Some day I’ll sleep in

By Lisa Cucinotta

“He needs a back-up alarm” my hair stylist told me, after complaining that the guy who was supposed to open the salon that morning had overslept.  “You know, I always have my phone alarm, and then a back-up, like an alarm clock or my boyfriend’s phone” she said.  “Especially in the winter, when it’s dark and you’re so snuggly, and you just can’t get yourself out of bed, you know?”

I did know, once upon a time.  I remember those days.  In fact, I probably slept more than most people.  I spent my early twenties doing freelance jobs and working for myself, which meant a lot of flexibility in my sleep schedule.  I could sleep some days until noon.  When I was depressed, on my days off I’d sometimes sleep all day, waking up just to go to the bathroom and eat.

But when you have children, sleep is something you dream about… and get woken up from. I suspect I’m luckier than many because currently both my children sleep through the night in their own rooms.  I don’t have enough hands to count the number of friends I have who either intentionally, accidentally, or by sheer exhaustion end up co-sleeping with their kids at least some of the time.  Brian and I decided in our earliest parenting days that we were going to set boundaries on the co-sleeping, so other than when they slept in bassinets with us as babies we’ve never done it.

Neither Julia or Luca slept more than three to four hours at a time until they were about five months old, probably a product of them both being such skinny babies. But both became pretty good sleepers after some basic sleep training.  We certainly had some rough times with Julia between ages 2-4, nothing unusual, just the basic stuff like nightmares.  I suspect we’ll go through it again with Luca as he gets older.  He’s still in a crib at two and a half, but based on his personality I suspect we’ll have trouble keeping him in his big boy bed once he gets one.  So I’ve got that to look forward to.

Both our children’s optimal bedtimes are quite early, which I’ve mentioned before – 6:15 or so for Luca and 7pm for Julia.  So we have whole evenings to ourselves to eat dinner, watch tv, catch up on work etc.  But the trade off is that we got woken up EVERY SINGLE DAY at 6am.  Now, as I’ve also mentioned before, this works for us 5 days a week, because that’s around when we wake up for work anyway.  But getting up at 6 am on weekends is kind of brutal.  At this point, it doesn’t make me too tired anymore, because my body has adjusted.  In fact, it came in handy when Brian and I went to Universal studios by ourselves this fall because we had no trouble getting up for early admission.  But our trip to the Dominican Republic last year where we fantasized about sleeping late – that one was a damn shame to wake up every day by seven.

The early wake up is a double edged sword.  I’ve done more by 8:00 in the morning than many childless people do in a full weekend day.  Even with lounging in bed with the kids for early morning TV watching, by about 8:30 on a Sunday we have usually cooked and eaten breakfast, emptied the dishwasher, tidied up the first floor, looked up something or other on the internet, broken up at least one fight, and changed a few diapers.  The trade off is that there is so many more hours in the day during which we need to entertain the kids.  Bored children are no fun.  If I was a perfect Pinterest mom I’m sure I’d have long lists of craft projects and inventive games and would love every minute of every hour of the time I spent with them.  But sometimes mom just wants a nap.

Brian and I have this fantasy for the future.  Some of it revolves around sleeping later once they kids are able to take care of themselves when they get up.  But our particular favorite one is for when the kids are teenagers who will inevitably sleep super late on the weekends.  We’ve decided at least once we’re going to throw open their door as loudly as possible, run into their room, jump into their bed full force and immediately demand that they get us breakfast and put the tv on for us.  There’s even been talk of banging pots and pans.  But we’ll decide when we get there, since I suspect we’ve got miles to go before we sleep.

The memory bank

By Lisa Cucinotta

Last night we hung out with two families from our block, and between us there were six kids ranging in age from six (Julia) to eight months (our neighbor’s son Henry, who is so cute he almost makes me want to have another one…. for five minutes…. because this shop is CLOSED for business).  The house was chaos, but the happy kind, with shrieks due to fun vs. fights and tantrums.

At one point the three oldest kids (ages 4-6) were playing hide and seek.  Charlie, the ringer, (since he lived there and knew all the best spots) hid behind the drapes in the dining room where the adults were hanging out finishing our dinner.  He was pretty well concealed, but at one point the kids were practically on top of him and yet couldn’t find him.  We were trying to give them clues, directing them with “warmer” and “colder” but they just weren’t getting it even though at one point I swear they were looking straight at him behind the gauzy curtain.  When he finally popped out, peals of laughter exploded not just from the kids but from all the adults in the room.

