Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Steps to the Steps

Stairs. Every parent's nightmare. Living in a cape code style home we have been able to shut the stairs away ignoring the danger they hold if discovered. Lately Jackson has become determined to venuture into the world of things we hide from him. Grown up stuff, dangerous stuff, small stuff, un-babyproofed stuff, and a giant fluffy bed to jump on. It is a toddler dream world and our nightmare. I watched as he used his sweet little sister's newfound playtime in a saucer to maneuver himself into the stairs. He has finally mastered opening the door and is racing up and down the steps faster than we can say "ER trip". The deconstructing of the stairs happened in a calculated and methodical way. 

Step 1: discover that Cece's saucer is on wheels and moves. Wheel her from the kitchen where Mom is trying to make something that resembles dinner. The saucer is now perfectly placed in front of the upstairs door. 


Step 2: Climb on saucer. Carefully avoid stepping on little sister so she won't cry and alert Mom to plan. Success: little sister is still cooing and smiling. Turn door knob, triggering clicking sound indicating door is now un latched. Try to open door. Oops, the saucer is blocking the entry way. 


Step 3: Climb down from saucer. Door is still open. Roll saucer away from door. Sister is still smiling and Mom is still attempting to adult in the kitchen. Open door. Look at Mom. Cue shit grin. 


Step 4: Eye contact made: Mom is on to the plan. Squeel with delight and run like hell up the stairs so she has to give into the chase. Repeat plan over and over and over again. 


Saturday, September 26, 2015

This is Actually Happening

This is actually happening.  I mutter to myself yet again today. Jackson takes his pants off and is running. We are in midst of a no-pants rebellion: diaper optional. I watch him climb on the couch-with his “diaper that probably needed changed an hour ago” sag, look at me and fall forward. I have no choice but to jump out of my seat and catch him.  What are you thinking?!  I yell as if that will make him stop. Clearly, it has now become a game. As I play the “jump out of my seat and catch floppy toddler” game over, and over, and over, and over, and over again I start to realize my life has become a series of “this is actually happening” moments. Like a surreal dream; when the hell did I end up here?

Josh: Whats wrong?
Me: (sobbing) I’m pregnant
Josh: That’s awesome!
Me: seriously? Awesome? Four kids. What is wrong with us?

I sat in the all too familiar OBGYN chair. Naked from the waist down with the giant paper towel wrapped around my bottom so that half my unshaven leg is hanging out. I take one look at my stomach, still mushy from having Jackson and think “who the hell would ever want to have sex with this”.  Doctor Amber comes in the room and starts going over the standard pregnancy protocol. Blah, blah, blah- heard it. I think still wondering how I ended up back in this chair. When its time for my ultrasound I wait for her to tell me some reason in which she was mistaken and I wasn’t pregnant. She takes out the giant blue dildo thingy. (sorry that is the only way I can think to describe the ultra sound machine they use in the first few months). I laugh at how Josh and I didn’t realize how exactly it worked after I got pregnant with Jackson. We started making super immature jokes about it and were completely mortified when the doctor gave me the extra invasive ultrasound. Josh isn’t there for this one. We have a one year old at home..and we both somehow didn’t think this pregnancy was real. I look at the monitor and I am confused. “Are those arms? And legs?” I ask Dr. Amber. I remember my first ultrasound from Jackson. He was a blob that we were hoping had a heartbeat. But this was a blob with a head, and appendages. “Yes they are.” She says. “How far along am I?” I ask, not even feeling the slightest bit irresponsible. “About twelve weeks.” She smiles. “This is happening.” I say.  This is actually happening.

Fast forward nine months. I am still living that episode called “greatest moments in disbeleif”. I just step back and watch the chaos unfold. I did the solo parent challenge: taking all four kids somewhere without the help of the other parent. Josh was working and Liv wanted to go to open gym to practice her routine. One hour: I can do this”. I try to convince myself. Two teens, two babies and 1 Mom. May the odds be ever in my favor. I was concerned since Jackson was asleep in the stroller. It was 7 on a Friday night and this 9-5er was exhausted. If he slept too long, it could be a Oh-Toodles at midnight kinda evening followed by Oh-Toodles with the sunrise kinda Saturday morning. Halfway through Liv’s class he was still asleep.

Me: I am going to wake him for a bit. Maybe he can run around this building for a bit
Layla: Don’t do it. he is so bad
Me: But I really want him to sleep later
Layla: It’s a bad idea. I am warning you.
Me: I know. I know. I am going to regret this.

