Frozen

I am frozen. Frozen in the moments that are precious and true.

I recently went back to work. It has been a hard adjustment.  I started in early November. I had to hit the ground running and it has been a blur since I started. I eventually got used to my new schedule and feelings of mom inadequacy. The thing is, I had to let go of the reins of stay-at-home mom and grab the wild reins of working mom. Both are wild horses, but both ride much differently. As they say, balance is key, but I acknowledge that balance is a bit of a myth.  Balance is choices. It’s going to take time and practice to keep all the balls in the air.

I have not been writing (here or on my own blog). This gets to me because I know that writing is my calling.  I wish I could say I have been too busy writing to write for APtly Said, but that would be a lie. I am too busy to write and that is no excuse. I just realize that this is not the best time for me to be writing.  I just can’t seem to get that ball  in the air with the others.

When my son was seven months old, I quit my job as an elementary teacher in the middle of the school year. I tried being a working mom with a new born, but it just was too much for me. When I quit my job, I thought 40 hours would open up. How wrong I was! But that is a different chapter.

My son and I when he is 10 days old
My son and I when he is 10 days old

 

I was a stay-at-home mom for three years. I loved it and I hated it.  I could not seem to find balance and eventually found there really is no balance – just choices. So I chose to be happy when I was and I chose to be sad when I was sad. I allowed myself to feel angry and I allowed myself to feel joy. I embraced all the emotions that come on the stay-at-home mom spectrum. I wrote a lot about these feelings, as I was also in graduate school for Creative Writing. I wrote my thesis about my feelings about new motherhood and it eventually turned into a book.

Now as a working mom, I am juggling routine with busy and guilt; they smack each other often, knocking the balls out of the air. Meeting goes late at work — I call my husband to pick up our son from my in-laws.  Special Education paperwork to prepare for upcoming meetings — text husband to take care of dinner.

From trial and error, I have learned to just up and leave my classroom to get out the door. The work will be there the next day. My mind scissors the to-do list in a well-needed manner, shredding the ridiculous details that must be accomplished before I go home. But somedays, the list keeps on growing and I’m not the one adding to it. Work. It will always be there, growing. I do love a to-do list slashed though. Oh how I love that sense of accomplishment. The thing about motherhood and parenting is that there is no concrete list — just a liquid that flows into the container available. This container for me is the free time I have with my family after work and I absorb it and let it flow all over me. I saturate myself in it. It is the love of my family. It mends my guilty mom heart and makes me happy.

The alarm on my cell phone goes off at 6 am. I press the snooze alarm three times on days I don’t have to shower, once on days I do. It’s non-stop from there. I put my make-up on at work, sometimes in the car at stoplights. I manage to scramble out the door with my briefcase and purse in hand. To people on the outside of that door of our house, I look polished and poised. Inside I feel frazzled, late, and never enough.

My husband makes our son breakfast and prepares a to-go mug of coffee for me. He hands me my lunch (which he makes) and offers a quick kiss before I head out the door. I am very lucky because my husband is picking up the slack and the role of attached parent.  He gets our three and half year old son ready for pre-school and drops him off. They hold hands and kiss each other good bye like I did during drop-off. I miss drop-off. I miss pick-up. Mostly, I miss that initial hug and that smile and holding hands as he tells me about his day. Ben loves pre-school and we are very lucky with the school we chose.

My son and I in a recent photo
My son and I in a recent photo

 

We are also very lucky because our son spends the afternoon with his grandparents after my husband takes his lunch with our son and they play.  My in-laws also watch Ben on one of the two days he doesn’t have pre-school. My husband covers the other day as he works from home one day a week.

As a junior high school Special Education teacher, I am constantly on the go. My mind often frazzled, but surprisingly focused.  I am busy during the day like I have not been in a very long time.  I am on the go almost all day long. My head is one long comma splice of to-do lists and I am constantly overriding the least important of tasks to finish.

This brings me back to the frozen moments – the icicles that freeze joy. I choose to spend time after work with my son. This is a priority. Everything else gets put on the back burner – papers to grade, lesson plans to write, dinner to cook (I am lucky because my husband does most of the cooking), house to clean, books and essays to write, laundry to do, laundry to fold, laundry to put away, the list is endless.  I do feel guilty and I often freak out about how messy our house is (I have been struggling with spending the money on a housekeeper).

Back to frozen and true and not writing.  Well, I have chosen to spend time with my son and husband after work. Sometimes I don’t get home from work until 6 pm. Those are the days I choose to be frozen – frozen in the precious hour or two that is mine to play with him. We are still co-sleeping and this time is precious as well as we all snuggle together in a cozy bed. Until the alarm goes off at 6 am the next day.

My husband and son
My husband and son

 

I also have to choose to not feel guilty about not writing and not being there for pick-up and drop-off and all the fluid moments in-between that used to be my life as a stay-at-home mom. I choose to accept and to be present in the moments I do have with my family.

