Random thoughts on Valentine’s Day, skiing, and how I need to work on my wifery so this post is all over the place.

I’m a horrible wife. Yesterday I completely forgot it was Valentine’s day. I got clued in by the wrapped present on my plate when I went down for breakfast. And I knew I was getting a present, because when a package arrived at home a few days ago the husband said “don’t open that, it’s your Valentine’s day present”. I forgot. Not only did I not get him anything, I also consulted with my friends and could come up with nothing even remotely original or interesting to get him, and I didn’t have time to get him anything all day anyway because it was one of those back to back days that happen rarely, yet at the most inconvenient times possible.

I now have all weekend to come up with something good, cause the Husband took the kids to his mother’s this weekend. He had a doctor’s appointment today in Milan so he decided to take the kids and let me rest, cause I really needed a break, and though a major control freak when it comes to my children I trust my MIL enough, though I don’t trust her not to give them candy… but hey, I’m not there to deal with the sugar induced insanity so totally not my problem. So it’s my first weekend at home sans children and it’s both weird and wonderful (and sad). I miss them, though I kind of like this complete lack of responsibility (I had a McDonald’s shake and fries for lunch…), but I miss them, but I’m enjoying myself, but I’m feeling guilty for enjoying myself. Motherhood makes women crazy.

On another note, the house renovations are on track and I’m soon going to quit just talking about it and start posting pictures so you get an idea what I keep going on about. The electricians and plumbers are starting to run all their tubes and stuff so I spent all morning yesterday (and this morning) on the construction site freezing my buns off. Yesterday afternoon I spent all afternoon freezing my buns off on the slopes taking pictures of the Boys skiing lesson. They had their first trial “race” and can I just say that skiing has got to be the most mind numbingly boring spectator sport there is. Also, it’s just plain uncomfortable, you’re wearing eight layers of clothes so you’re three times you’re normal size, and still your fingers get numb from the cold, you’re slipping and sliding on ice, or sinking to your knees in fresh snow, you’re clumsy, there’s no point cheering cause they can’t really hear you anyway, and it’s hard to get decent pictures. (I don’t have any to post cause the Husband took the camera with him before I could download them. Sorry!

Anyway, the Boy has fun (and truth be told, it is fun) I just hope he doesn’t decide to do it competitively because I don’t want to spend my Saturdays and Sundays with chattering teeth trying to unobtrusively play with my ipad while pretending to be fascinated by whatever is going on on the slopes. (And also, I imagine, freaking the hell out cause apparently as they get older, they get faster and faster, which is the point of the race… but they go 100-120km an hour. I don’t want to watch my kid barreling down a mountain with no protection at that speed after eight hours of labor, a c-section and countless sleepless nights!) So, he needs to choose soccer, or better yet basketball (so no torn ligaments), or some other team sport, because I want to sleep nights and not worry, and also, I want to be the annoying mother cheering on the sidelines with a cowbell.

I have a big girls’ night planned tonight, pizza, a movie, popcorn, sundaes and lots, and lots of alcohol! Updates tomorrow as soon as I shake off the hangover haze. So for now I can’t but wish you a wonderful weekend and if anyone has any tried and true hangover remedies hit me in the comments!

Also, sorry for this post being all over the place!

The grandmother wars (going on nowhere but my own head).

We’re going to Houston again this year for Christmas, YAY! Even though we already went last year, the Husband graciously conceded to go again as otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go till at least next October, what with the house reno, and the move, and honestly, who wants to be in Houston in August, plus I’d really like to have the kids experience at least one real, honest to goodness, Halloween in the US before they start big kid school in 2014, (and that’s all of next year summed up in a short paragraph), all to say that I get to go home for Christmas! (and did I mention, YAY!!).

Anyway, I’m having a bit of a mental quandary this week… Talking to my mom the other day, she mentioned that she’d like us to have some rules for our stay, that she’d like the kids to eat with the adults at lunch, but not at dinner because she wants to be able to spend some uninterrupted, quality, time with me and would like to be able to have adult conversation at dinner. And, of course, I said that was fine and we’d work it out since we’re her guests and all and it isn’t a completely unreasonable request. But I won’t deny that it got me thinking… Well, first of all, if last year was any indication the kids won’t be eating with her at lunch either since they have lunch at noon and that’s pretty much right after breakfast for her, and if their not eating dinner with her either then she won’t be seeing an awful lot of them during our stay.

