Apologies

This is the start of what may become a regular series on the blog entitled Apologies.  I feel the need to apologize a lot lately – to the kids, my husband, my friends, my boss, my coworkers, and complete strangers.  I am usually either failing to live up to expectations, doing too much of something (usually yelling), or not doing enough (work, time with my husband, attention to the kids).  Sometimes I am apologizing for my own shortcomings and other times for the shortcomings of my children.  Today I have to apologize for both.

I apologize to Moe’s for the awful tantrum my 17-month old threw in your dining establishment today.  We were just coming in to pick-up a big to-go order and this 5-minute trip turned into a 15-minute nightmare.  I know I tried to say that he never acts like that, as if that would excuse  the scene he was making, but that was not a total lie.  He has never acted that way in a restaurant.  He usually only throws those tantrums at home.  What was I supposed to say – “Sorry, my kid is acting like an out-of-control little monster, and I am a terrible parent for not knowing how to get him under control”?  I guess that would have been more accurate at that moment.

I apologize to the hard-working employees, especially those that helped clean up the messes we made along the way.  Sorry about the entire snack container of pretzels Noah threw all over the floor.  I did my best to clean up, but I am sure that we left some pretzels under tables.  I am sorry about all the napkins my 3-year old pulled out and left all over a table as I ignored him, while trying to gain control over my flailing 17-month old.  I apologize for leaving a very messy, stinky diaper in the bathroom trash can.  I usually try to take those outside in a special bag, but it was all I could do to just escape the bathroom with my tearful, poop stained baby and very restless toddler.

I apologize to the other patrons that were witnessing the screaming, flailing, crying, and hitting debacle in front of them with a mix of disgust and pity.  Noah threw himself on the floor kicking and crying for no good reason at least 3 times.  To keep him from hurting himself and to get him off the dirty floor, I thought it would be slightly better to let him lose it in my arms and hurt me instead.  Of course, I tried to soothe him, distract him, and calm him down to no avail.  I was well aware that all eyes were on me, wondering why I could not gain control over this tiny, emotional person.  I especially apologize to the little boy who put his hands over his ears and did not take them away until we left the restaurant.  I know that we were interrupting your nice, peaceful lunch out on a Sunday.  Sorry!

I apologize to the two nice ladies who approached me asking if I needed any help.  I know it is hard to watch a miserable little baby and be so helpless to quiet him down.  Unfortunately, there was not much you could really do to help, other than putting the lids on my salsa cups and helping me out to the car with my bags so I could contain my miserable child.  I especially apologize to the second kind woman who saw me burst in to tears as she was helping me at the salsa bar.  I hope you don’t think I am crazy.  Your innocent question was just the final straw that sent me over the edge.  My tears were a result of a long, frustrating morning with a grumpy baby and an even more frustrating and embarrassing 15 minutes at the restaurant.  I know you were judging me, at least a little, but just know that we were simply having a bad moment – both of us.  I am usually much more calm, composed, and in control.  Noah is usually not such a terror, at least not to that degree.

Lastly, I apologize to Noah.  I know you are still a baby – barely able to handle your emotions, especially on command.  You are usually a sweet, happy guy and love to run errands like this with me.  Maybe you’re not feeling well today (hence the awful diapers) or maybe you just did not want to be on this particular errand.  Either way, tantrums are never acceptable, especially in public.  At home I can employ my usual defusing strategies like ignoring, time-out, or redirecting you with a toy or food.  Those strategies are much more difficult when waiting in line to pay at a crowded restaurant.  I am sorry for losing my patience with you and for putting you in that situation in the first place.  That still does not excuse the tantrum, especially the hitting (we are working hard to discourage this particular behavior).  Even when I don’t like your behavior, I still love you and always will.

Enough apologizing for now.  Noah calmed down once we were in the car driving home from Moe’s.  He went down for nap and slept for three hours.  Despite the public humiliation earlier in the day, I braved another outing to the mall with all three kids after nap.  I am proud to say that everyone behaved.  I maintained control of myself and them, and we had a good time playing at the mall playground and shopping at Gymboree.  I know this won’t be the last time I feel the need to apologize for a bad tantrum or less-than-ideal behavior from one of my kids, but hopefully this won’t be a regular occurrence.

