The “Why?”-Chromosome

Having boys has prompted me to ask “Why?” Numerous times daily. “Why would you eat that?” “Why are you stuck in there?” “Why would you sit in that?” “Why are you up there?” “Why did you put that in there?” “Why are you touching that?” “Why did you think THAT was a good idea?” But most often: “Why would you do that?” This has prompted me to theorize that the y-chromosome is a misnomer; it should, in fact, be labeled the “Why?”-chromosome.

Boys are just wired differently. They see the world through a lense of curiosity. “Touch me”, “Take me apart”, “Climb me”, “See if that fits in me”, “Make me into a weapon” cries the world. So they do.

Unfortunately, I carry no such chromosome. So I am outsider. Unfamiliar with their inner workings and thought processes. I am learning their ways but am most certainly not one of them.

For the “Why?”-chromosome holders, all matter — delicate and grotesque — must be manhandled. Surroundings are dismantled to be understood. Structures, both sound and teetering, are scaled. Holes of all kinds are plugged with the nearest object (or body part). Even the most mundane paraphernalia has a calling to hit, swat, slice, stab, or careen through the air. The world is an interactive, infinite cause-and-effect experiment.

#2 attempting to fit through a dog door

#2 attempting to fit through a dog door

If something is repulsive, that means it’s truly fascinating. If something is vacant or empty, it must be filled… no hole may remain uninhabited. If something is slimy, wet, messy, or germy, it demands a thorough hands-on inspection. Their curiosity knows no bounds.

Their mischief isn’t entirely intentional, it is more often the aftermath of curious minds and fearless hands. Though, sometimes trouble is just too tempting to decline.

To see the world through their untamed, intrigued eyes must be a wonder. Instead, I stand on the sidelines, Band-Aids in one hand, Baby wipes in the other trying not to gag.

 

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Family Beach Trip Tips

Trial and error, research, and tips from fellow moms have taught me — a mom of three under 5 — what to do and not to do when preparing for a family beach trip. These are my highlights.

1) Only use swim diapers for swimming: swim diapers’ sole function is to keep solids in. That means, zero liquid absorption. Want a bright red diaper rash and urine everywhere? Then, pop your baby in a swim diaper for a beach day or for a poolside afternoon. If that sore and messy scenario doesn’t sound appealing, stick to standard diapers and simply make a quick change into a swim diaper if/when submersion is in baby’s immediate plans. Then, change right back into a standard diaper once baby is beached.

2) Baby powder: baby powder is magical pain-free sand removal fairy dust. Sprinkle it on your sandy self, your beach-crusted baby, or your textured toddler and easily brush off the sand without a scratch. It is a beach bag must.

3) Babywear: don’t bring a stroller to the shoreline and don’t try to simultaneously carry the baby as well as half of your beach plot down the dunes. (I’ve done this… I do not recommend.) Instead, wear that baby so you have two free hands and can nurse easily (and discreetly) in public. Brief baby naps are a breeze in the carrier too. Got more than one kid to wrangle seaside? How could you not babywear? Bonus: if you’re feeling a tad skittish about debuting your post-baby belly, instant camouflage!

4) Have a pottying game plan: don’t enter into beach time unprepared for the inevitable. Figure out ahead of time what you plan to do about restroom requirements, especially if no public facilities are within potty-dancing distance. If you’re pregnant or have a toilet-training toddler, this is particularly poignant. And don’t just think #1… poop happens!

5) Laundry bags are beach-friendly: use a mesh laundry hamper liner/bag to carry sandy beach toys. The perforated material allows sand to stay on the beach instead of in the toy sack.

6) Hooded beach towels are multipurpose: I love these cost-effective hooded kids towels from Bed Bath and Beyond. They stay in place and dry quickly in the sun. Use them as a towel, a cover-up, an escape from unwanted sun, or an impromptu blanket if a chill strikes… they’re great.

7) Pack food and lots of water: this is the time to plan ahead. Kids and adults, alike, become ravenous when seaside. Pack snacks, fruit, water (lots of water, especially if you’re breastfeeding), and water-dense veggies. Skip the tasty chips and savory pretzels in favor of hydrating — as opposed to salty — fare. Hydration is key.

