Mama on the move

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A little over 2 years ago, I had the opportunity to change positions within my department. While I absolutely ADORED running the toy business, I was responsible for over 100 licensees and traveled several times per month. When the opportunity came to run a larger business with LESS travel, I jumped in with both feet.

Fast forward to today. After months of minimal travel and almost daily face-to-face interaction with my kids, October and November are filled to the brim with business trips. I am back-to-back to the West Coast and will be on the road for 3 of the next 4 weeks. Possibly off to the UK in November.

Here's the thing - I don't feel guilty.

And now I feel guilty about NOT feeling guilty.

That's some working-mother-type-shit for you.

It's actually a good thing. My husband is an amazing partner and did not blink and eye when I came groveling to explain my hectic travel schedule. We synchronized calendars, he moved some meetings and I shifted some telecommuting days to help him make up for lost time.

I feel like I'm finally getting into a groove. The post-vacation-glow still surrounds my family. We are enjoying our time together and, while I am still not Mary Poppins, there is a lot less yelling and threatening these days. My husband and I are starting to feel like partners again, not just parents (or court jesters, or servants or whatever the day calls for). There is momentum building on all sides for me professionally, and I am genuinely happy.

A well-rounded-busy-but-exhilarated kind of happy.

And the funny thing is, for the first time in a long time I'm NOT waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Score one for the BadAssMama....

Reflections on the first week of preschool

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My big boy officially started "big boy school" last week. Now, three days a week he attends preschool around the corner. In addition to a significant improvement in his behavior, (tantrums have miraculously melted away!) and the unleashing of an insanely vast vocabulary, (who KNEW he was storing up all those words and complex sentence structures?), the first week of preschool has allowed me the opportunity to reflect on how preschool can really provide a roadmap for life...no matter what your age.

So, in the spirit of the back-to-school season, here are some lessons that we all could learn from preschool:

1) Everyone needs a helping hand

I admire preschool teachers. Well, maybe admire is the wrong word. I'm not sure if I'm amazed or baffled by them. How could any sane person knowingly agree to be trapped in a room with 8-12 preschoolers for several hours, 5 days a week? How do they keep those angelic smiles and calming, comforting demeanors? What's REALLY in that coffee cup?

Then, I look at the bulletin boards. There's one for parents to bring a healthy snack each day of the week. Then, there's the "helping hands" board where each child gets a daily assignment. Something simple like feeding the hamster, handing out snacks or changing the weather on the calendar. There's also the PTO (Parent/Teacher Organization), that over-zealous and notoriously perky group (of which I am now a dues-paying-meeting-attending-committee-leading member) who rally for school fundraisers, organize the Memorial Day Parade, teacher appreciation gifts, holiday programs and themed events.

Preschool teachers can't successfully face that room of beaming little lunatics alone. It takes a village - including help from the crazies themselves.

Moms should take a lesson from the preschool teachers. You CAN face your children with compassion, patience, love and kindness - but ONLY if you don't try to do it alone. Use your support system. Let your children do for themselves what they can do for themselves - and let them help you! That superwoman cape is getting too heavy. Give it a rest...

2) Show and tell is cool

Every day, my son brings something to school for show-and-tell. The object of this exercise is to help 3-year-olds expand their vocabulary and expressive language skills. But, to tell the truth, I honestly believe that I have gotten more out of show and tell thus far than my son.

Let me explain...

Before the first day of show-and-tell, my husband and I did our best to get Angel really excited about the opportunity to share one of his favorite things with his new friends. When we asked what he wanted to bring, his response was immediate...and somewhat baffling.

"My flashlight."

Now, mind you, this is not some super-fancy licensed character flashlight. It is the clear plastic flashlight that we keep under the kitchen sink for when the power goes out. It wasn't even the big, impressive one - just a little one, like the ones you can keep in your purse.

At first, we thought that he didn't get the point of the exercise. This was his BIG opportunity to share something REALLY super-cool with his class. "Don't you want to bring your robot, or your train?" "Ummm....no thanks, I'll bring my flashlight."

