The BadAssMama on The Tiger Mother

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I have finally gotten around to reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. While I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Chua's parenting approach (which, if you bother to read the book, you will find that she seems to have as well), there are a few things which are clear to the BadAssMama about the Tiger Mother:

  1. The majority of those criticizing the book apparently have NOT read it. (I'll get into more details on this in a minute)
  2. She seems to have written this book more as a way to work through a traumatic experience with her youngest daughter rather than as a how-to-guide on perfect parenting
  3. She is laughing all the way to the bank. Her book currently sits in the #2 slot on the New York Times Hardcover Non-Fiction Best Seller list
  4. She is milking the controversy to the maximum. She (and now her Yale Law Professor husband) are both working the talk show circuit to simultaneously explain the book, defend their position (or sometimes not) and, most importantly, drum up sales for Tiger Mother and the more than 5 books between them currently in print
  5. No one, no matter how hard their stance seems to be, is completely confident that their parenting approach is working - much less superior to that of anyone else


Sleep Re-Training: Update #1

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Once again, my two-year-old is wailing at 5:25am. We employ the tough love approach and let him cry it out, with the goal of convincing him that his tears do not move us and it is not acceptable to rise before the sun. 


At 7:05am, Victor pulls back his curtains and declares, "It's wake up time!". 


Victor:1 Parents:0

Acceptance

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"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Motherhood, like many twelve step programs, is a process. A process with the ultimate end goal of acceptance. Acceptance of the uncomfortable. Acceptance of the improbable. Acceptance of the inevitable.

Today, we had another snow day in the great North East. Didn't see this one coming. Not sure if it's because I've fallen asleep well before the 11 or even 10 o'clock news for the past 5 years, or if it's simply because I could not possibly fathom yet another major snowstorm within less than 28 days. Seriously, this is getting a bit out of hand.

Where was I again? Oh yeah - acceptance.

Today was another snow day. Recall, if you will, the last snow day at Casa de BadAssMama. It began with arts-and-crafts dreams and sing-along wishes, only to end with the usual round of screaming, crying and threatening  (on the part of both kids and so-called-grown-ups alike).

I think it was a good thing that we did not expect such a large chunk of quality time together as a family today. As such, there was no time for unrealistic expectations and timetables to be contemplated or plans to be made. Today was all about spontaneity. And acceptance of the inevitable.

I realized that at some point, one or all of the following was going to happen:


  • My almost-four-year-old was going to have a tantrum
  • My two-year-old was going to hit my almost-four-year-old. Most likely in the head with a blunt object
  • One or both of my kids were going to scream uncontrollably
  • There would be a battle over a toy
  • My two-year-old was going to reject either breakfast, lunch or both
  • My almost-four-year-old was going to withhold poop (yes - we're back to that. Day two and counting...)
  • I was going to get a headache
  • My husband was going to fall asleep
  • I was NOT going to fall asleep (apparently, ever)
  • One or both kids were going to fight nap time 
  • One or both kids were going to fight bath time
  • My almost-four-year-old was going to get in and out of the bed roughly 15 times between the hours of 8 and 10pm.

Just another night at home...

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Scene - 8:27pm at Casa de BadAssMama:


Angel: “Mom – something happened to my grown-up pajamas”

Me: “Why are your pajamas unbuttoned?”

Angel: “I don’t know”

Me: “Did you unbutton them?”

Angel: “Yes”

Me (after buttoning the rogue Cars pajama top): “Go to bed”

Crime and Punishment

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Yesterday, I confessed that I hate when my husband picks up the kids early from daycare.

Today, we awoke to 12 inches of snow and school closures.

Karma is a bitch...

Confessions of a BadAssMama - Part 2

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I hate when my husband picks up the kids early from daycare.

Let me explain.

I LOVE that Angel likes to spend time with our boys. On the off occasion that he is home early from work or has the day off, he drops them to school closer to 9am than 7, and picks them up closer to 4:30 than 6:00. He loves to make up new games to play, new things to show them, new books to read.

It seems that my husband would love nothing more than to spend every waking hour with our children. He is an amazingly patient father - walking them lovingly through "homework", puzzles, mazes, how to get the tricky new toy to work. Rarely raising his voice. Keeping his cool far longer than I on the many occasions that one or both of our tiny assassins decide to go on a rampage.

I love this about him...and I also kind of hate it. Because it makes me feel like I kind of suck.

