A Letter to My Daughter on the Week of Her Fourth Birthday

lala bdayTo my sweet little girl,

It is with a bittersweet heart that I am writing this letter to you tonight. In just a few short days you will be four years old, and I have to admit it’s crushing me. For some parents, the fourth birthday is probably just another in a string of character-themed pizza parties laden with decorations and gifts and too much cake. But to me it’s so much more than that. (Well of course, it’s that too!)

This week, my sweet baby girl, marks the end of an era—one through which you toddled quite innocently, seemingly unaware you were clutching us all in the palm of your tiny little hand. It’s been that way since your very first breath and likely won’t change anytime soon. But you will change, baby girl. Now as you teeter on the brink of girlhood, it’s become painfully evident that your toddler years will soon be as distant a memory as your chubby cheeks and baby giggles.

Already your days are spent in school, learning the ABC’s and 123’s you’ll find familiar from the countless books we read together and the Mickey Mouse cartoons you watched every morning. Now in the morning, instead of our usual breakfast and cuddles, I leave you with someone else for a whole entire day to make friends I never met and eat snacks I didn’t fix and create projects I won’t see until the last day of school. My faithful and silly sidekick is no longer glued to my hip, tagging along on our daily errands or following behind as I clean the house and cook meals, asking hundreds of questions about every little thing (funny questions, ridiculous questions, and at times surprisingly profound questions).

While I know I still have a few years until the dolls and stuffed animals and tea parties are replaced by makeup and crushes and cell phones, I’m sure I’ll barely blink an eye before those years arrive. If there is anything being a parent has taught me, it’s how quickly our precious time flies by. You have to hang onto every moment.

I look back on these past four years and can’t help but wonder if I’ve done an adequate job preparing you for what lies ahead. They say the brain is still developing in these early stages, and I question whether I’ve helped the process along as much as I could have. I wonder if we read enough books, sang enough songs, played enough games.  If we danced around in our pajamas to pop songs on the radio enough. If we went out for ice cream enough. If I answered all your questions enough. Did I spend too much time working? Did you spend too much time watching the Disney Channel? What else am I doing wrong? How will I ever know? I don’t get a redo, there are no second chances here.

Sometimes I see the way you look at me, your eyes wide with the most unconditional love in the world, and it breaks my heart because I know that look won’t last forever. Someday you’ll learn that I’m nowhere near as perfect as you think. And someday you’ll learn that not every problem is quickly erased with a kiss and a hug from Mommy.

I have my own memories of being four years old, bits and pieces of moments forever etched in my mind, and I hope the ones you begin to collect will be better than mine. My happiest memories were often overshadowed by my anxiety, even at such a young age. I pray, oh how I pray, you aren’t plagued by those same anxieties that inexplicably tainted my childhood. I will do absolutely anything in my power to keep you from feeling that pain. Please don’t ever forget that. I am always here for you, my girl. Always.

You’re just four years old and already one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen. And not just outside but inside as well. That is such a cliché, I know. But with you it’s an undeniable truth. Yes, I am your mother so of course I am biased. But I see the way others react to you, my sweet girl. You’re positively mesmerizing. I hope you know what a wonderful person you are and will surely grow up to be. I hope you have the confidence I never had, and I hope you’ll use it to do great things. I look at you and your older brother, my world and absolute everything, and I know you’re both destined for unbelieveable things. All you have to do is stay on the right track and I’ll guide you there as best as I can. I may be getting ahead of myself, you’re both still so young. But this stuff is important and you need to know now.

Maybe you’ll understand someday when your own youngest child emerges from toddlerhood.

In a few days I will kiss you goodnight as you drift off to sleep as a three-year-old for the last time. I will hold back my tears and welcome the next phase of your life, our life, with open arms. You’ll blow out your candles and rip open your presents, and you’ll experience the unparalleled joy of a child on her birthday, and again I’ll hold back my tears because I will experience a joy similarly unparalleled. Seeing you happy, seeing you healthy, and watching you grow into this amazing little person, well, it’s a feeling like no other. I can’t thank you enough for giving me that joy.

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl. I love you to the end of the galaxy and back.

