Monday, June 20, 2011

At least I know I'm wanted.

One of the best things about having 2 kids is watching them develop a relationship with each other. As Jr. has gotten older, I've really enjoyed seeing him and J turn into true brothers. They play together, making up games (well, J does the making up while Jr. just follows whatever he's doing), running around the house and hiding and jumping and playing under blankets and sitting together watching TV. Jr. mimics J's every move, skipping over the babyish stacking rings and blocks in favor of playing Hot Wheels and Transformers with J. They sit together in the sandbox, building roads and mountains for their construction trucks, an activity that invariable ends with J running inside to tattle on Jr. for eating sand. He's a good big brother that way. They lay in J's bed together "reading" books, an activity that invariably ends with Jr. getting bored and starting to jump on the bed, making J laugh while he tries to keep reading. He's a good little brother that way.

Like all siblings, they also have plenty of things to fight about. Not a day goes by without pushing and shoving and tug of wars and tears about who gets to do what. Jr. has learned to stand up for himself, holding on when J attempts to just snatch a toy away, pushing back when J pushes him down, running away when he feels like J is getting too close to whatever he has. It used to be that if the baby was crying, we could assume that J had done something mean to him. Now, if there are tears it could just as easily be Jr. who's the culprit in the fight as much as his older brother. I'm always playing referee, keeping up a constant litany :
"Don't take that from him."
"Give it back to him, he had it first."
"If I see you push him again you're going upstairs in your room UNTIL TOMORROW!"
"Do not put your hands or feet on your brother!"
"Why is he crying? What did you do?"
"Stop all that crying, he didn't do anything to you."
"You weren't even thinking about that book/toy/food/pet until you saw him with it."
"Would it kill you to share with him ONE TIME??"
And at some point, "I've just about had it with you two, everyone's about to be sitting in a corner."

But you know what they love to fight about the most? The one thing that causes more tears and pushing and shoving and pouting and whining than anything else?


J is usually pretty accomodating to his little brother, but if he sees me carrying Jr., or singing to him, or playing a game with him, or making funny faces, he'll literally elbow his way in between us, shouting, "Do that with me, too, Mommy! Do that with me!" and if I don't move fast enough it's only a matter of seconds before he's pouting, telling me "You never sing to me!" If I'm swinging Jr. around by his arms, as soon as I put him down J will jump onto me or pull on my arms and try to swing himself, looking hurt if I tell him that he's too big for that game. The silliest things are causes for jealousy - if I wrap Jr.'s blanket around his head like a head scarf and tell him he's "my little gypsy baby" here comes J with a random towel or blanket, begging me to make him a gypsy blanket hat, too.

Jr. is just as bad. If I'm sitting on the couch with J's head in my lap while we watch TV, Jr. will climb over his brother and push his head away so that he can have my lap. If I'm holding Jr. and J comes up for a hug, Jr. kicks at J and shouts "NO!!". He's been known to push his way in between me and J, or pull on J's waist or legs if he's too close to me. I can't lay in the bed with both of them because inevitably a fight will break out over who's laying closest to me, and if I try to split the difference and lay in the middle someone always snakes their arm or leg over me to aggravate the other. When we go to restaurants, I have to listen to endless whining from J about sitting on the same side of the booth as me. There have been times when I've had to untangle myself from the two of them as they literally clutch at me, inadvertently (or maybe purposely?) pulling my hair or wrenching my arm or straining my neck.

The funny thing is, I know they won't really grow out of this. There will always be jockeying for Mommy's attention. My sisters and I are all in our 30's and we still have moments of friction when we're all in town together with my mom and we have to ration out who she spends time with. If she spends the night at my sister's house, she has to promise to spend the next afternoon with my kids. If she goes to dinner with my younger sister, my twin sister and I are guaranteed to be secretly mad if she doesn't have breakfast or lunch with us. Shameful, but true.

Some days, I really hate feeling pulled in every direction, and I want to run away from the neediness. Other days, least I know somebody wants me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A little help here.

I need a little help.

Ok. Let's be honest. I need ALOT of help.