The idea of him sleeping later was worth the risk of letting him out to roam free in a rec center. Right? I handed Cece to Layla. She was mostly asleep. “Hey Buddy.” I say in Jackson’s ear. He smiles and opens his eyes. It took a few minutes to take in all the toddlering that can go on in this building. He eyes the gym mats and yells to be taken out of his stroller. I have now caught the attention of all the other parents. While made of the best intentions and adoration, I often get the “you are so brave; I am so glad I don’t have four kids” smile from other parents. I let him out and let him climb on the gym mats while the instructor isn’t looking. Then she looks over and I flash the “oops..toddler. haha” smile and scoop him up. The rec center has lots of hallways for him to run in. Having middle schoolers around, I have come to be well acquainted with the magical union of toddler and school hallway. Its a living maze and his little legs can’t navigate it fast enough. I direct him toward the hallway. There is a detour I wasn’t expecting: elevator. Why are the buttons so low??? I ask to the air.  He hits the button and the door immediately opens. “Crap!” I say to Layla and run after him. I slide onto the elevator like I am stealing a base. He is really proud of himself now as the door closes. He hits the alarm button. No!! I yell. I hear dispatch interference and dispatch voices. I hear important words like “fire station” “alarm button hit” “I am yelling, “No. I am so sorry. No emergency.” Finally someone addresses me. “hello. What is  your emergency?” the elevator asks me. “I am so sorry, so sorry, no emergency. My son. toddler. Mistake.” I can hear the elevator sign in annoyance as it opens the doors and I get off.  This actually happening. This just happened. I stepped off the elevator as if it didn’t happen.  Jackson started running down the hallway and found an empty basket ball court. I grabbed a ball and started dribbling around him. I even impressed him by (almost) making a free throw. We spent the rest of the time playing chase, dribble, catch and run in the gym.  It was a sweet moment I got to have with him. Mom and son, its so new to me. I have three daughters. One sister. My mom has two sisters and my dad has five…so yeah, lots of girls. Sometimes I wonder if I am bit ill prepared to mother a son. Then we have these organic little moments and I start to understand the dynamic.  Me: Figuring out how to mother a son: this is actually happening. 



Monday, September 14, 2015


I have a teenager now. I had planned on writing a post about how challenging life with teenagers can be. They are stinky, lazy, self-centered, eye rolling, oversleeping, food sucking machines. I could go on and on about how suddenly I am afraid to walk I her bedroom in fear that one mess, or pile of our entire collection of dinner plates laying on the floor, will just set me off in a way that I am not prepared for. I could tell a story about how much her life revolves around anime, drawing and not doing any chores with out a preemptive deep sigh.

Layla: Can you please, please buy me those Pokémon socks?
Me: seriously?
Layla: they are only fourteen dollars. Puh-leese?? I am begging you. I will do anything. I promise - as soon as we get home I will clean my room. I will do extra chores, dishes, take out the trash. Anything you want.
Me: How about this. I have to come back to the mall in a few days. You clean your room and do a few extra chores and I will buy you the socks.
Layla: well, I don’t want them that bad

I want to complain about how much she minipulates her little sister to do all her work. As a big sister, i am astounded by the things she has Olivia do for her. She wakes her up, packs her lunch and has even been known to turn a page while lazy girl reads. 

Olivia: Seriously Layla, I do everthing for you. What is going to happen when we are older? I am going to have to come to your house. Clean your rooom. Do your laundry and feed your ten cats. 

While everyday life with a hormonal teenage daughter has been challenging and a constant battle of wits, I cant help but feel overwhelming nostalgia for the part of her I will never get back again. I am talking about that baby she used to be. Layla was always overly grown up, even at eighteen months when she just wanted to draw pictures instead of going outside. But she was always my smart, introverted little girl. While she was at guitar lessons tonight, we took the two little ones for a walk in our old neighborhood. This was the neighborhood that Layla was born in and we lived until she was eleven months. It was our first family home. The little playground at the dead end of the street was the first time she ever felt the tummy tickle that comes from being pushed in a swing.

Everything about Layla’s thirteenth birthday has made me nostalgic. It is because I am so excited for her. Thirteen…the official start to the self-discovery of becoming an adult. She is at the eve of her first date, first kiss and first heartbreak. Soon she will learn to drive and go off to college. She is still in the optimistic half of her life and has a wide-open future. I want to be thirteen again, not for awkwardness or the cliques or the self-consciousness but for the freedom to think that anything is possible.

