How To Get Your Child To Sleep Through The Night In Just 2.5 Years

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I’m afraid to say it out loud, so I’ll whisper it: My baby is sleeping through the night.

It’s been happening for a few months now, but saying it – or even thinking it – could tempt fate, so I’ve told myself it’s just a phase. This morning, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time he’d woken during the night, so maybe it’s time to admit it: My baby is sleeping through the night!

And now to help you with your wakeful baby, here’s exactly what I did – just follow my step-by-step guide, and within just two and a half years, your child may sleep through the night, too.

1. At five months old, introduce a dream-feed. Pick up sleepy-baby at 11pm, while a little voice says “are you crazy?” and try to feed him. Wonder how far to go in your attempts to wake him. Go too far. Spend an hour trying to get him back to sleep.

2. Try again the next night – it might have been a once-off.

3. Repeat.

4. At six months old, decide that the snoring of one particular parent is what’s keeping the baby awake, so move him into his own room, sit back, and wait for the first night of blissful sleep.

5. At 3am, stumble blearily across the hallway to pick up the crying baby, cursing yourself for moving him into his own room. Go over and back three times, then bring him into your bed, just like you were doing all along anyway. Try to sleep while being kicked in the face repeatedly.

6. The next evening, decide that last night was a once-off, and let him sleep in his own room again.

7. At 3am, step on Lego and swear in a loud whisper while running to pick him up in the middle of the night, before he wakes his big sisters.

8. Repeat nightly, for a long time, while living in false hope that the snoring was the thing. And anyway, dismantling the cot to move it back seems like a very thorough admission of defeat.

9. After six months of nightly stumbling and swearing, come up with ingenious idea to put a travel cot beside your own bed, so that after the first night-time waking, you can settle the baby in the travel cot.

10. Realize after first five or six hundred attempts that the baby does not like the travel cot, so give up on that idea.

11. Decide the baby’s feet are too hot. Of course! That’s why he’s waking up. Take a scissors, and cut the feet out of all of his sleep-suits.

12. Go to bed, excited about the full night of sleep ahead.

13. At 3am, pick baby up the crying baby and bring him into bed. Feel consoled by the fact that he does look cute in his little cut-off sleep-suits. Try to sleep while being kicked in the face repeatedly.

14. Download Wonder Weeks app. Now you know why he was cranky and wakeful last week! But you still don’t know what’s wrong this week.

15. Suspect that the early morning sun-rise is waking him up, and rush out to buy black-out curtain-lining, ignoring the little voice that’s saying “but the sun doesn’t come up at 3am?”

16. Carefully attach black-out lining to one side of each curtain. Realize you’ve put it on backwards. Curse. Take off lining and start over. Hang curtains, marvel at the darkness, and wait for sleep.

17. Get up at 3am when baby cries. Bang your knee against the cot, because it’s so dark in his room. Persevere with blackout curtains anyway, because some day they will work.

18. He’s now 18 months old and you’re getting desperate. Search sleep forums online and Google “my toddler will not sleep”. Read up on bimodal sleep. Decide that this is what the baby is doing – two periods of sleep punctuated by a period of wakefulness. That’s great! Oh, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Click to next website.

19. Hear from a friend that white noise is great for getting kids back to sleep. Download one of the gazillions of white noise apps that are out there. Charge up your phone and you’re ready to go.

20. At 3am, race into the room, phone in hand. Feel your way through the darkness, fumbling to switch on the app. Put the phone beside the cot, and sit on the nearby chair to watch the white noise in action. It seems to be working! He has stopped crying and is resting peacefully, eyes closed.

21. Gently easy yourself out of the chair, leaving the phone where it is. Put one foot on the floor, heading towards the door. Make absolutely no noise.

22. Sigh heavily when just as you touch the door-handle, the baby-with-superman-hearing starts to cry. Sit back on the chair. This is your new home. Enjoy the white noise.

23. He’s now two years old. Move him from cot to bed. When he wakes at night, get into his bed with him. Notice that the repeated face-kicking has abated. Fall asleep wondering why, and wake none the wiser.

24. Bravely transition to sitting on the floor beside his bed when he wakes, instead of getting in with him. Organize a cushion to sit on, and consider setting up a little drinks fridge and reading light. Do this for however long it takes (even if it’s four months). Eventually, sleep will come.

That’s it! Just follow these simple steps, and at two-and-a-half years old, your child will sleep through the night.*

*Or not – no guarantees.

