Archive | June 2011

the lion in me

Are you familiar with the animal personality test? I, who am obsessed with personality tests, find it to be one of the most insightful. I think Gary Smalley invented it, the love language guy. Anyway, you are either a golden retriever nice), a beaver (organized), a lion (leader), or an otter (fun). Forgive me, Gary Smalley, if you are reading this for my horribly oversimplistic descriptions. Well people who don’t know me very well usually peg me for a retriever. I guess because I smile a lot. Oh, you silly people…
Then if you know me a little better you might say I’m a beaver, because I do have nerd-like qualities and appear to be organized. However if I am being truthful, there is a large, predominating lion-like nature to the very deep inside core of Jessica. Ask my husband and he can verify if you are doubtful. Here’s how I know this. Again, my deepest apologizies to Mr. Smalley for the positive mangling of his test, but here’s how I see it. If you want to know what animal you are, fill in the blank to this question, which would be your life motto or something.
If you do something…
a) do it right.
b) do it so no one is upset
c) do I really have to do this thing anyway? are you sure? there’s probably something way more interesting.
Whenever I wonder which animal I am, I remember that my answer is, in fact, none of these mottos, but rather this: If you do something, do it as fast as you possibly can so you can finish right now, giving no attention at all to whether it is done correctly or people are happy. Just get it done.
Now this philosophy has its merits but also a few obvious flaws. Ask my Dad, a true and true to the core lion. Sidenote, if there is a stressful situation, don’t send two lions into the CVS to pick out a humidifier. Maybe just send along a golden retriever or two. Heck, even an otter to lighten the mood. Anyways, my Dad was quick to point out (takes one to know one) that, yes, Jessica, we do need a humidifier for your sick baby. But should we perhaps, um, read the label first, prior to checking out? I’m not going to tell you this was a real peaceful scene, start to finish. Like I said, two lions, stressed out, not good.
But the point is this. Sometimes, I concur, haste does make waste. I have about thirteen projects, done in a day, that, ahem, well, let’s just say they need to be done again.
I was pondering that this morning when I got the sudden urge to organize my entire house. And I mean ENTIRE, people. No cue-tip box unnoticed, no junk drawer left unsorted, no random vitamin jar unmated to its far away counterparts. I want this house Pottery Barn spotless and Target organized. (Unrelated note: If you really want something done, stop drinking coffee for six months and then have a cup in the morning. The energy is UNREAL!!!!!
Anyways, here’s the problem. Not even the most determined, efficient, caffeinated lion could finish this job before being interrupted by an awakened napper, hungry toddler, or, even, the setting sun. This project is too big to finish quickly. Which makes me not want to start, but I don’t think that is the right lesson. Instead, I am going to try to solicit my otter of a husband and my beaver of a mom to help me slow down, relax, and do it right. And I guess that is a lesson I should try more often. I’ve thought of a few ways that my life could be more full with a relaxed, thoughtful, patient mentality. For instance (random alert), if I take a shower, blow-dry, and straighten my hair, though it takes some time I actually am happier for the remainder of that day (feeling a bit more like a normal, socializing adult) and can even get another day and a half of truly good hair days. Worth the time.
Also, projects. BE PATIENT. Do not purchase the first high chair someone mentions, because for the next two years you will be annoyed that it doesn’t travel. And on and on.
I have no idea if this helps any lions out there. But I guess the moral of the story is to be you, but be a better you. Is that cheesy or what. But I do have to go now. I estimate only about ten more minutes of nap time. Better go finish some projects before this coffee wears off!!!!

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For future parents

Someone recently reminded me of the school project where kids carry around a plastic baby that cries, to teach parenting skills. Since seeing this depicted on “Saved by the Bell” as a child, I have always been secretly jealous of the project, what with the whole getting-married-to-a-male-classmate thing, pretending to be a mom, etc. I was intrigued to hear it is still around.

Now as a parent, I view this activity with both appreciation and humor. Good idea, but I think I have a few adaptations to add. Truly, I would have benefited from something along these lines. I had no idea what to expect as a mom; most don’t. If you are preparing to be a mom, I suggest that you do the following for three months:

Go buy a cat. (*Cat lovers, PETA, and the easily offended: I mean no disrespect to cats. Sure, they’re FAR inferior to dogs, flighty, and weird, but no real harm intended.) Anyway, find a cat. From the instant your purchase is transacted, don’t set the cat down for more than a minute unless it is sound asleep. Carry it at all times. For the first three weeks, conduct all your business (making your bed, getting water, going to the bathroom, sweeping the floor, etc.) while holding the cat. If you have a spouse, brief trade-offs are allowed during the hours of 6:00-9:00at night.