Layla: I want to be an artist, or a video game designer, or an astronomer. Will I make a lot of money doing any of those things?
Me: if you are worried about making money doing what you love then I have failed as a parent.

Walking through the park tonight brought me to that nostalgic place I needed to be. It brought me out of the self-pity funk I was feeling; the standard “my daughter is old; I am old” pity party I throw myself. It reminded me of the child I was when I had her and the fear I had that I would somehow not be good enough as a parent because I was young, inexperienced and broke. Looking at the landscape that hasn’t changed in the last thirteen years, I am reminded of how far we have come. Me and that sweet baby girl that put a halt on life as I knew it. I hugged her and sang the same verse of “Layla” I do every year. “Like a fool, I fell in love with you; you turned my whole world upside down”. Thank you sweet girl. Thank you.





Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Nineties Paged

Liv: Mom- look! Its fruit loops. We have to have those!
Me: Why. Fruit loops are annoying. They always dry to the side of the bowl and are impossible to wash
Liv: because Shaq is on the box
Me: really? Shaq. Do you even know who that is?
Liv: no. But he looks cool.
Me: I will buy you these. But I am also making you watch Kazaam when we get home.

Lately it seems like things that were left in another time have suddenly made reappearance. I am talking about the nineties. The decade that I went from a shy awkward forth grader to a ready-to-take on-the-world (or at least Y2K) college student. Every generation has that decade, the one where everything changed. For me that is the nineties. Suddenly, I can relate to how my parents felt when I started wearing bell-bottoms and tie-dyes. I am pretty sure adulthood begins the moment you sympathize with your parents, so I guess I am finally growing up. Childhood: we have officially come to the end of the road. (And I can’t let go. Its unnatural, you belong to me and I belong to you….) If having a thirteen year old daughter is one constant reminder of what it was like to be thirteen then having these trinkets of my formative years around is meant to take me back to those years so I can relate to what she is going through

I should have started off by saying that I am obsessed with these little nineties novelties that keep trickling back into my world. A quick peek on the Urban Outfitters web page is a flash back to the issues of "Seventeen" I had taped all over my walls. Plaid, chunky heels, high wasted light jeans, Keds, Birkenstocks, Doc Martins, mauve, baby doll dresses, Nirvana Ts - it is a 90s bubble bursting all around and somehow they fit perfectly into mom life. What is the best kind of purse for wearing a baby? A backpack purse of course; coupled with a hip belt. (What the kids are calling a fanny pack these days) And the jeans. Call them what you want, slim high wasted, high rise skinnies, extra high rise; they are fucking mom jeans. Delivered straight to us from the cast of 90210 and I need to figure out how to wear them to cover my stay-puffed post baby mom bod. I love heels. Some days more than my kids. Heels are sexy and make me feel amazing and skinny. But they dont always fit into hard core momming. So I got the anti-heel, the thing deflates any shoe boner; a pair of Birkenstocks. Don’t get me wrong, they are like walking in heaven but they are rather clunky. Luckily they are  festival sheik for the summer so watch out Coachella..here come the Taylors.  Grunge may be the best friend of mom bod. Overalls- perfect for hiding that extra layer of fat that forms around the belly. Plaid shirts- loose and no clingy. Bonus: wrap them around the waist to cover muffin top. Head to toe black: could there be a more slimming color? (Insert chandler Bing voice).

Me: is that kid wearing a Nirvana shirt?
Layla: yeah. Lots of kids have that shirt
Me: do you even know who Nirvana is?
Layla: (snickers) one of the teachers asked a kid that. He bet that kid couldn’t name five Nirvana songs.

I look at my kids and their smartphones and their insta-duck faces and wonder how our lives would be if we had all this futuristic technology. Don’t get me wrong, I had the ultimate of 1996 technology..the pager. It was the original text message machine. How else can you send your friends a message to call you back..911 911; or just send the word “boobs” all in numbers 80085. Nothing says serious relationship like 143 (I love you) or tells all your friends you are ready to “relax” - 420. For $5 a month, I looked just like a doctor or a drug dealer. Not to mention I did my part in keeping the payphone industry going as long as I could. Looking back, it is probably best I didn't own a smart phone in high school. (insert selfie of me drinking a Jack Daniel's cooler, sporting the bleach blonde  Rachel and a belly shirt and extra wide JNCO cords flashing an extra white girl "West Side" sign)

