30 Minutes To Save Your Sanity

For 30 minutes each day, I am the only person in the world. It is peaceful. It is undisturbed. It is sacred.

Thirty minutes.

For 30 minutes each day, I am left completely alone: Nobody intrudes. It is the one time I carve out of the day to be completely and utterly selfish. It is time for me. Neither my husband nor my children (who are asleep) intrude. It is a time to rehash my day. Time to work through any kind of problem I may be having. Time to unplug my brain and just be.

At the end, I’m breathless but my spirit is full. I’m tired, yet more awake than I was before.

And its funny, because in high school the one thing I hated most was running. I am not a runner. And that’s putting it lightly. I always despised it. Dreaded it. Reviled it. Recoiled from it.

And yet here I am: 31 years old and I look forward to hopping on our elliptical trainer every night. (And admitting that I’m 31. What’s wrong with me?)

Thirty minutes.

I can’t wait.

Hallelujah

Probably one of my favorite songs right now. I can listen to this on endless repeat, depending on my mood. And although I love Leonard Cohen, his version isn’t my favorite. (I know, I know.) These are. May they touch your soul the way they’ve touched mine.

 

Love the guitar here:

 

Rufus Wainwright’s version is probably the most popular. It was on the “Shrek” soundtrack:

 

I like Justin Timberlake a little bit more every time I see him these days. If nothing else, for his song on SNL. But this was beautiful:

 

I wanted to add a female artist, and Kate Voegel’s version has that little something that keeps me coming back. (Maybe its the twang?)

StayCation (All I Ever Wanted)

The Hubbs and I took a mini vacation from work: Three days sandwiching a weekend for five whole days off. (Well, day care was taking those days off, and we were burned out and needed a break, so we took those days off too.)

We didn’t have anything specific planned aside from the weekend: BBQ with my college friends and my mom’s birthday. Aside from that, we had nothing. Nada. Zilch.

It was lovely.

I pretty much took a break from the interwebs — I tend to do that sometimes. It annoys my husband. Instead, I focused on friends and family and tossing my 2-year-old onto my bed so often that my arms ached for two days.

StayCation highlights:

  1. The kids’ faces each morning when they realized we were staying home. Again.
  2. Taking the boy to IHOP for his first restaurant breakfast.
  3. Seeing his face when that giant pancake was plopped in front of him.
  4. Hanging out and catching up with friends — all of whom I don’t see nearly enough.
  5. Watching my son’s face light up when we get to grandma and grandpa’s house.
  6. Watching my parents’ faces light up when they see the kids.
  7. Getting to spend quality time as a family.

Funny how your ideals change as you get older/have a family. I used to want to travel to exotic locales and lounge on the beach.

I used to see this and think "relaxation." Now I see a drowning hazard and malaria.

While that still sounds like fun, I’d rather be building sandcastles with the boy or taking him to see a train somewhere.

Getting old is funny that way.

Why bedtime is one of the best times

My dad always tucked us in. It was this ritual — I don’t know when it ended — that I looked forward to each night. My favorite part: He’d make the bed with me in it, pulling the sheets tight and tucking them under the mattress until I felt like I was strapped to the bed and could barely move. Then he’d mess with my hair or tickle my nose while I struggled to get a hand free and swipe at him.

The result of this was a comforted feeling. I felt loved, snug, and safe as I drifted off to sleep.

I was so very lucky.

Now that I’m a parent, I look forward to my kids’ bedtime. It’s a quiet time. A peaceful time. A loving time. I draw strength and love from those  moments, and I hope they do too.

My son protests going to bed — loudly. But once we’ve started to brush his teeth, he settles into the pattern: Two minutes of teeth brushing, funny noises while he wipes his mouth, a kiss for his dad and sister, and then we’re off to his room, bouncing and swaying the entire way.

He smiles at me when I lay his head on the pillow and ask if he’s ready. Then it begins. The deluge. You see, I bury him beneath a mound of stuffed animals every night.

And every night he giggles uncontrollably while I do it.

