Monday, April 30, 2012

Ugly pictures

Some of my friends dress their kids in their adorable easter dresses and take pictures of them calmly gathering easter eggs in their yard. My easter pictures looked like this:

Why yes, that is my bed-headed child preparing to shove as much of her easter bunny into her mouth as humanly possible.

I'm not good at the photography thing. I don't have the patience to make people pose, and I hate interupting the moment to try to preserve it. I just want to enjoy it while it happens. As a result, most of my pictures occur when I observe my child doing something goofy and the camera happens to be in the same room. So while my children will browse through the pictures of them wearing nylons on their heads and wonder if they did in fact have a mother during their childhood, at least I'm a part of it when they make their memories, right?

Some other funny shots, just for good measure:

Emily has decided that when she makes pasta necklaces, she wants to make some to give to her friends when she sees them next. Here she is modeling them with her "pretty smile."

Check out those ice cream moustaches!

I don't know why, but my kids love hanging out in our shoe-collecting box by the door.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Parenting Two

I'm often asked what it's like parenting two children that are so close together in age. Or occasionally if I thought growing up that I'd be the mother of two children (why yes, I do live in the DC metro). I usually try to reply briefly, but I feel like digging a little deeper tonight.

Some days it is a million times easier because they have a ready-made playmate. They can play ball, run races, and read books together. Other days, I think I will go insane from the relentless peals of “NO, little buddy, that's mine!” and its accompanying sobs.

They are too little to mask their feelings, so I can see the costs of the family dynamic clearly. I saw the insecurity that came from Emily's being repeatedly left alone for half hour stretches to go nurse a younger sibling down for his nap, and the feelings of neglect Elliot felt when I had little time to give him outside of the endless hours of nursing. There were, and occasionally still are, days I go to bed exhausted, feeling like I gave everything I had trying to give everyone what they needed, and that no one got enough of me.

With Emily's babyhood so fresh in my memory, I can't avoid comparisons between their experiences. Elliot will never have the full force of my mother love the way Emily did. She had hours every day of my undivided attention, and she could soak up the thrill I felt learning of motherhood's beauty. At the same time, I realize that in three months, Elliot will be the same age Emily was when I had him, and I realize what a life-altering load I placed on her small shoulders. And let me tell you, I made a lot of mistakes with Emily that Elliot hasn't had to experience.

I've had to give up the concept of trying to be fair. It breaks my heart at times, but my children often need opposite things in the same situation. One child will not calm down without being held, while the other will not calm down without space. I know it is what they need, but I also know one sees the other picked up more readily. It hurts. Sometimes they simply need opposite things at the same time, and I have to choose. I don't have time to be fair – only to do what I think is best for the family as a whole.

These are the downsides. However, there is so much beauty.

I've loved watching my daughter grow in empathy. While she is her brother's biggest tormenter, she is his biggest ally. She knows how to charm him out of his sadness when I can't, and she even berates me at times when I'm “mean to the little buddy” (it has been very educational to see what she defines as mean). Being ridiculously shy and all, she didn't have many interactions outside of Rob and me, and it has been great watching her develop friendship and love.

Elliot loves being a part of things, and he benefits from having someone little that gets him. I may get bored playing the “hand the toy back and forth” game, but his sister doesn't. He has someone that will gleefully yell random sounds back and forth with him for entire car trips and feed him animal crackers.

It has forced me to become more proactive in my parenthood. There were a lot of battles that I didn't have the energy or courage to fight, but I had to when the demands on my time increased. I'm sure not perfect, but I'm a million times more structured. My kids have fairly regular nap and bedtimes. They eat three meals a day, often at the same time, and often the same food. They know they can't swipe other people's toys or hit them.

But most of all, I love them both. Despite the early sleep deprivation and weird attention-seeking behaviors, I can't imagine life without the two of them. I love who they are and the relationships they are building.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Podcast fun

I have a lot of interesting blog ideas rolling around in my head, but with sick kids, I don't think anything well-written and thought-provoking is coming out of my brain until I start sleeping through the night again. I want to talk about something fun: what I'm listening to when I do my spring cleaning. I've been a huge “Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!” fan for awhile now, but I'm trying to branch out a little and try some new podcasts. Here are some I've recently discovered and enjoyed:

Definitely Not the Opera (CBC): I've heard it described as “similar to This American Life, but less depressing.” Each week, they frame a podcast around a different theme and blend expert interviews with people telling their own stories about the topic. Often light-hearted, frequently profound (my favorite was on “what happened when you met the enemy”), it is a fun way to think about the big questions in life, and rethink the little things we do every day.

All Songs Considered (NPR): Once upon a time, I thought I had taste in music. I wasn't a true hipster, but most of what I liked wasn't on the radio. Enter parenthood. When the Civil Wars won the 2011 folk/country Grammy, my response was, “who?” I can console myself with the knowledge that when I looked them up, I remembered I did know and like one of their 2008 releases, but folk was my genre, and I missed one of the biggest folk hits of the year. I miss knowing the music scene, but it doesn't change the fact that with young kids, I'd rather spend my limited free time reading or perhaps bathing than searching the internet for lesser-known artists. Enter All Songs Considered. Now, every week, I can listen to new, off the beaten path music and thoughtful commentary on it while I do the dishes. I don't like everything they play, but usually I find myself rewinding at least one song a week because I love it and want to hear it again.

TEDTalks: Interesting and intelligent people get 18 minutes to talk about whatever they want. Topics vary widely, and they are fascinating and well-articulated. The one I listened to most recently was about the shame culture surrounding physician error. Listen for 18 minutes, and you'll have something interesting to talk about at your next dinner party.

I also recently discovered that you can download audio recordings of the George Albert Smith lessons. Now I actually know what goes on in Relief Society (two weeks out of the month anyways).

What podcasts do you like? If you tell me something good, you'll be contributing to the cleanliness of my house, as I'm more likely to look for something else to clean if I'm enjoying what I'm listening to. My mom will thank you!