After a few days of watching my son choose random, run-of-the-mill household objects over his copious and very cool gizmos, I got it. Preschoolers find wonder in the everyday. There is joy and excitement all around us in the simple things, the easily-overlooked-things. You don't need a big vacation or full spa day to truly relax and enjoy. Appreciate the uninterrupted cup of coffee or funny quote in the magazine. Little things can be amazing. Just ask a kid.

3) One thing at a time

I'm always amazed at how organized preschool classrooms are. There truly is a place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place, and at the end of each activity the kids are expected to put things back in order. How do the teachers accomplish this without anarchy on a mass scale, or mutiny on a daily basis? They do one activity at a time, for a set amount of time, then clean up before they move on to the next.

Multi-tasking is a myth. All of us moms who think we can successfully mop the floor and cook dinner for the week while leading a transcontinental conference call are fooling ourselves. We're not getting more done. We're driving ourselves INSANE.

Preschoolers have short attention spans and can only handle so much stimulation at any given moment. After years of sleep deprivation and general abuse, most moms are exactly the same way. We know that a hungry, over-tired or over-stimulated preschooler is a meltdown waiting to happen, but don't realize that we are in the exact same boat.

Give up on multi-tasking. Try to do one thing, if not until it's done then for a set amount of time BEFORE you move on to the next on your never-ending-to-do-list. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but I promise if you break your day down into distinct segments and focus on one activity at a time you WILL get more done and not feel like you were run over by a truck by the time the kids go to bed.

4) Nap time is a necessity

After a full morning of show and tell, helping hands, letters/numbers and playtime, Angel's class has lunch then takes a nap. Some kids go down immediately - like there is a silent alarm in their head that says, "Lights out, buddy" and they have no choice but to comply. Others fight it tooth and nail, kicking and screaming the whole way. For the most part, the clockwork kids wake up from nap to a cup of juice and a little snack with a smile on their face - relaxed and ready to play. The kick-and-screamers are so wound up that they can't even enjoy their damned juice, much less get along with their mates on the playground.

Moms are the same. We pretend that we can keep going without adequate food, or drink, or rest, or medical attention (please note, I am writing this to you at 11:55pm on a worknight, so pot - meet kettle). We need to take a cue from the under-5 set and take a scheduled mommy time-out on the daily. No, we may not have a nap room at work - but I can bet there's a Starbucks around the corner (if you live in the continental US, there is DEFINITELY one within a 3-block radius). We can take a walk around the block (or the office floor), or just sit still for 5 minutes. ANYTHING to stop the constant go-go-going that defines the life of the working mom (stay-at-home or otherwise).

5) Make friends

My son will never be mistaken for a wallflower. From the moment this kid came rushing into the world eight-weeks-prematurely, it seemed that he wanted to be the center of attention. He inserts himself actively into adult conversations with a loud, if out-of-context guffaw when the conversation appears to be funny. He has been known to introduce himself one minute, and proclaim his undying love for you the next. He made a series of "best friends" over nightly movies in the concierge lounge during our summer vacation.

While he has not yet claimed a new BFF at his new preschool, I sense that the startlingly-accelerated pace of development has been brought on by the increased pool of 3-year-olds with which he now has regular contact. He has a core group of buddies at his wonderful daycare, but there are also babies and bigger kids. Preschool is like a 3-year-old frat house (without the beer and disorderly conduct). He's surrounded by kids who are his same age, same size, same developmental level, with many of the same interests. These kids GET him, and he GETS them. He doesn't have to slow down so that his baby brother can play too, or get frustrated that he can't do the same things that the older kids can, as well as they can. He's in the zone!

Likewise, I've learned that moms need to be surrounded by other moms in the same life-stage and ideally a similar career situation. Someone that you don't have to explain everything to, or hold back from. Someone who gets it before you even complete your sentence. We have enough work to do in a given day. It helps to have one or more mommy friends who understand you because they ARE you.

That's not to say that you need to rid yourself of all your non-mommy friends, or mommy friends with kids in a different life stage or career position. As I referenced in the Helping Hands section, we need ALL the love and support we can get! But having a girlfriend or two in the same boat can make the ride a heck of a lot smoother.

These are the things that I've learned from my son's first week of preschool.

Can't wait to see what I learn next...


