Monday, November 18, 2013

I'm Raising Terrible Eaters

I told myself I would never be that mom. The one who lets her kids survive on chicken nuggets and French fries. As a person who loves just about every fresh fruit and vegetable imaginable, it would only be natural for my offspring to share my love of all that is healthy.

We got off to a good start with our oldest daughter. Her eyes would light up at the sight of a frozen fruit smoothie. She eagerly lapped up her father’s homemade yogurt and my freshly pureed vegetable concoctions. I was energized by the idea of bringing her up in a world devoid of McDonald’s and Domino’s. She would be blessed with gorgeous, glowing skin and a healthy digestive system.

But something happened shortly after her 2nd birthday. She began violently protesting anything remotely healthy, somehow knowing that ice cream tastes way better than broccoli no matter how much cheese sauce you slather on top. Her preschool teacher would tell me that she was a pleasure to have in class, but that she was the only student who would refuse to eat the nutritious snack each day. Apparently, she doesn't consider Fig Newtons and orange slices a treat.

Reluctantly, I gave in, making chicken nuggets, peanut butter sandwiches or anything I thought she wouldn’t totally deny just to get some food in her. She loved getting her way, but the stress of preparing two dinners was making me irritable.

Fed up with feeling like a short-order cook, I decided to take a tougher approach. I adopted the old school “Eat What I Serve or Nothing at All” approach. It worked on me back in the day. My aunt, who often sat for me while my mother worked, was able to convince me that the “Clean Plate Club” was an exclusive group that I definitely wanted to be down with. Though I had a lot less work to do at dinnertime, Hana often went to bed with nothing but water. A mere 25-pounds soaking wet, I feared that she’d waste away to nothing if she didn’t eat anything.

I tried making healthier versions of her favorite things – broccoli pizza, squash muffins, whole-wheat pancakes, but she could not be fooled. She refused to ingest anything that even gave off the faintest scent of a vegetable, even if it was disguised as a yummy treat. Our daily food fights made me more determined than ever to make sure that her newborn brother would not end up with the same persnickety palette.

He started out with the same eagerness to try new things – at times, even more than his sister. His love of apple slices and eggplant was the perfect balance to his sister’s nonstop demands for macaroni and cheese.

But with five months until his 2nd birthday, I see the same shift happening. My little guy is now extremely vociferous with his likes and dislikes, and will flat out refuse anything that he doesn’t have a taste for - which sometimes happens to be carrots.

Admittedly, I have been a little lazy, letting the child with the bigger vocabulary decide that they will eat peanut butter for lunch for four straight days. I feel terrible watching their diets deteriorate just to avoid a fight. Not to mention, I feel totally inferior to all of their friends’ parents who brag about their kids’ love for quinoa and lentil soup.

So do I try to coax peas down their throats, or let them eat what they want until someone invents an awesome veggie ice cream?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

If You Think That's Bad...

When you’re feeling bad, it can be comforting to know that someone else is suffering just a little bit more. That’s probably why people think, “It could be worse,” is an acceptable pep talk. The truth is, no one ever wants to be the fat friend, the poor friend or the friend with the split ends and dark circles under her eyes (I digress).

For the past four years, I’ve been trying to convince my husband that being a stay-at-home mom makes me the fat friend in our relationship. Caring for our two children 24/7 has been grueling - leaving me a tired, flabby shell of my former self. And while I know that this is a completely unreasonable argument to have with your life partner, I stand by the fact that there are days when it definitely feels like I got the short end of the stick.

I’ll admit he does have a very demanding sales job. He leaves home, stuffed into a suit and tie, to face a long day of meetings and rejection. And at the end it all, he comes home to our chaotic zoo of a living room and often finds me crying in the middle of it all.

On the plus side, he has the luxury of showering alone, traveling to and from work alone, and engaging with other adults on a regular basis. When he walks through the door, our kids greet him with hugs and cheers. He can forget about any work stress when they challenge him to a tickle wresting match.

My husband would probably argue that I have it easy, strolling down to the kitchen each morning for a cup of coffee and an episode of Sesame Street. Let’s face it, it doesn’t take a genius to finger paint and make peanut butter sandwiches.

But the fact is, I never leave work. My office is our apartment. There are no weekends, holidays or evenings. In fact, my bosses often find their way into my bed in the middle of the night.

Shuttling two small kids around the city often feels like walking through quicksand with a boulder strapped to my back. The three flights of stairs to our front door are a lot more manageable when you’re not carrying a 25-pound toddler and an enormous double stroller. Not to mention the frequent stops to look at a bird or fetch a lost shoe make it almost impossible to get anywhere in a hurry.

There are aspects of both of our jobs that may seem glamorous to the other person (Hello, wine tasting playgroups!), but there is also plenty of grunt work on both sides. So the next time I’m knee deep in dirty diapers, I’ll keep in mind that some angry customer out there is probably giving my husband shit too.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Preschool Week One - Done!

With the exception of a lost shoe and a few tears, we survived Week 1 of preschool! (Please allow me to take a moment to pat myself on the back for a perfect on-time drop-off and pick-up record!)

