Monday, February 25, 2008

Spoiled? Or just like everyone else's kids?

When I was a kid, my father was in the military. This meant that we lived in family military housing. If you’ve seen it, or lived in it, you know that it is nothing spectacular. When we lived in New York we lived in a small apartment on the fourth floor of a high-rise on Governor’s Island. My brother and I each had our own rooms. Mine housed the extra freezer that was necessary to hold the food that my family would trek to a bigger base in New Jersey once a month to procure.

We had toys. We had a lot of toys. In fact, we still have many of those toys. Now, our kids are enjoying some of our Matchbox cars and Barbie dolls.

But we had nothing compared to what our kids have.

This is, in part, because when we were a military family we had to move every few years. If you’ve ever moved you realize that the less stuff you have to move, the better.

But really I think it’s just sort of the norm these days. Kids just have a lot of stuff. Well, so do grown-ups come to think of it. I don’t know if my kids are spoiled. Ah, they probably are, but no more so than the kids down the street. Right?

When did this happen? When did it become normal to buy your kids everything they could ever want?

I realize that I haven’t bought my kids everything they want, but gosh it’s getting close.

I wonder what I’m teaching them. Am I teaching them to delay gratification? Am I teaching them to save their money up in order to buy the things that they want?

Um. No.

That’s bad isn’t it?

It could be worse. Oh, I know it could be so much worse.

My kids are grateful for the presents they receive for Christmas and their birthdays. They always say thank you when someone gives them something, whether it be a toy, a drawing from a friend or a free cookie at Target.

They don’t have cell phones. (I bet there are some kindergartners somewhere who do…right?) They don’t have designer clothes. (I prefer to buy on clearance and pay less than $10 per item…especially since they’ll just wear a hole in the knee anyway.)

They don’t have their own iPods, like I saw a fifth-grader at M’s school with a few weeks ago.

But they do have too many toys. I know this because they can break two or three and have three taken away for weeks at a time and they don’t really miss them. They just shrug and go play with something else. K will tell me “well then I’m not your friend” if I take his favorite toys away, but then will forget about them for days at a time.

They wouldn’t miss many of their toys if I sold them. But I’d know I did it. And one day I’d think “oh I wish we still had x toy, that would be fun to play with today.”

Yeah, I have issues.

Once or twice a year I get in a mood and start to pack up toys to sell at our annual garage sale. When this mood strikes, my husband does all he can to keep our kids out of my way so that I will cull the most toys possible from the toy chests. He is not a toy pack rat like I am. (Lest he think that he has no issues, let me assure him that he does…just different ones than I!)

I think it will help once I have this, my last baby. As this child grows out of the baby things and clothes we will gain storage space since there will be no reason to save the clothes (most of them! I still save “coming home” outfits and baptism outfits!) or the toys. There will be no more babies in our house to use these things.

But I have a feeling that the baby and “little kid” things that will slowly leave our house will just be replaced with other stuff. Bigger kid stuff.

And cell phones.

And iPods.

Just not yet.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Time Heals All Wombs

If you're new to me over here, let's start by sharing that I've been struggling with the idea that I am done having babies for over a year now. We have two kids, one just turned two and the other will be 4 this summer, so we are through the intense suckage that was the six months of two kids under 2. (I won't sugar-coat this. Serious suckage.) After Funk was born, I pretty much demanded that I get an IUD at my 6 week check. You see, Funk was a "surprise." A good surprise, no doubt. But a gift I expected to be getting in September as opposed to, say, February. In those bleary-eyed early moments, I could not fathom adding another cry to the chorus.

I didn't even think about having another child until Funk was a year old. At that time, I knew where my husband stood on the issue (no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks) and I wasn't even that passionate about having another. I just didn't want to say for sure that we were definitely done. I wanted to leave it a question mark, rather than a period. (Get it? Period. I funny.) He agreed, I think mainly because in his mind the topic was already closed and there was no harm in letting the issue sit and gain perspective.

Except that this approach kind of backfired on both of us, because I think we both expected that I would get over it. And I so did not get over it. In fact, what we have here, ladies and gents, is a full-fledged baby fever.

I've got a FEVER! And the only prescription is MORE BABIES!!

