Sunday, April 27, 2008

How Sweet They Are

The day started out badly. Thing 1, who'd had a fever yesterday, threw up at the breakfast table. Thing 2 began making incessant demands while I was cleaning up after Thing 1. I had to rouse Dad during his usual Sunday morning sleep-in (we switch off: I get to sleep in Saturday, he gets Sunday) to help. It did not look like a promising day.

So we divided and conquered. Dad stayed home with Thing 1, administering TLC and cartoons. Late Blooming Mom hit the road with Thing 2, first to an awesome music class at Toddle Tunes in Westwood (you guys are great, btw), where Thing 2 got to try her hand at maracas, wave drums, and the violin, then to the mall -- not my fave place, but perfect on an unseasonably hot L.A. day. There, Thing 2 enjoyed her favorite lunch of late: Sbarro pizza and a banana-strawberry smoothie. This was followed by a couple of rides on a coin-operated merry-go-round; then the purchase of water shoes for summer (in pink, natch -- her favorite color). Thing 2 was insistent that we return at a later date to get water shoes for Thing 1. Then, when I suggested we go to the toy store in the mall to pick up something to cheer up Thing 1, she enthusiastically agreed. I let her play with the open toys while browsing the store, then picked out a gift she'll share with Thing 1, and miracle of miracles, we left the toy store without a fight.

Basking in my undivided attention, Thing 2 couldn't have been nicer all morning. The capper came when we got back to the car. When I buckled her into her car seat, Thing 2 insisted on giving me a kiss. And not just anywhere. Last night, while cooking dinner, I'd burned my chin when some hot oil spattered. So now, she insisted on kissing me "where it's burned," so I would "feel better."

I just about melted right on the spot.

When I got home, Thing 1 was already napping, but Daddy reported a similar account of his morning. Thing 1, though sick, perked up quickly once he realized he was getting a parent all to himself all morning. And just like Thing 2, he was as sweet as pie.

"We made a silk purse of a sow's ear today," Dad said. I had to agree. Something about not having to compete for attention had turned our siblings from impossibly demanding and petulant into huggy, kissy creatures capable of a spontaneous "I love you" and of thinking of each other too.

I suspect there will be a lot more one-to-one parenting on our weekends. Good for them, good for us. Good for the heart.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hollywood Takes Notice: Here They Come, The Late Blooming Mom Movies!

This weekend brings the opening of not one but two -- count 'em, two -- whole movies centered around women who want to -- or inadvertently become -- late-blooming moms. Given that the movie industry (in which I'm a tiny cog, part of a giant movie machine) has been largely blind to the phenomenon of women becoming later in life mothers, this is cause for rejoicing. Now let's hope they're actually good.

My money's on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's BABY MAMA to deliver on its promise. It's a comedy about a 37-year-old career women with a tilted uterus that means she can't get pregnant ... so she hires another woman to carry her baby. Early reviews have been good, and word has it this channels the spirit of the classic Neil Simon play and movie THE ODD COUPLE, with a gender-bending twist, and a more contemporary spirit. Supposedly Fey's character is not some cold-hearted, ambitious to the point of being a bitch career gal, but rather a much more realistic, warm and hard-working gal who is bumping up against infertility, and is smart enough and financially able to do something about it. This being a movie, I understand she also gets some romance in the form of Greg Kinnear. Apparently Sigourney Weaver is spot-on funny as the head of the surrogate pregnancy firm that puts the leads together, and Steve Martin does a hysterical star turn as the head of a crunchy granola food company where Fey works. John Hodgeman, egghead of THE DAILY SHOW, is the ob/gyn.

BABY MAMA is high on my want-to-see list, mostly because it sounds funny, but also because it's a high profile movie dealing with things like infertility, juggling career and the desire for mom-hood, and the fact that a lot of us don't come to mom-hood until after 35. It's about time we had a movie of our own. I don't guarantee it'll be good since I haven't seen it, but I hope it'll generate enough box office to convince the industry it's time for more movies with 35+ female leads and dealing with real issues. Check out the trailer for BABY MAMA here.