I knew it would be an adjustment for my little girl, who has been practically glued to my side since birth. All things considered, she seems to be handling things exceptionally well. However, her little brother and I seem to be having a harder time dealing with this new chapter in our lives.

The night before Hana’s first day, I was juggling a host of emotions. I was excited that she would be learning new things and making new friends. But I was also a little anxious about her ability to fit in and deal with different situations without me. And when it finally hit me that this was just the first of many steps she would be taking away from me, I was downright sad. So like every other woman in my family, I busied myself with labeling her backpack and ironing her clothes to keep myself from fretting too much.

But alas, that only worked so long. Throughout the week, I’ve worried about her crying too much or not enough when I leave (Does she even care that she won’t see me for 3 whole hours?). I’ve picked her up each day, excited to hear all the new songs she’s learned. And still a tiny part of me is jealous of her new favorite teacher, who somehow knows the secret to getting her to clean up after herself.

Meanwhile, her 17-month-old brother (who has only recently settled into a consistent 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night) has been irritated about being cheated out of his last half-hour in order to be on time for drop-off. By Day 2, he had forgiven me, choosing instead to bask in his exclusive mommy-and-me time. But, I can also tell that he’s missing his wrestling partner in a big way, and is completely frustrated by his inability to tackle me.

Like strangers on a first date, the two of us have been awkwardly trying to figure out what to do without our fearless leader – Do we watch Angelina Ballerina, even though Hana isn’t around to make us? Are we allowed to go to her favorite playground without her? We race to pick her up at Noon in hopes of restoring order to our day.

Hopefully, the little guy and I will figure out our own rhythm and find special things to share the way I did with his sister when she was his age. I’m just glad she’s back home in time for lunch. Peanut butter sandwiches just aren’t the same without her!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ch Ch Changes

The hardest part about being a SAHM for me has been feeling the need to justify my existence to the rest of the world. I am completely aware that there are people out there who believe that what I do isn’t work. Yes, I do spend most of my days in yoga pants and tank tops. And “Take Kids to Playground” is an actual item on my daily to-do list. But taking care of children full-time (even if they are your own) is work. Damn hard work.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my little ones more than anything in the world. I am incredibly blessed to have been able to have a front row seat for all of their firsts. I love the fact that their little imaginations can transform our tiny Brooklyn apartment into a wooded campsite or a fairy princess castle whenever they want. But I’ve always held a bit of resentment at the idea that motherhood seemed to take away all of my creativity and freedom.

Honestly, I’ve never been able to completely accept myself as “just a mom.” So I’ve spent the last four years of my life trying to create a distraction that would keep me from thinking of myself as someone who wipes asses and noses for no pay.

I have scored many little personal victories along the way – a successful homebirth, potty training my toddler, completing my first children’s book manuscript and mastering the art of baking a damn good loaf of zucchini bread. Yet somehow, I manage to wallow in the disappointment of the handful of setbacks – the loss of my job, post-partum depression, publisher’s rejection letters and a dwindling bank account, just to name a few.

My sadness crippled me. Left me with a million half-finished blog posts and short stories stored on my computer. But it was a heart-to-heart chat with my 3-year-old this week about persistence that caused me to reflect on why I had given up in my own life.

So it is with this post that I officially re-launch the BKLYN Mom blog. This time around, I plan to use everything around me (good, bad and otherwise) as inspiration. I will write fearlessly and often (even if it means getting even less sleep!). I will shamelessly promote my work, and I will make significant progress on getting my book ready for publication this year. So get ready to laugh, cry with me because I’m going to need all the support I can get!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Naptime No More?

I had big plans today.

Inspired by the brilliant sunshine smiling on the corner of the living room that has become my makeshift office, I planned to begin outlining my novel – one of the many things I’ve been putting off since my daughter was born over two years ago.

My six-month-old has been giving me two decent naps a day for the past three days, and I had the nerve to want to take advantage of the free time by making a to-do list: catch up on laundry, workout, write.

But unfortunately, all of the progress we’re making with the baby is being cancelled out by our toddler’s sudden backsliding. My beautiful angel who slept peacefully through the night at three months, who quickly fell in line with daily my eat/sleep/play schedule is now trying to eliminate sleep from the routine altogether.

As I write this post, she has been screaming, kicking and calling me a host of dirty names in her unrecognizable baby blabber for the past two hours. I’ve done my best to tune it out, but like most moms, the sound of your child screaming at the top of their lungs makes you want to either spring into action or rip your hair out. I tried reasoning with her – explaining that after a nap, she’ll have more energy to play (as if she really needs any more energy). I tried bribery (a trip to the park in exchange for a nap). I even got so fed up that I threatened to leave her in her bed all day until she napped for an appropriate amount of time (I know. What the hell am I doing trying to negotiate with a toddler?

