November 30, 2010

In Which SuperMommy Is Nearly A Victim of Vehicular Manslaughter

My beautiful, charming daughters
Ever noticed that the holidays fall during school breaks?  That means that, along with the stress of gift purchases and annual family letters and baking (okay, some of it's fun) is also the stress of FINALS.  Good lord, how I loathe the end of the semester.

I've had a particularly stressful semester's end.  I'm taking the classes for my major out of order- part time status kind of does that to you- and as a result was woefully unprepared for one of my classes this last semester.  It was on the visualization tools used by urban planners, public administrators, and policy analysts.  My final project involved the use of all sorts of software that I had not only never used before, but that my poor little netbook Hackintosh just couldn't run.  As a full time mommy, I don't get out much, so my time in the school labs was extremely limited.  My wonderful father downloaded the software to finish my project, worth 40% of my final grade and to be judged by the graduate school faculty, and I planned to finish my homework over Thanksgiving weekend.
Never mind that my family was also celebrating Channukah on Thanksgiving weekend.  No, let's not concern ourselves with that just yet.

SI and DD in their pretty dresses, playing with Poppa
Of course, nothing is ever that simple.  For example, M's semester is also ending, and unlike me he actually has final exams.  That means that every last minute he has is spent on campus, working on his school work.  This is very conveniently timed with a major project at his work that's threatening to make him work seven 12 hour shifts a week starting any day now.  He's hardly seen his children at all.

For the first time probably ever, I went to bed the night before a family trip without having packed.  That's how bad it was.

We stayed at my sister's house.  Now, I love my sister.  But I will never be doing that again.  The fact of the matter is that people without kids just don't understand what it's like to HAVE kids.  Every time I asked my parents if they'd change a diaper, or feed a toddler, I was treated like some kind of lazy slob.  Not exactly my cup of tea.  Add to that the constant complaint that my kids were leaving crackers under the table or making too much noise early in the morning...

They're 14 months old, for god's sake!  Give me a break!

Incredibly, impossibly, unfathomably, I finished my homework very late Saturday evening- while my family and friends were eating latkes and playing with my daughters in their beautiful holiday dresses.  I was tucked away in the basement, editing margins and adjusting color transparency, but I got the thing done.  I even managed to scarf down a few latke and some falafel, and actually see a few people I love dearly and haven't seen in at least five months.  Or in one case, about fifteen years!

DD hamming it up for the camera
To sum up: the weekend was hectic and stressful, but parts of it were genuinely wonderful.  And it ended with me being on the verge of DONE with my semester.  And the girls were absolute gems.  They got some really great presents, too.

Then yesterday came.  My final countdown began: only seven days of class left.  So how could it possible go wrong?

I'll tell you how.  I'll tell you how the universe likes to screw around with SuperMommy.

That gigantic project?  It's printed on PAPER.  As soon as she gets out of the print shop?  It starts` POURING RAIN.  I run from the print shop to the car, and drive to my night class.

The rain doesn't let up, it just gets heavier and harder.  By the time I head back to the car, it's a torrential downpour.  A car stops at the crosswalk to the parking lot of my night class.  I step out into the crosswalk, in front of the now stopped car and make a very unfortunate discovery.

That driver?  She didn't stop because of the stop sign, or the crosswalk, or the wet, surly pedestrian.  No, she stopped to answer a text message.  And she decided to start going again without looking up at all from her phone.  Right into ME.

The good news is that she didn't accelerate very quickly, she was only about a foot away from me to begin with, and I'm fairly resilient to car v. human collisions.

SI playing with her aunt's girlfriend
I first picked myself off of her very wet hood, then the very wet pavement, and as she apologized out the window, I started shuffling off towards what would undoubtedly be a very wet, uncomfortable drive back home.

But at least the homework is all done, right?

November 23, 2010

Perfect Moments

Yours truly at three years old, playing with my little sister.
There are a moments I can recall from my childhood that were truly perfect.  Not perfect in that everything was right with the world, nobody fought and everyone was treated with respect- they were perfect in their pure childish contentment.  I have many memories of being a perfectly happy child.

Back when SI and DD were just chubby little babies.
The one that I've been coming back to over and over again these last few days is also one of my earliest memories.  I was probably three years old, and my parents had gone out for the evening.  As the babysitter began to make noise that it was bedtime, I pretended to fall asleep on a nice, comfy bit of living room furniture.  I lay there, dozing off and on, waiting for my parents to come home.

I remember squinting up at the ceiling lights.  I was playing with my eyes, enjoying how by squinting more I could turn the lights into white lines across my vision.  This was an activitiy I enjoyed so much, it became my regular sleepless entertainment for over a decade.

One of the first sleepless nights.
I was laying in the living room, peacefully watching the lines grow and shrink, when I heard the front door open just a few feet away.