The Good Mother

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While reading a mommy magazine this morning, I was struck by the topic of a monthly contest: In 75 words or less, tell us why you're a good mom. What struck me was not so much the question, but the fact that my default answer was, "Well, I'm not a very good mom."

And what really sucks, is that I'm sure that many of you thought the exact same thing when you read this.

So many mother's spend so much time filled with doubt, regret and second-guessing over just about every parenting decision that we make.

Enough is enough! So - today, I put a challenge to each of you. Respond to this post with a short list of what makes YOU a great mom (or dad). Consider it an early Valentine's Day gift to yourself.

Here are a few things that make The BadAssMama a ReallyGreatMama:
  • I love my kids - utterly, insanely, completely. So much so, it really should be illegal
  • I love my kids enough to know that I'm a better mom when I work -  in addition to my full time job of being "mommy"
  • I know that Victor needs a hug after I put him in time out (no matter how tough he pretends to be)
  • I know that Angel needs to talk for at least 10 minutes before I kiss him goodnight, or else he will be calling my name for at least 2 hours
  • I do my best make time to re-connect with my husband every week. While we learned long ago that a true date night out is damned near impossible with our schedules, even cuddling over The Good Wife on DVR makes for great "us" time.
  • I let my kids run around Tick Me Elmo for hours - because it makes them laugh, makes me laugh and guarantees a full night sleep (a win-win all around, if you ask me!)
  • I know myself enough to know that I am a better mom when I take a little time for myself every day. Even 20 minutes hiding in the bathroom to write this blog post counts... 
  • Even when I'm exhausted and pissed off after a hard day at work, nothing makes me smile more than seeing my two tiny assassins attack me at the front door

Groundhog Day

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Do you remember the movie "Groundhog Day?"

Not the one with Denzel Washington (that was "Training Day"). The semi-bad movie with Bill Murray (aren't all Billy Murray films semi-bad?) about a guy who was trying to get the girl and kept waking up to the same day over and over and over again - each time trying to get it right and find his happy ending? (One caveat - I saw this movie when I was younger and before I had kids so given my extreme loss of short term memory, my synopsis may or may not exactly summarize the actual details of the film, but you get the gist).

As I push my sick-yet-refusing-to-take-a-nap 2 year old around my living room in the Bob Ironman (the most action that jogging stroller has seen in years) and my almost-4-year-old rolls around on his bedroom floor fighting imaginary bad guys, it struck me that in many ways motherhood is just like "Groundhog Day".

  • You sleep train your kids within the first year, only to have them declare 4:30am the new black for a 10-22 day stretch once every 3-6 months
  • Kids get sick. Stay home for a week to recover. Get sick again 2 weeks later. Repeat...
  • You make it through the terrible two's only to find that the three's and four's are the real ass-kickers
  • Your 10 month-old wants to eat any and everything that you put into your mouth. Eight months later, he seems to subsist on crackers, apple juice and air.
  • After an ungodly amount of time, you finally have the bedtime routine down and your kids pleasantly drift off after bath, book and a few minutes of back rubbing. Eight months later, they fight sleep for two hours every night.
I used to get frustrated with the two-steps-forward-three-steps-back dynamic of raising young children. The Type-A-slightly-OCD-in-me just wanted to check something off the never-ending-to-do list (Sleep training? Check. Tantrum coping mechanisms? Been there, done that). But as soon as I became slightly cocky with the thought that I'd mastered one element of the preschool years, like magic that same pattern would sneak up and bite me in the ass in a matter of months.

Missing Persons

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As a mom, have you ever felt like you've lost yourself?


Each day, for years on end, we are up with the sun (and sometimes BEFORE that), attending to the needs of others.


- Changing diapers
- Wiping noses
- Fixing breakfast/lunch/dinner
- Serving breakfast/lunch/dinner
- Cleaning up after breakfast/lunch/dinner
- Shuttling off to daycare/preschool/elementary school/high school
- Driving the Mom-Taxi in between soccer/pediatrician/speech therapy/Gymboree
- Washing laundry
- Folding laundry
- Putting laundry away
- Cleaning the house
- Organizing the house
- Re-organizing the house
- Paying bills
- Buying birthday presents
- Keeping the family schedule
- Keeping the family ON schedule


Watching the schedule slowly but surely eat away at your soul because, if you let it, the family schedule can consume you leaving nothing left but the shell of the woman you once knew. Instead of a vibrant, multi-faceted dynamo, you devolve into a nagging, haggard task master who hates the sound of her own bitching voice almost as much as your kids do.

