Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Survive While Daddy is in The Big Grape

Clint left yesterday morning for New York City.  I think that sounds really, really cool, and I'm a tad bit jealous.  I can remember a time before we moved when I could say, "Clint's working in Chicago this week," and I thought that felt really cool to say.  Don't worry -- the Darbys are not moving to NYC.  And it still feels cool to say that Clint is working in Chicago.

So, anyway, Clint is in "The Big Grape" as Mimi likes to call it, which means I've been the single parent while he's been gone.  I'm always a bit nervous that I'll run out of ways to keep the kids entertained (and patience) while I'm on my own.  Clint usually doesn't get home until 6:30 or later at night, but he is pretty helpful with bath time and playing with the kiddos while I can get some things cleaned up and put away.  Even though he hasn't been here, everything has gone quite smoothly, and as long as he brings back a really fancy gift for me, I guess I can let him go again (I mean, a cupcake would be fancy enough for me.)

Yesterday morning Mack had his 18-month-old check-up.  Do I need to repeat that?  Yes, I did write 18-month-old.  I KNOW!!!!  When did he get so big???  He's in the 50th percentile for weight (25lb, 11 oz) and 75th-90th for height, and Dr. Chang told me he's perfectly healthy and very, very busy.  He's a bit obsessed with his Toy Story toys right now, and he played and pretended with them nonstop while she was checking him.  I told her that I didn't remember Mimi playing like this when she was his age, and the doctor said that he is totally a second child.  This is why he crawled early and climbs like a monkey and makes his toys pretend to talk to each other.

For a while I expected less out of him than I did out of Mimi.  Mimi walked well from the beginning and was talking nonstop early, but she was in daycare.  I assumed Mack would do most things later because I'm home with him and because boys are sometimes a little slower in the beginning (and sometimes for the rest of their lives.  What?  Did I just actually write that?).  The same questionnaire I filled out for Mimi's 18-month check-up was the same as the one I filled out for Mack, and I was a bit surprised at my answers.  He seems to be doing everything that she was and maybe even a little more.  She didn't care for blocks at his age, and he has become OBSESSED with Legos.  Not the big ones.  The tiny, little ones that I should probably put away because they're choking hazards.  He searches the pile for the smallest ones and then builds a tall tower with them over and over and over.  His intensity makes us giggle because he screams at us if we get in the way or try to help him.  He wants to do it all by himself.  This all started several months ago when he tormented Mimi by taking all of her Lego towers apart.  I guess because Mimi didn't have any older siblings with Lego towers then she wasn't as interested as early.      

Mack also likes to play games with us.  He loves to randomly pull on my hands to make me get up to play Ring Around the Roses with him.  Whenever someone comes to our door, he runs to the couch so he can jump out and play Peek a Boo.  He was even hiding behind my knees yesterday and yelling "Ah boo!" at Dr. Chang.  He's really into songs with hand motions like "Wheels on the Bus," "Twinkle Twinkle," "Pat a Cake," and "Head and Shoulders," but I don't recommend trying to do these to make him happy while driving.  Hands on the wheels at all times . . but that's another story.  

He doesn't talk a lot, but over the past month I've noticed a lot of new words to add to his list.  He likes to squeal "Ididit!" like it's one word.  He's saying more names like Poppaw (my dad), Top (Clint's dad), Coco (my neice), Nick (my nephew), and Amy (my sister).  His favorite names to say lately are Woody and "Jeshie" and Tigger and Pooh.  He's also been pointing at things that he doesn't have words for and saying "dat" or "dis."

Mack is such a little ticklish guy and laughs at EVERYTHING.  Mimi is a great big sister for a boy because she's so wild and never takes it easy on him.  She will run into him and knock him over, and the little guy just gets back up while laughing hysterically.  Even when I put her into time-out for almost breaking his neck, he checks on her to see if she's coming back for more.  Tough little guy.

I had my first class ever with just Mack this morning -- Gym and Swim at the Y.  Basically, the toddlers play in the gym for 30 minutes and then have swim class for 30 minutes, which is just enough to make us all want to nap for the rest of the day (except I can't because Mimi no longer naps.  Grrr).  He pretended to be shy for about 5 seconds, and then he ran around the gym and laughed and laughed and laughed and slid and climbed and kicked balls.  He was a little clingy in the pool, but he giggled nonstop at all the silly songs and being thrown in the air.  He screamed "Yay!" and clapped excitedly when every song was over.  Little happy stinker.