These toys construct a mound so high that I can barely see him in the video monitor. The mound only goes up to his armpits, but there is a hierarchy: Elephants and bears and one giraffe comprise the base, followed by the smaller animals. Once buried, I tuck them all in “nice and snuggy tight” with his blanket. It’s a special blanket. Something I kept for him from my childhood.

He loves that blanket.

Then, once he’s settled in and snuggling with two (or four) of his favorites for the night, I lean in and tell him I love him. I kiss his forehead, each cheek, his mouth, and his chin. I rub noses with him while he smiles into my eyes and snuggles in deeper. One more kiss on the top of his head. “Sweet dreams, my love. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Then it’s my daughter’s turn: Kisses from Daddy and we traipse into her bedroom and close the door.

We retrieve a binky from her crib, and turn on her lullaby crib toy before settling into the glider with a bottle and snuggle. And man does this kid know how to snuggle. I glide slowly while she drinks and alternately grasps onto my shirt and tugs at my hair. When she reaches for my face, which is often, I kiss her hand — prompting smiles, spilled milk, more reaching, and more kisses.

When she’s done with her bottle, I lay it aside, hand her the binky,  and cuddle a bit longer. She smiles at me constantly, sometimes drifting asleep, sometimes not, but always reaching her hand up for more kisses.

She wakes up when I stand. I kiss her cheeks until I reach her crib and lay her down. She reaches for another binky before rolling to her side  as I hit the button for her lullaby to play again. “Goodnight my love. Sweet dreams. I’ll see you in the morning.” She smiles at me, then turns her head and closes her eyes before I can close the door. One of these days, I’ll finish the blanket I started making when I found out I was pregnant with her, and when she’s old enough for blankets, I’ll use it when I tuck her in.

I am so very lucky.

In the morning, he calls to us from beneath his burrow of blanket and toys. When we open the door, we’re greeted with smiles, kisses, and get to hear him name every animal in his bed. Sometimes he tells them to “get up” and we watch in amusement as he picks each one up, runs to the doorway, and tosses it into the hall.

He’s usually dressed and eating breakfast by the time we walk into his sister’s room to get her up. Most days, she’s already awake — but merely chilling out until we walk in. Other times, she’ll call for us, then babbles to herself until we get there. Either way, we’re greeted with smiles and a laugh.

And we are so very lucky.

How to survive flying with kids

Earplugs/headphone are totally OK. As long that isn't your kid.

Every vacation season, or every time a new set of fees pops up, Web sites post articles about how much it sucks to fly these days: You have to pay a gazillion dollars just for the ticket. Then another $10k to check a bag. Endure a full-body X-ray screen and cavity search by a big dude named Bubba or his co-worker Bubbette. Then they smash you into a tin can where you’re wedged between two morbidly obese people who hog the arm rests and have body odor and surrounded by screaming, out-of-control children.  To keep you quiet, they throw a mini bag of pretzels at you 45 minutes into watching “Down With Love.”

In other words, you’re paying them — a lot — to torture you.

And then the vitriol starts to roll in: Fat people should have to buy two seats every time. Small children should be locked into a soundproof room/their own special section or kenneled the entire flight. With the fat and smelly people.

I understand that nobody wants to sit and hear a kid cry or scream for any amount of time. I know I don’t. And I’ve got two kids. But that doesn’t mean kids should be banished from planes, as some suggest.  (Believe me — as a parent, the LAST thing I want to do is have to fly with my two kids, at least until they’re both potty trained. I would avoid at all costs if possible. Most parents I know are the same way. So if you see a kid on a plane? Its probably their only feasible option. )

At first, I was even resentful of the idea of a “family section” at the very back of the plane where parents and their “spawn” would be sequestered to so they don’t bother the delicate sensibilities of their fellow travelers.

And then I really thought about it.

Would I rather:

  1. Sit randomly around the coach section of a plane while enduring the constant dirty looks from other passengers as soon as they see my kids? Even if they don’t make a peep? OR
  2. Sit toward the back of the plane in a “family section” where there are other kids and their parents. Perhaps we’re even separated from the rest of the plane by a curtain, where we can relax a little bit because we’re all in it together?