Bad Mommy - Part Deux

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"For the love of God, can you PLEASE just STOP WHINING!!!!"
- Sherice Torres (to Victor Torres, 20 months), 4:15am, Sunday September 19.


Clearly I am the worst mother on the face of the planet.

Let me explain.

As you may recall, Victor has a form of sickle cell anemia known as Hemoglobin SC disease. Yesterday at lunchtime, he transformed from happy baby to cranky-banky. Then, he started crying inexplicably. After about 20 minutes, he was downright inconsolable.

After running through the list of possible ailments (dirty diaper, teething, boogers, etc.), we could find no particular reason for the behavior. As the hysteria began to escalate, we became concerned. Could he be in pain? We were JUST at the hematologist on Friday and everything was fine - it can't be the sickle cell-related. Can it? So, we gave him some Motrin and took a ride on the nap loop to Jones Beach.

After nap, Victor was slightly irritated but playful. We dismissed the incident and kept it moving.

By 6:30pm, the crying was back and worse than ever. Arrangements were made for Little Angel's care and we rushed off to the hospital. By the time we got the the parking lot, Victor seemed to be sleeping peacefully. After 30 minutes in the hospital parking lot, we decided that (once again) we must be over-reacting and headed back home.

Not 10 minutes after we hit Casa de Torres, the crying was back and it was go time - for real this time.

Fast forward to 1 am. After numerous tests, poking and prodding all came back normal, we finally noticed that there was blood on my husband's shoulder. Upon closer examination, we found that it was actually dribbling from Victor's mouth. Initially, we thought it was a molar breaking through, then the doctor saw the true culprit - those big honking molars had bitten into the inside of his cheek.

So, good new and bad news. The good news was that it was NOT a sickle cell pain crisis (thank God!). The bad news was that the inside of his cheek was SO swollen that he could not avoid biting into it (especially since he's picked up mommy's habit of grinding her teeth in her sleep) and kept re-injuring the site. We were discharged, given instructions to give him Tylenol every 4 hours like clockwork and to see the doctor on Monday.

We got back home a little before 2 am. To make an already long story a bit shorter, Victor did not sleep at all.

All night.

He whimpered, whined or all out bawled consistently until his first of two 45 minute naps at 9am (the second came at 1pm). By the time we FINALLY got Victor to bed tonight, he had been irritable or inconsolable for over 30 hours.

Here comes the bad mommy part.

Once we determined that it was not sickle cell-related, I was both relieved and slightly irritated. By the time 4:15am rolled around (16 hours and 15 minutes into the non-stop whining/crying/screaming), I'd had enough. Rather than comforting my son, I got irritable myself. Instead of rubbing his back and telling him it would be OK, I found myself ordering him to JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY.

Yeah....like that worked.

I feel like the worst mother in the world because once I realized that he was not in excruciating or potentially life-threatening pain, I became annoyed. My child was in pain, and I was annoyed.

While, yes, by 4:15am I had been awake for a full 24 hours (I'm at hour 40 as I type this, so please excuse the lack of irony or quick turn-of-phrase). I was just DONE. And I let my discomfort prevent me from comforting my suffering child.

There is no deeper meaning here. No blinding insight. Just regret and sheer exhaustion.

It's 8:26pm. Victor has been sleeping soundly for the past 45 minutes. I pray that he sleeps soundly through the night, but am preparing for another night of sleep-deprivation-induced-torture.

Here's hoping for a little less BadAss and a little more Mama if it does...

Back to reality

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Day 3 back at the job, and I must say that my newly-found sense of Zen remains remarkably intact. Much of this, I do believe, can be attributed to the fact that I'm finally getting back to working out in the morning (operation Get-Victor-To-Sleep-Until-6am is almost complete). But mainly I think that I am actually experiencing some lasting change from this vacation.

Yeah! Finally!

This is truly an accomplishment since the first three days back to work have been jam-packed with major partner meetings and late nights.

I even extended my newly-found set of realistic expectations to my husband today. Since Little A is going to preschool 3 days a week for the morning session, Angel has agreed to work from home Mondays and Wednesdays and I will continue to work from home Fridays to get little A back and forth to school. Eventually we may find someone to do this for us, but for now the situation works. He can do more business planning to take his company to the next level and gets to spend some much needed quality time with his boy in the mornings.

