Monday, October 22, 2012

Four Months!

Alex is four months old.  Four months is not that long.  It's shorter than a single basketball season, which I specifically looked up because I am the mother of sons, with penises, who will likely, unfortunately, be interested in sports one day.  So now I can act like I know what I'm talking about should one of them bring up basketball at the dinner table in ten years.  I can say, "Oh, hey, did you know the season runs from early November through... Smarch?"  And they can say, "Mom, you are so lame, but I like the fact that you doubled the cheese in this recipe.  Love ya!"

So, Alex has been here four months, not even half a year, and yet it's hard to remember life before him.  Hasn't Andy always been a big brother?  Haven't I always had two kids?  And was there EVER a time all those size one jeans in my dresser fit just right?  Doubtful.  It's amazing how quickly the new has become the new normal.  I am a stay at home mom with two boys.  My eldest son Andrew is a bossy young chap who retorts, "No, Mommy do!" when I tell him to pick up his toys and often demands cake for no reason.  He shares a room with his little brother Alex, who is quickly becoming the target of his well-meaning jerkiness.  Just this morning, I caught Andy using the toilet plunger on Alex's belly.  A week ago, it was ice cubes on the face, and this evening, Andy somehow mistook Alex's face for his blanket and tried to grab his little brother's head while declaring, "Blankey!"  That was a very confusing two seconds for all of us.

Alex, since he can't talk, walk, or otherwise sass or annoy me, is who I mentally refer to as "the sweet one."  This kid really loves me and clearly prefers me above all others.  He gives me amazing smiles and squeals of joy for no other reason than just because he sees me, and he cuddles against me in a way that says, "I'm yours!" When he's crabby and crying, he wants me as opposed to Chris, whom I can only assume he mentally refers to as "oh...the other one."   When I bathe him, he stares at my reflection in the mirror instead of his own.  He might be borderline obsessed with me, but as someone who's never been terribly popular, it's nice to have a fan club.  Sure, Andy's the president, but that's only because he can sit upright and hold a mallet (for adjourning meetings).  To Alex, I'm a goddess.  Andy, of course he loves and adores me because I'm his mommy- but he understands that the world is big and wide and while Mommy's great- she's no Daddy.  Or Papa.  Or random guy at the library that was deemed worthy of Andy grabbing his hand and saying, "Come on!" while he tried to pull him in the direction of the puzzles.  Oh, no, Mommy's okay, but that random guy- now that was a guy that could REALLY put together a puzzle.

Having both Andy and Alex, after four months, is something that imperceptibly went from weird and exhausting and a little scary to just the good and regular day-to-day.  Not going to work has also become less of a novelty and is now just something that I do (or don't do, I suppose).  And I'm at a point where I've stopped looking at the clock and thinking, "Oh, this is about the time I'd be working on loan renewals... or going out for lunch and getting Smashburger... or putting on my coat and logging off my computer and pretending I didn't just hear my phone ring."  Sure, I still think about Smashburger an awful lot, but I am only human.  Now I have a different schedule that doesn't revolve around high (okay, high-low to medium) finance, and somewhere along the line I've stopped comparing the two.  Instead of saying aloud, "Wow, it's eight in the morning and I'm still in a robe when I should be pulling my insurance report!" I say instead, "Wow, it's eight in the morning and I'm pretty sure Andy just ate a nickel!  Also, I'm in a robe!"

Of course, there's more to my day than just wearing a robe.  Actually, I wear my robe surprisingly little since we're so- wait for it- busy.  Between all of our activities, our daily outings, and then grocery shopping, chores, and the like, our days are pretty full.  Now, is staying at home with two kids harder than working full time and having one kid?  The answer is no.  Working and having a baby is very hard.  And I had it tougher before than I do now, for sure.  I am happy to admit that.

Happy four months to my little Alex- and to our lives together here as a family of four.  It hasn't been that long- but it feels like it's the way it was always supposed to be.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Happy Meal!

What happened to these???
Andy probably gets a Happy Meal about once every three weeks or so.  Happy Meals are ridiculous these days, including only about six French fries (freedom fries?), juice or milk, and a bag of apple slices.  It's the apple slices that really get me.  I remember getting Happy Meals when I was a kid- back when you could SMOKE in a McDonalds.  I'd be eating my Happy Meal, inhaling second hand smoke, eating a big ass bag of fries and pretending the extra long ones were Virginia Slims, and if anybody had tried to offer me a damn apple slice, I probably would have thrown a supersized tantrum.  And even still, with all those fries, fake smoking, and very real second hand smoking, I managed to turn out okay.  Which is one of those arguments that mean nothing because everybody has some horrible tale in which extreme irresponsibility turns out "okay."  My uncle used to run blindfolded and barefooted across I-90, and he turned out okay.  My grandfather was singlehandedly responsible for starting the Korean War, and that turned out okay.  Or so I've been told.

Anyway, I'm off track.  Andy has his Happy Meals about 1.3 times per month.  He is constantly asking for one though- if there's even a glimpse of the golden arches off into the distance, he's begging for a Happy Meal.  I do accept that this makes me a failure on several levels.  When I was pregnant, I wouldn't even look at a canned item for fear of BPA leaching from the can's lining, into my digestive system, right through the baby's placenta, and directly into his brain where it would rapidly retard him or at least make him unable to one day understand sarcasm.  Now I've got a kid who loves junky fast food and recognizes the McDonalds logo at a time when he's still not even certain what a basic circle is, and I, as a parent, use McDonalds sometimes to reward him, thus further building up the Happy Meal as some ultimate, awesome trophy to obtain "if you're good."  Somewhere along the lines, things went wrong.

