The Lump

“What is that?”

With those three little words my husband began something that would change my life and my perspective forever. I was thirty-years-old, nine months pregnant with our third baby, and I found myself feeling for a lump in my breast.

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Perfectly Timed Misbehaving

I’m beginning to think that my kids are against me. Seriously. Even the baby.

I feel like every time I have a big day, a fun outing or a special event planned they are extra crabby or just behave terribly.

Today we were invited to a friend’s home for an American Girl Doll Tea Party. First, let me say that this is completely not my thing. I don’t buy my children those over priced dolls and I’m not into these cutesy little girl parties. I was only excited to go because other adults would be there and maybe I’d get to have a conversation with someone who has knowledge beyond kindergarten. My husband had to work (big surprise) so once again I was on my own for the party.

Last night my middle child had an unbelievable, code red, Level 10, thermonuclear meltdown. This was the kind of meltdown during which they actually leave their body so no amount of talking or soothing is going to bring this to an end. I ended up locking myself into my room and let her continue her fit alone outside my door until she began to dose off. Just before 10pm (two full hours after I had initially tucked her sweetly into bed) I opened the door. There she was finally quite and she was just sleepy enough to be considered calm. I walked her back into her bed.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by this meltdown. I wish I could say this was incredibly uncommon for her, but it isn’t. I am thankful to say it is becoming more rare than it once was, but it is a battle I’m still fighting to get her to see that she will never get anything from me by having a fit. I was worried that her late meltdown combined with her finally going to bed two hours after bedtime would make her a real grump for the party this afternoon. She woke up a little crabby but quickly changed her tune. Yay!

The baby also must have known I had something going on because he woke up this morning very grumpy. My youngest little darling is not a crabby kid. He is the easiest baby because he is totally laid back and doesn’t get bothered by almost anything. He (along with the others) has been sick lately. They all got a nasty respiratory infection that, for the baby, got so bad that he’s been getting breathing treatments with a nebulizer and Albuterol three times daily for most of this week. But his behavior this morning was exceptionally grouchy. Naptime, lunch time and another naptime came and went with no improvement in his demeanor. I was now dreading this party.

During the three hours that we were at the tea party the baby barely let me put him down. This is also strange for him because he is usually very social and wants to explore his environment and meet everyone personally. He also spit up on me. Of course he would spit up all over me. I actually remembered the midday dose of his acid reflux medication which is supposed to prevent his excessive spitting up.

The girls had a blast at the party and I was surprised that Peyton made it all the way through without getting tired from her fit last night. I left feeling like it had been a battle to keep my man happy.

How is it that they always know that something is going on and exactly how to make it 100 times more difficult? I don’t even tell them about these types of things until it is time to get dressed to leave and they still act foolish leading up to every event.

Kids must have a sixth sense about these things. They feel that you’re trying to do everything possible to keep them on their regular schedule or keep them in a positive frame of mind. They know something is going on regardless of how hard I try to hide it.

Kids are just freaks like that.

Babies always poop when they sleep

The list of things I was blissfully unaware of on the day I first saw two little lines turn pink on a pregnancy test is a bit laughable. Whether you, my lovely readers, have kids or not you too could be unaware of these things. So, in an ongoing effort to be open and honest about my experience, please allow me to enlighten you on some things I have learned in my five (sometimes long and sometimes short) years in this adventure called motherhood.

Babies always poop when they sleep and newborns always poop when they eat: Other parents have told me about the lovely moment when you hear the cooing noise through the baby monitor and you excitedly walk into the nursery to see that smile you’ve missed while your little angel slept so peacefully. Although I have walked into the kids’ rooms to smiles, I also seem to (nearly always) get smacked in the face with the overpowering smell of poop. Why must they ALWAYS poop while they sleep?! How long has this baby been living in a diaper filled with their own mess?! How can a child sleep through pooping?! It’s amazing! All of my kids also would poop while nursing. I was never able to take advantage of that lovely full belly and post eating sleepiness because I always had to change a diaper before putting them down. I have never thought that meal time was a good time to poop but maybe it is me who is missing something.

Kids can cough and cry themselves into vomiting: Seriously. Not all kids will do this but my oldest does it nearly every time she gets sick. She has no control over it and no warning that it is going to happen. She has thrown up in her bed, her car seat, on my kitchen floor, you name it. How is it that no one warned me of that one?! She gets all worked up, whether it is from crying or coughing, until I can see it coming. I have had to rush into her room when I hear her coughing hard to try to get her to calm down, breathe through her nose and sip water. Not fun.