Getting organized, getting rid of clutter, streamlining things, keeping track of stuff, ending our packrat ways...however you want to phrase it, that's what we need. Ok we're not really "packrats" in the strongest sense of the word, but some days it feels that way. Papers, papers everywhere. Clothes always living in the laundry basket. Kids' toys that somehow work themselves out of the toy boxes and into every nook and cranny of my house -- as I'm typing this I can look around and see a Hot Wheels car on the kitchen table, 2 DVD cases (likely without the DVD's inside of them if I know J) on the floor next to the TV cabinet, various Mega Blocks peeking out from under the couch, a large bouncing ball that's supposed to stay in the yard chillaxin' inside next to the patio doors, broken sidewalk chalks also right inside the patio door, some kind of Fisher Price junk (I know it's FP by the distinctive yellow/purple/blue color scheme) peeking out from under the couch, refrigerator letter magnets in the corner of the bathroom, random preschool artwork on the counters....

I know the problem areas, and I try to stay on top of them, but I feel like this is a real losing battle. For about 6 months last year we had a cleaning service come in every other week, mostly to deal with the floors (curse you, wall-to-wall ceramic tile!!) and the bathrooms. It was HEAVEN. But then...well, then I lost my job so we had to do away with that. It doesn't help that TH has a *teeny tiny* hoarder-type personality and is loathe to throw things away.

Here's where I need your help. How do I get organized? What do you guys do with all the papers, the toys, the clothes, the clutter? How do people have neat, tidy, organized houses when they work full time and have 2 small yet very active children? Are you just cleaning/organizing ALL THE TIME? Please tell me that's not the secret.

Here's the rundown of my most problematic problems:

  • No family room or separate living/formal area. This was the #1 mistake we made when we bought this house, buying into the whole "open floor plan" schtick. Never again. I hate hate hate that when you come in the front door you can look straight through into the kitchen and see if there are dirty dishes in the sink. Or toys everywhere. I would love to keep all of the kid stuff sequestered upstairs in their rooms, but that's just not realistic. Maybe when they're both old enough to play unsupervised, but for now Jr. at least has to be where I am - if I'm downstairs making dinner or on the computer or, well, cleaning, he has to be down here with me and thus we can't keep the toys out of the "formal" living space. We've got a couple of bookshelves with baskets and 2 storage ottomans, yet things seem to be overflowing all the time.

  • The papers. Oy, the papers. There's 2 factors here. TH and I have been witness to a really horrifying case of identity theft in my immediate family involving someone lifting personal information from a discarded credit card statement. So now, I'll admit it, we're a little paranoid about what goes into the trash/recycling. Therefore there's always a stack of stuff "to go through" and a box of stuff waiting to be shredded. Always. We never seem to get to the bottom of that box! The other factor is that we try to recycle anything that's recyclable, so there's also always stuff needing to go into recycling, which is nice and green and everything but when I look at bundled up boxes and papers and plastic bottles by the door it just feels like a pile of trash to me and I hate looking at it.

  • Toys. Short of going on a Throwing Things Out rampage, I really need a better way to keep these toys from overtaking our house. And I'm not talking about big bulky toys - it's those godforsaken little pieces that seem to be everywhere. There's only so many "storage solution" bins and containers and baskets you can have in a room before the boxes themselves start to look like clutter.

I really do need help. I'm embarassed to have people come to my house - I know it's not really that bad, but before I got married and had kids I was used to a much neater house. I know I shouldn't spend so much time worrying about a messy house but I'm one of those people who actually gets physically stressed when I feel like I'm surrounded by clutter and disorganization, and then when I don't have the time to really get it all done (or to get it done to my liking) I just get more stressed out.

Heeeeelllllllp meeeeeee......

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

5. So big...yet still so little.

Driving to Denver last week for our yearly family vacation, we decided to leave Vegas at night, right after I got off of work. The plan was to drive the seven hours to Grand Junction (right across the Colorado state line), stop for the night, then push through the last 4 hours to Denver in the morning. Jr. cooperated with our little plan, pretty much sleeping the entire way. J declared that he wasn't going to sleep, that he was going to stay up and "drive with you guys," as if he was going to take a turn at the wheel at some point. Right before the trip we bought portable DVD players to hypnotize the kids for the trip, and stocked up on Scooby Doo DVD's. Scooby Doo is J's latest obsession. He has now seen just about every episode of old and new (and newer) Scooby Doo, from the cheesy 70's episodes with "guest stars" like Tim Conway to the more recent iterations that have plotlines about viral bad guys in the internet.

