Motherhood and Recovery: What My Recovery Looks Like Today.

Would I like to be more active in addiction recovery? Yes, I would. Attend engaging and inspirational speakers meetings? You bet. Women’s meetings that allow me to foster healing connections? Count me in. Honestly, I’d agree to just about anything if it meant being undisturbed for the greater part of an hour. The thought of sitting down — in a chair —ANYWHERE appeals to me, and especially in a room full of people who are genuinely invested personal growth. I truly respect the recovery that comes from the rooms. I do. But I also find the commitment to be unrealistic at times — at least, for this mom of two young kids. 

It’s my impression that, in order to achieve and maintain lasting/worthwhile recovery, at the very minimum one must: Regularly attend meetings, work the steps with a sponsor and do service work — a trio that typically goes hand-in-hand. It’s a relatively straightforward process. Twelve step attendees will lament that you have to show up in recovery the same way you would show up in addiction, which makes sense. But there are exceptions to every rule and for some of us, regularly attending a face-to-face meeting often involves completing at least twelve steps before one can even consider opening the front door to leave. Apparently, toddlers don’t come with a cruise control button.

Whether you are an old timer or you are brand new to the 12-step community, it’s widely recognized that sobriety has to be your #1 priority.  You must invest in your recovery.  Thanks to technology, folks have access to recovery in some form 24/7. There are e-meetings and over-the-phone meetings, books and workbooks. People with some time sign up and are available for SOS calls into the wee hours. There are smartphone apps and recorded speaker meetings.  These amazing tools can serve anyone who needs a quick dose of recovery at his/her convenience.  Despite their availability, however, I don’t sense that these tools can be used exclusively as means to achieving sobriety and lasting recovery. Call me crazy, but I suspect that true recovery — the kind that is respected and sought after — can only be achieved in person.

For me — today — recovery looks like this: I don’t consume substances, and I do my best to show up for my family. It’s not perfect, but it works for me for the time being.  What I consider 12-step minimalism, others might be quick to call “white knuckling”.  Am I, at times, restless, irritable or discontent?  You bet. Frequently I’m all three.  I’m a mom, damn it! Even so, I have full access to a slew of emotional tools gleaned over the years in AA and through therapy.

The concept of powerlessness is inescapable in the recovery community. Coincidently, anyone who has been a parent for longer than 12 hours will likely agree that parenting is  an undertaking that will challenge ones illusion of control on a daily basis. I wasn’t “recovered” when my husband and I decided to have kids. No one in recovery ever is. But we were in a good place in our journey to welcome kids. Recovery is an ongoing journey. I view it both as a gift and a necessity. And I haven’t lost sight of my desire to strengthen my sobriety as I continue down the path to recovery. But for now, my path looks a little different from what is typically prescribed by sponsors and old timers. And different is okay. For the most part, my life is drama-free and full of smiles, energetic play, bear hugs, poopy diapers and tears. For these things and more, I am grateful. 

 

Cookies & Cleaning: A Few of My Favorite Things

Alert the adventure police! Once every few months I try to live on the edge by cleaning something a tiny bit more thoroughly than I normally would. I might deep clean the fridge, or take the Bissel to my carpets; hell, if it’s a weekend, I might consider scrubbing the baseboards (never once has this actually happened, by the way). You get the point, though: on the rare occasion that an opportunity to deep clean presents, it only feels right to make good. 

To make the most of it, I get all hopped up on coffee and podcasts and I let my cleaning momentum take hold. Nothing gets in my way. Seriously, even when my one of my kids inevitably injures himself having slipped on the floor I just mopped, I keep just moving —  refusing to allow anything to diminish my productivity. I’m willing to mop up blood, teeth, and/or tears shed all the while non-verbally instructing my husband to nurture our hysterical children. 

And maybe it’s the caffeine taking hold, but damn if I’m not struck by the Give-a-Mouse-a-Cookie-syndrome after I start cleaning. Like, I might be doing the dishes when I realize that the cabinet fronts are in desperate need of a wipe down. Of course, a wipe down isn’t enough. I’m working with kid germs. Those cabinets need bleach. And as I’m scrubbing with bleach, I may notice that I can barely see out of the windows that have been licked by my 3-year-old and muddied by my dog’s paws. One thing leads to another, and fifteen minutes later, I’ve not only loaded the dishwasher, I’ve mentally committed myself to an entire main-level home remodel. Cleaning opens a Pandora’s box, and that box is full of commitments.

