Monday, October 22, 2012

Baking Time with Darla

Sometimes, it's ok to give your toddler and her cousin a bowl of flour to play with.  The memories far outweigh the time it takes to clean it up (especially when your brother sweeps up the mess).

Baking with Darla from Frank McKenna on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Like Cussing Mother, Like Cussing Daughter

According to my sister Bridget, the first time I cussed was when I was four.  Eight siblings had just crawled out of the backseat of our dad’s station wagon.  I was about to follow suit when Bridget closed the door in my face, forgetting that I was still in the car.  Realizing her mistake, she turned around to open it.  Before she could, she read my little lips as I yelled, “oh shit.”  I was angry and surprised and I had no other choice but to curse my way through the situation.  I don’t think I’ve stopped swearing since.

Darla is an even earlier bloomer than I was.  It was a proud moment in my life when I realized that my 18-month-old daughter was a swearer.  This special occasion happened for me when I gave Darla a juice box filled with coconut water.  She took a long, satisfied pull from it, slammed it down on the table and said, “Oh S” (but it’s not just “s”) with a big grin on her face.  Greg and I looked at each other and put our heads on the table.  The most troubling part about this wasn’t the fact that she said it, but that she had reached a level of sophisticated cussing that she completely bypassed the frustrated or angry profanity and went straight for the joyful use. 

This is a wake up call for me.  Although I’ve been very conscious not to let vulgarity rein, I’ve let a few (or maybe a little more than a few…) muttered profanities pass my lips in her presence.  Sometimes, it came as a result of running late for an appointment and seeing that Darla had decided to take my bag and dump it all over the floor.  Other times, it was when I’d been so excited by something cool Darla has done (like dancing like a “Maniac”) that I exclaim, “that’s f’ing amazing.”  I’m 100% to blame for this and I apologize in advance to all of the parent’s Darla and I come in contact with.  Darla has been known to teach other kids such wonderful things as “no, no, no, no, no” or screaming at the top of her lungs.   Here’s just one more thing to add to your list of “things my child learned from Darla that I now have to unteach it.”

I’m at a loss of how to deprogram Darla, but I have been trying my hand at redirecting her language.  Here are some examples:  When Darla says the s-word I pretend she has said “cheese.”  With her garbled tones, it’s an easy mistake to make.  I’m hoping after enough rounds of this, she will get confused and think she’s actually saying cheese.  Also, I believe I’ve heard Darla say the b-word, but I just translate that to “peach.”  When the day comes when Darla says the f-word, I imagine I will have to think she’s saying “fork” and pass her the utensil. 

I’m hoping this plan works.  I try not to let my mind linger on the fact that she may just end up saying the s-word every time she wants a slice of cheese.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Bad Case of Motherhood

Infants and toddlers with their new, little immune systems get sick every other week.  Everyone knows that.  A mom, an adult with a supposedly seasoned and robust immune system, is supposed to be the rock on which her sick children lean.  I, unfortunately, am not of such sturdy stock as I imagine all others to be.

Sometime around Darla's first birthday in March, I lost it because every time she was sick, I was sick.  By May, it had been two months of a non-stop viral party.  I couldn't believe that I just had a weak immune system.  I decided there was something terribly wrong with my health.  I looked over the past few months.  Consistent sinus infections, hand, foot and mouth disease, extreme exhaustion and fevers.  The only thing I could glean from this information was that I was anemic, again.  I tried taking vitamins, drinking more water and eating better.  I still felt like my head was stuft with cotton and that my eyes were hung-over droopy.

After putting it off for months, I went to the doctor.  I was ashamed to admit I felt malaise, achy and at my wits end.  I thought that there was no way she would under stand the pain I was enduring.

She walked into the office, asked if I had any concerns and I dove right in.

"I have a 14 month, whose actually in the waiting room with her dad.  I've been sick non-stop, I'm going brain-dead because I'm so tired and I wake up every morning dreading my to do list.  I count the minutes until I can go back to sleep from the second I wake up."

I thought she was going to criticize me for being an unenthusiastic, apathetic parent who can't properly raise a child.  I hoped she would diagnose my anemia before she got to that part.

Instead, after she heard my monologue listing my ailments, she gave a look as if to say, "there's more, right?"

I added, "I used to have anemia, so I think its come back."

She shook her head, "I think that you're experiencing what it's like to be a mother.  This all sounds very normal."