Anyhoo, J set himself up in the back seat with a stack of DVDs, juice boxes, raisins, several books, his blanket, and his pillow pet. Before setting out we'd decided to convert J's booster seat to backless since he's 5 now and getting taller by the minute. But when he got in the car, he kept fidgeting, pulling on the seat belt, leaning forward, whining about being uncomfortable. Finally he tapped me on the shoulder.

"I don't like this seat," he said.

"But it's a big kid seat now, remember?" said TH.

"I just...I don't think this is very safe, Mommy." And he looked genuinely worried. So we put the seat back together. Not ready for the big boy seat yet, I guess.

As we made our way through the mountains, J was alternately awed by the experience of driving at night and scared by it. "I can see constellations! And planets!" he exclaimed at one point. "This is really scary and spooky," he said later. "I hope we don't ever have to stop our car out here."

Around 10pm, I glanced back and could see that J was pretty much zombified by the latest Scooby Doo adventure, his eyes glazed over and his head listing off to the side. Normally he's in bed by 8pm, but we'd decided to let him set his own schedule in the car. Why not? He's a big kid now. But realizing that he wouldn't stop watching unless we made him, I told him that it was time to turn off Scooby Doo. His face crumpled.

"But I'm staying up late with you guys!" he whined. "I'm NOT TIRED!!"

I reached back and flicked the DVD off, expecting him to start crying or throwing some kind of overtired fit. Instead he leaned over onto his pillow pet, and was dead asleep about 15 seconds later.


While we were in Denver, we treated J and his cousins to an afternoon showing of Kung Fu Panda 2. J has only been to the movie theater twice before, and both times I don't think he was quite ready for the big show. He whined, cried, covered his ears, fidgeted, tried to walk up and down the aisles, etc. But this time we were with his older cousins, who he is always desperate to fit in with. He was so excited by everything -- the entertainment complex with a fountain and yogurt shop and arcade, the little kid's meal boxes of popcorn and Icees, the sharing of Red Vines (which he's never had before. We don't keep candy in the house.) Prior to the trip he'd used part of his allowance to buy Superman sunglasses, which he insisted on wearing through much of the movie even though we kept telling him it wasn't 3D.

"Everything looks so different with my glasses," he said breathlessly. "It's all blue and yellow and everything."

About 45 minutes into the movie, he said, very loudly, "I think this should be the end of this movie!" and covered his ears. Then he almost folded himself up in the seat and after that refused to sit down. "Can we leave, please??" he whispered. Finally my mom had the idea to let him sit on the steps next to our row, where he calmed down until the end of the movie.

After the movie, his 11 year old cousin X had to go to the bathroom. "Take J with you," my mom told him. J and I both paused. He's never gone into a public bathroom without me or TH before. When we're out together, like most little boys he's used to going into the women's restroom. I could tell the thought of going into the bathroom "by himself" was making him nervous, but I knew there was no real reason why he couldn't go in with X watching over him. He is 5 now, after all. X went in, and J stood halfway in the door, looking back at me and then looking into the bathroom. "Come with me, Mommy," he pleaded. Finally he went in, and I stood right next to the door, listening for any indication of problems. At one point I must have been almost in the door because a man behind me cleared his throat as I was obviously in his way. Finally X and J came out, J literally skipping. "I used the bathroom!" he shouted, making sure everyone in a 10 foot vicinity could hear him. We started for the doors.

Suddenly J skidded to a stop. "Oh, no!" he cried. "I left my sunglasses in there!" We looked around for X, but he was engrossed in the arcade.

"You're going to have to go back for them by yourself," I told him. "I can't go in the men's bathroom."

"I can't!!" J said. He was genuinely nervous. When we got to the door, he again begged me to go in with him. Finally he ran into the door, and less than 30 seconds ran back out, breathing hard with his face flushed, like he'd just run through an obstacle course. "Next time we have to go in your bathroom," he told me, and then took my hand, something he usually fights me on these days.