DIZMOMMY > February 2014

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February 28, 2014

Don't Mind Me, I'm Just Pissed Off

My husband is a good man. Last night he had to endure two hours of listening to me pop off after watching a documentary about an orangutan named Chantek. Chantek was raised like a human baby (crib and all) at the University of Tennessee as part of a research project. Chantek was taught sign language, which he used to express himself in the same way humans do. Chantek tells you exactly what he wants to eat when he’s hungry, he asks for cuddles, and tells you when his feelings are hurt. He will even pair up words for things he has no signs for, such as “tomato toothpaste” for “ketchup.” 

Treating Chantek like a person made him believe he was a person. He understood the concept of earning and saving money to buy things he wanted, he would ask for “work” to perform in exchange for a drink. He even understood that a whole world existed outside of his home and could navigate you to his favorite Dairy Queen where he would use the money he saved to buy ice cream. Chantek described himself as an “orangutan person.” His ability to communicate gave him the ultimate power- a voice. 

And then it was all taken away. Chantek’s freedom was stripped when the research project ended, forcing him to move into a small cage where he was quarantined for 11 years. He was depressed, often begging to be driven him home in a car. Then, he was adopted by the Atlanta Zoo, where they placed him with other orangutans that he called “orange dogs,” not recognizing that they were just like him. Still, the zoo believes he should be treated like an ape. They don’t sign with him and he’s on a vegetarian diet. 

The woman responsible for giving Chantek his voice is Dr. H. Lyn Miles. Chantek calls her mom and often signs that he loves her. Dr. Miles visits Chantek in the zoo but gets no special privileges. She stands on the outside of the exhibit like any other member of the public and signs with Chantek, where he pleads for meat, ice cream, and freedom. 

So I’m pissed. Everyone in Chantek’s life has wronged him. Dr. Miles wronged him by teaching him to be human when he didn’t stand a chance being treated like one. Chantek went from being heard, listened to, and engaged with, to being ignored, silenced, and put away. For 11 years Chantek told Dr. Miles his feelings were hurt and that he hated being caged. And once he found a new home at the zoo, they wronged him by pretending he was just another ape. The hammocks at the zoo were secured by small washers, the same washers he used as money 11 years prior. He would remove the washers from the hammocks and give them to the zoo keeper so that he could “buy” a drink. The zoo keepers laughed and ignored the gesture, chalking it up as just another thing Chantek will need to unlearn.

Chantek has suffered enough. He's 37 years old and still has half his life left to live. He deserves more because he is more. He deserves to be treated with dignity and he deserves to be HEARD. Just imagine: the only language speaking ape in the entire world…and no ones listening. 

Shame on you Dr. Lyn Miles, the University of Tennessee, and the Atlanta Zoo. 

Update: I've been emailed by individuals wanting to know what they can do to make a difference in Chantek's life. There is no clear answer but writing directly to Atlanta Zoo would make a huge difference: advancement@zooatlanta.org or by mail to: Zoo Atlanta- 800 Cherokee Ave SE Atlanta GA 30315-1440.

February 26, 2014

I'm Not Lazy, I Just Need a Time Out

Something amazing happens every night; something so wonderful that it almost (I stress almost) feels wrong. Dylan goes to bed. The heavens open, the stars line up, and my outstanding “to-do” list is cast aside because quite frankly, I refuse to spend the only uninterrupted 2 hours of my day being productive. So instead, I ease into my bed like a big blob of overcooked vegis and decompress. This means by Thursday my house is a pigsty and by Friday the to-do’s reach the ceiling. But it’s totally worth it. 

During the decompression, my snow globe mind resets to a normal pace and sorts through all the scattered thoughts and observations that were archived out of unconscious prioritizing. It’s in those moments I’ll look to my husband and answer a question he asked 12 hours earlier, or laugh at a joke I was told the day before. It’s as if I’m a sponge that has soaked up experiences that can’t be experienced until they’re wringed out of me. It’s my new normal. 

