kids are SUPER rational if you just give them the chance and if you talk softly and let them lead they way they will do exactly what you need them to do at exactly the right moment."

Bullshit.  Well maybe not.  Not in a perfect world, where I have unlimited time for each child to work through his or her issues.

In my head, I think - okay, stay calm.  Who cares if every one's staring at you as you drag this determined, 50lb, 5 year old onto the pool deck.  And who cares if the 2 year old is by himself in the lobby.  A lobby that he has escaped from before.  A lobby that opens to a busy parking lot.  And who cares if the 2 year old decides that this exact moment, while his brother is throwing a fit, is the perfect time to relieve himself in the middle of the lobby.  And who cares if I drop a small fortune on swimming lessons, and he wastes half the classes crying over being shy.

So instead of sitting on the edge of the pool and saying things like "Okay, let's just sit for a minute and see if you want to participate.  Ohh...doesn't that look like fun.  Hey look, you know how to float, show the teacher."  And other soothing, calming, encouraging things like that, I end up "yelling" through hushed, gritted, teeth "Get in the pool.  You love swim lessons.  Get in the pool right now!!!"

Eventually, I hand a screaming, squirming, powerful child over to an instructor and escape through the door to find Cohen.  And I listen to the instructor talk to Freddie.  Say all of the things that I want to say.  Do all the things I want to do.  I think about these things, and figure out how I should handle them either before or after the fact.  But the problem is, I'm never just dealing with this scene.  I'm dealing with multiple scenes all at once.

If I had walked in there with just Freddie, I could have been as patient and available as he needed me to be.  The the fact is, I can never be 100% available to any of my children.  I can't spend all evening putting Cohen on the potty, so he has accidents.  I can't sit all night with Ainsley explaining multiplication and division, so sometimes her homework doesn't get finished.  I can't sit on the edge of the pool with my sweet, shy Freddie and gently coax him into the water, so he screams.

And I feel so guilty.  I see people with one child and sometimes I think, "imagine how much I could give to one child."  Now, one child is NEVER something I wanted or ever considered.  I honestly don't know what I'd do without my siblings.  When Clif and I go crazy and someone needs to figure out which home to put us in, my kids will have each other to turn to and that's important to me.  But I will say, I look at families with one child and sometimes I feel a twinge of jealousy for my kids.  That they could have all that attention and patience and love just showered down on them.  A million free hours to talk about fears and shyness.  Days on end to work through math and reading challenges.

Freddie finally got in the water.  And I watched him sit on the side and pout.  I watched the teacher eventually move the class closer to him.  I watched him finally participate and then have a blast.  I greeted him at the door with his towel and said "Hey!  How was it?"

"Good," he smiled.

"So are you glad I made you go?" I asked

"Yes," he responded, and that made me happy.  Made me feel like I made the right decision, but it doesn't erase the guilt.  All I did was drag him in there and shut the door.  Someone else gently coaxed him into the pool.  And someone else figured out how to get him to participate.  And I watched from the one way mirror.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The P Word

So I did it.  I convinced myself that it was the right thing to do and now I am paying for it.  I can't go back.  I have to keep pushing forward.

I started potty training Cohen.

Excuse me while I scream and gouge my eyes out.

Is there anything worse than potty training?  Changing dirty, stinky diapers is way better than carefully removing, dumping, and rinsing out dirty, stinky underpants!

For awhile now, I've been thinking he was ready.  He was already asking to sit on the potty at times.  They were putting him on the potty at daycare on a regular basis.  He was telling me when he went so I could change him.  Classic "readiness" signs as outlined by the "experts."

Experts...they need to come hang out in my house and sit on the bathroom floor while holding a squirming, pissed-off two year old on the toilet.  All while trying not to get peed on.

Ainsley and Freddie were three or older when we really hit the potty training hard.  It was difficult, there were plenty of tears (mine) and tantrums (mine) and screaming (also mine)...but after about 2 weeks, I felt like we were pretty solid and the accidents quickly subsided.  It was around that two week mark that I felt like I could say "Yes, he/she is potty trained" and feel pretty confident that the child would let me know when he/she had to go.  I didn't feel the need to carry around an entire wardrobe and rolls of paper towels, just in case.