Angels on the Devil’s Backbone

I took a break from my worry and hiked the Devil’s Backbone in Loveland, Colorado. I saw a beautiful family; they were about 400 yards ahead of me, if you uncurled a track and rolled it out. This family screamed AP, although the only noises I heard were tree swallows singing, the quiet meadow hum, and the sizzle of cicadas.

The Devil's Backbone in Loveland, Colorado
The Devil’s Backbone

 

The mother was wearing her newborn in a pink print sling, her hiking boots anchoring her strong mama legs; the father was holding his three-year-old son’s hand. They were beautiful.

Family hiking on trail
Family hiking on trail

 

I was visiting my mom in May of 2011. She was in the hospital, facing death.

We had had a scary close call. It came late Thursday evening at 10 p.m. from the nursing home. “Megan, this is John from Berthoud Living Center. Your mom has a high fever and is non-responsive. It doesn’t look good. You should get out here as soon as you can.”

I was on a plane Saturday.

My son had just turned one and we were actively breastfeeding. I say we because breastfeeding is a symbiotic relationship. He was not only nursing, I was nursing him.

I had no choice but to pump, pray, and get on the plane.

I was desperately sad in so many hollows of my heart — cracks and fissures leaked for my mom, for myself, for my son. I had to leave my son to go to my mother.

I hated leaving abruptly. I was heartbroken that our symbiotic relationship would end. I felt as if my breast milk had tears.

We scurried around to pack my things and deal with last minute travel arrangements.

I took my shattered heart and stitched it together with my son’s laughter and my husband’s voice. My husband drove me to the airport in Raleigh. We had a forty-five minute drive. I had planned an attached good-bye — if there is such a thing. I planned what I thought was going to be our last breastfeeding session for early morning before we left. I was going to hold him closely in my arms, caress his loose curls, stare into his azure eyes, and fossilize this bond.

That didn’t happen.

What did happen was I jumped in the back seat of the car on the way to the airport and stuck my boob in his face, draining each engorged breast while he was strapped into his car seat as my husband drove ten miles above the speed limit.

This was it. I was heartbroken again. I had planned it differently.

The thing is, it doesn’t work the way we plan.

Damn it all to the Devil’s Backbone.

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

***

I eventually caught up with the family on the trail at the Devil’s Backbone.

Newborn in a sling
Newborn in a sling

 

We stopped at the overlook and took in the beauty that is Northern Colorado. I had needed to get some time in just for myself. I needed to strive for balance, although it seemed in vain. I chatted with the family. They had never heard of Attachment Parenting, even though they were so very attached. The mama wore her baby, they both valued touch and responsiveness, and the mama was breastfeeding both children. We chatted some more and walked together to the lookout of the valley.

 

valley lookout

I am not saying there is a checklist or a way to qualify as an AP parent. I believe if you are trying to build and foster a connection with your children, then you are an AP parent. Many families that practice what is labeled AP have never heard of it. Sometimes a rose is a rose is a rose.

Life doesn’t happen in checklists, plans, or labels; it happens outside of those arenas — when the running track we race around is uncurled metaphorically and we just walk – we just be.

family walking back
Family walking back

 

I am thinking about this beautiful area now in Colorado — in the midst of its own natural disaster, in the midst of its own heartbreak.

Worry. Heartache. Joy. Such a cycle I live by as a mama, as a wife, as an aunt, as a sister. I am still a daughter, always will be, but my mama is in heaven now with my father. I wanted to call my mom desperately the other day, almost dialing the number I can not bear to delete on my cell phone.

My mom made it through that big scare in 2011. She was hospitalized just in the nick of time.

When we finally got her admitted to the hospital, she was hallucinating and said to me, “There are some folks from heaven here who want me to go with them.”

I said, “Tell them to take a number; I just got to town.”

She was dehydrated and had sepsis from a very bad urinary tract infection. She passed away on Christmas Eve the next year from sepsis.

My son and I continued to breastfeed for a year and half more after I returned.

We just can’t plan for it all. Life happens. As Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” and had postpartum psychosis, said, “Life is a verb, not a noun.”

So I pray, smile, live, worry, pray, smile, live, and worry. I hope, wish, dream, be. I am going to harvest my worry and harvest my hope. What else can I do?

Colorado Beauty

There are ways to help Colorado. You can Google “Colorado Flooding: Ways to Help.” There are several links to various organizations, including The Red Cross. There is also Facebook group called Colorado Flood Relief.

 

 

Red Rose of St. Therese

Have No Fear

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

Children do not have this fear. I think it spills over to being a parent, too. I have learned by trial and error to not be afraid. I am not a perfect parent, nor will I ever be.

When my son paints, he does it so organically and naturally. I usually let him have his way with the water colors, crayons, and water mixing cups. It gets messy — real messy.