Hang My Art

What do I do with all the art and the crafts that my kids make?  This is a question that I have often asked myself.  I had piles of stuff throughout my house that the kids would make at school or at home.  You hate to throw that stuff away, even though I do throw lots of it away.  I try to save the good stuff, the cute stuff that only a 3 or 4 year-old could come up with, and the stuff that makes me laugh or reminds me of something.  The rest of it goes in the garbage, and I pray that it does not get discovered there.  I have a storage bin for each child that I keep in the attic and some of their stuff goes there.  After 2 years in pre-school for Bella and 1 year for Jacob, their bins were filling up fast and I knew I needed another solution.

We are fortunate to have a playroom in our house – a 1st floor room filled with toys, books, a train table, and even a television.  The playroom is painted bright green and has white cube shelving with wicker baskets for storage.  The planets of the solar system are hanging from the ceiling (in inflatable form), reminding us of Isabella’s obsession with all things space from the age of two and a half to just after her third birthday.  The kids love playing in this room, and I love having a place to throw all the toys and kid related stuff that we have.  The playroom features a large wall, perfect for this idea I saw  on Pinterest.

                            

The only problem is that I am not especially handy.  I also did not want to spend a lot of money on wires and I could not get Ikea to ship me the cool looking metal and wire hanging system in the picture on the left.  I went to the garage and gathered some heavy-duty string, nails, and thumb tacks.  I hung the string horizontally using nails to secure the ends and thumb tacks evenly spaced across.  The goal was to make sure the string stayed secure and taut, but to also leave space for clothes pin hooks to hold the actual art.  I could fit three strings of hanging art on the wall.  I have since added a fourth string and I plan to alternate the art on this fourth string the most frequently.  This solution worked for us.  It was cheap, easy to put up, did not take very long, and works.  I love the bright colors and variety of pictures featured along this wall, and my kids love seeing their own art work on display for friends and relatives.  I have another friend who takes pictures of the preschool art work and projects and saves them that way, saving memories and storage space.  This picture below shows a creative and adorable way to display these photos of artwork in a way that does not take up very much room on a wall.

There are a lot of great ways to achieve the same end result – preserving and showing off your child’s masterpieces.  I am thankful to Pinterest for exposing me to a few of these awesome ideas.  I am proud of my makeshift version of  a gallery and look forward to hanging many more new creations from summer camp and school in the future.

This post may make you itch

 I am suffering from PTSD.  We are finally done with the four letter word parents dread – LICE.  There, I have admitted this simple, yet ugly reality that we were facing almost two weeks ago.  I know – Yuck!  I was almost too disgusted and embarrassed to write about it, but there really is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Head lice can strike anyone, regardless of how “clean” you are, regardless of socioeconomic status, and no matter how careful you are to avoid getting lice.  We suffered through lice several times as kids.  When one of us would get lice, the rest of us would get it.  My mom would line us up for the hours long process of shampoo and combing out the hair.  Unbeknownst to me, she was also suffering through the endless laundry and bagging up stuff as well, usually on her own while my dad was away at sea.  I had also watched my sister-in-law, a working single mom of three beautiful girls with long flowing hair, go through the awful lice drill.  My sister-in-law is one of the cleanest, most protective, and vigilant moms I know and seeing her girls get it really showed me that anyone can become a victim of these nasty little bugs.  When she was going through the first, or even the second bout of head lice, I remember thinking that she was overreacting or going to extremes to get rid of it.  As with many things you think or say before kids – I get it now.  She knew exactly what she was doing and had every right in the world to be upset and a little traumatized, in addition to being extremely cautious to make certain that they never have to deal with lice again.

We had just returned from a wonderful vacation in the Outer Banks complete with great friends, lots of cute kids (9 kids under the age of 7), an abundance of beach and pool time, terrific food and drinks, and plenty of relaxation and fun.  When we finally arrived home from our trip and put the boys to bed, I was tired and felt like I needed a good shower.  As I combed my hair before the shower, I saw it – a tiny, disgusting, live white bug on the teeth of my comb.  The panic set in and I began to furiously comb my hair searching for others.  I found three little suckers in all, but it was more than enough to make me itch from head to toe and imagine nothing but hundreds of these gross things crawling all over my head.  I interrupted story time with Les and Isabella to inspect her head, thinking that she must have it too.  I did not find anything on her head that night so I let her go to sleep.  Les was clean too.  It appeared that I was the only one with a bug problem, for now.

