Ten things I’ve learned.

This summer, both of my kids have birthdays. My daughter will turn 4 at the end of this month, and my son will turn 3 at the end of August. In these last 4 years, I have learned so many things. Things about motherhood, myself, my husband, and everything in between. Lessons that I would never have learned if it were not for having my two little ones in my life. Here’s just a few of the nuggets I’ve picked up along the way:

1. On almost no sleep, I can take care of 2 children, clean the house (many, many times), take care of a dog, go food shopping (to more than one supermarket), do the laundry, make breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone, read many books, run around at the playground, give baths, and re-clean whole house. I take back every complaint about being tired pre-kids. I knew nothing. In fact, if I could ever go back in time and hear myself say “I’m so tired!” at any point before children, I would slap the crap out of myself.

2. The toilet is the best seat in the house. And it is sometimes (sometimes) the only place I can get 5 minutes of privacy. It is ideal for sorting through mail, reading magazines, checking email and even having a snack. Sure, my feet may go a little numb, but that’s a small price to pay. I’ll lie about pooping to get as much time in the bathroom as possible. And now that my kids are old enough to stay alive on their own for a few minutes, I use that lie a lot. My kids think I poop several times a day. My response to “Mommy!!!!!!!! Brody hit me!!!” is “Mommy’s pooping!!!”

3. I could probably get by with doing my own laundry once a month. Ok, so not things like underwear, but the rest, yup. I am so on top of my kids laundry it’s ridiculous, but when it comes to my own, I slack off. The jeans I’m wearing today? They probably haven’t been washed in weeks. Do I care? Have they been puked, peed or pooped on? If not, then no. (In all honesty, if the answer is yes, I’ve probably used a baby wipe on them and kept wearing them.)

4. My marriage can withstand a lot. For a very long time, we had screaming infants at all hours of the day. It took a toll on us, but we came out of it stronger. Closer. I strongly think that how you handle situations helps to define you. Well, I think we did ok there. We are a better couple now. We got this shit covered.

5. I learned how to organize. This is actually a big one for me-I suck at organizing. I used to live with messy piles everywhere. Kids have forced me to become organized; life with kids can be tricky enough-messy piles make it worse. Now, everything in our house has its place. The only glitch? My husband never wants to get rid of anything; he’s a bit of a hoarder. We once had a 30 minute discussion about why he should or shouldn’t get rid of his Polo teddy bear. (Remember Gund teddy bears? It was one of those with a Polo sweater.) The end result? Peace out, bear. But it’s an ongoing battle. Good thing I have lots of baskets. But that damn bear will not be in one of them.

6. I learned I love being a mom. Like really, really love. It is my most favorite job ever. Sure, I might complain that my kids have been screaming all day or that one of them mashed a banana in my hair, but the instant I’m away from them (ok, sometimes it takes a bit longer than an instant), I miss them. I can’t imagine my life without them. They bring me pure joy. Bring a mother is amazing, and I’m one lucky girl.

7. Thanks to my son, I think I have earned an honorary degree in paleontology. I have read more dinosaur books than I ever thought even existed, and know so many different ones it makes my head spin. Every day, between all the books, watching Dino Dan (who is cute but kinda needs a slap in the face) and Dinosaur Train, I have gathered tons of dino information. All those years, I really didn’t know exactly what Ross from Friends did. I do now.

8. I truly, truly know what unconditional love is, and it’s incredible. There is just nothing in this world that could make me not love my children. Love like that is really something else. It’s actually like nothing else.

9. I can make a boo boo better with a kiss. I can make monsters go away by singing a silly song. I can make my kids’ bad day a good one by taking them out for ice cream. I know that my son likes his waffles with syrup on the side and always wants his bread toasted when I’m making him a sandwich. I know just the type of dresses to buy my daughter that will make her happy and where we keep our stash of “secret chocolate”. (Not to be shared with her brother or daddy.) I know how to line-up my son’s stuffed animals/toys on his bed just the way he likes it, and I know to put a box of tissues on my daughter’s bed at night because she’s always blowing her nose. Those things, and a thousand more just like them.

10. I’ve learned that what I like writing about the most is my family. It’s funny, I went back through all my blog posts today, and I was upset that I named my very first post “This is not a mommy blog.” Why was I so intent on saying that? It seems silly now, thinking about it. So silly, in fact, that I went back and changed it to “This is not just a mommy blog.” Because I am, first and foremost, a mommy, and it is my most treasured job. So I am going to write about that, and about all the other things I love.