But this is nothing new, I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that my mother loved my brother and I a great deal, but I also am very clear on the fact that she was never particularly interested in us. She cared that we were healthy, and well fed, and doing well in school, and generally happy, but she was never one of those mothers who was really interested in what we were doing (unless it was something we weren’t supposed to be doing), she never asked what we were reading or thinking or doing if we weren’t in trouble and weren’t bothering her directly. She is pretty self-absorbed, she always has been and I don’t think we suffered particularly from it growing up.

But it bothers me a great deal in regards to my children. There are times that she will talk to me for half an hour about some completely mundane thing going on in her life before she finally asks about the kids, and it’s a completely perfunctory question, I could answer “fine” or go into minute detail about all the wonderful new things that they are doing and it is exactly the same to her. It doesn’t help that on the other side of the family they’ve got a fantastic grandmother. My mother in law, with whom I fight regularly because I don’t want her to give them candy, or some other completely ridiculous thing about which I need to assert my dominance, comes to see the kids once or twice a month and she plays with them. For hours. She came to stay at my house when I left for a weekend to be with my mother before her wedding, she came again for a week when I had to go to Brazil to see my grandma. She takes over responsibility, despite the fact that she knows I’m going to find something wrong with her actions, because I’m a gigantic pain in the ass sometimes, and also a control freak, and yet she watches my children, she entertains them, she scolds them, and cuddles them, and takes really great care of them so that I can go do my thing. She is genuinely interested in them. The first thing she asks whenever she calls me is how they are, and what they’re doing, and then she proceeds to the rest of the conversation. My mother and my mother in law are at exactly the opposite ends of the grandmother spectrum, and it kind of pisses me off, because I would like my mother to be the really great grandmother. Or better yet, I wish my kids had two really great grandmothers.

I’m constantly making excuses up for my mother, she lives far away and hasn’t seen them as much, she’s young to be a grandmother, she’s got a new husband and she’s just not that into kids. These are all valid points. But they’re not a good enough explanation. Not that I think there’s more to it than that, but in my mind it is simply not good enough. Because, frankly, my kids are freakin’ adorable. She should want to spend time with them, she should be interested in them, she shouldn’t care that they take over our meal times because she can spend quality time with me in other moments of the day, She should want to spend as much time as possible with them because she only sees them two or three times a year. But she doesn’t. She’s just not interested, and I simply don’t understand it. I accept it, I’m not angry, I know what she’s like, but I am disappointed. My mother talks about her cats the way she should talk about her grandkids.

I know she loves them, when we went for Christmas last year, she made the house perfect for them, she made us perfectly comfortable, she was welcoming, and she put up two Christmas trees, a beautiful magical one to look at, and a smaller one for the kids to play with, with ornaments they could touch and rearrange and eat… that was pretty nice, and thoughtful of her. She cooks for them, and she does really cool stuff like she got the Boy a gigantic Lightning McQueen bed and this year she’s looking for a cool bed for the girl, but she’s not all that interested in them. I realize I can’t expect her to be perfect, and I grew up with her so I know her attitude isn’t going to do any lasting damage, but I wish she was interested in them anyway, I wish she was a more involved grandmother.

My kids love her, and they’re happy to see her, but they also don’t mind too much if they don’t see her. But they get super excited when my mother in law comes over, they ask about her when she hasn’t been back for a while and they are genuinely upset when she leaves. I guess I’m a little jealous maybe, I know this isn’t a contest but we’re losing dammit!