Fail

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On days like this, The BadAssMama feels like a BigAssLoser.


My 2 year old is crying. My almost-4-year-old is screaming. No one is listening. The tantrums will not end.


I'm going to read bedtime stories and pretend like this never happened...

Living the Dream

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As I take a moment to reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it strikes me that his dream not only applies to the incredibly lofty goals of racial harmony and equality, but is equally powerful when applied to parenthood.


Let me explain.


I strongly believe that much of the guilt, paranoia and general craziness of parenting comes from the fear of being judged. Rarely, if ever, do our children judge us. As much as we think that we are screwing up their lives, at the end of the day our kids really think that we're awesome. Mommy is the most beautiful girl in the world and Daddy can kick Superman's butt in a fist fight. For the most part, our spouses or partners refrain from judgement as well (mainly because they are often just as deep in the throes of parental doubt as we are!).

Insanity

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Here we are at the close of yet another weekend, and I can't help but wonder if my children hate me.


Let me explain.


I went with my new weekend motto - embrace the chaos. I not only embraced the chaos, but actually surrendered to the insanity. I laughed at the giggle fits, enjoyed the bouts of pretend time, kept the screeching in perspective. Even when the big boy decided that naptime-be-damned this afternoon, I rolled with it. Instead of forcing a nap after 90 minutes of vehement protest, I simply suggested to the hubs that we give up; let him play quietly while Victor napped, take away a privilege for the afternoon and hit an earlier bedtime. Cool...


Cleaning house

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Today I cleaned out my kitchen cabinets...along with a number of my unrealistic motherhood-related expectations.


Let me explain.


When we moved into our house 5 years-or-so ago, I filled a number of kitchen cabinets with random wedding gifts that I "should" keep. Not that there was anything wrong with them. They were all beautiful - crystal platters, ceramic picture frames, even an electric hurricane lamp (um...). Beautiful, but not exactly our style. But, I was a married woman now! Aren't I supposed to have a matching set of red and white Victorian-themed dinner plates, bowls and serving dishes? A big crystal dish with a pineapple motif is a necessity - almost as much as the huge knife and fork hangings for the kitchen! Right...

Snow days

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Nap time is my favorite time of day.


I'm certain that this statement should come with a certain measure of shame, but quite frankly it does not. You see, my kids are 2 and almost 4. As such, I am in the throes of the terrible twos and whatever the hell happens to a little boy when he's about to turn 4. Whatever it's technically called, it translates roughly into living hell.


Today was a snow day. The school district, preschool and day care were all closed. Now, being from the West Coast and without school-aged children, I am still not quite familiar with the whole snow day culture. Based upon my thorough research (consisting primarily of interviews on the evening news and random tweets/Facebook posts), it seems that parents generally enjoy snow days with their kids. They seem to consist of lazy, happy days spent bonding on the couch over hot cocoa and movies. Playful frolicking in the snow, building snowmen. Peaceful naps to break up the activity of the day, followed by indoor arts and crafts or storytime. Breakfast for dinner, wrapped up with an uneventful bath/book/bedtime routine.


Not at BadAssMama Central.

Guest Blogger! D'Angelo Thompson's Beauty and Buzz

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AMERICAN WOMAN
by D'angelo Thompson


Happy New Year!!!
This past holiday season i had the pleasure of traveling to France: Poitier, La Rochelle/Ilse de Re and Paris. I consider myself a keen observer and my subject was the women of France. I would say French women celebrate their natural beauty especially how they age.
I began to compare American and French women which one should never do their completely different cultures but i must say I LOVE how American women take care of their skin, bodies and pure drive to look and be their very best. So if i could present an award to every "BAD ASS MAMA" out there in the midst of your crazy schedules you ROCK.


BEAUTY TIP: Treat yourself to a CHAMPAGNE facial...
step one: splash face with cold water
step two:pour warm champagne in a bowl and splash or blot on to face , let sit for a few minutes and rinse off (the enzymes from the champagne sloughs off dead skin and brightens the face)


step three:use a light hydrating moisturizer (try "hope in a jar" by philosophy)


Last but not least i hope you had a bottle chilling in the fridge-take a few sips..."its the nectar of the gods"...lol




--
D'angelo Thompson
Esthesia Productions. Inc., Owner
www.dangelothompson.com
dlicious777@gmail.com
917-470-3559
BE DYNAMIC in 2011 !!!