After we stopped laughing, I looked at everyone I said “Let’s put this one in the memory bank”.  Whether you realize it or not, I believe every parent keeps a memory bank.  Having small children is hard, like, next level hard.  Like, “how does anyone do this?” hard.  There are so many moments where you just want to scream, or rip your hair out, or hide in a bathroom or take five minutes to breathe or shower or take a catnap.  So you open up a memory bank account and deposit every damn thing in it you can that is not the shitty stuff.  This whole night for me goes in the memory bank.  Hanging out with people we enjoy who have great kids, sharing kid book recommendations, eating pizza and homemade cookies and apple crumble and feeling relaxed (or at least I did, and I am not always relaxed at these things).

I’ve got lots of memories that I keep in my bank. The first time Julia said her name, and told us it was “Julcat”. Taking naps with sweaty baby Luca’s face pressed against my face. Watching Julia greet the princesses at Disney World with the expectation they’d know her to. Luca saying “You got this for me?” in his deep little baby voice, with a mixture of wonder and excitement, every time we give him something.  A mom telling me that Julia waited for her son by the door at kindergarten every day for the first few weeks because she knew he was scared to go in.

I also have a category for posthumously added memories.  Those are ones that felt really struggle bus while they were happening but have a sweetness to the memory that creates nostalgia. One is Julia insisting we “dance up” – she loved dancing so much at two that we would try to dance with her while sitting on the floor because we would get tired and she just wouldn’t have it so she’d insist we stand.  We’d be exhausted, wearing pink cowboy hats and tutus and drag ourselves off the floor to try to jam out to our tenth Katy Perry song in a row to keep our tiny tyrant happy.  Another one, as insane as it is for me to believe now, is that I am able to feel nostalgia for moments I spent nursing.  I nursed Julia for six months, Luca for four, and I was very relieved to stop.  I felt like a cow, it was weird to feel like my body didn’t belong to me, and I leaked all the time.  It kind of sucked (no pun intended).  But now I remember their teeny tiny selves curled up around me, their crying pacified, my satisfaction of knowing that I was doing something good to care for them. Then there were those sleepy little milk coma faces after they were done, and the knowledge that I’d probably get at least a few moments of rest before the next round of crying or needing to feed them.  Just remembering that now makes me feel warm and fuzzy, although at the time I just wanted my body back.

I think even the shitty stuff is worth remembering – the sleepless nights, career compromises, exhaustion and endless pooping are good reminders that I don’t want a third child even after cuddling baby Henry tonight; nibbling his delicious baby face and having him grab my finger with his tiny hands was lovely but it doesn’t cancel out why I chose to stop after two kids.

Grandparents and parents of older children will see you with your little kids and also recommended that you pay attention as your children’s lives are unfolding because they go by too fast.  Sometimes I want them to go by faster, to get through the tough parts.  But tucked between the monotony and the frustration are the incredible moments of joy and love.  It’s what keeps us going as parents.  You can’t make a memory if you don’t remember it. That’s why I paused at the table tonight as we all laughed at our kids playing.  Let’s remember this one, I was saying, and save it for a rainy day when we’ll need it.

 

 

The abominable snowman is me

By Lisa Cucinotta

Thursday I was a monster.  A selfish, tired, cranky, inpatient mom that wanted desperately not to be on mom duty and did a pretty shitty job of parenting.  I feel the need to confess this to you, partly because I’ve been feeling incredibly guilty about being such an asshole and partly because I am hoping that maybe I’m not the only one.

It all started Wednesday with a predicted 1-3 inches of snow for today.  Then suddenly it was 3-5, then 5-8, then 50 hour winds, then a bomb cyclone (whatever the hell that is!) and then the apocalypse.  School was cancelled for Thursday even before Julia’s bedtime on Wednesday.  My nanny texted by nine pm to check if she should come.  YES PLEASE PLEASE is what I wanted to say.  But even I am not that big of a bitch.  She just got her car back after a month in the shop and it’s not exactly the kind of vehicle I’d want her to drive in heavy snow and wind.  Plus what if she got stuck here and couldn’t get out?  If I wouldn’t want to leave my house, why would I make her do it?

