Thursday, April 30, 2015

To my neighbors that installed cameras

Neighbors can be awesome. And they can be a pain in the ass. I happen to have the latter. When you live in a town home that shares a wall, not getting along can be a challenge. I could list the ridiculousness, but really, that's it's own post. Until then, let's just say that we can do no right and they are always watching. So much so that they installed cameras just under their roof pointing directly back at our back and front door. 
So, to our neighbors watching us in their monitor, I have a few spoilers:
  • We will be walking back and forth throughout the day to our back yard and car pad. Sometimes we will even walk to the front of the house where the second car is parked. Don't worry, your front camera will catch us as we get there and you can see us get into that car too.
  • I will be taking our the garbage once a day. --okay, once every other day. --okay, sometimes less. Enjoy the view as my husband or I carry big bags of garbage or recycling to the back. It will be riveting viewing.
  • As you know, I do have kids, so they will run around the front and side walkway of the shared part of the property. We don't have a neighborhood with kids in it, so they will make their own fun by making up races and different games. Don't worry, they know about your thing about your grass and they are vigilant about staying off of it, but please continue to watch and monitor this so you can be sure no sneaker or bare foot touches your spotty lawn.
  • I do let my kids play with chalk in the back and the front concrete. It's that or listen to them repeat over and over, "Can I watch a show? Can I play on the ipad? Can I play on your phone? Can I play on the Wii?" It's about to be summer, and they should be outside, so be sure to watch my budding artists draw things like haunted houses, ninja turtles, and penises. Yep.
  • The death cry of my 3 year old may keep you pretty busy checking your monitor as it happens multiple times throughout the day. I don't encourage it. Believe me. If I knew how to make her knee jerk response be something other than screaming, I would do it, but she has a big brother and this is currently her only line of defense.
  • As you know, we also have a dog. We will walk him. He too knows your thing about the grass, and so do I. Feel free to watch me walk him away from the house and then as I return, be sure to tune in as I throw the poop in my garbage and come inside. Do you have a recorder on that thing? I hope so because that's worth replaying over and over.
  • Finally, don't come cryin' to me when you glance at your monitor, which you apparently watch 24 hours a day, and see my husband in night vision video peeing in my garden. He read on the wonderful inter-webs that peeing around the perimeter is a natural and effective way to ward off bunnies from eating our flowers. Actually, it has many other advantages. I'm not making this up. I wish I could say it didn't work, but we had a lot of success last summer so... I just count my blessings that we are in the back, and he keeps this to a late-night activity and out of view of anyone passing by. Small miracles.
There are other things we might do such as take a family picture, have a birthday party, invite family and friend over, etc. Don't be offended that we don't invite you. You seem to have made it clear that you aren't interested in neighborly activities. We really got the hint when we would say hello, and you acted like you didn't hear us. We know you heard us by the small flinch and speed up as you walked by.

So, enjoy your own true reality TV show called "The Stewarts Do Stuff". I hope we live up to the cost of the camera installation. 


The Stewarts

Do any of you have neighbors that you don't get along with? I'd love to hear the stories. They'd make me feel better about the craziness we live with everyday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The day I rocked it as a parent

There are days like the one I’m about to tell. 
I had heard of them.
I thought they were only for “good moms” who were patient and kind and crafty and... well, perfect.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not fishing for compliments. On most days, I waiver right around "decent" on the parenting scale. There are those better than normal days where I hit "pretty good", but "wondermom" is a phenomenon that I had only heard about on Pinterest and Facebook.

I’m not sure what had gotten into me, but it’s like when a pitcher throws a perfect game or a basketball team goes undefeated in March madness. I was in the groove, and when that happens, you don’t ask why, you just thank God or the Universe or assume there was an anomaly in the time-space continuum and go with it.

I was with my 3 year old in the grocery store. 
That sentence right there would send shutters down any normal mom’s back, but it happens, and you steel yourself for the experience. 
However, this particular day, as if taken over by aliens, I entered the store with the attitude that this was going to take as long as it would take and I wasn't going to rush it. 