So, thanks so much for reading my mommy blog.

Oh, and the family and I are on vacation starting this Saturday for a week, so I won’t be writing. I’ll be too busy doing all the same stuff I normally do, just somewhere prettier. Aka, vacation with kids. (An oxymoron.)

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the best laid plans

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Whenever I’m planning a trip for our family, I always imagine it a certain way. First of all, everyone is happy. All of us. All the time. Secondly, we all have such a great time, we’re practically skipping with joy. Hand holding, laughing…it’s  like a scene out of a Disney movie. And at the end of the trip, everyone is so reluctant to go home because of all the zippity-do-dah fun we’re having. Mind you, this is all going on in my head. So when I planned our mini getaway over Memorial Day weekend, the same scenario played out in my mind. I had originally wanted to go to the beach, but becuase of cooler temperatures, opted for something different. I booked us a hotel room at a place with an attached indoor water park-a place that online, looked like the ultimate kid fantasy. It looked so fun, in fact, that I got us tickets for 2 days in a row. ($$$$$$$) Because of all the fun we would have, one day simply would not be enough. I thought how fun it would be to stay in a hotel with the kids. I booked us one room for all of us. How cozy is that? (Don’t say anything.) So we packed up the car and took off for our family fun adventure.

The drive was completely smooth. We put a movie on the ipad and they were captivated and content right up until we pulled up into the hotel parking lot. However, after waiting in line at the front desk for about half an hour, we learned that no rooms were ready due to overbooking, so we ended up here for a bit:

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Dunkin Donuts. It was that or Carl’s Jr. Traveling with kids, I have learned that it’s best to go with the flow. Something I am still working on…. An hour or so later (and a carpet of munchkin crumbs left behind), we were able to check in our room. I remember the thrill of a hotel room as a kid-it’s so new and exciting, and I could see this in my kids’ reactions. They were giddy as soon as we walked into our room. It is so fascinating seeing things through the eyes of a child. Everything is such an adventure. I wish I still felt that way about hotels. I can’t get past the awful pillows and hearing unpleasant mystery noises from the room next to you.

We then all got our bathing suits on and headed down to the water park. (Imagine a choir singing ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!)

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And that is only a portion of that place. There were multiple levels. Multiple. Like a never-ending torture chamber.

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The kids were ecstatic. It was really, really cute. Immediately, Brody ran into the kiddie area, but ran too fast, tripped and fell, and his head went under and he took in a little water. (Ok, a lot) He lost his shit (rightfully so) and wanted no part of anything else. Zoe, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to see the whole park. So I took her walking around and we went by the area in the picture. But every 10 second or so, huge waves of water came down on everyone, and one of them hit us both square in the face. As much as I tried to convince her it was ‘fun’, she was screaming and wanted to get the hell out of there. Walking away, she tripped and scraped her knee, causing further distress. And this was all in the first 10 minutes. Sigh. Go with the flow, mama, go with the flow……

We eventually did have some fun on the lazy river (after I had to scold some hooligans that were shoving us-yes, I’m that mom), and Brody ended up really enjoying himself. But the noise level in that place was making my ears bleed and I think I have some permanent hearing loss. (And some emotional trauma caused by whistles.) Needless to say, we sold our tickets for the following day. The thought of having to do that all over again….well, let’s just say pouring a vat of acid into my eyeballs would have been more enjoyable. Instead, we decided to go to the big aquarium on Camden, NJ the next day. We were in the area and I had been wanting to take the kids there for a long time.

The next morning, everyone was quite tired (awful pillows, mystery noises and a constantly buzzing/vibrating alarm clock) and we started the day off like this:

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Go with the flow, go with the flow….

I love aquariums; I find them so fascinating. And I had hoped that my kids’ first trip to one would be truly memorable. And this place was the motherload of aquariums.

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(To answer that question, about 5 seconds, which is 5 seconds too long…..)

The aquarium really was pretty amazing. It would have been nice to really see it, not in a “ok move on before the kids get bored and lose it” kinda way. There were a few meltdowns, a code brown (read: diaper situation) and a couple falls, but all in all, not a total bust.