Sleep training...the remix

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Silly me. I thought that sleep training was a one-time thing. Apparently, it needs to begin somewhere between 6 weeks and 3 months (depending on the your child's temperament and your parental pain threshold) and repeats itself at the 18 month mark, then annually beginning at age 2.


Well, at least that's what happens at Casa de BadAssMama...


For the two year old, it's not so much a going-to-bed thing as a waking-up-at-god-awful-early-in-the-morning thing. Intermittently over the past month, Victor has once again decided that 4:30am is the new black. We have the same bath/book/bedtime routine as always, and he falls asleep by 8:15 like a charm. But now, the early morning hours are like a game of Russian roulette. Don't you DARE walk down the hallway for an early morning pee! Pray to the Lord that little Angel doesn't have his every-so-often 5am nightmare. It could be a normal, uneventful morning and Victor can still randomly decide to wake up at the crack of dawn.


Why is this happening? I have no idea.


The baby/toddler books tell me alternatively to let him cry it out or comfort him. I forget.


Then, there's the almost-4-year-old. Apparently, after a full day of semi-good behavior, it is mandatory to let out all of his bad-boy tendencies between the hours of 8 and 10pm. Every night since Christmas Eve (please note, today is January 11), he has consistently raised hell from anywhere between 1 and 3 hours after bedtime. "Mommy, Daddy!" "I need to pee!" "Poo! Poo!" "Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!"He's even regressed and occasionally cries out for a ba-ba (universal code word for bottle) in the middle of his random rants.


Why is this happening? I have no idea.


The preschool books tell me alternatively to let him cry it out or acknowledge his emotions and engage in conversation. I forget. I'm too f-ing tired to read anymore.


So, to all of you parents who gave yourself a seemingly well-deserved pat on the back after completing the early-infancy round of sleep training, here's a wake up call. Round two (or three, or four....) is on the way.


Nap while you can...

Happy Birthday

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It's official. I no longer have an almost-2-year-old. Today, my Victor-Roo turns two.


It's a tradition at BadAssMama Central to measure the boys' height along the door jamb at the back of the house on their birthday. As much as I'd love to cheat and measure them at several points during the year, there's something magical and almost sacred in the simple act of lining them up early each birthday morning and taking a physical account of at least one of the changes that have taken place over the course of the year.


As with most things on the physical scale, Victor is blowing away Little A in terms of height and weight at age 2. I honestly think that it has little to do with the fact that Angel was born 8 weeks early (he's caught up with all things physical and developmental at this point). Victor is just HUGE. Even with a two year lag, Victor has a low-single-digit weight deficit to his big brother and is still only a head shorter (and Angel is REALLY tall!)


I love my children's birthdays. Not just for the cake, or the decorations or the look of pure glee on their faces when we sing Happy Birthday for the forty-seventh time by 10am. In a small, somewhat selfish way, I view each birthday as a mommy milestone. Another year has passed, and my children are still happy, healthy and crazy. I have made it through another 12 months without maiming or otherwise irreparably damaging them. They are not yet in therapy. They are bigger, stronger, smarter, sillier, happier, everything-er than this time last year.


And I have the honor of being their mommy.


Happy birthday, Victor. Mommy loves you...

Sleep

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It's fascinating what a little downtime can do.

Over the past few weeks, I have stealthily, surreptitiously conducted a little experiment on myself. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me or reads this blog even occasionally that sleep and I are not on the best of terms.

To be more precise, I haven't had more than a handful of full-night-sleeps since roughly August 2006.

The objective, third party research (as well as plain Jane common sense) on this topic is clear. Sleep is the key to just about everything. Sleep allows our bodies to heal and regenerate. It helps to fuel brain function, weight regulation and overall well-being. Not to mention that a good night's sleep can keep you from cursing out your friends, family and random passers-by during your morning commute (not that that's happened to me or anything, but I hear it's a possibility...).

So, back to my experiment. Due to a combination of factors including holiday vacation, guest grandparents and a few other meaningless details, the BadAssMama has been blessed with a bit more leisure time than usual over the past few weeks. Rather than using my newly found freedom to write the next great American novel or clean out my linen closet, I decided to see how my life might change if I committed to getting a full night's sleep for an extended period of time.