Well, we are on week three with Cohen, and though there have been wins...there have been lots of accidents, lots of extra clothes, lots of clean ups in public places.  I've never wanted to buy diapers so badly!

After a week, I was ready to throw the towel in.  I could not get him to sit on the potty for longer than 7 seconds.  During that time, he was able to dribble a little pee in the bowl and then proclaim "DONE!" and slide off the seat.  Just to run to the corner and pee and poop all over himself.

It was then that I decided we need to buy a little plastic potty.  Ainsley and Freddie had not used one.  They were older and taller when they potty trained.  But I bought one because his little toes barely brush the step stool when he sits on the big potty.

We had major success.  Not only was he more comfortable, now he could do it on his own and that is just what my stubborn, independent, third-born needed.  He could do it "BY MINE SEFF!!!"  That night, I finished my dinner and got up to find him standing over the little potty, Star Wars underpants around his ankles, bowl full of...everything, and him exclaiming "Yook Mommy!  I DID IT!"

I thought we were home free.  He lulled me into a false sense of victory and accomplishment.  I was feeling so proud of us.  We actually could potty train a child at a reasonable age.  The feeling was short lived.  Yesterday I threw away an entire outfit at a playground just moments after putting him on the potty.

So that's where we are.  He's definitely holding it and he's telling me about 30% of the time.  But I'm still asking regularly and hearing "NO, my already went" or "NO, I no yike potty."

Deep breaths.  Deep breaths.  This too shall pass.  And then we will be diaper free.  And it will be awesome.  It's just going to be a shit show (literally) getting there.

Friday, September 25, 2015

About Kindergarten...and Summer...and Graduation...

We had this huge, momentous thing happen recently, and I didn't write about it.  I honestly don't know how I ever found the time to stay on top of this blog.  It's just not possible these days.

But the huge, momentous thing...

This guy started Kindergarten.

Here he is just a few months ago graduating from Pre K.  I didn't post anything then either.  The middle child really does get shafted.

When Ainsley was a year old, we took her to the beach for the first time.  I posted a ton of pictures and broke the post into two parts - I used to have so much time, not sure where it all went.  We also went to the beach this summer.

And Hershey Park.

Visited Philly for a day.

And we celebrated birthdays.

We got hair cuts.

Spent time with cousins.

And Grandmas.

And Papas.

We dressed as super heroes.

We played.

Ate lots of ice cream.

And apparently, lobster - but not lots of it.

I love summer.  And suddenly, here we are at the beginning of Autumn (officially).

But I'm getting away from the point of this post.

Freddie.  Our sweet little Freddie started Kindergarten and he is such a rock star.  He was very nervous.  He missed his old classmates.  He didn't want to go.  But he is doing so awesome.  He comes home with new stories and new knowledge every day.

After the first day he got off the bus very excited, but soon explained that he didn't want to go back because of fire drills.  Freddie does not like smoke alarms, or any loud, sudden noise.  There would be a drill later in the week and could he stay home?

He talked about it a lot that first week, so much so that I felt the need to warn his teacher.  Told her about is fear of loud beeps and buzzes.  Told her, he'd be fine, but he might cry.  Might lose his shizz for awhile.  Be prepared.

The fire drill came, and went and when I asked Freddie about it, he shrugged and said "I'm not afraid of that, I'm a big kid now."

Yeppo, I guess you are.

Happy first year of school buddy.  You are so bright and insightful and sensitive. I just know you're going to blow that whole school away with your sweet little smile and thoughtful questions.  They're never going to know what hit them after they meet my Fredders.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Take A Beat...Breathe

For this past week, I've only had one child to feed and put to bed and look after and play with and pick up and do all the things with.  Every year my mom takes Freddie and Ainsley for a week.  And every year, I'm reminded what an awesome mom I can be with one child.