That meant someone had to stay home with the kids and that person was going to have to be me.  Why? Well for one, my husband had appointments with clients lined up at work as well as a doctor’s appointment, so he was prepared to brave the weather and go in. Secondly, on Wednesday I had soul crushing heartburn that made me feel like I was going to vomit, and I legit went to bed with a Tupperware container next to my bed just in case.  I managed not to puke but I did wake up several times throughout the night for various reasons so I didn’t sleep much at all.

Fast forward to 6 o’clock Thursday morning, the kids’ regular wakeup time, feeling like I had barely slept, and staring down at a full day trapped in the house with a six year old and a two and a half year old.  Oh the horror! I’m kidding, I know that doesn’t sound so bad. Stay at home moms do that every day.  But I’m not used to solo parenting for long stretches. On the weekends Brian and I co-parent, and on top of that we often split up the kids, with me taking Julia to a birthday party or out shopping while he hangs out with Luca, or he talks Julia to the grocery story and I stay home and play with Luca.  So I am not used to being alone with the kids for a twelve hour day, particularly not one where you can’t leave the house.

My key mistake of the day was to decide that I should still try to work while they were home, instead of just giving in and taking a day off.  You can’t get consistently productive work done with small kids home while being a good mom.  I cancelled most of my meetings but I was still online all day, responding to emails and instant messages and generally trying to act like I was at work. This wasn’t fair to the kids and it wasn’t their fault that they got restless and cranky and acted up.  Instead of building magnatiles or playing with kinetic sand or baking cookies together, I put on the tv and then pretty much yelled at them for wrestling with each other, or grabbing toys out of each others hands or jumping on the couch or whatever super annoying but completely normal and age appropriate acting out they were doing.

And the worst part is that I knew – I knew that I was being a jerk, but I still resented them.  For not playing quietly.  For interrupting me when I was on the phone.  For Julia being so physically aggressive with Luca that he had marks on his neck hours later.  Here’s the weird part – I am not sure that the kids knew.  I don’t think they had that bad of a day.  Julia has informed me many times that a particular day is “the worst day ever” and I didn’t get even one of those.  Her and Luca didn’t cry that much, despite repeatedly fighting with each other.  They both got fed moderately nutritious meals and snacks, had naps/rest time, watched movies, snuggled with me, etc.  So did my kids actually think I was a monster? Or is it just me that feels like a monster because I know what was in my head.  Because I was thinking: I don’t want to be here doing this. I don’t want to be responsible for these people right now.  I want to be responsible for myself and my work and nobody else.  I want to watch Netflix while I write my emails.  I want to take a quick nap between conference calls.  I want to work hard, but at doing work for my job, not at working at what’s really my more important job, which is being their mom.

They’ll probably never remember this day, and if I didn’t immortalize it in a blog I likely wouldn’t either.  If I had a popular blog, I’m not sure I’d publish this piece, as it makes me look particularly ugly.  But there is something cleansing about admitting the darkest parts of me, and even if you can’t relate, maybe it will make you feel a little better by way of comparison.  There’s always going to be someone out there better than us, and someone worse.

 

Be my (mom) friend

Today at the pool I asked a nice blond woman for her phone number. Wait, that sounds weird.  Let me start again with some context.  Today, while hanging out with my two year old son at the pool, I noticed that the woman sitting next to me also had what looked like a two year old son.  Never one to miss an opportunity to make new mom friends, I started a conversation with her, which ended with us exchanging numbers for a possible future playdate.

Trying to make friends as a mom feels a lot like dating, especially in the years before your kids are old enough to self-select their friends.  Despite being friendly, smart, interesting and having a job in a similar field to me, she’s not my perfect match because she’s pregnant.  Her two year old is her oldest child, whereas Luca is my younger.  I’m not saying we can’t strike up a successful friendship and set our kids up to be friends, but as any mom of two can tell you, the ultimate ultimate is when both kids line up relatively close in age.

