I suppose it is official now. I have lost complete interest in this blog. It brought me through some joyous as well as difficult times. It sustained me when I had nothing else to make me feel like a grown up. It was my outlet, my therapy, my connection to the outside world and a feeling that I was using at least one of my talents. And here the blog sits, while my boys grow up, we move, we adapt, we get settled, and then things change again. Such is life. I just quit writing about it: but it is still happening with all the dips and peaks. Probably no one even comes by anymore to read this blog, so the entry may very well go unseen. Sorry I never even said goodbye to all my faithful readers. I just… stopped. Many things contributed to me losing the joy of upkeeping this blog. But all may not be lost. I just may feel like blasting my life to the world once again.

Who knows.

‘Sun’ Light

Yes, this is Ant.

Yes, this is Ant.

The Original Bean

The Original Bean

A Pair of Bookworms

A Pair of Bookworms

Sense Memory

To me, the strongest memories are not cognitive. They are felt, with the senses.

Today I stepped onto the elevator at work and it smelled exactly like the tenement I used to stay in when I lived and worked in Chicago right after finishing college. Exactly. Instantly, I was taken back. It was more than just a memory of that time in my life. I felt like I was transported back to North Lake Shore Drive in 1996. If I had just closed my eyes and inhaled deeper, I might have opened them in that old Chicago hallway rather than a swanky corporate headquarters in KY.

So it is for the sharpest, most poignant memories of my life. A certain tilt of the sunlight or fresh Springtime breeze might remind me of walking the streets of Paris. So distinctly that I will almost feel as if I am headed to the Louvre instead of the employee parking garage, for one jarring instant. Hearing a particular song will take me back to my youthful twenties or cause me to wistfully dwell on some overwhelming emotion associated with a special person. It’s so powerful — what sound, smell, or even touch can do to the mind.

It’s not the same as looking at old photos. Or thinking back in your head to a special day. Those are just surface memories. What I am talking about is almost like time travel. It goes deeper than just remembering you were there. It is like actually being there, all over again. So powerful it is nearly scary.

Perhaps the closest way to describe it is something akin to déjà vu. The difference being that you don’t just get the illusion you have been here before. It is knowing and remembering exactly a time or place you have actually experienced, and going back there for a split second in this continuum we call time.

I cannot possibly be the only person this happens to.

We’re Done

I have not broadcasted it to the world because I tire easily of judgmental glances. But I can’t see the look on your face when you’re reading my blog, so this is the perfect place to make my announcement.

Ant has weaned.

I wanted very much to try extended nursing with him, and I wanted even more for him to self-wean as opposed to the painful process of me forcing him to quit. My only requirement was that he breastfeed until at least his first birthday. Beyond that, the choice was his. The day after he turned 12 months old, I started the “Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse” method of weaning. Some derisive people in my life laughed at the thought, claiming that Ant would nurse forever with that sort of lenient weaning procedure. Guess he proved them wrong.

I will admit that he continued going strong for a very long time. However, for the last month or so, he has requested to nurse less frequently, with ever shortening durations. There towards the end, he was only nursing a few seconds on each side – and only at night before bed. I started to post that he was totally weaned about 10 days ago, but he asked to nurse out of the blue last weekend for the first time in nearly two weeks. Something tells me that was the very last time though. And even if it wasn’t, the end is undeniably near.

This has been an extremely gentle method of weaning, and a painless process for us both. It just happened naturally, and the two of us have adjusted fine.

To make it official, we can say that Ant nursed right up until 25 months of age, almost exactly to the day. That makes me so proud and happy!! Bean only got 15 months of the Good Stuff, so excuse me while I reach around and pat myself on the back for nourishing two strong and healthy boys with my own beautiful body.

Now – Anyone know where I can get a good bra? My girls need a pick-me-up!

Mommy Guilt

I believe I can honestly say now that I have dropped my case of Mommy Guilt. It has taken me quite a while (about 9 months or so) but, I guess, better late than never. It dawned on me this weekend as I was lounging around watching Lifetime – for the first time in many weeks – between loads of laundry, while the boys ran wild in their playroom. Here is what I have realized.

1. Although I tried to be, I was not necessarily the best stay at home mom. While I love my children immensely, I never felt fulfilled when I had no life outside of the four walls of home.

2. I am lazy. So when I did not have anything pushing me to get out of the house, sometimes I just…. Didn’t. There would be days in a row where we would stay home the entire day, in pajamas, and never even get one breath of fresh air. Many a time, just going outside to “play” felt like a chore. Yeah, I’m lazy.

3. My self-discipline is sorta lacking. Of course I planned to have ‘school’ with the boys every single day but often it didn’t happen that way. I would have too much housework, or I would waste an entire morning watching talk shows while the boys played amongst themselves and I moderated (notice I said moderated, not actively playing with them). Next thing you know, it’s lunchtime and then naps, and then having to start dinner and pick up a little bit so it looks like I did something that day before Devil Dog got home.

4. I am not very good at (pretending I am) constantly cleaning a house or having hot meals ready at 5:00pm every day because someone else wants me to or feels that is my duty. Especially when my efforts are often being criticized. Call me selfish.

5. I love my kids and want them to learn, but ABCs and 123s with little stimulation beyond that was turning my brain to mush. I longed for adult interaction.

6. Making the decision to go back to work was heart-wrenching because I felt that someone else would be raising my kids, and I did not want that.

7. The boys crave predictability and stimulation. Now that they go to daycare during the week, they get both. If I am to be completely honest, I will say that they get even more intellectual stimulation now. Because the daycare center does not ever skimp on their responsibility to have a curriculum and to follow it every single day. And in addition to what they are getting at school, the boys still come  home and learn things from me.

