Bad Mommy - Part...I lost count

I am tired. I am irritable. I am over-worked and sleep-deprived.

Basically, it's Wednesday.

So, as I do most Wednesdays, I'm wondering how the hell am I so tired when we're only half-way through the week? When I'm feeling this way, I typically start to obsess over all the little things that I'm doing wrong  - as a mom, as a wife, as an executive, as a blogger (why don't I have something FUNNY and INSIGHTFUL to say, like, EVER?).

Rather than keeping all of this glorious self-talk trapped inside my crazy little head, I'd like to get it out on paper (er, virtual paper). That way, you can a) feel better about yourself in comparison; b) find comfort in the fact that you're not the only one who does this kind of crap or c) have a laugh at my expense and get back to folding laundry (on a Wednesday at 10pm...again).

So here, in no particular order, are the reasons why I suck:

  • I feed my kids way too much pre-packaged food. I really should take the time to prepare fresh meals made from real ingredients. While the chicken nugget box says that they're "all natural", there is not much natural about dinosaur shaped meat...
  • I allow the TV to babysit my kids when I need to get dressed in the morning. Or when I need to cook dinner. Or when I'm tired of them calling my name. They probably watch less than an hour (or so) of TV each day, but in a pinch it's my best go-to option when I need to get something done.
  • I yell at my kids. On a daily basis. Some days more than others, but most days nonetheless. It's never malicious or intentionally hurtful. Sometimes it's just to be heard over their own shrieks of joy or heartbreak. Others, out of sheer frustration. In either case, I really should yell much less. My kids are yellers because I yell.
  • By Sunday, I look forward to going into the office come Monday morning. I love spending time with my kids, but by the time the weekend is over I can't say that I'm completely disappointed.
  • I am looking forward to 10 days of uninterrupted family time (known as "vacation" before kids) with equal parts anticipation and doom. 

It ain't pretty, but it's real. Just another day in the life of a BadAssMama...

Growing pains

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So, we've decided to press pause on the potty training.

Let me explain.

Victor has been progressing into big-boy-hood at a steady clip - ditching the bottle, growing into bigger clothes, a big boy bed, even peeing in the potty on a semi-regular basis. So, we decided to try potty training  this weekend. Things started off well enough (with the exception of poop - but that's a given). Suddenly, once Victor realized that this potty training-thing involved EXPECTATIONS of him, he decided it was for the birds.

I could almost see the tiny thought bubbles forming over his adorable little red-head. "You mean I have to do this thing ALL THE TIME? It's not just for fun? AND you expect me to poop in there? F-this...I'm going back to the Pampers. This big boy stuff is a crock..."

I hear you Victor.

Come to think of it, I went through the same set of mini-tantrums when I realized that being a mom wasn't all fun and games. Sure, it was great to get a guaranteed seat (most days...) on the subway, to have people pick up heavy objects and open doors. Even those early days in the hospital were semi-blissful (the post-pre-eclampsia part). Nurses would take the baby back to the nursery when you wanted to sleep. Someone gave the baby their first bath - removing that crazy birth-gunk and bringing them back to you clean, swaddled and ready to eat.

Then you get home and all hell breaks loose.

Sure, there's lots of family and friends around the first few weeks. But they all seem to go deaf and blind when the baby's crying at 3am and you can barely get out of bed, what with the post-c-section-Percocet-and-sleep-deprivation-induced haze.

As soon as you get used to the pace of the infant days, it seems like they're a toddler before you know it. Soon, they're mobile and vocal and you find yourself answering to a chorus of "Mommy" and "Ba-ba" and "Why" about seven billion times each day.

Not that you mind. You signed up for this gig, right? And they're cute, smell nice (most of the time) and it's REALLY funny to make them say crazy stuff.

But there are all those damned EXPECTATIONS. You're supposed to have the right answers. You're supposed to be patient and kind and understanding and nurturing when sometimes all you really want to do is tell everyone in the house to shut the hell up already.

Expectations take all the fun out of growing up.

So, we're pressing the pause button on the whole potty training thing. Come to think of it, I don't think we really started with Angel until he was about 3 anyway.

We could all use a break...

Trading places

What's old is new again at BadAssMama Central.

Let me explain.