Meanwhile, Mimi is still a wild monkey.  When I arrived at preschool yesterday, Miss Norah met me at the door to tell me that Mimi didn't get to participate in Show and Tell because she had pulled someone's hair.  Ugggghhhh.  She's been a bit feisty lately, but pulling hair is just mean.  I wanted to march over to her and yank on her hair for a minute in hopes that she would get it, but I'm pretty sure not being able to have an audience during Show and Tell was more than enough punishment for my actress.  We had a nice, long talk and I took away something, but we'll see how it goes.  I've had to be tougher with her than normal lately, and I've found my harsh tone going places I didn't know existed.  She doesn't pay any attention to me if I kindly ask her to do something (like not run out in the street), so I have to raise my voice and channel the Devil for a few minutes.  I hate it, and I'm sure other people think I'm the meanest mom ever.  It doesn't even phase her.  "Oh, okay, Mom.  You mean you want me to stand next to you and not in the middle of this mud puddle? Oh, I get it."  Soooo frustrating.  When we got home she asked me to turn on a movie, and I reminded her that she didn't get TV time because she pulled hair.  She said, "Oh, yeah.  I don't get to watch a movie because I was a stinker today, right?"

But I love my little stinker, and I was feeling awfully lazy yesterday with the idea of not having Clint to help at night, which caused me to get McDonald's for the family for lunch.  I thought maybe a treat of too much sodium and grease might make Mimi a sweeter child.  He he.  And then I totally made frozen pizza for dinner.  Geez, what's wrong with me?  At least the kiddos had apples with their lunch and green beans with their pizza (which Mimi completely covered with a slice of pizza.  Yes, she is already that sneaky.  But she eventually ate them anyway.).

And remember my latest quest to become more crafty and have a "theme day?"  Yeah, well, I think that's a stupid idea now.  I realized that not every good mom pulls awesome craft ideas out of thin air on a daily basis, and what in the world am I supposed to do with a week's worth of toilet paper puppy dogs and noodle necklaces anyway?  So instead I decided that I would make it a point to put aside 15-30 minutes a day to do one "activity" with my children.  It must be a time that the TV is off and I am completely engaged with teaching them and being creative.  Last night while my gourmet frozen pizza was cooking, Mimi and I made peanut butter cookies.  Oooooh, yummmm.  I stuck Mack in his high chair with a bunch of snacks, and then I actually let Mimi help me.  She was fantastic!  Yes, I had to repeat over and over and over, "Don't touch that yet.  Stop eating raw egg.  Leave that alone.  Not yet.  No.  No!  NO!!!" but I would say that it went pretty well.  Check here for the super easy recipe:  Bad Day Peanut Butter Cookies.  They were good even though it wasn't a bad day at all.

She was so proud of herself!  And completely covered in peanut butter. :)

Just got a text that Daddy-O has landed.  Guess I better clean up a bit.  Nah, maybe I'll leave it a mess so he knows how much we need him . . .

Friday, February 17, 2012

She's Crafty

You know who I'm talking about and not in the Beastie Boys kind of way.  That Martha Stewart kind of woman.  The one who can make a gorgeous dining table display with a couple of toilet paper rolls, tin foil, and a glue gun.  She brings the most beautifully gift-wrapped presents to birthday parties and showers, and the gift inside is probably hand-made.  She lives on Pinterest and then posts all the wonderful door hangers and wall art and children's crafts that her family happily made with items just lying around the house.  And she makes me want to gag.

Okay, maybe I'm a little jealous because I totally think I should be like this.  I have a minor in art (well, kinda.  I'm missing one foreign language credit, but I don't think that matters), and I love to draw and sew and do a few other things that require me to use the right side of my brain.  But I am in NO WAY crafty.  I do not own a glue gun.  I can't look at the plastic fruit containers and cardboard beer boxes and egg crates in my recycling bin and envision an afternoon craft project with the toddlers.  I can't make bows for my daughter's hair.  I've never fashioned a quilt out of old sorority t-shirts.

If a teacher was to grade me on my ability as a SAHM, I would get a big, fat F in the art category.  I would get a big, fat F in several other categories (which I'm sure I'll discuss at a later date), but art class has been nonexistent at the Darby house.  We sing and dance and play blocks and read books, but I rarely come up with more than a coloring book and crayons for my monkeys.    

I honestly didn't see this as a problem until recently.  I mean, I have messy toddlers who eat glue and paint, and I have always felt that art should begin maybe at preschool or around the age of whenever they stop putting glitter in their eyes or glue sticks up their noses.  But I need to change this because I LOVE art.  I once dreamed of being a starving artist wearing second-hand clothes and hanging out at really cool parks sketching.  Okay, so this was for about a second during my freshman year of college, and then I realized that I wasn't that very good and I absolutely despise second-hand clothes.  They never fit right after someone else has worn them.