Last night I battled with an exhausted toddler over eating his dinner. He wanted to play with the spaghetti and I wanted him to eat it. My husband was working late and I was alone with an orange stained monster in desperate need of a bath and attitude adjustment. So I powered through the screams, the clothes, the drawing of the bath, the scrubbing, the bottle, until finally reaching the finish line where sweet silence meets a sleeping Dylan. And when the little brat was finally tucked away in his crib, I squealed with joy. Because sometimes mommy needs a time out; and when I finally get one, it will NOT be spent doing the damn dishes.

February 25, 2014

List: 3 Undeniable Parenting Truths

Opinions, stories, and warnings from everyone you know (and don’t know) begin flowing in the second people find out you’re going to have your first baby. All parents have gone through it; it’s practically a child rearing initiation to receive an abundance of unsolicited advice that quickly turns into noise. Sometimes it’s helpful and other times it’s annoying, but the sooner you accept that everyone loves talking about their own children and experiences (I mean, check me out with this blog), the sooner you realize how special it is just to be initiated in the club. And having completed my membership’s first year, I can confirm there are two truths in the sea of repetitive remarks. 

FIRST TRUTH: Kids are expensive. They sure are! When they’re not sucking your energy, dictating your schedule, or popping up as a factor in every decision you make, they are outgrowing clothes, toys, and gear. My next $200 purchase won’t be a spring wardrobe for yours truly; it will be two car seats for one toddler. 

SECOND TRUTH: You’ll be chasing after them once they start walking. Damn right. All I wanted was for my 600 lb baby to retire from my shoulder and learn how to walk so that I wouldn’t need to add Icy Hot to my nightly routine. But I should have listened to the people and saved my shooting star wishes for dreams of upper body strength instead, because now I have a toddler that wants to run in the opposite direction of wherever I am, and would rather fall to the floor than be carried. 

But that’s the funny thing about being human. We’re all fools until we know better. We always think we know what we want even when we've warned, laughed at, and advised differently. And having lived through the lessons myself, this is my best initiation for the next prospective parent who thinks everything can be cured with sunshine and kissy faces.

------------------ FEBRUARY 26, 2014 - UPDATE ------------------

There is another totally, unequivocally, true truth that I failed to mention that happens to be the most important one.

THIRD TRUTH: Enjoy it, time flies. Unfortunately this is too true. Every parent knows it feels like "just yesterday" their babies were born. Time likes to play a dirty little trick of speeding up when you become a parent. All the chaos, the sleepless nights, the early mornings, the hand holding, the growth tracking, the counting in months, will all end one day. So enjoy it. Each bratty, loud, messy moment of it. Those kids will become adults overnight and the days of raising them will be replaced with supporting them. And there's nothing you can do it about it except enjoy the ride.

February 24, 2014

My Nephew, the Champion

You know those screaming, wild, ridiculous parents that shout at kid’s sports games? That’s my family. I used to think it took a special kind of adult to go ape at children’s events but now that special kind of adult stares back at me in the mirror. In fact, it’s actually very easy to be the person that yells, “block him, block him, go get your ball,” like we did yesterday at my nephew Enrique’s championship basketball game. AKA the game of all games. 

I’ve watched Enrique work his butt off in the name of basketball this entire season. Though he’s only 10, he understands that it takes a lot of time and practice to perform at the highest level and he’s spent countless hours shooting hoops, running drills, and honing his skills. The proof is in the pudding; his team lost only 1 season game. But on the day of a championship, season performance doesn’t matter. Its either teams’ for the taking and anything can happen. 

There were issues before the boys even began playing. Their main coach and his son (one of the stand out players) got in a car accident on their way to the gym and weren’t able to make it. The game went on as scheduled and the two teams battled it out for 40 nail biting minutes of neck and neck baskets, Enrique’s team with the lead the entire time. Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends were all on the edge of their seats when the teams tied scores in the last minute of the game. 2 minutes of overtime were added to the board and in the final thirty seconds, a foul was called and the opposing team made the game-winning free throw shot. Just like that, it was all over. 

But my nephew is die-hard. He played every second of the 42 minute game and having made it so far only to lose the championship title by 1 point in overtime, he cried because “his hand hurt.” But I knew better, even I wanted to cry! But again, I knew better. His team may have lost but they’re still winners. Enrique didn’t get the title he wanted so badly but his dedication and focus to basketball earned him a lot of respect, and no one can fight to take that away. 