Related post: Bedtime Stalling 101 (as taught by a two-year-old)

 6 Ways Toddlerhood and Pregnancy Are Alike

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This morning in the car, my three year old was whining. What else is new? As he wailed his reasoning (“I JUST WANT WAFFLES AND TACOS ALL THE TIIIIIME!”), it hit me: At nearly seven months pregnant, I’ve never had more in common with this kid than I do right now. Hear me out:

1. The eating habits. The penchant for pre-dinner ice cream. Hands with the sticky remnants of an illicit snack shoveled in harried secrecy. Sometimes a Cheerio falls out of his pant leg; sometimes I find a Frito in my bra. Sometimes just the thought of eating a banana makes us gag; other times, nothing short of an entire carton of strawberries will do. We want what we want when we want it, and if anything stands in our way, expect some forks to be thrown.

2. The perpetually ill-fitting clothes on our continuously changing bodies. What? You outgrew your $50 baby shoes three weeks after we bought them? No kidding, I just graduated from the Could-Be-Just-Bloated early pregnancy fat pants to my full blown I’ve-Been-Eating-Pie-For-6-Months third trimester fare. Your head outgrew your hats mid-winter? Over the past three years of pregnancies and nursing, I’ve acquired bras with cups to match the first four (FOUR!) letters of the alphabet. You feel like crying because we have to pack away your favorite Thomas shirt that you’ve chosen to wear almost every day of the week regardless of cleanliness and occasion because it’s now midriff-bearing and partially see-through? Tell that to these skinny jeans I’m hiding in the back of my closet in case my child-bearing hips get a hold of a DeLorean. In this game, the only winner is the mall.

3. Let’s talk about the big wet elephant in the room that is our incapacity to hold our urine. Sometimes we pee our pants (don’t make a big deal). We also seldom make it though the night without having to go. Equipped with humanity’s weakest bladders, excepting of course the elderly and drunk, toddlers and pregos understand that pee happens. Don’t take us to that too-long church service/bumpy roadtrip/ Melissa McCarthy movie without expecting to make a few pit stops.

4. The Gas.  Have you noticed that when a questionable smell erupts into a public forum, all eyes immediately throw repulsed daggers at either the toddler or the visibly pregnant woman in the room? We are both equally offended at your audacious, non-verbal accusation and would thank you to either keep your suspicions to yourself or blame the old guy. IT WAS TOTALLY THE OLD GUY!

5. Remembering things is hard. Mommy, where’s my firetruck? What’s my middle name? Where are we going? So I’m NOT allowed to jump off this table (*mid-air*)? Where are we going? What’s for dinner? Where are we going? Where’s my firetruck? What is your second child’s date of birth? What is the name of your pediatrician? Ma’am, the ER doctors would like to examine your daughter now, so we need the name of her pediatrician. Literally name any pediatrician in the practice, it doesn’t matter. What’s YOUR date of birth? What kind of health insurance do you carry?  Give us a minute or 20. Juice helps.

6. The earth-shattering mood swings. The fury and its unlikely friend, manic laughter. It’s the kind of rage that says, “Don’t you dare fuck with me, Mommy, because I KNOW you didn’t hear me creeping down the steps at naptime to find you watching Real Housewives with an Oreo Blizzard on your belly after you didn’t eat a real lunch and then skipped 6 pages of my bedtime story,” but can be assuaged by a well-timed fart joke and a 45-minute snuggle. It’s the agony of  seething through the experience of having the baby drip milk into your hair from her high chair while you’re picking up 17 sticky half-grapes off the kitchen floor AGAIN, and then laughing until tears flow about their take on boogers after they’ve fallen asleep 10 minutes later. It may not make sense to the outsiders, and it may terrify onlookers at the grocery store, but our feelings are both very real and very big. And for the record, don’t you dare call me hormonal because WE BOTH KNOW you’re just being an asshole.

So, the next time my son stabs my heart with another “I don’t love you and I don’t love your carrots!”,  I like to think I will have a greater understanding of his outburst and be better-equipped to ride the wave of his highly complex emotions. I will be able to step back and appreciate the special bond we now share, if only for a few more weeks. I will sit down with him over a steaming plate of waffles and tacos and tell booger jokes until we pee our ill-fitting pants.

Related post: 5 Ways Toddlers Are Easier Than Teens 

The Look

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Recently, I got “the look.” It has been a while and it was spine-tingly, reminding me of when our kids were little and the looks were frequent and plentiful. If you’re a parent, you know the look I’m talking about. It’s that sidelong glance your kids give you when they are doing something they’re proud of,  priceless peeks to wherever you’re sitting in the audience to make sure you’re watching. This is the look that has resulted in untold numbers of soccer goals being scored while the goalie was scanning the bleachers for her mommy or daddy. The look that gets little leaguers “doubled off” because they absent-mindedly wander away from the base, or forget to run to the next base, while checking if their parents noticed them get on base in the first place. The look your kids give you while taking a bow after their school play, piano recital, or perfect pirouette. And when they give you the look, it’s key that you be looking back, lest you miss the look and your child panics that you missed the whole reason for giving you the look. Kids know there are no instant replays.