8) Sunscreen and bugspray: just bring them. You never know when you’ll need an extra dose of SPF or when a land breeze will make insect repellent a must. Sunscreen face sticks are fantastic for avoiding stinging eyes, plus: portable!

9) Petroleum jelly: Aquaphor, Vaseline, whatever you prefer, pack it. Chapped lips, irritated baby bum, withered cuticles, dry skin patch… a travel size container of skin lubricating petroleum jelly is all you need to stay comfy.

10) Make it a vacation for you too: vacations are notorious for being extra work for parents, especially stay-at-home guardians. Plan ahead and be sure to make the vacation feel like a reprieve for you too. Don’t strive for perfection, just fun. Don’t expect complete relaxation, just a slower pace. Don’t envision seamless bonding, just togetherness. Whether it’s a naptime coffee on the balcony, a glass of wine after bedtime stories, an early morning run, or time off from dinner duty, find a way to allow yourself a break. You deserve it. This is your vacation too.

 

My Morning Routine

Mornings are nuts… always. I plan and prep and rise early to ease the burden, but they’re still dependably bordering on mayhem.

Nearly every day, we venture out for a morning activity and an afternoon activity. Whether it’s preschool, a class at the community center, storytime at the library, a playdate, a walk, a bike ride, a visit with family, or an errand, the kids (and I) do best if we’re out and about often. As Hubs frequently works from home, this provides him with some much-needed quiet time in the otherwise noisy house too.

As the kids get hungry for lunch between 11:00 and 11:30am, we generally need to be out the door for our morning activity by 9am. Here’s what I do to make that happen.

My days start sometime between 5:45am and 6:15am. I brew my green tea, grab my apple, turn on the local news, and pump. By 7:00am #3 is awake and sometimes #1 is too. Hubs brings down #3, changes his diaper, and plops him in the pack-and-play.

Out of sheer pride, #3 disputes his confinement until the local traffic newscaster comes on TV. At which point, he goes quiet and smooshes his fat face against the mesh wall, staring at her like he’s the creepy drunk dude at the end of the bar.

While #3 is distracted, I throw my breast pump parts in very hot soapy water to soak, then bag, label, and freeze the milk. #3 is usually shrieking at me from the pack-and-play by the time I close the freezer door. (The traffic portion is clearly too short for his liking.)

I pour a second mug of green tea, nurse #3, then upstairs we go. I fill our big soaker tub with and inch or so of water and plop #3 in the bath surrounded by floating toys, so that I can get ready for the day.

By 7:45am, I’m toweling off #3 and dressing him. #1 is downstairs usually watching “Dora”, at this point, while lazily eating the breakfast I prepped the evening before.

By 8am, I’m helping #1 do her hair. (If you’ve ever met #1, you know she takes her hair seriously.) As a curly girl myself, I get it.

During the hair routine, #3 is usually trying to eat conditioner, unrolling toilet paper, attempting to lick the toilet, and slamming the bathroom door against my leg. Sometime just before I awake #2 but before #3 manages to French kiss the floor vent, I call Hubs to fetch him to feed him the breakfast I prepped the prior evening.

After successfully styling #1, it’s time to rouse #2. It’s a feat. He loves his bed. We moan and growl our way through the process but, by the time he’s dressed, he’s happily skipping down the stairs to eat his pre-prepared breakfast.

8:15am, I blend the smoothie I prepped the night before, use the second mug of now-luke-warm green tea I had forgotten on the counter to slug down my vitamins, yell at the heathens to stop jumping around like chimpanzees and eat their breakfasts, and — if I’m lucky — pour myself a bowl of Cheerios with cashewmilk. Between bites of cereal or sips of smoothie, I finish feeding #3, clean up breakfasts, rinse my breast pump parts and pop them on the drying rack, then clean up the disaster that is #3’s breakfast area. (Eating is an all-sensory event for #3.)

By 8:30 I am checking #1 and #2’s breakfast progress as I put #3 in the playroom to roam about. I start setting out shoes and jackets, while giving the kids a warning that we’ll be heading out soon. 8:40 is “5-minute warning” time, and at 8:45 #3 is getting his diaper changed, #1 and #2 visit the bathroom, we pull on socks and shoes, squabble about what toy #2 can bring with him in the car, and off we go negotiating who gets to open the minivan door.

People ask me why I get up so early. How could I not? It’s survival.