A child’s hearing is different that that of an adult: A child cannot hear certain things, like simple instructions to clean up after themselves or take their shoes off before running through the house. They can’t hear warnings that it isn’t safe to jump on the couch or try to do cartwheels in the bathtub, even when they’re within feet of the speaker. They can’t even hear you calling their name for dinner. But, if a child is quietly playing in their room with the door shut, the TV is on in the livingroom, and you tiptoe into the pantry, shut the door behind you and quietly open a snack package, they can hear that for sure. It’s true. Try it.

Children have the ability to choose not to poop before they even turn one: This one I take a bit more seriously. This one really is honestly true. Our pediatrician told us that a child as young as 9-months has the cognitive ability to decide that pooping is uncomfortable and they don’t want to do it. The result: conscious withholding. This leads to a whole mess of problems that I was never aware were even possible. It is a more common problem than you may think. I’ve encountered numerous other moms with children having this experience and they’re all surprised to hear that I have a child with the same issue. Our child has gone as many as 10 days without pooping before. It becomes habit forming and, trust me, you don’t want to go there. Please, please, PLEASE, if you know anyone with a child who is having trouble going #2, even if they’re a newborn, tell them to talk to their doctor and get it handled immediately. Our child’s problems started at 6-weeks-old and today we spend more time at the GI doctor’s office than we do at the pediatrician. And it is all because of something that our child chooses to do. It is all in her head.

PSA over… Now back to the “funny because it is so true” stuff…

Baby proofing doesn’t prevent everything: I know you want to protect little Johnny or little Sally from everything you can from the moment he/she is born. Well, I’m telling you the honest truth when I say…you can’t. Am I saying you shouldn’t baby proof? NO! kids will open cabinets filled with chemicals, climb up unblocked stairs, pull large furniture down while trying to swing from it. These accidents are preventable and you should try to prevent them. But, Johnny/Sally will still get hurt because you can’t prevent everything. Accept that. Breathe it in. Let it sit for a minute…
It is okay for a child to get hurt. Did you ever fall off your bike, down the stairs or hit your head on a table? Congratulations! You survived! So will your child! My kids have pulled down a glass top table, fallen down an entire flight of stairs, pulled a bleach soaked paper towel out of the trash and taken a bite of it, fallen off the swing set, the couch, off of a step stool, out of the car, into an empty bathtub, touched a hot stove burner, touched the inside of a hot oven door and one even stuck a cheerio pretty far up her nose. All three of my kids are still alive and, according to their pediatrician, healthy. My point is this: kids will find ways to get hurt no matter how hard you to work to prevent it. My middle child almost split her chin open the other day. (See image below) What dangerous thing was she doing when this happened? She was standing. That’s right. She was standing and somehow tripped over her own feet and hit the ground. I could have never prevented that. I never knew how easily a child could hurt themselves. Now I know and I want every parent to stop with the guilt over every injury. You can’t prevent everything and, unless you’re being abusive or neglectful, you shouldn’t blame yourself for an injury either!

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Children are hoarders: I actually saw another blog in which the author wrote about this. After that I began to see just how true it is! My children will part with nothing. I mean nothing. Every single piece of paper with the smallest scribble based doodle is of vital importance and must be saved forever. Every McDonald’s Happy Meal toy is as precious to them as my glasses are to me. Nothing can be thrown out, donated or passed along. Ever. Kendall actually agreed to donate something recently while we were trying to do a bit of a clean out. I was so proud of her! Then I realized it was Peyton’s toy she was willing to part with. Peyton, no surprise, was unwilling to agree to the toy’s departure. *sigh*

A good note to the previous item…
Children won’t notice if you get rid of their things without their expressed agreement: I do most of my cleaning after bedtime. It is peaceful and easier than the alternative. This is also when I used to get rid of the toys they no longer use or need. When the older ones were little I would go right into their room while they slept, remove the toys that they had outgrown and pack them away for the little sibling(s). Luca is too young to care about his toys that much yet so I just take them while he’s wide awake and either pack them up or add them to the donate pile. I have finally gotten the girls to realize that if I say something is leaving our home, it is leaving regardless of how much crying they do. I understand some mom’s aren’t as heartless as me. If that’s you, just stick to the nighttime cleanup.