This past spring, we were invited by a dear family friend to their grandson’s kindergarten “graduation” ceremony and looks were flying everywhere. Like every other capped and gowned mini-graduate, our friend’s grandson gave the look to his parents while standing in the queue for his diploma, again while receiving his diploma from the kindergarten teacher (whose hand he forgot to shake because he was too busy giving his parents the look), and yet again on arrival back at his seat. We knew just this one graduate, but as each of his classmates crossed the stage, we only needed to follow his or her laser-focused look to identify the proud parents in the audience.

Ours was a sports-obsessed home, and when our kids were little we anticpated many looks during each game or match. We always sat in the same spot in the bleachers to minimize the distraction of searching for us. As they got older, they tried to stifle the looks, to appear cool and unconcerned with what the family fans were thinking, but we caught them looking anyway. Fleeting checks from the corners of their eyes while bringing the ball down the basketball court or striding across the tennis court after serving an ace. For certain of the looks, I had a trademark response our kids came to expect: I held my right fist over my heart and tapped my chest a couple times, symbolizing…well I’m  not absolutely sure what I was trying to convey. Probably heartfelt pride in their accomplishment.  Or maybe it was a sign of gratitude for having healthy and happy kids, and for being blessed to witness their small triumphs.  Or relief that we could offer a silver lining on the car ride home after an otherwise crushing defeat. Not every two-point basket or single up the middle earned a heart tap. Game winning 3-pointers and walk-off base hits usually did. Sometimes I added a flourish to the chest tap by pointing my finger at my young star, as if to say “this tap is for you.”

Our kids are grown and living away from home, so it’s rare for us to get the look these days. When our daughter was leaving for graduate school a couple years ago, she turned to wave before entering the airport security line and gave us the look. I choked up, and tapped my chest. When our oldest son took the oath for the New York State Bar, he gave us the look, and again I choked up and tapped my chest. A couple years earlier at his wedding he didn’t give us the look – he saved it for his wife. We forgave him.

Earlier this summer, as our youngest son marched in with hundreds of his classmates to receive his college diploma, he turned to us in the audience and gave us the look. This one was a prolonged look, a cumulative look for all the smaller achievements we missed seeing that led to this moment. As he met our eyes, he raised his hands in the air in a celebratory gesture, mouthing “thank you.” I gently tapped my chest, and pointed straight at him.

10 Reasons It’s Awesome Having Twins

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1. The 2 for 1 deal. I did not enjoy pregnancy and counted down the days until it was over and I could shed the 75, yes 75 pounds that I gained and feel like I had some control over my body again. Having twins is incredibly hard, but knowing I’m not going to be pregnant again (or at least for a very, very long time) is a big plus.

2. The attention. Being pregnant with (and being a mom to) twins, you feel like a celebrity.When they’re babies, everyone you walk by will enthusiastically exclaim, “Is it twiiiiiins?!?!” The answer to this question is so painfully obvious that some could find it annoying, however when you are stuck in the house with twin babies feeling like you have absolutely no idea what you are doing day after day after day, any human interaction feels like a win. Especially one where you play the rock star.

3. Loving your husband even more. A dad of twins is essentially a second mom. At 3AM when you are each semi-awake with the twins and are both covered in equal amounts of milk, poop, drool and probably your own tears, you realize wow, I love this guy even more than the day he was tearing up the dance floor to “Take me Home Tonight” at our wedding.

4. Photos Opps. I mean, hello?

5. Double the milestones. So far raising twins has been hard. Like harder than running a marathon hard (I have run a marathon and trust me this is wayyy harder. Some days I honestly feel like I would enjoy running 26.2 miles over caring for twins). But of course, there are moments that make everything worth it. First smiles, rolls, steps, hugs, words. And the greatest part is, if you miss the chance to catch one of these spectacular moments on camera, you have a second chance with the other kid usually only days away!

6. Best Buds. I have not experienced this one yet (even though people keep telling me they will be “instant playmates!”) since right now they mostly try to grab, bite, knock each other over and cause general harm to one another. But I’m ready and waiting for the day that they play peacefully together while I sit on the couch and watch anything on Bravo while drinking a hot coffee.

7. The Ultimate Excuse. Can’t fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes 18 months later? Does your stomach look like road map that a tractor drove over? Haven’t so much as looked at your husband in 3 days? Having take out for dinner 5 nights in a row? Don’t want to go to that wedding shower? Ignore all phone calls? Cancel plans last minute? It’s fine, you have twins!

8. The Twin Bond. My guys just started talking a lot, and in the morning they wake up saying, “Hi brubber!” from crib to crib. Holy cuteness. I mean, come on! I melt.

