Monday, April 30, 2007

The Early Bird

Know what I love about getting up early in the morning? I woke up at 4:45 today and so far I’ve nursed Sam, cleaned two piles of cat poop, folded the laundry, dusted the downstairs, made my bed, got Cassie up and dressed, fed myself and the kids, cleaned up the kitchen, bathed Sam, and taken a shower. And it’s only 8:30 AM! Go me!

Know what I hate about getting up early in the morning? It’s 8:30 AM and so far today I’ve nursed Sam, cleaned two piles of cat poop, folded the laundry, dusted the downstairs, made my bed, got Cassie up and dressed, fed myself and the kids, cleaned up the kitchen, bathed Sam, and taken a shower. God I’m beat.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Difference Between One Child And Two

I definitely do things differently now that I've got two kids to worry about. Here are a few examples.

Breakfast - Cassie got fed oh so carefully. She ate only baby food, jars and jars of fruit, rice cereal, oatmeal. It was all carefully prepared for her tender little digestive tract. These days with Sam, I just cut up some fresh fruit and toss it on her tray. I used to feed Cassie with a spoon from her own bowl. I don’t do that with Sam. She and I share the same spoon, which is probably why she and I are sharing the same cold. Sam, or Spoonie Baloonie as I like to call her, has a nasty tendency to grab the spoon from me and fling it across the room. This is also the reason why I don't bother feeding her baby food anymore.

Clothing - Cassie had 50 million little frilly pink outfits, all purchased by Grandmama. Sam has a handful of little shorts outfit (again, all from grandma because I’m too busy to shop for kids clothing). She wears them occasionally. Most of time, Sam runs around naked except for her diaper. I think she likes it better that way. I know it's a lot less work for me.

Nursing - I recorded every breast-feeding I did with Cassandra up until she was about a year old. With Sam, I lasted until she was about six months old. I just didn't have time to write down which side, how long she nursed, and what time of day she did it. I know when she's nursing, trust me. She bites every time she latches on.

Illnesses - I used to worry every time Cassandra had a sniffle. She spent so much time with the thermometer up her butt, I think she thought it was an extra appendage that I let her wear on special occasions. I called the doctor every time her temperature rose above a hundred. I don’t do any of that with Sam. I don't even take the temperature is she’s got a sniffly snotty running nose. I just keep her away from other kids as much as I can so we don’t spread the creeping crud. I definitely do not take her temperature that often, and I certainly don’t call the doctor every time she has a cold. If I did, I would have to pay my pediatrician rent, because we'd be living in her waiting room.

Cleaning - I sanitized everything around Cassandra. We had a special bottle steamer to clean her bottles and sippy cups. I would wash them by hand and then run them through the microwave with this stupid little steamer. Not with Sam. The bottles get run through the dishwasher. I ain't doing anything by hand. I don't have time. I also don't bother sanitizing a lot of her stuff, because guess what? Her sister is going to bring home every germ known to mankind from her preschool. What can I say? It'll toughen Sam up, if it doesn't kill her.

Bathing - Cassie took baths in this little baby bathtub, up until she was about 13 months and she was finally too big to fit into it. Sam’s been bathing in the regular bathtub for about the past three or four months. She just got too squirmy to sit safely in the baby tub. She kept trying to crawl out of it, which wasn’t too safe since I kept the tub on the bathroom counter. She seems to like the bigger tub though and I don't mind it either. I can sit in the bathroom and read or doodle while she splashes around water for a few minutes. Hey, it's one way of getting a little bit of time.

Schedules - I used to worry about keeping Cass on a schedule. I had everything planned, from her naps to spending half an hour outside every day. I don’t worry so much about Sam. Frankly, it's exhausting trying to run a schedule around a child's needs. I'm not nearly as strict about Sam's schedule as I was with Cassie’s, which is kind of funny because naptime is about the only time I get to work. But I’ve made myself more flexible in terms of how I do work. For instance, using the digital voice recorder to record blog entries and story ideas. Also being able to sit at the laptop and type while nursing has been a big help. I’ve found lots of little ways to squeeze in work.