We had a snack:

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Took in the view:

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And packed up and went home. At the end of every trip like this, my husband and I often ask each other “why do we do this to ourselves?” The trip NEVER goes as I imagined it, but then again, what does? No, no one was so happy they were singing zippity-do-dah out their aholes. There were meltdowns. Many. No one really slept much. We spent way too much money. But we made some memories. Some I’d like to forget, yes, but some things I’d like to remember for the rest of my life. And that is why we keep doing these trips.

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I hope you all had a very happy, healthy (and memorable) Memorial Day weekend.

Why I can’t write about shoes today.

I was going to do a post today about shopping for kid’s clothes. I started it a few times, got up, did something else, came back to it, but I’m just not feeling it. At all. Sometimes, with all that is going on in the world, talking about where to get cheap shoes seems so……insignificant. When I heard that an 8 year old boy died in the Boston Marathon bombings, a familiar heaviness and deep sorrow came over me. It is the same feeling that I experienced after Newtown-which affected me so profoundly I often am at a loss of words to explain it. Events like these affect every single human being. Every single one. But as a parent, the effect is a bit different. For me, the Newtown and Boston events triggered a grief so deep-but also a guilt. Guilt about being able to hug my babies-give them their bath, get annoyed that they’re not eating their veggies (again), read them their favorite book. And the parents who lost their kids can’t. Shortly after Newtown, my daughter had her preschool Christmas show. It was the first she had ever participated in. It was the cutest thing EVER. But as soon as it started, I started to cry. Not because the show was that good, but because I felt guilty. I was so blessed that I could watch her. That I could be there as my daughter donned her angel wings and sang Christmas songs. That she could giggle onstage as she forgot the words and dance all around-looking to make sure we were watching her. I thought of all those parents who were robbed of that experience. And it hurt my heart. I find myself feeling these exact emotions again now. I took my kids to the park today to meet some of my daughter’s preschool friends and their moms, and immediately I thought about that 8 year old boy in Boston who went to the big race to watch his family’s friends cross the finish line. I then felt guilty about asking what kind of pizza all the kids wanted when we went out to lunch afterwards. But I know life goes on. And we all must continue and do our best to appreciate every single minute that we are blessed enough to have.

Another thing came to my attention yesterday. A mother’s blog. A blog that was only meant as a way for her to update family and friends about her young son’s health condition. It’s called Chasing Rainbows. (http://www.kateleong.com/  -please read. You will never forget it.) It’s about a beautiful family that has overcome more hardships than most families dream of, yet still hadn’t come across their most difficult one-losing their 6 year old son, Gavin. He was born with a mysterious genetic condition, giving him life-long health issues. After a long list of issues, he fell very ill and eventually progressed to brain death. His family made the decision to donate his organs, which they did yesterday. This family’s story really affected me. For one, my job before I became a stay at home mother was an organ transplant coordinator. I would have been the one to come to Gavin’s mother to talk to her about donating his organs. Then I would have monitored, cared for him and kept him stable, treating him as necessary. Next is finding recipients for his organs and bringing him to the operating room, where surgeons would remove and prepare his organs to be transplanted. I know the process all too well. What I don’t know about is being on the other side. About having to say good bye to your child. About having to leave his body, knowing that afterwards he’ll spend the night in a cold morgue and not in your arms. I know nothing about that.

I know nothing about going to a marathon and when it’s over, not being able to go get pizza and ice cream and talk about how much fun you all had. I know nothing about dropping my kids off at school and then going to a firehouse and waiting to see if they walk in to meet me there, only to find out that they were killed by a psychotic gunman. I know nothing about those things. And I pray to God that I never do. I pray that you don’t either.

I know that life goes on. But for now, I just can’t post about shoes.

Judgy moms suck.