9. The Kindness of Others. I live in the northeast which is not known for being the friendliest of places. (Hello, did you hear about the winter we just had?!) That being said, it’s humbling how much family, friends, and strangers are willing to help when it comes to twins. And we’ll take it.

10. Endless Entertainment. Twins are Expensive with a capital E. But the good news? There’s no need to pay for expenses like cable TV or movies at theaters. Who can beat this?

 Related Post: The General Public on Twins

 

Parenting To The Lowest Common Denominator

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My daughter is almost six, though she will correct you immediately that she is “five and three-quarters” if she hears you say that because she is precise, and detail-oriented, and very much her father’s daughter in that way.

But she is my daughter, too.

A daughter that I was petrified of having, and then elated that I was having – all because of a very tumultuous past I have with my own mother.  And becausewhile my experience with my mother may be unique, I realize that anyone who is the daughter of a mother or the mother of a daughter has a bond that is fraught with all the complications that have been written about, talked about, and psychoanalyzed long before Freud ever uttered the words “Electra Complex”.

All of this, while walking that tightrope of parenting that that cautions against becoming one of the many stereotypically “wrong” types of mother. You can’t be a “Helicopter” mom or too much of a “Free-Range” mom, and the “Tiger” mom is too overbearing yet the “Best Friend” mom is too permissive.

I just want to be her mom – yet I feel that I have failed her to a certain extent in successfully figuring out who exactly that is, and how exactly to execute that role successfully.

Because I am also someone else’s mom.

When she was born, I became a mommy. Sixteen months later, when her little brother was born and we found out that he’d had a stroke in utero – eventually resulting in multiple diagnoses that included Cerebral Palsy and Autism  – I became a Special Needs mommy.

The two of us went away together this weekend on a four-day road trip we have both been eagerly looking forward to.  Watching her run free, being able to say “Yes, we can go on that ferryboat” because I’m not worried about her trying to throw herself overboard, or “Yes, we can go down all of those big waterslides” because she is big enough and her brother wasn’t there to get upset that he couldn’t go, or “Yes, we can play Skee Ball and Air Hockey at the arcade” because I wasn’t concerned that she might send those wooden balls or plastic pucks flying into the heads of other unsuspecting game-playing patrons, well, it made me realize something with a jolt that felt very much like a figurative slap in the face.

As she stood on the deck of the very same ferryboat I had sailed on during a childhood field trip, as I watched her take it all in – waving to the people parasailing on the lake, eyes twinkling as she listened to the boat playing cheerful tunes on its calliope, face upturned to the sunshine – it hit me.

“We have been parenting to the lowest common denominator.” I told my husband later that night.

We have held her back when it was unsafe or unwise to push him forward.  I have been unable to let go of the vigilance I need to hold onto as his mother and find a way to let loose and sometimes just be her mommy.  It is an occupational hazard among the medical, sensory, and therapy-heavy day-to-day life we are currently living.  If I loosen my stronghold on control, on looking out, on keeping watch, on making sure and double-checking, there’s no saying what might happen. Temporarily loosening my grip on on small hands turns into darting out into busy parking lots, and running downhill becomes a buckled knee or twisted ankle and a trip to the Emergency Room.  Saying “yes” to her, often means saying “no” to him - or forcing him to watch from the sidelines.  Saying “no” to both seems easier – more fair – though I am now seeing that it is the former rather than the latter.

She is cautious, shy, naturally anxious, sensitive and introverted.  She is fine with her father and I going out at night for the occasional dinner with friends or to work events, but worries about what time we’ll be home.  She is happy to play “school” or “camp” or “house” in her room for hours – often preferring long stretches of time by herself. She simmers in her emotions quietly, trying to push them down, worried that if she allows herself to fully feel them, they will somehow wrench themselves from her control and overpower her.  She is afraid that she will not get them back somehow.

She lashes out, then weeps as she apologizes for it.  Afterwards, she relegates herself to her room, emerging a short time later with a picture she’s drawn of you holding hands with her under a blue sky and a bright yellow sun with the words “I em Sorrie” or “I wul be beddur” written beneath in her preschooler’s scrawl.

It is heartbreaking to watch her inborn tendencies towards empathy clash with the developmentally-appropriate Id of an almost-Kindergartner. Having a brother with a potpourri of Special Needs only complicates things further. I look at her and just know that she is shouldering the self-imposed burden of feeling like she has to hold it all together at all times as she watches her little brother constantly coming apart at the seams. 

A version of a line from one of my favorite songs always reminds me of the two of them and describes them in relation to each other perfectly.

She is a china shop…and he is a bull.

He is hearty and she is delicate. He is impetuous where she is cautious.  She walks the perimeter and observes while he makes a beeline for the center of the room.  He will scream when you introduce yourself as she is hides behind me.  I need to give her permission to fly and I need to reign him in.