And at this week's mom's group one of the girls thought it would be fun for the older kids to finger paint and make cute little designs out of their handprints and for the little ones to squish two different paint colors together in a gallon plastic bag.  Wow.  How did she think of something so clever??

I'm not being a smarty pants.  I really don't know how she thought of putting the two different colors in a baggie and letting them mix and squish together to make a completely different color, and (this is my favorite part) there was no mess.  Why can't I come up with something so simple on my own?  And her little girl is absolutely the tiniest little thing.  I'm not even sure she is old enough to eat a crayon.

I complimented her on the fun baggy idea, and then she excitedly began spitting out other ideas like finger-painting with pudding and then my head started spinning out of control when Pinterest was mentioned.  I DESPISE Pinterest because it is a reminder of how un-crafty I am and how crafty everyone else is.  (On a side note, have you seen the $*#T SAHM Moms Say video on You Tube?  Because you should.).  She was just full of crafty ideas, and it made me feel, well, a little embarrassed that I had absolutely nothing to bring to the table.  If you know me, you know I HATE not being a bit of a know-it-all.  Not one idea with felt or macaroni or pipe cleaners or anything came to mind.

I thought about it all afternoon.  Why can't I be crafty??  And then Mimi, who seems to read my mind on occasion, announced that today was Valentine's Day and the next day would be Frog Day.  "What?  What's Frog Day?"  I asked.

"I don't know.  But tomorrow is Frog Day and the next day is Princess Day."  And then she tackled her brother and stole his blocks.

Hmmm . . . a theme day for every day.  I could make that really fun.  We could talk about the life stages from an egg to a frog and the different types of frogs, teach Mack how to say "ribbit" and play leap frog with Mimi, and then make some sort of craftiness with frogs.  Wow.  Mimi is so brilliant.

But the next day I forgot about this and we did nothing pertaining to amphibians, and then she reminded me that the next day would be Princess Day.  Oh, joy!  Princess Day!  I pulled out her Snow White and her new Cinderella and let her watch some Barbie Princess nonsense while getting ready for preschool, and then I had plans of making princess crowns and discussing British royalty with her during Mack's nap time.

So this is how I might start being crafty.  A theme for each day.  I can let her come up with the ideas and that way I don't have to think too hard.  Also, it will be easier for me to Google or search on Pinterest (eeks) or whatever for some sort of project.  I know that this will probably force me to spend a bit more time at Joann's than I would like for some crafty items (I despise Joann's.  I've always felt like people think I crochet tissue box covers or bedazzle my jeans if they see me going in there).  But having a theme is a start, and I think it's a good one.

But back to the Princess Day for just a moment.  When I took Mimi into her classroom that morning, I saw a very disappointed look on her little face.  It was indeed "Princess Day" (and "Super Hero Day") in her class so all the girls wore pink and purple princess dresses and the boys wore capes.  Oops.  I guess I should have read the last e-mail from Miss Kelley a little more closely.

Anyway, Mimi decided that today is "Hat Day."  She and Mack dressed up in cowboy hats for all of ten seconds.

Then they helped, well, kinda helped make their own hats.  And then I chased them around the den trying to make them realize how awesome it would be for them to sweetly stand next to each other while wearing their fun hats so Mommy could document this moment on film.  They screamed and hid from me, and then my battery went dead.

So here they are.  Proof that even I can be the crafty mom.  

Something tells me I'm not getting "pinned" any time soon . . .

Until the next fiasco . . .

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Am NOT an Island

At least I hope not.  

Please tell me I'm not . . .

One of the best pieces of advice I can give any new mommy or to one adding a second child to the family is this -- make new friends.  You can keep the old ones, but go out of your way to find other women who have children around the same age as yours.  Not that they once had children the same age as yours but that they do right now.  Join a play group or strike up conversations at Little Gym.  You can't be shy.  Don't worry if those women who may have absolutely nothing in common with you other than they are also a SAHM or a working mom or a single mom or they have all girls or whatever.  Do NOT try to figure this thing out on your own.  I repeat, DO NOT TRY TO FIGURE OUT PARENTING ON YOUR OWN.

I am not only suggesting that you do this so that you can learn from others who are walking in shoes similar to yours, but you need to know that you are NOT crazy.  This shiz is hard.  You will have some seriously bi-polar ups and downs, and you are not alone.

