Category Archives: parenting
“How old are you?”
“How old do you think I am?”
“I don’t know. Thirty-two?”
“Today you are my favorite child.”
For Mother’s Day this year, Rich and Coraline let me choose what I wanted to do since, as Coraline reminded me at least a dozen times, “it’s your special day!” I decided that I wanted to check out the brunch at The Cheesecake Factory, where I lived it up with a Belgian waffle and Buffalo Blasts, and got a slice of cheesecake to go. We then swung back by our house to drop off our leftovers and so Rich and Coraline could give me my Mother’s Day presents: two dresses from New York & Co., Clinique nail polish and a face mask, and bacon seasoning (for the win!). The gifts were spot on, particularly the pink patterned dress I’d been looking at the night before on my iPad; Rich was amused to discover that I’d been thisclose to buying it for myself.
We then went to the Knoxville Museum of Art, Coraline’s first-ever visit to an art museum. She did pretty well for her first visit, although she is far from being ready for the guided tour. I loved that she asked for me to photograph her in front of the art she liked the best. My favorite was the inverted Mona Lisa made with spools of thread by Devorah Sperber; viewed through a glass orb, the image was then right-side-up. It was recognizable enough even upside-down that Coraline exclaimed, “Hey, it’s Mona Lisa!”
After the museum we changed Coraline into the shorts, T-shirt, and sneakers I’d grabbed at the house so she could play at Fort Kid across the street from the KMA. She had a blast and made some friends, while I tried not to die of heatstroke even sitting in the shade (I think the temperature was close to 90 by then). The heat made Coraline a bit cranky on the drive back home, but her mood improved significantly once she cooled off. During her afternoon nap, I passed out on the couch with Buster since being outside in hot weather pretty much drains me of all my energy. Also, it was Mother’s Day and I didn’t feel like doing housework.
It was my turn for bedtime duty, and as I tucked Coraline in bed, I thanked her again for making Mother’s Day so great. She said, “You’re welcome. And I wasn’t even bad today!” That’s my girl, and I’m so lucky to be her mom.
Song Lyric of the Day:
Baby you need time for yourself / I’ll give it to you / All the rest seems to logically follow
I’ve read parenting blogs for several years now, even before I became a mom. As such, I have read a lot of posts where parents (usually fellow moms) complain that they can’t find or get any me time. Which I think is total crap. As parents we spend a lot — hell, the majority — of our time with or on our kids to raise them right, spend quality time with them, help with their homework, make sure they are fed and clothed, that they get to bed on time. That’s a lot what being a parent is about, and something for which I, and lot of others, willingly signed up. That parenting takes time should be no surprise because we are raising small human beings. But we still need to find even five minutes a day to spend on ourselves. Our sanity requires it.
I work outside the home, and as Coraline has gotten older and more self-reliant, my typical day has changed quite a bit. I usually take my me time during the workday. I always have a book in my car, so come lunchtime, most days I hop in, drive to a restaurant, and enjoy a silent solo hour of reading while I eat. It’s wonderful me time. An added bonus is that the servers at my usual haunts know me, so I get great quiet service. On the days I either grab lunch with friends or simply can’t get away, I still make sure I take my book and find a quiet corner somewhere in our office building and take a short reading break. Failing that, I wait until Coraline is tucked in for the night then kick back with Buster and watch a little bit of TV after checking in/hanging out with the spouse.
I think parents also need to let go of unrealistic expectations for what qualifies as me/kid-free time. It doesn’t need to be a spa day or an overnight hotel stay away from the family. Hell, when Rich takes Coraline so I can go to the supermarket/Target/PetSmart by myself, it’s like a vacation. A vacation I make the most of because it’s time for and by myself. Even if it is technically running errands.
I’m lucky that Rich is (1) around and (2) a hands-on father. That makes it a bit easier to grab quality solo time on both our parts, because we can leave Coraline with the other parent, and we work at coordinating that so we can each get away now and then. Sometimes we even manage to get away together. Coraline is remarkably self-sufficient now, so we just leave a big bowl of water out and baggies of fruit snacks around the house for her while we’re out.*
I would love to know how — and even if — single parents and stay-at-home parents find/make me time for themselves. Because I really do think it’s important for our — and our kids’ — well-being that moms and dads get that little bit of time to decompress or just do whatever the hell they want for a little while. Even if it’s something as simple as not watching kids’ TV. Because surely I’m not the only parent who gets sick of watching certain kids’ shows or family movies on repeat, right? Right?!?