I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t considered hiring a cleaning person. I could cut out my Starbucks visits, commute to work by bicycle, and stop throwing quite so such money at Target. With these adjustments, surely I could justify a once-per-month cleaning service. And I might honestly consider doing all of this IF it didn’t mean having to pre-clean before the cleaning folks arrived. It makes absolutely no sense to me — the concept of cleaning before cleaning. Pre-wash, what? Chances are my oven would become my impromptu junk drawer in which I would thoughtlessly stash everything that didn’t get properly put away. Truthfully, I don’t want a cleaning person. I want a magician — someone who is able to put our never-ending collection of crap away in their designated places without having to be told where these places are. 

And let’s be real honest, no matter when or how the cleaning gets done, nothing is going to stay clean.  I can spend hours cleaning after my kids go to bed (though it’s far more likely that you’ll find sitting on my couch binge watching Workin’ Moms or Dead to Me), and within five minutes of the kids waking, our house will have morphed into a war zone. I can’t even pretend to understand how two tiny people — not even 30 pounds per human — are capable of creating such complete disaster in five-minutes max. But time and again they do it. Do they offer to clean up? Of course not. Hell, one of them can’t even talk. The other one begs me to play a cleanup song to which he sings and dances while I clean up.  

Knowing what it’s going to lead to, why do I even start? Lord knows I’m not in it for the cookies. Honestly, cleaning gives me a valid reason to take a time out from mom-ing for a minute. So there’s that. Additionally, cleaning the house allows me to prove my capabilities as a caring mom, dedicated wife and all around worthy human. Mostly, I do it because I’m supposed to. Knowing that my clean house will immediately be turned upside down, and knowing that my young kids will only be young for a short while, it makes more sense to get a deep tissue massage once every few months and scrap the cleaning. An occasional act of self-care is bound to prepare me to be more present for family when I’m on duty. Still, I’m required to maintain a minimally clean and sanitary home — enough to prevent the spread of disease. And I’d be lying if I said that a quick load of dishes didn’t tempt me to wipe the dishwasher front…

Meatless Mama

When my 3 year old recently inquired about predator-prey relationships, he was disbelieving of my response. I have no qualms villainizing spiders, so I told him that spiders eat other insects. He recently saw a fox catch a rabbit, so I didn’t think twice before asking him to recall this delightful memory. And though I’m a vegetarian, on impulse, I admitted that humans eat cows and pigs. I don’t know why I stopped with just cows and pigs, with no mention of chicken or fish, but it doesn’t matter because he didn’t believe me. I was forced to explain further. It was then that I broke the news to my bacon-eating son that bacon is a pig. He assured me with the unfounded confidence of a 3 year old that, “bacon is just food.”  I finally sent him off to consult with daddy — the carnivorous parent and apparent authority on the matter.  

Here’s the thing, while I fit the vegetarian profile, I don’t actually consider myself a real vegetarian. True, I abstain from consuming meat, but not out of principal, really. And I don’t actually eat vegetables.  I would more aptly identify as a carbatarian — a lover of animals, who dislikes the texture of meat and prefers to consume refined carbs in any and all forms for and in-between all meals. For this reason, I find that preparing meat dishes is gross. At the same time, it only seems natural — and far less labor intensive — to serve meat for dinner (along with carbs) as long as my kids are willing to eat it. Toddlers aren’t exactly known for their adventurous eating habits.  In our house, the number of acceptable and nutritious food items is dwindling.  

The way I see it, meat-eaters have far greater access to a variety of protein sources. When is the last time you had the option of ordering tofu nuggets with a side of edamame from the drive through? Exactly. Why complicate things by encouraging vegetarianism in my kiddos? It’s hard enough getting two inherently picky toddlers to ingest the requisite daily nutrients. I’m willing to offer nutrition in whatever form — even when ground together in a hot dog casing.

