Sunday, November 30, 2014

Weekend wrap-up

So I nearly crapped my pants while driving home in the pouring rain tonight. Thankfully I made it home in time to rush up the stairs, leaving the kids in the car. When will I learn I can't drink lattes???

Thanks for all the comments about my last post. It cheers me to hear that other children B's age behave like this from time to time and that it is normal. I really don't think anything is happening at school otherwise he wouldn't be so happy to go and so sad to leave. I think he just thinks it's fun to lord it over this smaller, slightly annoying creature. I tortured my aunt's lovely, gentle cat just because I felt like it when I was a kid - who knows why? Kids can just be little bastards sometimes. Anyway no more scary incidents today just because I kept the baby either in his (my) room with the door closed or on my back. We went to a birthday party, all with younger kids, and I had to stay right on top of B to make sure he didn't victimize them. I'm sure people there thought I was being a helicopter parent - I was, but for the sake of the other kids! Hell hath no fury like a two-year-old being approached by a one-year-old to take his toy. 

Thank God for the return of preschool tomorrow. Thankfully my sister and brother-in-law visiting kept us busy so the four day slog went quickly and was actually quite enjoyable (other than B trying to kill his brother). Christmas will be the same - I intend to use one weekend day at the school's weekend program after Christmas so I don't lose my mind. 

I hope that now that Theo's first little tooth has busted through he'll be a little happier. Poor guy was miserable last week. So he was a Thanksgiving teether and his brother was a Christmas teether. Interesting. Have not felt it while nursing yet but I am dreading that first bite. 

I think like a lot of parents right now I am feeling very drained. Let's hope I get a decent night's sleep tonight and am ready to take on the day tomorrow!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The deep end

Thanksgiving morning started off with Bobby brutalizing his brother repeatedly and me throwing him in his room to listen to him scream hysterically while I calmly prepared our Tofurky roast. This morning started with Bobby brutalizing his brother and me finally snapping and smacking him hard on the head.

Yup. It's happened. I've hit my child. And you know what? I can't promise it's not going to happen again.

What happened today was after Bobby repeatedly pushed his brother on the ground and smacked him, I smacked Bobby on the top of the head. He cried. I put the baby in the other room and drew Bobby on to my lap and explained he has to be nice to his brother, if he doesn't want him touching his toys he needs to just move them, that hitting hurts, doesn't it? That we're a family and we need to do just hugs and kisses and no hitting because it hurts. I asked if he understood and he said yes. I hugged and kissed him and told him I loved him no matter what. And then he went into the other bedroom and smacked his brother on the head. 

I hit him today because after yesterday I was so frustrated that he just didn't get it that I felt like the only thing I hadn't tried was showing him how bad it felt to be hit. But I know this wasn't the right thing to do because how can you teach someone not to hit by hitting? I get it. But nothing is stopping this shitty behavior. Nothing.

It's so maddening because everything was going so well - he liked to play with him, would hug and kiss him, maybe was a little too rough sometimes, but I could let them play together and mostly it was fine. In the last week or so something has taken a very sinister turn and now Bobby just loves to kick, punch, hit, and jump on top of his brother. It's shocking and awful. And he does it all with a big smile on his face, and when I angrily tell him to stop he just laughs at me and does it again. What the fuck do you do when your child acts like this???

I spent all night googling this question and the answers are all things I did (other than the hitting - nobody advocates that!) - the explaining, redirecting to proper behavior, giving more special time together, etc. I bend over backwards, and always have, to make sure Bobby never feels slighted by the arrival of the baby. And yet here we are nine months in and I am seriously worried Bobby is going to kill his baby brother. 

The only thing I'm going to have to do now is keep them separated. No more crawling around together on the floor, no more baby playing in Bobby's room, no more letting Bobby hang out in baby's crib while I cook breakfast. Nope. Baby is going to have to be in the carrier at all times unless Bobby is restricted somehow (he seems to want his high chair again which is awesome) or just put in another room and left to scream there until I can come pick him up. It's all horrible but it's the only way to keep him safe right now. And the only way to keep me from smacking the shit out of his older brother.