There are other differences I've noticed, too. I guess I just don't worry as much with Sam as I did with Cassandra. Not because I've gotten lazy but because I simply learned it's much more fun to relax and enjoy what's going on. So Sam sits in the grass in the grass while I practice karate and she ends up eating two handfuls of the lawn. It's not going to kill her, and if I find half a bug in her mouth instead of no bug I'm not going to worry about that either. Hey, it’s protein. Just as long as she doesn't get into any cat diarrhea, I'll be happy.

Okay, maybe I do have something to worry about after all.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Its Blow Off Day Again, I Think.

I can't quite decide if today is Blow Off Day or not. Both Sam and I have been sick for the past few days, nothing serious like the flu, but I’ve got this nagging cold with hideous sinus pressure that’s been beating away at my skull, and it just refuses to let up. It’s not a nasty beating some like having your butt kicked by Bruce Lee. It's more like having a three-year-old pound at your head with a whiffle bat for about five or six hours on end. It's annoying and it's frustrating and you really can't get it to stop no matter how many times you try to take away the bat. Plus I’ve got a back ache, sharp needle-like pain digging into my spine every time I bend over or straighten up, and sometimes they shoot all the way up into my neck. I know it's my lymph nodes all swollen from fighting this minor measly infection. It’s just enough to make me feel miserable and sap all my motivation to do anything. I haven’t sat at the computer the last two days because I just don't feel like it. I’ve been nursing Sam lying down in bed. If I'm lucky, she'll settle down, latch on and just suck the rest of my life out of me. If I'm not, she’ll curl up next to me, latch on and then beat me to death with her tiny little fists and feet, all while chewing on my nipple. Every now and then she'll break off and give me this big gummy grin as if to say, “Gee Mommy. Isn't this fun?” Of course she's got a trail of slime coming out of both nostrils. I’ve never seen anything look so disgusting and so cute at the same time. Maybe this is where the term disgustingly cute comes from.

It's Thursday, which means at 11:30 I should be heading out the door to karate class, but honestly, I really don't feel like it. I can't decide if this is because I feel bad or if it's because I just plain feel lazy. I felt that way when I woke up this morning I got up at 5:15. I woke up not to the sound of my alarm clock but by the sound of a cat taking a dump in my hallway. Fritti is still dying, four weeks after I predicted he would be gone. I swear I have never seen a cat take so long to kick the bucket. And if he passes away with in the next week, it may not be because of any illness, but because I finally got fed up with him taking a dump all over the house and I'd throttled his scrawny little neck. Don’t get me wrong. I love my cat. He's been my constant companion for 15 years and I used to refer to him as my boyfriend any time Michael was out of town. For a cat, he has that boyfriend kind of look - the orange tiger striped randy tom - but man is he killing me. So far today, I’ve cleaned up four piles of diarrhea, not poop but diarrhea, and it smells so bad you’d think the apocalypse is coming.

After thinking about all this suddenly I'm not surprised that I'm tired. So far this morning I’ve nursed Sam twice, gotten Cassie up and dressed, fed both children breakfast (which is a feat in and of itself), cleaned up after Fritti, made my bed, folded a load of laundry, started another load, and now I'm in my dining room with a bucket of water and wood soap getting ready to scrub down my dining room table, which has recently been painted in apples and blueberries thanks to Sam. She thinks it’s fun to smear her food all over herself and then leave her impression all over the dining room. I'm not kidding when I say I can see her lip prints on the finish. Again, disgustingly cute.

Sam's asleep right now. If she wakes up before 11:30, I guess I’ll throw on my gi and go to karate. If she doesn’t, I will take it as a sign that I was meant to stay home today. Honestly, the only reason I even care about getting the karate is because I know in about two months I’m going to have to test for second degree black belt. If it weren't for that, it would be Blow Off Day for sure. Anyway, I’ve got to clean apples and blueberries off my dining room table now. Have fun today. I know I won’t.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I Got A Life!

Last Monday, while my folks were still visiting, I dragged Michael out to see Great Big Sea. Talk about amazing! It’s been years since I’ve been to a concert, and I can’t recall the last time Michael and I went out on a date, so you can only imagine how happy I was to get out of the house. Great Big Sea is wonderful, a Newfoundland band that plays traditional folk music with a hard rock beat. They also have plenty of original music that they play as well. Funniest part of the show? When the lead singer admitted they once opened for Barney the Dinosaur and bombed. “When Barney’s fans come to see him, they don’t want to see no one else! They cry if someone else comes on stage. They soil themselves and throw tantrums!” Ain’t that the truth?