After months of letting Victor make pee in the potty before bedtime (while keeping him in diapers all day), it suddenly dawned on me that at two-and-a-half and asking to go potty of his own volition he is probably ready to be properly potty trained. Since lightning strikes do not catch my attention, it took something a bit more direct to bring me to this conclusion. As I picked up both kids from daycare on Friday, Angel had to make a mad dash to the potty before getting into the truck. Victor then proceeded with a chorus of "Pee! Pee! Pee", walked to the bathroom, made pee STANDING UP, BY HIMSELF then gave a mega-Kool-Aid grin to me and the head of the day care. She then instructed me to bring Pull Ups on Monday.

I guess my baby is growing up...

Conversely, Little Angel appears to be reverting to the terrible-two's yet again. Maybe it's the lack of structure, now that the preschool year has ended and he "graduated" from speech therapy. Maybe it's the changes at BadAssMama Central (my 26-year-old sister has moved in for her year of residency - that's right. My baby sister is a DOCTOR!!!! So proud...and feeling slightly underachiever-ish, but I digress). Maybe the moon is in retrograde, or he's really a zombie-attacker trying to kill us all in our sleep. In either case, he's driving me f-ing crazy.

As Victor makes strides into big-boy-dom, it seems like I'm trading one baby for another. I realize that seeing his baby brother doing many of the special-big-boy-things that only he used to do is probably disturbing and slightly disheartening. Angel may be losing his sense of place in our family; if Victor is a big boy too, what makes me special?

You're probably waiting for me to wrap this up with a Hallmark-like sentiment about how both of my boys are special in their own way, and how I am going to make sure to spend extra one-on-one time with Angel to remind him how special he is to me. Sure - I'm going to do all of that, but that doesn't stop me from kind of wanting to tell him to just suck it up right about now.

It's been a long weekend. I'll try to be more inspirational tomorrow....

More Bad than BadAss, but still Angel and Victor's Mama :)

I do it myself

Today we begin potty training in earnest for baby #2.

Please pray for me.

I knew this day would come. We started earlier with Angel (or at least I think we did - damned sleep-deprivation-induced-short-term-memory-loss!). Even when Victor started to ask to pee on the potty like his big brother, it never occurred to me that it might be time to start actual potty training. He was my baby - my last baby. He couldn't POSSIBLY be ready to leave diapers already.

Could he?

Let's see: He's two-and-a-half. He mimics everything that big brother does. He's sleeping in a big boy bed and weighs 2 pounds less than my four-and-a-half year old. Oh, and he's peed on the potty religiously every night before bath for the past 3 months.

It would be nice to be out of diapers. He is becoming fiercely independent. He is a big boy.

Maybe that's the part that makes me sad...

Daddy Rules...

Another Father's Day has come and gone. As I reflect on my good fortune of having both an awesome dad and an incredible husband who is an even better father, I can't help but think that there's a lot that The BadAssMama (and a lot of us other over-worked/under-slept moms) can learn from the dads out there.

So, in honor of Father's Day The BadAssMama presents the Top 10 things we can learn from dads:

10. Making a fort out of dining room chairs, sofa cushions and every clean sheet in the house = BEST DAY EVER

9. There is no tantrum that a Nickelodeon DVD can't fix

8. The real culprit always blames their younger brother

7. When in doubt, break out the Legos

6. Nothing spells "full night's sleep" like 45 minutes in a bouncy house

5. Leaning on the counter, drinking a cup of coffee while watching the news after a long day at work (rather than racing around the house to complete errands the second you step in the door) is completely acceptable

4. After a day of full diapers and short fuses, nothing spells relief like a solid hour of mindless reality television

3. Just because you are your kids best buddy doesn't mean that you can't lay down the law

2. There's always room for more cookies

1. You can never give your kids too many hugs, or say I love you too many times.

Happy Father's Day...

The Secret Lives of Working Moms

Sometimes it feels like I lead a double life.

Let me explain.

While not exactly the stuff of spy novels or a Hannah Montana episode (did I REALLY just make that reference?), my "work self" and my "home self" oftentimes feel like two completly different people. True, while I'm at work - whether that be in the office, on the road or working from home - I am still a mom. That's not really a hat you can take off at any given time (though I think I'm doing a pretty good job of keeping my mommy duties and worries compartmentalized while on my "day job".) But, 9 times out of 10, when I'm at work I do a pretty decent impression of Wonder Woman - twirling to transform from BadAssMama into BadAssExecutive.

