Me Time

I’d been looking forward to last weekend for a while. The kids were going to my mother-in-law’s, and Hubs was on the road. I had visions of the time being totally awesome. I made a list of things to do. Laundry, as usual, was the first item of business. Then grocery shopping. Oh, and a trip to the cleaners.

My mom called and said she needed a ride somewhere Saturday. I added it to the growing task sheet.

After I dropped the kids off Friday, I looked over the list. Everything on it, from cleaning my purse to buying baby shower game prizes, sounded lame. The complete opposite of awesome. I wadded up the sheet and dropped it in my purse.

When I got home, I made a bowl of buttery popcorn, opened a bottle of Tempranillo, and picked up a magazine. After watching a movie that wasn’t animated or featuring puppets, I took a hot shower and went to bed.

Saturday, I stayed in bed playing on Twitter and clearing my DVR until 10. After a short yoga practice, I revisited my list. I took care of laundry and the shower games while watching the Food Channel. (My version of responsible multitasking)

I made no calls and responded to no work emails for two days. A few times, I forgot the kids weren’t home, and I went to check on them because the house was so quiet.

I’ll admit, it was hard to sit still at first, but it was well worth the effort. The weekend was a great reminder that I need to take care of myself so that I can be the best for my family.

The Marvelous Multitasking Mama

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I’m a firm believer that motherhood requires expertise in multitasking. How else can one get it all done? There’s clothes to wash, meals to prepare, and mountains of errands to run. When you’re not overrun by minutia, you need to find time to raise and nurture the kids.

After experiencing nearly 10 years of motherhood, I felt as though I had a good handle on the multitasking game. One-handed vacuuming with baby on hip while singing the ABCs. Cooking meals and checking emails. Helping with homework and busting suds.

Recently, my multitasking skills were rendered useless. Lil Ma was diagnosed with bronchilitis, and with that came a brief stay in the pediatric ward.  She was all that mattered. I left Hubby to care for our oldest and fired off a half-sensical email to my employer stating I would be out the rest of the week.

Fortunately, Lil Ma came home less than 24 hours after being admitted, but she needs breathing treatments until her lungs are back at full strength. That could be a month from now.

It’s amazing how one rough day threw off our family routine. We didn’t buy groceries. The kitchen was a wreck. Mini Me’s supply of clean clothes rapidly diminished. As an added bonus, Lil Ma no longer tolerated sharing the spotlight with her sister, dishes, laundry, or a mobile device. She wanted playing, holding, and singing. Any combination of those was acceptable, but that was the only multitasking allowed.

Honestly, her request was not unreasonable. I, however, still had other things that needed my attention. A husband. Another kid. A job. A me.

Feelings of failure circled.

I tried to shake them off by reconnecting with my multitasking mojo. I planned new ways to combine tasks. Could I make the bed and clip coupons? Or, could I wash dishes and sort clothes? What could I accomplish in just five minutes? (That’s still a good idea, by the way. Just not right now.) The thought of it made me all the more overwhelmed.

Instead,  I slowed down and focused on one thing at a time. I thought about what reasonably fit into our weeknight evenings. Dinner. Homework. Play. Baths. Bed.

I rejiggered the order of things to eliminate rush. Bath time moved ahead of dinner and homework. That ended the mad dash to the tub and the battle to get the girls in bed at their appointed bedtimes. Plus, it gets done while dinner is in the oven. (Ah, multitasking responsibly!)

I remembered that for two weeks at a time, I’m not the only adult in the house. Hubs can help, I just need to ask.

The girls have my undivided attention while we play pat-a-cake or look at doll fashion. I reserved 30 minutes after their bedtime for general clean up.

The most important thing I’ve done over the last few days is to cut myself some slack. There will always be something else to do, but I don’t need to try to do it all. I’ll pick what’s important, bundle when it makes sense, and get to the rest when I can. And I’m certainly no failure for that.

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Time Out for the Terrible Twos

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When Lil Ma is angry, she screams. It’s loud. Actually, it’s louder than loud. Every day, I am amazed by how a person so small can make such a deafening sound.

I thought we had more time before we reached the Terrible Twos, but my little overachiever got there 7 months shy of her second birthday. Now, two months later, her screams of frustration are combined with hits and tossed toys.

A friend suggested that I put her in time out. I laughed. How in the heck would Lil Ma understand that she had to stay in one place for any length of time?

“You’re underestimating her,” my friend said. “She gets more than you think.”

