Category Archives: Perfectionism meets Parenthood

Bop Bust Buzz

Here’s the long-awaited bop verdict, folks. For those of you who don’t know what a “bop” is or why we are awaiting a verdict, read this.

Much to our surprise, taking the bops away from the three-year-old could not have been less of an issue. Aside from engaging us in an admirably well-played, yet futile negotiation, his bedtime was painless and bopless. Although, he did calmly tell us the next morning that he “wished for his bops during the night”, he hasn’t mentioned them again. He actually sleeps more soundly now without the plastic-to-wood clacking sound as they fall from his bed, waking and reminding him of what he now knows, he doesn’t actually need.

Done and done.

His sister, the 22 month old, on the other hand is a different story. After four nights and five days of screaming and crying until we’ve spent an hour and a half rocking her to sleep for both naps and bedtime, we have seen no progress. In fact, the days of late bedtimes and restless naps have taken their toll, and in her exhausted state, it seems to be getting worse rather than better.

We’ve aborted mission.

After an hour of screaming, 17 visits to her room to rock her, rub her back, change her diaper and tell her firmly that it’s time to go to bed, I caved. I ran to the drawer, grabbed her addiction and put it in her hand. She was out before I made it to the door and wasn’t heard from until 6:30 a.m.

In a year, should she not as gracefully accept the bop banishment as her older brother, I will surely admonish myself repeatedly and with great disdain. I invite you to do so as well.

But, here are my questions…

How much damage can be done to her jaw and teeth in the ten minutes a day she uses a pacifier to fall asleep? It falls out within five minutes of her slumber and is lost in the blanket or in between the crib rungs and mattress for the remainder of the night. Is it worth the loss of a much-needed nap and a consistent and peaceful bedtime?  Is it not just a better idea to wait until the child is old enough to understand (and has already dropped the sacred nap so there is less at stake), as clearly displayed with my son? Or is there some other horrific side effect of which I am not aware?

Honest questions, people. Thoughts are welcome.

Fact Check:

All statements are true, correct and un-fluffed.

Who Put the Bop in the Bop Shoo Bop Shoo Trash?

Even with all of our plans before the births of our children – (attachment parenting, on-demand breast-feeding, baby wearing, etc) they both became “Bop Babies”. For all those of you unfamiliar with Motherfog lingo, “Bops” are pacifiers. We don’t know where this name came from, but it’s become such a household name, that we are always confused when people have no idea what we’re talking about.

While we did follow through with all of the aforementioned parenting techniques, bops were thrown into the night-time mix to help pacify in between every two and three-hour breast-feedings.

But, when Zachary was around six months old, we made a steadfast rule that no bops would be allowed outside of the crib (or car if napping). This rule followed suit with baby number two and has been high on the short list of “brilliant parenting decisions” made by the Motherfog child-raisers. We have often praised ourselves for this family law, as so many benefits came from it. Not only were we free from chasing after pacifiers all around town, and being stuck with photos full of plastic-faced cherubs, but its practice encouraged a desire for “crib quiet time”. Both kids welcomed a couple of ten or twenty-minute stretches of daytime solitude in their own beds to steal some precious moments with their bops and a book or two.

However, we recently realized a fatal flaw in our plan. When the pacifier is only allowed in the privacy of the child’s bed, the courage and ambition to go through the agony of taking it away slowly wanes. It sort of becomes a little secret, free from judgmental glances from public onlookers. Unless you find yourself entertaining a playdate in your son’s room and the pacifier is spotted. In which case I have not been above quickly covering up with,

“Isabelle! What are your bops doing in Zachary’s room? Silly girl!”

But, before you know it, you’re looking at your three-year old, all dressed for bed, and he suddenly looks like a college kid dressed up for Halloween in a “Baby” costume with a pacifier hanging out of his mouth.

I happened to google the issue this morning, and was stung by the harsh critics on the web – critics, of course, being other mothers who I am certain are the images of maternal perfection themselves – once you agree to look past the glaring grammatical and spelling errors in their scathing comments.

But, lets move past my hurt feelings from judgments of those whom I have never met. Of course, they only ruffled me because it’s true. I am absolutely certain that Zachary is the only kid in his class that still uses a pacifier at night, but the decision to take it away has never aligned with what feels like the right time and place.