The grown ups spoke softly to each other for a few moments, and then the best part came.  My father, who believed I was asleep, gently lifted me up and rested my head against his shoulder.  He carefully began carrying me up the stairs to my attic bedroom, and as the rhythm of the stairs rocked me, I fell asleep.

The fact is, children fall asleep and need to be carried to bed.  This happens on a fairly regular basis.  I always had an idea of what it would be like to be on the other end- to carefully lift my child into my arms, and bring them up to bed.

Brand new grublings.
On Friday night, M and I took the girls to have dinner out in the 'burbs with a friend of ours and her family.  The girls were well behaved in the restaurant, and fell completely asleep on the hour long drive home.  When we arrived, M and I didn't discuss the procedure.  We each carefully unstrapped a sleeping toddler from the car seats, lifted them into our arms, and carried them up to our third floor walk-up.

The whole time, I could feel DD's breath against my shoulder.  I was so aware of her sleeping, of how relaxed and trusting she was.  I couldn't help myself from looking behind me to grin at M.  Each time, there he was- grinning back at me.  We both had the same silly silent grins on, as if we were saying, "Look at us!  We're REAL parents now!"

We got the girls out of their coats and hats and shoes, and into bed.  They never woke.

I know that they're too young to have any meaningful memory of this, the first time their parents carried them as children up to bed.  I know they won't remember that for them, this might have been one of those perfect moments.  For me though, it will always remain in my memory as vivid as my own childhood.  It was a beautiful moment in the all too fast passage of my daughters' childhood.

It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

Perfect moments.

November 12, 2010

An Appeal To My Readers

DD loves her daddy!
Hello, dear readers.

I have a confession.  I would love to make some money by writing.  I know, it's callous of me, but as an artist I do believe that in their most secret hearts of hearts, artists kind of want to sell out.

That said, thanks to the publicity of's Mommy Blog awards, I'm starting to get caught in some promotional nets.  Right now, Warner Bros. pictures wants me to pimp one of their movies.  It wouldn't be a paid promotion, but I'd get stuff.  And those sorts of promotions open the door to opportunities to start making money writing a blog.

Here's the thing.  I don't want to do this if it's going to alienate you, my readers.  There's a high road and a low road, and while this movie probably is something I'd enjoy (a Rob Reiner coming-of-age flick) it certainly isn't exactly relevant.

So I ask you, my readers, who I respect and appreciate more than you can know... what should I do?  Do you care about DVD giveaways, do you want me to stick to what I do best and keep writing all about the grublings and myself and M?

I would greatly appreciate all and any feedback.  Thank you so much.
SI has a hilarious bad hair day.

November 11, 2010

Very Different Little People

SI enjoying her blueberries.

The first question people usually ask me about the girls is, "How are they different from each other?"  Of course, as their mother I see thousands of differences a minute, but I understand how it is with babies.  Really, babies are pretty much babies, right?

DD learning about too much of a good thing.
At any rate, last night the I came home to a scene that completely illustrates for me how different the grublings are.  Their sitter dotes on them, permits them all sorts of allowances that I don't, and generally makes herself their favorite person in the world while I'm away.  This means that when I come home from my night class, what I expect and what I find are not always the same.  If I'm at home, bedtime is a fairly rigid 7:30.  Bath time happens after dinner, and dinner is eaten, regardless of whatever else grublings might want.

I arrived home 45 minutes after bedtime to find a darkened, TV flickering living room.  SI and our sitter, E, were leaning against the couch watching Hell's Kitchen.  DD was literally running circles around the living room.  Both girls were in their adorable footie pajamas.

SI the angel.
What is it about little kids, that lets them know the moment their bedtime has passed?  SI was obviously so pleased to be out of bed, she couldn't care less what she was doing.  DD knew she had a limited opportunity, and she was going to make the most of it- not a moment of rest while bedtime was postponed for DD!

They were both pleased to see me, no doubt, but their reactions to seeing me were very different.  SI was definitely fading, and she took my arrival as an indication that bedtime would be very soon.  It even seemed to be a bit of relief to her.  DD became so excited about my presence that all she could do was flail her arms and laugh.

I read a bedtime story, that DD refused to acknowledge.  As I read she ran progressively smaller circles, eventually collapsing on a pile of pillows.  SI sat on my lap and turned the pages happily.  Then the girls went into their cribs without complaint, and went directly to sleep.  They did not pass go.  They did not collect $200.