I can say with certainty that if I were a stay-at-home mom, I’d be running for the hills as soon as Rich got home from work. For at least five minutes, anyway.
*I am of course kidding. Don’t call CPS. She is watched by family members during those times. Who provide her with a big bowl of water and baggies of fruit snacks.
Song Lyric of the Day:
I’d like to show you a million things / I’d like to make the world for you a better place / But when it pours, it really rains, so / Put on your boots, and let’s play
Coraline has always been a little ahead of the curve for almost all of her developmental milestones: rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, long division. It seems like only yesterday we were counting how many words she was using in a sentence: four, five, eight, twelve. Now I have a teenager trapped in a 4 1/2-year-old’s body, who knows how to properly use the word compromise to get what she wants, speaks in paragraphs, and says things like, “I can breathe perfectly fine without using my nasal spray.” I won’t mention how inflated her ego got when she got bumped up to the fives at preschool late last year, “Even though I’m still four!” She’s also schooled herself on how to be passive-aggressive, prone to comment when the weather’s nice that “this sure would be a nice day to go to a park or playground.” Yes, kid, we know it would be.
It should come as no surprise then that she had all of her baby teeth by the time her first birthday rolled around. What did come as a surprise to me during her dental cleaning at the end of January was when her dentist announced that Coraline had two loose teeth. While I thought I might cry at hearing the news that my baby already had loose teeth, Coraline beamed, proudly exclaiming, “I’m growing up so fast!” My reply: an internalized sob.
Her dentist said that while it was a little unusual to have loose teeth that early, it wasn’t unexpected given that Coraline had all her teeth by such a young age and that we shouldn’t worry about it. Of course, as soon as we left the office, Coraline wanted to call my mom to tell her the big news. She then went on to tell every single person she encountered that she already had two loose teeth and would ask if they wanted to see them. Everyone in the greater Knoxville area knew about those loose teeth and that she was in the fives even though she was still only four.
Cut to a couple of Saturdays ago when we were all doing yard work. I asked Coraline if I could see how loose her tooth was only to discover it hanging by a thread. And so, at the ripe old age of 4 years, 6 months, and 12 days, and after a bit of hysteria on her part at the thought of her tooth finally coming out, Rich had the honor of yanking the tooth. She wailed like a woman in church about the blood (which lasted all of one minute), then looked in the mirror and said, “I can’t believe I lost my first tooth!” We celebrated by taking her to Bruster’s for some ice cream. Even though I don’t really care for ice cream, I indulged out of moral support. It took her a couple of days to work up the nerve to leave her tooth out for the Tooth Fairy. She was happy to find a tiny Iron Man toy plus $2 and a quarter. That’s a fortune when you’re 4 1/2 years old.
One week and two days later, tooth number two was ready to come out. Rich again did the honors, only this time Coraline calmed down quicker. She looked in the mirror and saw the blood in her mouth, announcing, “I look like a vampire!” Clearly she was getting the hang of how to handle losing a tooth and looking forward to another visit from the Tooth Fairy.
It’s hard to believe how quickly my baby is growing. She even got bumped up to the big girls’ dance/gym class recently, another fact she enjoys sharing with everyone she meets. Oh, and she currently has three other loose teeth. Pray for me.
“What did you learn about in school today?”
“We talked about cows and heroes!”
“Cows and heroes? That’s interesting.”
“And guess what?”
“I’ve been waiting to tell you this all day because it’s really special. Do you know who my hero is?”
“No. Who’s your hero?”
Pointing excitedly: “You are! You’re my hero! Isn’t that the best thing you ever heard in your whole life?”
“You know, kid, actually it is.”
“Look, Mommy! They have little dresses for little kids!”
“Those aren’t dresses.”
“Yes, they are.”
“No, they’re people clothes.”
“Oh. Look! There’s another little dress for little kids!”
“Again, that’s not a little dress. You know what? I’ll come back another day by myself.”