The transformation is pretty radical. On any given weekend (or most weekdays after 7pm), you'll find me in my BadAssMama uniform - consisting primarily of sweatpants or  jeans, t-shirts, peanut butter and boogers. The hours are filled alternately with grocery shopping/laundry folding/random-household-errand completion and feeding/clothing/educating/entertaining my 2 tiny lunatics. The locales are rarely glamorous, and consist primarily of venues which accomodate tantruming toddlers and preschoolers running at top speeds (often at full volume). Mealtime choices are limited to home or restaurants serving the Toddler-Top-Five (chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, fish sticks, pizza or mac & cheese). Bedtime is early, for parents and kids alike, and we all rise with the roosters the next morning to do it all over again.

Until Monday morning. Between the hours of 5 and 7am, I somehow manage to straddle both roles - changing into my BadAssExecutive costume while rangling the tiny terrors into their car seats. The look is night and day - sweatsuits replaced with business suits and tailored dresses. Stilletos take the place of sneakers, with realtively-snazzy (depending on the morning!) hair and makeup to complete the package. My days are filled with meetings in which people actually LISTEN to what I have to say, and follow most of my directions. I have a sense of mastery to my role, confident that I am fully equipped to successfully complete the task at hand.

During my business trips, the transformation is even more remarkable (thanks to full nights of uninterrupted sleep and the ability to complete a workout without having to break up a fight). There are flights to interesting locations, dinners at restaurants with NO kids menu (gasp!), fancy/cool hotels in which I feel slightly out of place - but not as much as I would covered in peanut butter and boogers.

As I write this, I'm sitting in an airport lounge in California, waiting for my flight back home. I left at 6:30 Monday morning (to spend the full weekend with my boys), and will land just after midnight New York time. I drove a convertible sports car (free upgrade from the standard mid-size in my company's contract - SCORE!) and, for at least a few moments of the past 36 hours, felt a bit like my pre-mommy self. The days in my 20's and early 30's before marriage and children when I was on the road every week, client meetings in a different city. Driving a car (instead of the mommy SUV) felt light, free, almost youthful. As I drove down the 405, I wondered if my life was better then or now.

The answer came quickly. Now.

Then, the road was my life. While my days are still filled with meetings and travel, I get to come home to what matters most. Ture, there is less sleep and more hassles. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a presentation to write before I board the plane...

Pajama Day (a.k.a. the long-lost art of doing nothing)

Somewhere along the way to this  hyper-advanced world of iPads, cell phones, texting, IM, PDAs, ELAs and TMI, we've lost the art of doing nothing.

Let me explain.

The phenomenon of over-scheduled kids (and their sleep-deprived parents) is nothing new. If you have a kid, it is likely your reality. If not, I'm certain you've read a New York Time, Wall Street Journal, Insert-Your-Local-Newspaper-Here article about it at some point in the past 6 months. The Tiger Moms of the world have taken preparing-our-preschoolers-for-college-admissions to an art form (a sick, twisted, slightly self-centered art form, but a piece of work nonetheless...). Even those of us who have resisted (at least intermittently) the urge to sign our kids up for every extracurricular activity under the sun, we spend a good amount of time worrying that our lack of signing our kids up for every activity under the sun will somehow handicap their chances of future advancement (or make us look like slackers. Potato, po-TA-to...).

That's where Pajama Day comes in.

A few times each month (ideally, one weekend day per week - when we're not inundated with birthday parties), The Hubs and I declare a Pajama Day at BadAssMama Central. The four of us stay in our pajamas ALL DAY (at least until one of the adults has to leave the house to run an errand or take out the garbage. Then, we grudgingly get dressed, only to resume the pajama-wearing-revelry upon our return). More importantly, we allow our kids to play. At home. With their own toys. ALL DAY. We try to avoid anything electronic for as much of the day as possible (please note I did not say ALL DAY - I'm a BadAssMama, not a saint...). There is lots of pretend play - particularly anything involving robots, dinosaurs or astronauts these days. There are race cars, toy trains, block cities and ball juggling (after the last trip to the circus, both boys seem to think that they can juggle). 

We also play WITH the kids as little as possible.

Yes, you read that right. We do NOT play with our kids. We let THEM play. Whatever they want. However they want. For pretty much as long as their preschool attention spans will last. 

