Paul has been working a TON lately. The poor man hasn't had a whole day off where there isn't a threat of being called in to work for what feels like a couple of months now. One of the biggest challenges for me has been not being able to plan anything. I have all these ideas of fun things to do with the kids now that the weather is so perfect and I have been so fearful of doing them alone. Don't think I just sit at home with the doors locked. I do lots of stuff with the kids during the week but they are all local things. I haven't taken them very far by myslef for fear of... well, I'm not quite sure what I fear. Maybe Brygit crying in the car while I'm driving or freaking out at naptime or one or both of them wandering off and getting kidnapped or someone trying to mug me while I'm unable to fight them off or the sky falling. Let your imagination be your guide.
I threw it all out the window this week. As soon as I heard Paul would be working all of his days off again I asked Liam where he wanted to go. Actually, I begged him to go to the beach with me and he insisted that he didn't want to get mud on his feet. REALLY kid?!! So I gave him the choice between Disneyland, Aquarium of the Pacific and the LA Zoo. He chose the zoo. So I loaded up the car, resisted the urge to chicken out, said my prayers and hit the road.
Once there, I lathered the kids in sunblock, took out the double stroller and ignored the mom who walked by me and warned, "Good luck with all the hills." I even figured out that I could keep putting Brygit back in her stroller after every exhibit by telling her, "Let's go see MORE! MORE, Brygit, MORE!" She would happily sit there pointing straight ahead repeating, "MO! MO!" Bullet dodged.
Her favorite part was the giraffe exhibit. We ate lunch at this cafe and sat in the shade right next to these huge beasts.
My favorite was the Chimpanzee exhibit. They were mamas who carried their babies around on their backs or hanging from their bellies.
We came back later to see them again and they were hiding in the shade. The one on the left has her babe sleeping under her crossed arms and the one in the middle is nursing I'm pretty sure. Or maybe he's just sleeping at her chest but I think nursing. It reminded me of my little babies and myself and I marvelled at how these animals don't have any "parenting experts" and they just nurture naturally. Amazing and beautiful.
And on the way out I put my camera on a trash can and took a photo as proof that I made it through a day at the zoo alone! We missed Paul terribly but I'm proud of myself for going it alone.
When I was a mother of just one I was pretty good at doing arts and crafts with Liam. I taught him at an early age that crayons were for paper only and there was a time in our lives when we played with sidewalk chalk daily. He was never a baby who wanted to make messes or who ate glue so I never had a problem with getting crafty. Then Brygit came along. Now she pushes every OCD button in my body. I have been known to push her high chair onto the tile floor at mealtime, put a bib on her and then look away and hope for the best. As for crafts, she has eaten a few bites of chalk and has rubbed red paint all over her hands and face. She has eaten the erasers off of all Liam's pencils. I also have some chalk rubbed into the carpet in the playroom that I need to clean out. The day before Mother's Day I let the kids color some printable cards for their grandmas. I put them outside and helped Brygit along. This was her first experience with markers and she loved it. She didn't do too bad either. She wanted to use all of the colors and she only scribbled on the table once and ate the markers twice.
This Mother's Day I keep reminding myself of how lucky I am to be a mom. There was a short time in my life when we were trying to get pregnant with Liam where I wondered if I would ever be able to have children. And I think of those in the media this past year who have had their children taken from them in horrific ways. I mean, it's not exactly the picture you want in your mind as you celebrate your mom but it is something to be mindful of. Motherhood, itself, is such a huge gift. Knowing Liam and Brygit and spending my days with them has made me the happiest (and most challenged) I have ever been. And I'm lucky that my husband finds ways to recognize the hard work I put in all the time. Not just on Mother's Day. Feeling loved and appreciated on a daily basis is more than I could ever ask for. We joke that my Mother's Day gift is my children and it sounds so cliche but they really are. I'm so priveledged to be called, "Mommy," and to be woken up (way too early) to their smiling faces and to chase their naked bottoms around the house during diaper changes and to cook them breakfast as they tug at my legs and to sing the Princess and the Frog soundtrack with them in the car for the umpteenth time and to carry them through the air so they can pretend they are flying and to catch them at the bottom of the slide at the park. I'm just so darn thankful for it all.
When you become a new parent you are inundated with advice. Whether you asked for it or not. And most of the time, that advice conflicts with a different person's advice or it doesn't work for your situation. It can be very overwhelming. For that reason, I try to never give advice. I do, however, share my experiences in hopes that those with similar circumstances can gain encouragement. You learn so much in the first year of parenting but you also quickly learn that the learning never stops. Children will always challenge you and keep you on your toes and you will never receive your "certificate of completion." Unless they happen to hand those out at weddings or graduations but I'm pretty sure they don't.
Anyway, as a mother of a three and a half year old and a fourteen month old, here is what I am currently learning:
1. If anything gets moved out of its spot or if there is a slight deviation in the normal routine, someone is bound to have a conniption.
2. Repeating myself and answering the same question over and over again is inevitable and there's no point in fighting it.
3. There is a tight rope I'm learning to walk between giving my kids my undivided attention when they need it and teaching them how to be courteous of other people's needs.
4. Coffee is necessary and drinking it alone before the kids wake is the best way to consume it.
5. A box of tampons can be made into the best toy to distract the kids while I get dressed but I must be prepared for them to then be scattered about the house.
6. I'm learning to say "yes" more often. Now, if only there was a way to make their requests more reasonable.
7. Liam may be able to say a lot of words but that doesn't mean he understands what they mean.
8. Oxy clean works wonders on dirty little pink dresses as well as on strawberries smashed into the carpet.
9. Some days will seem like there isn't a single moment where everyone is happy at the same time but I need to remember that I don't need to "feel" my children's emotions to help them cope with them.
10. Taking breaks from the kids a couple of days a week to do something out of the house just for me helps me feel sane and makes me a better mom and healthier person.
11. None of the above matters because at the end of the day my kids are healthy, happy and loved beyond measure. And I am too.
Day 173: Nothing says summer quite like watermelon and dirty fingernails
Day 174: She can wear a clip!
Day 175: No joke, this is the ONLY picture I took with my phone on Saturday and I think it's absolutely hilarious. I love everything about it. I especially loved when the bear waved at Liam and you could see the guy's fingers on the under side of his paw.