Also, I’m nervous about our visit, which, thankfully, will be short compared to last year (two weeks rather than almost two months), but last year I had the nanny with me and despite that my mom felt like the kids were invasive, I cannot even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like with no help. I don’t know… I’m sure it’ll work out fine and we’ll figure it out, but I can’t shake this feeling that still, she should be more interested in them. I realize that it’s a bit arrogant of me, and presumptuous, and maybe also a little bit sad, because the truth probably is, that while I feel bad for my kids, I also feel bad for me because despite my age and the distance it still hurts a little bit that she’s still not all that interested in what amounts to really the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

Nighttime conversations about love

I’m trying to get the Boy out of his nighttime diaper. I’m very relaxed about it, but I’ve started taking the first steps: cutting down his liquid intake before bed, getting him out of proper diapers and into training diapers so he can go to the bathroom by himself at night, and generally discussing how he’s a big boy now and is allowed to and should start thinking about getting up and peeing in the toilet now. Though I’m not in any big rush these first simple steps have already garnered some results… the Boy now has an excuse to get up and walk around at night. This basically means that after I’ve whispered the last “good night, I love you miles and miles”, indication that it is, in fact, bedtime, he manages to get up between five and ten more times every single night. Half the time I have to tuck him back in. It’s pretty annoying. Most of the time.

Today he’d been complaining that I hadn’t cuddled him enough. He’s probably right, his sister demands cuddles, if I’m sitting down she’ll just climb into my lap pushing out of her way anything that could impede her progress, he, on the other hand, tends to keep to his own space. He’ll take cuddles when offered, but he rarely comes asking. And tonight he complained of this evident inequality between them, though I constantly try to keep things even.

These two things are related of course, the peeing and the cuddles, because tonight on one of the thousand trips to the bathroom he came by my room and stupidly I didn’t ask him to come lie in my bed for a couple of minutes, as I usually do, I sent him packing straight away. And so I heard grumbling all the way back to bed and felt guilty. Luckily.

I went to lie with him in his bed a few minutes. And as we snuggled I said to him, you know baby, you’re so special to me because you were my first, you made me a mama. I wasn’t a mama until you came. And he said: you weren’t a mama? With surprised wonder in his voice, because, how can one conceive of such a thing. And I said: I wasn’t a mama until you came, I waited for you such a long time, I was afraid you weren’t going to come and then you did and I was so happy. And then I kissed him, and left. And he fell asleep.

Baby blues or I’ve got too much time on my hands

You may, or may not, have noticed that my posting has been erratic lately… well, I actually have a valid (ish) reason this time. My kids started preschool last week. Scuola Materna, is what it’s called in Italy (translates directly into maternal school, which I think is kind of cute), and, though not mandatory is still when most Italian kids start school. So it’s a very emotional time. Very emotional. It gets even more emotional when you’re set to get your period. I’m just saying. So, the Girl, who’s turning three in November, started Scuola Materna this year (the Boy started last year) and I officially don’t have any babies in the house any longer. Or such is the sentiment that’s been pervasive in my mind all week…

Kissing her brother goodbye

She was very grown up about it, on Monday and Tuesday she went by herself, then the “big kids”, her brother included, started on Wednesday. She only cried once, and she was very proud of her new school smock (which they wear over their clothes at Scuola Materna, so it’s kind of like a uniform, but not), and she was thrilled to go to “the big kid school”. I, on the other hand, have been sniffling all week.

walking to school

in the classroom with her smock on, looking a bit sad…

When I had the Girl I assumed we would have more babies, then the husband got sick and now we would have to be highly motivated to have more babies if we wanted them. We can’t have them the traditional way (wink, wink) anymore, and though we do have a vial of “material” sitting around in a sperm bank somewhere, we’re not sure any of us would survive me having to go through all the hormones that come with assisted fertilization. I can barely deal with the hormones my own body produces.

So the Girl starting preschool this year, made me face the fact that maybe we’re done with babies, and I’m not sure I want to be done with babies. Okay, so she hasn’t actually been a baby for a while, she was a toddler, but you know what I mean right? She’s started on the long road to independence from me, my mornings are free, they’re out of diapers (during the day), I can sell my strollers, I don’t have babies anymore. Am I ready not to have babies anymore?

both of them off to school on wednesday in their smocks

I would have liked to go through my last pregnancy knowing it was my last pregnancy… sounds ridiculous, I know. What with so many people not being able to have kids at all, and others with more kids than they can handle, I’m sitting here whining, when I already have two, and a boy and a girl at that. I’m pretty lucky.