Does anyone else feel nostalgic for the CD? And not the actual medium itself. All of mine skipped ; probably because I had the portable CD hookup in my car so every time I hit a bump it would advance to the next song or create an instant remix. But I used to actually listen to my CDs. From beginning to end. Now I buy single songs here and there or listen to some mix that was created especially for me because I like some other song. I have “Dark Side of the Moon” on my phone. If I listen to the album it will shuffle by default. Has anyone else ever listened to “Dark Side of the Moon” on shuffle? It’s just not the same. And what about "Jagged Little Pill"? Can you even find the hidden track by downloading the album, or is the only way to find that little secret gem to wait twelve minutes after the CD is over? I rediscovered the beauty of listening to whole albums the way I used to when I would buy a brand new CD.  I guess I am even in a hurry to get through my music so much that I don’t hear everything and am really missing out. If the CD is a metaphor for my modern life, then I need to slow down and experience a whole album the way the artist intended. No shuffle, no single download.

Layla: I love these jeans. Look at this fun new print
Me: That is called stone wash.
Layla: really?
Me: yes, that’s the kind of jeans we wore when I  was a kid.
Layla: oh wow. Lemme guess, you are going to tell me how you feel old? 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Just Add Water

There is a water obsession going on at the Taylor house. It is as much a part of our family as the dog or the cat. It started with Layla’s strange fear of running water. Every bath night was a struggle. If she was anywhere near the bathroom when I turned tub faucet it would end in hysterics and no bath. “TURN THE WATER OFF!!!” She would shriek.  It didn’t help that her bedroom was across from the bathroom so I would have to be extra sneaky in my tactics. I would wait until she was engrossed in something like drawing or talking to her Care Bears to start my plan. Turn on the TV for added noise. When she wasn’t looking I would sneak into the bathroom and shut the door. I slowly put on the faucet so that she wouldn’t hear. I wait a few minutes until there was an adequate amount of water for her to clean herself. Before having Layla, I assumed the best way to get clean was to use the running faucet water and not the sitting bath water that was most likely filled with body dirt. But then again, I am not a fan of taking a bath at all. I am sure Layla spent the first five or so years of her life not getting totally clean..but at least she would let me wash her. Once the tub was filled and the water was off, I would go into her room and announce it was bath time. She would happily get in the tub like the water fear was never a thing.   Sportscaster: In the 5th round of Mom vs. Toddler, Mom goes for the sneak bath. Mom takes this one.

Layla was a very hesitant swimmer. She didn’t want her face anywhere near the water as if she had been drowned in a past life. It took her two sessions of swim lessons before she would go under. Water activities like sprinklers or water balloons were not fun for her. There was a slip ‘n slide incident ended with the F-Bomb heard around the world. My brother in law took her for a slide into the little pool and her face hit the water. She stood up in a fury I have never seen on her before. “Teddy”. She yelled. “You make me so fucking mad!”     Sportscaster: In the 50th round of Mom vs. Toddler – Toddler uses mom’s favorite word in front of family, friends and grandparents. Toddler wins this one by a landslide.

Liv immediately took to the pool. Her first impression of a pool was to immediately jump right in, not even stopping to think about it. No matter how many times I had to fish her out of water that was too deep, she never had a fear for swimming. I got reprimanded by the sixteen year-old life guard at the pool one summer. “Ma’am,” he said looking at eighteen month Olivia and over to three year old Layla who was sitting in the shallowest part of the water playing cautiously to her self. Liv was trying to squirm her way into the deep end. “you need to keep your kids with in arms length of you. Both of them.” He added. “Gotcha.” I said with a slight sprinkle of sarcasm. I knew Layla’s fear of the water would keep her in that spot all day if I let her  and Livs lack of fear would have her throwing a tantrum to go off the diving board if I let her. I hope he ended up with a Liv one day and had to keep track of her at the crowded pool. Another time, We were at a friends house who had a back yard pool and a slide. I was chatting away with the other moms while the kids all hovered around the shallow end. They were all kindergarteners/first graders so they had a limited skillset with swimming that didn’t include the deep end yet but they had a fear of it that kept parents confident they would stay in the shallow end. “Wow, your daughter can go in the deep ends?” one of the mothers asked. I realized she was talking to me when I saw Olivia fly down the slide into the deep end. I mom-ninjaed over to the side of the pool just in time to fish her out of the deep end as she realized she couldn’t swim.  Sportscaster: In the 75th round of Mom vs. Toddler, Toddler shows of bad momming to strangers and other moms. This is a win for Toddlers everywhere folks.

