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Grocery Shopping with a Toddler and Preschooler

It started with pee and ended with screaming. In between there were samples of veggie chips, taquitos, and “granola bars” that were one layer of caramel away from being a Snickers. Also, a very convincing demonstration of a space-age blender by a man with a performance headset mic like Beyonce wears. (I’m pretty sure you could put some dandelions, a deck of cards, and a popsicle into that Blender and you’d somehow end up with a green smoothie.) There were also not one, but two trips through the understaffed checkout lines. And there were birds- including a red-tailed hawk- flying overhead. I’m talking about our trip to Costco today, of course.

 

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This photo from Tom on flickr. See more like this at RoadsideArchitecture.com

 

Now that my kids are 4 and 1 1/2, the mental preparation that needs to happen in order for me to take both of them grocery shopping is equivalent to whatever prep Serena does before Wimbledon. Serious focus is needed. I should have a shopping coach, really, and get a trophy every time I make it back to the car with both my kids AND our food. Really I’m lucky if I make it through half my list.

Most trips start out smooth in the beginning. We are excited about the carts. We talk about our list. We love being in America where every time you visit a grocery store there is a new type of cracker you have never heard of before, made with things that normally don’t go into crackers – like kale or lentils.*

Today was Advanced Grocery Shopping because it was at Costco – where the enticement for my 4 year old, Braden, to run out of sight are tripled (ice cream samples! cool toy aisle! massage chair!)  but I was prepared for the risk.

As soon as we had our cart and were focused into shopping mode, (already had a lifejacket and beach towel in it) the inevitable statement, “I need to go potty” comes from my four year old.

You can’t take items past the checkout at Costco unless they’re paid for. Now comes the philosophical question of our generation. Do you want to take your cart to the bathroom for the benefit of having your toddler strapped in, but go through the trouble of emptying the cart?  Or do you want to take your toddler out of the cart and try to contain him in the stall for who knows how long?  I opted to dump the beach towel and life jacket and go for the strapped-in toddler benefit. Smart choice- and we were back out shopping in no time, until I noticed Braden picking at his pants. Turns out his pants and underwear were sopping wet because his pee had sprayed all over them instead of into the toilet.  A rookie would have just gone home. But I was not going to abandon this shopping trip for a change of clothes, and thankfully we were at Costco where you can buy a replacement for virtually anything that gets broken, lost, or peed on during your shopping experience.  So we threw a pair of pajamas into our cart, waited in a line that moved So Slowly, bought them, returned to the bathroom again, changed his pants, threw the pee-soaked clothes into the cart and got things underway again.

Already, I deserve a medal for this shopping trip and we haven’t even bought food yet.

By the time we actually start shopping for real, it’s been 20 minutes since we walked through the front door. This is already too long of a shopping trip for my kids.

On most trips to a normal grocery store, 20 minutes is when things start to break down. Today was no exception. My 18 month old, Wyatt, wants to eat everything I put in the cart and tells me this by shrieking and pointing. He can’t look at food without wanting to eat it. So I end up opening packages as we shop to keep him quiet so I can stay focused on our list. Gatorade- yes, Wyatt-here, take it. Goldfish crackers- yes, Wyatt- here, eat them.

Braden then gets tired of sitting in the cart and getting swatted & elbowed by his brother. He wants to “walk” next to the cart and “help” me shop.  If I let him walk next to the cart, he keeps his normal pace which is a slow sprint. Will I have to jog with the cart to try and keep up?  Will I lose him around a corner and find him carrying 3 mammoth peanut butter tubs in his hands?  Who knows?  If his listening ears aren’t on, it’s over. Store lock-down, my kid is fast and doesn’t care how far away he gets from me. He wants to help and I want to let him, but sometimes his help involves adding things to our cart that we would never eat in a million years-beets, orange sodas from Mexico, prune juice- anything from the bottom shelves is eligible.

Around this same time, Wyatt has turned completely around in his seat and is reaching for the foods I have intentionally placed away from him. (Once, I walked away from the cart to grab something and when I stepped back to it he had 2 eggs in his hands that he was starting to lick.)

