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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sleep Deprivation: Be Honest, It's 25% Kids, 75% ME

So, I had the brilliant idea to have a sleepover last night. It wasn't necessarily a bad idea, as it was just two siblings who are a few months older than my two kids; the kids all get along well together and we've had them over before, so it wasn't as bad as it could've been, considering I was dealing with two preschoolers and two toddlers all by myself. (My husband works 3rd shift.)

When you went to sleepovers, camp-outs, or lock-ins, did you ever have that one kid who would always try to stay awake long after everyone else had already gone to sleep? Yeah, well, I was that kid... and my boys are following in my footsteps. I did everything I could to tire out four little boys, including pulling all the cushions and pillows off the couch so I could introduce the Younglings to the wonderful game of "The Floor Is Burning Lava". 

At about 10:15pm the Guest Children were asleep. My kids, like ADD meerkats on a sugar binge, stayed awake until sometime between midnight and 1... only to wake up again around 4am. It is currently 6:50am as I type this, and my oldest is STILL. AWAKE. (Follow-up: he didn't go to sleep until after 10:00am.) 

As I lay in my bed in the wee hours of this morning (sometime approximately between WTF-o'clock and FML:30) hoping in vain that the unsuccessfully-furtive sounds I heard via the baby monitor would eventually stop, I did the usual "I miss those days when I actually got sleep... you know, before I had kids" grumbling that sleep-deprived parents always say when their kids won't go the hell to sleep. 

"Ask me for another glass of water! Ask me again! I DARE you! I double-dog dare you, muthafuggah!"
Then I suddenly realized... my bitching was complete bullshit. The truth was that I used to keep myself awake just as much --if not more-- long before the kids came along: 

- "Aw darn, it's almost midnight; I need to get to bed so I can get up for work in the morning. I better do this last quest so I can level up my Wood Elf character in Morrowind before I finish." Forty-five minutes later: "Oh, now that I've leveled up, I can get that enchanted Daedric sword! But first, I need to sell a bunch of loot before I can buy it..."

- "Just one more episode of Dr. Who/Dexter/Entourage/Star Trek TNG!"

- "I'll put down this Game of Thrones book as soon as I finish this chapter." Thirty minutes later: "I can't stop NOW! I've got to find out what happens next!"


Spoiler: lots of people die, then there's a dozen pages describing food at a feast...

-  "Let's see what my friends are doing on Facebook." 

- "This blog post will just take a few minutes..."

Okay, thirty minutes, TOPS.
As easy as it is for parents to blame sleep deprivation on our kids, it's a lot like blaming a bad fart on your pet: yeah, sometimes the dog really is to blame, but most of the time, you really shouldn't have had Taco Bell before bed. Taking care of kids takes a HUGE amount of time, and so to compensate for it, we binge-watch Netflix, or mindlessly wander around Reddit or FB for hours, or go on a video game bender. 

Why do we do those things when we could be sleeping (especially since we usually do this while the kids are actually sleeping)? Because we want to zone out or have our "adult" time when we can do what WE want in peace and quiet. When V.2.1 was born, just about every other parent said, "Be sure you sleep when the baby does, otherwise you won't get any sleep at all!" While that's great in theory, the reality is that when the baby was asleep, half the time I wanted to sit and watch a few shows on Netflix or play Xbox or whatever. 

Sleep vs. video games/tv/books/Internet? It's a toss-up, even when you DON'T have kids.

And then when you have kids, Murphy's Law kicks in with a vengeance. Say you make dumb decisions Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, and stay up late wasting time. You don't get as much sleep as you should, but you can function okay. Then Thursday night you go to bed early... only to have your kid decide to stay up until 2am.
"U mad, Mom?"

So whose fault is it when you can barely get through Friday without an intravenous coffee drip? Yeah, the kid kept you up last night, but your body's feeling the cumulative effects of three nights of YOUR bad judgement. And all too often, we (and by that I mean ME*) end up taking our fatigued frustration out on the kids and blame them for the fact that we can't (or more likely won't) go to bed at an intelligent time. 

I'll be honest and call a spade a shovel: I have no right to get upset at my kids for waking me up after I had 2 hours of sleep last night, because the truth is I'm the dumbass who stayed up til 2am wasting time on stupid stuff. 