When I was growing up, I wasn’t aware of meatless alternatives. I didn’t even realize that being vegetarian was a thing. I was classified as a picky eater with a reliance upon cheese-smothered carbs for sustenance. Over time I’ve discovered a number of meat-free protein sources. I’ve armed myself (kind of) with knowledge about the nutritional benefits of beans and nuts. I’ve been introduced to and have learned how to pronounce both quinoa and edamame. I still rely a little too heavily on sugars and carbs (I’m a work in progress), but now I also eat eggs… as long as that weird white thing is carefully removed from the yoke. All of this has allowed me to better accommodate the needs of my kids even despite their finicky taste buds. Now when my kids take a hiatus from fish, for example, I can offer them tofu… in moderation of course.  Word on the street is that too much soy can be damaging.

For as long as I was willing, my mom let me believe that fish sticks weren’t made of real fish. My dad, her ex, unraveled this “truth” in less than five-seconds while on a daddy-daughter fishing trip when I was about six. The news freaked me out. I’m now nearing 40 and I still interrogate my mom when she serves “meatless” gravy at Thanksgiving. Although I see where she was coming from, I opted to try a different approach with my kids; one that will likely scar them in different ways. And daddy backed me. When my son returned to me after talking with his dad about the truth on bacon, he proudly declared, “When pigs die, we eat them.”

Proud Mom of a Preschool Grad: Lessons Learned

Its official — my three year old successfully completed his first year of preschool this week.  At drop-off, I reminded my little guy to be extra gracious towards his teachers for all their help and support.  When I picked him up at the end of the day, I asked him if he felt sad. As if he were a rock (a condition I suspect he inherits from his dad), he did not appear to be the least bit moved by the occasion.  Never mind all the spectacular ways in which my little guy developed over the course of a year, preschool changed and molded ME. Here are some of the things I learned throughout my oldest child’s first year of school:

  • If you are an aggressive driver, its imperative that you reign that shit in within a one block radius of the school. The driver you are tempted to flip-off near your kid’s school is absolutely one of the other parents. Don’t be a dick.
  • Accept that your kid is going to be ill for at least 6-months out of his/her first year. On top of constant sickness, there will be weather cancellations, days off for teacher planning, and holiday breaks. If your kid is keeping food down and if his temperature is at bay, don’t think twice before sending your germ magnet to school! Building a strong immunity is an honorable classroom goal, right?
  • Consider in advance where you’re going to showcase the barrage of arts-and-crafts your little one brings home. You are crazy if you think your fridge will be a large enough exhibit.
  • It’s 100% normal to wonder whether or not you are at risk of being reported to Child Protective Services every time you relinquish your bruised and battered miniature person to his teachers. Nine times out of ten, you will not. Most of the time the injuries can be explained by his/her toddlerhood. Recognize, however, that you aren’t exactly making a case for yourself when you perform drop-off duties looking like a overaged college student after an all nighter.  Get it together.
  • You aren’t asked to label your kids’ personal items for fear of mix-up. Rather, preschool teachers expect parents to walk out of the building leaving a trail of left-behinds in their wake. Preschool is synonymous with lost-and-found. As long as your crap is labeled, you can expect to reunite with at least one lost belonging each morning at drop-off.
  • It is your job as a parent to seek out the signup sheet at the beginning of the year. Sign up to bring a treat at least once over the course of the school year. Do NOT be the a*hole who doesn’t contribute. Absolutely do not be the a*hole who shows up with a snack or treat on a day to which you have not been assigned snack duty. 
  • Christmas and Teacher Appreciation Day — these are the two occasions on which it’s appropriate to treat the teacher. People-pleasing tendencies aside, avoid trying to be the teacher’s pet by bringing bonus gifts at unnecessary times throughout the school year. If it’s within your means, show up a couple times out of the year with a decent gift (valued at $20 or more) for each teacher.
  • Even when you know your kiddo will be stuck inside all day due to in-climate weather, play it safe by preparing him/her for the impossible. Sunscreen? Check.  Snow parka?  Check. Bug spray?  Check. Tornado galoshes?  You get my drift. Not being able to recognize your kid at pickup because he’s wearing an oversized loner jacket is the worst.
  • Hand stamps serve one purpose: to identify who is and who is not being bathed at night. Don’t be fooled; showers aren’t actually necessary, but employ some strategy; a warm soapy washcloth is all you really need to pass the test. 