When things get squirrely like this, I then have exactly 5 minutes to get out of the store before the wheels fall off the bus.  Game on. I race to try and get the last few things on our list like I am in a shopping game show, then panic and start grabbing random things off the shelves on the way to the checkout. If I did have a shopping coach, she’d be running next to me shouting, “Leave it! Just leave the guacamole! Go for the bacon! The bacon!”

When we make it to the checkout line, the lines make me cry. Why are there 17 registers and only 3 cashiers?! Why?! I open at least two more packages for my 18 month old. Yes, pretzels and applesauce pouch- here you go. We inch our way toward the register.  Up to this point, I have managed to hide the berries from him, which is essential. His passion for berries is unquenchable. But when we get to the register, as soon as I grab the blueberries from the cart to place on the moving belt, he spots them- and the shrieking begins. Shoppers at the far corner of the store look up and wonder if there is an orangutan loose by the registers. The cashier avoids eye contact and scans things as quickly as she can. Customers that, two seconds ago, were smiling at my kids and making googly eyes now shrink back in horror. “That woman’s cart smells like pee, her kid is wearing pajamas for some reason, she’s opened every package before she bought it, and her baby is louder than a bullhorn and covered in blueberries.” If I don’t start feeding Wyatt blueberries, the shrieking will just grow louder and louder until all our brains explode and our ear drums burst.

Once he sees the blueberries, he can’t not have a blueberry in both of his hands and his mouth. What he really wants is to hold the blueberry container and either push his mouth into the container or grab fistfuls at a time. But then even the gigantic Costco size tub would be gone before we get through the checkout and nobody wants that.

Finally we make it through the checkout leaving a trail of blueberries on the cement. Braden is squishing them unknowingly as he jogs back and forth, asking for a “sugar stick,” his word for churro.  (Um, no.)  The cashier is asking me something. Yes, I want that shit boxed. Do not spend one second telling me about the premium membership. My kids’ brains are melting into a pile of goo!

We push out into the fresh air, finally, feeding Wyatt blueberries the entire way. Braden is crying because I didn’t buy him a churro…But by God, we made it- and with almost half our list.

I am a great fucking mom.

 

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Ingredients: Sprouted sunflower seeds* collards* carrots* celery* Kale* spinach* zucchini* arugula* radicchio* lettuce* Parsley* basil* tomatoes* sprouted flax* onion* garlic* original Himalayan crystal salt & ♥.*Organic

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The Mom-cation: You’re next.

I am writing this post while sitting in a tiny Florida cottage on the Gulf Coast. I am by myself and have been by myself for 56 hours now. I can hear the clock ticking. I have spoken no more than a handful of sentences since I’ve been here, except for the times I talked to my husband and kids on the phone.

 

Let this stock beach photo inspire you.

 

I came to this place to visit the spot where my sister and I sprinkled my dad’s ashes into the ocean 2 years ago. I came here, too, because I need to stare out at the ocean once or twice a year…if I don’t do that, then something undefinable is missing in my world. I came here because the routine of my daily life was starting to feel like a routine of stressors. I was tense all the time- enough so that a yoga class or a walk in the woods wasn’t going to make me feel better. And I ain’t no dummy. I’ve been down the road before where a little slip turns into a long slide and there you are suddenly wondering about how to change your whole life when really all you may need is one small change. Like maybe a vacation all to yourself.

 

I firmly believe that time alone is healing for most people. I encourage you to give it a try. You never know what you might discover.

If you’re ready to explore the Mom-cation, here is how it goes:

Pick a place you would like to visit. Not a place your kids would have fun visiting or your partner has been talking about going to. A place YOU would like to visit. Maybe it’s been on your mind for months. Maybe you’ve been thinking of it for years. You know the place. Start short and sweet if it’s more comfortable. A car ride and an overnight. You don’t have to jump into a week in Thailand just yet.

Find a moment to get online. (The next time you are supposed to be taking a shower, turn on the water, close the door and sit on the toilet seat lid while researching trip options.)

