Mothering is a Marathon…

…Made up of 1,000 sprints a day.

Sprint to get through breakfast.
Sprint to get him dressed while he’s in a good mood.
Sprint to make lunch before he changes his mind about what he has FINALLY decided he will eat.
Sprint to get the paints/Play-Doh/game board/train tracks set-up before he’s screaming that he wants something else moved on to the next activity.
Sprint to make dinner while he’s occupied (or in front of a handily recorded episode of Clifford on the DVR).
Sprint to make it through a laundry list of errands before the snacks and his patience run out.

You get the idea. (Whew, can you pass the Gatorade?)

This last week-plus, however, we’ve been dealing with the mysterious fever that resulted in a Saturday morning visit to the pediatrician (thank you for Saturday hours, Dr. W!), which finally disappeared Saturday night/Sunday morning just in time for mommy to come down with a cold just in time for peanut to come down with the same cold by Monday afternoon.

Two boxes of Kleenex later and I feel like I’ve been running a non-stop temperature checking, soothing, nose-wiping, “cover-your-mouth-when-cough,” pass the saline spray, turn off the swine flu news marathon. We’re still not 100 percent yet (and I’m just holding my breath that the hubby doesn’t get it next), but I’m seeing enough light at the end of the tunnel to know I really need the sunlight and fresh air at the other end of it.

So pardon my absence. I’m noodling lots of things I want to write about, and will, once I get off this sneezing, germ-killing, activity hopping hamster wheel.

Of course, by then we’ll just be onto the next leg of this mothering marathon. As long as it has a better view than the inside of a Kleenex box, I think we’ll be doing okay.

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Sick Day

Poor peanut has been running a fever today. He’s not really exhibiting any other symptoms. Just a fever. So we’re treating with Tylenol, chicken soup, liquids, Nemo and (an unheard of these days) three-hour nap.

Even though he sometimes just gets these weird fevers that typically go away after a day or two with no known cause, I’m still paranoid about what’s coming next when he’s got a fever (ear infection? tummy bug? strep?), not to mention paranoid about catching it myself (OCD? Maybe. Can you please pass the Purell?). But I have to admit, it was a sweet day. There was much more cuddling than my busy toddler will tolerate on a normal day. There was more coloring and quiet play. There were more unsolicited “Mommy, I love you’s” than I’m used to hearing. There was the whole nap thing (wow, have I been missing that quiet time).

The more peanut gains his independence during this terrible two phase, the more precious today was to see he does still need his mommy on an instinctual, emotional level. And I was more than happy to simply hold him while he whimpered waiting for the Tylenol to take effect, wipe the tears, give a few extra tickles, stroke his forehead while we cuddled on the sofa watching “the fishies.”

I do hope that he’s back to himself tomorrow (it’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend), but I will treasure today’s surprise quiet, cuddling.

And maybe grab an extra squirt of Purell on the hands before bed.

Unsolicited Advice

I got an interesting email from a friend today. She has two sons, the youngest of which is four. My peanut loves playing with her munchkin and since she lives down the street, we sit swap for each other for occasional weekday appointments and meetings. Between sits and running into each other at the neighborhood playground, the boys are together a fair amount.

I picked him up from her house after an appointment last week and ended up chatting for quite awhile, which probably consisted of me complaining a lot about this half-age phase we’re in of not listening, not napping and me not getting very far.

So, today, I got an email. An email titled “Unsolicited Advice.” And it was the best email ever. Full of advice and real-life experience of dealing with this contrary phase and how she continues to use a particular technique even now with her oldest. I really appreciated the fact that she not only listened to me, but maybe realized I was searching for answers that just haven’t been coming naturally. I also appreciated the fact that she took a risk by saying, you know what, I was thinking about you and just couldn’t not share this tidbit that worked for me with you.

It got me thinking about unsolicited advice, because I never received as much as when I got pregnant with peanut. Advice on what to eat. What not to eat. What to wear. What tests to get. Where to shop. What to name him. What not to name him. What sleep books to use. What sleep books not to use. How much clothes he should have on or off at any given temperature. And the list goes on and on and on and on.

Quite honestly, I listened to it all. I didn’t like it all. I didn’t follow it all. But there were a lot of gems in that white noise of advice-giving. Gems I was thankful to have. Gems I am just as guilty of passing on unsolicited to girlfriends who are pregnant or dealing with infant problems I struggled with, too.