Sidenote: I will say, when pregnant with Alex, I was much more laid back about the canned food thing. So far, like the Korean War, things have turned out okay. For a baby, he has a decent grasp of simple sarcasm principles.

Last week, after preschool, I took the boys over to the park.  By the time we were done playing, I was starving.  I think Andy was fine because he'd been munching on fruit snacks, a lollipop, and some miscellaneous playground dirt, but I definitely had to eat.  I got the kids into the car and decided to stop at the McDonalds near our house.  I pulled into the drive-thru, rolled down the window, and was greeted by the friendly voice asking what I'd like to order.

Before I could say anything, Andy yelled from the backseat, presumably into the intercom, "HAPPY MEAL!"  Twenty-seven months old, and Andy's already placing orders at a drive-thru.

Amused, I repeated his order, specifying chicken nuggets.  The intercom voice asked what I would like to drink with the Happy Meal.  To which Andy yelled from the backseat, "APPLE JUICE!"

You would honestly assume that Andy went through the drive-thru EVERY GODDAMN DAY, he was that comfortable yelling out his order.  But, no, I assure you it's only 1.3 times per month.  I completed my own order while Andy suggested "Mommy Happy Meal, too!", rolled the car forward to pay at the first window, and when we got to the second window to receive our food, Andy yelled from the backseat:  "Thank you!"

So, at least he's polite.

At home, Andy was eager to dive into his Happy Meal, sucking away at his apple juice, chowing down on his fries and nuggets, and even chomping away at the apple slices.  It's completely normal for Andy to get apple slices in a Happy Meal.  His generation will never know the difference.  Whereas back in the eighties- fruit with our fast food would have been a travesty. Those were also the years that small children were told to be seen and not heard.  My Andy, though, in 2012?  Screaming at the McDonalds intercom, he is heard, but not seen.

And he loves his Happy Meals.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Putting the "F" in FMLA!

I noticed that one of Andy's school mates was absent last Thursday, and on Tuesday I asked her mom, "Oh, was Mia sick last week?"

"Yeah, she was just a little under the weather, so I kept her home," her mom replied. "She had a sniffle and was a little mopier than usual."

This is one of the differences, I've noticed, between the two realms occupied by (a) the stay at home moms and (b) the working moms.  As a former working mom, Andy would have to be more than "just a little under the weather" in order for me to keep him home.  A sniffle?  Mopier than usual?  Forget it.  Andy would have to be bleeding profusely from at least two separate wounds and/or running a fever of equal to or greater than 102 accompanied by occasional, but measurable spells of losing consciousness before I would consider keeping him home.  That's the general litmus test I used to use back when Andy was in day care, and I'm pretty sure it's going to hold true to preschool.  Every class works out to be, what, twenty bucks?  So for me to lose twenty bucks and my two hours of free time (having only Alex for those two hours TOTALLY counts as free time), you're going to have to be pretty f-ing sick.  And willing to exchange preschool time for nap time.  Just to be clear, I mean EXTRA nap time, in addition to normal nap time.

Anyway, sending a sick kid to day care is something every working mother has done.  Do we feel guilty about it?  Oh, sure.  Do we feel bad about possibly infecting the other children? Oh, yes, the poor children.  Do we avoid eye contact with the day care teachers when dropping off our "under the weather" child in the morning?  Absolutely.  In order to make the whole thing work, the working mom in question has to be very good at playing dumb.  Which, I might add, is also very helpful in the corporate world.  What?  You needed that report done last Monday?  I'm not allowed to put white-out on legal documents??  Oh, that red light means I have a voicemail???  Well, shit!

So, we cheerfully drop off our sick kids at day care because we have to get to work, whispering into our toddler's ear, "Try not to rub your eye too much and act too 'pink eye-ish,' okay?"

Plus, it's so much easier to leave work after day care calls to ask how you had no idea your son had a fever, diarrhea, AND a wicked case of hives than to call in that morning lamely excusing yourself because your kid is sick.  Having day care call and demand you come pick up your damn kid is such a more legitimate excuse than to say you're not coming in at all, with no official day care type person to back up the claim.  It makes the whole sick kid scenario so much more real to the bosses.  Plus, if day care doesn't realize your kid is sick for, like, two hours or so, you might get away with only taking a half day at work.  In a society with such limited sick leave, it's best to divide that leave up into neat little segments as best you can.  Can I take a quarter day?  A one third day?  Can I make up my missing time by shortening my lunch hours by five minutes for the next forty-three days?

Of course, because every mom is sending their sick kid to day care, every kid at day care is always sick.  Andy had one single cold that lasted eleven months straight when he was a baby.  Then, he got over that cold, and one week later came down with a new cold that lasted five months.  By abiding by Mia's mom's "keep your under the weather kid home" mentality, I would have had to call Andy out for SIXTEEN MONTHS STRAIGHT.  Which, in retrospect, would have been pretty awesome.  How long can you get that FMLA for anyway?

But the studies say that the day care babies have the better immune systems by the time they're five and off to kindergarten.  Yes, actual studies, like with numbers and people with initials after their names.  It will be interesting to see how Alex's immune system fares against Andy's.  Actually, I look forward to discovering all the differences between Andy and Alex, since Alex's first two years will be so different than Andy's first two years.  Day care versus mommy.  Only child versus older sibling.  First time mommy who changes baby's diaper every two hours on the nose versus second time mommy who changes baby's diaper... oh, man, how long has it been dark out?  Did we even eat lunch today?  Ah, well.

But of course, although I look forward to discovering the differences between the two boys, I have vowed to never actively compare them.  At least not aloud.  No, I certainly won't ever say, out loud, which kid is the overall better one.  That would just be poor parenting.

Now everybody wipe your noses nice and good- it's time for preschool.