The other movie dealing with the later-in-life longing for mom-hood is THEN SHE FOUND ME, starring -- and directed by -- Helen Hunt, who was funny and endearing on TV's MAD ABOUT YOU, but has been kinda brittle and hard to take in the movies. She seems a bit warmer this time in the trailer (let's hope it's true in the whole film). Apparently in this movie, based on a novel by Elinor Lipman (a popular chick lit author), she plays a teacher left by her immature husband (played by MATTHEW BRODERICK), only to wind up pregnant by him when he briefly comes back, only by the time she realizes it, she's fallen for an irresistible single dad (COLIN FIRTH), whose kid she teaches. She's also adopted, and finds out her real mom is an advice-giving talk show host (played by BETTE MIDLER). I gotta admit, the supporting players are the bigger draw for me here -- who doesn't wanna fall in love with Colin Firth or hear Bette Midler be a brassy talk show host? Check out the trailer for THEN SHE FOUND ME here.

Full disclosure: I don't work for the companies behind EITHER of these movies, and had nothing to do with them professionally. I'm just a Late Blooming Mom happy that Hollywood has finally taken notice of us, at last.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Rails Are Off, Continued ...

So it's been about 3 weeks since we took a side off Thing 1's crib. His nocturnal wanderings haven't entirely gone away: we can count on him appearing in our bedroom every third or fourth night, sometime in the middle of the night, saying he's lost his binky. One time he said so even though it was still in his mouth.

But he IS going down at bedtime and staying in bed to fall asleep, and that's major progress. There is much rejoicing chez Late Blooming Mom.

On the other hand, the anything-goes spirit of New Year's Eve that marked the first couple of weeks of no side rail at bedtime has been replaced by early morning hijinks. This morning, Thing 1 got into Thing 2's crib (Thing 2's side rail has been off since Thanksgiving), and began to bounce. Whereupon Thing 2 switched to Thing 1's crib, and SHE began to bounce. I walked in on them and saw the "we know we're not supposed to do this but we're really having fun" look on their faces. But it was barely seven a.m., and official wake-up time in Late Blooming Mom's house is not until seven-thirty, a far more civilized time.

I knew the minute I left the room the crib-swapping hijinks would continue unabated, so I firmly announced I would be laying down on the futon we've got on the floor between the cribs (we put it there to guard against any middle-of-the-night falls from bed) to keep them contained until official wake-up time. Theoretically this would ensure they'd both stay in their cribs, resting if not exactly sleeping, until I was ready to face the day with them.

Of course this isn't what happened. Two minutes after I lay down, Thing 2 gave me a plaintive, "mommy, could I cuddle with you?" This was soon followed by the same request from Thing 1. So three minutes into my attempt to get a little more shut-eye while keeping them contained, I was crowded onto the futon with both of them.

Four minutes in, I was perched precariously over the edge of the futon, practically on the floor, while snuggling with both kids. They began to play with my hands, the blanket, the pillows, each other. They managed to stay relatively horizontal for another ten minutes or so, and then it was time to bounce again.

My tired self is wondering just how long the morning hijinks are going to go on, and hoping they'll go the way of the bedtime shenanagins.

I should probably go to bed the same time the kids do, just to catch up on sleep. But of course, it's the only time of the day I have to myself -- or to spend with my husband -- so I wind up staying up too late. By the time I crawl between the sheets I find myself thinking, "great, they've been asleep for two hours; they have a two-hour sleeping head-start on me. I'll never catch up." I don't remember my own parents ever being this tired. Of course, they weren't late bloomers at parenting. Maybe they had the right idea, doing it so young.

But I've got no choice at this point. I just hope the Gods of Sleep -- and my kids -- take pity on me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Payback Kid, Part II

Back in January, I wrote about how Thing 1 and Thing 2 were in heated competition (though they didn't know it) for the title of THE PAYBACK KID -- the kid destined to pay back Late Blooming Mom for all the trouble I put my own mom through. After trading the title back and forth over their first three years, it seemed pretty clear there was a decisive winner: Thing 2, my daughter.

But in a mere three months, she has lost the title back to her brother. And oh, how he is earning it.

It all started when we resumed preschool after a week of spring break, and he decided school is not for him. Every morning, as soon as I entered the kids' room, my son would begin his whine: "I don't wanta go ta school." He'd proceed to repeat this whine all through my attempts to distract him (strategy number one) or ignore him (strategy two), and get him to breakfast, whereupon he'd start a new one: "I don't want orange juice." Or waffles. Or bananas. Or whatever was placed in front of him. Employing strategy number one, I tried to read him books from a selection he'd carted to the dining room table. Then the whine became, "I don't wanta read CURIOUS GEORGE," or "I don't wanta read MAISY MAKES LEMONADE," depending on whatever book I'd started to read. And so on and so forth it went through attempts to get him dressed for school and out the door and into daddy's car for drop-off.