Wrangling 5 Under 5

Yesterday I took on two additional kids — yes, that means I was watching five children under 5 — for 4 hours. My dear friend had an unexpected move thrust upon her. So I offered to watch her daughters so she could pack uninterrupted.

My friend’s 2-year-old daughter — we’ll call her A — has autism as well as some additional special needs. As a sibling of a special needs individual, I feel at home with the scenario. Well, apparently A was comfy too.

The kids had a blast playing outside, crafting, having a dinner-and-a-movie picnic in the playroom, and A was my cuddly sidekick through it all. She curled up beside me as I nursed #3, she rode on my hip as I loaded the dishwasher, she called me “Mommy” (purely a vocational title, of course) and reached up to me with her perfectly pudgy hands,  then she’d wrigged down to go join the others.

At one point, as I nursed #3, A pulled her pint-sized self up onto the playroom sofa, wiggled herself next to me, spotted #3’s legs sticking out from underneath my flowy top, smiled at me through her pacifier, and laid her blond head in my lap using #3’s belly as a pillow.  It was precious.

#1 adopted A as her own little sister, giving A overzealous hugs and drive-by kisses. A reveled in the attention and pretended to braid #1’s long, blond, curls.

#2 bopped about playing with #1 and A’s older sister, M. #2 and M discussed unicorns and caterpillars, sweeping techniques, and lemonade stand protocol.

M advocated beautifully for verbally-challenged A, yet played perfectly imperfectly and indepently with #1 and #2. She was so tender with #3, even when his slobbery baby kiss turned into a nibble. She was herself — smiles, grumpiness, goofiness, and all — and that was wonderful. She didn’t get lost in her older sibling duties. She felt comfortable enough to be herself.

One of my favorite aspects of the playdate, though, was how it brought out the best in all of us. It enabled our strengths to shine. When Hubs beamed, seeing A happily adjusted to her surroundings, I remembered exactly why I love that man so much. When #1 sat on the deck floor so that A could style her hair, my heart thumped. When M and #2 became enveloped in their imagination game, I grinned. When #3 gave kisses and hugs to A and M, who warmly accepted his juicy affection, I glowed. When A adapted so quickly and became so affectionate, my heart swelled. When M proclaimed she wanted to stay, I was honored.

It was a nutty afternoon but it was beautiful. What a gift these children are!

 

 

Co-parenting Balance

We do things differently, my husband and I. He is the math to my writing, the sleeping-in to my early rising, the spicy potato chips to my milled flaxseed. He’s the laid-back and I am the type-A.

Despite being strong believers in enforcing limits, maintaining routine, and raising respectful children, Hubs and I differ in how we approach other aspects of parenting. These differences make us stronger.

Though timely, Hubs is comfortable leaving to do preschool drop-off at the time I am generally pulling into the nearly empty school parking lot. He offers treat snacks, whereas I dispense healthy fare. He plays physical imaginary games while I do story time. He chooses educational electronic games to fill the kids’ waiting time yet I utilize non-electronic distraction methods. He does nature hikes through muddy streams and I take neighborhood walks on paved sidewalks.

Our parenting approaches may be divergent but that’s what makes us a good team. We approach the same goal from different angles. Together we have balance.

 

Sun, Music & Memories

After weeks of rain, the sun peeked through today and allowed us a preview of summer bliss. We attended our much-loved local summer concert series. We danced outside in the evening sun to live music, soaking in the light and memories.

#1 Twirling to the Music

#1 Twirling to the Music

Watching #1 and #2 twirl and run among the other children, I reflected on how last year #1 and #2 were smaller and less coordinated, apple-cheeked 2- and nearly-4-year-olds. How #3 was but a growing expectation in my rounded belly. How at the end of the concert series, #3 was a brand new addition with little infant chicken legs peaking out from the baby carrier.

I recalled how much more challenging things were with a newborn and two preschoolers as I recovered from a c-section, but how much fun we had. I realized how fast the time had spun by, and knew this year would only go faster.

So, I silenced my mind and allowed myself to simply be, to appreciate, to live our present joyful nuttiness. What a beautiful life!

Winesdays

I hate Wednesdays.