Love Always,
Mommy

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Why I’m Terrified of the Next Stage

At least once a day I find myself thinking: “Nope! I didn’t sign up for this. Parenthood, screw you.”

Because this stuff is not easy. Like, realllllly not easy. Like set the difficulty level on maximum, tie a blindfold around your head, and then try to beat the game kind of not easy.

And it’s somehow just getting worse every day.

But how is that even possible? I’ve spent 20 whole months of my life walking around with another human inside my body. I literally had a watermelon-sized PERSON squirming away in my uterus, smashed up against my internal organs, stealing my vital nutrients and playing trampoline with my bladder. And that was the EASY PART!

After that came the sleepless nights and unforgettable days of being nothing more than a caffeine-fueled zombie with leaking tits. I’ll never forget the miserable nights when my colicky baby would scream at maximum lung capacity for four hours at a time and it was all I could do not to rip my own ears off and feed them to the dog. And the new parent anxiety? The trepidation associated with realizing there is a tiny little person whose life lies entirely in your hands and there is no reset button to press when you screw up? The fear of this realization is paralyzing, especially to those of us riddled with anxiety to begin with.

And what’s next? The toddler shit show. You know, when your sweet little chubby-cheeked angel somehow evolves into this shit-talking baby/person hybrid that still does all the annoying baby stuff but now thinks it’s a tiny grown up and yells at you every fifteen seconds. If you’re not yet in this phase, someday you will find your two young children huddled in a corner holding “safety” scissors and hacking away at each other’s hair, and you’ll fight back tears of frustration as you think to yourself “I can’t wait until this toddler shit is over, it can’t be worse than this.”

Oh, but I think it can. And it will.

Brace yourselves. Toddlerhood is coming.

Brace yourselves. Toddlerhood is coming.

When my kids were really young and they were glued to my hip 24/7, sympathetic people would occasionally say “don’t worry, it gets better when they get a little bigger and you don’t need to be on top of them all the time.” Although they were probably just saying that to steer the conversation away from the latest object my kid stuck up her nose, they were partially right. There is a certain undeniable freedom that goes along with being able to turn your back for ten seconds without the fear of finding a child swinging from a cabinet or eating raw chicken out of the garbage can.

But once you emerge from the sleep-deprived hell-on-earth of raising toddlers, you’re far from in the clear. When people used to tell me “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems,” I wanted to punch them in the throat. I admit it wasn’t just their condescending attitude that pissed me off—it was the underlying fear that I would someday learn they were actually telling the truth. And now as I watch my own children each graduate from toddlerhood, I realize they are about to enter a world where they’re old enough to start remembering stuff. There’s no longer a margin for error. One bad screw-up and they’re like scarred for life, you guys. How is that for pressure?

Once toddlerhood is over, it dawns on you that that all you really needed to fix little kid problems was a big stack of baby wipes and a little patience. Or preferably, a good set of ear plugs. But these big kid problems are a doozy. Your kid starts coming home from school with questions that you’d rather fake your own death than answer. Let’s just say they don’t bat their innocent lashes at you and inquire where babies come from anymore. Oh, and the homework assignments? I can answer Final Jeopardy correctly at least once a week, yet I have to Google my son’s second grade homework problems for answers. WTF?

I’m not sure how much worse it gets from here, but I’ve read enough horror stories about texting and driving to know that the crap I’m dealing with now is fucking peanuts compared to what’s coming next. And I’m not ready for any of it.

I Wish My Kids Would Stop Trying to Kill Each Other

kids fightingI am willing to pay someone to get my kids to stop fighting. Cash, outright. I’ll even throw in some old jewelry and a special shout-out on my blog. Please someone, anyone, just hypnotize these little monsters into thinking they actually like each other. Any takers?

These. Kids. Never. Stop. Fighting. And I’m losing my damn mind.

Sometimes they get along. Sometimes they laugh and giggle together and chase each other happily outside, and it’s music to my ears. Like the sound of actual angels singing into a set of Bose speakers on full volume in my living room. There’s never a happier moment than when the monsters are frolicking together through the house like little bundles of smiles and joy and awesomeness and wonder.