So the next time you see those wild and loud people screaming at a 10 year old’s sports game, know that we’re not fanatical ballers. We’re into the game because the kids are into the game. It’s the kids’ commitment that brings us to our knees and is the root of our enthusiasm. Our cheers are merely a reflection of the hard work we’ve seen when the clock isn’t running, when the bleachers aren’t down, and when no one’s tracking points. Because win or lose, it’s so much more than just a game.

February 20, 2014

Parenting from the Driver's Seat: FAIL

If a rapid aging pill existed, they'd call it Dylan. The kid is determined to give me premature grays. Why else would he scream and cry every day on our car ride home from daycare? It’s no secret that I have zero idea what I’m doing when it comes to parenting. My lack of expertise is highlighted during these car rides when I do just about anything to calm him down. “Anything” entails reaching in the backseat to hand him goldfish, singing the ABC’s, playing classical music, and/or giving him whatever object is nearby and won’t kill him. And when nothing pipes him down, I withdraw and pretend I don’t care that his screams reach higher decibels than a jet take-off and will rupture the eardrums of innocent drivers three cars back. Sorry ya’ll, it’s not me it’s him. 

I’m floundering here. Being stuck with a screeching child in a car is pure torture. I want to ignore his wailing the way my husband can but it’s not as easy as he makes it look. My biggest concern isn’t that there’s something wrong with Dylan that causes him to freak (because there’s not), but that the baby-me reaction I’m partaking in each day is what he’s after and that I might actually be responsible for this crappy habit. (Yeah I know, leave it to a mom to take responsibly for her kid’s shit behavior.) But really, could it be? Could my attentiveness to his cries be doing more harm than good? I don’t freaking know, but it’s not like he’s being pinched by his car seat straps, or hungry, or anything else other than bored and restless, so I can’t rule it out. 

In an effort to retain the little sanity I have left, this afternoon I will be trying something different. The “what’s wrong honey bunny” attitude will be replaced by a focused and quiet mommy driver who likes to listen to a.m. radio stations loud enough to drown out the scathing sounds from the backseat. And if the brat in the back doesn’t change his lowdown ways, plan b involves the installation of a sound proof backseat divider.

February 19, 2014

Healthy Competition: Dylan Lookalike Contest

I have four sisters and we’re all hyper competitive. It’s how we avoided getting drowned out by each others incessant clucking. And because my dad is the type to encourage us to voice/stand up for ourselves, clucking is our way of life. It’s great because I don’t hesitate to express a minority opinion, but it’s awful because I always have something to say. So for the past year, my husband and I (who is also freakishly competitive) have been competing against each other in the Dylan lookalike contest. We have spent a lot of time bantering over who he resembles more. Most people say Dylan looks like a replica of my husband, but they’re wrong. Other people say he looks just like me, and they’re right. Sure, Dylan has both of our dna, and some would say he looks like both of us; I encourage those people to view the comparisons below and pick my side already.

 

February 18, 2014

Teaching Dylan To Work Mommy

I have great news! Dylan, who’s independent attitude and cut-throat demeanor earned him a “mean baby” reputation, has finally come around to fancy me. My affections are being reciprocated and his cuddles are no longer reserved exclusively for dad. I’ve also exploited Dylan’s cracker addiction to teach him the valuable skill of working me. Thanks to our training, Dylan now offers me kisses in exchange for snacks and says “thank you” by resting his head on my shoulder (aka the precise moment I will say “yes” to anything). 

Dylan’s new-found affection is one of the few ways he’s able to express himself without words. Despite Dylan understanding a lot of commonly used vocab, he can’t say much and it’s bringing his frustration to an all-time high. I’m currently relying on hand gestures, finger pointing, and my translation skills to decode Dylan’s messages. Unfortunately, my so-called “skills” are comprised of educated guesses and the process of elimination; a sure fire way to ensure buckets of tears, misunderstandings, and tantrums. I can’t wait for the day Dylan is able to effectively use his voice even if all he says is “MOM, you’re embarrassing me!” 