I’m just not sure I’m ready to close up shop, by the same token though, I’m not a hundred percent sure I’m ready to start again, with the added hassle of ivf… how confusing. Of course, I had no guarantee of having more babies even if the husband hadn’t gotten ill, but now I know for certain I won’t be waking up one morning wondering why my period’s late, and that makes me a little sad. And yeah, maybe I’m being excessively self-indulgent, maybe I’m making it more complicated than it actually needs to be, but still, sometimes I feel like I’m mourning the babies I didn’t get to have.

The bad guy

The thing about having kids, I’ve found, is that there is no way for you to really prepare yourself beforehand. Sure, you go into it with a lot of ideas, a ton of opinions and a truly ridiculous amount of information relative to the first year of a child’s life but you still end up just flailing about in the dark with nary a clue as to what you are doing and where you are going and how on earth you are going to get there, somewhere, anywhere.

I had a very strict mother, I didn’t want to be a strict mother, I wanted to be a laid-back and easy-going yet firm and friendly mother. Notice how that sentence is just a long, run-on oxymoron?

I’ve since realized that I can be easy-going and friendly but that’s not going to result in my also having well-behaved, respectful kids, the only way I can get that is to be firm, and be their mother. I’ll never be laid-back; I was born without that particular gene. And since I’d rather have well-behaved, respectful kids than not, I’ve found myself becoming stricter and stricter. Basically, I’m turning into my Mother. I’m living a cliché.

But still, I don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to be the one always yelling and scolding, I don’t want to be the pain in their patootie (literally and figuratively). The hard part is trying to figure out how much is too much and how much is too little. I want them to have fun, I especially want them to have fun with me, I want them to be silly and enjoy their childhoods and I want them to have good memories with me, the good, happy moments have to largely surpass the annoying, boring, trite, ones. But I also want them to be polite and to listen to me and to follow the rules. When I say let’s go, we go, when I say we put up the toys, that’s what we do, but I’d like it to be done with much less yelling on my part and fewer sour pusses on theirs.

I don’t want to be the bad guy, but I do want to be the boss. I don’t believe we live in a democracy, I’m aiming for more of a parliamentary monarchy, they get to say what they want, but my opinion is the only one that really counts. After all, I’m their mother, part of my job is to teach them both manners and morals, neither of which can bear any argument.

I’ve been reading this book called “Bringing up Bebe”, written by an American mother living in France, it’s really good and quite funny at times and she brings up the notion of “cadre”, which literally means square and in this context is used as a framework of set rules that cannot be tampered or argued with. I’m very familiar with the French concept of cadre as I went to a French school (in Houston) and education is based on it. In it’s application to motherhood, though, it basically means that you have a set of rules that you do not deviate from, ever, that create the basic framework of your child’s education and within that framework you give the child the freedom to make his choices and do what he will.

I basically grew up in a “cadre-style” household, but until I read it described from an American’s point of view I had never realized what it was. To give you a very specific example (one which I’m in the process of implementing right now) I used to fight nightly with the kids at bedtime, yelling at them, chasing around after them, screaming, crying… it was complete chaos, but now they get ten minutes of crazy time, then they brush their teeth, they go potty, they get in bed and I read them a story. Within this framework, they pick which toothpaste to use, where they brush their teeth (I used to insist they stand at the sink, now I don’t care where they are when they’re actually brushing as long as they spit and rinse in the sink – as opposed to, say, the toilet), they pick which songs I sing to them and which story I read. They have some control, but they’re doing what I say. Now, if you’re reading this thinking, “we’ll that’s obvious, isn’t it?” then I envy you, but to me it was a bit of a revelation.

My cadre is still a work in progress, I’m still defining, both for myself and for them what the framework to our lives and routines is but it’s already making things easier. They have fewer rules to follow and they are clearer, more easily defined. It’s easier for me too, cause I’m not getting frustrated at every junction, I have to stop and actually think about what it is I want from them exactly and what is the best way to get there. I have to think more, but I yell less.

I’m still flailing about in the dark, but at least now I’m actually thinking about which direction I want to go in and formulating a plan as to how to get there.