I really, really, really from the bottom of my heart appreciate any feedback I get when I write about my crazy days.  I do lots and lots of moaning and groaning, and I'm relieved to hear that some of my girlfriends are going through exactly the same thing.  I love the advice or the unloading or whatever you need to do.  I started this  blog as a way to keep up with family and friends as my family grows, but I'm so glad it has turned into more for me.  

So I need to be reassured -- I'm really not an island, am I?  

I just noticed as I sat down to write this that I never published the last post, so I did.  And then I giggled at its tone -- Yay, me!  I was a great mommy today!  Because today is a bit different . . . 

Well, today is okay, but yesterday was complete crap.  See these sweet children below:

I had a lunch date with them at Bakin' and Eggs.

She begged me to let her help mop.  I mean begged.

  Don't they look so sweet and awesome in these two photos?  Well, they were sweet and awesome at moments . . . and then the rest of the day was complete mayhem.  The details aren't too important and they weren't being naughty, but they were complete nuts at lunch and fussy and whiney and loud and UGGHHHH for the rest of the day.  A mom actually gave Mack her child's Buzz Lightyear because he continuously screamed and pointed at it throughout lunch.  Basically, they were just little handfuls of crazy.  I did a great job of keeping my cool, which usually helps.  But it didn't help at all yesterday, and I was annoyed and embarrassed.  I thought it would be fun to make cookies with Mimi, but it ended with me basically shoving her out of the kitchen and making her watch a movie.  Yep, making cookies wasn't quite as sweet and fun as I thought.

And then Clint messaged to ask if it was cool if he went to dinner with a client.  Oh, holy crap.  Anyway, I convinced him he needed to be home because our children had kicked my butt today, and luckily he was able to get out of it.

I've also been thinking a lot lately about whether I'm really doing the best that I can as a mom during the years I'm able to stay home with my toddlers.  We love Chicago and all that it has to offer our family -- great museums, amazing parks, incredible public elementary schools, 3 high schools on my side of town in the Newsweek top 500, tons of toddler activities . . . but sometimes getting around and wrestling with the crowds is a bit overwhelming.  And then I think about our life in a suburb or small town and how some of our friends in the South have inexpensive Mother's Day Out options and big yards and cheap babysitting (well, relatively speaking).  Last night when I was having one of my "I'm so completely exhausted" moments, I began to question myself.  And then I woke up this morning and was fine.

Seriously, what's up with all the highs and lows?  Why can't parenting be the most amazing experience ever, like, all the time?

Sigh.  So I'll keep trying and learning and growing and talking and talking and listening a lot more than I talk.  Well, I don't know.  I do talk a lot . . .

I had a convo with a dear friend this morning who is very close to my little monkeys, and she pointed out that I am a big softie when it comes to disciplining Mimi.  What I'm doing might work with some children, but she needs serious boundaries because she's sneaky and witty.  Yep, this is so true.  We also talked about how I need to add some structure and keep them as busy as possible.  I needed this.

Then the discussion at my mom's group was about whether to add another child to the family or not while living in this big and busy city.  I thought about skipping this week just so no one could convince me that adding another is "such a joy."  Girls talked about having two or three children in a two bedroom house (The babies that sleep in pack 'n plays in the "big bathroom" were called "spa babies."  That makes me giggle), the struggles with teaching their little ones to act appropriately in public, learning the ropes with finding free museum days or the more affordable preschools (like that exists!), and working out a dinner schedule when no one has a husband who gets home before 6:30.

We do have some different challenges in the city, but everyone has some sort of challenges with trying to figure out how to survive parenting.  At least I can keep my kids in the stroller while I run some small errands to pick up more contacts or milk at the grocery and then the dry cleaners.  My head spins when I think about getting two wild monkeys in and out of a car a bazillion times a day.

Okay, now I have some frosted heart-shaped cookies I need to share with my wild children.  I think we've all earned a treat after being so sweet and structured and disciplined today. :)

It's Not All About You, Jeri Anne

First of all, I have no idea why the cooking post has shown up again.  I wrote that, like, forever ago, but it is showing up like I decided to shove it in your face again.  I promise I didn't do that but maybe someone somewhere is dying for an Italian sausage recipe, so there you go.

I have been trying to revamp the blog, and I have no idea what I'm doing . . . will someone who knows about this sort of thing just redesign mine and make it fantastic?  Thanks.

Anyway, I don't really have anything awesome to write about, but it's a boring, blah Monday. . . so why not?  I had a very okay weekend with my family, and it could have been better but I think I was a little bit of a butthole.