I wanted to argue with her.  Tell her that she didn't know what she was talking about and that being a mom can't be this hard.  To have argued that point would have meant ignoring the big elephant in the room (aka her 8 month old pot belly of her second pregnancy).

To placate me, she agreed to run some tests, which I didn't end up taking until two months later.

When I finally went in for the blood tests, I anxiously awaited the day that the results would come in.  I was excited to find out that I had a minor problem, which could be cured by a few pills.  The phone call I received regarding the results was beyond disappointing.  My levels were all normal.  There would be no miracle pills for me.

Despite this lack of a diagnosis, I trudge on.  The exhaustion has slightly diminished. I went a whole month without getting sick.  I only count down the minutes until lunch and then, from there, I count down the minutes until bed.  Things are improving!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Panic Attacks

I'm not a fan of her being this close to dogs.
I walked on eggshells my entire pregnancy.  My heart would pound if I didn't feel Darla's incessant kicks.  I would get dizzy before doctors appointments as I worked myself into a panic over what they might find.  I thought pregnancy was the hard part.  "Once she's out," I told myself, "the constant terror will fade into the background and you'll never feel this kind of fear again." 

Unfortunately, the real panic kicked in once Darla was born.  For an entire years, I lay awake at night in order to stare at her monitor.  I felt like the unimaginable would occur if I didn't watch her belly rise and fall.  And, as is typically for a newborn, she would often go seconds without breathing.  This made my blood run cold every single time.  I prayed for the first year to pass quickly so I could stop worrying about her so much.

At sixteen months, I'm in an even more intense, condensed state of stress than I've ever been in.  Her world has gotten so much larger and, with that, the dangers have just multiplied exponentially.  I daily run through a mental checklist of dangers and I swear I can't breath by the time I'm halfway through.  There's batteries, sharp plastic bits, poisonous spiders, pointy edges, scary strangers, rabid dogs, concrete sidewalks...  I could go on with my list, but I'm starting to feel anxious.  As a result, I prefer to keep her locked in her baby-proofed bedroom where there are no corners for her to hide behind, sockets she can poke her little fingers into and no stray pennies.  I watch her bang on the door, furiously trying to get outside into the dangerous world, and fantasize about how much easier life will be when she's not a young toddler who constantly wants to eat whatever she finds on the floor.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pretty as a Picture

With each day that passes since my last blog entry, I feel less and less inclined to post.  I think about scrapping this all together and starting new so no one can see how few and far between they are.  I'm terrified of coming off as a failure, a lazy mom or an unmotivated writer.  I compare myself to other moms who seem to be able to make their children incredibly nutritious meals, create crafting projects, work an eight hour day, have a fantastic meal prepared for dinner and who get their hair done every six weeks (I'm especially jealous of that last one).  I see myself, with my rushed mornings, my basic lunches, hectic days and burned out evenings spent on social networks and fall into despair.  I know I'm not supposed to look at myself in contrast to other people, but god damnit it gets frustrating when I feel like I'm surrounded by women who seem to have it together.   Everyday that I don't blog is just another excuse to get upset with myself and another way in which I feel as I have failed as a mother.

So, I'm biting the bullet and writing, despite how silly and exposing it feels.

And I sit at the computer with my mind completely blank and unable to figure out what to write about.  Then, I look at this amazing picture my brother took of Darla and I in the water.  The moment looks so fresh and carefree.  We're having the time of our lives.  You wouldn't guess that Darla was stomping around in murky water or that I was hot and stressed about whether or not I had put enough sunblock on her.  In that moment, I felt that I looked like a frazzled mom.  In reality, that seems to have all been in my head.  When I think about that moment that she marched into that water fully clothed, I know I was happy and that I looked happy.  I didn't look as confused, overwhelmed and exhausted as I thought I did.  (But that's not to say that I didn't pass out very early that night from a very confusing, overwhelming and exhausting day.  I'm learning to accept that those emotions will be felt almost daily).

I think about what another mom might think when she sees this picture and I bet someone might feel like our lives are full of spontaneous beach visits and calm moments at the beach.  I feel comforted that maybe someone out there might look at me and think, "she's got it figured out."  I won't bother telling her about the Sh*tsplosion Darla had on our way back to Los Angeles from San Diego.  Nor will I mention that she was covered from head to toe in her poo, which she had managed to do in the five minutes it took to get off the freeway.  Or that I didn't have any wipes so I had to use clothes I was going to donate to wipe up as much as I could before bringing her into the gas station bathroom for a "trucker's bath."  I will keep up the illusion that the day was full of sunshine, laughter and waves.
A moment of calm before she wriggled out of my arms.