Even though my kiddo remains relatively unaffected, I feel like a more capable mother having successfully made it through a year of preschool pick-ups, parties and drop-offs,  I’m not much of a crier, but I couldn’t help but get a little sentimental about the milestone. As for the teachers, I kind of feel like they deserve an award for best supporting actress. These are people who saw me at my most vulnerable — often lacking sleep and patience — and withheld judgment. They were gracious when presented with frugal excuses for gifts and neither scolded when I presented snowman decorated cheese sticks for the Christmas party I hadn’t signed up to sponsor. They cheered me on, validated me and allowed me to sign my kiddo up for a second year of academia. There’s hope I may successfully launch this kid after all, and I have year number one as proof.

Exclusive Pumping – A post written to the rhythm produced by the Medela Pump In Style

These days, it’s not completely alarming to see a woman out in public with a babe on the boob. True, public nursing still has a long way to go in terms of acceptability, but folks seem to be less turned off by the sight. It’s promising, right? Kind of. But what about the exclusive pumpers? I recognize how counterintuitive this may sound, but yes, some moms rely on the pump as the sole means of milk extraction. I am one of those moms. And after exclusively pumping every three hours for two 6-month spans following the birth of each child, I want to share how downright tricky all of this can be.

Yes, both my children (now 2-and-a-half and 6-months-old) boycotted the boob. After two relatively painless pregnancies and two by-the-book births, I was a natural candidate for breastfeeding hell. Contrary to the hunger cues they each displayed, both babies were what my lactation consultant referred to as “lazy feeders (LF).” My lactation consultant evaluated the latches and verified that my supply was there. She and other professionals: our pediatrician, our midwives, and various other professionals (hello KellyMom.com) had me trying various tactics to remedy this nursing conundrum I experienced. I tried waking the baby to feed, waiting for a natural wake before feeding, nursing in various positions, massaging the breast while nursing, nursing upside down, nursing right side up – you get the point.  I was the marionette doll of breastfeeding and I tried everything. When I started pumping to maintain milk supply, I had no idea what I was signing up for.  I ended up pumping exclusively for seven months with baby number one. After it was all said and done, I promised myself that things would be easier (and more natural) with baby number two. Not so. I’m 6-months into exclusive pumping with LF #2. I may even be pumping as I draft this piece.

Here’s the thing about exclusive pumping: Most people won’t get it. People will wonder why you are jumping ship to go nurse when your baby is sound asleep in the other room. They’ll question why the heck you’ve introduced a middle man when you have a perfectly good baby with which to extract perfectly good milk. Folks are likely to consider it rude when you disappear for 30 minutes from your own party to pump. It can be tempting to explain, but depending on your crowd, things can get awkward fast. So you scoot off without an excuse and people take it as a hint that it’s time to wrap things up. Others may chalk it up to that mild case of OCD you’ve displayed in the past – because who has to pump every three hours without fail?  Or, they’ll wonder what the big deal is about formula if you’ve obviously failed at breastfeeding. For the record, I definitely supplement my supply with formula. There are no formula aversions here.

 It’s not just other people; on occasion you can’t help but question your own sanity. I often find myself questioning my logic when I realize that I am pumping milk out of my breasts while simultaneously feeding my baby (using my chin) with a bottle full of my reserved breastmilk. It’s such a complicated game of twister when you take into account the tubes and boobs. Sometimes your baby will finish a bottle while you pump, and like any good mother, you endeavor to replenish his/her supply if he/she is still hungry. As an exclusive pumper, however, I do this using fresh milk that I am literally in the process of pumping. It makes absolutely no sense. Not at three in the morning. Not at noon.  

I cannot believe that in took until 2018 for public breastfeeding to become a thing in all 50.  Nope. I can’t even. But let’s be real – mamas will go to great lengths to feed their offspring.  Some women nurse naturally, others use formula, donor milk, or pumped milk. Many of us end up going with a combo, especially as time progresses. Let’s be accepting of all these attempts at nourishment – in public or not. After two pregnancies, my pumps are a part of me (I have three). They deserve recognition and so do I. Pumping is a pain in the nipple, but I’m proud of my work. I hope you are too.