So, back to the expectations. When I'm working from home, I am a maniac. Taking conference calls while mopping the floors, balancing the checkbook, cooking dinners for the entire week, grocery shopping...you get the picture. And I have this insane expectation that EVERY SINGLE errand for the following week MUST be accomplished each Friday. And, unfortunately feeding into my delusion, each Friday I accomplish 90% of these tasks.

So, if I can get SO much done in one day at home per week CLEARLY my husband can change the world working from home twice!

There is a snack board at the preschool - parents are supposed to sign up to bring a healthy snack for the class each day. The handbook even includes a list of "suggested snacks". As I was rushing out the door this morning, I asked Angel if he could pick up the snack today so I wouldn't have to get it after work tomorrow, or at 7 Friday morning. He said he'd try (which, every wife knows actually means "No", but I was hopeful).

Fast forward, I get home around 9pm, scramble to sort, open and file mail and various packages delivered today, set up my lunch for tomorrow and clean the kitchen (why does no one EVER wipe down the counters? You can't SEE the graham cracker crumbs on the table? Sheesh!) Where was I? Oh yes - I see the "suggested snack" list and my short addendum (organic milk, regular bananas) on the counter. So, in my best hopeful voice I ask. "Were you able to pick up the snack today?". To which my husband replies, "No - didn't leave the house all day."

Instead of letting out a drama queen-worthy sigh (like I would have done pre-vacation), I say, "OK - I'll just get it after work tomorrow." I then, in my best hopeful-yet-really-too-tired-to-do-all-of-this-shit-after-work voice, I ask, "Can you please bring up that laundry for me to fold? Angel doesn't have any pants to wear tomorrow" (which reminds me, I need to order more size 4T jeans when I'm done with this post...). My husband replies, "Already folded and put them away. Just need to get the sheets from the dryer."

So, the BadAssMama's lesson of the day - never underestimate your husband AND it's OK to not get everything done in a day spent working from home.

Well, at least it's OK if my husband can't do it all. We'll see how forgiving I am of myself on Friday...

Reflections

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As my vacation officially comes to a close, I can honestly say that I have changed over the course of the past few weeks. My children's behavior is not much different - if anything Angel's tantrums returned well rested and refreshed post-vaca, and Victor is beginning to follow in his tempestuous footsteps.

What has changed, however, is my response. I am not the picture of calm 24-7, but I have learned to roll with the punches a bit more. I choose my battles - learning to simply ignore my big boy when it's clear that the tantrum is upon us, rather than fuss and reason and count and time out. I've learned that I can walk away from Victor when his big 29-pound-self beckons, "Pick up!" and I know that he is neither tired nor sick. He has gotten into the habit of latching onto my leg and dragging along on my foot...it's kind of funny. We've made it into a game (well, at least I have!).

Every day this week, I have found a way to put myself first at least once a day. For the past 2 days, I worked out during daylight hours. While the boys were awake! Why should I feel guilty for taking an hour out for my health? They get the other 17 waking hours, so I can more than make up the time later in the day.

For the first time EVER, we let Victor cry it out this morning. He stayed in bed relatively contentedly until 6:07am. If we can maintain this pattern, I can actually wake up at 5am to work out so that I'm not on the treadmill at midnight (it happens). I'm up at 5am every day anyway, I might as well use the time for me rather than being "on the clock" the second I spring out of bed.

I spent time with 3 different girlfriends this week. Relaxed, fun, catching-up time over good food, yummy frozen yogurt and EXCELLENT wine!

And each day for the entire vacation, I played with my kids. Not all day (that would just be EXHAUSTING), but every day. And guess what? We ALL had fun.

So, on the eve of my return to work, I stand before you a hopeful BadAssMama. Hopeful that much of my post-vacation enlightenment will survive the inevitable crush of deadlines and drama that accompany every working mother's days. I feel different. I hope that I AM different.

And I think my kids feel it too....

Done

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I am done.

I am tired of repeating myself over and over...and over again. I am tired of taking 30 minutes to rub a 20-month old's back so that he can fall asleep, when he should be able to do that on his own at this point. I'm sick of waking up at 5am because said 20-month old is in the habit of waking up and drinking milk at that ungodly hour.