Bolster you nerve. Yes, you can do this: Number of travelers: 1.

See if you can make it happen financially (where there’s a will there’s a way.)

Tell your partner or support system that you need this. The kind of need that is non-negotiable. Like I need to work out. I need 4 hours of sleep. I need a haircut. Tell him/her that you will help arrange for extra support for the kids if needed and will return the favor in kind when he/she needs time away. If a partner is not in the picture, try your closest friend or relative.

Pick a few days that will work with your calendars. Yes, the kids can miss preschool. Yes, relatives can help out. Yes, you can miss your book club meeting.

Book your trip.

Go. You deserve it.

 

 

We win, fake food, we win!

My family headed to the Great Wolf Lodge for an overnight this past weekend to celebrate Braden’s 4th birthday! The windchill outside was -20 degrees, schools were closed, people were advised that even 10 minutes of exposed skin could lead to frostbite. And there we were…. running about in our bathing suits in the tropical waterpark air.  It wasn’t Jamaica, but it wasn’t too shabby. (By the way, this was an online winter deal and cost just over $100 for a one night stay and passes to the waterpark for four- totally worth it!)

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This mini-vacation was so many things at once. A much-needed break from the cold. Essential time away from email, facebook, and all things work-related. A pseudo-outdoor adventure (or as close as we’re gonna get to something-like-the-outdoors when the weather is so cold you can’t actually stand outside for more than 10 minutes.) A chance for our little 1 year old to experience a waterslide for the first time. And a window into our now 4 year old’s soul- where he can’t stop smiling, laughing, and racing for each new ride without hesitation. He is a water-baby through and through.

It was also a reminder that Justin and I are the grown-ups now. We’re not the ones running down the hotel hallways, giggling and yelling (yes, fellow guests, those are my kids waking you up at 7am.) We’re the ones shouting, “That’s far enough!” as our kids run into the pool. And “Stay where I can see you and you can see me!”

One thing Justin and I are learning about is how to balance our responsibility with our desire to have fun. Sometimes it feels like a colossal joke that we are actually the ones in charge. We try to sound authoritative when we talk to our kids. You know, like they should listen to us instead of doing whatever they want when they want.  As in, say, bobbing up and down like a buoy in the middle of a giant wave pool without an adult in sight. We try to remind them that, like, we’re the bosses now. Yes, us. The girl who did bong hits for breakfast in college and the guy who just a few years ago went sledding off a roof on purpose.

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We are very responsible when it comes to our kids safety. (Wear life jackets in the waterpark.) But a little less responsible when it comes to their diet. (2 hot pretzels for lunch? OK.)  In fact, meal planning and getting nutrition into those little bodies is one of our greatest challenges. My family often eats like we’re on an expedition – we’ve found that our kids will usually eat food that packs well. Cashews, portable pouches of mashed fruits and vegetables, Clif Bars, pretzels, cheese curds, summer sausage. I’m never sure if I should be happy because my kids are eating, or feel worried because they won’t touch most vegetables and entrees.  So it was with no small amount of pride that on our last day at the waterpark, we achieved a small (big!) victory on the We’re-Responsible-Parents front.

We had already checked out of our room so we had a change of clothes in a bag with us by the pool. It was almost time to leave and we needed to find a way to keep Braden in one place long enough for him to dry off a bit and get ready to go home. So, of course, I bribed him with food. I said, “Brady, we’re going to sit here at the table and you can have some Froot Loops while mommy changes clothes. Then it will be your turn to change.” (Justin had smuggled a box of Froot Loops out of the breakfast buffet earlier.) And Braden says,

“What is a Froot Loop?”

VICTORY!  VICTORY! VICTORY!  High fives all around.  My children may eat hot dogs for breakfast some days, and very often eat noodles with butter for dinner. They eat peanut butter on a spoon for protein pretty much every single day and regularly ask for Campbell’s canned soup. But, my son has lived for four years in America and does not know what a Froot Loop is. We win, fake food, we win!  And for that matter, we win, obnoxious advertisements, we win. We are responsible enough to shield our kiddos from most junk foods and, even more importantly ads for junk food.