I finish the week psyched to be the mom I know I can be, because I've just done it.  For a week I've been patient, I haven't yelled, I haven't doled out punishments, I haven't lost my temper, I've said yes more than no.

Then this week fades into next, and reality sets in.  Three kids mean chaos that overwhelms me beyond my breaking point.

I love my kids.  Of course I do.  I don't think I even need to say that.  But three kids is no joke.  I have three little people with different wants and needs, clamoring for my attention from the moment we walk in the door at night until the moment the last one shuts his sleepy eyes.

So all week, I've been trying to figure out how I carry this calm, patient Jaime with perfect parenting skills into next week.  Because so often I feel like my kids get the worst of me and I hate the thought of them growing up just wanting to get out of a house where mom is always stressed and annoyed and tired.  So. Very. Tired.  These three people are the most important people in my life, but because of all the other noise and demands and responsibilities, I can't give them the me I want to give them.

I get up and go to work every day and deal with a bunch of whiny, ridiculous, adult-babies.  Then I fight through an hour of traffic and race through pick-ups to finally walk through the door and have dogs knocking me over to get out and dinner waiting to be cooked so homework can get done and reading can get done and bedtime can happen so I can have 30 minutes of quiet before I go to bed and do it all over again.

That's not life, that's survival.  I don't want my kids to learn how to survive life.  A lot of days, most days, I feel like that's what I'm teaching to make it to the end of this journey, and that's no way to live.

Right now, we're a bit stuck with the situation.  There's no space to quit a job.  There's no wiggle room to hire help.  There's no cushion to pick up and move to a slower pace.  We are trying desperately to change all of that, but until then I have to be a grown up and do what needs to be done and I don't have a lot of choice in the matter.  I guess there's always a choice, but not a good one.

So for now, I'm going to do my best at changing the one thing I do have control attitude.

In a week and a half, my kids will be back in school and the autumn cacophony will fill our house and it will feel like the entire universe is crashing around me, but I'm going to breathe.  I'm going to take a beat before I yell.  I'm going to count to 10 before I scream a punishment.  I'm going to be as patient as I can be.  I'm going to do everything I can to slow things down and not have life rush past me in the blink of an eye.  Just like I've been all week with just me and Cohen.  Because my kids deserve a mother who's enjoying life and not just surviving it.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Bikini Question

So it's been awhile...summers are crazy.  I say that like the rest of the year is not crazy.  But the rest of the year I have this support structure in place to take care of things.  Summer time...all that goes out the window.  Camps that I can afford do not cover a full work day.  Super hero days are sprung on me hours beforehand.  A different location every week.  It becomes exhausting.  In addition to all that, work is at it's fever pitch for both Clif and I during the summer months.  At least it always seems to work out that way.

I love summer, but I'm kind of glad that things will be slowing down after today.  Camps are over for Ainsley, she'll spend the rest of her summer traveling up and down the eastern seaboard.

So my point is that I have a lot of updating to do.  Freddie graduated from preschool, Cohen turned 2, Ainsley turned 8 and life has been chugging along.  But I'll save that for another day, when my pictures are not being held hostage in my Mac Book.

Today I'm contemplating parenting decisions.  When am I not, right?  You know what they don't tell you about being a parent?  That you'll have this little baby, and you'll make all these enormous decisions...breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, organic or not, preschool or daycare, stay at home or work away.  All these things that you think are so difficult to decide and will totally mold your baby.  But now, I can sit on the other side of that baby mess and say those are not the big decisions.  I mean, they're hard, and you stress over them, and I'm not belittling them.  I definitely thought about all of those things for months before my kids were born.  But the really big, character molding decisions...they happen in the tiniest of moments, when you least expect them.  They are things that you did not discuss or ponder over as your baby rolled in your belly. They happen in Target or at the playground or in the bath tub.  They slap you in the face when you're rushing out the door to swim lessons or when you're late for work...again.