The next six hours involved an expensive trip to Walgreens for lice killing supplies, lots of laundry and bagging of anything that could not be laundered, cleaning. vacuuming, and hair washing and combing for me.  Les was going back to work at 6:00 AM the next day so he was somewhat limited in his ability to help.  I called my mom and asked her to come over the next day.  She thoroughly inspected my head and found no more live bugs.  I treated my head a second time and let her comb through my hair.  We decided to check Isabella’s head again and lo and behold, we found several eggs and a few live bugs.  We spent all of the boys nap time shampooing and combing out her hair – trying to remain calm and not totally freak out (which is what we were really doing).  I had completed 5 loads of laundry (on hot cycle that takes 1.5 hours and hot dryer setting) and had another 8 loads on deck.  I sprayed and cleaned furniture, carpets, and cars.  I stripped everyone’s beds and bagged up all pillows and stuffed animals.  My mom was a lifesaver that day in helping me go through hair, clean, and most importantly trying to help me not lose my mind.

I was close to losing it.  You become paranoid about getting all the eggs out and making sure that they are all dead.  I followed my sister-in-law’s advice and treated Isabella and myself with something every day for a week.  The harsh chemical shampoos are too strong to use daily, but I tried tea tree oil, LiceMD (non-pesticide shampoo), Cetaphil, and olive oil.  We used over-the-counter pesticide shampoo and one of the very expensive new prescription shampoos.  Even though we did not find anything on the boys, we treated them with Cetaphil and with LiceMD for a few days in a row.  Jacob, my hyper-sensitive kid, is now probably forever afraid of combs and won’t let me near him for even the nightly brushing after bath.  I slept apart from Les for the past week to make sure that he did not get anything.  I have never done so much laundry in my life – every day washing all clothes, towels, and sheets. We had no pillows on the couch, no stuffed toys, no Barbies or American Girl dolls.  I threw out all brushes, combs, and probably $100 worth of bows, headbands, and hair ties for Isabella and myself.  That hurt.  I could have probably bagged them up for a few weeks or washed what I could, but I was taking no chances.

I think we are finally through the worst of it.  I am sleeping in the same bed as my husband again.  We now only have to do laundry every few days, the typical amount for a family of 5.  We aren’t boiling the brushes and combs for now.  We will begin taking stuff out of bags soon and again have pillows, stuffed animals, and Barbies to play with.  The PTSD may linger for a little while.  We are still not doing story time in the kid’s beds with them, doing it on the floor instead.  We still put Isabella’s hair in two braids for camp and on weekends.  We continue to look through everyone’s hair at the end of the day during bath or shower time.  Right now, I am debating on whether to Let Isabella go on the camp field trip to a bounce house on Friday.  One of the kids in the neighborhood thinks they got lice from the bounce house last year, and that is stuck in my head, feeding the paranoia and fear about going through this again.  I hate to make her miss her first field trip, but I just don’t think I can handle that right now.  I might just have to take her somewhere better, maybe Busch Gardens or Water Country instead to make up for not being able to go on the field trip.

I know I’ll have to get over this and eventually return to normalcy.  I mean, I was a pretty careful mom because of my history with lice as a kid and my sister-in-law’s experience.  I never let Isabella share brushes, hair things, crowns, hats, or anything.  She knew these rules from a very young age and even independently told a little friend at a dress-up birthday party that she could not put anything on her head that was not hers.  What a good, responsible kid.  It doesn’t matter though.  I still don’t know how Isabella and I got lice.  No one else staying in the beach house, 16 other people, had any lice or even any sign of eggs.  The only thing we did that was different is that Isabella and I went to a movie theater the day before we left the Outer Banks.  It is completely possible that someone who sat in those movie theater seats before us, even days before us, had lice and an egg or a bug transferred from the seat to my head and then to Isabella’s as we snuggled.  I know that movie theaters were one of the popular ways that bedbugs spread throughout major cities and maybe lice can be the same way.  Who knows?  We will never know, and that is part of what can drive you insane with lice.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be the last time we have to confront this dreaded pest.  The kids will go to school with other kids, sleepovers and birthday parties will happen, a bounce house or gym will happen again (maybe just not this Friday), and we will go to a movie theater again.  We might just have to bring a towel to put on the seat at the movie theater, and I’ll know to have plenty of wine on hand to get me through if there is a next time.