But that’s so rare I could cry.

Most of the time they are at each other’s throats, one crying, the other screaming, some piece-of-shit toy at the forefront of the madness, ready to be forgotten five seconds after finding its way into the victor’s grasp. Because they don’t sincerely give a crap about the toy they are fighting over. Or the TV show. Or the bag of chips. Or who got to go in the car first. Or whatever is causing all hell to break loose. It’s all just a battle of wills, a reason to claim the victory over a sibling. Or maybe it’s all just a ploy to entirely strip mommy of her sanity and thus gain unlimited access to the snack cabinet.

I can’t deal with it anymore. I can’t even take a five-minute shower anymore without the shrieking sounds of “GET OFF OF IT!” and “NO I HAD IT FIRST!” piercing the bathroom door. My showers, my five minutes of peace and quiet, are no longer the sanctuary they once were.

Mealtime is a nightmare too. Why doesn’t she have to finish her broccoli? Why can’t I have the blue cup? She’s sitting to too close to me. He keeps kicking my chair…AHHHHH!!!! Mommy’s about to go eat dinner on the bathroom floor with the door locked.

Sometimes I pretend I don’t hear it. I simply say to myself “it’ll stop eventually” or “they’ll work it out themselves.” But who am I kidding? What I’m really thinking is “let those little assholes kill each other.” I then attempt to appear oblivious to the increasingly loud screaming and potential violence erupting in the next room. I quietly pray they will just leave me out of it, begging some nonexistent peacemaker to sprinkle some happy dust over the entire house. But any fool can tell I’m only delaying the inevitable. It’s usually mere seconds before I find myself tangled up in their angry clash, screaming loudest of all, tossing kids in timeout chairs and taking away tablets and TV privileges.

You would think the threat of losing their precious YouTube would be enough to keep them at peace with each other at least once in a while…

Maybe I deserve this. My brother and I did some pretty intense fighting when we were kids. One time I turned on the blow dryer and put it down his shirt and held it there until he was screaming in pain. I know, I know, that’s bad. But he knocked out my front tooth with an actual hockey puck once. So I’d say our psychotic sibling rivalry was warranted on both ends. (Side note: Mom, Dad, sorry…?)

And now the powers that be have decided I should have a little taste of my own medicine, I suppose. They’re shoving a metaphorical blow dryer down my shirt, turning it on the highest setting, and burning away my sanity. One petty little argument at a time.

An Open Letter to Netflix

netflixMy Dearest Netflix,

First I want to say thank you for seeing me through the many highly productive, wine-fueled television marathons I’ve come to cherish over the past few years. Thanks for catching me up on The Walking Dead when the rest of the world wouldn’t shut up about it. Thanks for introducing me to underappreciated gems like The United States of Tara and Raising Hope. Thanks for being my patch when I was weaning off The Office but couldn’t get Jim and Pam off the brain. Thanks for the parental control options that give me a reason to feel slightly less crappy about the kids binge-watching on their tablets while I get work done. Thanks for filling many a late-night hour with old rom-coms I’d almost forgotten and new ones I won’t publicly admit I’ve watched.

Basically, Netflix, you’re awesome.

You were awesome long before August 4, 2015. But a few days ago, when you announced that you’d be allowing your employees up to a year of unlimited maternity and paternity leave, you brought “awesome” to an unsurpassable level of fucking fantastic-ness.

A year of maternity and paternity leave. A year! Unheard of.

For me, this is a majorly sensitive subject. When I got pregnant with my son unexpectedly at the tender age of 25, just months after getting my first huge promotion, I promptly learned I was ineligible for paid maternity leave from the MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR CORPORATION where I worked simply because I hadn’t signed up for short-term disability (because a baby is totally a disability, right?). My story gets uglier, but I won’t get into it. Let’s just say I don’t work there anymore.

My story aside, I’m writing today to simply say a heartfelt thank you, Netflix. And I think I speak for moms and dads everywhere in my praise….

Thank you from the mom who is forced to leave her child in the care of another, merely weeks after giving birth, because she can’t afford not to work.

Thank you from the moms who can’t afford to go back to work at all because child care is so damn expensive.