Roof-sledder & Bong-queen: 1
Fake Food: 0

Postpartum Jeans Shopping – Part 1

Looking fierce in skinny jeans.

Looking fierce in skinny jeans. Photo by Edward Liu.

My everyday clothing for the past six months has been exceptionally casual due to my expanding and contracting waistline, the general business of having a newborn, and the lack of time I have to spend on my appearance.  I mean, I care about how I look but not enough to be uncomfortable in any way.  I’m really one step away from pajamas most days.  So those of you in need of style guidelines from a woman six months postpartum of her 2nd child, here they are.

1. If my jeans are roomy enough that I can’t feel my muffin top with every move and flexible enough that I can pull them over my hips without unbuttoning them, these are jeans that are a “good fit.”

2. If said jeans are on and my maternity t-shirt does not have poop, urine, spitup or breast milk stains, this is called an “outfit.”

3. If I have not only shampooed but also conditioned my hair, this is called “primped.”

4. If my nursing bra does not smell like breast milk, this is called “lingerie” and is appropriate for a date night out.

I went shopping at Macy’s recently for jeans, as my pre-pregnancy jeans are too small and no longer fit me, and my maternity jeans are too big.  The experience was sobering.  It seems there’s a difference between checking myself out in a mirror from the waist up after putting on an “outfit” as I’m running to catch a screaming toddler and actually being alone, viewing myself in a full-length mirror in a well-lit dressing room.   Even though my maternity belly is no longer there, the rest of my body still looks pregnant.

I also found that my understanding of my own body was in a time warp.  I had selected some roomy looking size 10’s and some slimmer 12’s thinking, “These are cuuuute.  These will look great.”  Not so.  My mind had been fondly remembering the pre-baby butt, the pre-stretched belly.  It became crystal clear that my brain had some catching up to do.  Reality check: those 14’s are the only ones you will be able to pull over your widened hips.

Will she buy the 14’s? Will she run screaming from the dressing room? Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow….

A Mother’s Rights

A Mother's Rights

Being in the midst of the first few years of motherhood has got me thinking about all the things I need but don’t ask for, ask for but don’t take, and take but feel guilty for taking. To help set my head straight, I came up with a Bill of Rights for mamas.  Things we need to pay attention to in order to preserve our mental, emotional and physical well-being.

A Mother’s Rights

1. You have the right to eight hours of sleep in a 24 hour time period.
2. You have the right to eat a meal start to finish while sitting down at the table at least once a day.
3. You have the right to wear clothes  that fit.
4. You have the right to revise your sex life as needed without pressure to meet a quota.
5. You have the right to shower or bathe every day.
6. You have the right to exercise every day.
7. You have the right to listen to music that you like.
8. You have the right to explore who you are now.
9. You have the right to not always be your best.
10. You have the right to make things easy on yourself when it comes to grocery shopping and meal planning.
11. You have the right to feel however you feel about whatever phase of parenting you are in.
12. You have the right to enlist help for everyday tasks.
13. You have the right to say no to invitations.
14.  You have the right to disagree with your friend’s parenting styles.
15. You have the right to change any or all of your priorities.

The Details….

1. You have the right to eight hours of sleep in a 24 hour time period.

Don’t think for one second that your partner somehow deserves more sleep than you do (stay-at-home moms, I’m looking at us.) Humans need sleep to function. In all likelihood, if you are a new mom or your toddler is a rough sleeper, you won’t be getting eight uninterrupted hours regularly for a while. But eight hours spread out over a full day and night can happen.  And I am here to remind you that it is your right to claim those hours – interrupted or not- without guilt, whenever you possibly can. Sleep is crucial. Divide nights up with a spouse, practice early bedtimes (for you, not just the kids.)  And of course, get your nap on. If you need a nap and can find a way to get one, do it. It’s your right.