Given the fact that I have 2 children under the age of 4, I had no illusions that this would be a completely controlled experiment, but decided to give it the good-old-college-try nonetheless. Rather than staying up to watch Letterman or check just one more item off of my never-ending-to-do list, I committed to plop my happy butt into bed each night no later than 10pm.

Now, if you're anything like me, a 10pm bedtime must strike you as blasphemous. Impossible! Preposterous! How can you possibly function or maintain a smoothly running family/work/personal life with such an obscenely early curfew?

That's easy. My life wasn't functioning very smoothly WITHOUT that sleep (recall the cursing friends, family and random passers-by comment a few paragraphs back), so I figured what the heck! Let's give it a try.

I am happy to report that, while current conditions at BadAssMama Central are far from routine these days, the extra sleep does seem to be having a positive effect. While I am still generally a cranky bastard (nature vs. nurture - Rome wasn't built in a day and all...), I do feel a general improvement in my overall mood. I am yelling a lot less, and have much more of a roll-with-the-punches mentality of late.

The experiment was interrupted by a bout of nasty coughy-sneeziness for the boys that lasted about 10 days, and Victor decided that 4am was the new black for a few days. But, by-and-large I was able to eek out a minimum of 7 relatively consecutive hours a night for the past 2 weeks.

It's much too early to report on the success or failure of my experiment, but I can say that I highly recommend conducting one of your own. As busy moms, our time is precious. There are never enough hours in the day, and as soon as you cross one item off of your to-do list, at least five more crop up to take its place.

That alone is reason enough to take a nap!

So, if the inbox will never be empty and the kids will come a-calling at the crack of dawn whether you've clocked 7 hours or barely 3, why not go for the 7? What the hell! Be bold and make it 8.

Everything looks better after a good night's sleep.

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

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No, I don't mean the holidays you looney - I mean the first day back to school and daycare AFTER winter break!


Last night I was so excited about the prospect of sending my kids back to school after 2 weeks of nearly-non-stop-togetherness that I could barely contain my pure glee. This morning lived up to expectations. Aside from the mildly annoying din of my kids whining at the concept of putting on actual clothes after over two weeks of non-stop-pajama-days, the morning went by smoothly.


And now it is quiet.


Blissfully, serenely, almost completely quiet.


There was a time that I used to feel guilty about disliking long stretches of uninterrupted and unstructured time with my children. Extended illnesses, holidays, school vacations. All of them strike me with more or less the same combination of dread-tinted-nausea-highlighted-with-a-healthly-serving-of-guilt.

New year, new attitude?

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As the sun rose on the first year of a new decade, I found myself slightly annoyed.

Nothing was wrong, in particular. The sun was shining, my children were happy. The holidays continue to bring a steady stream of family and friends to Casa de La BadAssMama. Yet, and still, I was annoyed.

Not exactly how I envisioned starting the new year.

So, instead of pissing off my entire family (as I have the terrible habit of doing whenever I'm in a funk), I did something that I haven't done in longer than I dare to remember. I quietly went back upstairs, climbed into bed and read a book. A REAL book. Not a Kindle book, an actual hard cover book. With paper pages.

Now, don't get me wrong, I adore the convenience of the Kindle. I love that it lightens my commuter bag by a good 5 pounds or more on any given weekday, and helps me to avoid the nasty grime of newsprint on my winter whites and spring pales. But there's something about reading a hard cover book that is simply luxurious. It takes me back to my childhood spent cramming as many books as humanly possible into summer days and school year weekends. I was always the kid who cried when her parents wouldn't let her buy every-single-one of her picks for the Scholastic book club, and loved the library as much if not more than the amusement park. That child transformed into the young adult who spent countless hours and dollars at Barnes and Noble every Saturday. Who became a recluse whenever the latest Alex Cross novel was released, and stayed awake for hours on a work night to finish each tome in the Harry Potter series.

For me, books have always been an escape. They take me away from the business of daily life and allow me to become completely absorbed in another world. Even when reading books of the self help or business variety, I feel at ease, a comfort in flipping the pages and becoming fully engrossed in the content.

Reading for pleasure is a joy that I've forgone in the past few years. Spare moments on an airplane or scream-free-zones at home were better spent stealing a few moments of precious and woefully needed sleep than diving into the details of a juicy novel. I didn't realize just how much I missed books until today. Not to mention the fact that my time spent absorbed in the literary journey of another not only inspired me, but cured my funky attitude to boot.

I think I'll hit the Barnes & Noble tomorrow afternoon. I miss it...