Every-other Wednesday we all have to get up extra early and be out of the house by the time I usually wake the kids any other day of the week. Every time — every single time — #1 is shocked and horrified by the early start, and battles me all the way through the morning routine. #2 moans and wails, trying to sneak back into bed. #3 decides to take this opportunity to unravel the entire roll of toilet paper, eat unwashed socks in the laundry basket, and tip over shampoo bottles.

Once dressed and brushed for the day, the boys and I drive an hour in traffic to my parents’ while Hubs has a breakfast date with #1 before preschool drop-off. The boys and I enjoy time with extended family (the bright spot in our day), then venture back home where I tell myself the boys will nap… they must nap. I NEED them to nap.

Despite the early start, no one naps. Because of the early start, everyone is an asshole.

Wishing coffee into wine

Pumping during what is SUPPOSED to be naptime and wishing this coffee was wine

To make things even better — because I am a genius — I signed up #1 for ballet after preschool on Wednesdays. She loves ballet… pink, tutus, what’s not to adore? However, an extra-long day paired with having to act like a decent human being in public for that many consecutive hours means meltdown mania from the time her tulle-bedecked tush enters the house until she’s shuffled into bed. Some days she even continues her tirade in her sleep, awaking refreshed and rejuvenated after unknowingly verbally eviscerating me All. Night. Long.

I hate Wednesdays.

Thank God for wine!

Rare Cuddles

“Mommy, do you want to lay down with me?” Was #1, my rainbow-loving, sparkle-wearing, cat-like daughter really asking ME, “The Enforcer”, for cuddles??? I turned on my heels from the cutting board and looked her square in the eye. “Of course!” I said. I felt like the popular clique had asked me to join their lunch table.

Carrots left half-chopped on the cutting board, we lounged on the sofa, her head on my chest, watching “My Little Pony.” As soon as the show ended, her feline tendencies returned. Wordlessly, she stretched, fixed her hair, and slinked her way down to the floor as if the cuddles never happened.

I’ll take it!

Marker Mix-up

**#1 is coloring with markers at the kitchen table while I fold laundry in the adjacent room**

#1: “Raaaaar! This. Isn’t. Working. Mooommy!”

Me: “Yes.”

#1: “The pink marker isn’t working.”

Me: “Use another marker. Maybe that one needs a break.”

#1: “Nooo. It’s drawing; it’s just… purple. #2 must’ve broken it. HE broke it. Now there’s no pink marker!”

Me: “The pink marker is drawing purple? Are the marker caps mixed up?”

#1: “No. It’s just drawing purple. There’s purple everywhere!”

**I walk over**

Me: “Ummm… #1, what color is the paper?”

#1: “Blue.”

Me: “Mhmm. What color is your marker?”

#1: “Pink. But it only draws purple. #2 broke…”

Me: “What color does red and blue make?”

#1: “Purple.”

Me: …

#1: …

Me: “Let’s try this again. Red and white make?”

#1 : “Pink.”

Me: “So, if red and blue make purple, and red and white make pink, what would happen if you mixed pink and blue?”

#1: “Ummm… light purple.”

**I motion to the violet marker scribblings on her paper.**

#1: …

Me: “You’re drawing on blue paper with a pink marker so the pink ink looks purple.”

#1: “No. #2 broke it! He breaks everything…” blah, blah, blah

**I return to my laundry heap**

Some days I could swear my kids’ mission is “drive Mom bananas.”

Keep it Simple

My morning with my boys

Morning with #2 and #3

I am a planner. I plan playdates, research extracurricular classes, arrange activities, and schedule outings. I pressure myself to make our non-school time fun… to make it count. However, yesterday I was reminded that simplicity can sometimes be best. That just being in the moment and enjoying one another’s company can be greater than any planned event.

Yesterday morning a potential playdate fell through so I took #2 to the playground solo (#3 strapped to my chest, of course), while #1 was at school. Not a soul was there, except for us.

#2 and I pretended to be Disney characters, we played chase, we bounced on the seesaw, we examined “baby plants”, we identified shapes and colors on the play equipment, but mostly we had fun. We laughed and horseplayed, and genuinely enjoyed one another’s company.

As we walked out of the playground holding hands, I turned to #2: “Thanks for playing with me, buddy! I really liked spending time with you. You’re fun!” #2 looked up at me and said, “My like it too” and kissed my hand.

The simple memories are the best memories.