There are pros and cons to having another child. And truthfully, if love and families were a simple mathematical equation, there's no reason we would have a third (although let's be honest, on paper, when you add it up, this would stop logical people from ever having a first child.) But it's not logical and it's a tricky issue. Issues of the heart usually are.

I know that I want another child. I want Noise and Funk to have another sibling, someone else to add into the mix, and I think Hubs and I are good parents whose parenting technique can sustain and nourish another child. We can support another financially, though things would be tighter, but this does not bother me like it should. After all, what better reason to tighten your belt financially than to add more love to your family? We need more chaos! We need more hugs! We need more Democrats! (Just kidding about that last one. Sort of.)

Hubs comes from a two kid family, and that's his perspective. I come from a three kid family, and that's my perspective. I think he's fairly decided on the issue, and we're not talking about it much. My feeling on the issue is that when one person in your marriage does not want more kids, that is the end of the discussion. I'm not interested in bringing someone into this family that isn't as eagerly anticipated as its siblings, and I don't want to be "the one responsible" for a coerced choice. I refuse to debate this with my husband, because he feels what he feels and I feel what I feel-- it's not a "me VS him" argument, and I refuse to let it devolve to that. I'm not angry with him at all about it, and I won't resent him in 20 years-- he just feels how he feels.

So how do I make peace with my own gnawing yearning and sadness?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Same Thing, Different Day

Maybe it's just the winter doldrums, but lately I feel like I'm in a big old rut. A wise man once said, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun*." Yeah. That pretty much sums up my life right now.

It's just the reality of this motherhood thing we do. The butt you just wiped? Will need to be wiped again in a few minutes. The runny noses keep on running. The laundry is never, ever, fully finished (unless you do your laundry in the nude so that literally every piece of clothing you own can be clean all at once). You shop for groceries and put them all away; then you get everything back out to cook a meal. And then you get to clean up after the meal, just so everyone can get hungry again and ask for another meal. As soon as the house is dusted, vacuumed, and shined to perfection... someone with sticky fingers or drippy hands or muddy feet will come by and erase that lovely gleam.

So what works to lift you up when the circle of life starts weighing you down? I decided to try to focus on what IS new around here. Like counting sheep, I figured that even if I only came up with one or two items it might pacify me.

With my new health concern in mind, I've shopped at a new grocery store and planned several new-to-us meals. Even though I used to be a great eater who loved healthy choices and didn't overdo it on meats, over the last six years I've slowly started to eat more like my husband. He's an extremely picky eater who fully expects to see red meat at every meal and will only consume three known vegetables (lettuce, corn, and green beans). I've gotten out of the habit of preparing dishes that would be "just for me," but I don't want to eat myself into an early grave. So, we've been eating fish and even vegetarian dinners! It may not be earth-shattering, but it's new.

After months of bellyaching about our finances, I'm seriously looking into two new business opportunities. I tend to be overly cautious. I want every scrap of available information before I make a decision. However, I'm learning that when it comes to business, you may not be able to forecast every last possibility - I may have to just jump in and see what happens. For the first time in a long time, I'm about to take a risk. I have to say, from this vantage point it's actually pretty fun. You might even say, exhilarating.

The other new development here is my son's decision to sleep for 11 straight hours last night. I have no idea when or if he'll replicate this amazing achievement, but I'm hoping for soon and often. A girl can hope!

So, is anyone else feeling stuck in the rut, down with the February blah's? I'd love to hear about something you're doing for the first time - because I'm sure that if you stop to think about it, there's something on the horizon that can make you smile. Counting sheep what's new has certainly worked for me.

*Ecclesiastes 1:9

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Candy Day

My sister-in-law, in an attempt to get Valentine’s Day cards for her son to take to Kindergarten, was looking for the old-fashioned kind of cards. You know, like we used to give . . . that come with envelopes.

She said she looked everywhere, with no luck.

So, last weekend as I was browsing the candy aisle at Wal-Mart (oh how I hate to shop there now that SuperTarget is so close to my house. Yay for the new SuperTarget!) I noticed a package of Valentine cards that included candy and envelopes.

Naturally, I called my sister-in-law to let her in on my discovery.

“Well, that would take care of everything wouldn’t it?” she commented.


Somewhere in my pregnancy haze I’d forgotten that you can no longer simply give the card, as was the common practice when I was a kid. No. You must also give candy.