Thank you from the exhausted parent who often stumbles blearily into work on two hours of sleep after being up all night with a crying infant.

Thank you from the parent who is tired of missing milestone after milestone.

Thank you from the parent who wears guilt everyday like a pair of tired mom jeans.

Thank you from the parent who spends too many extra hours just commuting to work, wasting away precious time that should be spent with family.

Thank you from the parents who have opposite schedules, causing stress on their marriage because they never see each other.

Thank you from the mom who contemplates quitting every morning as she leaves for work.

Thank you from the parent who fights the urge to wake her sleeping children when she comes home at night, just to spend some time together.

Thank you from the mom who wonders how the bills will get paid if she is fired for taking yet another day off to care for her child.

You see, Netflix, although you can’t employ every parent in the nation, we thank you for leading by example. We thank you for setting a precedent, one that should have been in place for decades. We thank you for doing the one thing that other countries around the world already see as a no-brainer.

We thank you for proving what most other companies don’t have the balls, the decency, and the common sense to admit: there is NOTHING more important than family.

Signed,
One Grateful Mama

Eight Truths About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Doctors and parenting magazines alike will have you believe breastfeeding is a one way ticket to eternal health for your children. And maybe it is, I’m not a doctor. But like anything in parenting, it’s not exactly heaven on earth.

I breastfed my son for six weeks and my daughter for 13 months (exclusively), so I feel I have some input on the subject and I’d like to share my thoughts. I promise not to sound like some pro-breastfeeding advertisement, like so many articles I’ve read touting the whole “breast is best” thing. There are pros and there are cons, like everything in the world. Take it or leave it.

1. Yes, it does hurt at first. The Breastfeeding Police don’t want you to know that– they want you to think your kid isn’t latching on correctly or that you’re doing something else wrong to cause the pain. But that’s bullcrap. Your milk ducts get clogged and swollen, your boobs fill up with more milk than Sunnydale Farms, and your nipples get so chapped from the constant moisture that you could slather on 80 pounds of nipple cream and still it won’t help. What will help? A little time. You just have to wait that part out. Eventually you find your groove and it’s all gravy from there. Well at least until they start teething (yes, seriously).

2. It really does promote bonding. Like serious amounts of bonding. I guess they sort of look at you like you’re a giant walking ice cream sundae. They can’t get enough. My daughter, now three years old, still looks at me like I’m dessert. And she hasn’t nursed in two years. She is decidedly more attached to me than she is to my husband — like really, really, really attached to me — and it’s been that way since day one. I am no scientist, so I can’t say with certainty that it’s a direct result of the breastfeeding. But it sure as heck feels that way. Like in my heart and stuff.

3. Sometimes, you just can’t do it. And that’s totally okay. I breastfed my son for only six weeks, and I will tell you why. He was HUNGRY. So, so, so damn hungry. Your body is supposed to like miraculously make just as much milk as your baby needs. But my son wanted to eat every freaking half hour. It was insane how hungry he was. When I finally gave in and gave him a bottle, he gobbled it up like I’d been starving him for weeks. And maybe I had been. They say it’s “rare” that a woman is unable to provide enough milk for her child, but I think that’s phooey. Here’s why: stress causes a decline in your milk production. Stress! What new mom isn’t stressed out? So I say go with your gut. And don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

4. It’s okay to go public. I didn’t, and it’s a big regret. My daughter used to pull my nursing cover down when I was nursing her (yea, that’s another thing that happens when their motor skills kick in). At the time, the mere thought of anyone catching a glimpse of a little exposed nipple by accident was terrifying to me. I used to think moms who would breastfeed openly were totally nuts. But I was wrong. You know what’s nuts? Cowering in a dirty public bathroom stall to feed your hungry kid. Which is something I’ve done countless times, despite how gross it is. Now I think that’s nuts, and it’s no way to live. I’m not saying you should walk around the mall topless or anything, but feel free to do what’s comfortable and don’t worry what others might think. Just let them stare; it’ll probably be the highlight of their worthless day.