I remember being taught never to turn down a breath mint or a piece of gum (cause you never know why the offerer is really offering…ahem). I look at advice the same way – never turn it away, never turn it down, because you never know what the offerer sees that you need that you might not be able to see (or sniff) yet.

Again, it’s not all worthwhile. A lot of it can be totally laughable for your particular kid. But then, one day, you open up Gmail and have a gem of a personal story with real workable tactics for your exact situation.

And that’s not unsolicited advice, that’s a gift.

Identity Crisis

We had a lovely Easter weekend with my folks. We did nothing but eat and hang out and play, play, play with a two and a half year old.

Monday wasn’t as good. We were hit with a weird “wake low” that brought in scary crazy winds first thing in the morning. I watched a huge tree snap and fall into our neighbor’s yard then heard two other snaps (not comforting when you have three massive pines towering over your bedroom, toddler’s room and den not to mention the huge oak in the back that would slice our house in two should it decide to fall downhill). Luckily, we were spared by the following two snaps, but two of our neighbor’s weren’t (minimal damage, lots of clean-up). Unfortunately, my reaction was a bit Chicken Little (the sky is falling, the sky is falling!). Fortunately, my folks hadn’t left yet and stuck around until the wind calmed (luckily, not too long after the worst of it). We lost power for about 6 hours, which was great with an overtired toddler who refused to rest and no back-up Clifford episodes to offer. But we survived and all went to bed early.

Anyway…on to the identity crisis.

We’ve been occasionally trying to teach peanut our real names, beyond mommy and daddy. He seems to be fairly open to daddy having a name, but me, not so much.

Today, we were coloring on his easel and he wanted to trace our hands. So I wrote his name in his traced hand. He told me to write my name in mine. I wrote mommy on one and my real name in the other. He looked at me.

“No, your name is mommy.”

“Well, you call me mommy, but my real name is that.”

“Um, no. You’re just mommy.”

And I have to say, it didn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. After all, I am so much more than mommy. But not to him. And right now, that’s okay. That was actually a compliment coming from him.

Now if the hubby were to tell me, “you’re just mommy” the reaction would have been worse than any wake low. But knowing I’m being who I need to be for my peanut right now, kind of made my day for a lot of reasons.

There’s plenty of time for him to learn about the complexities of his mama. For now, he can call me mommy.

The "Effin" Christmas Cake, or How I Manage to Take One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

My aunt tells a funny story about the first Christmas, I believe, where she would be hosting her son, his fiance and his soon to be in-laws. She had found a beautiful chocolate cake recipe in a Southern Living magazine and set about creating culinary perfection. (One note about this particular aunt, she’s definitely the Martha Stewart type – her home is impeccably decorated, recipes are well executed and flawlessly presented. I mean this all as a compliment since, one, I am often mistaken for her daughter when we are out together and two, well, let’s just say the apples don’t fall far from the trees and I have been called “Martha” in my day – not since I’ve had peanut and never in relation to my house, but still).

She began baking this complex recipe only to find she was short on eggs. Off she sent my uncle to the store. Only to have him return and her to realize she needed butter. Only to have him return and her to realize she needed something else. This continued for apparently several trips where my uncle either returned with the wrong thing, forgot something or she thought she had the correct ingredient only to realize she needed cake flour, not all-purpose, or some other calamity of culinary execution.

My usually composed aunt was, by now, completely frustrated but even more doggedly determined to make this stupid cake and make it delicious.

After making it through Christmas dinner and I’m sure a few glasses of wine (again I refer you to the apples and the trees), someone suggested it was time for dessert. To which my aunt replied, “yes, please enjoy the f*ck!ng Christmas cake.”

Apparently there was a stunned silence at the table as my cousin and uncle stared at this unlikely outburst in front of my soon to be cousin-in-law, her parents and her then high school aged brother. Needless to say, they are good people, joined in the subsequent laughter and the cake was, apparently, delicious. I wouldn’t really know since I don’t believe the recipe has ever been repeated.

I am reminded of this story today as I prepare for my parents’ visit this weekend. I am very excited that they are coming – as we are any time anyone comes to us. After 10 years living in a city different from our home town, the visits have definitely tapered off and we don’t host house guests too often anymore. The fact that it’s a holiday this weekend and it’s been two years since I’ve hosted one also has my Martha juices flowing. Luckily, my realistic parent of a toddler who doesn’t nap anymore juices are also flowing, so the menu is lovingly created, but minimalist.