In this world of hyper-attentive, every-second-counts, helicopter parenting, this last part probably sounds like mommy-heresy. "How can you be at home with your kids and NOT play with them?" "What kind of slacker-parents are you?" "Has ANYONE called ACS yet???"

In addition to being a chance to have every single article of "outside clothes" in our house clean for a 24-hour hour period, Pajama Day is a chance for our kids to enjoy the simple pleasures of free play - without grown-up intervention, direction or attempt to insert educational value. An opportunity to use  their imaginations. Make up their own games. Make up their own rules. Work through conflict. Share -without being forced to. To learn how to have fun without guidance, batteries, touch screens, step-by-step instructions or Julie the cruise director. 

Truth be told, I think that our kids enjoy Pajama Day more than any visit to the amusement park/children's museum/insert-extracurricular-activity here. They get to be with the folks they love the most, and play until their little butts pass out from exhaustion. 

I love Pajama Day. I highly recommend it....

Liar, liar...

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When it comes to parenting, honesty is not always the best policy. In fact, I lie to my children on an almost-daily basis:

  • Just one more green bean...
  • Chuck-E Cheese doesn't do birthday parties anymore
  • McDonald's is yucky
  • There's a party in the potty, and your poop wants to go!
  • But we have to leave now, the park is closing
  • You only have to take a little nap
  • Of course I want to play robot-astronauts again!
  • The cat ate the rest of the Oreos
  • I'm SO sorry that the noisy-bangy toy from the birthday-party-treat-bag last weekend broke

So, I'm not mother of the year. But, let's be real. Sometimes it's easier to say that Chuck-E Cheese's is closed rather than endure yet another weekend of screaming-minimally-supervised-lunatics-on-a-sugar-high. To make up an answer when your four-year-old is on the 32nd string of "But why?" responses to any combination of questions, simple directions or basic statements of fact. 

Am I setting the best example for my children? Absolutely not. Am I contradicting my own rule that "we don't tell lies in this house"? Yup. 

But sometimes it makes life just a bit easier. And when you're subsisting on a diet of Cheerios, Diet Coke and 3 hours of sleep, you need all the help you can get!

Public Enemy #1

Today, I was banned from Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Let me explain.

It all started out innocently. Last winter, Angel and I signed the boys up for the Wee Bop introduction to jazz class for preschoolers. They loved it - especially the days when real jazz musicians joined the class and played live while the kids scatted around the room with maracas and drums. It was kind of the best of both worlds - our kids were being exposed to real music and real musicians, while still having the freedom to express themselves as only preschoolers can (namely at high speeds and even higher decibels). They were allowed to learn a bit about the rich history of jazz in the United States while in an environment that tolerated the occasional (or-every-10-minute) developmentally appropriate nuclear meltdown.

Apparently that does NOT extend to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Family Matinee Series.

We have received the monthly schedule for a while now, but I've never gotten around to signing up for a Family Jazz Matinee before it was sold out. When I opened the envelope in early April, I IMMEDIATELY jumped online and signed up for 4 tickets. I read through all the details - no age restrictions or mentions of an intolerance-of-small-children in the marketing materials for the FAMILY Jazz Matinee. A few days later, the tickets arrived in the mail and were safely tucked away as I marked June 4, 3pm on our family calendar.

Today arrived and we were all excited. After brunch with 'Buela and Titi, we headed into the city and made our way to Columbus Circle. We arrived shortly before the performance was set to begin and found 4 seats in the back (ah, the joys of general admission) with easy access to the exit in case of emergency (or toddler nuclear meltdown). The room was glorious - floor to ceiling mirrors looking directly onto Central Park as a backdrop to the dapper jazz quartet at the front of the room. After a quick scan of our fellow hipsters, I noticed a broad spectrum of ages in the audience. Less kids than I expected, but hey - it WAS the family matinee so surely everything would be fine. This is where my kids learned to appreciate jazz in a safe environment mere months ago. We were going to have a ball!

Confessions of a PTO drop out

We marched in the town Memorial Day Parade with my four-year-old's preschool last weekend. I was more-than-a-little-excited for the whole experience. I remember when we first moved here, we stumbled upon the holiday parade - with the school marching bands, Rotary and Auxilliary Club floats and incredible finale with all the town fire engines, both modern and classic (come to think of it, what the hell would happen if a fire ACTUALLY broke out during the parade?). In those early days, before we had kids but were beginning the conversation, the town parade represented my hopes for a future of family traditions, holiday barbeques and cherished memories.