Sometimes Thing 1 behaved like an angel during all this, being wholly cooperative and even attempting to get her brother to feel better by offering him toys or books or snacks for the car, or whatever she might have that he inevitably insisted he wanted. But other times, she fed off him and began whining too -- though not nearly with the persistence, repetition, and grating tone he seemed to have perfected.

My husband and I began to dread the mornings ... and we did so even though we have help in the mornings: our own part-time supernanny shows up at 7:30 and helps us get the kids fed, dressed, and out the door with lunches packed. Her preferred strategy was to ignore, and sometimes it worked, provided Late Blooming mom or dad left the room, instantly diminishing the reward of negative attention my son seemed to crave. But other times, there was no consoling him, especially if he hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before -- a distinct possibility on many mornings lately, since we've recently removed one side of his crib (see my previous post, The Rails Are Off).

Bottom line, in the morning, Thing 1 had become a pill.

He was still exhibiting these behaviors last week, though this morning he seems a bit better, having responded so far to my attempts at distraction and kissing/tickling him in giggle-inducing places. I am cautiously optimistic. But also prepared to have my hopes mercilessly crushed before morning drop-off. We'll see how it goes.

What's clear is that he's going through the same icky, willful, assertive developmental phase his sister went through several months back. Apparently it's typical of boys to be a bit slower on the developmental curve than girls, so this is understandable. Understandable, but no damn fun for anyone.

It's not really about school either, as he whines on the weekends ... and when I go to pick him up at school, he doesn't want to leave.

It's just about where he's at: seeing how far he can push mommy and daddy. Testing limits. And getting himself a reputation, to the point where even his sister, on the ride home from school the other day, turned to her brother and said, "Stop being difficult!"

Once again, my late mother is somewhere laughing her head off.

Payback isn't, in this case, a bitch. It's a male twin.

Post-drop-off uptdate: It must be noted that dad called from the road after dropping them both off and related the following: "I had THE SOUND OF MUSIC on in the car. He was singing along to EDELWEISS, every third word or so, in that sweet little castrati voice of his. It was adorable." And there was that moment, before he got into the elevator this morning, when he leaned against my leg and spontaneously said, "I love you, mommy."

That's my kinda payback.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Rails Are Off ... And Bedtime Is New Year's Eve

Way back around Thanksgiving, Thing 2 figured out how to climb out of her crib, though she managed to scrape herself while doing so. She proceeded to climb out several times a night, and so we figured it was time to take a rail off one side of her crib. And since Monkey See, Monkey Do seems to be the rule with twins, we figured we'd best do the same for Thing 1, even though he'd shown no signs of wanting to imitate her feat.

That very first night, it might as well have been New Year's Eve in the kids' room. They were up playing with toys every time we re-entered the room (having been alerted by the giggling) . We kept marching them back into bed and leaving.

Finally they slept ... but at three a.m., Thing 1 appeared at our bedside, proclaiming, "I'm all done sleeping. I want breakfast."

One of us -- I can't remember who, I'm too bleary-eyed at the memory of that night -- got up and marched Thing 1 back to bed.

The New Year's Eve thing seemed to die down after a couple of nights, but Thing 1's middle-of-the-night appearances at our bedside continued ... to the point when we decided enough was enough. Thing 2 was staying in her bed all night, having adjusted to the freedom of losing that rail. But Thing 1 was clearly not ready to be let loose from the crib.

Thing 1's rail went back up.

Thing 2 maintained her freedom.

In the ensuing weeks and months, Thing 2 routinely appeared at our bedside in the morning -- though thankfully never before six a.m., and frequently not until seven -- to inform us that Thing 1 was awake, needed a diaper change, and wanted his morning milk. She became her brother's keeper, and was quite insistent that his needs be met, since he could not get out of his crib himself to tell us what they were.

Then a week or two ago, Thing 1 began to climb out of his crib, and landed with a thud. Fearful of an injury, especially since Thing 1 has a tendency toward obliviousness to all danger -- we realized it was time for his rail to come down again.

Saturday night, Dad took off the rail, after we'd prepped Thing 1, explaining he was now ready for a Big Boy Bed, but the rule was, he had to stay in it after we put him in it at bedtime.

Saturday night was New Year's Eve all over again.

Thing 2 joined in the shenanigans, even though she's been staying in her bed for months. After repeated visits back to their room, to march them to bed, Late Blooming Mom wound up sitting in their room, back against the door, keeping a vigilant watch until they both fell asleep.