Dear Future Son/Daughter-In-Law: A list of lies I like to tell myself

When we have kids, we aren’t just making a commitment to be a loving parent today, but for as long as our kids will allow it. We aren’t signing up to be team mom for one game, but for every season of life in which our child participates. My job as a mom, is not only to love my kids, but to love all the kids my kid loves. Dear future son or daughter-in-law, whoever you may be, here are 10 promises I’d like to make you.  

1. I will not judge you.

Okay, this is a blatant lie; it’s human nature to judge. I am going to judge you, but I promise to be as productive with my judgement as possible. I will try to recognize judgment as it arises and I will study it — what motivates it and what purpose does it serve?

2. I will respect you. 

I will encourage you to be your authentic self in my presence. Knowing that it’s hard to ‘join’ a family, I will do my best to allow you to be seen and heard. I will not force my views or opinions on you. I will relish in your uniqueness and the diversity that you bring to the table.

3. I will acknowledge that your kids are your kids.  

If I join the ranks of grandparenthood, I will do so with full acceptance that I already had my turn as a parent. I will give you the space you need to parent your children. I promise to love and my grandkids with whom I will nurture a relationship, but I will not compromise your needs, wants or values in the process. Even though it may be challenging, I will be grateful for whatever time I have with them.

4. I will not create an “ideal” in my mind.  

I’ve never been the type to list qualities that one must possess to fit the perfect-partner-mold, and I will not do this on behalf of my children. I will trust that your partner, my grown child, was raised in such a way that he/she is fully capable of choose the perfect companion for him/her.   

5.  I will make an effort to truly get to know you.

We all have so much to contribute, but it can be difficult to recognize this when guards remain high and when relationships aren’t built. I promise to make an effort at getting to know you — the experiences shaped you; the values you hold; relationships that have influenced you, etc.

6.  I will talk with you, not about you.

I will do my very best to be transparent with you. Forgive me if I sort my thoughts out with one person – a husband, therapist or trusted friend.  But I won’t talk about you with all my people. I won’t share any conclusive thoughts about you with my son/daughter. I won’t bring you up over dinner with family when you aren’t there. I won’t gossip.

7.  I will ask for your thoughts and opinions, wants and needs.

Even when you are “new” to our family, I want you to know that your voice is just as valuable as the more tenured members of the family.

8.  I won’t welcome you into the family.

I won’t simply welcome you into my family, but I will make an effort to impress upon you the fact that we are just as committed to joining you as you are to us. 

9. As the more mature person in the dynamic, I will take the high road if doing so becomes necessary.  

As we speak, I’m gaining valuable experience as a daughter-in-law — a role that will be brand new to you. I will offer compassion and grace as you learn the ropes.

10.  I will try to keep these promises.  

I promise.  

Let’s be real, though.  I’ll be lucky if I’m able to keep half of these promises some of the time.  This is a pretty demanding list.  But damn it, I’m going to try. The truth is, this is an in-law code of conduct that should be adhered to whenever possible. In-law relationships are hard enough without petty and unnecessary drama and judgment.

NB + 2T = No Party

At the checkout stand recently, a young cashier took notice of my newborn and exclaimed, “Only one month old; you must be having so much fun!” Honesty is important when speaking with people you will never see again, so I let her know that she has it all wrong – newborns aren’t “fun.” The cashier seemed receptive to this correction though the pregnant woman standing nearby looked pretty freaked out. I could actually feel her eyes burning into the side of my head while she waited for an explanation or a take-back. I offered neither. As mom to two kids under the age of two, I ain’t got time to explain. She’ll find out for herself soon enough.  In the meantime, I’m busy learning just how challenging it can be to juggle two little sleep suckers – both under the age of two.