So the concert was great, as was the convention I went to this past weekend. Yes, that’s right. I went to a science fiction convention. RavenCon must be the first sci-fi convention I’ve gone to outside of Marscon in over five years. I spent most of my time either at the artist panels or at the pod-casting panels. The artist panels were a huge boost for me, as I don’t normally get a chance to discuss making art, digital or otherwise, with other folks. I got several handy tips on improving my life drawing, plus lots of encouragement to keep working. As for the pod-casting panels, they were probably some of the best panels I’ve ever attended. There was a lot of technical detail there, but the fellow running it was Tee Morris, one of the authors of “Podcasting For Dummies.” I’m interested in starting a podcast right now as a means to promote the e-book I’ve got coming out. We’ll see what I can come up with.

Anyway, I’ve been out of the house twice in two weeks to attend two very different social events. Michael paid for both outings, and handled the kids at RavenCon, so I owe him big time. Remember, you can’t buy child care that good, you gotta sleep with it! Not that I’m complaining. Michael is a stud.

I’m off to work!

Makes Getting Clean Almost As Much Fun As...

Sam pooped in the tub today. She seemed quite proud of herself. And here I thought the whole point of a bath was to clean her up. Ick.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Happiness Is...

...Coming home with two cranky children, only to discover that one cat had diarrhea in your bedroom and another cat vomited in your glider.

I’m overjoyed. Really.

Techmen, Oh Techmen

There is probably nothing useful I can add to what’s already been said about the shootings at Virginia Tech. Michael and I are both Virginia Tech graduates. We met at Tech, fell in love there, and must have invited half the campus to our wedding. I was a member of the Corps of Cadet all four years and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army Reserves when I graduated. Michael graduated a semester ahead of me with a BS in aerospace engineering, and was so good his department paid for him to come back for his master’s degree. A lot of our lives, a lot of our relationship and marriage is tied up in Virginia Tech.

I can only shake my head in sad wonder at what happened on Monday. Thirty-three students dead, including the shooter. Why? I’m sure we’ll never really know. But I know this day will haunt us all for a long time, and I’m sure many will remember it as they send their children off to college in the years to come. I know I will.

To the grieving, I offer my condolences.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Buddha Babies And Baptisms

Well, last night was the big night. Samantha Ann was baptized in the Catholic Church. Michael is Catholic, I’m Buddhist, so I’m fairly ambivalent about this. It was something he wanted done, so I said okay. Of course, you know who ended up making all the arrangements to make sure this happened, don’t you?

Both sets of grandparents came down for the occasion, as did my sister Carolyn. She’s the godmother, my dad is the godfather. The eight of us (nine including Sam) took up most of a pew at the church. There was another family sitting in the row before us also having their baby baptized. Father Hannah was very nice about going over everything with all of us, although he almost baptized Sam as Matthew and Matthew as Sam. That would have been funny, but probably only to me. The other baby, Matthew, was just nine weeks old and two months premature. He was the tiniest thing. Father Hannah just sprinkled him with water from the font. Sam, however, is going on eleven months and is a huge healthy chunk of baby (she looks like a miniature King Kong, really). So she got the full dunking treatment. That meant I had to take off her diaper when we got up to the font, before handing her to Father Hannah. Then he held her up, backside toward the congregation, before putting her in the water. There was a lot of giggling over Sam’s dimply little butt cheeks, and I can safely say she is now the only member of the family to ever moon an entire church congregation. She seems quite proud of that.

In any event, she’s been baptized. We went to dinner at Johnny Carrino’s afterwards, where Sam spent over an hour stuffing pasta and bread into her gullet. I swear, I’ve never seen a baby eat as voraciously as Sam does. She’s skinnied up lately, and I think she’s deliberately trying to put the weight back on. Makes me think she’ll turn out to be Buddhist like me in spite of the baptism. She wants her round little Buddha belly back, to go with her round little Buddha nature. Ohm.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

When It Rains...