I wish I could say that this is the first time that I've had this conversation, but it's not. The same thing happened with my first child. Why, you ask? Because I wasn't tough enough to let them cry it out, you wonder?

No. Because my husband is not.

Now, don't get me wrong. Nine times out of ten, my husband is a FANTASTIC father. Truly terrific. He engages with the kids, plans out trips on the weekends, administers medication and tries to play "school" with them on a regular basis.

But when it comes to getting our kids to sleep, he sucks.

This is not a blog intended to husband-bash, but in the spirit of the BadAssMama Chronicles, I just have to let it out. I don't think that I'm alone on this one, so let me continue.

Angel was born at 32 weeks (that's 8 weeks early, for anyone who's counting). He was tiny, and on top of that had a wicked case of acid reflux. As a result, we were so overly-concerned with his calorie intake and keeping down said calories that we would feed him at the slightest whimper, day or night. As a result, he broke into a vicious cycle of waking every 90 minutes during the night....for the first 10 months of his life.

Brutal.

Eventually, out of sheer exhaustion rather than spousal agreement, we let him cry it out. Honestly, I think we just fell asleep one night and were too zonked to get up and feed/soothe him. Before we knew it, it was 7am and he was still sleeping.

Fast forward to baby #2. Victor was born full-term at a ripe 8 pounds and 4 ounces. He hit the 20 pound mark before he was 8 months old. Clearly failure to thrive was NOT an issue with this kid. But, the pattern persisted. It took us nearly 2 years - actually, right before VIctor was born - to get Angel to consistently sleep through the night. As a result, we were hyper-sensitive about waking him and ruining all of our hard work. So....once again, any time kid #2 made a peep, we would rush to snatch him up before he woke kid #1.

Fast forward, Victor is now 20 months old, needs to have his back rubbed for up to 30 minutes at night to fall asleep and wakes every morning no later than 5 am.

I'm done.

If my husband wants to rub, pat and cajole the kids to sleep for hours on end each night and then entertain them before 5am, more power to him.

I'm going to Walmart to buy a big-ass pair of ear plugs. Then I'm going to bed.

Until 7am.

First

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As my vacation officially comes to a close, I have successfully completed 4 days of actually doing something for myself - in addition to the full time job that is taking care of my family (oh, in addition to that other thing that I do 10-12 hours each day when I'm not on vacation...).

Today, I think I set a record for taking care of the BadAssMama. First, I got my hair done (BADLY needed. Even my husband was starting to make comments..). Next, I had lunch with another BadAssMama who always makes me smile, who understands me and makes me feel like I'm not alone (love ya, JZP!). And finally, at the urging of the fabulous JZP, I actually put myself first. Instead of rushing off to BJs to gather the weekly food rations for my in-a-constant-growth-spurt-children, (how on EARTH do I need to go to BJs once a week and I ONLY have 2 kids??), I made a stop at Nordstrom.

And I bought underwear.

Apologies for the lack of warning for my male readers. Now, lest ye become concerned that this is going to get overly feminine or embarrassing, let me assure you. This post is not REALLY about underwear. It's about what the underwear represents.

Let me explain.

My children are well dressed. No over-abundance of designer labels or anything like that (since they grow out of their clothes and shoes roughy every 6-8 weeks, that would just be foolish). But, their clothes are clean, well maintained, relatively wrinkle free and replaced as soon as they show any overt signs of wear. Underwear, socks, baseball hats...the whole nine. Ditto for my husband. I buy him "gifts" every so often to ensure that his favorite t-shirt or pair of jeans that are beginning to look JUST a little TOO lived in are not the only things that he wears on a given weekend.

And I haven't bought a new bra in almost 4 years. Let me rephrase - other than maternity and nursing bras, I haven't bought a new bra in 4 years, 2 kid and 20 collective months of nursing.

I really don't know how this happened. After I had Angel and the bulk of the baby weight came off, I trotted my happy behind into Nordstrom for a "real" bra fitting. Several awkward moments with the fitting lady (how can they just look at boobs all day?), 20 brands and $200 dollars later, I walked away happily with 5 spanking fresh, gorgeous bras that fit discretely under a t-shirt, didn't squeeze my back fat and made my girls look 10 years younger (OK, maybe 5 years...).

