Thursday, April 28, 2011

Work vs. School.

Today was a day Michaela has been anticipating for a long time: her first Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. She's been talking about it frequently ever since Dan told her about it a few weeks ago; planning what she would do and say and wear and I think also satisfy her curiosity about what it is, exactly, that Daddy does at work at an insurance company.

I was talking with her about it yesterday and she gave me this insight: "I'm going to bring a mug to work and carry it around like this" (demonstrates a Office Space-manager type pose) "and say, Get on that! and Let's get results! and Help those people! and then my phone is going to ring and I'll say, Oh, excuse me, I have to take this... Michaela Libutti, how can I help you? There was an accident? Is everyone okay? Any injuries? I'll call an ambulance!"

So I'm listening to this and cracking up laughing, and Danny hears her and says, "Michaela, we don't call ambulances for people." And that makes me crack up EVEN MORE because both of them are quite possibly the most concrete people on Earth (I mean, she's nine... she has NO IDEA what insurance even is or how it works, let alone whether Dan calls ambulances for people. Frankly I think her impression of office work and managing people is pretty good for her age.) and just I love them both so much.

Meanwhile someone else who lives in this house who is not old enough to attend Bring Your Daughter to Work Day is a little irritated that she's not able to skip a day of school and join in this adventure. Said person stomped down the stairs this morning and announced to me: "I'm not going to school today because Mimi doesn't have to go."
"Well, Jenna, you ARE going to school. Mimi's going to work with Daddy. She's going to have to do some boring things at work."
"No, she's not. It's not work. SHE'S GETTING DONUTS."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Our Family's Great Escape.

Our family did something that we've been wanting to do for a long time: head an hour north to Lake George and visit the indoor water park at the Great Escape Lodge. We booked for one night, which gave us time in the water park on Friday and Saturday, and turned out to be a perfect amount of time. We packed for what seemed like an expedition to Mount Everest (Really? We need all this stuff to spend ONE NIGHT away?), I picked up the girls at school, we picked up Daddy at work and we were warm, in our bathing suits and wet by 5:30pm.

It's a really nice facility with a nice hotel and good eating options. Dan and I were most happy to find out you could order Sam Adams Noble Pils at the Johnny Rockets that is attached to the hotel.

These were a few of the take-away points:
1. Mommy is not ready to take a week-long vacation anywhere with three kids under 10.
2. Alec is at an age where he can wake up, not recognize where he is, and freak out about that.

3. Nothing is as fun as riding the lazy river while lounging on your mom.

4. It's really relaxing to go on a lazy river with one of your babies keeping you warm on your lap.

5. If you have a nine and five year old and they are required to wear a neon bracelet proving their parents paid for their admission to a theme park and said bracelet has a long "tail" at the end of where it is attached, your five and nine year old daughters will fixate on the high level of annoyance the tail provides them until you finally, in desperation, beg for two pairs of scissors: one to cut the tail off and one to jam into your own eyes, because that would end the whining about the tail.

6. If you are a one year old boy, the phone in your hotel room is a source of endless fun. We had to unplug ours because we were convinced he would eventually figure out how to order room service.

7. Going to a water park in the winter is a wonderful reminder that people come in all shapes and sizes, and not everyone (in fact, barely anyone) looks like people on television, in magazines, or in movies.

8. Along the same lines, more people have tattoos than I realize.

9. If you are videotaping an adorable, placid scene of your daughter and son frolicking on a small kiddie slide inside a water park, and at the end of the video, your son climbs up the ladder for the slide and then falls completely backwards off the ladder, A) your son will be just fine, and B) you can feel better about what kind of a parent you are because even though your kid almost got a traumatic brain injury right in front of you, at least you had the where-with-all to immediately stop filming.

10. There is nothing like a little break from the routine (and by little, I mean 22 hours) to remind you how much you and your children love your routines.

11. If your children love the SpongeBob Squarepants episode wherein Squidward tries to conquer the skill crane machine at the Krusty Krab and you go to an arcade that has video games and skill cranes, your daughters will spend $10 in tokens only on winning a "prize" from a skill crane machine.

12. Water slides are really, really, really fun.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Examining the Stay At Home Life.