Plan, Pack, Go

That lack of preparedness that used to fly — leaving the house with a kid in one arm and a nearly empty purse in the other — no longer suffices. Today I rely on super thorough todo lists with reminders like: 

  • brush teeth
  • change shirt
  • take shirt off and try again — backward and inside out is neither comfortable nor cool

I also carry fully stocked diaper bags now-a-days. I trust myself to remember nothing and I’m fully aware that anything could happen any time.

Safety Is A Luxury

I sacrificed personal hygiene following the birth of my firstborn. This go round, in addition to failed personal hygiene, I’ve decided there is zero time to employ the abundance of safety measures recommended for child rearing. Safety schmafety. Who has time to abide by age limit recommendations, step carefully over baby gates or fiddle with cabinet locks? In all reality, one of us is bound to trip on a toy car, chug a swig of gasoline, or fall down the stairs sooner than later, right? We’ll consider it a success if all three don’t happen in the same day.

Gift Registries Serve A Purpose… And I’m An Ungrateful Gift Recipient

A gift registry is imperative if you want to avoid being up to your ears in baby blankets. I can’t change a diaper with baby blankets, people!  

Yours,

 Ungrateful and lacking sleep

Effective Parenting Techniques Include Distraction… In Any Form

Distraction techniques are invaluable for parents and children. For that reason, I’ve befriended the mysteriously captivating and annoying YouTube sensation, Blippi. Not only is my son completely enthralled by this corny and, did I mention, annoying human clown, Blippy appeals to me (sexually) when I am practicing my selective listening skills. 

Mom Friends Are A Must

As the mom of an increasingly self-sufficient toddler, I was convinced that mom friends were a commodity not a necessity. As the mom of two under two, I realize that mom friends are, in fact, saviors dressed in yoga pants.  I may not know your first name, mom friend, but I know the name of your kid, and I know I couldn’t sit through another story time at the library without you.

A Little Poo On The Wall Never Hurt Anyone (Unless Your Toddler Licks It Or Something)

Nearly every nook and cranny in the house can (and probably will) double as a changing table. Now that we have two in diapers plus a new mommy with a wrecked pelvic floor, any clutter-free flat surface is fair game. Whether the flat surface is or is not horizontal is a non-issue. I suspect mom’s were placed on this earth to pick up poo and to problem solve.

Breast-Feeding is For the Birds

The rhythm produced by the breast pump is equally catchy when pumping for kid number two.  Despite this, breastfeeding still sucks (no pun intended). Whether or not breastfeeding is a newly acquired skill, it’s stressful and anxiety provoking. No amount of lactation boosters — I’ve  tried pills, teas, smoothies and tinctures —have given me the mental freedom needed to simply enjoy being a mom to a newborn. And having a newborn truly is a gift for which I am (or eventually will be) grateful.  

True, newborns can be incredibly challenging especially when you already have a toddler on the loose. For the most part, however, having both a 2T and a NB is an undeniably rewarding experience. As long as the diaper bag is fully stocked all the time and never left behind, it is possible to maintain sanity and have a little, dare i say, fun.

Third Trimester Tendencies

Pregnancy brain is: Requesting information from your midwife about postpartum contraception, specifically an IED, without realizing that you are asking to have an explosive devised placed in the uterus.  My amazingly professional midwife glossed over my comment and handed me several handouts for an intrauterine device (an IUD).

With just one month  left until the big day, I’ve got to admit, pregnancy brain is the least of my concerns. I’m scared to death. Up to this point, I’ve managed to suppress traumatic details from birth number one. I’ve simply been too preoccupied by our now toddler to reflect. As I take a moment to acknowledge my birthing fears, I think I may actually be more anxious about L&D this time around. After all, this time I kind of know what to expect. Jitters aside, I will allow this baby girl to vacate my body at some point in the near future lest I continue to experience these nutty third trimester symptoms:

Voracious Appetite:
It’s like I’m a bear waking from hibernation. These days, my uncontrollable appetite strikes without warning — like today while walking the dog around the block. After seriously considering dog treats for satiety, I pleaded with my husband to do a drive-by snack drop off. Words were not exchanged, but rather the hubs pulled up in his black SUV, lowered the passenger side window, and chucked food at me. I’ve never been more in love. I was literally just up the street.