I had one such moment recently and it made me feel like such a hypocrite that it's all I've thought about for weeks.  It happened as I was getting the boys ready to go to the pool one afternoon.  I had already packed up Ainsley's suit and towel and now we could pick her up and go straight to the pool for a couple of hours before rushing home to start dinner.  Freddie refused to put on his rash guard shirt, and honestly I didn't really fight him on it.  It's totally fine for boys to wear just their shorts at the pool, especially at 5PM when the sun wasn't a factor.

And as the words "Sure, whatever you're comfortable in" left my mouth, it rolled over me like a truck.  This deep worry in the pit of my stomach.  This realization that I was a part of the problem that I so desperately wanted to fix for my children and my grandchildren.

Ainsley hadn't been able to wear a bikini since she was a toddler.  I felt that I should try and establish a healthy environment where she wasn't wearing skimpy clothes.  But instead it had become a point of contention.  Ainsley wanted to know why she couldn't wear bikinis.  Originally, my intentions were good. Maybe it's not appropriate for a little girl to wear a bikini.  But why?  I couldn't really answer that question, other than she was a little girl and I didn't want to make her a target.  Didn't want her to think that she should dress in skimpy clothes.  Wanted her to place value on her internal strengths, rather than her external ones.  All those "build girls up," "healthy body image," "don't sexualize a child" things you hear and read.

But in that moment, I realized that I had done exactly the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish.  Without a moment's hesitation I had agreed to let Freddie go shirtless, but I wouldn't let Ainsley wear a bikini in a setting where she was already WAY less dressed than either of her brothers.  And I had no explanation.  All I could conjure up was "she's a girl," and that is BULLSHIT.

So how do I undo that?  How do I now go back on what I had said and say a bikini is okay without pushing it on her.  And how do I make sure that she still feels all those things that I was trying to instill by not allowing the bikini?


In the end, she asked for a bikini and I bought her one.  I tried to explain that I was wrong, that it shouldn't matter what she wears as long as she's comfortable in it and happy with how it makes her feel.  I asked her why a bikini was so important to her and she told me it made her look cute.  I asked her how it made her feel and she said happy.

So ridiculous that all this angst happens over a bikini. A little item of clothing that only gets worn for a few months of the year.  But all this big stuff happens in these little moments and insignificant decisions.  I still don't know what I'll say if she comes home at 14 with daisy dukes and a halter top that she wants to wear to school.  Because the truth is that the world is going to label her because of it.  I can do my best to alter my own opinions and show her how to be her best woman no matter the clothes, but that's not going to change the world view.

I'm at a loss in this department.  It feels like a tug of war, go too far one way and you end up in the mud.  I guess I just hope that Ainsley can forgive me for all the missteps and she's smart enough and strong enough to make her own decisions and stick by them. That she finds an inner confidence that will take her past all the bullshit.  In the end, I hope that's what I can give her no matter what she's wearing.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Dear Ainsley,

I didn't realize this before hand, but apparently eight is a big deal.  When you're a kid birthdays are always a big deal.  Soon, you will snuggle into eight and it will become well worn.  It will be comfortable and you will be itching to be nine.

But as an adult, I am looking at my eight-year-old and realizing that this is one of those times that I will look back on and think, "That was the moment when everything changed."

Maybe I'm being dramatic, but over the last few months there has definitely been a shift.  Your thinking is different, your attitude is changing.  You're maturing and aging and it's like I can see it happening.

Some of it's good, some of it is...difficult.  But you are definitely growing up.  I've seen that happen for eight years, but this past spring it's become very apparent that you will not be a kid forever.  Something that my head knows but my heart is not quite on board with yet.  So we have to take baby steps, because just like you've never been eight, I've never had an eight-year-old and we are navigating these new waters together.  So we give little bits of independence and judgement, then we pull it back when it gets too scary.  I think ear piercing is a good place to start.

You've been begging me for pierced ears for three years.  I originally told you, you had to wait until you were nine.  Why?  Who knows, ask Grandma.  That's when I got my ears pierced, so I figured it was a good age.  But I won't lie...I couldn't wait to buy you little earrings.  So when you begged and pleaded on your seventh birthday I made you a deal.  You show me how responsible you can be and I would take you on your eighth birthday to get it done.  Well, I'm not going to lie and say you were suddenly the poster girl for responsibility, because you so were not!  But I think I wanted your ears pierced as much as you did, so I conceded.