So how do I find a way to loosen my grip without letting go entirely? How to I find the switch within that allows me to tell my perpetual inner-lifeguard that it’s alright to go off-duty for a little while? How do I parent two completely different children with two very different sets of needs simultaneously and successfully – and safely?

We have indeed been parenting to the lowest common denominator. And that worked – for a time.  Until it didn’t add up anymore. Until the calculated risks that always seemed too high for him, have morphed into a price she is paying for all of the caution we’ve exercised. Until I saw her this weekend, until my eyes were opened up to the limitations we’ve been putting on her.

And she lost it a few times this weekend. She freaked out, lashed out, cried out. Same as it always is when her fears or insecurities or anxiety overtake her.  But something was different in me.  Instead of clenching up, usually already exhausted from holding on too-tightly to them both, my shoulders were down and I wore an expression of calm.  I crouched down, held her hand, and looked her in the eye.

“Hey, it’s okay to be mad, or sad, or frustrated,” I told her. “You can let it out. I’ll still be here when it’s over. There’s nothing you can say or do that will make me love you any less. I’m not going anywhere.”

And it did pass. And she looked up at me and smiled her shy smile and I squeezed her hand.  And we didn’t talk about it because we didn’t have to. And I had the energy and the time and the patience to wait it out this weekend, to really see her.  And now that my eyes have been opened, I know I can’t go back.  I owe her that.

There will be no more parenting to the lowest common denominator.

She is one quarter of this family.  She is one half of our children.  She is a whole person.

And she counts.

Motherhood: The Big Fat Fuck You

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I lost it this morning.  Really lost it. After the kids were all dressed for school, breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, backpacks packed, I turned on the TV.  I have a rule that the kids can only watch certain channels.  There is so much crap on TV – shows geared towards teens and preteens, shows that showcase kids calling other people “idiot” and “stupid” and generally behaving obnoxiously – and in all seriousness, I have a hard enough time keeping my kids under control without exposing them to those kinds of influences and role models.  So the rule is, Mom sets the channel, and you don’t change it without permission.  Annabelle never, ever, ever sticks to this rule.  The moment I walk out of the room, she’s got the remote in her hand, channel-surfing, looking for some obnoxious show featuring smart-ass teenagers.  It happened this morning.  Within thirty seconds of my turning the TV on to Nick Jr. – really for Finn – Annabelle is changing the channel.  “Leave the TV alone, Annabelle,” I said.  I left the room.  A few minutes later, on my way to the kitchen, I saw her there, remote in hand, channel surfing again.  And I lost it. Screaming and yelling ensued.  Swearing.  “I’VE TOLD YOU A THOUSAND TIMES TO LEAVE THE TV ALONE!!” I shouted.  “GO TO YOUR ROOM!  GO SIT IN YOUR ROOM UNTIL IT’S TIME TO LEAVE FOR SCHOOL.  NOW!!!”  She just stood there staring at me, not moving a muscle.  “GO!!”  I yelled.  All the kids froze in their tracks while I chased – literally chased – Annabelle into her room.  She beat me by a half a second and locked the door against me.  Locked the door!  “I’m going to kill her!”  I muttered.  “MOM!  Are you really going to kill Annabelle?  Did you really just say that?!”  Daisy shrieked.  “OPEN THIS GODDAMN DOOR!”  I yelled.  Annabelle unlocked the door.  “Don’t you ever lock the door against me again!  Do you hear me?!” I yelled at her. Michael’s trying to calm me.  “Leave me alone!”  I yelled at him.  “I do EVERYTHING for you people – including YOU! – and you all treat me like shit!  Every last one of you!” I know.  All this over an eight-year old changing the channel on the TV.  But really, of course it’s not just about that.  That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back this morning.  It was my eight-year old changing the channel after I told her not to – again.  It was dealing with Finn tantruming his way through breakfast – again.  It was Joey throwing a dramatic tantrum and copping a major attitude last night when I said no, he could not have an Instagram account (he’s ten, for crying out loud!).  It’s the bickering and tattling all the time.  It’s the “I want, I want, I want” all the time, and the lack of willingness to do much of anything I ask.  Ask somebody to set the table for dinner?  Tell them to clean up their room?  Oh myGOD!  You would think I’m asking them to pull their own fingernails out!  It’s my husband being gone so much of the time and me feeling utterly alone, like I’m dealing with all of this single handedly. I’m not excusing my losing it this morning.  I’m ashamed.  I wish I held it together better, I really, really do.  And lest I start to sound like my own mother who seemed to believe that her kids were responsible for her happiness/unhappiness but she, the adult, was not responsible for theirs, let me just say that I know kids are kids, they don’t actually mean anything personal by their behavior – I know that, I really do. Sometimes motherhood just feels like a big, fat Fuck You, though.  This is why people say that motherhood is a hard job.  Not because it’s especially intellectually challenging or physically demanding – I mean it is those things, but there are certainly other pursuits that require for far more intellectual and/or physical output than motherhood.  Not because it requires a great deal of bravery – of course, it does call for that, too, but certainly not as much as being a soldier or a police officer, for instance.  No, it’s not those things.  It’s because it’s so fucking emotionally taxing.  It’s because it’s so incredibly thankless so much of the time.  It’s because I feel like I’ve sacrificed so much of myself for them, and they don’t appreciate it.  It’s because I do and do and do for them, constantly, and it often seems like all I get in return is complaining that it’s not enough – or just outright ignored.  I’m not looking for accolades or awards or fanfare.  I’m not even looking for “thank you.”  It would just be nice to get a little cooperation.  A little respect for the rules – rules which aren’t onerous or unreasonable for crap’s sake! And, you know, it’s hard to admit these things.  Everyone wants to talk about how great motherhood is, how fulfilling it is.  Sometimes it is.  And often, it’s not.  I’m not even sure why I’m writing about it this morning – opening myself up to criticism and judgment, exposing the flaws in the pretty picture.  I don’t want to feel alone, I guess. After I got back from dropping the kids off at school this morning, I discovered that Annabelle had left her lunch at home.  Who do you think packed the baby and Finn back into the truck to drive her lunch to school? Because that’s what moms do. Related post: To the Unwashed Masses of Mothers