He knows what colors he wants to use and how to curve the crayon to meet his own needs. He bends and turns, creating his own masterpieces. I will admit, I often am not supervising him directly when he is painting.  He has a table in the art room/office. When I am writing, he is creating.  We are in the same room.  I set up his materials in the respect of leaving brushes out, often uncleaned. He figures it out. He’ll ask me when he needs some help or fresh water. Most of the time, he says, “I’ll do it all myself.” He is three.

I am often amazed at his creations. I like to think he is a natural, but all children are natural artists.

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

I am trying to think of ways art and creativity can translate into parenting.  I believe Attachment Parenting has been a natural process for my family. We had the tools, and the art was created. We have used the Eight Principles in our life and have selected the “colors” which are our favorites.  You do not have to practice all eight Principles to get certified as an AP parent.  There is no certification. Some parents only use a couple principles, some use all eight of them.

My husband and I are practicing gentle discipline. At times, it is frustrating. At times, I wonder how fear would be more effective. But we guide and teach and teach and guide. Sometimes we are left with bite marks and exhausted sighs, but we know we are creating our own masterpiece. Our son is a blank canvas and the colors we choose will have an effect on him. We choose each color from the parent palette carefully.

So, I leave you with an art show of some of my son’s artwork.

Painting 1

Principle 1: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

 

Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care. Continuously educate yourself about developmental stages of childhood, setting realistic expectations and remaining flexible.

Painting 2

Principle 2: Feed with Love and Respect

 

Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy an infant’s nutritional and emotional needs. “Bottle Nursing” adapts breastfeeding behaviors to bottle-feeding to help initiate a secure attachment. Follow the feeding cues for both infants and children, encouraging them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Offer healthy food choices and model healthy eating behavior.

Painting 3

Principle 3: Respond with Sensitivity

 

Build the foundation of trust and empathy beginning in infancy. Tune in to what your child is communicating to you, then respond consistently and appropriately. Babies cannot be expected to self-soothe; they need calm, loving, empathetic parents to help them learn to regulate their emotions. Respond sensitively to a child who is hurting or expressing strong emotion, and share in their joy.

Painting 4

Principle 4: Use Nurturing Touch

 

Touch meets a baby’s needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or babywearing also meets this need while on the go. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massage, and physical play help meet this need in older children.

Painting 5

Principle 5: Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

 

Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day — from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.

Painting 6

Principle 6: Provide Consistent and Loving Care

 

Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver: ideally a parent. If it becomes necessary, choose an alternate caregiver who has formed a bond with the child and who cares for him in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship. Keep schedules flexible, and minimize stress and fear during short separations.

SONY DSC

Principle 7: Practice Positive Discipline

 

Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone’s dignity intact.

I drew this when I was a kid. My mom saved all my art.  Principle 8: Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

I drew this when I was a kid. My mom saved all my art.
Principle 8: Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

 

It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don’t be afraid to say “no.” Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself.

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” – Charles Mingus

* Descriptions of each Principle under each painting are from www.attachmentparenting.org.

 

Jealousy, It’s Crawling All Over You

My mom used to sing a song to me as a child every time I got jealous. It started, “Jealousy, it’s crawling all over you. There goes your eyeballs…”
 

I’m jealous of my husband and his connection to our three year old. Sometimes I feel like a third wheel (I know it is normal; I Googled it). Nonetheless, I feel like a jerk for feeling jealous of my husband for having such an incredible bond with our energetic, spirited toddler. Three years old is such a fun age! Benjamin can express himself. He can open doors. He can lock doors. He can climb on top of a plastic organizer box and turn the light on in the living room. And oh yeah, he can work the Kindle Fire better than I can. And as I write this, I hear him say to his daddy, “I have your keys. I want to go in your car,” as keys jangle and more toddler murmurs come out. Have you ever been locked out of your car or home? Either you can’t find your car keys or you locked yourself out of your home. First thoughts are typically to turn to family and friends for help or a set of spare keys, but this may not work out. Next steps are to contact a Strong Hold Locksmiths. A locksmith can perform numerous jobs like changing of the locks and taking care of the dead bolts, but not many people are aware that they also know about automobile repairs and installing the safes in your house for storing the valuable possessions like cash and jewelry. A skilled locksmith will eliminate your sufferings in a short span of time, whether it includes problem giving keys or locks. You should be assured if you have a professional locksmith by your side. There are many kinds of locksmiths like car locksmith and safe locksmith; you can choose them as per your needs and according to the demand of the situation.

Benjamin is very attached to his father.

My husband and son

I was on the receiving end of this affection when I was breastfeeding. Mama was what consoled him. And all I wanted was a little time for myself. Just a minute to go to the bathroom alone. Now, I could go to the next town over and use the restroom at the mall and perhaps my son would not notice I was gone, as long as Daddy was there.