I'm also the dumbass who needs to stop writing on her blog and go to bed, considering the kids are FINALLY asleep.  

*- or I, for the Proper Grammar Patrol out there

Image credits:;;

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Interrogation Dining Room

A table with two chairs sits in the middle of a sparse room; a single light above illuminates a small circle of light directly in the center of the table. A young man enters the room and sits in a chair. A tall figure enters and stands across the table from him; the figure is mostly hidden in the shadow outside the circle of light, and has an imposing, slightly menacing air about them.

With a smooth motion, the Tall One pushes a plastic bowl into the middle of the table. "Time for supper!" a female voice says, sounding upbeat.

The young man pushes the bowl away. "No."

"But it's pasta!" the woman replies encouragingly. "You like pasta!"

"No. It's yucky. I don't like it."

The woman leans into the circle of light, putting her hands on the table, and says in a low voice, "How do you know it's yucky if you haven't even tasted it yet?"

"I've happily eaten pasta every other time you've made it, therefore it's now yucky and I hate it. DUH!"
Evading the logic of his opponent, the young man retorts, "I don't want it. I want a sandwich."

"We've been through this already. I made you a sandwich yesterday, and you pulled this exact same stunt. So, no. No sandwich."

The young man crosses his arms and leans back in the chair, indicating the unsavory dish with a toss of his chin. "You can't make me eat this; I know my rights. I want dessert."

The woman laughs and steps back, circling the table. "Oh no, that's not how this works. First you eat your supper, then you get dessert."

"I want dessert!"


In a burst of anger, the young man slams his hands on the table. "You can't do this to me! I'm hungry! I have rights, you know!"

"And getting dessert whenever you want it is not one of them." 

My mental image of a dinnertime show-down with my kid. I'm Batman, of course. I'm always Batman.

The young man's eyes narrow and his jaw sets in resolve. "I'm not going to give in to your demands. I don't have to eat this." He pushes his chair back. "I'm finished here."

The woman raises an eyebrow, then shrugs. "Fine, have it your way." She removes the bowl from the table.

There's a brief pause, then the young man says quietly, "May I please be excused?" 

The woman nods, and flicks a switch on the wall. Lights come on, revealing the surrounding dining room. Gesturing to the open doorway, she says simply, "Go." 

The young man quickly leaves, a triumphant smile on his face at having successfully escaped a potentially harrowing ordeal.

With a smirk, the woman enters the kitchen, unperturbed, because she knows he will eat it eventually. She puts a plastic lid on the bowl, writes the word Breakfast on it, and places the dish in the refrigerator.

He always eats it in the end. 

Image credits:;

Monday, March 18, 2013

Compromises: My F*cking Language

I'll say it now: I like cussing. I saw a bumper sticker that said "Everything is funnier with the word 'fuck' in it", and I'm inclined to agree with that statement. Many words are improved with the addition of some slang fornication thrown in there. (And as Mythbusters showed, cussing an be a helpful stress reliever!)

But when you have little kids, having a recreational cussing habit becomes as problematic as a roomful of over-caffeinated parrots with Tourette's: they loudly and continually repeat everything they hear, and they have absolutely NO discretion.

"Hey. Hey! HEEEYYYY! Guess what?! Mommy got stuck in traffic and I learned a BUNCH of new words!"

So when I first found out I was pregnant with v.2.1, I immediately began working on editing my  very adult vocabulary, and began creating "substitute words" to take the place of my preferred verbiage. Nowadays, around my kids, my frustrated outbursts consist of exclamations of "son of a birch!", "fudgeballs", "criminey", "geez louise", and "aw, shi-- I mean... oh nuts!". (I never got around to coming up with a good substitute for "shit"; someone suggested "sugar", but my brain never quite gets it to my mouth fast enough.)

Yeah, they're stupid. They're cheesy. They sound like something a bunch of goody-two-shoes kids at a Bible camp would say, instead of an adult with an affinity for George Carlin's humor. And when the preschooler deliberately wakes up the soundly sleeping baby from a nap (again), I have to exercise some massive self-control and refrain from bursting into the room and yelling, "Dude, what the FUCK?!"