Happy Birthday to me and Happy Independence Day to you

Happy Birthday to me.  Happy Independence Day to America.  I just turned 34 and had an awesome birthday celebrating with family and friends in the Outer Banks.  Growing up, I had a love-hate relationship with my 4th of July birthday.  My parents always made sure I had a party, even if it was not on my actual birthday.  I received generous presents and my mom always made sure I had a delicious cake.  I always got to see fireworks on my birthday, and I even believed that the fireworks really were just for me for a long time.  My birthday usually meant a day spent with family at a park, a lake, the beach, or a backyard BBQ – all fun things, but not the number one way that a 12 or 14 year-old wants to spend their birthday.  All my friends were usually doing their own family thing, so my friend party usually needed to be on a different day.  I used to complain about not getting to celebrate my birthday at school (cupcakes brought to class, decorated locker, etc.), a plight shared by many kids with summer birthdays.  My birthday was never just my birthday, it was everyone’s special day – a day off from work and a day to do something other than celebrate my birthday.  I imagine that any kid with a birthday on a holiday has felt this way at one time or another.

The things that used to bum me out about my birthday seem pretty silly and self-centered now, but hey, I was a kid and those feelings are not totally abnormal.  As I got older, I started to appreciate my unique birthday.  I love that everybody is in a festive mood and ready to party on my birthday.  Since meeting Les, he has always made a genuine effort to make my birthday extra special and make sure that it doesn’t get lumped into a generic 4th of July party.  I always feel like the day is both a celebration of America and a celebration of my birthday.  We can always count on our friends and/or our family to be there to help us celebrate.   Last year and this year we enjoyed the holiday week with our neighbors at their beach house in the Outer Banks (thank you again T&K).  This year, my husband’s family came to the Outer Banks to soak up the sun and mark the holiday and my birthday with us.  We had an outstanding 4th of July , complete with a morning run, the beach and pool time, paddle boarding, a BBQ, cake and chocolate covered strawberries, and fireworks with my daughter.  Upon our return, my mom came over with a yummy strawberry cake to celebrate my birthday since she was not with us on the 4th.

Prior to the past two years in the Outer Banks, we had hosted a big 4th of July/birthday party at our house for 5 years in a row.  I liked having the party at our house because we could be around all the people we cared about, but it was a lot of work for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to plan a good party, but that got a lot harder with one, two, and now three kids.  The idea of planning and preparing for a big Independence Day bash (aka: my own birthday party) became stressful and overwhelming as I had to also juggle several children.  My last two birthdays in the Outer Banks have been relaxing and fun – the ideal way to spend a birthday.  I definitely miss being able to have all of my family and friends around, but I do not miss the planning and preparation for a party at our house on my birthday.  Rather than cleaning up and worrying about everyone getting to fireworks, I was able to simply take a lovely evening walk down to the beach to watch fireworks with Isabella, my nieces, and some family and friends that were in the Outer Banks with us.  It was pretty perfect, especially listening to Isabella ooh and aah over every firework as it exploded over the serene ocean.

I don’t feel thirty-four.  I probably never will feel as old as I keep turning, at least I hope I don’t.  I still feel young – in mind, body, and spirit – at least on most days.  I have grown-up.  I don’t mind growing up, as life experience and child rearing will do to you, as long as I don’t grow old before my time.  I no longer mind sharing my birthday with America.  I am honored to share such a historic and special date in the history of our great country.  This is going to be another great year, and I look forward to another great birthday and 4th of July next year.  We already have an amazing vacation planned to Turks and Caicos next year over the 4th of July week.  Sounds like a pretty incredible way to celebrate my 35th birthday!