I’m sorry, was that really a choice? I’d totally take the second option.  Its bad enough that people will roll their eyes when they see kids coming into a family restaurant. (But that’s an entirely different post.) Here are my ideas for the “family section”:

  1. Every seat has its own TV built into the head rest of the seat in front of it with a variety of programming available, such as Disney movies, PBS kids shows, and National Geographic programs;
  2. Leg room that is comparable to business class to accommodate car seats, diaper bags, and some room for kids to move around without knocking around the person in front of them;
  3. Milk, cookies, crackers, and fresh fruit are unlimited;
  4. Kids get one of those airplane toys at their seats;
  5. Trays fold down to a child’s sitting height so they can play or color;
  6. A space in the back with a fold-down changing table similar to what you see in restrooms, and a plastic bag dispenser for dirty diapers; and
  7. Parents are responsible for parenting and supervising their own children.

(Rather sad that I have to add that last one, isn’t it? I mean, it should be obvious.)

Until they institute a family-friendly (snort) section on planes, here are some basics I’d bring for each child. (Note: Each child would have his/her own carry-on bag that would also double as their diaper bag for the flight.) I would also have printed-out copies of TSA policies from the Web sites regarding things like breast milk/formula, and other child-specific items. Just in case.

The Boy (2 years old):

  1. Sippy cup (empty, to get through security);
  2. 2-4 packets of Crystal Light fruit punch mix. (Each cup literally gets just a few sprinkles, that stuff is strong!);
  3. Unopened cookies/cracker travel packs. (Amount depends on flight length);
  4. Small pad of paper;
  5. 5 crayons;
  6. iPad — loaded with at least 3 of his favorite movies and fully charged. (We have several puzzle apps and flash cards that he likes to play with loaded on there as well.);
  7. Headphones;
  8. Packed lunch + garbage bag (According to the TSA Web site, this is OK, but everything must be wrapped and it must go through the scanner. I’d try to pack it bento-lunch style, so everything is highly visible, wrapped, and is unlikely to be messed with.);
  9. One or two small stuffed toys to play with;
  10. Two small cars to play with;
  11. Two small dinosaur toys to play with.

The Girl (7 months old):

  1. Empty bottle (to get through security);
  2. Formula (Try to only bring as much as you’ll need for the flight itself and check the rest. Individual, easy-to-pour packages such as this would be a great idea here.)According to the TSA: “Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3 ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.” Go here for more info on the policy.
  3. Empty thermos (to fill with warm water once passing through security, at this time, also get plastic utensils to stir said formula);
  4. Bib;
  5. Couple jars of unopened baby food;
  6. Baby spoon;
  7. Extra binkies;
  8. A couple of fabric books and a few toys.

The pared-down diaper bag (in each of the above bags):

  1. Diapers;
  2. Baby wipes;
  3. Changing pad;
  4. Plastic bags for closing off dirty diapers;
  5. Extra Shirt/Onesie and pants;
  6. Sweater;
  7. Small baggie with travel-sized diaper rash cream, vaseline, and infant Tylenol.

Finally, just be prepared. If possible, book a flight that takes off around nap time. Or just before bed time.  Most people will understand if your kid cries a little bit, as long as you’re actively doing something to try to make it better.

Also, greasing the wheels never hurts: When a friend flew with her kids recently (sadly, driving wasn’t an option), they brought along about 20 earplugs and offered them to surrounding passengers and said “its our first time flying, so I”m not sure how they’ll do.” Most people were totally cool and declined the ear plugs. They also had about $50 in cash with them — for complimentary adult beverages — in case the diapers hit the fan.  They didn’t need to, but they were prepared.

Raging Battle: Stay-at-home vs. Working Moms

It seems ridiculous that this would be a “raging battle” but it is. If you hit up any of the parenting sites they all have at least one post on this subject. Its usually spurred by some news article that calculates how much a stay-at-home mom would make if she were paid for the hours she puts into being a mother, cleaning the house, cooking, etc.