How did we get here? He used to be so sweet and kind, giving baby his pacifier and wanting him to be put on the floor so they could "cwawl awound". Then all of a sudden this week pushing his brother onto the floor, stomping on his chest, smacking his head, kicking his head when he's standing up. Awful! I've yelled, I've begged, I've bargained, I've said I understand how he feels, I've modeled proper behavior so he knows what to do instead, and now I've hit him to get his attention and nothing stops the behavior. So for now I just have to separate them. That's all there is to it.

Of course right at this time I had to listen to a podcast about the Uni Bomber and how his brother turned him in and how toxic their relationship was - and now I'm terrified my boys are never going to get along and instead are going to grow up constantly fighting and hating each other. We got off to such a good start and now...I don't know. Let's hope this is just some weird phase. Bobby also hauled off and smacked me across the face the other day, too, which he hadn't done in ages. What gives?

Don't tell me he needs more love and attention and special time from me without the baby. That's all we fucking do. I'm beginning to wonder if all this attention focused on Bobby is what created this monster. 

Right now I am that frazzled, impatient, angry, raggedy single mother I never wanted to be. Regretting everything. Hating my life. It sucks. I am utterly exhausted and worn out and there's no relief in sight. Just more of the same, day after day. Once Theo is too big to be carried or restrained I honestly don't know what I'm going to do. I feel like in a very short time it's going to be like living with a lion and a tiger in my house. 

I hate to say it but I so wish I'd had girls. I am entirely unprepared for this amount of aggressive male energy and I really, really hate it. The constant destruction, climbing the walls, and now this aggression towards me and the helpless sweet baby (who in a few months will morph into a little destruction machine, too) just makes me want to cry. 

Oh yeah - Happy Thanksgiving. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Whatever gets you through the night

My voyage on the living room couch continues. T has been sleeping twelve hours straight for weeks now, other than the occasional coughing fit. One night last week it was so bad I went in and nursed him, then busted out the nose frida to clear his runny nose, then set up the humidifier. We have all had this cold for what seems like forever, with Theo having it the worst. I keep panicking and googling his symptoms to see if I'm being neglectful in not taking him to the doctor (remember I have zero experience with this) but everything I read tells me he's fine and it's just a cold. All of our noses run every day all day - which says to me we're all allergic to something in or around this house. I don't do anything about it because I have no intention of putting a two year old through an allergy panel just to be told it's something in the air that I could medicate him daily for, which I won't do. I mean, it's annoying but it's just a runny nose. 

So I'm still on the couch even though at this point I don't think T would wake up and see me there and want to be picked up. I haven't decided about moving back into my room. One, I kind of like being sentinel out in the front room - if anyone tries to break in the front door they'd have to deal with me and my mace first before getting to the kids. Two, I get the fireplace and the TV and the ability to listen to podcasts on my phone to go to sleep. Three, T still wakes up way too early for me so I can sleep an hour or two later while he hangs out in the crib (sometimes happily, sometimes not so happily). I can't say that I am getting a full night's sleep although I am probably getting more sleep than I give myself credit for. I still wake up a lot. Call it hormones, anxiety about being away from the baby or anything else going on, or just the weirdness of being in the living room on the couch, but lengthy stretches of sleep still elude me. Is it better than being the open all night milk bar? Heck yeah. 

Last night I had a horrible nightmare that I had a maxed-out credit card (I actually pay my bill in full every month and have for years - I'm what the credit industry calls a "deadbeat" because they can't make any money off me, ha!) and a maxed-out line of credit, and my event lost a couple hundred attendees because of my price hike. Oh, it was awful! And it felt so real because this was my exact scenario in 2001 when I was paying over $1200 a month just to keep up with the minimum payments on all my debts. It sucked. And yet that same year I was somehow able to buy this house with no money down, and a few years later experience a real boom for my event that back then looked like it was on its last legs at only four years old.