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And finally…
Every child is different and their distinct personality is evident at a very young age: I never knew how different kids from the same family could be. My three sisters and I are pretty different but I always assumed that, as children, we were more similar in temperament and behavior. Our kids could not be more different from each other. Kendall is a crazy person. She is high energy form the moment she wakes up until she finally falls into bed and she barely sits still in between. She doesn’t stop talking or making some kind of noise virtually all day. She is also the pickiest eater I’ve ever known and afraid of the silliest things. She completely prefers her daddy to me. If he is home, Kendall has no use for me. Peyton is completely laid back until she’s not. She will put up with Kendall’s craziness until she’s had enough then she’ll explode. She is content to sit alone and color, do puzzles or flip through books. She is an adventurous eater and is fairly fearless. She is also my snuggly little lover. Luca is the most relaxed of all. Nothing bothers him. Ever. He is happy almost all day. He can go without naps and miss meals without caring at all. He tolerates harassment from his sisters for an endless amount of time. I keep trying to warn them that eventually he’ll probably be bigger then them and he’ll kick their asses but they don’t believe me…yet. Eventually they’ll see how right I was.

Motherhood is such an adventure. I learn new things about my own kids every day. I can’t imagine how different this blog will be if I write on this topic again in a few years. I hope the problems I encounter stay this simple, but I know they probably won’t.

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The longest drive of my life

I decided to take the kids to Fort Myers for the long Labor day weekend to stay with my mom. We were all excited to spend three days just playing, swimming and spending time with friends and family.

The drive, from our door to my mom’s, should take just under two hours. I knew we could hit some traffic. We left home right after picking Kendall up from school and drove through the busiest part of the city right at rush hour on the Friday before a long holiday weekend. I expected the drive to take a bit longer than usual. The trip ended up taking us four of the longest hours of my life to complete. An hour into our trip we hadn’t even travelled 15 miles on I-75. I was frustrated, annoyed and ready to turn around to make the drive Saturday morning. Instead, I continued on.

This drive taught me a few things that I hadn’t discovered on our previous trips along this same route or during our marathon 3,000 mile trip earlier this summer.

1. I need to install one of those partitions that limo drivers use to separate themselves from the craziness behind them. But instead of putting it behind the driver and passenger seats, I want our partition to be behind the second row. Why should Luca be subjected to the craziness going on behind him in the third row?!

2. Never leave home without pre-portioned servings of baby formula even if you plan to be at your destination for the next feeding. Using those tiny scoops that come in the formula can while standing at your open trunk in a CVS parking lot only leads to lots of spillage. Had I been stopped by the police my car definitely would have been searched due to the large quantity of white powder all over everything. It could have been a really awkward situation for all involved.

3. Having two Kindles with ALMOST identical games loaded on them is not the same as having two Kindles with EXACTLY the same games loaded on them. They will always find those subtle differences and fight viciously over who gets to play whichever one is preferred that day.

4. Touching a sibling’s car seat is the same as an attack on their body and it will be defended as such.

5. No matter how tired a baby is, he/she will never sleep during a long trip when there is screaming going on.

6. Turing up the music only makes the screaming louder and does nothing to drown out the noise.

7. A three-year-old will always have to go potty when you are stuck in traffic and between the two exits that are the farthest apart, even if they went right before leaving home and had limited drinks leading up to your departure.

8. The lane you are in will always be the slowest. The only way to speed it up is to change lanes and watch the car you were just behind advance quickly away from you.

9. Nothing will entertain a young child as much as tearing up a napkin and throwing the pieces on the floor of a recently vacuumed car. But the child will, under no circumstances, clean it up without a fight.

10. A baby who tolerates long drives well will always melt down 20 minutes from your destination, regardless of the length of the trip.

11. Things to add to my car trip emergency kit: snacks, water, toys, earplugs, Xanax, a bottle of wine, child-size muzzles or duct tape and little straight jackets.

I think I’ll be much better prepared for our next trip.

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The totally worthless PTO

Our eldest child started kindergarten last week. It was an exciting time in our family and a big step for her. My husband took his last available vacation days to be able to see her off to school and be here to welcome her home for most of her first week. Kendall enjoyed every bit of this new experience and is already enthusiastic about everything related to school.