When he turned one, I was five months pregnant, alone with him in Utah, working long hours, and attempting to star in a show. Not the best time…for me.

At 16 months, we brought a new baby sister home. Certainly not the best time.

At two, we were about to move across the country. Definitely not.

Last summer, just before he turned three, we planned to tackle the issue.

He broke his femur.

Need I say more?

So, while at the moment, we seem to be finding ourselves in some modicum of status quo (pardon me while I go ram my head into a two-by-four), it’s time to Seize the Day.

But, if we’re going to do this, why not go hog-wild and make it a bat-shit, bop-breaking bash, and take it from the 22 month old too?

This morning went like this:

Me “Hey, honey? How would you feel about getting no sleep for the next week?”

Husband “Why?”

Me “I think it’s time to ditch the bops”

Husband “Um. OK”

Three minutes later…

“Hey guys! Daddy and I have talked for a long time about this. We’ve decided it’s time to say good-bye to the Bops. You are big enough to sleep without them now and they are going away. It will be hard for a few days and we are here to give lots of hugs and snuggles, but we know you can do it!”

Let the Games Begin!

Blogger’s Note:

A friend has a story she likes to tell about her first encounter with me. Apparently, I was amusing a group of people at a party with a story, got carried away with my own exaggerations, and cut myself off with,

“That’s not true!”

She has never forgotten it. It is true. I do exaggerate. It’s a family trait. But, as I have stated before on this blog, I will always fess up, and usually within the same conversation (or post). So, I’ve decided to add a “FACT CHECK” at the end of posts.

*FACT CHECK

1.)The bops are not in the trash. That would be mean and heart-breaking. For me more than them, I think. They are in a drawer and will perhaps be bronzed like a pair of first baby shoes

2.)That was an exaggeration I will most likely not have them bronzed. That would be very strange, even for me.

Have a click!

What Are We Missing?

I do believe that every parent has thought at some point that they must be doing something wrong- that the tornado of insanity descending on those of us with small children throughout a 24 hour period cannot be normal. But, maybe I should face the possibility that it is just me and that everyone else skips about their days with ease, order and structure.

I’ve lost count of how many mealtime madness posts I have written.  I keep thinking we will find some sort of magic key that unlocks the secret door to enjoyable dining, but I feel no closer to this treasure than I did two and a half years ago when baby number one started eating something other than what naturally dispensed from me, with no preparation, no mess and no clean up.  Man, those were the days.

I have shared many meals with other families and have noticed the rules that are in place for their toddlers. Rules that seem to be understood and followed. Rules that I had every intention of setting and fiercely holding to myself.

-We sit at the table until everyone is finished.

-We try everything on our plate.

-We eat something green at every meal

-We eat what is served

-We don’t throw food on the floor

-We don’t throw cups of liquid at our sibling

-We don’t use pasta sauce as finger-paint on the table.

You know, the basics.

But, once baby number two came along, I lost the ability, time and focus to enforce matters such as broccoli eating onto my 16 month old, while simultaneously breast-feeding at the table and attempting to steal a few morsels off my own plate to keep from passing out after day’s worth of no sustenance for myself.

I am tempted to say that these meals during which I have noted the stellar behavior of my friends’ children and the contrasting atrocity of my own, have been with single-child families.  But I am fully aware that I am possibly making excuses for being a shitty parent who has lost all control, and that perhaps there are plenty of parents with children 16 months apart or closer, who have managed to maintain some modicum of pleasantness during the evening meal.

So, I ask all of you Saintly ones for help.

Our children are complete, unruly little maniacs at dinner time, and should you show up at 5:30 pm, I might contemplate selling them to you for a small price.  I cannot think of another parenting woe that compares to this one. Sleep deprivation- HUGE.

Still, dinner time takes the cake.

I was at a baby shower yesterday, quietly listening while a mother of a six month old spoke very knowingly about her ideas of food and nutrition for her daughter.

“We only give such and such.”
“We believe such and such.”
“We only do such and such.”