DD likes you!
It was a very pleasant, peaceful evening.  And they were so very themselves, it was lovely.  Yes, they were both perfectly happy and affectionate and adorable.  Yes, they were both cooperative.  But the similarities pretty much end there.  SI is usually my little zen master.  Even so, when she does get upset she has a temper to be reckoned with, and the only thing to make her feel better is a little alone time with a parent.  DD always runs between a 7 and a 10, she doesn't move slowly or cautiously, and she's pretty much always happy.  When she's not, it's a simple enough matter to distract her.  A different toy, a story, a cracker, any number of minor distraction techniques will help her forget that she was upset about something.

They're both very self contained children, SI is happy to look out the window for what feels like hours.  Even in the car, when she's offered a plethora of toys, mostly the scenery going by is what she wants to enjoy.  SI picks something to keep her interest and it keeps it- longer than I can generally pay attention to just about anything.  DD is very task oriented.  She'll start stacking blocks, or hammering away at her little tool bench, and as soon as she's decided she's done (and she is extremely decisive) she moves on to something else.  Something equally sweet and harmless.

Right now?  They eating ice cream cones (sans ice cream), and playing on the floor under the table.  SI is peeking out the window, DD moving from toy to toy to toy.

They've very different little people.  And they're becoming more like people I want to know every day.

November 10, 2010

Vote for me!

Thank you all so much for your nominations and support!
I'm a finalist in the Bump's second annual Mommy Blog awards!  You can vote as often as you want (so please do!) and there are some really fantastic prizes.

Not to mention some excellent publicity for me and the grublings.

I'm a finalist in the category of "Multiples!"  Surprise!

So yes, please vote for me.  Vote often!  Vote SuperMommy!

And thank you so very much.

Finding a Gentle Trot

Halloween Penguins, in homemade costumes
 As most of you are probably aware, I live in Chicago.  It hosts the annual Chicago Marathon.  This marathon has been fraught with troubles these last few years.  Or rather, global warming has been wreaking havoc on the Chicago Marathon.  For the last three or four years, the organizers have been pushing the date of the Chicago Marathon later and later into the year.  What was once an early September event is now solidly in November, and that hasn't stopped the unseasonable heat from causing all sorts of damage.  Three years ago, many runners were hospitalized and several died.  Nobody could have foreseen the mid-90 degree heat, and as a result there wasn't enough water, or enough water stations, and the runners didn't have the common sense to throw their hands up and say, "This is ridiculous!"

At any rate, it was pushed back another week this year.  If it hadn't, the weather would have been gray and cool, but instead that extra week let the city warm up back to over 80 degrees.  Climate change has not been kind to mid-western marathoners.

And I have been half-heartedly training to run the half-marathon next year.  What that means is that I haven't run since my semester started.  The semester that's a few weeks from ending.  And it has been tormenting me.

DD the penguin
But I don't just want to talk about real marathons.  I want to talk about parenting.  You see, I have been burning out.  Hard.  I didn't realize that was what was happening until a few days ago, but I was losing my damned mind.  I didn't even know myself.  I was having outbursts of genuine rage- shrieking and throwing things at walls.  I was lashing out at M, snapping at my toddlers, and occasionally bursting into tears.  I spent an entire day in bed.  I was having migraines that might have turned lethal.  I couldn't eat.

That this was all happening around my period was enough for me.  I told myself I was having a crazy rush of hormones, and that once that settled down it would get better.

Well, it didn't.

I finally decided that M and I needed a night out.  The night that our sitter started her new weekend job, and none of our friends could cover for her.  We had no sitter, and canceled our dinner reservations and just ordered in some pasta.  It wasn't a particularly relaxing night.

And that was when it occurred to me- when was the last time we HAD a relaxing night?  When was the last time I went to bed wishing I was a little less exhausted so that I could take the time to rub my aching feet, or sweep the living room, or just have a glass of wine?  Since the girls were about two months old and suddenly sleeping through the night.  That was relaxing.  Until I got used to it.

I reflected on what I had wanted while I was going crazy.  The answer wasn't good.  I wanted to have half a bottle of wine before bed.  I wanted to take xanax in the afternoon.  I wanted to smoke a spliff and listen to show tunes in the studio.  I wanted to take a vicodan for my damned feet and let the afternoon disappear.  But I didn't do any of those things.  I have a very important job to do, three of them no less, that I can't do under the influence.

I read an article, Addicted Moms: Everybody Knows Somebody, by Lane DeGregory in Working Mother Magazine.  It seems that more and more working moms (and I do count being a student and an artist as 'working') are turning to drugs and alcohol to get them through the day.  The thing that I found most disturbing is how NOT NEW this is.  How it's essentially anti-news.  It seems that doctors have been prescribing mind altering drugs to housewives since the sixteenth century, when it was opium tinctures.  In the '20s it was cocaine laced Coca Cola, in the '60s it was valium, and now it's pain killers and alcohol.