Those bras were an investment. Clearly they would last forever, right?

I can't even pretend that money was the issue. Don't get me wrong - the BadAssMama is as frugal as the next gal, but my lack of bra-buying had nothing to do with cash. It goes back to the root issue with most every mama in the world. All too often, we put our needs last.

So, today I left my girlfriend lunch and marched my happy butt right back to Nordstrom. I left feeling happy, lifted and separated. I even bought some new underwear while I was at it. Then I went to BJs to feed the brood.

So, to all you BadAssMamas out there, I want you to take an hour to yourself this weekend. Go to the mall and buy yourself a great fitting bra and a matching pair of underwear. We all know that you will rarely actually wear them together (if you're like me, you're just happy to have on the RIGHT underwear for your outfit on any given day). But, it will truly be something that's just for you. And every time you wear it, remember that you deserve to put yourself first. At least every once in a while.

Baby steps

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As my vacation comes to a close, I am still nursing a nasty case of bronchitis but trying to make good on my promise to do more for myself. This week, I actually made some progress:

- On Tuesday, I got a facial and massage and had lunch with my husband (all while coughing up a lung, but still...I made the effort)
- On Wednesday, I read 2 chapters of a book that had nothing to do with work, child-rearing, self-improvement or current events
- Thursday I got a manicure and had yummy frozen yogurt with a friend

Of all these things, the manicure stands out to me as the biggest sign of change. Silly, you might say. How on Earth could a manicure be THAT significant?

Well, anyone who has kids knows that germs and boogers are a part of your every day life. As such, you wash your hands. Constantly. To protect your kids, to protect yourself, to protect the general public from the kid-induced-return-of-the-bubonic-plague. Plus, you're likely doing laundry on a regular basis and submerging your hands in dishwater on the daily so, really, what's the point of getting a manicure?

Before I had kids, I religiously went to the nail shop for a mani-pedi. Every 2 weeks. Sometimes once a week! After the kids, and the constant hand-to-water exposure, I cut the routine back to just a pedicure. Helped me to feel good for taking some time out for me, but much more practical.

Screw practical - I like getting my nails done.

All day, every time I looked down at my hands I would smile. They were an actual sign that I took some time for myself.

And I feel cute.

Signs of progress, and another day in the life of a BadAssMama.

Time warp

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Is it just me, or is it 8 months ago? Because that's how long ago my baby boy started to sleep through the night. And although he routinely wakes me up before 5am, I could always count on Victor falling asleep no later than 8:30pm and sleeping solidly through the night.

Well, at least I used to.

Hello, sleepless nights. Did you miss me? Cause let me tell you, I was REALLY hoping that I would never see you again.

I should have seen it coming. In Orlando, for some strange reason Victor kept waking up at 4am. I assumed it was just because we were out of our normal routine and developed the nasty habit of putting the kids to bed late (unlike normal children, my kids like to wake up EARLIER when they are put to bed later). So I was subsisting on 3 hours of sleep per night. I assumed that all would be right with the world once we returned home to our normal routines and beds.

Man, was I wrong.

We arrived home on Sunday afternoon. Both kids took relatively good naps at just about their normal nap time. Dinner, bath, books and bed time right on schedule. Then, 3 hours later, Victor was up screaming, "Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!" at the top of his lungs. After several failed attempts to soothe him back to sleep, I made the rookie mistake of taking him to bed with me in the guest room (because it's not REALLY the same as bringing him into our bed, right?). Between his checking to make sure that I was still there every few hours and random thrashing about, I got a grand total of 90 minutes of sleep intermittently throughout the night.

Oh, and I'm on my second day of antibiotics for bronchitis - just to make things interesting.

So, fast forward. We have a good, normal-schedule day today. After dinner, we do the bath, book, bed routine with military precision. 8:15 - Victor is in bed sleeping peacefully. At 10:59, the screaming starts again. It's 12:15am - it just stopped for the first time. I have no confidence that it will be the last. And the morning wake up call is guaranteed to come no later than 5am.

