Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Real Cost of a Mommy-Getaway

Lately, life has been hard.  My husband has been traveling quite a bit, Maisy is going through an excruciatingly annoying phase where she insists on sporting one of three dresses and refuses to wear shoes, and Elana now exclusively addresses me as "Rhiana", even after I threatened to destroy every last one of her Rainbow Magic Fairy books!  Consequently, the circles underneath my eyes have grown darker and my "laugh lines" are deeper.  I needed to get away, if even only for a day.

The Memorial Day weekend provided me the perfect opportunity to take a small hiatus from all things maternal and marital.  Once I got the clearance from my family, I booked a room and coerced a friend to join.  By late Saturday morning we had packed our swimsuits and sun hats and were ready to kiss our little ones goodbye, leaving them in the capable hands of their (somewhat worried looking) fathers.  
But, what would this little excursion cost?  As a mother who rarely buys spends money on herself, I decided to keep a running tab for the trip.

   Cost of gasoline for two-hour car trip = $12
   Cost of not having to listen to Katy Perry on repeat during the entire drive = priceless

   Lunch for two at hotel restaurant = $40
   Enjoying a glass of wine at noon = priceless

   Spa pedicure complete with extra long foot massage = $45
   Not having to negotiate with my barefoot three-year-old to wear shoes = priceless

   Poolside margarita = $8
   Not sharing a waterbottle speckled with bits of toddler backwash = priceless

   Dinner at a trendy restaurant in downtown Sacramento = $80
   Dining at a restaurant that has never served chicken fingers = priceless

   50 minute full body massage = $90
   Being rubbed by someone who does not expect a happy ending = priceless

   One-night stay at Arden Hills resort = $260 (divided by two = $130)
   Being awoken to pure silence instead of, "Mommy- take off my stinky diaper!" = priceless

   Total cost of 34 hours of freedom = $395
   Total cost of 34 hours without having to remind anyone to wipe after they poop = PRICELESS!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Letter to the Preschool Class of 2012

Unfortunately, these days it appears that every minute milestone warrants a mortar board. By the time a child graduates from college, she may have already sported a cap and gown at least five previous times!

In a few weeks my oldest daughter, and all of her little friends, will be "graduating" from preschool, and my Facebook news feed will be awash with proud parents displaying their children's graduation photos. Bleh! When did completing two years of preschool begin meriting a diploma? If anyone deserves to be celebrated, it is the parents who survived the trying preschool years. I would gladly accept a party and diploma for enduring the exasperating three-nagers and the frustrating 4-year-olds.

However, since the majority of the country finds it necessary to celebrate a child mastering the art of snack-time and finger-painting, I have written a commencement letter to all the little ones about to embark on the path to elementary school.

As you read this, imagine that Green Day's "Time of Your Life" is accompanying a slide show of photos that are mostly of the "you had to be there" nature.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No Mess Painting

Most days I am absolutely cool with my children striping naked and painting the sidewalk, as well as every inch of their pale skin.   However, there are also times when the thought of cleaning up yet another slimy, rainbow colored mess leaves me clawing at my temples fighting back a flood of tears.  So, when our babysitter riled up the girls at seven o'clock at night by promising a new "painting" project, I was both skeptical and grateful that I would be gone for the aftermath.  I left the house in a hurry pretending that I hadn't heard the last exchange.

Imagine my surprise when this photo was texted to me thirty minutes later.
Photo courtesy of Yelz Gochez
I could barely believe my eyes- No mess painting!  The perfect project to kill the last fifteen minutes before bedtime.  Here is how he did it:
  • In a large zip-lock bag add a few blobs of different colored paint.
  • Squeeze out the excess air and seal the bag.
  • Tape onto a flat surface with masking tape.
  • Use your finger to create pictures and patterns.  Mix the colors together to make new ones.
Even my husband, who would prefer all paint to be banned from the inside of the house, was impressed.  An art project for the craft incompetent!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Power of My Own Voice

I strutted on stage in my 2.5 inch patent leather nude pumps like a professional.  Even though I was fairly confident that I would either slip, trip, or at the very least stumble while walking the twenty-five odd feet to the lectern, I surprisingly made it in one piece.  And, I looked good!

The audience listened to me.  They fell silent at the sound of my voice as I felt the energy of hundreds of pairs of eyes focused on my words.  They watched my face while I shared my story of depression and motherhood.  And, no one judged me.