I had given time out a try before my friend mentioned it, but my initial efforts were weak and inconsistent. Whenever a tantrum hit, I dragged her to the designated time-out corner. Two seconds later, she would move and I would give up.

“What about a timer?” my friend asked.

I figured it was worth a shot. So I pulled out an old egg timer and waited for a chance to use it. I didn’t have to wait long. Lil Ma popped me in the face with a Lego after I told her it was time for bed. She then fell backward and started the kick-and-scream routine.

I moved her to the corner and set the timer for 30 seconds.

“No hitting,” I said as I backed way.

Lil Ma stood up, stared at me with her tear-stained face, and took one step forward.

“No,” I said while wagging a finger. She cried louder but took a step back.

Then she tried to move again.

“No.”  I said, more gently this time. “Calm down.”

She stood in place silently and stared at me. We eyed each other cautiously until the timer ran out.

“You can come out now. No hitting.” I said. “Time for bed.”

She smiled and went to put her Legos into a container.

I was stunned. It had to be a fluke. But over the past few days, I’ve seen a big difference in the length of her tantrums. They seem to last for only as long as the timer is set. Today, she calmed down in about 15 seconds.

I don’t know how long this technique will work, but I’m going to stick with it. We’re got a long way to go before the Terrible Twos are history.

How did you survive the Terrible Twos?

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Farewell to Private Potty Time

Mini Me was in the dining room doing homework. Lil Ma was in the family room with me watching Barney. The dishes were done. The phone wasn’t ringing. Everything was just fine.

Then I had to use the bathroom.

Parents of little ramblers understand this dilemma. A mere five seconds of unsupervised time can lead to something going missing or being ripped to shreds. But when nature calls, you can only ignore it for so long. I usually just take her with me, but I thought it would be nice to potty by myself.

Lil Ma was still enchanted with Barney when I tiptoed out of the room. I closed the bathroom door, lifted the toilet lid, and took a seat.

Then I heard a male voice: “Si necesita ayuda, pulse el número uno o marque nueve uno uno.” I raced out of the bathroom, while still tugging at my pants, to find my youngest on the phone with emergency services. She had climbed on the sofa to reach the phone.

Looks like I’ll have company in the bathroom for a while.

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Taking My Foot out of the Grave: I’m a Parent, Not Dead

Hubby turned The Big Four-O a few weeks ago.

He’d just come home from a particularly stressful business trip, and he was greeted with a collapsed sewer line and an expensive car repair. Then a stomach bug came through our home like a case of the Motaba virus, and Hubby’s mood quickly shifted from worn-out to ornery.

Nevertheless, I believe a birthday is reason to celebrate. I took him out for sushi with plans to see a movie. By 8:15, he was ready to go home.

“Honey, we’re a middle-aged married couple with two rambunctious girls,” he said. “This is it. We’re old.”

Not one to be defeated, I drove to a local mall. “We can at least walk off our dinner,” I reasoned. Hubby grumbled. We were home by 9:45 and asleep by 10:30.

A few days later, I met friends for our monthly book club meeting. I lamented to the girls that I wished Hubby and I got out more. The book club is my only consistent social engagement, and Hubby doesn’t even have that. I attempted to pair him with a friend’s husband for golf.

“We’ve got three kids,” my friend said. “Joe doesn’t play golf anymore.”

Hubby’s voice rang in my ear. This is it. We’re old.

Bull. I refuse to allow parenthood to become an 18-year sentence of sweat pants and exhaustion. After Mini Me was born, I knew that I needed adjust, or completely change, parts of my life in order to fulfill my responsibility to my daughter.

But I also have a responsibility to myself. There’s more to who I am than the title of mother. There’s the wife. The daughter. The sister. The friend. The writer. The a person underneath all of the titles. The one who cannot get lost.

Taking care of that person keeps me at my best, and I haven’t been doing a good job lately. I’ve fallen victim to the slippery slope of laundry and daycare dashes, and solo trips to Target are welcomed like a spa vacation. When I’m out of sync, physical and mental exhaustion peak. Patience and my sense of humor tank. The latter two are quite critical to parenting, and quite honestly, to life in general.

So I’m not waiting until the kids go off to college for my life to begin. Thursday yoga is back on the docket. (There’s a studio by the office and one by the house so there’s no excuse to miss a class.) The girls and I are visiting the museum for a special exhibit this weekend. A friend and I have a concert date lined up next month. Hubby doesn’t know it yet, but there are better date nights in our future that will last longer than 90 minutes.

We’re a long way from Shady Pines.

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