Why is it such a big deal to me to watch my language around my kids? It's not because I think cuss words are "bad". In truth, cuss words aren't bad in and of themselves, they are merely words, and words are neutral things. It's how you put them together in a certain context that can make them good or bad. 

What it really comes down to is respect for other people. As an adult, I know who I can and can't cuss around, and when it is and isn't appropriate. Unfortunately, my little caffeinated-Tourette-parrots are too young to understand either of those; as a parent, it's my responsibility to teach that to them.

Example: NOT okay to cuss around (but if Granny hits the bourbon, you'll probably learn some new words.) 

Simply saying, "Don't say that!" doesn't teach them anything except "say those words when Mom and Dad aren't around". But if I explain what words mean (their definitions, connotations, and implications) then my kids will have something more powerful... a real understanding of the power of words. 
Some of the most hurtful things don't involve a single word of cussing, blasphemy, profanity, or swearing; rather, it's usually when normally-innocuous individual words are combined to make hurtful sentences spoken in anger or pain: You're fat. You're ugly. I wish you'd never been born. I don't love you. You're stupid. 

See? No cussing! But still hurtful.

I want to teach my children that words themselves are incredibly powerful, and that certain categories of words (in this case, cuss words) need to be used more responsibly out of respect for other people, because they're more inflammatory. I'm willing to compromise by NOT cussing around my kids for the next several years, if it means that I can use that time to teach them a.) words have meaning, and b.) you need to try to be respectful of other people when you talk.

So, that means for now --while my impressionable little Tourette-parrots are young-- I'll have to keep saying "Boogers!" when I stub my toe, or yell "Watch where you're going, you stupid politician*!" when someone cuts me off in traffic. But I know there will come a time when my kids will be old enough to be allowed to cuss around me, and I'll be free to cuss around them.

And when that time comes, I'll be so fucking happy!

*- my brothers and I developed an elaborate set of insults when we were kids. We considered "stupidhead" and "butt monkey" to be too juvenile, so we resorted to calling each other: lawyer, politician, news reporter, Barney the Purple Dinosaur (if you really wanted to get personal), chemistry teacher, used car salesman, etc.

Image credits: parrot (everywhere on the Internet);;;

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sometimes It Skips a Generation (or just comes out of nowhere)

Although I've considered myself more of a biker (I could do some pretty decent tricks on my bike as a kid, especially considering it was a pink-and-purple rainbow girl's bike with round handlebars and a banana seat [I took the pink pompoms off the handlebars as soon as I could, because they were obnoxious and kept interfering with my grip]), I really dig skateboarding. While I liked watching other kids skate, I didn't really any skaters in our suburban/semi-rural neighborhoods, so beyond the occasional skating video or showcases on ESPN, I didn't have a ton of exposure to it. And although it was not something I ever learned how to do, skateboarding was something I enjoyed vicariously for most of my adolescence and college years.

Now, it's resurfaced. 

I think it started about two months ago, when I took V.2.1 to the park; it's one of the bigger parks in town, and has a good-sized skate park in it. Although he'd been there once or twice already, something about the skatepark there called to him. After playing on the playground for about 10 minutes, he wandered over to the low chain-link fence around the skating area, and watched transfixed as kids, teens, and adults whizzed by on these strange-yet-entrancing boards with wheels on the bottom.

At first, he asked to hold a kid's board. Then another time, he tried to walk off with someone's board. (He's only 3, so the skaters are nice and don't have a problem letting a cute little kid hold their board. More fools they!) He's since repeated this little stunt every time he sees skaters, so we've learned to watch him like a hawk and make sure he doesn't get more than 3 feet away from the owner. 

At home a few weeks ago, out of the blue, he asked for a skateboard. I told him we could add it to his Birthday Wishlist. A few days after THAT, he asked to watch skateboarding on TV. He sat and watched 30 minutes of ESPN's coverage of X-Games 17 Street Board Competition on YouTube. 

a.k.a. "Intro to Physics 101, Lesson 1: How to Defy Gravity."