Pure joy

She reminds me of a cute old woman in this one.

She's about to run off.

She pulled the hat over her face and started walking into walls.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Birth of a Fashion Plate

There comes a moment in a mother’s life when her child does her proud.  Either she learns to love her favorite sandwich or learns the melody to her favorite song.  This moment came for me when I learned that Darla loves fashion. 

First, there was the moment she realized that her favorite pair of gold Ralph Lauren slippers no longer fit.  I struggled to shove her chubby little toes in, but took them off when I saw her foot was turning red.  She tossed her head backward and yelled.  I let her get it all out.  When she calmed down, she picked up the shoe and tried to squeeze it onto her foot herself.  I tried to distract her with a pair of pink converse, but she just whimpered and looked at the gold slippers longingly.  When she wasn’t looking, I slipped the gold slippers into her drawer. 

Second was when she learned to pose because she was wearing a Chanel necklace.  This picture speaks for itself.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parenthood: The Death of Irony

I'm much more earnest and direct than I was before.  Greg says that I don't even have time for irony anymore, which actually isn't true.  It's not time that's to blame, but, rather, it's the fault of my ever diminishing brain cells.  The make it impossible to contemplate or create anything that requires my focus for more than 30 seconds.  Irony and humor, unfortunately, need to take a back seat to thoughts of Darla's next meal or when I can squeeze in cleaning.

While my brain shrinks, my ability to remember things also gets worse and worse.  Since I'm so tired that I can barely remember how old I am, I'm eternally grateful to my brother Frank for documenting my time with my family so well.  Now, I can look at the pictures and remember the weekend in January that felt like the Fourth of July.

Darla attempts to eat dog poo. Luckily, Aunt Erin stopped her.

Darla with her adorable cousin, Oliver

Three generations in one Radio Flyer.

We have the same crooked smile.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Let Sleeping Darlas Lie

I was guilty and anxious before I had a baby.  The situation has not improved at all.  It’s actually gotten worse.  Especially on the days I work from home.   I want to give 100% to Darla and 100% to work.  Neither is possible and I end up feeling like a horrible failure as each only gets about 30% (don’t ask me where the other 40% is.  I think I lost it somewhere in my second trimester

Today was shaping up to be one of those frantic afternoons (darting between feeding Darla, doing laundry, setting up the bakery’s insurance and, maybe, squeezing in a bathroom break) when my working day came to a grinding halt.  After attempting to logon to my email, I found that the Internet was down.  I reset the modem several times.  I had no other solutions beyond this, so I started walking in circles.  I stopped walking when I realized that I had forgotten to pay the bill.

“That’s an easy fix,” I thought and called in my payment.  The automated system told me it would take half an hour for my service to be turned on.  I was at a loss and resumed walking in circles.  My plans for a frantic day were nothing without the Internet

Darla smiled up at me from her high chair.  She rubbed her eye and tugged her ear.  There was my answer.  I was being summoned to begin the most stressful part of my afternoon: getting Darla down for a nap.  This involves a lot of deafening howls and countless trips into her room to coax her down from standing up in her crib.  After a half hour, I would most likely give up on a crib nap and just put her in the car to fall asleep so I can run errands. 

Today, I didn’t feel like getting into the ring with Darla, so I decided to let her fall asleep on our bed.  After 15 minutes of shrieks and trying to keep Darla from sitting up, I gave up and gathered her into my arms.  I lay her head on my chest and she stuck her thumb in her mouth.  Within a minute, she was fast asleep in my arms and I lay back while she sighed deeply on my chest.  As I listened to her breath, sadness came over me.  I realized that laying her sleeping body across my chest on a warm afternoon with little strands of light coming through the window wasn’t going to last forever.  Her little roly-poly body would only be able to lie on me for a finite amount of time before she learns that she and I are not the same person.

For a moment, I thought about all the work I should be doing besides holding Darla in my arms.  This was a useless thought.  One year from now, was I going to regret not folding the laundry?  Probably not.  Would I regret not taking advantage of an opportunity to rest with my daughter?  Definitely. 

I hugged her tighter and felt incredibly sad that I couldn’t lay there with her forever and incredibly grateful for the fact that I forgot to pay our Internet bill.  I bought myself a chance to be 100% a good mom.   I closed my eyes to just let it all soak in when Darla lifted her head and poked my eye open.   

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Darla's Laughter (Again)

This is kind of an old video, but wanted to put it up since I haven't posted in months.