Poo Problems:
Despite my conviction that I would remain constipated up to the very end, I have in fact, lost all control of my bowels. To the couple who strolled past me and my dog last night as I crouched behind a large tree to relieve myself: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, and I’m pregnant. I promise this is atypical behavior (pooping behind trees, not walking the dog).

Growing Bump:
At times an inconvenience, my growing baby bump frequently comes in handy. Not only is my bump an incubator of babies and a catcher of crumbs, my bump can also be used to propel my toddler forward in his stroller hands-free. I’m tempted to see if my bump is equally able to steer the car. I’ll keep you posted.

Off The Wall Dreams:
These days, my vivid sex dreams leave me feeling fully satisfied without having to go to the trouble of getting undressed. It’s amazingly convenient.

Other Peoples Opinions:
I’ve come to expect unsolicited comments about my pregnant body, and have even gotten better at taking these comments in stride. Though I’ve yet to figure out the best way to respond to gratuitous body comments, my plans to lay around like a beached whale for the next several weeks are firm.

The Urge to Nest:
I spend my fleeting free time actively avoiding nesting. The nesting tendency didn’t really strike during my first pregnancy, and this holds true with baby number two. Don’t get me wrong, I’m keeping the bathroom clean in preparation for the flu-like labor symptoms I experienced last time, but that’s about as nesty as it’s getting.

Birth Plan:
I’m convinced that every sneeze, drop of pee and gas pain is, in fact, an indication that I am going into labor this minute. For this reason, I’ve developed a birth plan: When my water breaks I will give my lady parts a good rinsing, pack my hospital bag (no, I have not done this yet) and head out the door.

Truth: As long as I avoid stepping on the scale, the third trimester isn’t actually unbearable. Like I said though, I’ve got to let this little POW (prisoner of womb) out at some point. When that day comes, not only do I hope for a healthy baby and smooth pregnancy, I’m hoping to keep things poop free and as painless as possible.

Exploring Preschool In Metro Denver

I recently started exploring preschool options for our soon-to-be two year old. Am I being overly proactive? Apparently some of these places maintain a pretty lengthy waitlist, so you have no choice but to be proactive… like pre-birth proactive. Not only am I a total sucker for the unattainable, but I also wanted to find out exactly what makes these places so highly sought after. I half expected to find academic institutions that poop out gold-dusted toddlers after one year’s attendance. My encounters thus far suggest that this isn’t the case.

As my reference to gold dusted toddlers might suggest — I knew nothing about finding a quality preschool when I embarked on my search. After talking to some fellow moms and running a few google searches (I would have really sucked at pre digital parenting) , I had a solid list of traits to consider and questions to ask: Price & proximity, teacher-student ratio, curriculum, ratings, and soo much more. I’m certainly no expert today, however, I’ve definitely learned a thing or two after checking a few of these places out. Here’s what I found interesting:

  • Some, though not all, of these places require parents to supply snacks/lunch. Here’s the thing – If I’m paying good money to ship my kid off, I’d like to enroll my child in one of the programs that takes lunch off my plate, so to speak. My toddler gets tired of PB&J served with goldfish, and I get tired of dreaming up and preparing lunch alternatives that he’s not going to eat anyway. I’m not completely shirking responsibility; I’m simply attempting to get my money’s worth.
  • Though not preschool, Mother’s Day Out programs are a viable option. Contrary to what I assumed based on the name, these programs are not babysitting services for underwhelmed moms seeking an occasional hour or two during the day to get lunch. These are half-day programs for little people who are developmentally ready for structured activity, learning, and socialization. They gently introduce your child to being away from his/her primary caregiver a couple days each week throughout the standard school year.
  • Some of these places are completely homogenous with regard to gender and race. I was in search of clean, secure schools with a low teacher to kid ratio. Until I set foot in a few of these schools, I didn’t even consider the impact a lack of diversity might have.
  • You may drop in on a classroom full of partially clothed toddlers in the middle of winter. With all due respect, isn’t an apron a more logical way to keep kids clean, dry and warm as they engage in a potentially messy/wet activities in January in Colorado?
  • Theft is apparently a thing in the tot community (conniving toddlers) which is why labeling any/all items associated with your toddler is mandatory. My obsessive compulsive self is beyond ecstatic. Finally, I have an excuse to purchase a label maker. Eeek!
  • Drop off/pick up can be crazy. I watched one mom drag her little devil — mid-tantrum — from her car, through the front doors of the church, give him a shove, and walk off hurriedly. The rule follower in me refrained from pointing to the signup clipboard that she completely neglected in all the chaos.