-Let’s start with the sleeping routine, because that is the biggest adjustment. You’ll need to prep the room beforehand. Turn the closet light on, position your radio to a nice static-y AM station (to mimic a monitor), turn on a fan, and set a noise machine loudly to a nice mechanical ocean wave setting. If it sounds like an airport, you’re on the right track. *Keep in mind that every night you have to set all this up before putting the cat to sleep, because the changes might wake him up.

-Then, situate the sleeping cat next to your bed in a small, open carrier. For the first night, set your alarm to go off every 45 minutes. Be sure to choose the most annoying sound option. When it goes off, gently sway the carrier back and forth for ten minutes. Make sure to practice the whole gamet of rocking motions – the back and forth, up and down, side to side, etc. For the length of the three month experiment, the alarm should go off each night at least every THREE hours. Sometimes you’ll wake from the dead of sleep to feed the cat, sometimes rock him, sometimes scour the floor on your hands and knees for pacifiers you have hidden, sometimes go downstairs and administer medicine (be sure to wake yourself up enough to dose correctly, mind you), and other times, just wake up and do nothing. Just wake up. Then try to go back to sleep.

– If your future parenting plans include breastfeeding, then practice by doing this. It’s not an exact parallel, but you’ll get the idea. Every other time you wake up, use a blood pressure monitor for a good fifteen minutes on each arm. Keep in mind you have to hold the cat during the whole interval, and stay awake for the whole thing. If you plan to bottle-feed, then get up make a serving of hot chocolate. Be exact in your measurements, now. Feed it to the cat using a dropper.

– About midnight, wake the cat up and feed him a small serving of cabbage, peppers, and refried beans. He might be a bit gassy in an hour or two. If he is, you might want to move his legs around in a bicycle sort of motion for a while (up to an hour). Put him to sleep and back in his crate. If he wakes up in the transfer, you must start again.Remember throughout it all that any loud noises will probably wake up any other children in the house, though your spouse will sleep peacefully until morning.

– Choose a different alarm for 6am. At this point, most likely the cat will be awake, hungry, and unhappy. First feed him. Then, bounce him around the room, cuddling him, singing “Joy to the World” for at least a half hour. At this point he’ll be happy, but not sleeping. Both of you should plan to start your day then.

– But don’t forget. You aren’t allowed to brush your teeth, wash your face, or take a shower until about 1:00. If you’d like a cup of coffee, sure, go ahead. Drink half and feed half to the cat, and see how the day goes.

– For breakfast, toast some bread. After fifteen minutes, you can butter it. Eat two bites and then stop to put a diaper on the cat. Then feed the cat and wait an additional fifteen minutes. If you’d still like your toast, you can proceed, but do it while talking on the phone, unloading the dishwasher, checking your email, and, of course, rocking the cat.

– Proceed with the day’s activities. If you plan to have more than one child, you must narrate all activities while doing them. Be perky, be instructional, and, always, be alert. Every half hour make a complete round of all the rooms in the house, checking for loose cords, dropped pennies, or other hazards or misbehaviors. As soon as breakfast is over, take all the small objects in the house and scatter them around on the floor. Open all doors, strip down the couch cushions, and pour water all over the kitchen floor.

– Throughout the day, run the cat up and down the stairs AT LEAST 100 times. If you plan to have other kids, then get ahold of a small to mid-sized beagle. Take him up with you half the times.

– If you can make it until one, it’s shower time. First, get the cat asleep. Dead asleep. If you plan to have multiple kids, flip a coin. If you get heads, you win. You can take a shower today. Otherwise you’re out of luck. If it’s a good day (read: shower day) then first position the sleeping cat within eyeshot of the shower, but not so close that the rushing waters will wake him up. It may take a little fidgiting to determine the best position for YOUR cat before the starting of the shower. You may need to incrementally start the vent fan, the water, and the noise machine so all the racket doesn’t wake up him. Anyway, for your shower be sure to shave just one leg per shower, and of course, eliminate that silly conditioner. Waste of precious time. Streamline your makeup routine into five steps. Go ahead and throw away all your lipgloss, because you will never, ever have time to put it on.