Motherhood is fucking hard.  I'm not going to sugar coat it.  You've always got to look competent and in control for your kids, you have to take care of the house (because a dirty house becomes dangerous for small children fast), make sure everyone is fed, keep your marriage in working order (if you're married), and manage your work as well.  The working mother isn't new, it's just a different kind of work.  Before our modern ideal housewife existed, the mother was also a partner in the family business, be it farming, milling, shopkeeping...  There is always women's work.  Laundry, cooking, mending, fixing, childcare...

SI the penguin
It's endless.  And while most of it isn't exactly hard, it's CONSTANT.  You reach a point where your idea of a nice night is one where you have the energy and peace of mind to actually clean the whole house now that the kids are in bed.  Maybe cook a few meals in advance.  Do some baking.  And that's your time OFF.

Add to that the fact that, when small children are involved, every task takes three times as long.  It's much harder to put away clean laundry when very small people empty every drawer you leave open, throw the clean laundry onto the floor from the basket, and demand that you play games with them half way through the now very onerous task.

Then there's the guilt.  You see, right now I'm typing and deleting all sorts of excuses about how much I love being a mom, how it's all really worth it, etc.  Which is true.  But you see, as a mom you have a hard time allowing yourself to acknowledge that being a mom is HARD.  That it kind of makes you miserable sometimes.  See?  There's a giant load of guilt right there.

So I've burnt out a bit.  I'm coming up on my finals/final projects, my coursework has picked up, and of course M's coursework is picking up as he nears finals as well.  He can only really do his homework on campus, so this means more and more time without M.  He's looking at a situation for the next few weeks where he won't get to see his children from Sunday night until Friday afternoon.  And while that's very, VERY hard on him, it essentially puts me in the position of a single mom most of the time.  Taking care of all bedtimes, wake-ups, baths, and meals unless I'm at class, feeling miserable about all the money I'm tossing into childcare.

I called my parents for a little sympathy.  After all, who knows how hard it is to be a parent better than your parents?  And my parents had a really rough run of it.  So I figured they'd sympathize.  My father said two things to me, which miraculously made me feel a little better.  The first was that it took me an awful long time to burn out.  That was nice.  The second is that I've been running a sprint, and parenting is a marathon.  The longest marathon there is.

True.  But what to do about it?  I don't know how to run a marathon.  And this brings me back to my goal of the Chicago Half-Marathon and my abysmal training.

Playful Halloween Penguins!
I can't not sprint.  I can jog gently in place, for a long time!  But as soon as I start moving forward, my legs just take off.  I RUN until I can't do it anymore.  I know, this is not good training.  But I can't stop!  I just plain do not know how to jog.  Silly, isn't it?  But that's also what's going on with my kids.

I don't know how to parent any other way.  I can only go full tilt.  If I try to force myself not to do things that must be done, I simply freak out.  Imagine sitting in a chair, staring at the Cheerio strewn dining room and telling yourself, "DO NOT SWEEP THE FLOOR.  DO NOT SWEEP THE FLOOR."  It puts me so on edge that all I can think of is to go grab the Bailey's off the shelf and have one on the rocks.  Or just take some pain killers and pick up the damn broom.  And instead I leave the room to do laundry, thinking all the while about how I'm going to get to the library to work on my final projects.  How I'm going to pack up the girls and get to the DMV to get new plates for the minivan.  How I'm going to get to the toy store before Channukah, or what I'm getting my in-laws for Christmas, or what holiday cookies I'm going to make and if I should plan on letting the girls help.

Why do I worry about these things?  Because they need to happen.  Why do they need to happen?  Because I said so.  Vicious cycle, no?

Being a penguin is exhausting!
So I need to learn to run a marathon.  To find a calm, slow pace, and just keep it up.  Just keep keeping it up.  I need our rhythm to beat a little more slowly.  I need to figure out how to parent differently.

It's sort of like learning how to breathe differently.  But I know, as a singer, that it can be done.

I think that parenting theory is one of those things that can't actually be taught.  I remember as a kid, being lectured about head voice and chest voice, singing from the top of your mouth, not through your nose.  Nobody could point to what I was doing wrong and help me fix it.  All they could do was point out how I sounded, and make vague gestures at different parts of my head and chest.

So much of parenting theory is like that.  There aren't instructions, just... vague gesturing.

I keep coming up with impossible plans.  I don't think that's the answer.  I think I just need to find out what makes us all happy, and do THAT.

And I am part of "us all."  A very important part.

So M and I are going to start taking bi-weekly date nights.  For a start.  I'm going to try to jog, with or without the girls.  I'm going to try to get the girls more involved in meal preparations.   I'm going to try to find the time to clean slowly, as the day progresses, instead of all at once.  Or maybe just let some more things go.  I don't know.

Because I don't know how to run a marathon.



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