The second night -- a school night, which made getting to bed on time more important -- New Year's Eve returned. Toys were overturned, closets accessed, drawers rummaged through. Every book on the book shelf seemed to have landed in Thing 1's crib. And when I walked in on the two co-conspirators, one kid was standing up legs apart, the other was crawling underneath said legs, and both were in the midst of uncontrollable giggles. They gave me looks that said, "We know we're busted -- but it was sooooo worth it." I marched them to bed and did my mom cop act, sitting against the door till I heard snoring from each crib.

Realizing I couldn't keep this up, the next night, I wound up making repeat visits again, but it was only to guide Thing 1 back to bed. His sister, who'd failed to nap at school, had fallen into a deep sleep the moment her head hit the pillow. This mystified Thing 1, who kept complaining in a loud voice that his sister wasn't talking to him. I told him she was asleep and he'd better get to sleep too. The third time I came in to check on him, he was practically asleep, but sprawled face down on our folding futon beneath the crib, toys and books strewn everywhere about him.

The next night, we had a sitter.

The kids behaved like perfect angels and though the sitter had to pop back in once, briefly, that was the extent of the bedtime battle.

But then, the next night, New Year's Eve was back. Cop enforcement was necessary. Worse, Thing 1 showed up in our room at three a.m. requesting we help find his apparently lost binky.

Tonight, it's daddy who's doing the cop bit at the door.

Every morning that Thing 1 awakens without having gotten enough sleep, he's a whining, complaining, annoying pain, kvetching about everything. We explain to him that he's like this because he hasn't gotten enough sleep, and the reason for that is not staying in bed at bedtime, when we tell him to do so. But he's too cranky for the truth to penetrate his sleep-deprived mind. Several times, we've carried him kicking and screaming down to the car so he can go to preschool.

Tonight daddy threatened Thing 1 with putting the rail back up. But I don't want him to follow through on the threat because, as bad as the mornings are, as icky as playing cop can be, and as much as I long for the path of least resistance, I know Thing 1 has gotta work through this. He must learn that bedtime means bedtime, and he's got to get to the point where no parental cop need be present to enforce the rules. A real Big Boy bed isn't too far in his future. And we're planning some out of town trips this summer, which can only be accomplished if he can stay in a bed all night, since he's gotten too big for a port-a-crib.

We're gritting our teeth and carrying on as best we can, sleep-deprived and grumpy.
But I think I understand the meaning of the expression "off the rails" in a way I never have before. He's gone off the rails, and we can only keep firmly putting him back in bed until he figures out that Big Boys Stay In Bed, so that, god willing, their parents can too.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Blessing Of A Little "Me" Time

When you're a late blooming mom, as much as you adore your kids and are thankful for having them, you also have moments when you long for those pre-kid days.

I miss those long, leisurely Saturdays, when my husband and I would sleep in, curl up reading the paper in bed (or do other things best done in bed ... you get the idea) ... and then go out for a hot breakfast somebody else had to cook and clean up. Then there were the those days when I'd bid the husband a happy "see ya later" and amble out the door for a bike ride up and down the beach, without worrying about when I'd be back. Saturday night, we could eat at a civilized, grown-up restaurant, and linger over dessert. We didn't have to wolf down our food to get out before the toddler restaurant clock went off because somebody couldn't stand to sit still another second, or leave half the food behind unfinished, let alone leave a hefty tip to clean up the mess we left. We could hit a late movie or hit a bookstore before it closed, go our separate ways inside it and browse to our heart's content, then reunite to drive home and snuggle back into bed.

Of course it's still possible to do some of those things, if we've got an available babysitter.

But the stuff I did all by myself -- like that leisurely bike ride -- has pretty much gone by the wayside. So have the hour-long catch-up phone calls to friends on the other coast; the afternoons spent shopping for clothes or shoes or kitchen equipment; the ambling Sunday morning visits to farmers' markets where I could bum around sampling the produce, and planning that night's dinner based on what looked good. Reading for pleasure has been reduced to ten minutes in bed before turning out the light. And God forbid I need to make time to get a haircut.

I think late blooming moms miss this kind of "me" time more than younger moms, because we had more of it, and we had it for more years. "Me" time is largely a relic of our pre-mom pasts. Damn, damn, damn, damn -- to paraphrase MY FAIR LADY lyricist Alan Jay Lerner -- we'd grown accustomed to its face. Or more precisely, to its place -- in our daily lives, and especially our weekends.