2. You have the right to eat a meal start to finish while sitting down at the table at least once a day.

I say once a day because anything more than that is too lofty an ambition (for me, at least.) But like anyone else, you have a right to sit while you eat- start to finish. Usually this means planning and prepping – like cutting up baby-sized bites for little ones, setting water, napkins, and other necessities out- before your butt hits the chair.

3. You have the right to wear clothes  that fit.

After pregnancy, don’t expect your body to shrink from its expanded size and proportion back to the exact same size and shape it was before. It may not ever be the same, even if you lose all your baby weight (which you might not and that’s OK too.) Instead of trying to squeeze into your old jeans and feeling fat about it, or wearing postpartum pants a year after baby arrived and feeling un-sexy as hell, get thee to some sort of clothing store and buy some clothes that fit you now. And don’t forget the shoes. I outgrew most of my shoes after two pregnancies and thought I could just deal with it. Finally breaking down and admitting my gd shoes didn’t fit was a step toward mama-freedom. Mama needed a new pair of shoes, y’all and I had a right to fulfill that simple need. Just like you do.

4. You have the right to revise your sex life as needed without pressure to meet a quota.

Don’t even try and compare your sex life now to what it was before you had kids. If you wait six months, seven months, or a year after having a baby to have sex, it’s OK. If you used to have sex once a week before kids, and now it’s once a month or every other month or practically never, it’s OK. If you are up all night with your baby and would rather sleep than have sex, it’s OK.  Sheer lack of time and opportunity are huge variables. It doesn’t mean you aren’t sexy or your relationship with your spouse isn’t strong if you aren’t having regular sex. Becoming a parent changed your whole world, did you think it would change everything except your sex life? Nope, that changes too.

5. You have the right to shower or bathe every day.

Water is a great healer. It rejuvenates and replenishes on many levels. In ten minutes, you can wash off a stressful night or mentally prepare for a busy day. It is a safe place to just be with yourself.  Not to mention showering makes you smell good- always a bonus in a day filled with breastmilk, diapers and baby food.

6. You have the right to exercise every day.

Even a little bit- I’m talking 10 minutes of walking- either with or without a stroller or baby carrier can do wonders. Or taking a few minutes to stretch your legs up to the ceiling and do some abdominal twists before getting out of bed in the morning can really feel good.  Do not forget about this grand instrument that is your body. It is your right to work it out every day, even for a few minutes just to say hello.

7.  You have the right to listen music that you like.

Most toddler music sucks. True, there are some exceptions. But there is absolutely no reason why your little one can’t listen to the music you like starting at age 0. They’ll be better off for it. Music is so good for little ones and it’s good for mamas too.Music makes us happy.  And if mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.

8. You have the right to explore who you are now.

A few years of motherhood and your life is unrecognizable. Suddenly things got different. You’re nursing every two hours, driving a mini-van (which you swore you never would do), sharing your bed with three people (none of them is your partner and all of them are under age five) and shopping with the whole family in mind. Where are you in this picture? Your life is different, but are you?  Ten minutes of journaling or meditating can give you the chance to hear your voice again. Same goes for a night out with friends. Or even thumbing through a Pottery Barn catalog to ask yourself- “What do I like now? What’s my favorite color? What would I like to see on my walls?” You don’t have to actually buy anything, but you do have the right to carve out time to hear your voice, your interests, your breath, your rhythm.

9. You have the right to not always be your best.

Some days you dial it in and you have a right to. You do not have to be 100% every moment, every day. For one thing, your kids will learn that they can have off-days too. For another, you will suffer less by accepting your off-days as totally normal and acceptable. You don’t always have to do the full blown puppet show with five characters, costume changes and funny voices. Sometimes it’s OK to throw a read-along book into the cd player and go read a magazine while your kids listen.  Spending all your energy on your kids will get you tired, sick, resentful, depressed, and doubting yourself. So if that means your kid watches a little TV while you spend some time on Pinterest looking at things that make you smile, do that.