Song Lyric of the Day:
Extrapolate my feelings / My family is dysfunctional / But we have a good time killing each other
Coraline has always been a really happy kid. She has a sunny enough disposition that I still sometimes wonder how it is that Rich and I made her. Not that her sunny disposition is a bad thing. Sure, she’s gotten mad here and there, but she’s never been one to stay mad, which is a good thing. Particularly because over the last few months Rich and I have gotten a glimpse of the monster Coraline could potentially be when she hits teenagedom. And it scares the crap out of us.
When she’s really mad, she will yell, “Don’t look at me!” or “Stop watching me!” She’ll even hold her hand up in front of her face to block our view. Maybe she’s mad that we said no about something. Maybe she didn’t nap long enough. Maybe she woke up on the wrong side of her nap. She will also stamp her feet to punctuate exactly how pissed off with us she is. Laser beams shoot out of her eyes if we are unfortunate enough to make eye contact after she’s told us not to look at her. Her head rotates around and she begins speaking in tongues when we try to reason with her. There has also been the occasional threat of projectile pea soup vomit. You get the idea.
Rich and I have taken to referring to Coraline as Happy Fun Ball when she’s in a mood. It’s our primary defense method, a way of warning the one lucky enough to not be on the receiving end of the tantrum to run like hell in the opposite direction. “Happy Fun Ball! HAPPY FUN BALL!” The name seems appropriate because Coraline is all cuddliness and sweetness and light most of the time, but occasionally her inner Sweeney Toddler comes out to scare us.
Thankfully, as I said, Coraline doesn’t stay mad for long. But the mere hint of the teenager she might be is enough to have Rich and I planning on buying a yurt in which we will live in our backyard while she rampages through the house, destroying anything and everything in her path with those laser-beam eyes.
Song Lyric of the Day:
Would you let me see beneath your beautiful? / Would you let me see beneath your perfect?
For the past few weeks I’ve gotten back into something of a fitness routine. I’m now on three weeks of only taking the stairs at work (my cube is on the third floor), I walk the track at work when I can despite the ridiculous heat these days, I’m wearing my pedometer again to track how many steps I take each day, and I’ve started using our home gym again. I’ve even worked up to running part of the time I’m on the treadmill, which I usually have set on 3.9MPH, a speed at which I can easily maintain my natural native New Yorker walking rate. We’ll see how I do when I increase the speed soon.
Coraline is curious about what constitutes exercise. She loves pointing out that those runners we passed, the soccer players we saw, the kids shooting hoops were all exercising. Rich and I have explained to her that exercise is a way to stay healthy: It gets your heart pumping harder, which is very important since our hearts need to be healthy to keep everything else working well. She has no concept of exercise as a means to weight loss, which is perfectly fine by me. The longer she only sees it as a means to being healthy, not skinny*, the happier I’ll be. I worry about her future body image, when other kids might pick on her for being what they perceive — what society dictates — to be overweight or even if she’s underweight, which I was growing up and into my young adulthood. Being asked by perfect strangers almost everywhere I went if I had an eating disorder (what I had was ridiculous metabolism) took its toll on my self-esteem and confidence. That I know from.
So it’s because of all the baggage that’s attached to exercise and eating healthy that I never let her see me weigh myself. Yes, I started working out again because I’d like to look and feel better. I want to shore up the wobbly bits. I want to increase my endurance, which the stairs and cardio are definitely helping with. I’m trying to make smarter choices about what I eat because without that, exercise alone won’t get me very far. Admittedly, that’s a struggle for me, but I’ve definitely been doing a lot better of late. And, most importantly, I want to be as proactive as I can regarding my health so I can see my daughter grow up.
I do attach some importance to the numbers I see on our scale. I am happy when I see that number inching down bit by bit, pound by pound. I don’t want to lose that much weight — between 5 and 7 lbs. — but I do want to lose it. When I weigh myself, it’s when I’m all by myself and Coraline isn’t there to see. Not because I’m ashamed or anything, but because I don’t want her to start attaching importance to the numbers she sees, certainly not at the tender age of 3 1/2. She just thinks the scale is this neat little thing to stand on in the hall bathroom. She has no idea what the numbers on it mean, even though I do.
*Rich and I never use the words “skinny” or “fat” to describe people. I’m pretty sure she still doesn’t know exactly what those words mean.