I've had several projects on my mind that keep me up at night, and I haven't even been able to start on any of them, which has annoyed the mess out of me.  I sketched a few designs for dresses for Mimi (and maybe myself.  Hmm.) and found patterns over the weekend, but I'm dying to actually be able to sew.  I can't exactly do that with Mack fussing nonstop (I'll get to his drama later) and Mimi no longer napping.  And I'm quite bored with the beige walls of the condo and have ideas for a little redecorating and organizing, but I can't do that for the same reasons mentioned above.  So I spent the weekend whining a little and being a brat because I felt all anxious over something I knew I didn't have time to begin.  Wah, wah, wah.

But today was a new day, and I decided I would not be a brat today.  Today was not about me.  It was about everyone else.  No thinking about what I would wear or read or watch or create.  Nope.  What could I do for my kids and my husband (Of course I showered and ate and did what I need to do.)  I don't think that's a bad goal to start with -- just my family.  I'm not trying to save the world here.  Just my family.

And you guessed it.  Today went soooo smoothly.  Geez.  Why can't I learn my freakin' lesson already?  When I'm a selfish brat over not being able to go to the bathroom by myself or drink my coffee in peace or unload the dishwasher without someone climbing in or change a diaper without pulling a muscle in my back . . . okay, maybe I draw the line there.  But, I get it.  It's not all about me.

Anyway, today was a good Monday and everyone is going to sleep happy tonight.  And if I haven't told you in the past, my kids are really, really funny.  You want to know some stories?  Of course you do.

This morning I went into the bathroom to find Mimi had unrolled an entire new roll of TP while doing her business.  This happens way more than it should.  I know I should just remove the roll from her sight while she's in there, but I am a firm believer in giving my child chances to redeem herself.  Anyway, when I discovered her mess, I said something like, "Oh, Mimi.  Why did you make this awful mess?"

She just looked up at me with a concerned little face and said, "Mommy, this is a big, big mess.  You need to clean it up, and then you need to go to the grocery store and buy more.  Right now."

Mimi loves to use my words against me.  I put her in time-out recently for almost injuring herself and her brother on her scooter, and when I returned to talk with her, she quickly told me I needed to apologize to her and ask her if she's okay.  Then I needed to tell her that I'll never ever do that again.  Sigh.  She totally tries to confuse me by making me think it's all my fault.

As we were leaving the park today (yes, it was in the mid-40's and sunny!!), I reminded her that she needed to stay next to me and not run to the bus stop like she LOVES to do.  She rolled her eyes and mocked me with, "Yes, your majesty!"

What??  Where is she getting this?  Okay, I totally know because I watched cartoons with her all afternoon.  And she was trying to be silly all of these times, and, of course, I spoke with her about what was appropriate and yada yada, but, my word, I have to hide my face and giggle about at least half of what comes out of her little mouth.

Mack has been quite a little fussy bucket lately.  He is attempting to have his own opinions, but he doesn't know how to express himself with words and doesn't understand why he can't do everything he wants.  I think this normally happens for girls around 15 months and boys around 18.  They go from sweet and happy babies to fussy, angry toddlers.  On top of this his stomach has been a little upset lately, and he has a sudden infatuation with the remote controls, which is another story in itself.  We may have to go to counseling over this.

But he is talking some, and it's so stinking cute.  When he's begged for food in the past, he has stood near the kitchen and pointed and grunted, and I've been trying to teach him the sign for "more."  Yesterday he was annoyed with me trying to teach him the sign, so he pushed my hand to the side and screamed, "MO!  MO!!!"  Okay, I guess he was thinking, "Why does this lady act like she doesn't understand that I'm pointing at the bananas??  I guess I'll have to scream that word at her."

On our walk home from the park it was getting dark, and I saw him look up in the sky and then suddenly squealed.  "A moo!  A moo!"  No, not a cow.  He saw the moon!  We have read Goodnight Moon at least a bazillion times, and I point to all the pictures and say the words over and over and over.  All Mack does is point and grunt, so it's awesome to realize that something is making sense in that noggin of his.

His mannerisms and sounds and silly faces are so hilarious right now.  He bounces around the house from one toy to another all while making funny noises and nodding his head and stopping to dance when he hears a song and then standing on his head.  He learned to walk backwards while at Mimi's soccer class on Saturday, so I have caught him walking backwards into a wall and then giggling his head off.  He laughs at himself all the time even when no one else is paying attention.  I like that.

So today was a good day and here's to hoping this week stays the same!