A few weeks ago I was up late taking a practice test for Step 2, my last major exam of medical school. I didn’t feel prepared and was dreading the exam, but when I finished the practice test, I was pleasantly surprised to score higher than I had expected. I ran up the stairs to wake up Yohannes (yes, it was the middle of the night) and share my good news, but stopped by Lily’s room to drop off a stray pair of socks. When I went in, I found Lily awake, with tears in her eyes. Read More →
Dear “Just A Virus”,
You are the worst. Please leave.
P.S. Why are you still here?
We’ve all heard about the dreaded “Mommy Wars”, where stay-at-home and working moms criticize each other for their life choices. The war has expanded to encompass health-food-obsessed moms vs. moms-who-are-poisoning-their-children, uptight moms vs. lazy moms, etc, etc. Even as you concede that your parenting choices aren’t the best, you’re still doing it wrong.
You might be tempted to brush off these wars as frivolous and cultivate your self-worth based on something other than angry internet comments, but that would be a mistake. While I agree that some of these mommy wars are ridiculous, the truth is that how your run your household can mean the difference between life and death. I’m not talking about home-spun cloth diapers here. I’m talking about Skynet. Read More →
Two-year-olds get a bad rap, but I think the term “Terrible Twos” is a misnomer. Don’t get me wrong: parenting a two year old is not a walk in the park. But that’s because it’s parenting, not because they’re two. Do two-year-olds throw temper tantrums? Yes. Do one and three-year-olds throw temper tantrums? Yes. Do adults throw temper tantrums? Yes, and it’s never pretty. I don’t think there is really much in the way of negative behavior that distinguishes two-year-olds from one and three-year-olds. But there are a lot of things that make turning two a big sigh of relief for parents. Here are my top ten: Read More →
This is our bed.
When I say “our”, I mean mine, Yohannes’s, Nati’s and Lily’s. In fact, the crib and toddler bed are really just ornamental. No one actually sleeps in those. I usually avoid describing our sleeping situation to others because I’m afraid my spare-the-rod friends will think I’m a crazy hippy, and then my crazy hippy friends will be offended that I called them crazy hippies, and I’ll suddenly find myself all alone in the world…but here goes:
Co-sleeping was never part of my parenting plan, not that I’m really the type to have a parenting plan. Even growing up with the Maasai, where the mother and children all shared a bed, I never envisioned it for myself. I didn’t sleep with my parents as a kid, and I didn’t particularly like the idea of sharing my bed with my own kids. It just sort of happened.
Before Nati was born, I set up his crib in a separate bedroom, but put the bassinet beside our bed for when he was “little.” We used the bassinet for a while, and I would bring Nati into bed with me to nurse at night. That all changed when I accidentally fell asleep one time while he was nursing. Holy mother of 4 hours of sleep! I had not slept that long since he was born and was not about to go back, so he stayed in bed with us at night.
When he was too big for the bassinet, (not that he was using it anyway), I decided to finally move him to his own room. Maybe for someone less sleep deprived or with a little more resolve, that walk down the hallway
sixty six times a night to nurse the crying baby for between 15 minutes and 2 hours would be worth it. But I was not and am not that person, so Nati moved back into our bed.
Nati and Yohannes are not what I would call gentle sleepers. The former, because he punches and kicks in his semi-sleep delirium at 2 a. m. while yelling, “Nooooo! No pasta!” The latter, because he sleeps like a dead man. He notices none of Nati’s shenanigans and I literally have to hit him to wake him up. He’s always very offended, and once asked why I don’t just wake him up nicely. I proceeded to demonstrate the routine I go through when I wake him up: It starts with sweet whispers and gentle prodding. As those efforts produce no results, it gradually escalates until I’m yelling and punching him in the arm. If we’re being perfectly honest, I’ve more recently been skipping straight to the last part, but only because I know the rest is futile.
Needless to say, when Lily was born, she was so teeny-tiny that I couldn’t risk putting her in bed with those two. When she got a little older, though, it gradually happened the same way it had with Nati, only I was careful to keep her on my left side, with Nati and Yohannes on my right. So now the four of us share a bed.
Yohannes co-slept with his parents as a child, and likes that we all get to be together at night, but he also inexplicably wakes up on the futon about 50% of the time. I love it too. My obsessive-compulsive side loves being within touching distance of my whole little family. (It makes it so much easier to double check that they are all still breathing in the middle of the night.) But as much as I love co-sleeping, sometimes I lay awake at night fantasizing about a large queen-sized bed, neatly made with crisp, clean sheets. That bed would be mine. And no, I don’t mean mine and Yohannes’s. (I prefer not to have my crisp, clean fantasy-sheets kicked down to the foot of the bed, but thank you anyway.)
You see, this fantasy started before the kids were born. I think in my pre-marriage
delusion innocence, I romanticized sleeping with my spouse. (Get your mind out of the gutter. I actually mean sleeping.) I envisioned whispered conversations at night, and cuddling in the morning. The reality is that we don’t usually go to bed at the same time, so no whispering, and it turns out I hate cuddling. (Not all the time; just when I don’t feel like being uncomfortable). Also, snoring. I think men’s nasal pathways were constructed as part of God’s curse to women. Give me the pain of childbirth any day over snoring. (Kidding. Childbirth was brutal.)
It’s no coincidence that I am writing this post at 4:35 a.m. I woke up with exactly 12 inches of space all to myself and couldn’t get back to sleep. I love co-sleeping. I hate co-sleeping. It’s a mixed bag, I guess. Now I’m going to go back upstairs, try to squeeze myself in somewhere on the bed (most likely diagonally) and get some more sleep.