I don't want to complain, and I do believe that most things happen for a reason. But, seriously?? I had a week from hell, ending in a canceled European vacation. Nine really good, but truly exhausting days at Disney World, only to return with bronchitis and a kid who once again won't sleep. Strike that - two kids. Now Angel is up screaming that he has to pee.

I am trying to be good to my body - to stop burning the candle at both ends. My kids, however, are clearly trying to kill me.

Shotgun!

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Here, in no particular order, is a list of things that moms all around the world should no longer have to take the lead on. We call shotgun. Dads - get in the driver's seat!!

- Packing for vacation (while Dad packs his stuff at midnight the night before)
- Unpacking from vacation (while Dad simply uses the suitcase as his personal bureau for a week)
- Planning dinner
- Making dinner
- Nail clipping (you would think we were KILLING these kids!!)
- Enforcing nap time
- Enforcing bed time
- Playing "bad cop"
- Brushing the teeth of the most high maintenance kid
- Putting the most high maintenance kid to bed
- Breastfeeding in the middle of the night
- Pumping
- Remembering everyone's birthday (family and friends, not the kids!)
- Buying presents for said birthdays
- Scheduling routine pediatrician appointments
- Saying no
- Applying sunscreen
- Changing poop

Now, what am I forgetting?

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I always seem to forget something when I pack. In San Diego, it was the boys' jackets. San Francisco, my pajamas. On this trip, in addition to losing one random sock in the hotel laundry room (I swear, laundry room dryers EAT socks), I forgot about me. You see, in the hustle and a bustle of fighting the trip to Germany, preparing for the trip to Germany and making a back-up plan once the trip to Germany failed, I forgot to get enough sleep, eat right and, oh, relax every once in a while. True, I have not held to my super-uptight-crazy schedule over the course of this vacation and I have truly enjoy the time away. But, as usual, I have taken care of everyone but myself.

And now I have my second upper respiratory infection in the past 3 weeks.

I don't want to say that it's bronchitis, or heaven forbid another bout of the p-word, but I've been sick enough often enough to know that this one isn't likely to blow over after a few doses of Nyquil.

So, I'm guessing that my post-vacation-back-on-track plan of extreme dieting combined with extreme exercise is probably not the best idea. The fact that this was, indeed, a plan at all is yet another symptom of my overall problem (well, at least one of them). Like many moms, I put myself last. I may be all bluster-and-bravado about how I try to exercise and do something nice for myself most days, but the truth is that the only way to actually DO those things is to go to bed close to midnight most nights. And, since those of you who keep up with the BasAssMama know that Hurricane Victor blows through most mornings by 5 am, that means I get little-to-no sleep. Ever.

And while the sick-sad-type-A-overachiever in me gains a twisted sort of satisfaction in the fact that I can somewhat-function with such blatant disregard for basic human needs like eating, drinking and sleeping, the truth is this can't be a good thing. The fact that I am bone-tired and sick-as-a-dog for the second time in 3 weeks is a screaming wake up call that I need to slow down and take care of myself.

I'd love to say that I'm going to. That this trip has helped me to realize not only the importance of taking time for my family but of taking time for me. The truth is, I know full well how important it is to take care of myself. I just for the life of me cannot figure how to do all of the things that I need to do for my family, my job and my own health at the same time.

My solution has been, and unfortunately continues to be, burning the candle at both ends. Whenever someone asks me, "How do you do it?", the answer is always the same. Caffeine and denial. It's kind of funny, but mostly true.

I've found that I can push myself at this pace for roughly 5 -6 weeks before I have some sort of mental or physical breakdown. Not a clinical one, but one that tends to involve either an unstoppable crying jag or bed-ridden illness.

When I put it in writing, I can see just how ridiculous it is to accept this as a way of life. But, I still haven't discovered another way to swing this wife-mother-executive thing.

I've come to mostly-accept that I cannot do everything perfectly every day (or at all, in most cases). But the stubborn cow in me refuses to accept that I cannot have it all. My family, career and health are ALL important to me. I am not willing to give one up for the others.

Scratch that. While I have made a massive effort to watch what I eat, (this vacation aside), and take care of my body, the only way that I have been able to achieve all of this IS by sacrificing my overall health.

And it's time to stop.