Watching my daughter learn and grow has been fascinating, but I can’t help but feel just a little sad with the loss of each nap. Now that we’re down to one, I’m not ready to let it go. Maybe a little part of me wants to keep her a baby forever, but a bigger part of me is going crazy trying to manage the demands of an infant and a toddler 24/7. I’ve given up a lot since becoming a mother: regular haircuts, going to the bathroom alone, wearing a size four, but I absolutely refuse to give up on an hour of complete silence. If I’m going to be any good at this stay-at-home mom thing, I’ve got to have a little time to recharge. At this rate, I’ll probably get my novel outlined by the time the kids leave for college.

Maybe it’s me who needs a nap?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Second Time Around

With my first child I did a lot of things right. However, I also did a lot of things wrong (She’ll forgive me for posting a picture of her in nothing but a diaper on facebook one day, won’t she?). One of the best things about having another child is that I’m getting a do over – a chance to right all of the wrongs from my introduction to motherhood. So when my son was born this past April, I promised myself I would do a lot of things differently. Here are just a few:

Make time for cuddling – When my daughter was an infant, I spent most of my time walking around in a sleepy haze – nursing and changing diapers on autopilot. This time, I’m reminding myself to snap out of my zombie-like state and be present. I want to appreciate those quiet moments (even if they do come at 3am!), and snuggle with my little boy. Soon, he’ll be asking me to drop him off three blocks away from school so his friends don’t catch him hopping out of my Subaru!

Don’t rush the firsts – I used to obsess about when my daughter would hit her milestones. I couldn’t wait for her to crawl. And when crawling wasn’t enough, I wanted her to take off on two feet. That was until I realized that the knickknacks in my living room were just too tempting for her little hands to pass up. This time, I plan to appreciate this time while my son is content sitting in a chair at my feet while I read. Because his sister is anxiously waiting to teach him her favorite game, “Hide from Mommy.”

Use my tiny wingman – Rather than complain about the death of my social life, this time around I’m going to do a better job of using my little guy to help make friends with other mommies. Instead of keeping myself locked up in the apartment, we are going to head out to the playground, the bookstore and anywhere else we can find likeminded people who don’t mind hanging out with the under 3 crowd. After all, the playground is one of the few places you can strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and not look completely weird.

He’ll try anything once – Before she could talk, my daughter would happily gobble up just about anything that came out of my food processor. Now that she can ask for what she wants, it’s usually only bunny-shaped mac ‘n cheese or peanut butter sandwiches. I have to be more creative than ever to sneak in a few fruits and veggies. I plan on taking advantage of my son’s clean palate and give him as much spinach as possible.

Accept a helping hand – With my first, I had something to prove. I wanted to show the world that I was a Super Mom, and foolishly turned down help from everyone – including my husband. This time, I will happily accept any offers to help with housework and errands so I can spend more time bonding with the kiddies (or catching up on some much needed sleep!).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Call Me Crunchy

Attachment parenting is for weirdos. You know, those tree huggers who don’t bother to shave their legs and who think Crocs are an acceptable form of footwear outside of the garden. All of that baby wearing and co-sleeping stuff is just downright peculiar, right? At least that’s what I thought, until I woke up one day and realized that I had become a card-carrying member of this bizarre movement.

Where I’m from, alternative parenting styles were almost unheard of. Mothers gave birth in the hospital. Their babies subsisted on formula from a bottle and food from a jar. I never really thought to question it, and just assumed that things would be the same for my children. My mother was one of the more unconventional people in our Chicago neighborhood. When she dared to go against the grain, dabbling in vegetarianism before it was cool, the tofu sandwiches she packed in my lunchbox became a prime target for the class clown. But when my husband and I lost our jobs in the middle of my first pregnancy, we were desperate for creative solutions to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities in the country – some of which put us in peculiar company.

In the beginning, our choices were driven by economics and convenience. Breastfeeding was a free alternative to the expensive powdered formula kept under lock and key at the local grocery store. Our collection of baby wraps in various shapes and sizes helped us avoid navigating the subway system with a bulky stroller. Both babies slept snuggly next to our bed because in a one-bedroom apartment, there really isn’t anyplace else to go. And in probably one of the most extreme choices, we decided on a home birth for our son as an alternative to the painful and expensive hospital birth we had with our daughter.

As we settled into our new normal, we discovered advantages we hadn’t even considered. Nursing not only had amazing health benefits for our kids, but after a few months, I noticed that my belly began to look less like an old tire. My Moby wrap turned out to be a magical contraption that lulled my babies to sleep, allowing me to cook and clean with both hands free.

I turned to the Internet in search of other women who were making similar lifestyle choices and realized I had more in common with the crunchy natural mommas I once shunned than I cared to admit. I found that I actually enjoyed comparing birth stories and baby food recipes in these close-knit online communities. We had no idea our low-budget lifestyle had a name and a huge following.

Contrary to what I thought, the principles of Attachment Parenting are meant to be more of a guide than a list of commandments. People who subscribe to this theory interpret things in their own way. And while I don’t think I’ll be nursing my son through Kindergarten, a lot of the AP principles including positive discipline and nurturing touch are closely aligned with our family’s values. The lesson I learned in all of this: Never judge a mom by her Crocs!