We’ve all heard plenty of advice from parenting books, weather we read them ourselves our had them quoted to us by some fanatic. It seems like the holy grail of parenting advice is to be consistent. I guess I thought it meant, “I am consistently not a push-over,” or “I am consistently the boss of you,” because I always associated that phrase with laying down ultimatums and putting my foot down.
I have since learned that the exact opposite is true. If you want to be consistent (follow through on what you say,) then don’t ever put your foot down ever. The reason for this is quite simple: In all likelihood, your child can put their foot down harder than you can.You say, “Child, you are not getting up from that table until you finish your food.” Now who is responsible to enforce that ultimatum? You are, you
Next time, try saying something like: “Now I see you haven’t finished all of the food that I labored to put on your plate. I’d like you to finish it, but I’m a reasonable human being. Let’s negotiate. I’ll let you get off with two more bites if you promise not to wake up before 6 a.m. Deal?”
In conclusion, try not to say anything you’ll later regret if your child turns out to have a stronger resolve than you do. In most cases, putting your foot down really is going to hurt you more than it hurts them.
I’ve always hated group projects. Feel free to judge me on that character flaw. When I was in middle school working on one such group project, I freaked out when someone started to color the dog on our poster purple. Come on, people. Have you ever seen a purple dog? I also got a little annoyed when people put the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order. ROY G BIV. It’s not that hard. So it was a running joke that my poor future children would be traumatized when I criticized their art.
I guess I’ve kept that side of myself pretty well locked down…until last week. On Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving I was at my parents’ church with the kids. Nati made this:Nati: “Look! I made a chicken!”
Me: “Wow! I’m so proud of you! But I think maybe it’s a turkey.”
Nati: “Yeah. Miss Cheri is a good teacher. She shows us how to make craps.”
Nati: “I like making craps.”
Me: “You mean crafts.”
Nati: “I want to show everybody my chicken. They’ll be so proud of me!”
Me: “Yes they will…but it’s a turkey.”
I guess I’ll have to work on taming that beast to spare my budding artist.
When we got home that night, Yohannes was inexplicably watching Spy Kids 3-D. Towards the end of the movie, a computer animated flying pig showed up, presumably from one of the previous movies.
Nati looked wide eyed at the TV and said, “Whoa! A flying pig! I never knew that pigs could fly!”
Clearly this is why you are not supposed to let toddlers watch TV. Shame on us. For those of you who are similarly flawed and allow your children to watch Dora, here is a little treat that my brother-in-law Pierce showed me on Thanksgiving:
I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving with turkeys and crafts.
Now that I am a seasoned* mother, I thought it might be helpful if I shared some of the important things I have learned. I know that I would have benefited from some of this information and I hope that I can be a help and inspiration to others as well.
The first lesson is about how to put down a baby that has fallen asleep in your arms. I have tried many methods, including, but not limited to, climbing into a hospital bed, crib, and pack & play, laying with my child until they fall asleep, and then trying to climb back out. I don’t think I have to tell you that trying to silently climb out of a crib with a mobile hanging over it is no easy task. To save you from some of the trials I have endured, I’ve created a helpful flowchart to show you just how to put down your sleeping baby without waking them up. Good luck! (Double click the flowchart to make it larger.)
*Seasoned is a relative term. If you have more than two children, or any child over the age of 3, you might not consider me seasoned.
I voted today. If you think I made a bad decision (by voting or because of who I voted for) I hope we can still be friends.
More importantly, I ate this giant bowl of cereal for breakfast:
Nati said he wanted cereal. I thought, Cereal sounds good. I’ll get some for myself too. I poured two bowls of cereal…with milk.
Nati saw the milk and said, “Cereal without milk!”
I felt that the mistake was partly mine. It’s important to always ask your toddler for detailed instructions on how to prepare their food. So I poured his cereal into my bowl, rinsed and dried his bowl, and poured him cereal without milk.
Nati looked down at his fresh bowl of dry cereal and then over at mine. He handed it back and said, “I want milk in my cereal, just like you.”
Also, pictures of our Halloween pumpkin, which wasn’t stolen! Yay!
Yesterday we celebrated our first Halloween. Growing up we didn’t do it. The most obvious reason is probably that we lived in the middle of the bush in Kenya. But even when we were in the States, we didn’t, I think because of concerns about pagan holidays or something like that. I’ve since learned that Christmas and Easter also used to be pagan holidays, so I’m over it. Nevertheless, we always bought a giant bucket of candy for the “trick-or-treaters”. And there were never any trick-or-treaters because we lived at the end of a mile long lane, so we got to eat all the candy ourselves.
To be honest, I hadn’t really thought I would celebrate Halloween with my kids either until a few weeks ago when Nati said, “Halloween is when you dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating and people give you candy!” Well, I wish Yohannes wouldn’t have told him that, I thought.
A few days later while I was away, Nati said the same thing to Yohannes and the babysitter. Yohannes said, “I kind of wish Esther hadn’t told him that.” The babysitter said, “Me too.”
It turns out Caillou was the culprit. He always is. So yesterday we went to the store, bought a bunch of candy for the trick-or-treaters, and a tiger hat for Nati. I thought the tiger hat would be enough, but he kept asking where his costume was, so we improvised. The tiger toga isn’t my best work, but it was the best I could do in 15 minutes.My plan was to just sit on the porch and pass out candy, but our porch light was broken. Since no one would come to a house without a porch light, I thought I’d just take Nati trick-or-treating around to our neighbors. But only one neighbor was doing it, so we ended up walking a few blocks, and that’s how we inadvertently celebrated our first real Halloween. Nati would say, “Trick or treat!” and try to give people the candy in his bucket. Lily was just along for the ride.
It was kind of fun to see all the people in the community out and about and interacting with each other. Afterwards we came inside, ate candy and carved a pumpkin. Actually, the kids watched a movie while I carved a pumpkin. Not a bad day.