You just never know what the future holds. Let's hope it's something good, for all of us!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The secret of how to get toddlers to eat apparently douse everything with ketchup. The last couple of nights B has positively cleaned his plate - a big plate with veggie meatballs, mini popovers I baked, and bought spinach bites - and I'm pretty sure it was because of the ketchup I added as an afterthought. A quick Facebook post on the topic confirms that apparently everyone knows this trick except me. I'm not much of a condiment person (I'm pretty sure this ketchup is from the first Obama administration) so I find this a bit baffling. But hey - if that's what it takes to get B to eat real food and not just yogurt for dinner, bring it on.

Oh, and here is B's first school picture! Ain't he just the cutest?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Food Issues and Other Minefields

Re-wiring one's brain is hard. I did this years ago to combat depression and anxiety (you wouldn't know it reading this blog lately, but trust me, it used to be way worse, and by "it" I mean "me") and am now attempting to do it again to be a better parent. It's hard work. But I'm determined to get there.

I'm proud to announce I've gotten a lot better about not snapping at B when he gets really out of control and tantrum-y. Several times over the last few days when I could see that ol' train a-comin' I would instead take a second to quell my own instinct to either slap him (have never hit him and never would), throw him in his room (did this twice), or just snap at him to knock it off, and instead would go hug him and ask what he needs. It's incredible how quickly this stops the tantrum train! He has enough language to tell me now which makes this approach possible. And I can tell by what he wants that the tantrum started by his perception (often correct) that I'm not listening to him or can't understand him. I've done the what do you need/hug approach enough lately that he now will say "I need a hug, I need a hug!!!" when he feels himself getting upset. It's pretty awesome. Why can't things always be like this??? Well, because my brain still goes to the angry place too easily. When someone is whining at you over something you think is unimportant and stupid you just want them to shut up. But there's a better way to get there. I just need practice!

I appreciated the suggestions about mealtime battles. I love the idea that when it comes to food, we as parents decide the when, what, and where, but the toddler decides whether or how much. This is another area where I seriously have to get out of my own way. I find it absolutely maddening when B doesn't eat, or doesn't eat enough, despite the fact that he's gaining weight and thriving. So...why am I so bothered? I think it's a few reasons. One is just my normal, cave mom instinct that if he doesn't eat he will die, which is a tough one to quiet. Then it's the fact that I love to cook and always fantasized about enjoying meals with my children, but I know this reality is many years away and that depresses me. Finally, to me food is love (you could call it my "love language") so on some level when B rejects food it makes me feel personally rejected. I know that sounds stupid, but it's deep in there, I think. I'll never forget the time I slaved all day to make Thanksgiving dinner for an old boyfriend only to have him make fun of the whole thing and tell me everything that was wrong with it. Talk about feeling rejected!

So I'm trying some new things when it comes to food - things that are so simple that I should have done ages ago but just haven't had the balls to - such as setting a time limit for eating, enforcing the "eat what I give you or forget it", and then trying to not be upset and disappointed by the amount of food waste/rejection that goes on. It's not personal even though it feels personal. Tonight I actually got him to eat this curried rice and lentil dish I'd made for myself. He didn't eat a lot of it, but he did eat some, which is something. I think I'm just going to keep trying adult food and see what happens. I am terrified of becoming one of these moms who only feeds her kids macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. Seriously, I can do better than that! 

The food thing is a work in progress and is very emotional for me. It reminds me of a clip from one of my favorite This American Life episodes called "Are You Going to Eat That?" in which a father recounts his frustration at his anorexic daughter's refusal of food; he says that as a parent his one job in life is to provide food for his children to keep them alive, so it just killed him inside and made him feel like such a failure when she refused to eat. 

Oh, the things we do to our parents that we can't even fathom! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Eight months

Hard to believe a mere eight months ago today I was writhing in agony in a hospital bed. Feels like a million years ago.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's business time

I've been neglecting my business horribly and now it's nearly December. I decided I need to nail down everything - bands, themes, schedules, teachers - by Dec 1 so people can start thinking about signing up Feb 1 and I can think about paying my $@!?! bills.