Well, another brilliant study had been released which investigates the diet and exercise habits of moms and dads with children under 5. And this is the shocking conclusion: moms of children under 5 don't exercise as much or eat as well as childless women. No kidding. It is all about time, opportunity, and meeting needs. This is my story: I cannot go to a gym right now unless Dan is home, because Alec refuses to stay at the day-care center they have there and I cannot ask my mom to give up time of her life a few times a week so that I have thinner thighs. I used to go early in the morning before everyone woke up, before Alec was born, and loved going, but I'm not sure I can get up that early and then functionally parent three children until they go to bed. So I am in limbo. I am hoping that the nicer weather comes sooner rather than later so I can go for long walks with Alec in the morning or after dinner with the whole family. I try really hard to feed my children nutritious, homemade meals every day. And of course, I eat what they eat, so that means we're all getting good dinners. But I can see how, with softball and soccer looming ahead of us, that my best of intentions may fall apart and we will reach for something quick and easy to make and clean up. And quick and easy is rarely as healthy as what I normally serve. On a larger scale, though, this debate is all about meeting needs, isn't it? Whose needs will be met first? Whose will be met best? Is exercise really a need? I know it is to some people and not to others. In either case, it is something you have to make room for, and sometimes the things we as moms want fall behind what our kids or husbands or family wants. There is only a certain number of hours in a day, and when you have three kids and a husband all wanting time from you, you have little left to divvy out just for yourself. Nothing irritates me more than reading things about how you SHOULD do this for yourself, you SHOULD do that- it's a whole blame-the-victim mentality: I know I SHOULD go out on dates with my husband, I know I SHOULD make time for myself, but more often than not I am just trying my hardest to keep everyone clean and well fed and their nails clipped and hair brushed and homework done and developmental milestones met and felt listened to and moderately on top of our schedules. The last thing I need is someone's opinion that I SHOULD be doing something else. In the end it just becomes another thing that is not getting done. Because I enjoy knowing that my family is well-cared for, and that gives me lots of satisfaction. Of course, I enjoy doing things for myself- I'm not that much of a martyr. But I am at times perplexed at our culture's blindness to stay at home moms and how much of motherhood in general is a long, hard exercise in putting other people's needs in front of your own. Other people's agendas in front of your own. Other people's schedules in front of your own. And there is just no break, little time off, and the cruel twist is that when you are finally done and your kids are out of the house, so many moms go absolutely bonkers with grief. Have you ever watched a show about hoarding?? Nine times out of ten, when it's a middle-aged woman who hoarding, it's because her babies have left the nest... and so she fills it up. We moms do this because we love it and we would die for our children, gladly, and spend every day thinking about what we can do that is best for them. And they in turn bring unspeakable joy and love and heartswells and laughter and richness to us. But it is hard. I have been in touch with several moms of younger children this past week who needed pep talks about being home. One asked how to mentally survive not feeling well and dealing with children and seeing the everyday chores piling up. And I shared with her that parenthood is all about letting go and growing and putting other's needs before your own and trying not to drown in the process. After I was home awhile I realized that there are three kinds of days as a stay at home mom: fall apart days, where everything goes down the tubes and despite your best efforts, everything is a mess; treading water days, where you are neither further ahead nor further behind than you were the day before; and get ahead days, where the daily routine goes smoothly and a window of time opens up for you to work on a short-or long-range project. And the burst of energy and joy you get from seeing progress made outweighs that bad stuff. It gives you the psychological energy to move ahead, even on the fall behind days. Now my mom would helpfully say that even on the fall behind days, you are really ahead, because you are with your babies being their mommy. And I get that. But it doesn't feel quite as exciting as a get-ahead day, where you can pat yourself on the back and say, "My, my, MY! I have got this stay at home thing LICKED!! I have got it GOIN' ON!!" And then in a matter of moments, something falls apart and you're back to a treading water day.