Hence the need for cards with envelopes. Which they seldom make anymore.

Crap. I had the cards covered. I stocked up on several choices after Valentines Day last year in hopes that my kids could just pick from my stash that were a mere 10 cents a box. (My husband loves that I stock up and turn our basement into a warehouse…or not.)

I had not thought of the candy aspect.

By the time we’d gotten to that point in the conversation I’d moved on to the clearance aisle, you know, to check for things I might need to stock up on. So, I wheeled the cart around and went back to the candy aisle for some suckers to tape to the stupid Valentines that don’t come with envelopes.

Of course when my daughter was filling out her Valentines for school I realized that I didn’t buy enough candy to put on the Valentines for my son to take to preschool.

It’s a good thing that I end up going to Target at least 3 times a week. (My husband loves that too.)

But really, why isn’t it enough anymore to just give the card? I remember being thrilled to get all those little cards. Well, until I got them home. Then what do you do with them?

Wow. This holiday really bites.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the cranky pregnant lady.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Snuggle Bugged

We were accidental co-sleepers for about six months. Noise was perfectly happy in his crib from about 3 mos to 6 mos old, and then he went on strike. We are a peaceable people. And I cannot be peaceable when I am not getting any sleep. Knowing that the worst dangers of co-sleeping were past us at 6 months, we began a pattern that can only be construed among the crib-only folks as bad.

See, Noise wouldn't put himself to sleep. He nursed to sleep. But the second you put him down in that crib, it was like the entire piece of furniture was wrapped in electric fencing. He would scream! So, we got in the habit of letting him drift off between us. For awhile, we would move him back into his crib once he was asleep. But when he woke in the night, he would invariably scream out, again unable to put himself back to sleep. Noise was a joy to sleep with. The child just flat out did not move for twelve hours. And he slept with his little arms up by his ears (I sleep the same way, we call it "wings") flat on his back. On weekends, you could always cajole another hour or so of sleep out of him by nursing him and then snuggling in. It was like having my very own Snuggle bear.

When Noise turned one, we decided it was time to boot him. I was newly pregnant, and not so comfy, and my milk was drying up which was a constant source of frustration for him-- to be so close and yet so far from milky goodness. It took only four nights of slowly sitting closer and closer to the door, and since that time he has been a child who would just lay there for hours, willing himself to sleep, never even contemplating getting out of bed.


Until the last month or so.

At some point in the middle of the night, sometime between 2 and 5, we have been getting a visitor. Often, we don't even notice he's there until Funk wakes up coughing. Or until Noise starts caressing my face in my sleep, cooing how much he loves me. Or until he gets the wiggles. Part of it is that he's just not sleeping as soundly as he used to. Part of it is that he's scared, I think. Part of it is that we're snuggly.

But I am at a loss. On one hand, we are not sleeping well with him in the bed. On the other hand, we're really not sleeping anyway because of Funk's coughing. He's so sweet and snuggly, but I don't want to fight kicking a 10 year old out of our bed, you know? I just don't know how hard to fight this fight. Is this really a problem if everyone is getting sleep? It can't last forever, and I will miss these nights when they are gone. And I remember being a kid, laying awake and terrified, and knowing that if I tried to crawl into bed with my parents that my dad would be angry.

I'm just torn. There's the idea of what I "should" do(boot him back to his own bed,) and the reality of what I feel should be done (nothing,) and they are definitely at odds.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Heart Lessons

I had my annual physical a couple of weeks ago with my new doctor. So far, I'd only seen her in the context of my son's well-child checkups, but I really liked her. Her office typically does blood work with cholesterol & diabetes screenings at annual appointments, and in addition to that I requested a thyroid panel as well. A few days ago, I got the results of the blood work back, and it appears I have a cholesterol problem.

On one hand, I'm shocked - I eat pretty healthily (healthfully?) and I think I'm reasonably active -- as most moms of two year olds are, can I get an amen? On the other hand, though, I'm not that suprised. I have a really strong family history of heart problems. My mom's cholesterol has been horribly high since she was in her early 30's (and I'm getting close to that at 27) and she's been on medication to keep her levels lower for years now.