On a lighter note, Dylan had his first park experience and was thrilled to rumble tumble in the sand. His initial, second, and third reaction was to pick up a handful, eat it, spit it out, and repeat. I figured 2 sand-eating attempts would be enough to deter him from further consumption, but never doubt the longevity of a 1 year olds’ learning process. Had I not intervened, this blog post would be about the day Dylan became a sandbag. The kid is fascinated by the stuff and I don’t blame him. His curiosity increases as he gets older and despite the icky factor, I love to encourage his explorations. Though I’m sure my facial expressions and goofy jingles set off the freak factor, I love channeling my inner toddler and acting a fool. It's where I shine! And until Dylan can tell me how humiliating it is for mom to imitate a monkey, I have no plans to shut down the freak show. 


 

February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day with the Anti-Cupid aka My Husband

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and if your significant other is anything like mine- it’s just a Friday that happens to be painted red. I don’t mean to throw my husband under the bus, I mean- he wasn’t always an anti-cupid. Our first few Valentines together were brimming with flowers, dinner, chocolate, and cards scribed with sweet words. But like a man’s favorite lazy-boy, he’s gotten comfortable enough to kick up his feet and shamelessly relax. 

Now days, my husband believes February 14th is sponsored by Hallmark and endorsed by fools in love who don’t know any better than to fall for the commercialism of unnecessary chocolate and overpriced roses. His vday resistance has increased over time, though he’s quick to point out that he’s always lacked sentiment for the holiday and only partook in the celebration out of his all-year round love for me. How romantic? 

So what’s a girl to do? Send a message. A couple years ago I decided to guilt him into the festivities by putting together and gifting him with a basket of knickknacks and candy. I fantasized over his shocked face once he was in receipt of my gesture, and the over-the-top treatment I would be spoiled with in light of his screw-up. Psh, yeah right. Instead of a guilt trip, he was a happy little clam that spent the night in a full-blown sugar coma watching TV in bed. That’s when I learned guilt by candy would never work against someone with a sweet tooth. 

I admit: I get it. Valentine’s is a big cheese ball love fest that results in people feeling pressured to have plans, expectations, flowers, and significant others. Hallmark makes bank, restaurants make reservations, and roses make up florists’ entire annual revenue in one day. Sure, its commercial- but what holiday isn’t? For me, Valentine’s is the perfect opportunity to celebrate, bask in, and acknowledge whatever love one has in their life. And between my son, my husband, my family and friends, I’m surrounded by a great deal of love. So instead of inflicting guilt trips or buying into the idea that I should get some sort of recognition from my anti-cupid, I’m going to let him off the hook and just enjoy myself. Because hey, it’s Valentine’s Day.

February 11, 2014

The Lily Effect

Sometimes I can be unfair. Though I’m completely in love with Dizbaby, I catch myself sizing him up against his cousin (and my niece) Lily, who is 4 and a half months older than him. Lily had my heart from the moment I held her. She was born just shy of 7 lbs and felt as delicate and precious as you’d expect a baby girl to be. Then Dylan came with his 2 by 2, two pounds bigger and two inches longer. Uhm…way to shorten those itty-bitty-baby days kid. That’s when my hyper comparing tendencies started. 

Lily is an expert at setting the bar. She practically began sleeping through the night at one month old. And while Dylan was barely lifting his head, Lily was sitting up. When Lily was crawling, Dylan was a vegetable. And when Lily started walking, Dylan was hardly discovering mobility. And now, Lily has all kinds of over-achieving qualities that make Dylan look like a chump. Like when she talks. 

At the zoo, Lily referred to her goldfish snacks as “fish.” She even used sign language when requesting “more,” and when she was thirsty she said “aqua.” Then, at Dylan’s birthday party she asked me for a “balloon.” Meanwhile, Dylan’s vocab bank is maxed out with “doggie, doggie, doggie.” 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely proud of my little boy and the things he’s come to learn. And I’m well aware of the fact that each child develops at their own pace. But if he didn’t want to be compared to a baby who has 4 months on him, he shouldn’t have grown big enough to be mistaken for the older baby. Sorry son, but you make it too easy to say, “HEY! Why aren’t you doing that?” It may be an unfair standard for him to live up to, but it's the Lily effect.