The overcast skies did not keep us from marching in the parade last Monday. But, the thought of facing all the moms that I'd ditched at the PTO almost did...

Let me explain.

If you recall, Angel started  preschool this year. We thought that a few days in a more structured school environment might help with some of his behavior issues (that is, until we realized that most almost-4-year-old-boys are complete lunatics by nature). On the first day of school, my husband and I arrived early with Angel in tow, with Angel in his new school clothes and me in my standard issue work dress - blackberry in hand, ready to dash off to the train as soon as the school bell rang.

While the kids got acclimated to their new classroom environment for the next 90 minutes, we mingled with the other parents and members of the PTO in the school auditorium. There was coffee, danish and sign up sheets. Many sign up sheets for the plethora of annual events and activities held for the kids by the nursery school every year.

I signed up to be one of the class moms. Making sure that the snack calendar was full and initiating the phone tree in case of school closure seemed easy enough. It was a way to be involved in Angel's new school while still being able to hold down my crazy work schedule. Anyone with a schedule like mine and half a brain would have left it at that. But, being the slightly-deranged-Type-A-overachiever that I am, I immediately noticed that there was an open slot for the third Vice President. Clearly, if I was going to sign up for something it HAD to be at the VP level or above (right?). The main responsibility was to take the lead on the annual memory book (basically a pre-school version of the high school year book with ads from parents and local businesses as a fundraising tool). I signed on the dotted line, shook off the "you're crazy" look from my husband and marched down the hall to retrieve my child before a sprint to the railroad to make my afternoon meetings.

It all started out well. I attended the first few PTO meetings. Initiated phone trees. Ensured that the snack calendar was always full. Then the PTO co-presidents moved meetings to Thursdays rather than Fridays. Most Fridays, I work from home. Thursdays are my busiest meeting day of the week. I asked if we could stick with the original schedule - none doing...

This was the start of my black-sheep-dom.

Mommy guilt

"Mommy, I want YOU to give me a bath."


I knew it would happen at some point. First, the four-year-old stabs me with the "It makes me sad when you're not here." Then, the baby joins in on the act.

It was only a matter of time. I traveled a lot more when Angel was younger, so I think it just seemed natural to him that mommy would disappear for a few days every now and again. A voice on the phone rather than  a hug at the end of the day. Other than that isolated "I miss you" moment, he continues (so far) to take it all in stride.

Apparently Victor is another story.

It started last week when I was on an extended business trip. Actually, the longest I've taken since both boys were born. It's funny. I actually remember thinking that I felt more balanced, more comfortable than I ever had during this last business trip. I was able to focus on my meetings, enjoyed the scenery a bit and generally just felt really plugged in. Smart even.

Then I got the first bedtime call.

The big boy was all smiles and giggles. "Where are you today, mommy?" He seemed genuinely excited when I explained that I was in the place where we saw the princess get married on TV (truth be told, he seemed more excited when he thought that I was actually on TV, but settled for London). He gave me phone kisses, then passed me on to his brother. "Mommy, I need you. I need you NOW".  Like that damned Lady Antebellum song, Victor's pleas for his mommy rang in my ears for the rest of the night. How could I dare enjoy my business trip when my baby NEEDED me?

I thought that I was beyond this. That I'd come to grips with the fact that I am a better mom when I work. That I need a career outside of my family to feel smart, connected, more like myself. Not to mention pay the mortgage and little details like that.

But it doesn't get any easier. Well, that's not entirely true. The guilt is no longer all-consuming. It rears its ugly head in fits and starts. My dreams that things would get easier as my kids got older are beginning to evaporate as I realize they will actually need me MORE as the years go by. There will be homework. School plays. Baseball games. Show choir (trust me, little Angel has Glee written all over him...). How am I going to balance all of that AND a career AND some semblance of me-time (not to mention spending time with that guy who falls asleep next to me each night)?

I'll do it because that's what I do. We'll do it because that's what we do. My career is important to me. My family, moreso. But I need both. So I'll figure it out.

The good news is, shortly after his declaration of mommy-need, Victor was off to play with his trains and seemingly forgot about the agony he was in mere seconds before.

Hopefully I can learn to do the same...