And then you get to the comments and it starts with one side saying how much they work. Followed by the other side saying how much harder they work. And all of a sudden, a bevy of words and insults are flying and they’re figuratively rolling around in the mud, pulling each other’s hair, and scratching faces.

And I feel trite and exasperated and stereotypical because all I want to say is: Can’t we all just get along?

OK, I want to say more than that. So here’s my chance:

Dear Mothers of the World,

There is no universally correct answer to whether staying home or working is best for your family. Can we please — PLEASE — just agree to support one another? Our similarities outweigh our differences.

Stay-at-home moms: You get to watch your children every second of every day. You’re there to pick them up after every fall. To kiss every boo-boo. To put them down for every nap. You’re also a little bit isolated. You yearn for adult conversation. For a meal in which you can actually eat with both hands and focus on yourself. You probably are part of a mommy group for camaraderie. There is no such thing as downtime. When your kids go to bed, you still have to cook, clean, and get ready for the next day. You feel under-appreciated. You neglect the things you want for things your family wants or needs.

You feel looked down upon by working mothers who say things like “I wish I had the luxury of staying at home with my kids.” Or people making comments about how much your husband/spouse/significant other must make to enable you to stay home. You probably pinch pennies, use coupons, and pull back on the expenses to make it work.

Working moms: You get your kids up early each morning so you can take them to day care. You feed them breakfast, get them dressed, take them to day care, give them a hug and kiss and leave. Nobody knows how long it took you to find that day care or how many providers you interviewed until you found one you felt you could trust with your children. Nobody knows how it gnaws at you that you might miss a milestone moment. From there, your commute starts. You go to work and put in your 8 hours. You commute home. If you’re lucky — like me — your spouse picks up the kids from day care. By the time you get home, everyone is hungry and wants dinner. You get them fed, bathed, and spend a little time with them before its time for the kids to go to sleep. You cuddle them, kiss them goodnight, and shut the door. Then you make dinner for you and your spouse, and the kids’ lunches for the next day. You clean up. You do something for yourself (maybe). You sit with your spouse for a little bit and look up to find its close to midnight and its time to go to bed. You live for the weekends, so you can spend all day with your kids.

You feel looked down upon by stay-at-home moms, because you have to or (gasp!) want to work. You’d like to stay home with your kids, but financially it doesn’t work. Or maybe you love your job and want to see where you can take it. Maybe — like me — all your family’s health benefits are through your employer. You feel unappreciated. You feel haggard, because you’re always running around. Possibly, the only downtime you get is during your commute. You neglect the things you want for things your family wants or needs. You probably pinch pennies, use coupons, and pull back on expenses to make it work.

Here’s the bottom line: Parenting is hard enough without jumping down each other’s throats for either working or staying at home. I completely respect stay-at-home moms, because there is no break and even harder to get downtime. I also completely respect working moms, because trying to balance work and home is really freaking hard. Impossible if your employer isn’t understanding. (I am so very lucky in this department.)

Whatever you choose, I know you made that decision based on what is best for your family. And isn’t that what really matters anyway?

One Upped

Just when you thought something was awesome enough on its own, someone has to come along and say: “oh yeah? Check THIS out!” And really, sometimes what they do is totally freaking awesome.

I sent my little brother the video of the nubbin crawling and he went and did this. (Hint: Turn up the volume.)

The best part: When the Super Spouse came home at watched it on his computer, it turned into a mini dance party, because Allie rocked that song: Kicking her legs, waving her hands, and bobbing her head with a gigantic smile. Now I have to download it so we can rock out and record the mayhem for him.

Speaking of which: I’ve been meaning to catch the little spazoid known as my son dancing for about a week now because it is hi-lar-ious. It’s a cross between jumping, stomping, and a solo mosh pit. Set to a soundtrack of laughter.

He also makes you want to join him, because it looks so damn FUN.