I don’t want to be the bad guy, but I don’t want to be the good guy either, I guess I just want to be the person they look to for direction and for comfort as they live their lives autonomously. Or, you know, as autonomously as two people who still need me to wipe their bums can live.

I’ll marry you

The other day I had the following conversation with the Boy as he was sitting on my lap cuddling before bed:

Mama what’s in that box?

It’s Sister’s christening outfit, you have one too.

Oh… what’s christening?

Long explanation here, which I won’t relay cause frankly I can’t remember anything other than the fact that we seem to be stuck on religion lately and I ended with: then there’s your first communion and your confirmation if you decide to do it and then you can get married and these are the sacraments (yes, I decided to leave the last sacrament out of the conversation with a four-year old).

Get married?

Yes one day when you’re old like daddy you could fall in love and decide to get married (notice what I did there?)

Okay, well, I’m going to marry sister.

Oh, baby, you can’t marry your sister.

Why not? (indignantly)

Because you can’t. (please don’t make me explain this!)

Okay, then I’ll marry you, Mama.

I’ll marry you, Mama…. How many little boys have said this in all innocence to their mothers, and how many of them have actually ended up marrying their mothers?

Oh, don’t be gross! Of course I meant women who were very similar to their mothers! I’m thinking just as many as girls who realized well into their marriages that they have, indeed, married their fathers. Life is a cliché sometimes, isn’t it? And yet my heart melted just a little bit at those words because for now, for just a short time, I’m still the center of his universe (after Sister, of course).

Linking up with Bits of Bee today for Quotable bits.

The hours go slow, but the years they go so fast

Cliché, I know. But I hate seeing my kids growing up! I’m not in a big rush to let go of the baby, toddler, preschooler phase, I don’t mind diapers and bottles and late night calls for water. Well, honestly, at this point I could probably live with eight hours of uninterrupted sleep… but I don’t mind the little “annoyances” for lack of a better word, of having small children. What I do mind is this constant anxiety I have at the fact that every minute that ticks by they’re getting older and moving inexorably away from me. I can’t tell if it’s selfishness, insecurity or what that stems these feelings but I have them, I don’t want my kids to grow up. So I let them reach their milestones at their own pace, I found myself asking my three-year old if he was absolutely, positively sure he wanted to be out of his diapers already, I try to let them be babies for as long as I possibly can. The logical consequence of this reticence of mine is, of course, that they both do everything early, they walked, talked and ran early, they tried new foods and were ready for more grown up games before their time. So I guess the joke’s on me.

The years, they really do go by so fast, and the harder I try to hold on to them the faster they go.

Ironically, though, the days, they go so slow. And I get frustrated and upset and irritable just like any other mother. It’s infuriating. Here I am not wanting them to grow up, but rolling my eyes at their tantrums, yelling at their messes, sighing in frustration at their fighting. Probably not enjoying their childish antics as much as I should, or could. In fact, as I’m standing over them pissed off for some reason or another I can see my future self regretting the stupid little things that so make me angry now but that are indelible signs of their babyhood. And I wonder why does everything have to be so fraught with contradictions? I wish I could just let go and enjoy the moments that I have, that I could shut off my brain, that I could look at the present without all the baggage from the past and anxiety for the future.

The years, they go so fast, as for the days though, I wonder if their going slow is just an illusion because we’re so caught up in living life we don’t see it slipping through our fingers. These small people we’re entrusted with turning into adults, they are little for such a short time…

Linking up today with Shell at Things I can’t say.

The lazy-ass approach to child rearing

I have two kids of four and two. My kids still occasionally drink from a bottle. GASP!

They also started drinking from a proper cup when they were one year-old, they learned quickly and there were few accidental spills, though, truth be told, there were many purposeful ones of the I wonder what happens if I overturn the cup on the table? The couch? The rug? The stairs? My shirt? variety. I chalked it up to scientific experimentation and was always to be seen with a rag at hand.

In my opinion, my children will likely not be permanently damaged from this protracted bottle use as I have otherwise kindly been informed, I have the evidence of my own pictures at four and five with a bottle hanging from my mouth and no evident scarring.

They will let go off the bottle whenever they see fit, or their friends start teasing them about it, whichever comes first.