5. Sex? No thanks! I’m pretty sure this is a biological thing, but your sex drive is severely diminished when you’re nursing. Tell hubby to purchase some good hand lotion, because that’s all he’s getting for a while. If he complains, tell him to quit his bitching. When you stop nursing it comes back times a thousand. You’ll be on baby #2 before you know it.

6. You’re hungry. All. The. Time. It’s like your pregnancy never ended. Actually, it’s worse. Because when you were “eating for two” before, one of you weighed less than a cantaloupe. But the good news is that you’re somehow magically burning calories while you breastfeed, so you can skip the gym and have another burrito.

7. The breast pump is the creepiest-looking contraption ever invented. You’re literally being milked, Bessie. It looks weird, it feels weird, and it’s a tremendous pain in the ass. The only thing worse than all that pumping is the prospect of it going to waste. Whoever coined the phrase “stop crying over spilled milk” never spilled eight ounces of that freshly-pumped liquid gold. Hell hath no fury like a nursing mom whose milk has gone to waste. Dads, take note and be VERY CAREFUL when handling those precious bottles. Your life may be on the line.

8. The Breastfeeding Police won’t like this, but I’m telling it like it is: I see virtually no difference in the health of my exclusively breastfed child and my non-breastfed child. If anything, it kind of feels like the one who breastfed gets sick even more than the other one. It’s just an observation I’ve made, one that shouldn’t sway anyone’s decision to nurse in either direction. I just kind of hoped I’d find myself in that germy pediatrician’s office a lot less with the breastfed child, and it hasn’t worked out that way. Maybe my supposedly magical breast milk is just no match for those slimy monkey bars at the park or the snot-covered play doh at preschool.

breastfeeding

The Top Three Worst Social Media Offenses

I think we can all agree that social media is the worst. I seriously don’t know why I even bother anymore. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff worth rolling your eyes over: obnoxious political opinions, unwanted health and eating advice, painfully poor grammar, perpetual selfie-taking. It’s all pretty gagworthy. But some shit is just so bad that it practically has the ability to ruin your day. Like the type of shit that makes you toss your phone aside in exasperation and stalk off to go find something a lot more productive to do.

Thus I present you with my top three worst Facebook (and other social media) offenses.

1. Pictures of mangled children or animals. Yesterday someone posted a picture of a woman being hanged alongside her two small children, both of whom had been hanged as well, in some faraway country somewhere for some horribly inexcusable reason. I couldn’t tell you that reason because I was too busy splashing bleach in my eyes to un-see that hauntingly disturbing image. I’m pretty sure it was posted to further some sort of political agenda, something about the media distracting us with stories of transgender celebrities or something like that. I honestly don’t know and I never will, because this person has been blocked from my newsfeed for obvious reasons and I couldn’t care less what message they were attempting to convey. Thanks for the nightmares, asshole. I didn’t need sleep or anything.

2. Downright immaturity and/or personal attacks. I lost some friends recently. They aren’t like dead or anything, we just aren’t really friends anymore. I know, I thought I was too old for that shit too. Whatevs. I haven’t taken the time to delete them from my social media outlets yet, I guess because a part of me kind of hopes we can mend fences someday. But who has time for that, really? And if I do find myself with some precious extra time, I’ll probably spend it with my kids or maybe finding some friends who don’t suck. So anyway since undergoing this little friend reduction, I’ve come across a new phenomenon, something I suspect to be wildly popular amongst teenage girls. It’s the “hey look at us in this picture all hanging out and having fun without YOU, so eat it bitch!” thing. Obviously, their picture doesn’t actually say that, but with enough passive aggressive emojis I can easily read between the lines. Not cool, ladies. Not cool.

3. Ignorance. If you have a pulse and a pair of eyes and/or ears, then you probably knew which transgender celebrity I was referring to earlier. It’s sad that we live in a world where people will post pictures of mangled children just keep you from caring about serious issues like the vile mistreatment of LGBT individuals. What’s really sad is the amount of hatred and ignorance I’ve witnessed on social media since the world met Caitlyn Jenner. It’s nothing short of astounding, really. Hateful and mean posts with “likes” galore have surfaced all over the internet. It amazes me that we live in a world where that level of ignorance can even coexist with the level of technology required to easily share it with every person you know at the same time. Translation: it’s 20-freakin-15, people. Get over it. And what really gets me is not merely that so many people are such small-minded douchwads, but the fact that so many people are IDIOTIC enough to openly share their hateful thoughts and not expect repercussions. You can lose your job for posting the wrong thing on Facebook, people. It happens. And please, please, please, think before you post. Stop ruining my damn day.