I wanted to blurt out,

“Here is my number. Get back to me when she is over one and if you add another kid to the mix”

But I shhhed my mouth by stuffing it with three too many scones and
escaped to the bathroom to allow my eyes the rolling they were twitching to hold back.

I too, had very lofty plans. And perhaps I’m just pissed that regardless of hours, days, months, and years of boundless effort and energy, they are simply not in action.

I exclusively breastfed, and when solids were introduced, I started with homemade vegetable purees.  I spent hours preparing my own nutrient-rich baby food. Never has a plate been set before my children that lacks rich, vibrant color.

But, sadly I am on the brink of giving up. I spend weekends  preparing food and concocting meals that I believe will excite my children, only to have them pushed  away, thrown, or just plain refused.

Both kids.
So I can’t blame it on basic nature of inborn character.

The meal they will eat?  Breakfast. By breakfast time, they are so hungry there is barely a peep for half an hour. Waffles, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt…all in one meal. It’s a morning buffet at the Motherfog house.

Lunch?  Maybe a piece of cheese and a cracker.

Dinner- forget about it.

(the obvious seems that they have too many calories in the a. m.,  but we have tinkered with this scenario with no positive results and feel that at least one meal should be complete.)

But, please believe me when I say that dinner is something on which we have placed great importance. In Los Angeles, my husband rolled back his hours in order to facilitate a sit down family meal.  And yet, here we are, in the thick of Hurricane Hugo every evening at 5:30 pm.

I do believe that we all wonder from time to time if we have missed some sort of mark with this parenting fiasco, only to have the truth be told that there is no mistake; parenting  is chaotic, messy and disorganized by nature, especially during toddler years.  But, something tells me that with this particular issue, we have indeed missed the mark in our house.

Yes, with children so close in age we did sacrifice the ability to focus heavily on certain matters. For my own emotional and physical health, I had to loosen the laces on my perfectionistic standards.  But have we really ruined our children’s chances of ever becoming healthy, respectful diners by having them 16 months apart?  Surely not.  We are not the first to enter the eye of the storm and we won’t be the last.

So, what is it? What are we missing?

Sincerely,
Bat-shit and hungry

Have a click!

If A Tree Falls In The Forest….

David Paul Bayles • Corvallis, OR (photographer)

We were blessed with a bit of rare, coveted adult conversation a few evenings ago. We had the pleasure of a visit from old friends, fellow actors. An interesting topic bubbled from our luxuriously yummy bottle of Malbec.  We were discussing the component of an audience’s response and subsequent validation (or lack thereof) in our work as live performers.

A show like Wicked can certainly play a large role in enabling this unhealthy addiction in an artist.   I can honestly say that during the six years with both the National Tour and the Los Angeles company, our cast never took to the stage for final bows without a sea of standing theatre goers stretched before us.  But Wicked is Wicked. A freak of theatre, if you will.

So, here is the thought-provoking, hypothetical scenario we came up
with. (in actor speak)

You are starring in a show. Throughout the two hours and 45 minutes of your performance you are riding the exhilaration of your character portrayal, feeling like there is something special about this particular show.  Your work this evening is good and something to be proud of. The house is full, 2000 plus.  You feel the electricity of your audience, a symbiotic flow of energy back and forth through the fourth wall. Your pulse quickens with giddy anticipation before you enter upstage center to take your final bow.  You rush downstage and notice the house is empty. Not a soul is clapping. Nary a person is standing.

Dead. Quiet. Silence.

Do you hold to the unwavering faith that your performance was a good one, even if no one stood waiting at the stage door to tell you so?

Our conclusion that evening was  a unanimous no.

This unhealthy habit of relying on accolades and awards to gauge and quantify the value of our work is often the plight of the actor,  although some may not be open to admitting that fact.  But, I will venture to say that it bleeds into all career paths in some form or another, just maybe not as blatantly.

Perhaps the best vocation to beat it out of us is that of parenthood. I can’t remember the last time one of my children said to me,

“Mom, thank you so much for putting so much effort, time and thought into our meals, seeing fit that we have built within us the foundation for healthy eating habits and therefore have the best chances possible for avoiding the current obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics. You are appreciated, profoundly, and we love you!”