After two months of lame procrastination about firing this year's dance floor rental guy (I drafted a harsh letter, then tamed it down, then had friends read and edit it, then didn't send it), he finally called today and asked if I could make a decision about next year by January so he wouldn't have to store the floor - he said he planned on recycling it. I told him yes, I had decided not to use it again. He said ok. We said goodbye. That was it. In the end as much as I wanted to stick it to him for how much this floor was a disaster (people are still talking about it on Facebook...ughhhh) and even more so for that awful confrontation we had, I think this way is really best. He knows he screwed up. He took the financial hit way worse than I did. I'm sure he's totally embarrassed by the whole thing. I'm going to have to see him every time I sing or go out dancing from now on. So it's best to just let the petty stuff go and keep it friendly. I'm a true believer that less is more when it comes to stuff like this, so it's probably a good thing I chickened out and didn't send the letter. 

I once wrote a very angry, spiteful letter to my mother and never sent it, too, and boy am I glad I didn't!

The holiday season is upon us and I'm kind of getting into it. I am pinning new candy recipes and planning on upping my game with actual gift boxes and candy molds. I'm also psyched to decorate this house non-pregnant - no more fears of tripping/falling/over-exerting myself. It is truly a pleasure to be once again able to not drink enough water, not eat enough protein, forget to take a vitamin, eat sugar and carbs, and not worry about it affecting a little helpless being in your belly. Of course I'm not really off the clock until I stop breastfeeding, but for now I relish the freedom. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Battening the hatches

After posting last night I got notified of a post on my neighborhood FB group about more break-ins - then joined a website called Next Door where you are connected to neighbors talking about community stuff, and yes, we are experiencing a bit of a crime wave around here. This is what happens when you vote to release non-violent criminals early from prison, people. I called the cops and they said they have seen an uptick in burglaries and other petty crimes, and that a recent bill passing has caused a flood of criminals back on our streets. Awesome.

At least the officer told me they have stepped up patrols and are very aware of the situation, so that made me feel better. And after two weeks of being given the runaround by various companies I finally got a guy over to start my replacement bars and (at my sister's suggestion) a new, more intimidating front gate. There will be a lock on it and I won't hesitate to use it if I ever feel uncomfortable - I wish I could keep it locked all the time but with a pool guy, gardener, mailman, and utility guys coming to check the meter, it's not really practical. But at night to keep random solicitors off my porch? Absolutely.

For those who have asked I do have an alarm, with a big sign, and the alarm is on all the time, even when I'm home. I couldn't live without it! At least I know if I'm out and a door is compromised that I'll get a phone call, or if someone has opened a door the keypad will show me that something's not right. Which is all the more irritating that that guy had the balls to come up to my house with bars on all the windows and a big alarm sign. Seriously, go pick on someone else!

But for now I feel a bit better. I'm doing all I can do to secure our home, and I have awesome gay neighbors who will kick anyone's ass, so I really have nothing to worry about until there's something to worry about. I sleep with my new mace next to my pillow and won't hesitate to spray a bitch. 

Right now Bumpus is in his bed in his dark bedroom saying "penis!" over and over again. Life goes on, huh?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Feeling vulnerable

A lot of big, emotional things have been going on around here lately. Not in our family, but just in general. Between the weirdness around feeling unsafe at home, the fire last week, and my friend dying in a car crash, it's just been an odd, uneasy time.

Went to the friend's funeral. He was just a year older than me and fell asleep while driving late at night. I have never been to a funeral of someone who died young and tragically. We packed the tiny church with about 400 people. I'm sure his family were shocked by the outpouring of love from so many people. I didn't intend to cry my eyes out - to be honest I didn't know him that well - but of course the cocktail of religious songs and verses, other people crying, and thinking about one of my boys dying before me, made me break down. I feel like as a mother of small children that death is at the door all the time - only just now am I able to sleep (if you can call it that) apart from Theo; even with the monitor right by my head I still live in terror of something happening in the night. I know much of this comes from past trauma - loss, abandonment - but I also know this is normal for most parents. I try not to live in the what ifs because that's not a good place to be, but every night I worry that Theo will not make it through the night, and every day I drop B at school I worry that something will happen and I'll never see him again. There, I said it. I worry about losing them all the time. 