That’s not to say that some of my best mom friends have the right line up either.  Because you can’t always choose who you love, and if at least one kid matches and the moms make a love connection, then you make it work.  Two of my favorite mom friends (and two of my newest) are relatively bad match in the kid line up department.  First is a woman who has two boys, and at five, while Julia is still willing to play with boys, she definitely prefers girls.  Her other son is older, so no match for Luca.  And her husband, while being probably one of the coolest guys in the suburbs (a jewelry designer with long hair and hip clothes) works every weekend, so making a love connection between the husbands seems unlikely due to limited opportunities for them to hang out.  But she’s worth it; a woman that I would have been friends if we met before we had kids. She gets my sense of humor, she has great style, she doesn’t shy away from my oversharing and she’s a really interesting person.  We ride the train together home from work whenever our schedules line up, so more of our mom friendship is actually separate from our kids, even though we talk about them a lot.

My other new friend has a son more than nine months younger than Luca and that’s her only child, so no match for Julia.  We knew each other before we had kids on a casual basis at an old job, but I ran into her when she was pregnant and become one of the mom gurus who ushered her into motherhood.  Literally hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of the kids’ old stuff went to her, along with advice on everything from finding affordable childcare to sleep training.  Again, she’s the kind of person I would be friends with even if we didn’t have kids, and even better, our husbands love each other and have shared interests.

I tend to make friends easily because I am extremely outgoing (reader, I doubt you are shocked by this based on my previous blogs). But even I had a lot of trouble making mom friends when Julia was little.  This is largely based on being a working mom, because I couldn’t go to all those activities you might use for “networking”.  I did try a mommy & me class  on the Fridays I worked from home and asked some of the women out on “dates” , but there was no real chemistry.  Weekends weren’t much better, because Julia was born at the end of fall and going to parks, playgrounds and the pool aren’t things you do in the winter. I did have a few early successes.  The babysitter I hired when Julia was six months old had a daughter three months younger, and we ended up becoming friends.  She pulled me through some tough times those early days with my postpartum depression.  But only six months after we met, she and her family moved upstate.  We’re still in touch on Facebook, but it’s not the same as when she lived here and we’d go to yard sales together, put the girls in the same shopping cart at stores, etc.

My most successful and longest running mom friendship to date can be attributed to my bull in a china shop approach to making new friends.  The aforementioned babysitter/friend and I were pushing our strollers over to mommy & me class when we saw a woman down the block from the play place taking a similarly aged girl out of her car.  I went right up and asked if she was on her way to class.  It turns out she actually lived on the block (still does) and I got her number and met her the next week at that mommy & me class.  We’re still friends today more than five years later, and she has a daughter who is just a few months younger than Luca (but she did sandwich one in between, who just turned four).  We’re zoned for the same school district and out of six kindergarten classes, our daughters ended up in the same class.  This summer, I convinced her to enroll her in the same camp as Julia and they are in the same group.  Our friendship is not without bumps – I went through a very unreliable period where I’d screw up plans with her a lot. I’ve peppered her with hundreds of anxious mom questions and cried in front of her more than once, all of which she handles with her calm, non-judgmental tone.  She is a keeper, but we still need to work on getting our husbands to spend more time together.

Long parenting friendships like the one mentioned above are in many ways aided by circumstances.  I find as a parent that keeping up with friendships is more difficult than when you are young and free, although there is considerably less drama within the relationships themselves. I have a friend group made up of the moms of girls from Julia’s old nursery school and for the last two years the girls have also taken dance classes together.  Our group, plus a few other moms, mostly others from that nursery school class have “moms out” nights every month or two at local restaurants.

I love these women, some of whom I consider my closest friends.  But our kids all go to different elementary schools now.  Most of the moms used to belong to the pool but this year many of them skipped it.  A bunch of them belong to the beach but Brian and I can’t join because our zip code isn’t zoned for permits for that beach.  Will our friendships survive our busy lives?

In my teens I had a few friend groups that soured because of jealousy, infighting and back-stabbing.  As an adult, I generally prefer to make individual relationships rather than groups, even though I realize adult women aren’t (most of the time) as catty as your average teenage girl.  This group seems relatively drama free but I am still prone to those old insecurities.  Are they hanging out with me? Yes, probably, as three of them have three year olds that all go to the same pre-school and several of them belong to that beach that we can’t join. But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me (although there could be…).