– About four thirty it’s time to make dinner. Pick something simple, of course, because you’ll be holding the cat. It is permissible to strap him to your body in a carrier. He’ll need some up-and-down movement though, so make sure you’re bouncing up and down while chopping potatoes, browning chicken, or stirring pasta. If you’re planning to have multiple kids, spread golf balls, opened markers, and tupperware lids all over the floor, remembering to dodge them as you cook. Every five minutes, take something out of the cabinet and dump half of it on the floor. Stop and pick it up. As before, narrate all of your steps aloud, here stopping at least 12 times to say, “No, don’t ___”. You can pick any random chastisement here, but they all need to be dangerous, and different. Once you have dinner ready, you can eat. Go ahead and put yours in the freezer for a bit before eating it. While you eat, bounce up and down with the cat. Put some music on, like Raffi. You are never allowed to finish your plate, at least not until bedtime.

-Like to entertain? No problem. Invite a few friends over and do all of the following in heels, without getting flustered, intermixing the aforementioned talk with witty, pleasant adult conversation.

– The cat will need a bath. Clothed, stand and under the shower for three minutes and get your front side at least half wet. Then bathe the cat. When you are done, you have about 90 seconds before he will be very tired, very hungry, and very unhappy. He’ll be squirming, so work quickly. In that time you will need to towel him dry, rub lotion on his fur, slather some desitin on the hind quarters, zip him in a onesie, and hurry him downstairs for a meal. Don’t be discouraged if you’re both in tears by the end of it.

Once the cat is asleep, congrats. You made it through another day.
If you are childless, you are probably thinking I am joking with this silly plan. I assure you, from the depths of my heart, I am not. Try it! You will be well-prepared for motherhood! *Disclaimer: The chaos reflected in this essay is not intended to hide all of the WONDERFUL things about being a mom. It sure is hard work, but there’s nothing else I’d rather do!

Notes from the Underground

You secret English majors out there probably realize I stole my title from Dostoevsky. Thought it was a clever title to give my recent tidbits from life in the SCORCHING heat of May, locked in a 1750-square-foot house with a newborn and a toddler. ( visit? anyone? thought so.) Please do not confuse the following essay with the aforementioned literary classic, the random psychotic ramblings of a lonely insane person. (hmmm….)

Anyways, a few thoughts.

– acid reflux (#2) + some sort of unidentified illness (#1) – lots of moaning, whining, requests for medicine at 2 am, etc. + husband late + Grammy and mother’s helper gone + heat wave + no scheduled activities = not a very fun week. I am not complaining, people. I am putting this in writing so when I read this 18 years from now, in tears, looking at old pictures of the good old days, I can remember that it was not all cuddles and giggles.

-I get now why second-borns are so easy-going. Take naps, for instance. In contrast to the pampered first-born, who was swaddled, shushed, laid gently down in a room brimming with three fans and a noise machine, the second-born has no choice but to enjoy his or her naps in the comfort of the carseat under the kitchen table, with the comforting sounds of the garbage disposal, vaccuum cleaner, ice machine, and, of course, sibling #1’s serenade of who-knows-what while pounding two lasagna noodles for a drum. It’s sleep then, or don’t sleep. So of course, they adapt.

– Speaking of second-borns, I am glad for the one I married. He exhibits all of these wonderful characteristic traits (adaptability, patience, high tolerance for lasagna drumming, etc) as well as quite a few more. Which brings me to my point. I am SO grateful for a man who compliments burnt pasta sauce, who loves to rock babies to sleep, who orders me to Target at 8pm on the day from heck, who eats sandwiches that are two days old (with soggy tomatoes, mind you) and who tells me over and over that probably, no one is dying, and most likely, we will (eventually) get sleep.

– a few more things I am thankful for. These are not mere trivials, folks. These are NECESSARY, crucial tools with which the tired housewife finds repose. Among them: Prison Break (I heart Michael Scofield), wine, oreos, 15 minutes of sunshine, coconut ice cream CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH FLAVOR!!!!!!, my baby smiling at me, the time out chair, the fly swatter, Zac Brown Band, Boz (Christian Barney, but way more tolerable), Harris Teeter express lane, and, importantly, my cell phone. What the heck did people do in the olden days when they could not call their mothers to ask them how long to roast a chicken or if that background crying sounds authentic or manufactured???

– Oh, the glorious terrible twos, you are so prompt. I share one little humble victory in hopes that you, too, can apply its truth. Sam has the cute little habit of asking, “Mommy, what’s that?” It sounds innocent enough, until you realize it will be repeated, consectutively, on end, over, and over, and over again, for a good ten minutes every hour on the hour. It is not an inquiry, mind you, it’s a control mechanism. I joke not. It’s not usually obvious what he saw/heard/etc that prompted the question, but I have found that if I reply, “airplane” to each question, somehow that ends it. Not sure why.

– lastly, I can’t stop thinking about this song (faith), or this song (marriage).