It doesn't help that we had yet another weird incident here at the house last night - the kids were in bed and I was watching TV, it was just past 8 PM and there was a knock at my door. I look out and there's a young guy there, who immediately launches into this spiel about wanting to get my name, address, and phone number so someone can call me and sell me a newspaper subscription - but they also need proof of ID from me, preferably in the form of a canceled check. He just rambled on and on while I tried to figure out how to get rid of him - I didn't open the door, but didn't want to piss him off, either. When he finally stopped and asked if I wanted to participate I said, "sorry, no, sorry," and then ran into the kitchen until I heard my front gate close. I googled the scenario - the whole needing a canceled check BS - and sure enough found this is a common scam, although one friend of mine said that she actually did this once and the guy was in fact legit.

But I feel very vulnerable. Between the guy poking around up here a couple of weeks ago, now this kid, even the fire the other night - I just feel like something is up in the neighborhood, like we're being targeted. Now, I could just be overreacting - it's not like this was the first supposed high school kid who's come to my door asking me to help them earn money for college - but it just puts me on edge. Can people please stop coming up the three flights of stairs to my house and leave me in peace? Even better, can people stop pretending they're not criminals trying to hurt me? Or at least not pick on the totally broke and stressed out single mother of two little kids and mess with someone who has the support system to handle being messed with???

I'm going to call the cops again tomorrow (called last night but was put on hold for an eternity) to just tell them what's been happening and see if we can get some cruisers over here or something. Whatever this dark cloud around here is will probably pass eventually, but man, the sooner, the better!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Never a dull moment

You know those dream sequences in movies where the dreamer keeps hearing this really annoying beeping noise and then they wake up and it's their alarm clock? That happened to me last night. I was having this epic dream and kept hearing this series of beeps. Finally I woke up but could still hear it, and thought maybe it was an alarm clock somewhere in the house and was about to get up and look for it to turn it off when I heard a commotion at the neighbors' house - people slamming doors and dogs barking, then a man yelling, "fire! Fire!!!" I looked out the window and saw a huge pillar of fire in the sky. It was next to my right side neighbors, just two doors down. I went out to the back yard (it seemed to be focused on the back roof and porch) and watched it with the people who were unfortunate enough to be right next door. They said everyone got out all right, but it was a huge blaze - I mean this place I've been looking at from my back yard for thirteen years was fully engulfed in flames. It's a large old Craftsman fourplex. Just then the firemen got there and went to work. According to news reports they had it out in 45 minutes. I was up until sunup with all the adrenaline and noise (I woke at about 4AM). Today there was a contractor's van out front and a huge pile of debris and charred wood in their yard; then later a U Haul with a few things thrown in it and some people milling around. I feel so bad for them. Along with illness, car accidents and burglaries, a house fire is way up there on my list of things that would seriously fuck everything up right now. I wonder what caused it, if everyone really did make it out, including pets? I may never know. 

In other news, Bumpus went poopy on the potty last night. Oh, and my band has been asked to play NY's Lincoln Center next June. So, count that as my goal for my first ever trip sans children. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

First of many parent-teacher meetings

I had my very first parent-teacher conference today. I was curious how B is at school and also wanted to talk about potty training. I stress out when I see moms of younger boys bragging about how they are "fully potty trained!" and always wonder if there's something I'm supposed to be doing that I'm not. I still have this weird memory of going to some acting school when I was a kid (about six maybe?) and my mother coming into the one-stall bathroom with me just so she could go, too, and the other kids teasing me incessantly about how I supposedly still needed my mother to help me in the bathroom. I don't want it to get to the point where B feels like he's behind the other boys in that area (although I know he's young yet).