Now he reaches for Daddy, sits on Daddy’s lap, plays with Daddy, wants to be with Daddy all the time. He is a daddy’s boy. (Now Ben and Daddy are playing spaceships. Daddy with Buzz Light Year and the Rocketship and Ben with the Star Wars X-Wing and Luke Skywalker. They are engaged in their own vocabulary of play, zooming around the galaxy. In fact, I was referred to as the Mommy Nebula, as my husband hid Buzz’s spaceship behind me. Ben came giggling along with Luke Skywalker in hand.

Most of the time, I sit back and grin from this bond they share. This language they only understand, played so easily and organically. I try to play like Daddy does and my play missions seem forced and well, dumb. Daddy’s play language is filled with intricate expressions only a grown up boy could articulate. Mostly, I am grateful, full, and happy about it. It is just those tiny (sometimes big) moments when I get completely rejected. “I don’t like you. Go away. I want Daddy.” Ouch, punch to the mom gut.

I thought this might be because I recently went back to work. I started a part-time job at the end of March. My brother-in-law (Uncle Tim) and in-laws (Grammy and Pa) watch Ben while I am at work. Three weeks before I started working, I tapered the lengths of my excursions out of the house. Ben would cry hysterically for me when I left him in the house with my brother-in-law. I felt so bad leaving him and so elated once I was gone. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. My first few trips were to the library where I basked in the silence and worked on research for a book.

Left to right: My husband (Daddy), my son (Benjamin) and brother-in-law (Uncle Tim)

Then I would miss him after an hour. I started with one hour, then two, and then three, increasing the time every day until I reached the hours I would be gone when I returned to work part-time. My brother-in-law said Ben would cry for a little bit and then he would be fine. Eventually he didn’t cry anymore.

When we first started this process, I only wished that the crying would stop. Then it did, and I kind of (OK — completely) wished he would miss me that much again.

Eventually, after many monologues of self-doubt and insecurity about my choices of returning to work, I realized that this was just part of the process. Just part of parenting. It. just. was. It was normal for him to feel comfortable with my brother-in-law and my in-laws. He was in good hands and loving arms. But still, I wanted them to be my arms.

This parenthood thing throws me for loops at every turn, just when I think I have it figured out — the reset button is hit. Learn all over again.

***

Ben says, “Pick me up Daddy. Pick me up.” He settles in up on his daddy’s hip with a view from top of the world.

I marvel at this sometimes. The way Ben looks when he is up on his daddy’s hip, long three-year-old legs dangling. Ben beams; he is proud. The two of them are symbiotic. Their hearts wrapped around each other, visible from the outside.

Attached at the hip, father and son

As a mother, my heart is a vine and it reaches with invisible twines that wrap around my son’s. I feel this tug at each turn. Ben though, is sitting on top of his daddy’s shoulders, snipping the vine, letting go in some ways. I coil the string, and wrap it safely up for the next time he will need me. He does. He will. I will wait.

In the meantime, I have a little more free time. I should be writing instead of watching, with my green eyes. In fact, I had time after work this past Friday to stop and gaze at the flowers. There is a field of pink, red, and white poppies near my exit for work. I stopped at took some photos. This is something I would not have been able to do had I been in the car with my son, as it was near the highway.

 

Poppy field near exit ramp off highway (I pass this everyday on my way to work)
It’s all about the angle you look at things…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stopping to gaze at the flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly, my eyes are aglow with love and adoration for both my boys. I may envy their magic, but I appreciate the warmth of the fire from the sidelines.

Watching the magic, enjoying the muse

What else can I do? This is a normal stage for children and I appreciate my son has such a loving daddy. And I appreciate that I have such a loving husband. I’m lucky.

Attachment, a Surprising Love Story

I called my friend, Javaughn in a panic on my way home from work (I started a part-time job as a teacher recently).  “I have a post due for APtly Said tomorrow and I have not written anything. What should I write about?”

Then she began talking about her own experience with co-sleeping and how it has made a positive impact on her family’s nighttime parenting routine. Javaughn Renee’s beautiful essay (she is such a gifted writer and artist) illustrates that Attachment Parenting can be adapted to meet individual families’ needs. Take what you like and leave the rest. There is not a checklist, only a core belief that connection and love works to build stronger relationships with children and their parents.

Without further ado — here is Javaughn Renee. She has three beautiful adopted daughters and a multi-racial family.

***

I let off a ‘holier than thou,’ sigh when I got off the phone with a tired friend  practicing Attachment Parenting principles.

“That’s crazy, “ I judged, and promptly placed my three year old in her crib and shut the door.  Two years and two more adopted children later, I hear myself saying, “…hold on Meg, I have to put the girls to bed, I’ll call you back.”

This time, “put to bed,” means co-sleep.  Co-sleeping became a solution to predictable, yet unpreventable, nighttime screaming matches. I got the idea not from a parent but from the last of a stream of behavior and adoption experts and my own desire to be a peaceful parent.