It was a stressful event.  I was so worried for you.  Not about the actual piercing and if you would be allergic or get an infection.  Those are all things we could deal with.  No it was more the way you handled it that ripped me apart.  You were so brave and insistent that you did not want to cry but you were afraid that you would cry. did you get so grown up to have this emotion?  This need to not show your fear and emotion in public.  And you did cry a bit.  You cried before hand out of sheer excitement/fear/anxiety.  But just a tiny bit behind your fists.  Then it happened and you laughed and said "Ow, ow, ow..."  Because it did hurt, but not nearly as bad as you  had imagined.

I have to say, you have impressed me beyond my imagination with the ear hole care.  You can be a bit...dramatic...especially when it comes to injury.  A scrape on the foot needs a homemade cast and crutches in your opinion.  So I was worried that there would be a lot of whining and complaining about turning and cleaning ears.  But not once have you belly ached.  You listened intently to all the instructions and you come and ask me, "Does this one look a little bit red?  Could it be infected?"  You always wash your hands before touching them.  You worry about going swimming.  You clean them every morning and every night without being asked.  So I think we made the right decision.

In the end, they are your ears, part of your body.  And I always want to make it clear that all of those things fall under your power and your decision making.  Not mine.  I hope this is one small step in that direction, and I hope that you let me help you make these decisions the older you get.

I'm so proud of you, Ainsley.  I'm so proud of who you are and all that you do.  I consider myself really lucky to know you, to be a part of your world.  You're going to be great things and I'm glad I get to watch.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

For Now, Us Takes A Back Seat

Today Clif and I "celebrate" 9 years of marital bliss.

I put celebrate in quotations because other than a quick kiss on the cheek and a whispered "Happy Anniversary" followed by a mumbled "You too" before I left the house this morning, there won't be any typical celebrating.

We won't toast champagne over an elegant steak dinner.  We won't lie on the beach for hours as our fruity drinks sweat in the Caribbean heat.  We won't spend all day watching a movie marathon with take-out on our couch.

This week has seen little shut eye with a coughing Cohen, a puking Freddie, and a big school project that Ainsley needs to finish before tomorrow.  I think both of us would trade the beach for a secluded bed in a dark room for the next 72 hours.  Still, beats last year when we were battling the lice.  That is actually one of my favorite posts.  It is absolutely the truth about marriage.

I think back over the last nine years.  Nine is not a very exciting anniversary.  Just shy of that decade mark. Years behind our predecessors.  Years ahead of the newlyweds out there.  Still, a lot has happened in nine years.  We've been broke, we've been uprooted, we've grown our family, we've lost loved ones.  A lot of life happens in nine years.  And when you start stacking nine years on top of nine years on top of nine years, before you know it a lifetime will have passed.

So last night, Clif and I were joking about our anniversary and how it never seems to be about us anymore.  I said "I passed right by a CVS today on my walk and I didn't even go in and get you a card."  He said "Well, I didn't get you one either."  And we laughed.  Because we both think cards are a waste of money but it is a small, fairly simple gesture.  Yet neither of us took the time to do it.

"We aren't very good at making it about us," I said.  And he said, "Look around.  How could we possibly?  Don't worry babe, one day it will be all about us again."

And he's right.  One day there won't be sick kids to sit up with.  There won't be projects cluttering the kitchen table.  There won't be babies being born the day before with birthdays to celebrate every year.  There won't be lice to comb out and kill.

One day, we'll be able to celebrate our anniversary for weeks at a time if we so desire.  For now we'll just take the quick kiss on our ways to our respective days.

So Clif, Happy Anniversary.  We have seen ups and downs.  Good times and bad times.  I don't have time for you and you don't have time for me.  But we still love each other and we've agreed to stay on the least until next year.  We're already planning a 10 year anniversary vacation...without the kids.  After that, I'm not making any promises.

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