We enter the produce section first and, par for the course, she wants to help. Without thinking or trying to shove her in the cart seat where I have more control, I agreed to let her do so. 

I look at my list and say, “Okay, we need apples. Let’s get a bag and you can pick them out.” 
With that one simple statement, I completely blew her mind. Walking over to the bags, she looked at me as if to ask, “Who are you and where is my mother?” At the same time, you could see her shift into not caring that my body was being used by someone else. She was going to help and that was enough.

Her eyes wide, she took the bag as if it was gold in her hands and walked over to the carefully stacked apples. She looked at me, waiting for me to say, “Don’t touch that!” as she reached for the only apple she could, which was on the bottom of the pile. We all know that one apple from the bottom could send them all tumbling to the ground, and I usually would have announced that to the world, but instead, I said, “okay, now let me show you how to pick the right apple.”
We looked at them, lightly squeezed one, and talked about what makes a good apple to bring home. 
“Look momma! If I put my nail into one, it makes a mark!”
Without flinching, that one went in the bag.

We continued around the store in this same fashion. Me, the teacher, her the student. She was learning real world things from me, and get this, I didn’t once say, “hurry up!”

Then, magically, as we were waiting our turn at the deli counter, a woman turned to me and said, “You are a good mom.”

I looked at that woman, and I swear, she was surrounded by white light, a halo over her head and angelic music playing around her.

I said, “Excuse me?” I needed to be sure I heard her right.
And maybe turn on my phone’s voice recorder.

She said it again only slower and more pronounced somehow knowing that this was new for me, “You’re a good mom, the way you are in the store with her." 
"And you, my dear,” looking at my daughter, “are an excellent helper!”
My daughter beamed! I wasn't really ready to stop talking about my achievements, but she’d already moved on to my kid. Anyway, I said, “Thank you. It’s a good day.”

She nodded at me knowingly. I think she understood that one of those golden days was upon me and the more we talked about it, the more likely it would be to disappear. 
My number at the deli was called. I ordered what I needed and asked for samples for my daughter. We moved on, but I walked on air for the rest of our time in the grocery. 

I felt as if everyone was smiling at me. Cheering me on. As I navigated towards checkout line, I started to tense up knowing that the beautifully stacked goodies lining the rows as you funnel towards the checkout counter are traditionally a battle zone of “no you can’t have a chocolate bar or a bag of swedish fish." In another magical moment, there was no line, and I strategically kept her engaged past it all. Man, was I in the zone!

“Now help me get these groceries onto the counter please.” She too, was floating on air, and this was another coup for the day.

We paid for the groceries (she swiped the card and “signed”), she got a lollipop from the  cashier and we stood there just about to exit the store. I took a deep cleansing breath and smiled down at lovely child.

She said, “Can I push the cart to the car?”

I said, “Not in the parking lot sweetie, it’s not safe”

And the tantrum began. “I WANT TO PUSH IT!!!”

The golden moment was over, but I was still basking in it’s glory. So, as people walked by gawking at me pushing the cart and carrying my sweet, screaming girl under my arm like a football, I just smiled and kept going. 
I wouldn’t get annoyed or frustrated for at least three more minutes.

It was a good day. It was a glorious day. Or part of one. 
I'll take it.

If you haven't had one of these. You will. If you have, tell me about it. I need to know that it can happen again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Being a mom and having control. Not. Ever.

Janet Jackson sang about it.
Kids are struggling to get it.
And, dammit, in my own house, I thought I would have it.


In truth, the thing that I've given up the most since having kids is control.

1. I never knew sleep was optional.
When the kids were infants, whether it was nap time or evening, I wanted - nay, I needed them to sleep, but apparently they can smell desperation. I found out the hard way that I couldn't physically MAKE them sleep. This was a real ass-kicker. Sure, there were things I could do to encourage sleep, and I studied every technique in every book, but short of hitting them over the head or giving them enough bourbon to sedate them, they would sleep when they were good and ready. This was maddening, and they would push me just to the end of my rope. As I was about to lose my mind from sleep deprivation, they would close their eyes, but I swear I could see little insidious smiles on their faces.