One of the worst parts of being at home is that we're all (at least I am) thinking that everyone else is doing a better job than we are, everyone is more organized, more accomplished, more everything. We're all hidden in our individual houses and only get a glimpse into what everyone else is doing. And therefore we have totally unrealistic expectations of what OTHER moms are getting done, how much fun they are really having, how clean their house really is, etc, and we end up thinking that we come up short. We're all sort of hanging on by a thread. This is all compounded by the fact that there is no evaluation process, no performance review, and no one besides our husbands (and maybe our moms) who see us for what is really happening and tell us we are doing a good job. Or a GREAT job. In many ways, stay at home moms have to be the best cheerleader for themselves, instead of thinking, "I'm not doing enough or doing it good enough" which seems to be the default setting in many of our brains.

Oh, it's a complex thing. But we do this for the love of our babies.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Blessings and Curses of Modern Conveniences.

For many years, I've thought about how grateful I am to be living in America in the 21st century: I have a warm, comfortable house; indoor plumbing; heat and air conditioning; clean air to breathe and clean water to drink; and all kinds of machines that make my life easier. I always thought how lucky I am that I have a washing machine and don't have to drag a pile of clothes to a river somewhere and wash them on a board and line dry them. Lately, though, I've been thinking that if I DID have to bring them to the river, we would have less clothes, and I'd be carrying two or three items per person, tops, instead of the multitude of shirts, the undershirts, the 10 pairs of underwear, 14 different pajamas, and 7 pairs of skinny jeans in the laundry that I do just for the two girls. Add in the pajamas and shirts and pants and socks of the boy, the copious laundry that I do for Dan, and my own meager additions and it becomes a never-ending process. Maybe less is more in this situation. But then again, we probably smell a lot better, too.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fighting the Inevitable.

Alec has officially discovered Dora the Explorer. I'm not sure if I'm horrified at having to go through months and months- years, really- of Dora episodes, DVDs, books and merchandise... or relieved that I have another way of wrangling 25 minutes of free time from him to do exciting, selfish tasks like showering every day. In the end, I really enjoy being clean and looking half way decent, so I guess Dora wins. In all fairness, Jenna let go of Dora a few years ago, so I have had a little break. In other Alec news, the speech therapist comes next Tuesday to evaluate him. He has made some progress in the speech department- now calls Jenna "Nenna" and Michaela a very close version of "Mehmeh" (not quite Mimi, not quite Mama) and his receptive vocab is really very good. We'll see if he qualifies for anything. Tomorrow is his 18 month checkup and I can't believe we are already a year and a half in. I'm really going to struggle with not seeing him as a 7 month old for the rest of his and my life. What a love he is. Vamanos... let's go!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why I Love Living With a 9 Year Old.

Of course there are NUMEROUS reasons why I love living with Michaela, and her latest report card says it best: "It is delightful to see the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity that Michaela possesses." Amen, Ms. L, amen. That's my Mimi in a nutshell. But in this particular case, I was in a bit of a jam: I was looking for a stack of Toys R Us gift cards that all three children had saved up from various birthdays and holidays that were going towards new toys for Alec and a motorized scooter for the girls. I was heading to Toys R Us yesterday and wanted to use some of Alec's for a new water table and some outdoor toys to play with this summer. You know, IF summer, or warmth, or sunshine actually ever comes again to the Northeast. And I couldn't find them. I looked in the first five or so logical places and found nothing. I was starting to panic and plan my all-out destruction of the house to find them in time for the girls to get their scooter this spring. I even looked a little in Michaela's room, thinking that she may have felt a sense of ownership over them and had put them in a drawer in her room. Nothing. So after dinner, as I was driving the girls to choir practice, I ever so lightly-and-casually-as-to-not-arouse-suspicion-or- panic said, "Hey Michaela... do you happen to have the Toys R Us gift cards?" "Hmmm... I don't have them, but I feel like I just saw them... Oooh! I know!" And she reaches forward and opens up the glove compartment of the car. And there they all are. "I was looking for a pen the other day and opened this up and thought it was weird that they were in here," says Michaela. "I could kiss you!!" I say to her. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!!" Because I assure you, not in a million years would I ever have looked in the glove compartment for the gift cards. Ever. I now remember that we brought them on a shopping trip, ran out of time and didn't make it to the store, and I threw them in there so they would be hidden. So well hidden, in fact, that I forgot they were in there that day. And totally forgot about them since. So moms of young children, take heart! For all the messes and annoyances and frustrations of having little kids, keep this in mind: before you know it, they will be nine years old, their own little person, and they will be saving your butt.