In all honestly, I still feel totally ill equipped to make this decision on behalf of my little guy. Preschool and even PRE-preschool lays some sort of developmental foundation that is going to make or brake my child, right? Despite my lengthly list of premeditated questions, and the reassuring but rehearsed answers I received, I suspect that I won’t actually know if I’ve made a good choice until after the choice has been made.

I left each of these places with an impression. I saw how my little guy interacted with his surroundings while on each tour. I took note of how the schools’ teachers and directors interacted with him and with the other children. I observed how happily the kids played with one another. There were no gold dusted kids, but some seemingly well adjusted little buggers that provided comfort and a tinge of excitement for this next phase.

The Real Pain

Pushing a small human out of my delicate birth canal hurt, but the pain was short lived and quickly forgotten. The discomfort I’ve experienced since then has proven far more agonizing and persistent: Sudden overexposure to loved ones is a real thing, and for me it’s been damn hard to adjust to.

Before giving birth to my little guy, I saw immediate family once a year. Not joking. Although we live within thirty miles of one another, it’s as if we we reside in different countries. There was no family drama or discord to account for our dynamic, this is just how it always had been; as a result, I am most comfortable with extreme independence.

My husband grew up with a different dynamic, but he assured me that family visits were limited to once a year max —the result of actually living in different time zones. Then his parents retired. Then they became grandparents.

When D-day arrived, and our little guy was born, I half expected a visit-free hospital stay which would have been kind of embarrassing, but also pretty okay with me. I definitely didn’t expect hospital visits, day-to-day help with the baby or ongoing involvement in his life. Our son is nearly two, and I continue to be surprised by my evolving and involved family. It’s been astonishing and more than I could ask for. And while I recognize this shift to be in the best interest of my child and for my family, even, I’ll admit that I struggle to adjust even two years later.

Our house has suddenly become a revolving door for family – all of whom think and do things differently and challenge my desire to maintain control at all times. One family member firmly believes that a diaper change is the answer to the world’s problems, even if the last diaper change occurred only moments prior. When she’s around, landfills cheer while mother nature shakes her head disapprovingly. Another family member will sit on our couch only when there is a blanket for her to sit upon. She refuses to come into direct contact with our pet-friendly couch. The dads are pretty consistent in their unwavering attention toward the family dog. Because our toddler seems to have an aversion to grandpas, they channel their affections to our more receptive canine child. They both have their own special way of reinforcing the most annoying canine behaviors such as constant begging, barking, and greeting new arrivals by jumping up on them. When family is around, furniture gets rearranged, dishes get put in the wrong places, and I’m forced to wear pajamas to bed. I’m telling you — it’s a sacrifice.

I truly didn’t know what I was in for the first time I got pregnant. I had no way of knowing that a six pound creature with the ability to sleep, poop and cry could and would transform my family so completely. This time, however, I have no excuse. Baby number two is due in one month, and I have a pretty good idea what to expect. What I’m less sure about is how to effectively cope. If only gratitude were an effective tool in my shed.

Okay fine, I’m going to try it out: I’m grateful for doors… that close. I’m grateful for our doorbell which was disabled about a year ago at my urging. I’m grateful that my second child is due at the end of March when there is a higher probability that warmer weather will allow me to leave the house as necessary. I’m grateful for my SUV — it’s car-camping capable. And I am grateful for family. Ugh. I am. I’m grateful for the sudden onslaught of family member visitors who have a genuine desire to be both present and involved. I’m grateful for their ongoing efforts and good intentions. I’m grateful for the joy my toddler experiences at the mere mention of his granpeople, cousins, aunts and uncles. And I suppose I’m grateful for discomfort, even if it is damn near constant. Discomfort is said to be an antecedent to emotional growth and growth is supposed to be good or whatever.