I am decidedly less enthusiastic with this experience so far. The car line during drop off as well as pick up is long and unorganized. Her teacher doesn’t believe in giving virtually any homework, leaving me at the mercy of my 5-year-old to enlighten me about what she’s done all day and how I can help reinforce her lessons at home. The little work I have seen seems silly and not challenging her skill level at all. But, I’m a former kindergarten teacher myself and I know that many of the things I am taking issue with will improve quickly as the school year progresses. But the PTO… they seem worthless with no hope of change.

My understanding of a Parent Teacher Organization was that it is an opportunity for the school faculty and administration to meet with a group of interested parents to make sure that everyone is working as a cohesive team so the children would be getting the most from this experience. The school could request needed volunteers, supplies, tutors, mentors and any other type of general help that parents could provide. Parents would have this opportunity to voice concerns about school policies, procedures and have general input about the goings on at the place our children now spend a majority of their time. That is not at all what this is.

First, I had to pay a membership fee to join the PTO. Pay?! For What?! Why should I pay to join an all volunteer organization that is mutually beneficial to both interested parties. The fee was minimal, only $12, but I was annoyed with it being required at all. What benefit am I, my child, or even this school getting from my husband’s hard earned $12?! Our family already provided all the supplies my daughter should need for the year, paid an annually assessed student fee and even bought a magnet for our car emblazoned with the school’s emblem which were being sold as a fundraiser. I read through some of the literature passed out at the school’s “Meet The Teacher Day” and learned that all the money would be going to the school for technology purchases and to build sun shades of the school’s playgrounds. I can get behind that. So I decided to pay.

I went to a membership drive the PTO was holding in the school’s cafeteria on the first day of classes. PTO members were easily identifiable by their matching shirts with the school’s logo, their name and their position on the PTO board embroidered on the chests. This was the one and only thing that would qualify these people as organized. They couldn’t be bothered to stop chatting amongst themselves to notice anyone had walked in the room. They forgot to bring membership forms and membership cards. They basically set up some juice, muffins and a cashbox with a woman who was more than happy to accept my check. Beyond that, no one gave a moment’s thought about that “membership drive.” It was laughable.

After paying the membership fee, I quickly left because the PTO members were quite wrapped up in their own conversations and didn’t seem interested in being welcoming at all. The minimal interactions I had with these women left me feeling like I was interrupting a private party.

So, what exactly is the point of this particular organization? Apparently, it is all about fundraising and event planning. From what I have learned from their literature and the school’s website, all they plan to do this year is organize a few after school events and raise money. I definitely agree that the school could use more money. School budgets in this country are ridiculous. Administration and faculty in our schools are generally asked to do so much with very little financial resources. I’m all about raising money to benefit my child’s school. After school events are a fabulous way to maintain a student’s enthusiasm and interest in school. But, is that really all this group of people can do?

By joining this type of organization, a parent is obviously stating that they are interested in being involved in their child’s school and education. So, why aren’t they doing anything that will actually help the school other than throwing money at it? Why are these PTO members in their crisp, matching shirts not standing outside in the car line ensuring that the line is moving efficiently and safely? Why weren’t they in the halls in the first week guiding frightened kindergarteners to their classroom in what, to them, must be a scary new world? Why was there no list of available volunteer opportunities in the cafeteria the morning of the membership drive to show the many ways we could really help this school do its terribly important work? I was baffled.

The more time I spend stewing over this issue the more I have come to the following conclusion: this group is, by all outward appearances, a totally worthless PTO. I have absolutely no desire to join a group of women more interested in creating a new social circle for themselves than they are in getting down to the business of work. This is going to be an issue for me. I lack the self control to not speak up at their meetings and blow those women right out of the water.

I worked in a school that had minimal parent involvement. There is no PTO at that school. Not because the parents don’t care, but instead because these families have, on average, a very low income. Families in that school generally consist of hard working parents who simply don’t have the time off of work, transportation or childcare available to commit to actively helping the school. They wouldn’t have the $12 to spare to join a PTO. Those families don’t pay a student fee and don’t get a school supply list. The principal  budgets the money needed to provide all necessary supplies for every student. Teachers and other staff bring their children’s old clothes and shoes to the school for the kids who arrive without a jacket or wearing ill fitting shoes, a common problem in my former school. I feel honored to have worked there, but I can definitely think of numerous ways that a few well placed volunteers could have helped to make our school better, our days smoother and improve their children’s education.