Tonight at the mall, he asked to see the skateboards. How the hell did he even KNOW there was a skate shop in the mall?! I took him in, and he checked out all the equipment; he looked at the boards and the wheels and the trucks. I mean really looked at them, not just "oh look, bright colored stuff!". He examined the items like a neophyte looking at the Shroud of Turin: he didn't know exactly what they were, but he knew they were an important part of this much-sought-after Skateboard. 

"These objects are the holy relics of St. Spitfire,
patron saint of wheels."
"And these canvas items are an offering to St. Vans,
overpriced guardian of the feet."

He even asked to handle some of the boards that were on display (which the guy was nice enough to let him do... considering they were each over $100!) He was very gentle with each one, rolling it back and forth carefully, studying it intently. When I told him it was time to leave, he  cried... hard. I actually had to call my husband at work so V.2.1 could ask him "May I please have skateboard for on my Birthday List, please?" [direct quote]. My husband said he'd think about it. 

Our son's 4th birthday is in about 3 weeks. 

We ordered him a skateboard set (complete with a helmet, pads, and guards) earlier this week; it arrived in the mail this afternoon.

I cannot WAIT to see his face on his birthday! :D

Image credits:; (Spitfire and Vans)

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Biggest Fear as a New Mom

When I was pregnant with Kid #1, I had a giant, unspoken fear lurking in my subconscious. As the pregnancy progressed, that fear got bigger, and after v.2.1* was born, it was almost overwhelming. 

What was I so afraid of? Health concerns? Financial difficulties? Inability to cope?

I was afraid that I was going to stop being myself and would become a MOM.

I'm sure you've known women like that. They have email addresses like '', most of their posts on Facebook center around their kids (often sharing TMI about diaper issues and spit-up), they have all kinds of books and magazines about being a parent and doing parent-y things, and if you try to spend adult time with them, you feel like they're constantly talking about their kids.

Now don't get me wrong, while the kid is a baby, the fact that they're so completely dependent on you means that, for several months, most of your time will be spent taking care of said child. That's all well and good. But when I say MOMs, I'm talking about the women whose entire identity centers around the fact that they've had a child. I was terrified that I was going to become like that.

 "I used to collect books; now I collect the latest baby accessories. Oohhh look... another nursing pillow!"

At the time, I was involved with the youth group at our church, and I LOVED playing with the teenagers; I'd played Ultimate Frisbee with them when I was 3 months pregnant, and was still running/waddling around playing Freeze-Tag-In-the-Dark at 8.5 months. I was upset at the prospect that I might not be able to do that or hang out with my girlfriends anymore because I'd had a kid.

I was talking about this one night with my husband, sharing my fear that I was going to stop being the weird, impulsive, outgoing, tomboyish extrovert that I was, and that I would become a MOM. He asked two very simple questions that had, strangely enough, never occurred to me before:
"What has changed about you from before you had the baby?"
"Nothing really. I mean, I still have the same interests and things."

"Okay. You said you don't know how to be a 'Mom'; what do you know how to be?"
"Okay... then just be you... with a baby."

And right there, my fears evaporated. 
I'd never thought of it like that. Here, I was viewing motherhood as some giant role-changing threshold that was going to forcibly change everything about who I was; but in truth, it wasn't re-making my identity... motherhood was simply adding on another aspect of who I was. 
Yeah, I knew that having a kid meant that I had some restrictions: I had to plan things around the baby, and I wouldn't be able to do some things until the baby got quite a bit older. But by and large, I could incorporate my new role with who I was.
Kinda like this, but not exactly what I had in mind.

One of my girlfriends had a sleepover when her husband went out of town on a business trip; I brought along v.2.1 and had a blast. When I chaperoned an overnight youth lock-in at our church, and again at a weekend-long youth retreat, I brought the baby along too. Yeah, I couldn't go to Ultimate Frisbee on Friday nights anymore (don't get me wrong, it's fun, but not so much fun I'd pay a babysitter to go play), but I was nowhere near as restricted as I thought I would be.

And that's the encouragement I'd give to new or prospective moms: don't try to be a MOM... just be yourself... with a baby.


*- I like to refer to my kids in computer software-speak. My husband and I are v.1.1 and v.1.2, respectively, so our kids are v.2.1 and 2.2. 

image credits:,