I never wanted screaming matches, sarcasm, or baths of tears to be part of my parental script. I wanted organic babies, who ate organic food and breastmilk, while I decorated their rooms with leaves, pinecones and non-violent paraphernalia. What I was blessed with, was three super strong-willed, attention-seeking, trauma survivors. These include a five-year-old who will eat a shoe if she believes it is made of sugar, a three-year-old who will sacrifice her body to concrete before she uses her words and a 15-year-old who will silently suffer an ingrown toenail for two weeks but cry buckets if she does not receive an Easter egg with the same amount of candy as her younger siblings.

And me? My locks evolved into a very chicken like hair-do, my natural deodorant left me smelling like an ape and instead of counting my (three) blessings, I fell asleep nightly wondering what did I do wrong.  Then I heard about oxytocin, the miracle hormone for my badass kids. A hormone their pre-adoption circumstances deprived them of and a substance I was not nurturing.  Though, I discovered, I could.

“When they [children with difficult behaviors] receive attuned and attentive care, children can begin to have a healthy oxytocin response and engage in healthy social and emotional relationships,” says author B. Byron Post.

The book applies what I recognized as (some) Attachment Parenting principles to adoptive parents who’ve turned into screaming zealots. Although, the book does not spell out API principles, Post’s (and others’) parental paradigm suggests that love, not fear will reduce stress and help children and parents regulate their emotions and behaviors.

So, “to hell with it,” I thought. “I’ll try  this love, thing. ” Every other expert trick or response was out and sleeping with my kids was in.

It was weird. Then it worked. So far, we’ve generally had months of nighttime peace. Even nights of, even-though-we’re-mad-we’re-still-sleeping-here kind of peace. Soon after, I was homeschooling the Sugarmonster and we became oddly calmer and happily closer. We snuggle for stories and even for discipline. Our three-year-old is trying to talk up a storm and we read devotionals and give kisses to our teen rugby player.

I can’t lie to the readers of this site and have you all believe I never resort to consequences or power struggles– because it happens. Yet, API and other new parenting paradigms will remain a part of my skill set as a parent.    All three of my children have to play catch up when it comes to love, nurture, and bonding, and Attachment Parenting will now play a part.

Javaughn Renee is a 43 year old writer and artist currently living in South Bend, Indiana but missing sunny California.  She is a nature loving, yoga teaching, parent, striving to live simply and with love.
In 2010, she completed a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Her research focuses on images of African Americans and nature and their effects on stereotypes. She has written for regional and national publications and blogs for other unique families at Mezclados.wordpress.com.   Javaughn continues to write, practice yoga and parent while watching her daughters grow to be sensitive and strong.

Play. Cook. Chef.

I recently took my son to the Raleigh Children’s Museum. It was so much fun. We shopped for groceries at the play store and went through the check-out line. Ben loaded up his canvas grocery cart on wheels with waffle and pancake mix, fresh fish, fruits and vegetables,  a loaf of fresh bread, peanut butter, milk, and eggs. When I sat at the check-out line several kids brought me their groceries. I played the part and scanned each item, encouraging them to bring their shopping cart over to load up their groceries after they paid.

My son, Benjamin headed to the check-out line
After we checked out, Ben wheeled his cart over to the kitchen and put his groceries away in the refrigerator.  I suddenly wanted to have this play kitchen in my own home. Then I realized he has been doing this with his father. My husband is a very good cook. I can cook, but I tend to cook with recipes. My husband, of Italian descent often cooked with his grandmother as a child.  He does not need recipes. He can look at a bag of flour, frozen meat and the spice cabinet and whip up a delicious healthy meal. I need a recipe.

I took some time to watch my son play with the other children, each cooking with authority and excitement. Ben, who is almost three had to be encouraged several times to share the kitchen. Sometimes he acts like he is Chef Ramsey.

Play. Cook. Chef.

I realized what he was cooking was a mirror of how he sees food in our home. And thank goodness my husband cooks with him.  I bake cookies and biscuits with him, but other than that, I tend to cook better when I am alone in the kitchen. But let’s not pretend here — I rarely cook.

The chef has an idea!
Even though I can not take him to a wonderful children’s museum like this all the time, I can provide the same space for him to explore with food and enjoy the process. I realized my own fear of cooking is based in well, fear. I am a perfectionist.  After being a mom for over three years, I should realize nothing is perfect. I have to allow myself more space to mess up. Watching the children play, there was not one child afraid of messing up. They were too busy doing what kids do best — be kids.
“Play is the best form of research.”

It was fun to watch my son cook in a kitchen that was equipped with just about every culinary tool a child would want or need. Then I realized my own home can serve as a children’s museum as well, at least the kitchen part. I saw a play kitchen today at Goodwill and I wanted to buy it for Ben. Then my husband reminded me that Ben has two other play kitchens (actually three). I was attracted to the storage bins of this new kitchen. My living room is covered in plastic carrots, onions, tomatoes, and apples. Add cardboard mini versions of cake mix and measuring spoons and a whole mess of other toy kitchen items.