Or maybe that’s exactly what Isabelle is saying when she looks up at me from her high chair, mouth half upturned, a wicked gleam in her eye as she slowly and deliberately grasps noodle by noodle of homemade macaroni and cheese with roasted butternut squash and cauliflower, and chucks it to the floor with a guttural giggle.

Yes. That must be it.  I will just have to believe that on my own.  I don’t think my kids are going to beg for my autograph any time soon.

What about you?  Are you able to hold faith in the integrity of your work, however it is defined, without an occasional pat on the back or reflection of approval?

Isabelle’s Lament

Last night as I was cleaning up the remnants of dinner, my husband came in from the playroom where he had been entertaining the kids.

“We really have not done right by Isabelle.”

He said with a shake of his head and a little chuckle.

“Why?”

He went on to explain his recollection of Zachary at her age. By 18 months, his vocabulary was chock full of deliciously polysyllabic words and could identify animals I never knew existed.  As our only child, we had hours to devote undivided attention to looking at picture books and teaching him new things.  He would suck up each new word like a sponge.

His favorite book was First 100 Animals.  Nothing is more adorable than an 18 month old pointing to an animal and saying “Koockaburra” or “Furry Wombat” or Cockatoo”

We would say it, he would repeat it and remember it.

Then along came baby number two. Isabelle has had about 90 percent less than her older brother in the undivided attention category.  In fact, until she comes waddling toward me, book in hand yelling “book! book!” over and over until she finally hits me in the knees with it to get my attention, I often forget to sit and read with her.

She loves books and happens to share Zachary’s taste in colorful literature.  However, when we open the animal book, she points to each picture and says “Cow!”  We were at the Zoo last weekend and saw many cows. Cows with feathers, cows with wings, cows with scales, cows with snouts, cows with manes….”Cow! Cow! Cow!”

I’m not however concerned about her intellect in the slightest. There is a twinkle and understanding in her eye that says she is smart as a whip, borderline scary. When we actually take the time to teach her a word, she repeats it perfectly. Go figure. You have to actually teach your children things.

We like to think we are conducting a social experiment. What happens when one child is calmly tutored with little distraction, and therefore at two years, 9 months has the conversational skills of a 10-year-old, and the other is left to grab scraps of vocabulary from whatever she can catch by watching the world around her as it whizzes by?  My hope hypothesis is that it will all even out in a year or two. We shall see.

What does Isabelle think of this experiment? In her own words?

“Moooooooooo!”

Resurrection of a Neat Freak

Many know the Toyota Sienna story….

….for those who do not, I’ll begin with a very abridged re-cap and get on to the point of this post.

We bought our used (new to us) mini van one week before our cross-country move to New Jersey.  Brimming with two adults, two babies, two dogs, two suit cases, two pack-n-plays, two dog crates and 47 Plum Organics fruit and veggie bags, we waved a final goodbye to our California home and headed for the highway.

We had not yet reached the 405 before a bag of spinach, peas and pear purèe squirted like a laser from the back seat. It was at that moment I realized, for the sake of my sanity, I would have to temporarily tuck my obsessive need for order and cleanliness inside the glove compartment for the duration of this trip.

With a sigh, and a vow to devote an entire weekend to a detailed vacuuming and  scrubbing once we arrived at our new home, I shut her inside the compartment with a click.

But, as the story goes, our engine nearly exploded 788 miles from Los Angles, on Day Three of our trip, and we continued the rest of the way in a rented Chrysler Town and Country.   I learned to find liberation in stretching atrophied muscles of slop, as the obsessive hemisphere of my brain was still locked inside a glove compartment in Albuquerque, NM.

The Sienna was shipped to us in New Jersey, 30 days after our arrival, but before I had the chance to roll up my sleeves and dig my elbows into the mass destruction that occurred during those first three days, the transmission fell out onto the New Jersey Turnpike.

Once back in our possession, two weeks later, I had little desire to even look at the vehicle, let alone offer it any modicum of TLC.

Winter turned to Spring and Spring to Summer, as less and less of the floor was visible through the overlay of crushed goldfish, graham crackers and other things unidentifiable due to the scientific changes in composition during the natural decaying process.  And every time we loaded the kids in the car to run an errand, a guttural groan would escape from me.