I think it is in women’s nature to be a bit judgmental. Before you get all offended and say “Wait!!! I’m not judgmental at all!!”, stop and think. Have you ever said “OMG….WTF is that chick wearing?” or “I would never let my kids (or dog/cat/whatever) behave like that!” Chances are, you’ve said something similar at some point. It doesn’t make any of us bad people-we’ve all made a snarky comment or two (or a thousand.) What I have found, however, is that this characteristic multiplies by a trillion in many women when they become mothers. Not all, mind you, but many. You know that mom-the one who gives you bitch-face when your kids are acting up at the supermarket-as if she’s saying in her snooty head: “My kids-who take French lessons and can play 7 instruments while wearing nothing but designer bloomers-are perfect and would never act like that.” Or the mom who turns her nose up at you when she sees you take out Chicken McNuggets at the park for your kids- because she only feeds her kids organic and raw fruits and vegetables that have been locally grown and then blessed by the town high priestess and whose proceeds go to starving children in Africa. Yeah, that mom. I first encountered those moms a couple of weeks after I gave birth to my daughter. I was breastfeeding and really, really struggling. By struggling I mean crying almost all day everyday, slamming my head against the wall, and not sleeping for more than 30 minutes at a time. I had no idea what I was doing and was so tired I was speaking in tongues. Not a pretty scene. I didn’t really have any close friends who could help me with this issue and I needed a lot of help, so I turned online. There are quite a few resources online for breastfeeding mothers, and I was hopeful they could help. I “liked” a few of the sites on facebook and signed up for updates from a few pages. Honestly, I did get some good tips, but what I found the most of was judgmental mothers. I read things like “I saw a woman in the mall feeding her baby a formula bottle and I was so disgusted I almost threw up”.  Seriously? WTF? I added my two cents (a bitchy retort) and got the hell outta there. There seems to be a really big battle between breastfeeding moms vs formula moms, and I think it’s the most ridiculous thing ever. But it doesn’t stop there. Just yesterday I was visiting one of my favorite mommy blogs-Baby Sideburns (flipping hysterical take on motherhood-you will laugh your ass off.) and the post was this:

“You know what totally sucks? When you’re looking at some super hot nanny take care of a little toddler and suddenly the toddler looks up and calls her mom. WTF, she’s a mom and she looks like that? Okay, now I feel even shittier about my frizzy ponytail and mom jeans. Didn’t think that was possible.”

Funny, right? Well apparently a bunch of troll moms didn’t agree. The comments that ensued lit a fire under my ass. They called this mother (mind you-a woman they’ve never met/seen and could even very well be fictitious) a bitch, a lesbian, a bad mother-stated that the time she took “primping” was taking away from her time with her kids; the awful comments were endless. Like it’s inconceivable that a woman could be  a good mother and be presentable. Well, of course I chimed in again. (I’ve never been good at keeping my mouth shut.) What was supposed to be a funny comment-giving the readers an “I’ve been there too!” response, instead ignited an all out bitch-fest. But why? As mothers, aren’t we ALL trying to do our best? We all have good days and bad days. We all struggle. We all love our kids unconditionally and would move heaven and earth for them. So doesn’t that make us all on the same side?

Now I’m not saying that all of motherhood is a battle. Of course it is wonderful, rewarding, full of love and amazing. But it’s also a battle. And as fellow mothers, we should support each other and lift each other up, not judge, belittle and tear each other down. So next time you find yourself horrified at the poor mom whose children are acting all Exorcist-like and are on the verge of having their heads rotate 360 degrees and spew steaming green projectile vomit, why don’t you instead pat her on the butt and say, “Carry on, warrior. Six hours til bedtime.” (A fabulous quote from Glennon Melton of Momastery.) Because you know you’ve been there. And if you haven’t, you’re headed there. But it’s ok, you’ve got your team behind you.

shared spaces

When my husband and I moved into our 2-bedroom townhouse, I was 7 months pregnant with our daughter. Plenty of room, we thought. Wrong. 4 months after my daughter was born, we found out I was pregnant again. (Oops.) One of the gazillion things I was freaking out about was space-how were we going to fit two babies into one bedroom? I had set up the nursery just how I wanted it-and then had to rearrange the whole thing. Seeing as how I had been in hormonal overdrive for almost 2 years at that point, that was enough to put me in full-on breakdown mode. Funny thing is, I liked it better with all the new baby’s things in there. Go figure. So it’s got me thinking about shared spaces. It can be tricky-especially when the kids sharing the space are not the same gender. How do you please them both? Surely they have different favorite colors/animals/characters/everything. I always love seeing how other people tackle this situation. Here are some of my favorites:

Aren’t these gorgeous? My son and daughter will be sharing a space for a little longer, and I have to say I’m so glad-because the conversations that I hear them having over the baby monitor at night are nothing short of hysterical. (Something like: “Brody, which fairy is your favorite?” “NO!! I like TRex!!” “Oh, so you like Silvermist?” “Triceratops has three horns. I tooted.”) I also know they’ll miss each other when they’re separated. Me too.