8. The boys are adaptable and they have flourished. Ant can count to 10 and is learning his letters. Bean can count to 100 and is learning to read. I give myself some credit for this, because I work hard with them both. Since I know they are learning something and covering all the basics at daycare, I can expand on that and get them well above their expected level whenever I work with them at home. And if we have a night where we just want to skip it? So what. They learned something at school today anyway. I no longer have to feel guilty for not always doing something intellectually productive with them. I remember reading an article once that stated working moms actually have more quality time with their children than moms who stay home. The reason is that when working mothers spend time with their kids, they actively focus on them and give them their undivided attention. I scoffed at that article at the time. But now, I know it is true. I used to watch tv, get online, answer emails, etc while the boys played at my feet. Now though, I barely answer email (ask my friends), I almost never watch tv, and even you have to admit my blog posts are getting fewer and farther between. That is because when I am home, and my boys are awake, I am WITH them. Fully.

9. Yes, children are resilient. Of course it is not ideal for them to be without their dad. However,  that situation does not automatically spell sadness and destruction for them either.

10. A happier mommy makes for happier sons. Period.

I am so grateful for those early years that I spent at home with my boys. But truth is, I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home-mom. I constantly longed for something more, a challenge; my independence back. It’s hard not having your own money!! It’s even harder having someone else make all the major decisions. (Although admittedly, women in a healthy relationship will have equal input to major decisions whether they are working or not!) My hat goes off to SAHMs everywhere because now that I have been on both sides of the fence, I can say without a doubt that moms who don’t work outside the home have it harder. I used to feel guilty about enrolling my sons in daycare. I have since come to admit that I am just happier when I am working. And that means my boys will see it, and they will be happier too. Daycare can be a positive experience for children; and indeed, one that they actually thrive in. Even the male child needs to see that his mom can be hard-working, successful, strong and independent. The example I set for “The Suns” is just as important as the one I would have wanted to set for a daughter.

All of this, to say that I no longer feel guilty about making the choice to go back to work and ALL that it entails.

I do, however, feel guilty for enjoying the decision this much. We’ll work on straightening out that conflicting emotion at a later date.

Core Changes

I promise you, I am not pretentious. I have never been one to try to impress people or care about what others think of me and how I am living. I definitely do not try to keep up with the Joneses. I am cynical enough to wager that Mr and Mrs Jones probably hate each other’s guts. So the things I do are about nothing other than making ME and mine happy and comfortable.

Which is why I have hired two relatively new forms of service for my household. The first was a housekeeper. I have arranged to have someone come to clean my home every other week. The second item is a cooking service. I found a company who will prepare fresh, healthy dinners and deliver them to my door. These are not frozen meals. They are restaurant quality, they cater to my vegetarian diet, but most of all, I no longer have to cook during the week! The meals are large enough to feed the three of us, easily.

Just these two things (the housekeeper and the cook) have gone so far in increasing my quality of life, I cannot even describe it. For what the housekeeping costs, I have in turn bought back -literally- hours of time to spend doing more frequent activities with my sons. Which means that the cleaning is definitely a good deal. And the cooking service? For just a little more than what I would spend on groceries or takeout anyway, we have fresh, healthy meals delivered to our doorstep. I can feel good about what I am offering my growing sons to eat. Just heat in the oven and serve. No cooking, no mess, no dirty stove… and again, less stressful environment equates to a better life for me and my boys. Now all I need is someone to keep my car clean.

When I decided to go back to work, I also made the choice to live below my means. That meant: affordable house payments, an economical car, forgoing expensive jewelry and credit card debt; the lists goes on and on. Because I have adjusted my standard of living in these ways, I can afford the things that really give me quality of life. Things like not having to clean, not having to cook, not being so stressed, taking the boys to do fun activities. Basically: living. I have been in the boat before where it took my entire paycheck to afford new house mortgage, Audi car payment, diamond charge account, cable and utilities, 401k; and not one single dime left at the end of the month. Adjusting what I deem important enough to spend my money on has made all the difference in the world.

But then again, that is just another way in which children can really, truly change who you are — even to your core.

Fierce Advocate

I refrain from spanking my boys. They are well-behaved and for now (at least) I am able to get them back in line with stern words or the occasional time-out.

But this evening, after a perilous situation involving the hot stove, Ant refused to listen when I verbally corrected him – twice. So in order to drive the very important point home, I spanked his hand. It was the first time I had ever done this. Two quick taps, with not much force, but oh my gosh — the pain it caused was unspeakable.

First of all, Ant gasped in surprise and then he cried in a way that I have never, ever heard before… like his heart was breaking.  He held that poor little hand, cradled it to his chest, and plopped down on the floor in dismay.

And then there was Bean. He immediately fled to his brother’s side and put one arm around Ant’s shoulders. The other hand he used to pat the baby and rub that offending hand. Bean glared at me, near tears himself, and demanded in a shaky voice: “Don’t hit him, Mommy!”

Which all of the above then left me feeling like the heel of someone’s shoe. After all, I am the one always preaching about “we don’t hit” when I try to break up the boys’ battles with each other. It was a snap decision to spank Ant when he didn’t listen. The only reason I did it was because it was a safety issue, and he was not heeding to my verbal reprimands. I tried to explain this to Bean, but he sided with his brother and they became a united brick wall, shutting me out. Barriers.

Soon, Ant did stop crying and it seemed then (and only then) is when Bean came around too. They quit being angry with me and went back to their playtime easily enough. But it just made me realize why I have a “no spanking” policy right now. It just seems like it causes more pain (and not even physical pain) than anything else.

I will have to admit though, the issue with the hot stove was completely dead after this fiasco, and Ant went nowhere near it for the rest of the evening. Perhaps the “spanking” was at least good for that….