An Apology to My Friends And Family

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I’m sorry.

To the man I fell in love with in the days when I had no worries, to my two beautiful darlings who make everything brighter, to my family who keep everything going with their endless support, and to my friends who I’ve been rubbish to for too long: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for shouting.

I’m sorry for snapping.

I’m sorry for being grumpy.

I’m sorry for not being much fun these days.

I’m sorry for crying.

I’m sorry for not seeing the brighter side.

I’m sorry for rarely laughing.

Sometimes, after changing that millionth diaper and being up all night worried sick about a child; sometimes, after running out of Tylenol and forgetting a doctor’s appointment; sometimes, after not being able to convince your toddler to eat anything or your baby to stop crying, sometimes, after answering the why question 1700 times in a day while you still have a headache – sometimes it’s hard to see the funny side and it’s hard to see things rationally.

I don’t want to make excuses for all of this. Milin is two, Jasmin is nine months today – I’m probably not even a ‘new mum’ anymore. But I am a mum of two very young children who still has no idea what she is doing. I’m still learning this thing that is motherhood. I’m still navigating the maze of parenting. I’m still getting it really wrong, all the time.

I don’t want to make excuses. But along with my apology, I want you to know that this sleep-deprived, distracted, forgetful, impatient and snappy woman you now see before you isn’t the woman I thought I would be.

I wish I was still that woman who made you smile because she tried to be entertaining. I wish I was still that woman who didn’t care about the consequences – fun came first. I wish I was still that woman who you laughed with like nothing else in the world mattered but your silly joke. I wish I was still that woman who had the confidence to believe in herself and simply accept that everything would work out. I wish I was still that woman who had the energy and patience and creativity to make life more fun.

Maybe, one day, I’ll find her again.

But right now, she’s lost. She’s lost to the mum who is tired and worried. She is lost to the mum who just wants a break some days. She is lost to the mum who is still messing stuff up when it matters.

Please, bear with me, smile at me, still try to make me laugh. I don’t know if I deserve that, but just stay with me a while.

That other woman will be back.

Related post: Lost in The Parking Lot of Parenting

6 Things I Wish I’d Known About Having a C-Section

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My first son was delivered via c-section at 35 weeks after an ultrasound revealed he ceased growing due to placenta previa. I knew early on in my pregnancy that it was a possibility I wouldn’t be able to deliver vaginally, but being in denial, I never bothered to ask what the recovery process was life if I did indeed go under the knife.

I figured, by comparison to pushing a baby out and getting ripped from the rooter to the tooter, a c-section would be a cake walk.

Sitting in my OB’s office, hearing that I was heading over to surgery and would have a baby by happy hour, I was scared and ill-prepared.  I didn’t know what I was in for, exactly. I just figured they’d wheel me in, I’d lay there like a corpse, and then hours later I’d be sitting up in bed, holding a baby, looking glowing and happy in an adorable robe like Rachel in Friends.

Sucker.

This is, after all, major surgery. I mean, my husband saw my intestines being pulled out, for crying out loud. If that doesn’t buy you a night out by yourself when the baby is older, I don’t know what will.

If you’re thinking that a c-section is a possibility for your next birth, perhaps my ignorance can spare you a few headaches and worry. Here are some things I learned:

1. The operating room is as cold as the polar ice caps and the stuff they put in your IV only makes it worse. With my first c-section I was shaking so much I was convinced the anesthesiologist would miss his target with the spinal block and I’d come out of surgery a paraplegic. I had absolutely no idea my body was capable of shimming that fast. Watch out, Shakira, those hips don’t lie. They’re scared shitless.