Of course, some late blooming moms manage to squeeze it in. It's easier if they have just one kid, so they can palm off the childcare on dad sometimes, or trade shifts. But when you've got two, this becomes a bit more problematic. And if they're both toddlers, like we have, then it's rare that dad -- or late blooming mom, for that matter -- is willing to take them on solo for more than a very short time or manageable excursion. (With two three year-olds, often even the grocery store is not a manageable excursion.)

But late this afternoon -- bliss! Dad decided, of his own accord, to take Thing 1 AND Thing 2 out for an hour or so, letting Late Blooming Mom do one of the things I do in my now precious slack time: blog. (Mind you, the temptation to do something useful with this time, like sort their books and hide those we can give up to a friend's baby, is great: just because I have slack time doesn't mean I stop being a Virgo. But I'm going to resist.) After blogging, I might just call a friend from college, back east ... take a bath ... read a book ... or luxuriate in the late afternoon sun with the cat on the bed.

Of course I have to keep an ear tuned to the phone, just in case Dad needs a rescue. He's taken the kids to what they refer to as The Pillow Store, known to the rest of us as Bed, Bath And Beyond, to buy new plastic cups for juice, since their old ones cracked ... and to observe the wonder that is the shopping cart escalator, which takes your shopping cart up or down alongside you on the escalator. (They could probably get away with charging parents of toddlers admission just to witness this mesmerizing phenomenon.)

But for the moment, it's oddly, beautifully quiet at home, a Zen-like bubble of peace and tranquility, and a reminder of those days when "me" time wasn't a luxury, but a regular part of the day.

Of course, I recognize that the reason I'm able to appreciate the quiet so much -- in a way I never could before -- is that later, the house is going to be filled with the sometimes happy, sometimes chaotic noise of family life: giggles and whines, cries of protest, bursts of laughter, and later, tiny snores.

But for now, here's to me, doing nothing but hanging out ... with me.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Will They Ever Eat Anything Besides Mac N' Cheese?

Sometimes I have a Kafka-esque vision of myself standing over a hot stove, cooking up a box of Annie's Mac N' Cheese ... for eighteen-year-old twins.

At some point or other, will they stop being so insistent on eating this oozing, creamy yellow/orange concoction? Will they ever stop asking for the pasta in the bunny shapes? Will they be able to go more than three nights straight without eating some of it?

To be fair, Thing 2 is quite the culinary adventuress. Tonight, when she saw Late Blooming Mom and Daddy dining on pesto angel hair, she demanded her own plate of the stuff -- and promptly slurped down three helpings. She will gladly devour roast salmon or baked Dover sole. She loves dipping bread in olive oil and good balsamic. (One thing about being a Late Blooming Mom: your palate's a bit more sophisticated, perhaps a bit more Alice Waters-influenced, than that of your average standard-age mom, so your kids get exposed to foodie-level food at a tender age.) But put Annie's Mac N' Cheese in front of her, and she's going to demolish it.

Thing 1 on the other hand, is the picky eater. The only way to get him to try new things is to slip them directly in his mouth surreptitiously while he's focused on the latest adventures of Disney Channel animated handy man HANDY MANNY. Thing 1 is so addicted to M & C, he'd be happy to eat it every night. He's also got his favorite M&C, from our local Koo Koo Roo. He's nuts for it, though Annie's Curly Mac N' Cheese runs a close second. Then there's the curly rotini (or is it fusili? you know, the corkscrew pasta) he gets at CPK: that's currently holding down third place in the M&C pantheon.

Somehow I've got a son who actually prefers M & C to pizza.

This is astonishing to me because until a few years ago, I'd never eaten the stuff. Not out of a box, let alone the gourmet comfort food versions with four cheeses showing up at foodie restaurants.

I got through my entire childhood and a good chunk of adulthood -- even the early, post-college, impoverished years where I sometimes ate stir-fried hot dogs with sliced carrots, white rice and soy sauce -- without cracking open a box of M & C.

Now that my kids eat it, I have to admit, it's pleasant-tasting stuff -- as long as you avoid the stuff with Velveeta. I've been known to dive into a box of Annie's myself when I'm desperate for a quick lunch.

But still: every night?

I can only hope Thing 2's proclivity for tastier, more interesting fare at some point rubs off on Thing 1.

The day I most look forward to -- to quote one of the moms at my kids' preschool -- is the day I can cook one meal all of us will eat.

Until then, it's all-you-can-eat M&C buffet at our house.