Liv’s water issues were a direct result from Layla’s fear of running water. She didn’t like running or sprinkling water. She was also a runner, so this began my water based parenting tactics. In her early toddlerhood, She would often run down the driveway and almost into the street before I would catch her. Of course the act of chasing a toddler only makes them want to do it even more. So with a determination, anytime I wasn’t looking she took off. Our driveway was an L Shape and our deck was right at the corner. One day I was spraying the deck with the hose when she started her descent into the street. I didn’t mean to but, I turned to yell at her with the hose still on and she got sprayed. She screamed and turned and ran the other way,  toward the back yard. Spraying my kid may make me seem like a terrible mom, but it was for her own safety. And it only took a few times.  They would play outside and I would sit at the corner of the deck with the hose. If she started to run, I would spray. If she kept running she got wet, if she turned and went into the back yard she stayed dry. Sportscaster: In the 101st round of mom versus toddler, mom busts out a secret weapon – the hose! This round goes to Mom!

Jackson is both fascinated and annoyed by water. After I had Cece, Jackson realized acting out was a good way to get us to put the baby down and chase him. So basically, Jackson punished us for having a baby by extra toddlering. He would climb on the end table and start to lean forward like he was going to fall unless I ran over to catch him. He would climb on the couch and try to pull the picture off the wall. If I set Cece down in her chair or swing, he would immediately climb on top of her and try to “hug” her. There was just. so. much. climbing - all the time. I had to come up with some way to get his attention since yelling “No, No”, swatting on the butt and pulling him away only made him want to do it even more. This game was getting old for me since I wasn’t winning at all. I remembered the hose technique with Olivia. Should I? No. That is mean. I am sitting in my recliner nursing Cece. He comes over and pulls the recline button sending me back and putting the foot rest out so he can climb on it via stepping on one of his trucks. I am still feeding Cece with her cradled on my right arm while awkwardly trying to get him off the chair with my left hand. He head butts my shoulder then hugs me, burrowing his face into my shoulder blade. I feel something sharp. “Owe!! Did you bit me?” I scream. He laughs and repeats the head butt into biting motion again. He looks at Cece, then me, and plops down next to her. He grabs one of her hands and gives her a little high five. “Awe, high five.” I say. Then he clenches his fist and punches her in the arm. She hesitates; then lets out a terrified scream. He looks at me and says “Uh-Oh”. “You’re a jerk!!” I scream. He smiles and gives me one more head butt bite hug. Yes, I should. I filled a water spray bottle and when he made the facetious climbing look - I sprayed it at him. The water hit his back and he looked at me with shock and betrayal. I am such a bad mom. I kept thinking. He stacked pillows only to try to reach a glass vase off the high shelf. Spray, spray. “No!” I said. He stopped what he was doing and moved on to playing with his trucks. That was too easy. Now, I don’t really need to spray him anymore. When he starts one of his ass hole behaviors, I grab the blue bottle and point it his way. He cowers for a second then finds something else to play with. Perhaps parenting is just missing a bit of water. Sportscaster: In the 1000th round of Mom vs. Toddler boy, mom deploys the spray bottle decoy. This is all Mom!

I am sitting outside with Jackson. It’s a quiet Sunday morning after a rainy night. It was going to be a steamy day but not for a few more hours. Jackson is running around the yard and I am drinking my coffee and jotting some ideas down in my journal. I want to keep up my weekly writing cadence so i promised myself I would have a post up by Sunday night each week and I even procrastinate on my own deadlines. Jackson waddles up the steps and finds one of his trucks filled with water from the rainstorm. He starts drinking the water. “Ewe. Gross. Ca-ca”. I say. He throws it and finds his bucket also filled with water. He drinks this too and looks at me, knowing I would react the same way. “No!” I yell and grab the bucket, dumping it on the deck. He belly flops onto the deck and starts lapping the water off the deck like a dog while smiling at me. Then he finds a flowerpot base with dirt and rainwater and laps that as well. “Seriously? I just cant. I cant,” I say to him,or the air. He is back to lapping up water off the deck. Perhaps toddlering is also missing a bit of water. Sportscaster: In the 5000th round of Mom vs. Toddler, Toddler realizes Mom can’t make all the water go away after it rains. If he dog can lap it off the deck, so can I. As usual, Toddler wins this one!