2. Think you won’t feel a thing? Think again. While you won’t feel them cutting or feel pain, no one told me I’d feel all this tremendous pulling as they pried my son out of my body cavity. My OB warned me “Okay, you might feel some slight pressure.” Slight? This is not a flu shot, people. I don’t call the sensation of someone yanking a bowling ball out of my loins a slight sensation.

3. Don’t say no to drugs. They get you pretty doped up in surgery and at first I willingly took the hard core pain meds they give me. But at around 28 hrs post surgery I felt pretty good and though “Nah, I’ll skip meds this shift.” Bad idea.  Worst idea I’ve ever had. You’re not only dealing with the pain of getting your insides ripped open and sewn back together, but you’ve also being visited post-delivery cramping because the baby isn’t paying rent anymore. They tell you to stay one step ahead of the pain. I prefer to be a football field ahead.

4. Your ability to laugh like a normal human being will be put on hold. Ditto for sneezing, pooping and coughing.  The advice is to hold a pillow over your incision if you need to perform any of these actions, and though it may help a tiny bit, you’ll still find yourself making modifications. Your sneezes will become the tiny, restrained kind that only Disney Princesses can attain. While in the hospital with my son, my husband cracked a hilarious remark that caused my body to produce such a high-pitched hyena snicker that the nurses went running to call the psych ward.

5. Think your intestinal tract was screwed up when you were pregnant? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. With my son, I didn’t take a dump for seven days. SEVEN. POOPLESS. DAYS. Mass quantities of fiber didn’t get things moving along. Five days after delivery I finally got the urge and 50 sweaty minutes later, I came up empty. It was as if the kids climbed up the ladder of the high dive, tip-toed out to the edge of the board, took one look down and said “No way in hell, lady” then made the slow, shameful climb back down. Arm yourself with some goodies like apricot nectar and prune juice.  Think “retirement home beverages”.

6. The area around your scar will never, ever, ever get feelings back. The skin around my incisions still has very few nerve endings, four years after my last c-section. That area will still get itches that I can’t scratch, but I power on, digging at it like a meth addict. I have high hopes I might regain sensation, but at this point, I have as much chance as Lindsay Lohan staying out of jail.

Yet, despite knowing all this, after my first born, I still had another baby via cesarean. Being prepared for what was to come definitely helped ease my jitters. That, and sneaking a case of prune juice in my overnight bag.

What Moms Without Kids With Allergies Should Know About Kids With Allergies

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I could start this with: Dear Sister, Dear friend, Dear Me-4-years-ago,

I know what’s it like to be on both sides of the food allergy coin. I lived as a mom oblivious to other children with allergies. I had 3 glorious years of motherhood without a fear of food. My son could and would eat just about anything! Then I was thrust into the world of food allergies almost overnight. I’ve heard it compared to letting your child play near the edge of a canyon – constantly anxious that she might fall off the edge. You never know when danger will catch you off guard. It’s scary. Manageable, but scary.

I wish I had known better about how to deal with food when I was around friends and family with food allergies. I didn’t know I was being careless. But, honestly, I had no idea how to be better about it. So, I thought I’d offer some advice. Here are a few practical ways you can serve and love moms and their food allergy kids:

1. If you aren’t sure about a child’s allergies and you’re planning a party or playdate, just ask. (They’ll probably beat you to it anyway, but it’s nice to know you care.)

2. Don’t be offended if I’m at your house and I ask to check labels. Even if you think it’s safe, it helps me be completely sure! It’s not that I don’t trust you. Well, yeah, it is. But I barely even trust myself when it comes to my child’s safety.

3. If I ask your child to wash his hands or face, it’s not because I think your kid is dirty. I’m worried about what they just ate and if it will end up on my child. I probably have a pack of wipes available if you need one!

4. Don’t think I’m a creeper if I follow your child around picking up their crumbs.

5. Don’t assume I think you’re a bad parent if I ask you to have your child eat at the table and not in my playroom. I don’t care what your kid does at home, but I need to protect my daughter’s space.

6. If you’re serving snacks, keep the bags and put each item in its own bowl. Cross-contamination can make even the most basic snack unsafe. This is HUGE and it’s so EASY.

7. Don’t be offended if I show up with snacks for my own kid. And don’t feel like you have to always provide safe things, although the gesture is appreciated.

8. Sometimes I pick up kids’ cups and put them up high to protect my child. Teaching my child to be careful takes time and spills happen.

9. Don’t feel bad if my child has a reaction at your house. It happens more often than you think and I come prepared. It’s not your fault. But the follow up calls later are a sweet gesture to remind me that you care.