2. Then there's eating. Or not eating.
As babies, when I was first adding real food to their diet, they ate everything. Clearly they were playing the long game. Getting me confident. Making me feel like I could rock this mom thing.
And then, just when I thought I'd figured out what my kids would eat, I would get bold and make one meal for all of us. Rookie.
I'm convinced they watch me spend time and energy working on a meal and decide proportionately how to difficult to be around it. I'm not a natural cook, so I'm sure they see the struggle unfold and think, "Nice! This is going to be a good day."
I serve it, and almost immediately, they tell me why they wouldn't, in a million years, touch the food that they liked when it was on my plate a week ago.
So, as my dreams of a family dinner such as the one on Blue Bloods fades away, I pour a glass of wine - oh, who are we kidding I've had one through meal prep - and make some mac and cheese. ...and oh so faintly, I swear I can hear the slap of the children giving each other five under the table. Maybe it's my imagination...

3. The battle of getting dressed.
The bandaid on her chin is
purely cosmetic
I want her to wear clothes. She does not.
I want him to wear underwear to kindergarten. He does not.
I want her to pick an outfit that doesn't make her look like she's on the show "Toddlers and Tiaras". She is clearly hoping to qualify.
And so it goes every morning. I've tried timing them. Bribing with TV. I've even shoved clothes on them only to have them peel them off and run around naked crying because, "I never let them wear what they want!" Simply isn't true, but there is no rationalizing with a toddler. 
They wait until they see me curled up in the corner looking at facebook at all the families who have it together to throw me a bone and get dressed or let me get them dressed.


This struggle for control can make me feel so powerless and frustrated, but I am able to see it for what it is. 
For a while. 
I mean, I'm the parent, right? I'm the adult, right? They are so little and their brains are just beginning to develop. 
I know this. 
I'm a rational human being.


I've been patient. 
It's the end of the day. 
We have been battle picking...
All. Day. Long.
I want to get to my wine, Blacklist, and, oh yeah, and to spend some time with that guy that got me in this predicament.

We are almost there when my son says, "You pick the story tonight, Mom."
Wow. I have the green light to choose something! Maybe we are getting somewhere, I think to myself. He is learning to give and take!

So, I go over the bookshelf, and I pick out a book. It doesn't matter which one because the result would be the same, but for the record, it's one he likes, so this feels like a safe pick.
Just as I'm about to sit down...

"I don't want to read that one."
oh no

"But you told me to pick the story tonight."
"I didn't know you'd pick that one."
"Yes, but you asked me to pick and so I did. Now this is what we are going to read"
Do you see it? I'm on the verge of picking a ridiculous battle. I could have just picked another book, but apparently I need control too.

"I don't want to!"
"We are reading this book. It's a good book. I've read it a thousand times to you. Now lay down!"
Yep, this happening. I can't give in one more time today. My sane part of me is looking down at this scene and shouting, "Just let him choose a different book!"

"Noooooooo! I'm not listening!" 
The tears begin. His. Not mine. ... Yet

"Fine! I will sit here and read this book to you. You can listen or not."
I begin, and as I do, he covers his ears and starts ranting to himself.

(under his breath) "You always make me read what I don't want to. I don't want to read this book. It's the worst book. I'm not listening. I won't read this book...." (and on and on and on)
I continue to read the book, but I'm human, and it's the end of day. I can't ignore the sound of his little voice one more page. 

"That's it! I'm done. Pick a book. Read it to yourself, and I'm going to put your sister down!"
Which certainly will go well, right? I'm in a great mental place for it.

"Noooooooo!!!!!! Mommy! I want you to read me a book!"
What??? Seriously?  
Oh yeah, it's all about control.

We do finally read a book. Or, in a tizzy, I send my husband up to read. But regardless, it gets done, and as I sit down with my glass of wine, the toll of battle washes over me. 

I wait for them to quiet, and then I go back up to watch them sleep. Partly, because I feel in control for the first time in my day, but also because the love I feel for them when they are sleeping is unmatched. This is how I regenerate for the next day. I charge my battery with loving thoughts.
Sometimes I have to go in a couple times.

Do you feel the battle of control in your house?