Michael is out of town, so you know life around here is a living hell at the moment. The morning he left, I had to hop into my car six different times to run six different errands - doctor’s appointment, bring Cassie a blanket at preschool, banking, grocery shopping, etc. Only the doctor’s appointment was planned. Sam got a little pissed the fourth time I strapped her into the car seat to head out the door again. “Fer cryin’ out loud, lady! Can’t a baby get a break?”

Naturally, Cassie came down with the stomach flu last night. She came running into my room at 1 AM complaining that her tummy hurt. Dumb me, I thought she was just hungry because she blew off dinner. I took her downstairs to get a bite to eat. The first time she threw up, it went all over the kitchen floor. The second time, I was carrying her over to the mop bucket. She got it half in, half out. The third time she puked, she finally made it into the bucket. Of course, there was a lot more puke the first and second time around.

So Cassie stayed home today, we all slept late, and we’ve all been way off schedule today, which I hate because that makes it impossible for me to get any work done. Somehow though, a miracle occurred around 2 PM. I managed to nurse a screaming Sam to sleep, then came downstairs and found Cassie zonked out in her bean bag chair. She was so out of it I was able to mop the entire downstairs before she woke up. So at least that got done.

My folks show up tomorrow. My sister shows up the day after that, the same day Michael gets home. His parents show up on Friday. Sam gets baptized on Saturday. I won’t have the house to myself again until Tuesday. I wonder if I’ll be able to get anything useful done between now and then?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Don’t Fence Me In

I live in a gated community. Now that Sam is mobile, we’ve set up gates across every major opening to the areas we don't want her wandering into, like say the stairs or the cats’ eating area. Not because I’m afraid she’ll bother the cats, but because she’s developed a taste for Little Friskies. So these days I’m walking around the house, stretching my legs over each gate. I look like a hurdler trying out for an Olympic event. No wonder I'm losing weight, what with all the hurdling and baby obstacle course training I’m doing. But hey, my sidekicks look smashing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday Morning Musings

Just some random thoughts about what’s going on in our house, in no particular order...

Thought #1 - Living In The Mobile Age

Sam is getting more and more mobile, and as a result so am I. She’s crawling, (often on her hands and toes like a baby gorilla), standing, cruising along holding furniture, and in general getting into stuff. I am racing around her in an ever increasing circle, trying to put stuff out of her reach. Cassie got into a lot of stuff at about this age, and Sam is doing the same, but there are some differences. Sam will climb stairs. Cassie never tried them unless I was there to help her along. Sam grabs different things, namely Cassie’s toys. So at least I’m not the only one scrambling to remove stuff from Sam’s reach. Cassie was fairly easy to distract. If I took something away from her, I could give her something else to play with and she was happy. Sam is a bit more stubborn.
Ah well, it’s that age, and as exhausting as it is keeping up with Sam, it’s fun to watch.

Thought #2 - The Speakers Of The House

Sam is starting to develop a vocabulary. She now says Mama, Dada, and “Doh!” which I think means “No!” At least she says “Doh!” every time I tell her “No!” She also waves her hands and says “Duh!” when we ask her if she’s done eating.
Cassie has come up with a few new words as well, making me think she has inherited my talent for swearing. Oh well. By the way, did you know most preschool teachers think “Fart” is a dirty word? I thought it was pretty harmless myself.

Thought #3 - The Tooth Hurts

Sam is keeping me up nights again. Apparently she’s got another tooth on the way. Unlike Cassie, who only went through a day or two of fussing before a new tooth appeared in her mouth, Sam spends weeks in miserable preparation for her new pearly whites. I find myself waking up a couple times a night to nurse and comfort the poor thing. That is, right up until she uses the teeth she already has to chomp down on me. Sam will probably learn to swear just like her sister and I, I’m sure.

Thought #4 - Words Of Wisdom From The Mommies Group

On seeing something mysterious go into a toddler’s mouth at the playground... “Finding no bug in your child’s mouth is better than finding half a bug.”

On seeing a child embark on yet another new and exciting adventure involving the stairs and a pair of roller skates... “This can only end poorly.”

Said to a teething baby... “Don’t bite the boob that feeds you.”