10. I’m more comfortable having play dates at my house or outside, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like your home. Bonus: this gets you out of clean up duty, too.

11. If you see my kid with food or drink that you aren’t sure it’s hers, feel free to take it and ask me. I’m happy when I see others protecting her, even if it was a safe food.

12. If I hurl myself across a room yelling “No!” please don’t assume I’m a crazy mom. Remember, my child’s safety is my first priority.

13. When planning events that involve food, please call me ahead of time so I can help keep it safe and still be able to attend. I feel bad for my daughter when everyone else gets cupcakes and cookies and I only brought her fruit.

14. Impromptu lunch and dinners out are almost impossible. If you want to invite us, lets make it a plan before we head out.

15. You can (almost) always be safe with fresh fruit.

16. If you send in treats to school for holidays, ask the teacher if there are any allergies. I throw out more than half of the things she brings home from friends. It means a lot when there are a few things she can enjoy.

17. If your child makes friends with a child with food allergies at school, try to send in snacks and lunch items that are safe so they can always sit together.

18. If you spend a lot of time with a kid with food allergies, ask about their allergy action plan and how to use an epinephrine injector. You never know if you might have to use one someday.

Thanks for helping protect other kids. It means the world to allergy moms and their children.

*My child has milk, egg, and peanut allergies. This is my perspective only! Other moms might have stronger opinions on what they will allow near their child so always check with each mom individually.

Related: The time I almost killed my child

25 Reasons I’m Glad My Kids Are Grown Up

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As I watched my youngest packing boxes to head back to college for his senior year, I felt a mixture of Momma pride – he’s all grown up (almost!) and also a tinge of the empty nest blues. I guess that never really ends, but it does get easier. I’ve grown to love the empty nest, and so will you. Much as I miss many parts of being a parent of school-aged children, there are many reasons I’m glad my kids are grown up…

1. Filling out the same forms with the same information every.single.year. Maybe it’s different now, but back in the day (um, that would be 2010), in my school district, we still had to fill them out by hand. Most in duplicate, a few in triplicate.

2. Writing checks for: Lunch tickets, books, fees, donations, classroom supplies, bus passes, ID cards, PTA memberships.

3. Writing more checks for: Booster clubs, activity fees, uniforms, costumes, yearbooks, overdue fines, cookie dough, gift wrap.

4. Making lunches and then having the lunches come home in the backpacks, uneaten (I just wanted chips, mom).

5. Carpools. Carpools. Carpools. Did I mention carpools?

6. Waking my son up for school every morning for 13 years. Every morning. He gets himself up now that he’s in college. We’re so proud.

7. Shopping for school supplies that no one ever used, like those pink erasers and endless packages of 3-whole punch lined paper. Plus the supplies for the classroom, like Kleenex and sanitizing gel. Where did all that lottery money go, anyway?

8. Small talk in the parking lot waiting to pick up your kid with the mom whose kid is better than yours at everything.

9. Buying two dozen mechanical pencils for my son who promptly lost them all or gave them away within 48 hours of starting school. Every year. You’d think I would have learned.

10. Buying clothes for my daughter that she wore once and never again. A few weeks into the school year, she would default to a school sweatshirt and jeans, hair in a messy bun, more often than not.

11. PTA meetings. Painful. But the guilt of not going was even more painful. And now I look back and think “why?”

12. Back-to-school night. Did anyone really want to be there? Well, maybe the new teachers. And the parents of the kids who do everything better than yours do.

13. Parent-teacher conferences. The icky feeling that you’re being judged because your kid isn’t perfect. Although, that feeling passed after about 2nd grade.

14. Annual check-ups. Shots. More forms to fill out.

15. Driving by the school to see if my kid was one of the kids walking along the fence, alone, while the other kids played with each other. (Happily that never was the case, though I checked periodically.)

16. Head lice.

17. Smelly sports uniforms that had to be washed every day. The football uniform was particularly delightful.

18. Middle-school angst and drama. Oh the heartache.

19. Colds, coughs, flus.

20. HOMEWORK.

21. Auditions, try-outs, contests, elections, prom kings and queens. The never-ending popularity contest and competitions.

22. Waiting to be asked to prom/winter formal. Asking a girl to prom/winter formal. (Not me, of course. My kids.)

23. First day jitters and senioritis. Senioritis should be an actual illness in the DSM-III.

24. College applications, essays, application fees. The common app, submit buttons, extra-curriculars, teacher recommendations, PSATS, SATS, ACTS, SAT IIs, Merit Scholars, valedictorians, legacies,financial aid, deadlines, safety schools, reach schools, match schools.

25. College admission anxiety, a parental illness that should also be in the DSM-III and is a perfectly legitimate reason to get a Xanax prescription.