The problem is that today, every time I take a step forward, I’m taking two steps back. There is the laundry I’m behind on already that is even more piled up because I put a load of towels in the wash two days ago and promptly forget them so they had to be rerun (stinky!) before I could make a dent in the piles still waiting to be done. There is the grocery run I completed (sorry again to all the folks behind me in the 10 or less line when I clearly had 50 items on the belt, but you’ll notice that the only two lines open were the express lines. Honestly. I checked three times and asked two different employees before going in) where I of course forgot an ingredient for the one item I needed to bake today. There is the already-needs-to-be-vacuumed-a-few-times-to-find-it den carpet that now has Styrofoam peanuts crushed into it courtesy of my peanut and his joy of unexpected packing materials from a surprise gift.

The silver lining? I really am looking forward to a wonderful visit with my parents this weekend. The weather should be beautiful meaning lots of outdoors activities. I love to see them interact with peanut as he becomes more of a boy. The lemon pound cake I’m planning for Easter dinner already has my mouth watering (and promises to be quick and EASY). And, although I’m taking a few steps in the wrong direction today, while I’ve been typing this, I think peanut may have fallen ASLEEP! If so, and I’m still not holding my breath, this will be the first nap in three weeks. Cue the angel chorus!

And I can take comfort that everything will work out okay. After all, if it can for the “effin” Christmas cake, why not my Easter weekend?

Tar Heeled Mama

Yes, I’m obsessed with all things related to the institution that nurtured me for four years, including, and especially (I did grow up on Tobacco Road) the basketball team. So today I am one happy, exhausted, stir-crazy, wishing I was home to join the celebrations mama.

I wish I could teleport the peanut and I to the Dean Dome to welcome the team home this afternoon. I just know he would have loved it. Not to mention his mama and daddy.

Instead, I’m just basking in the glow and will be attempting to watch the festivities on line.

Really, I haven’t got much worthwhile to say other than congratulations to a group of kids any parent should be proud of. This team has a kid who shunned the NBA to come back for a senior season because he loved the Carolina college experience so much, kids who fought back from injury, a kid who has had to deal with all the drama and questions that come with having a father in prison while he was in school sending money home to support his siblings, a coach who uses “doggone” nearly as frequently as his voice cracks when he talks about his feelings for these kids.

So today, I leave you with my school’s alma mater:

“Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
Ringing clear and true
Singing Carolina’s praises
Shouting N-C-U (N-C-U)
Hail to the brightest star of all
Clear its radiance shines
Carolina PRICELESS GEM
Receive all praises thine.

I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred and when I die I’ll be Tar Heel dead!”

Congrats Carolina.

While You Were Sleeping

Dear Peanut:

You are two and a half and I have a confession to make: I still check on you every night before I go to bed and am starting to wonder at what age I will be forced to give this up? 10? 16? 20? 40?

When we first brought you home, I was certainly vigilant as you slept in the bassinet next to our bed. What mother doesn’t periodically place a finger in front of their baby’s mouth or nose to make sure that sweet, warm breath is still evenly escaping their lungs? Well, I did. But I eventually learned to trust. Plus, you’d have me up in a couple of hours for a feeding anyway, so I didn’t have cause to independently check on you too often.

It wasn’t until you gave up that 3am feeding and truly slept through the night that I started sneaking into your room. In a way, I missed our secret rendezvous in the middle of the night. It was our quiet time. My moment to simply rock you and breathe in the scent of your hair. The world was asleep, except for us, and the stillness of the house made our little cocoon a dreamy place as we both struggled to stay awake long enough to finish the feeding.

Now, I tiptoe in every night. I smooth back your hair, adjust your covers, marvel at the sheer size of you in that bed. I often hold your hand or touch your cheek to watch you twitch and move. I like to see the way you roll over in the bed and fall deeper into sleep in a position that looks all too familiar because it’s how I sleep.

It’s purely selfish, this obsession I have to check on you while you sleep. Partly it’s to remind myself of the innate sweetness that is you after a tough day of toddler tussles. But mainly, it’s that when you sleep, you somehow miraculously look just like the baby I first cuddled on my chest moments after entering the world while simultaneously looking like the man I know you will become.

Maybe I’m reading too much into your sleeping face when I sneak in after a long day. Maybe it’s because now that you’ve given up your nap, I see how precious your “still” time is. Maybe it’s because I am still falling more and more in love with you every day.

Whatever the reason is, I’ll see you tonight around 11.

Love,
Mommy