I am annoyed that my daughter’s school is content to have this group do little more than raise money. I am appalled that these parents are using this (terribly unorganized) organization as nothing more than their own opportunity to socialize. They are not going to be happy to have taken my money and invited me to their meetings. I cannot wait to find out when we will all be rolling up our sleeves to actually work to make this school even better. If they’re not interested in actually doing work to help this school, I’m going to make sure they’re at least forced to acknowledge it out loud.

Join the PTO? I’d be happy to! Where do I sign up?

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“Have to” vs. “Get to”

The list of things I have to do is so long. I’m sure it is for every parent. More so for those of us who parent primarily alone and even more so for those of you who parent entirely alone.

Every single day I have to clothe, feed, bathe, entertain, teach, clean and protect three small kids. I also have to clean the house, run the errands, stock the shelves and kitchen, keep track of the money, cook the meals and do the laundry. It is enough to keep the most energetic person running and close to exhaustion.

I have been fortunate to meet some amazing fellow mama warriors, especially since becoming a parent myself. I try to learn from every one of them and steal from them the things I admire the most. One such mama talked about the idea of turning a “have to” into a “get to.” Her point was about learning to be grateful for everything in life.

I look at the never shrinking piles of laundry and think of it as a chore that I have to do. She wants me to look at the laundry and think of how fortunate I am to have three beautiful children who wear those clothes I get to wash. I think of a trip to the store as a battle I have to fight with the crazy crowds of fellow shoppers for the tiny pair of pink tights I have to get before Peyton’s dance class on Thursday. She thinks I should be grateful that I get to send my little peanut to a dance class at all because there are countless families without that luxury at all.

This is not a skill I have mastered. Since hearing her idea about changing one’s negativity into positivity I have definitely felt more grateful about many aspects of my life but it hasn’t sunk in entirely.

When Peyton woke up in the middle of the night and peed on the carpet in her room, I was less than grateful. When she did it again a few nights later, this time walking into the baby’s room to do it in there, I wasn’t feeling very grateful.

I recently got a lengthy list of school supplies necessary for Kendall to start Kindergarten. Soon after we learned we also have to pay a student fee for additional supplies. What?! I wasn’t feeling very grateful then either.

The truth is, I don’t feel grateful when Luca spits out his oatmeal, catches it in his hand and smears it all over himself and his highchair.

I’ve never been grateful that every time Kendall gets a bad cough she coughs so hard that she vomits… in her bed, her car seat and on my kitchen floor.

I have yet to feel grateful when my husband leaves his clothes on the floor when the hamper is easily accessible in our closet.

Marriage and parenting aren’t all rainbows and sunshine. It is a long, hard battle to work with another flawed human being to raise happy, healthy, productive and flawed human beings.

I am grateful every single day that I get to be their wife and mother. I am trying every single day to change my “have to” list into a “get to” list. Although I do think this has helped to improve my attitude towards the mundane and/or irritating aspects of my every day, I don’t think I’ll be a 100% follower of my lovely friend’s theory.

I’m so ready for my post-vacation vacation

We’re home and we all survived!

My mom, my aunt and myself drove my 3 small kids nearly 3,000 miles from Tampa to Chicago to Washington DC and back. I’ve survived to tell (or really to blog) the tale!

We had some harrowing moments: more than one too close for comfort potty break, a lost (and later found) jacket, numerous meltdowns and at least one incident with an impatient fellow road warrior. But, we’re home and everyone and (almost) everything we left with is accounted for.

I’ll detail the trip in a more lengthy future post but for now let me just say that I am SO READY for a vacation! This adventure we just completed could hardly be considered a vacation. Rest, relaxation and returning rejuvenated are the signs of a true vacation. This was a test of planning and patience and a jaunt toward the brink of insanity.

We got home after the final 15 hour leg of our drive at 11:30 this morning. We got home with about 45 minutes to share our adventure with our #1 fan (the man they call daddy) before he left for a meeting at the restaurant…on his day off. I unpaked everyone and did two loads of laundry. Fortunately for me and my dwindling sanity, my husband returned home in time to handle dinners and baths so I could get some me time.

After eight days of doing it all, I think I’ve earned a selfish moment of quiet. This is as close to vacation as it gets for me and I plan to soak up every glorious second. Tomorrow my workaholic hubs returns to work. I’ll be back on mommy duty, back to our routine and back to my life as a semi-single parent.