10.  You have the right to make things easy on yourself when it comes to grocery shopping and meal planning.

Did you know it’s ok to eat Cheerios and non-organic strawberries for dinner? Did you know that many grocery stores offer online ordering and delivery services? Did you know that many people in our generation grew up eating Spaghettio’s, Twinkies, and Kraft Mac & Cheese regularly and are now running Iron Man races and marathons? If you like meal planning and it helps your budget, great. If you don’t, eating simply (think: grilled cheese, rice and beans, noodles and sauce) is easy on the budget too and just…easy. And easy is OK.

11. You have the right to feel however you feel about whatever phase of parenting you are in.

Bored, angry, excited, lonely, nervous, anxious, impatient. Maybe your toddler is brave and reckless and it scares the crap out of you because you think he’ll be that way forever. Maybe you are bored senseless by nursing and can’t wait for the day when you wean. Maybe your one year old is learning to walk and you are dreading the changes you must make to your house to child-proof it. Don’t even try to push away the many, many emotions that come from parenting daily. Most of them come in phases just like every single aspect of a growing babe comes in phases. Try to just be with whatever you feel even if it’s not all flowers and rainbows. Denial will actually make the joys harder to come by. Let “this too shall pass” be your mantra.

12. You have the right to enlist help for everyday tasks.

Have you ever hired someone to come in and clean your house? It is like a dream come true. They scrub your toilets, wash the smashed blueberries and peas off the floor, dust the shelves you haven’t looked at in months, and scrub the microwave. (Are you fantasizing yet?) And that’s just for starters. If you have the extra cash to pay someone to do the hard cleaning once a month, do it. It is worth every single penny. Hiring a mother’s helper can also be a huge payoff for a small investment (as little as $5 an hour for responsible pre-teens) if they’re willing to straighten up toys, fold laundry, or watch the kids while you do the household stuff. You do not have to do every little thing on your own. The feeling of support from getting a little help on the side is an exponential boost.

13. You have the right to say no to invitations.

Don’t want to go the outdoor picnic in 90 degree weather and have to chase down your little ones for three hours while getting maybe half of a conversation in? Don’t go. Don’t want to try to parent your two squirmy kids through a meal at a restaurant? Don’t go. Or how about a house party at the pristine, no-kids home of a friend? Just don’t do it. If your friends are coming with you into this phase of your life- where your whole evening revolves around doing bedtime, and you don’t enter any facility or event unless there is a kid-friendly area, and sometimes the thought of rallying to get everyone out the door and in the car is just too much- they will understand.

14.  You have the right to disagree with your friend’s parenting styles.

They yell at their kids. Or maybe they are so hands-off that their home is a zoo without consequences.  All of sudden, how your friends parent their kids matters to you. And it should. You are a parent now. Here is when friends might float in and out of your life. And when you might decide you don’t want your kids hanging out with their kids. It’s your right to have your own opinions and go your own way as a family.

15. You have the right to change any or all of your priorities.

At any moment, you could change your mind….but right now, you’d rather hang out with your kids than do almost anything else. You stopped using pesticides on your lawn, started donating money to environmental groups and PBS, and quit your job to be home with the kids. You have changed your priorities. That’s your right. Maybe you’d rather go camping as a family than take that solo trip to Ireland you’d always dreamed of. This is not a problem to be fixed. It is a shift in priorities that tells you how important you are to these people you are helping grow. And how important they are to you. You deserve to let yourself change over this thing, motherhood. It’s OK to remap your life, and change your destinations or how you want to get to them. Slowly, simply and easily-maybe with a big fat smile on your face knowing no matter what your goals are, you are making a difference in those kiddos lives just by being you, mama.

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Top 10 Signs That I am Now Old-ish

 

In no particular order.

  • I talk like Ned Flanders. I’m not sure if this is a symptom of parenthood or of growing older.  What I do know is that if my 20 year old self could hear my now 39 year old self, there would be mocking.   Most of the time, my speech now is G-rated, predictable, and probably a little annoying- like a movie with talking animals. I say things like (and I’m totally not kidding here): “Skoodle-dee-doo!” (translation: hurry up) and “Hey there, mister, is that a sad face?”  and “Now it’s time for lunch-erino!” What has happened to me?

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