That’s all I got today folks. Have a nice Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Whining and Dining

I’m starting to hate mealtimes around our house. I used to love food. I used to love to sit down at dinner, relax in my chair at a meal that Michael cooked (he’s an excellent cook, he learned from his father) and enjoy spending some quality time with the man I love. Those days are gone. In fact, they stopped right after we had kids.

The problem began with Cassie, our oldest. She would never let us sit through mealtimes. You see, she had colic so she screamed from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. every night for the first three months of her life. We tried our best to keep her calm during those horrible witching hours. At first, one of us would sit with Cassie and rock her, pat her on the back, coo to her, sing to her and do whatever we could to make that child happy while the other parent ate. Then we would switch off. Of course neither parent could eat fast enough for the other parent’s satisfaction, which meant one of us was usually starving by the time the other one was ready to take baby. In fact, not only starving but probably crazy because she had just spent twenty minutes with a tiny hysterical person screaming in her ear. Note that I said SHE, not HE. I usually let Michael eat first. That's because I love him, but I started to resent him after a few meals so we stopped doing the baby swap before I got too angry with him and tried to chew his head off.

Michael came up with a brilliant idea after that. He believed that if Cassie was going to scream no matter what we did, then we should just let her scream. So he would put her out in the living room where we could see her, lay her on her tummy on the floor (yes, this was her “tummy time”) and let her howl until all the dogs in the neighborhood went running for cover. “That’s so cruel,” I’d cry. “We can’t just leave her there on the floor screaming like that!” “Waaaaaaaaah!” Cassie screamed in the background. “What if she can’t breathe?” I demanded. “Her poor little face is buried in the carpet!”

“Helen,” Michael told me, “if she can scream, she can breathe.” Yeah, it was a ‘duh’ moment but remember, three months of colic makes parents stupid.

After Cassie got over her colic, she decided to change her nursing schedule. Suddenly she wanted to nurse at dinner time. This meant I would hold nurse her in one arm while trying to eat with the other. God help me if she was nursing on the right breast, because that meant I had to eat left-handed and I suck at doing anything left handed, unless it's nursing. So I spent another two months trying to get through that and eat a meal. Any meal, because once Cassie realized I could nurse her at dinner, she also had to nurse at breakfast and lunch too. So my meals became catch as catch can.

Then Cassie grew big enough to eat in a high chair. I remember the day we got the high chair. It was like mana from heaven. I could not put that sucker together fast enough. Cassie had been waking up to nurse several times a night for the previous three weeks. She was, quite frankly going through a growth spurt and couldn’t get enough breast milk to keep her satisfied. With a high chair, however, she could now sit at the table and eat solid food... if you consider runny rice cereal solid. I remember that first meal. I spooned some rice cereal into her mouth. She spit it back out. I spooned in some more cereal. She spit it back out again. I kept spooning and she kept spitting out until after twenty minutes of feeding, I had what looked like a small sculpture of a child covered in pigeon poop. It took a few meals before Cassie caught on that she was supposed to EAT the cereal. So we progressed slowly, going from rice cereal to oatmeal, then barley to mixed cereal, and then the veggies (the orange ones first of course, because they stain so badly). And from veggies we went to fruits and from fruits to meats and by that point I was sick of spoon feeding my child. You see, I would have to feed her first and then hope that she would be quiet enough for me to get a meal myself. This very rarely ever happened, and to this day I can't fathom why it took me so long to lose all the pregnancy weight, because I never got to eat. Well, actually I did, but it was more like grab something out of the pantry and gobble it down whenever Cassie gave me a free moment. Half the time I never even saw what I was stuffing in my face, and I’m pretty sure a few times I grabbed cat food instead of people food. Hmmmm. Maybe that’s why I didn’t lose the weight...

In any event, it was high time, for Cassie to feed herself. Thus began the days of finger foods. I thought this would make life easier. I was wrong. Cassie’s typical meal consisted of things like Cheerios, shredded cheese, cut up and served with little bits of bread, maybe some diced up lunch meat. And milk. She always had milk. In fact, she’d usually ignore the rest of the food and just drink milk. The kid lived on a diet of milk and air, I swear to you. I remember when I gave her spaghetti, the meal that went everywhere - in her hair, on her face, all over her body, all over the dining room, down her diaper... Some of it must have made it into her mouth because it also came out of her diaper again later on.