Images from my Pinterest

If I read one more Dora book, my head will explode.

Books have always been important in my life. Ever since I can remember, I have loved to read. I have vivid memories of getting lost in books like Ramona the Pest, A Wrinkle in Time, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. Books have such a way of transporting you. Of showing you things you’ve never seen. Of showing you the world, whether its this world or one imagined by the author.  So it’s only natural that I pass this love of reading onto my children. It’s not coming from  my husband-reading a magazine about the latest BMW engine is his idea of heavy reading. (There is always a stack of car magazines in every bathroom in our house.) Thankfully, they’ve responded. I’ve tried to incorporate into their library books that are of educational value. Books that teach a lesson. Books that broaden their horizons. I have this vision of my children being so ahead of the curve by the time they get to kindergarten their teacher says to me: “Oh my, Mrs. Lee-your children are so intelligent and well-read! It must be from all of those wonderful books you’ve been reading to them.”  Unfortunately, my daughter now only reaches for books about Dora (puke) and Barbie (double puke). As hard as I try…. sigh…. But the reality is that after reading like a gazillion books with the line “Swiper, no swiping” (really???), the teacher will most likely pull me aside and say “Mrs. Lee-your daughter is hoarding all of her pencils and folders for fear some kleptomaniac fox is going to steal them. Do you know what this is about? Oh, and she talks to her her backpack and refuses to take it off. Like ever.” Parenting win. No, really, we do read a lot of different kinds of books. My favorite ones are the ones that show diversity. The ones that show that not all people look the same. That there are different skin colors. Different eye shapes. Different religions. Different ways of doing things. I think that lesson is one of the best ones I can teach my children. That the world is diverse. And to accept things that are different from them. My kids are, in fact, a minority (I am Caucasian and my husband is Korean), and it’s good for them to see other people that look like them, and people that look nothing like them. And know that it doesn’t matter. (side note-we recently had gifted to us a “Korean” Barbie. She really looks like NJ Housewife Barbie who spent too much time in the tanning salon. Is ‘Korean’ that hard to pull off???) One of the ways I can do that is through books. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite books for kids that show them the wonderful world that they live in. And that there is no fox stalking them waiting to steal their stuff.

Rama and Sita. My kids became captivated with this story after seeing it read on Nick Jr. (I probably could have come up with something that sounded way better than that) It’s an ancient Hindu legend with princes and princesses, evil kings and monsters. It’s a book that teaches morals. And it’s beautiful.

The Story of Ferdinand. I adore this book, and it’s one of my son’s favorites. It’s about a docile bull named Ferdinand who lives in Spain, who is like no other bull around him. He likes to lie under his favorite tree and smell the flowers, while all the other bulls like to fight each other. There’s a lovely lesson here with some Spanish culture.

For me, this one’s a no-brainer for my kids. They’re just starting to understand what being Korean is, and what a great way to instill their culture in them. I recently discovered this on Amazon and have since ordered it.

Kiki and Coco in Paris. This book is responsible for my daughter’s love of all things Paris-related. She’s obsessed with the Eiffel Tower and thinks that all electrical towers are “Eiffel” towers. It’s the story of a girl named Kiki and her doll Coco who travel to Paris, and about all the places they see while they’re there. The photography  is absolutely beautiful and I just love when my daughter asks me to read her this one.

This is New York takes you on a tour of the city’s famous ethnic neighborhoods and introduces little ones to the history and culture of one of the most amazing cities in the world. Love, love, love.

Pea Boy and Other Stories from Iran. A lovely book of beautiful fairy tales from Iran. It’s truly fascinating  to see how another culture tells stories.

The Family of Man is a stunning book of photographs from countries all around the world. It’s a great way to show children just how diverse this world truly is.  Disclaimer: if you’re not prepared to explain what “boobies” are, steer clear. It gets a bit National Geographic.

The Family Book is a must for anyone whose family is “different.” If your family has two mommies, people of different races/cultures, single-parent families or anything that’s not considered traditional, this book is for you. If all children would read this book, I think  the future would be a much more accepting one. Come to think of it, we should ALL read this book.

So while I’m grateful to Dora for teaching my kids some Spanish, (they both call out “rojo!!!!!” or “verde!!!!!” at traffic lights), I really wish they’d put that crap down and stick to reading these. I don’t want their teachers to think I suck.