What I dream of, what I hope for are the parent friends for life that my parents have.  They somehow managed to find multiple couples they liked who had kids in very close age ranges to us that we liked.  They had friends we went on vacations with, others that came to family holidays. Most are still close to my parents to this day.  I want that for our kids, and for us too.  The parent friends I’ve made to date have made me a better mom and a happier person, and I hope I’ll be the kind of friend for them that they want to keep for life.   In the meantime, I’ll continue to hit on the women I meet that might make a good match.  That’s the main difference between dating moms and dating for a husband –  you don’t have to commit to just one.

Overserved.

This past weekend I was overserved. (Let’s forget for a minute that I totally made those margaritas and served myself.) But it was Cinco de Mayo! And I live in Texas now! And we had a party at our house!

Y’aaaaaalllll. NONE of these reasons matter. Next time please remind me that my limit is one margarita. ONE. I am allowed to have beers after that. BUT ONLY ONE MARGARITA.

Apologies for being ALL CAPSY. But being hungover when you are the caretaker of small children is THE WORST. Babysitters of the world–I need you to swoop in and take charge on Seis de Mayo. I promise you will be well compensated. (Hold my beer while I speed dial the babysitter and see what she says when I try to book her a year out.)

As a wise mother told a friend of mine, “You haven’t had a hangover until you’ve had one with kids.” Truth lady. TRUTH.

This all coincides so nicely with our 22 month old deciding that he is officially TWO. By that I mean that in the past week or two, he is all of a sudden pulling full-fledged-throw-my-tiny-body-on-the-floor-and-screaming-the-second-I-am-told-no-or-I-don’t-get-what-I-want-within-the-half-second-that-I-demand-it. Which is really pretty un-fun when you are stone cold sober, and really head-rattlingly awful when you are nursing one of the worst hangovers of your thirties. (Also, kids or no, hangovers get worse as you get older. No one tells you that.)

I never set an alarm. My alarm is a tiny human who wakes up screaming for me every. single. day. Apparently, my husband had made the decision before we went to bed on Friday night that he would be in better shape to get up with the kids the next morning. And bless him for that. While I was snoozing, our kids who get to watch one ten-minute show in the morning, usually Thomas the Train (There’s two, there’s four, there’s six, there’s eight, Shunting trucks and hauling freights!), were given the go ahead to “just turn on another one!” And another. And another. And that is 100% FINE. Sometimes TV means that everyone is happy and quiet for a few minutes when it is sorely needed.

When I woke up and managed to get downstairs and put a coffee cup in my hand, it dawned on me that later that afternoon, we would have approximately ten 4-6 year old boys running through our house. Plus their families. I reached for the Advil. T-ball season was coming to a close and we had offered to host the team for dinner after the game that evening. No big deal! Two parties in less than 24 hours! I got this! (Someone please get my head examined).

We went out to lunch hoping a square meal would make us feel more human. Waitress rolls up with our food, and my not-quite-two-year-old immediately goes off the deep end. Why? Who knows!?! I spend what feels like an eternity walking him around outside in the very hot sun attempting to explain that eggs taste way better when they are warm.

Once Townes settles down, we gulp down our food and ask for the check because we know he could turn on a dime. Home and quick naps for all of us before the T-ball game. Next up, a couple hours out at the fields with the Houston sun beating down, when all I wanted to do was crawl under the bleachers. Then race home for some last minute party prep before the team arrives.

Have you ever imagined Lord of the Flies enacted by 5 year olds? Oh, then you weren’t at my house on Saturday evening, obviously. Semi-feral shirtless boys running around outside, then racing upstairs to ransack Elliott’s toy stash, then back outside, but not before smearing icing on every available surface and leaving a trail of Cheetos in their wake. I played it cool and tried to participate in adult conversations with the parents, their names and details I probably won’t recall as I had one eye on Townes the Terrible Almost Two the entire time.

Here’s the thing: You don’t fantasize about hungover days of yore (i.e. pre-kids). No one WANTS to be hungover. But those days when you felt so terrible, and you had the luxury to just lay on the couch all day, drink your Vitamin Water, watch a few movies, take a snooze–remember those? The luxury of being responsible for only you and your own bad decisions? No longer. There’s no pressing pause on the needs and wants of the tiny folk that now share your space. So pass the painkillers, re-up the coffee, and remind me next time: ONLY ONE MARGARITA.