She’d eat Cheerios, but only if they were properly prepared. Cassie liked to put them in her mouth, get them good and gummy, and then hide them under the lining of her high chair. The next day, she would crawl over to the chair, pull up, and dig out those stale, gooey Cheerios and stuff them in her mouth. The first time I caught her doing this, she just waved at me and smiled, soggy cereal spilling out the corners of her mouth.

But those days were easy compared to what came next. As Cassie got older, she also became pickier. Suddenly, I was spending 20 minutes trying to figure out what to feed her, only to have her reject the entire plate night after night. She got top of the line kids meals, while I only had five minutes to heat up leftovers for myself and Michael. It was miserable. I finally decided Cassie would have to eat what we were eating, because I just couldn’t keep catering to her. And if she refused the food? Well, she could go to be hungry. And that's pretty much how meals went for the next couple of years. Then Sam came along and we went through the same routine all over again. At least Sam wasn’t colicky, but she did insist on nursing through every single meal I sat down to.

Now we’re back to finger foods again and once more I find myself trying to feed to picky eaters. We eat a lot of leftovers in our house, and Cassie hates leftovers so she walks away from a full plate a lot of times. Sam, on the other hand, will eat everything in sight. However, I can’t get the food on the table fast enough for her. So while Cassie sits there and whines, “I don’t like this!” Sam sits there and screams to be fed. Meanwhile I'm running around the kitchen like crazy trying to get somebody eat something.

Because Cass rejects so many meals, I’ve had to come up with a strategy to keep her from wasting away. When I put her meal on the table, I tell her how many bits of each item on her plate she has to eat in order to get a treat. For example, she must eat four bites of steak, five bits of yams, and six bites of green beans. This sort of works. At least the meal is no longer a battle. Cassie eats the prescribed number of bites and she can have a treat. If she doesn’t she can leave the table but no treat. Still, this plan has its flaws.

“Mommy how many numbers do I have to eat?” she asks.

“You have to have seven bites of green beans, five bites of yams and four bites of steak,” I tell her.

Cassie pokes around at her plate until everything is good and mixed up. “Mommy, I’m done. Can I have a treat?”

“Uh, no. All you did is mix things up. You have to put the food in your mouth, chew it and swallow.”

“How many bites?”

“Seven bites of green beans, five bites of yams and four bites of steak,” I repeat.

Cassie draws the meal out into a long torturous process. I have to watch every single bite as it goes into her mountain. Otherwise, I have no idea how much she actually ate or whether or not she deserves a treat. While I’m watching her, I’m also trying desperately to cut up food for Sam to eat. Even with my little “bites” strategy, Cassie will still often leave the table with her plate untouched. I have made a mistake a few times of taking the food off Cassie's plate and sliding onto Sam's tray instead of saving it for Cass to eat later. Sam is always happy to eat whatever Cassie rejected. Unfortunately, every time I do this, Cassie invariably comes back right before bedtime and says, “I'm still hungry,” and of course we have nothing to feed her so we have to put together another plate for her to reject yet again.

The strange thing about feeding two kids as opposed to one is that this time around, I’m actually losing weight. Remember, no matter how many meals I missed because of Cassie, I still couldn’t drop those last ten pounds. Now however, I’m turning into the amazing shrinking mommy. In fact, I weight ten pounds less than I did when I got pregnant with Sam. Some of you might think this is a good thing. It isn’t. I don't want to lose this much weight. I am not trying to lose weight, and I am in fact eating as much as I can, and exercising less than normal, and yet I’m still slowly losing weight. The pounds are dropping away and I'm afraid if I stand in the shower one day I’ll slip down the drain. My clothes just hang on me. I know for a fact my pants are going to fall off one day and I'm going to moon everybody in public. And people keep telling me I look too thin, or else I look ill.

I went to a doctor, who drew six vials of blood, thus making me 3 pounds lighter. The test results came back negative for everything. No thyroid, problems, no diseases, no nothing. I go back on Monday to decide what to do next. Maybe I’ve somehow discovered how to live on air, like Cassie does. Who knows? I can tell you one thing though. Both kids are asleep right now. I think while no one is watching I'm going to grab myself a meal.