I have the same laissez-faire attitude to potty training. My four-year old decided one morning, right after turning three and just in time for preschool, that he was done with diapers and thus consequently had a grand total of two accidents and was well on his way to adulthood. Much too my own chagrin. With the girl I’ve had to be more proactive (due to some diaper rash issues) but she seemed ready and I don’t pressure. (I believe my own mother was more of an overachiever than I with respect to the diapering, but it was the seventies and disposable diapers where rather expensive if you had access to them (in Italy) so I can see the logic of abandoning them sooner rather than later and, of course I was exceptionally gifted).

This no pressure attitude towards reaching developmental milestones works for me. In my heart of hearts I don’t want them to grow up too fast, I don’t mind washing bottles for a few more years (or, sob, months) or changing a diaper here and there. In my mind, they’re little for no time at all. And I wonder how this is anyone’s business but my own. And when did child-rearing become a competition? How is the manner in which I raise my children anyone’s business but my own? (and occasionally the husband’s…). So I beseech you, stop with the unsolicited advice, they are happy and healthy and well-adjusted that is all anyone but the parents should care about. Parents have so many more important things to worry about, like keeping these children alive, on a daily basis, and well on to adulthood, like raising them to be happy, emotionally sound adults, like making sure they always hold their own in life, that they never back down when they’re in the right and that they apologize when in the wrong… (I could go on and on here but you get the gist) it boggles the mind that a bottle or a diaper even registers as one of the things we really need to be expending energy over.

So please, when you see my two-year old contentedly drinking her evening bottle, soothing herself into bedtime mode and my four-year old right beside her with his own bottle cause more likely he needs the comfort of knowing he’s not such a big boy yet, well, just avert your judgmental gaze and mind your own fucking business.

Linking up today with Shell at Things I Can’t Say for Pour your Heart Out

One plus one is two, I am me but who are you?

I’m starting to get a little worried, back when nobody had smart phones I used to have a decent memory, I no longer do. Case in point, an old friend was visiting recently and we were talking about people we both knew and I mentioned a friend of both our dads who had passed away recently. She was shocked, I hadn’t told her about it. I’m pretty sure that when I found out I said I’d call her and her family to let them know, but I forgot. To add insult to injury, the Husband then said I hadn’t told him, so I started questioning the facts, had this person really passed away or had I just gotten mixed up? I distinctly remembered the phone conversation in which I found out, but what if we had been talking about someone else? What if I had just imagined it all? So I called the person who had originally told me and had to pose the silliest question I’ve ever asked someone: Hi, is so and so dead?

The answer was yes, and I was reminded of the circumstances and everything came back to me in HD color, but frankly I’m a little worried. I’m 36 years old, how on earth is my memory so foggy that I can’t remember beyond the shadow of a doubt being told that a friend of the family had recently passed away? How did I forget to inform my friend? Why didn’t I tell the husband? There is no earthly reason for my memory to be so bad.

How do I relate all of this to smartphones? Well, I used to have to memorize numbers, I knew all my friends’ and family’s numbers by heart, I knew all the numbers of businesses and restaurants I normally went to, I had, literally, hundreds of numbers in my head. I could remember my appointments weeks into the future with absolute precision. Nowadays I need my iphone to remind me of my weekly pilates class, I can’t even remember my own home number.

Is it the pregnancies and childbirth that sucked my brain dry? Impossible, I’ve only got two kids, if I had even one more at this rate I wouldn’t remember how to go pee. What is happening to my mind? Is my attention span worse than a two-year old’s or is it something more that I should be worrying about?

I probably need to start doing those brain power building Nintendo something or other games. If only I could remember to….


Toodles, M

Motherhood unplugged

Mama, you smell delicious!

I love you miles and miles

Mama, I’m lonely, will you lie in my bed?

I’m not friends anymore!

Mama changes!

Mama bottle!

Mama kissy!

Mama, I’m sad can I have a Spiderman band-aid?

Mama, lap?

Mama, read!

Mama, sing!

Mama, I’m done!

Goodnight mama, I wuv you

Mama, pee-pee, run!

Mama, why’s your belly so big? Because I eat too much. No, Mama it’s because I lived there and so did sister.