The Joy of Cooking

Ben was ready. He had his groceries and the ingredients he needed to create. I just watched and enjoyed seeing him play. He chopped and seasoned the vegetables.  He took a syrup bottle and added some sauce. And then he mixed and stirred with authority.

Mix Mix Mix

I am embarrassed to admit how little I cook. Perhaps I need to take my toddler’s attitude and apply it to myself. Have fun. Food is fun.

We spent most of our time at the museum in the two kitchens. The second floor had another kitchen. There was a dance floor with music, a hockey arena, and a basketball court. Ben chose the kitchen.

“A two year old is kind of like a blender but you don’t have top for it.”

At the second kitchen he gathered his ingredients and made smoothies. This is something his father does with him. and he loves drinking Orangina for its good taste, you can check out Orangina reviews for yourself. We make freeze pops out of them and use them as Popsicles. My husband had a great idea of adding soy protein powder to the smoothies since Ben does not like to eat meat.

The grocery store, farmer’s market, and kitchen
My Little Chef

Even though I may not be modeling cooking with my son, he has models in his life to give him a healthy model. He cooks with his uncle, grandpa, grandma, and dad. I will stick with making cookies and biscuits with him. Perhaps Ben can teach me to cook.

Toddler Chaos Clean-up

I’ve swept up the Art Room. This room is my writing room and has also become my son’s chaos room. He paints here, plays here, and learns here. It is a womb of flashcards, water color trays, brushes, paper, stuffed animals, clothes,  crayons, play kitchen items, toy trains, race cars, and other toddler toys. There has been plenty of times when I had to use power washing dublin to clean my carpets full of paint and dirt from the backyard. Carpets shouldn’t stay damp for too long. Carpets and rugs are lovely, comfy and comfy . Used and maintained correctly, they’re ready to last several years, and become an origin of wonderful pride and happiness. But when not taken care of, unattractive damage could cause numerous problems. The key to any carpet treatment — vacuum-cleaning — must be consistent and complete. Some research has shown an honest vacuum-cleaning can eliminate up to 80% of soil inside a textured plush carpeting. supported use and placement, carpets must be cleaned by professionals carpet cleaning Ann Arbor annually , and spot cleaned as required within the meantime. Drymaster Carpet Cleaning has been operating in the Newcastle since 1990 and has the experience, equipment and procedures to service your premises.There are many varied methods of steam cleaning your carpets. The most common form of steam cleaning is a 1 stage process, where a cleaner will bring to your home a portable machine, similar to the machine that you can rent from the local supermarket or hardware store. This steam cleaning machine is filled with water and detergent and your carpet is cleaned without any pre spray or agitation. This method cleans your carpet without a rinse process and unfortunately leaves detergent residue in your carpet which will promote rapid re soiling. This steam cleaning method is over 20 years old and is not the preferred method by most carpet cleaners today, but unfortunately is still being used by a lot of budget type cleaning companies. Carpet cleaning experts in Newcastle also offers our customers the carpet Dry Cleaning method. Carpets are indeed one of the most important things that we can find in our homes. These can make or break the look the whole room. This is why most people always make it a point to have carpets in their homes so that their homes will look as elegant and as nice as they should be. This is true only under one condition. carpet cleaning usually look their best especially when they are still clean and new. A newly bought or installed carpet would always pull the look of the simplest room there is. Most carpet owners do make it a point to maintain the cleanliness of their carpets. We all know how carpets attract dirt so much. Even if we try to take care and keep our carpets clean, there will always be a stain that will begin to pop out of it. Once a carpet looks very dirty, this can now destroy the look of the whole room. This can now leave the room very untidy and not well cleaned. This is the primary reason why you should always maintain the cleanliness of your carpets all the time. Whether you do this on your own or you hire carpet removal service to do so, you need to make sure that your carpets look as new as they should. One equipment that has really made carpet cleaning such an easier but effective cleaning job is a vacuum cleaner. These are tools or equipment which are used to suck out dirt which are trapped within the fibers of the carpet. This is very effective when you want to remove the solid particles, allergens and the dust which have stayed in the carpet. Although cleaning the carpet thoroughly, removing the stains do need extensive cleaning procedures in order to remove them in the best way possible.

Ten minutes before I swept, it looked like a bomb of paper based material exploded. Add crayons, spoons, plastic play food, children’s books, stickers, paper, paint, M & M’s, and one toddler. Chaos.

My son painting in the Art Room. You can see the toddler debris on the floor.

The pile I’m looking at could be swept into a dustpan quickly. And then it would be gone.

But I have to sort out the debris. What is recyclable — at least the paper and plastic.