Over the last ten or twelve years - basically, ever since I left my parents' house to go to college - my mom has been on a big health kick. In addition to her cholesterol medication, she's started walking five miles every day. She eats three or four servings of fruits and veggies with every meal! She stopped drinking coffee and sodas, and sticks to water and juices now. I'm really proud of her, and I think it's great that she's taking better care of herself. But I wonder: what would have happened if she'd made those changes sooner?

While I was at home, I saw a mom who could put away a half-gallon container of ice cream all by herself every two days. I saw a mom who frequently bought a bag of candy, chips, or other snack food on her way out of the grocery store, and ate most of it (she usually shared a little with us kids!) by the time our car was back in our driveway. I saw a mom who didn't exercise - even walks around the block - and who really didn't ever have time by herself away from our family.

I think I internalized a lot of those lessons - even though I doubt she planned to "teach" me those things. Now, I have never had quite the sweet tooth that she has; and my metabolism and body shape are very different from hers, so if I ate that much ice cream I'd be 100 pounds overweight instead of my current 10! But still: I saw her "treat" herself for a long, hard day... with food. And I saw her put her kids and family first, all the time, even if it meant she didn't get to do basic things to take care of herself.

I'm younger than she was when she first was diagnosed with high cholesterol. I want to make some healthy choices and changes that not only put me in better shape and better heart health -- but also show my son, and any future kids who come along, that taking care of yourself is a valid choice. An important choice. That our bodies are only as strong as we allow them to be, and that we need to invest in our own futures by making our bodies as strong as they can possibly be.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I watched my son catapulting his body from the ground into a pit of foam cubes and laughed. He’s nothing if not exuberant about his play. When he’s not driving me insane, he really is fun to watch. His zest for life is apparent, and contagious.

I could vaguely recognize that the other parent spectators of the gymnastic birthday party were discussing Kindergarten options. Our kids are 3 or 4 years old, so it seems like a strange topic at this party so I tune in a little more.

We’re supposed to send B to that ghetto school, I can’t think of what it’s called.

Oh, Longfellow.

Ghetto school?

This is the school my daughter attends. It is a public school, but it was our choice to send her there because it has a non-traditional calendar. School there begins the last week of July and runs through the first week of June. The kids attend class for 5 weeks, then have a three week break. Kindergarteners attend all day, from 8:50 to 3:20.

I thought this school would be great for my daughter for the schedule (studies have shown that these kids retain their knowledge better and thus require less review when school resumes after summer break, which in this case is a shorter 6 weeks) and for the fact that the kids spend 2 hours per day reading.

It is a fact that geographically the school is situated nearby two trailer courts and at least one low-income housing complex.

My daughter, with her ivory skin, blue eyes and blonde hair is a minority in her classroom.

Does that make this a “ghetto school”?

The term disturbed me just as much for the derisive tone in which the words were delivered as it did for what they meant.

Although I’m not sure what they meant.

Minnesota, in general, is a pretty white state. (Besides the snow.) I don’t remember really noticing the lack of color in my classroom when my family moved (for my parents, back) to the state, but moving from Governor’s Island, NY to Rochester, MN was quite a cultural change.

I’m happy that my daughter is attending a school that has many types of students. It makes my heart happy that she sees no difference in her looks than her friend Ramla’s. She’s learning at a young age what some never learn. People are just people.

But I worry now that she will hear others speak with that derisive tone about her school, a school that she’s proud to go to. I worry that she will begin to second-guess whether she should be colorblind, or economic-blind.

I’ve never even spoken to my daughter about any of her friends being a different “color” than her. When I ask her to point out whom one of her friends is, she’ll describe her clothing, never having occurred to her to mention child’s skin tone. If I had said that one of her friends was black, I’m fairly certain she’d have no idea what I was talking about.

I wonder if that’s okay? Should I be initiating a conversation about race with my 5-year-old?

I tried to explain a bit about who Dr. Martin Luther King was when she was off from school that day. I attempted to explain that some people (didn’t mention skin color) used to belong to other people, that they were property like her toys are her property, and that they were called slaves. I tried to explain that some people used to not be able to use the same potties, eat at the same restaurants, even go to the same schools because of what they looked like.

I think she thought I was making it up.

Maybe she’s too young to learn this stuff. Maybe I’m over-thinking things.

What do you think?