I was no longer a faceless writer telling a story of pregnancy and medication.  I was a real mother- authentic and exposed.  By speaking my story, I was given the opportunity to force the audience to hear it with the passion and vulnerability that it took for me to write it.  They could feel my pain and experience the internal struggles that I faced while deciding to choose drugs, not for me, but for my family. Through strength of my spoken word, they knew that I am a good mother, not so different from them.

I was not alone, writing silently in my local coffee shop.  Listening in the seats sat nearly twenty of my closest friends and family, some of the same people who were there for me during the rainiest days of my depression.  The same people who helped me to find the ability to get better.  When parts of my essay became to hard to read, I closed my eyes and saw their faces encouraging me to keep talking.

And, backstage sat twelve other women, and one man, who also felt this magnetic pull of the audience.  They, too, knew what it was to have your words dance naked in an auditorium filled with strangers.  They understood the contradicting emotions playing tag with my heart.  They gave me the strength to not trip.

We were the voices of motherhood, and this year, we all listened to the mothers.

Read the recaps from my fellow mothers (and father):
Kirsten Patel and Kim Thompson-Steele
Melissa Arca
Rhea St. Julien
Andre Salvage
Joy McGillivray Latimer
Estelle Pagnoux Hayes

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Low Down on Sleep Training

In December, the social media world of parenting went ablaze after the blog post, “The Dangers of Crying it Out” was published on Psychology Today’s website. In her post, Dr. Darcia Narvaez warned of the dangers of traditional sleep-training methods, such as the popular practices of crying it out, also known as extinction. I sleep-trained both of my daughters, and yet it took a good month for me to be able to finally sit down and read the piece. The problem? Lingering guilt about my decision to let the girls cry it out. Would this article prove that I had done irrecoverable harm?

Both of my girls were lousy natural sleepers. The firstborn was one of those kids who took exactly 45-minute naps and woke up cranky and inconsolable for the next 30 minutes. Up until nine months of age, she was a frequent night-waker ready to start the day at 5:45AM. At this point, I decided to stop all nighttime feeding, hoping that this would solve the majority of the wake-ups. The babe was a healthy weight and given plenty of love and affection in the daylight hours. She needed to sleep, and I needed at least 10 hours a day for my body to belong just to me.

On the advice of my pediatrician, I read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and eagerly adopted author Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s views on the importance of sleep for the welfare of the child and family. Using the extinction method, in which the baby can cry it out indefinitely at night and for an hour during naptime, the baby was sleeping through the night within a week. Yes, it was agonizing, but I don’t remember those particular cries. (My firstborn was a colicky baby and cried a great deal, no matter the situation).

Read the rest here at

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This Year's Teacher Appreciation Letter

(This is an updated version of last year's letter.  I had 365 more days to think about what I am grateful for.)

"If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers." -Edgar W. Howe

Spring break (and winter and summer, and the average weekend for that matter) always gives me a new appreciation for teachers. Over the course of our most recent 9-day break, I realized that I would rather be sitting in a middle class seat, in coach, on a 15-hour nonstop flight to Cairo than spend nearly two weeks at home with both children. As the image of this wondrous flight lingered in my brain, I began searching Expedia for hot deals.

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and after the recent school vacation, I am feeling an extremely strong desire to thank the preschool teachers in my life. Below is a letter I drafted to the teachers at my daughters' preschool. However, I feel that it is pretty universal. Please feel free to copy, paste and change the underlined text so that you can send a nice note to the teacher/school that is keeping you from the nearest inpatient psychiatric facility.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Will You Listen To Your Mother?

On May 10th I will attempt to conquer my tremendous fear of public speaking by telling an audience of over four hundred people about my struggle with depression; I will be participating in the Listen to Your Mother show in San Francisco. Before the curtain rises, you may find me backstage, practicing breathing techniques and downing a glass or two of sauvignon blanc. And then I will take the stage, along with eleven other writers, to tell my story.

My piece tells of the rainiest period in my life. It was a time when I should have been rejoicing in the miracle my body was growing inside, yet instead I lay blanketed in a thick layer of fog, unable to feel sunshine on the clearest of days. It is the story of my second pregnancy, when I found myself debilitated by anxiety and depression.

Listen To Your Mother is the brainchild of Ann Imig. Ann began blogging as a cathartic outlet. Like many stay-at-home mothers of young children, Ann found herself in need of project that was not a by-product of her ovaries. Ann used her writing to commiserate with other parents, as well as exercise her comedic muscles.

Read the rest on Huff Post Parents.