I’m tempted though to do one clean sweep then I could attempt to floor mop the wood floors. This is my favorite room in the house. It has twelve foot ceilings and pine wood floors with amazing detail that I got thanks to the work of the professional from Epoxy Flooring Bellevue. It has a south facing window which centers the room — one large window nine feet high by three feet. Visit website for more details about DIAMOND COATING EPOXY FLOORING OTTAWA.

A rare treat this past Saturday — a snowstorm with big chunky snowflakes. You can see the window to my art room in this photo.

This room is never organized completely, only at best, neatened up. My husband has recently installed a shelf system in the closet to organize my on-going writing and art projects. Confession: I am a pack rat and have kept every paper based memory and scrap of paper.  I have all my art projects from elementary school (thanks to my mom).  I have the first note a boy gave me in sixth grade asking me out. Check yes, no, maybe.

I have kept every letter and card I received as an enthusiastic pen pal writer in the 80’s, including letters from my pen pal from Japan and Costa Rica.

Check out that postmark — 1987, complete with a bubble gum scratch & sniff sticker
Pen pal letter from Japan

 ***

My feet stick to the wood floor.  Invisible toddler tape perhaps. As Ben calls it, sticky gooey. Everyone is asleep as I pull it together to do the impossible — clean this room. My goal is to see the floor. I start with baby steps picking up loose paper. I recycle what I can. I take a deep breath and recycle the toddler art I don’t want to keep. Should I keep them all? For Pete’s sake — I have over ninety-nine. Throw them out.  He will paint more. Trust.

My son’s art gallery in the Art Room

I pick up the books my son loves to dump from the toddler height bookshelf. The rest is a blur. A complicated system in my head of mathematical and analytic order takes over. I put things where I think they may belong. Piles. Lots of piles. They are off the floor for now.

What remains is still covering the floor: a pool of colored collage.

A blue plastic spoon with three vertical grooves lays angled across a scribbled toddler art paper. A crumbled napkin dyed with faded water color paints rests on top. A fluorescent pink index card with pen and ink scribbles hangs to the far right of the pile. The outfielder of the pile — catching loose grounders — about an inch away is a brown dog bone sticker the length of a penny.

A receipt for a failed fertility treatment from August 8, 2008 sits on top of the crayon stew. $244 reminding me of our desperation to be with child. Forever ago.

How did Ben find this bill? I know — he opened the file cabinet. The poor thing is shoulder height to Ben — completely accessible to his exploratory curiosity. (Yes, file cabinets have feelings; they like order — toddlers must make them nervous).

A black teaspoon lays across another fluorescent pink index card.  A cardboard white cake mix box next to an empty ink cartridge. Crayons: thick canary yellow, yellow green, navy blue  — all visible. Too much. I’m overwhelmed.  I’m just going to sort out the paper, crusted in sticky toddler chaos boogers — subtract from the pile.

A black sock bundled. A page from Ben’s favorite book, Wacky Wednesday torn out. I can’t throw this away; it’s the eleven wild wacky things park scene. Ben loves to point them out. The page with the purple limo with the old lady in purple, pushing the yellow buggy on top of the limo.

A wild eyed yellow giraffe sticks his head out of a pothole.

Wacky Wednesday book

The pile is lessened: progress.

A copper penny: head’s up, 2002.

A crayon crumb collage, fit for 80’s wax paper iron art projects, on the back of a glossy 8 x 10. I scoop it up and use it as a dustpan, moved enough by the bright colors to take a photo. Too lazy to find my camera, I toss the debris in the garbage.

Flipping the photo over, I see my fourth grade class from 2008. I was so hungry to be a mom in that photo: infertile. I put the photo on top of the printer paper atop my scanner.

The pile still there on the floor.

Next, fetch the plastic Ziploc bag for the crayons: thick purple broken tip still sharp; navy blue — the triangle grip; a plastic crinkle cut French fry (I hate these tiny outliers too tiny for toy bins). I’ve been throwing them away one by one, even though they fit neatly into the red McDonald’s fry holder, which I hate and soon it will get the cut. I’ll recycle it though.

The plastic corn ear goes into the keep pile. Place white play cake mix with it. My son thinks he is Chef Ramsey. All play kitchen items are keepers.

My therapist’s card (currently going to grief therapy) — I need to call her and make an appointment. This goes on top of my desk.

Blue M & M — throw it away. Maybe eat it.

A scribbled passage for a book I am working on — into the closet.

Yellow green, verde Amarillo, verte-jaune goes into the bag. An orange colored pencil soon behind it.

Turquoise thick Sharpie — no cap, dry as the desert.

Recycle?

Red crayon, red colored pencil. Cheap Rose Art red crayon, orange stub, green stub, thick blue, thin black, thick brown, thick blue — the other half. Royal blue plastic spoon — pile with black teaspoon.