Not sure how I'm going to do it, but I know that I have to.

Change

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This trip has changed me. My face is round. My thighs are fluffy. My waist is full.

And so is my heart. My eyes, and more importantly my words, are a bit softer. My family has reclaimed its proper place in the rank order of my life.

While my children were not model citizens, and I made no great strides in improving my patience, I do believe that I accomplished what I set out to do on this trip. I have focused on being rather than doing. I emphasized what was good for my family rather than staying on schedule. Sometimes that meant getting the boys to bed on time. Others, like tonight, meant keeping them out until 10pm to watch their mouths open wide in surprise as Tinkerbell flew down from Cinderella's Castle, and listening to Victor shout, "BOOM!!!" with each explosion of fireworks.

Next week, I will harden a bit. I will get back to counting my Points and P90X to tighten up my midsection (and backside). I will clear out the God-awful loads of email waiting in my inbox. I will get Angel ready for his first day of preschool. I will get Victor out of the habit of waking up for a 4am bottle (AGAIN).

But, I will not go back to doing rather than being. While groceries must be shopped and teeth must be brushed, there are SO many hours left to enjoy. While it was nice to have a big honking chunk of time to spend with my kids, I'm looking forward to bringing back some of this vacation mentality to our everyday.

No sweeping promises. No grand proclamations. Just a little more fun...every day.

Oh, and a LOT less, food...

Evolution

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I am more of a special creation than evolution-type of girl. I've always believed that the universe and all who dwell within are God's creation, rather than a happy coincidence of primordial ooze and spontaneous combustion. However, I do buy into the notion that evolution, when and where it does occur, is a slow and gradual process. You might not notice the changes if you don't go looking for them. And, if it is actually you who are trying to make said changes, you may very well become frustrated by just how painfully slow they seem to come. Especially when what you are trying to change is really important.

I am going through an evolution in my life. You might say it's somewhat like Extreme Makeover - The Total Package Edition. I want to create a more peaceful and loving family enviroment. I'm still trying to lose those last damned 5 (maybe 8-10 given the vacation "diet plan") baby pounds. I want to chart the path to the next step in my career. I want to re-ignite the fire in my marriage. I want to create a closer spiritual journey, and lay a spiritual foundation for my children.

Oh, and I want it now...

Not really. OK, yes really, BUT I fully inderstand that these are evolutionary changes - not revolutionary ones. I can't just wake up one day and magically become a size 2. Likewise, I can't just snap my fingers and create a peaceful, gentle, loving family environment 24-7. While this trip has done wonders for helping me to slow down and love my kids for what they are and who they are, I'm still yelling and threatening at least one of them, at least once a day (ridiculous things like, " If you don't go to bed RIGHT NOW I'm taking your toy back to the store").

But, I know that the end goal of all of these things is a better life for me and my family. A healthy mom can live to see her boys walk down the aisle and raise their own children (or whatever it is they choose to do). A happy family starts with a happy marriage, and I have to do my part to make my relationship more of a priority. It's kind of funny - you meet the guy that you think would be perfect to raise a family with, have a family, then spend all of your energy on everything BUT that guy (and half the time blame him for that too!).

I do believe that I have a much healthier relationship with my career than I used to - even in recent history. While I still struggle with occasional bouts of indigestion and working mother guilt, both are fewer and farther between than in the past. My job provides for the life that I want for myself and my family - it is no longer my life. However, I do know that I want more. I love what I do and I adore the people I work with and a for - but there are plans aplenty rolling around in the head of this BadAssMama, and I'm praying for the courage to make those plans into reality.

And speaking of prayers, i have struggled to find my happy medium when it comes to religion and spirituality for years. The root cause of that struggle could be the topic of an entire blog in and of itself, but to make a long story short I know that I need a closer connection with God in my daily life for me - not because it's something that I'm supposed to do. And I want to provide my kids with a solid spiritual foundation. When they get older, they can decide what they want to do with it, but I do feel strongly that it's my responsibility to provide the basics.

So, evolution. Slow, sometimes painful, but worth the wait. Tomorrow, I'm going to eat less Disney crap and abstain from threatening my kids. Maybe I'll even hold my husband's hand for a little while :)