They said he's showing signs of interest but isn't there yet - not remaining dry for any significant portion of the day and showing only sporadic interest in the potty (just like at home). So at least I don't have to feel like he's ready and I'm failing him somehow. He has only just in the past few days asked me to change him. He's getting there. 

Otherwise they gave a glowing report and said he's a joy to have in class - his language is a bit behind but since he's progressing all the time they're not concerned about it. It's just not his strong point. I can live with that.

I was curious about his pushing/possessiveness of toys, but they seemed to think this was normal. It does make me wonder how they address the parents of the "bad" kids - in today's hypersensitive environment I somehow don't see them saying, "so, your kid is the class bully," but if they don't bring it up, how would you know...? I definitely wonder about the class dynamics and how all the kids relate to each other. But there isn't a polite way to ask that really. 

In other news, as the open enrollment period draws ever near for health insurance (11/15), much to my chagrin, I discovered that the Kaiser guy who told me I could get all three of us under my awesome plan if I just inflated my income a little, turned out to be utterly full of shit. I would have to make $55,000 to get the kids off MediCal, and at that point our premiums would be out of control expensive. So I am back to plan A which is getting Bobby back on Kaiser paying full price out of pocket. So instead of saving $300+ a month I will be paying $100 more than I am paying now. As mentioned before, I just can't seem to catch a break financially lately. 

Operation Mom Sleeps on the Couch is going swimmingly. The last couple of nights T has slept all night without waking. Unfortunately my sleep still sucks since I have trouble falling asleep, wake up multiple times a night, and then pop awake before 7 AM (thanks to the time change). So at the moment I'm worse off than I was before. But I will continue this plan and, if all goes as it has been, wend my way back to the bed and see if T stays asleep or if my presence starts waking him again. If not, it's couch city for me for a while yet.

Monday, November 3, 2014


Despite dire predictions, Halloween was actually kind of fun. I hauled our butts out of bed early for B's school Halloween parade, and I'm glad I did. Even though B was pretty subdued (nearly all of the kids were - I think they didn't quite grasp the concept), I would have felt awful if we skipped it just because I didn't want to get up early. They marched the kids around in a circle and then had snacks. Apparently there was a snack sign up sheet I totally missed. Oops.

Killed time while B was at school and then headed to a friend's house for a small party and trick or treating in their (far nicer) neighborhood. This seems to be an LA thing - leave your shit-ass neighborhood to descend upon one where people pay 4x the property taxes for the privilege of giving your kids candy. Somehow I managed to keep B in the stroller while the other, older kids ran up to the houses. I just couldn't handle a crying baby and a two-year-old on the loose in the dark with hoards of people milling around. It was exhausting pushing the recalcitrant double stroller uphill and carrying the baby in the rain, but B was having such a good time, and I was enjoying his enjoyment so much, that it was really ok. Got home by nine, kids in bed, feet up in front of the telly, nice cuppa. Not bad. 

Got the terrible news that a fellow swing promoter I've known some 20-odd years fell asleep at the wheel and died Thursday night. Funeral Sunday. The whole community is in shock and sad. 

I've taken to sleeping on the couch all night with the baby monitor on to see what T does. When I sleep in the bed next to him he wakes up and stands up every hour or two until I pick him up. That had to stop. Not surprisingly, after three nights in the couch last night he only woke up once. My goal is to have him not wake up at all and make my way back to the bed eventually. I wish I could say I am getting better sleep, but it has not happened yet. Out of habit I pop awake every couple of hours, and now with the &@$! time change we're all awake at 6 AM (!). Hopefully this will change back soon! We were on a really nice late schedule there for a while. If I can just get the sleep all night/sleep in thing together, I'll be golden.

Today I decided to join a Y so I can get back to yoga. Family plans are fairly cheap and free child care! I think returning to yoga could do a lot for my shitty attitude lately. I need to get my zen on.