Peeing & Parenting

pottyThere are two types of things no one warns you about before you become a parent:

~ stuff that can’t be described because you need to just experience it for yourself
~ stuff that’s just too gross to discuss with others.

Today’s topic falls into the latter category. I’m talking about pee, and the long, complicated relationship parents inevitably develop with it over the course of raising their children.

Because…there’s just….so much of it.

I’m not sure if maybe it’s just my kids or what, but for me parenthood has basically turned into one long golden shower since literally the week my first child was born.

He peed in his own eye, in case you’re wondering. A steady stream of newborn urine from his tiny, newborn weenie directly into his tiny, newborn eye.

This post comes on the heels of a rather harrowing experience, in which I had to beg a Duane Reade employee to let my son (who was peepee dancing up and down the feminine hygiene aisle) to use their locked employee bathroom—only for him to end up making it all the way to the foot of the bowl before simply giving up. Right down the front of his light-colored jeans. Here’s how that went down:

Me: Just hold it in for one more second
Him: I can’t! I’m peeing already! Mommy! Pull down my pants, I can’t open my jeans!
Me: No! Don’t pee! Hold it a half second more! (fumbling with his fly zipper)
Him: But it’s too late, mommy!
Me: (Finally getting the pants down, which is when all hell broke loose) Aim at the toilet! THE TOILET!! YOU’RE PEEING ON ME! STOP PEEING AND AIM FOR THE DAMN BOWL! (To my daughter) STAND BACK, YOU’RE GONNA GET PEED ON!

By the time he was done, there was pee on all of the following:

~ the wall
~ the floor
~ the sink
~ his pants
~ my shirt
~ my pants
~ my daughter’s shoes
~ everywhere but inside the toilet bowl

Not a full hour prior to this incident, by the way, I was squatting on the bathroom floor of the pediatrician’s office, holding a urine sample cup under my three-year-old daughter’s hoo-ha, our eyes interlocked, as we both waited desperately for at least one or two drops to hit the bottom of the plastic cup. It never did.

And for the hat trick that day: fast forward several hours and she ends up peeing on me in her sleep while I was changing her overnight diaper. Not wanting to disturb her sleep, I changed her clothes, slid four towels under her and figured she would be fine for the remainder of the night. Woke up later to find her using the towels as blankets.

In the early years of raising children, it seems that every single outing involves a potty incident of some sort. Loaded diapers leaking onto clothes; frenzied trips to find public bathrooms; wet mattresses, car seats, play pens, couches, rugs, etc.; and, of course, the sheer torture associated with everything potty training: it’s all just a typical day in the life of pee-covered parents of young kids.

Fun fact: once, in the early stages of my daughter’s potty training, I found her on the floor of the bathroom after she had clearly missed making it to the bowl, and she was finger painting in her own urine.

Being a parent to one toddler and one longtime bed-wetter, I have washed countless urine-covered kids’ bedsheets by now.  I’ve witnessed the faces of all four Ninja Turtles covered in pee, I’ve seen a urine-soaked Mario and Luigi, a yellow-tinted Elsa, Anna, and Olaf, and, of course, all the weirdos in Gabba Land have swam in the piss of my children. If you have ever been to my house, there’s a pretty good chance you sat in a spot that’s been peed on at some point. Sorry.

Quite frankly, I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t think I can wash another set of sheets that will inevitably be soaked less than 48 hours later. There’s only so much of that disgusting smell one human being can take. Is this even really normal? Why wasn’t I warned about the pee? WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THE PEE????????

My son is almost seven and my daughter will be four at the end of this year; so I’m realllllllly hoping to finally see the end of the peepee era for my family soon. As always, I’ll be sure to let you know (in graphic detail) how that goes.