As much as I tried to keep the state of our mini van a dirty little secret, people would catch sight of our disturbing transport all too often.  Each time, these people, newly made East Coast friends who are unaware that I am NOT a gigantic slob, witnessed the science project growing in my car, a little part of me (the part that upon returning from the grocery store, with the intense pressure of an over-flowing bladder, would rather wet her pants than use the bathroom before all the groceries are in their proper place) would die.

Today, after six months and three days (minus the 44 it was in the repair shop) of driving a vehicle straight out of an episode of  Horders , I decided it was time to unlock the glove compartment and let a kicking, screaming and gasping Neaty Mc Neaterton free!

Man, was she pissed!

“How could you have let this happen?”

She asked, with utter disdain, while surveying the floor with disgust.

My head hanging in shame, we agreed that placing blame and making excuses would only distract from the monumental task at hand.  And so we dove in; my Husband, my two kids and my two estranged selves joined together to restore balance, harmony and order within our family vehicle.

While I feel it was beneficial to have allowed this disgusting little situation to happen, as I now understand the importance of lowering the standards when it comes to car trips (especially long ones), I can, with complete conviction, say that six months is unacceptable.  There really is no need for such prolonged disarray and neglect.  Kids or no kids.

Currently, a little waste basket sits under the stereo for used napkins, ripped papers, and toys I find annoyingly disheveling, a dust buster is charged and ready inside the front door of the house for frequent clean-ups, and I sit in the front seat with shoulders back and chest up as we set off on northeastern roads.

Now, when friends ask if I need assistance with getting my children in the car after play-dates, I proudly accept their offer.

The BEST part?

It was more family fun than we have had in weeks!

Family Car Wash!!!

Blogger’s Note:
Those of you who have witnessed the manner in which we allow my daughter to eat her meals are most likely thinking,

“Neat Freak, my a#*!”

It must be noted that the same organizational and cleanliness obsessed facet of my ego spends all mealtimes locked in the liquor cabinet.

She’s happy there.

And totally wasted.

Have a click!

8 going on 28

I’m sitting in the waiting room of a large and reputable bi-coastal talent agency. Thankfully, I already have theatrical representation, but I’m in search of a commercial rep for some extra cash.  Look for me on the next Tampax commercial. Or better yet, Valtrex.  Oh, yes.  If the price is right, I’ll go on national TV and claim I have herpes.  No problem.

I digress.  I wish you all could be the flies on this wall and join me as we witness the destruction of a childhood.  A few moments ago, an eight-year-old stepped out of the elevator.  This “child” is groomed to perfection, right down to her trendy cotton t-shirt, tucked into her Prada skinny jeans to display her leather, braided Gucci belt. She stands next to her “40 somethings dressed as 20 somethings” father as he announces her arrival and asks if all of the agents might squeeze her into their schedules. She gives a mechanical flip to her perfectly coiffed locks, and paints on her most adorable beauty pageant grin.

She and Daddy take their seats next to mine, open her portfolio and go over the imperative details together. The gloss on her lips shines brighter than mine and I’m reminded to re-apply for my own meeting.

In LA, I witnessed families divide just so that one parent could relocate with one of their children, from midwest homes to studio apartments in Hollywood so that the child could “follow his or her dreams”.  It’s hard not to wonder just whose dreams they are following.  And, does it really matter?  Is there any dream worth the shattering of a family unit?

I am a huge believer in the preservation of a childhood and wonder if working professionally can snuff out that sacred flame.  Public school, playgrounds, bike rides to creek beds to skip stones, piggy banks with rattling coins…these were integral components of my own upbringing and my goal is to do my best to offer my children the same.

I open my manila envelope, remove the pictures of my babies and place them in my purse, leaving only my own headshot and resume.  I had thought that possibly, before they are old enough to be aware, their adorableness could make them some money for college.  But as the receptionist calls this eight-year-old’s name, and I watch her saunter off down the hall with more of a womanly swagger to her hips than I could ever master, I realize that this brag book is for facebook, friends and family. Let’s keep it that way for now, shall we?