More crayons: purple, navy blue, thick orange, thick red — sticky vegetable potato chip crumbs rolled around it like a Yule log.

Joan Miro eraser

Joan Miro 97 eraser from the Denver Art Museum — bought single, bought solo — a lifetime ago.

A persuasive journal prompt, a rogue teaching resource unearthed and liberated by my son from it’s tidy box.

Art Blast washable water colors packaging — not a good idea unsupervised. At least I can recycle the packaging: cardboard.

My son, Ben painting his masterpieces

Another persuasive writing prompt card.

I think a piece of dried poop was on the white index card.

A pastel purple index card.

I smell poop. Affirmative on the poop crumb.

Wow, I keep everything (not the poop); I should have just swept all this stuff up.

A brown twig.

My friend’s self-published poetry book makes the cut, only because it is inscribed and has “Congrats on the baby” on the inside cover — a reminder of graduate school and my miracle pregnancy.

I’m tired and sleepy. The rest of the pile is going into the dustpan, which actually is just non-recyclable garbage.

I walk by the window, curtains open and turn off the light sneaking a peek at the beauty of this room — the chaos of this room and marvel at the chaos tidied up (for now).

Stained glass fleur de lis my husband made sitting in Art Room window

What are the things you hold onto and what are the things you throw away? How do you keep your child’s playroom tidy?

 


 

 
 
 
 

Build the Castle

I’m sitting on my bed, knees angled in a V, my back against the Robin’s Egg blue wall. My son is building a castle out of over-sized Legos on the table next to the bed.

I’m hopelessly sad. My mother passed away on Christmas Eve. She had a long illness and every Christmas was the “last” Christmas in my mind, but this Christmas Eve she really died. I posted this on Facebook the night she passed:

“When you see Santa in the sky tonight, know Betty’s got the reigns tonight. She died while I was on the phone with her 9:58 MST/11:58 EST (the nurse held the phone to her ear). 

Believe it or not, it gives me great joy and peace that she passed on Christmas Eve, exactly two minutes before midnight East Coast time. She has always been on EST as a New Yorker at heart. RIP Betty. No star ever shone brighter than you. I love you always.”

Photo Source: Mother Nature Network

Although her illness progressed slowly, I thought I’d be more prepared. I thought I detached from her more each year she declined in health, but I became more attached with every day she lived.

I took my son to meet her Thanksgiving 2010. She held him and kissed him in her arms. My mother didn’t die young; in fact, she lived a very full active life until the age of 77. Still, I am not ready to have my mother gone. I want to call her desperately.  I lived 2,500 miles from her. Now, the distance is immeasurable. The last year her health declined so much she had to live in a nursing home.  I visited her as much as I could.

Last May (2011), she had a close call (read this post for details); I received a call from the nursing home on a Thursday night and I was on a plane Saturday. I had to leave my son very abruptly, who was actively breastfeeding – he was one year old. This was difficult, but at the time I had to make a decision. I brought my breast pump and pumped while I was in Colorado.

My husband and in-laws took care of my son. When I arrived at the nursing home it was decided to bring my mom to the hospital. She had a severe bladder infection and was severely dehydrated.  When I went to the hospital, my mom was delirious and hallucinating. She said to me, “There are some folks from Heaven here who want me to go with them.”  I said, “Tell them to take a number. I just got to town.”

My mother was treated with antibiotics and given IV fluids. She beat the infection and recovered. I stayed a week out West and visited with my mom.

Now my son and I are reading a book as he pulls the zipper down to his jammies and says, “I don’t like my jammies.”  We read the book, Road Work Ahead about seven times. Each time we get to the last page he says, “Again. You read it again Mama.”

Now he is asleep in my arms, his little boy eyes closed peacefully. I think about my mother doing the same exact thing for me as a two year old, snuggled deep in her arms listening to her heartbeat. I’ve realized that being a mom made my mom so happy. She was so good at it and I’m lucky to have been blessed with a lively, loving mother.

She was diagnosed with two benign brain tumors in 2000. Her condition deteriorated slowly, almost unnoticeable, until viewed in chunks defined by years.

Now I am grieving. The shock has worn off and I realize she is gone. The grief work for me truly begins now, a little less than a month later.

She will be buried with my father’s ashes at Arlington Cemetery. I will drive her ashes up 95 North with my husband and son to our nation’s capital. I assume the closure of her funeral will help me detach perhaps, but I have not detached as I can’t really detach from her as we were very attached to each other.

I think I put it rather eloquently in a Facebook post about a week after she passed:

“This by far is the deepest pain I have ever felt. It is layered in my mind, body, spirit, for at one time I shared my mother’s body — and heart.”

It’s going to take time. In the meantime, I cherish the moments like this — my son snuggled in my left arm, the memories of my mom alive in my right hand as I write.

Here is her obituary:

Here is a post I wrote about her: Magic Mama.

My beautiful mom

 

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