 




February 10, 2014

Mommy's Little Dependent

I like to be prepared. When I was pregnant, I kept “Things to Expect When You’re Expecting” close to my bedside, religiously reading each chapter as the weeks progressed. Then when Dylan came, “What to Expect the First Year” was my new point of reference. And yet still, the most valuable parenting lessons I’ve learned have been on the job. Nothing and no one can prepare a first timer for the ups and downs that earmark the actual parenting experience. And just as I was getting the hang of taking care of this here baby, he transformed into a full-fledged toddler. 

Though the toddler may resemble that little squishy baby parents have come to love, they are much more sophisticated and require much different care. And despite my incessant preparations, I have not prepared for this next chapter of development. I’m winging it. Which really means I have been babying Dylan and [kind of] holding him back. Solid foods? You mean chokables. Sippy cups? Bottle is King! Independence? How about holding mommy’s hand. So when I took Dylan to his 1 year check-up and his doctor was reading off the list of milestones to ascertain his progress, Dylan was on point. It was mom who was falling behind. 

Dylan’s ready to walk, push the limits, explore, feed himself, and generally grow up. But mom? Not so much. It takes me back to the time he began holding his bottle on his own. I was thrilled and yet continued to hold it for him out of wanting to milk the babyhood bonding for all it was worth. I learned to let go but for Christ’s sake, I still swaddle the kid up for bed every night. So it’s time for me to bite the bullet, swallow the pill, and buckle down for the next set of “firsts” that I’ve been resisting. It’s time for mom to give Dylan space to foster his growth, his independence, and his curiosity. Because despite his age, intellect, and self-sufficiency, he will always be my baby, in the same way we’re all somebody’s baby. Ready or not, here he comes.





February 7, 2014

Dylan's 1st Birthday at the Los Angeles Zoo

Dylan’s first birthday was great from the start. Rochelle, a fellow blogger who is launching her own business, Purple Heart Lifestyle, sent me a custom handmade mommy bracelet with a “Dylan” engraved pennant, along with the sweetest note. Though it was Dylan’s big day, the bracelet and message came to me when I needed a pick me up the most. The whole overnight “baby to toddler” thing was a lot more emotional than I anticipated, partly because pregnancy isn’t in our future. And even though adoption is, there’s a fat chance we may never have a little baby again. So thanks to Rochelle’s sweet words, generosity, and talent, I was one happy momma. 

My husband and I took the day off of work for Dylan’s first and we spent it at the Los Angeles Zoo with his cousin Lily and his Tio Fernie. It was so much fun and it didn’t even matter that every ape, koala, and turtle we saw was a “doggie” (according to Dylan). The L.A. Zoo was a ghost town and for someone that can’t handle pushing a cart through a Costco crowd on a Saturday, it was ideal. We took our sweet time roaming through the majestic acres of animals and left with some souvenir photos, a touch and feel book, and a sippy cup for the birthday boy. It was a very special and low key day that ended with two exhausted toddlers, a carousal ride, and talks about getting an annual zoo membership because I never want the fun to end. Which is exactly how I feel about his childhood. 










February 6, 2014

Swap with Me!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Swapdom, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

http://www.swapdom.com/referral/418909377Before Dylan was even born, he had a larger wardrobe than me. Shirts and onesies, pants and pajamas, shoes, and the cutest darned coat (that he has never actually worn). The kid continues to accumulate stuff and the old stuff that he grows out of has been piled up in a trunk in his closet. Only now that the trunk is full, the ever growing piles are stacked up in his closet. That's precious real estate ya'll! Then came Swapdom.com.

http://woobox.com/eww328Swapdom.com is a site where you can swap items with other people by signing up and posting things you're willing to part with. THAT'S SO SMART! Actually, it's a no brainer and I wish I had thought of it before they did, because the concept of swapping toys, clothes, or whatever, for things you want is brilliant (and easy). I have already posted a few bundles of boy clothing that Dylan never stood a chance wearing (the kid grows like a weed) and I'm going to post some of his toys tonight.

Though people have been swapping their clothes for years on Swapdom.com, the "Kids" section just recently launched and they're celebrating by making moms swoon everywhere with a stroller giveaway. But not just any stroller! A stroller so nice that even my husband said he wanted it. Imagine that, a husband showing an unprovoked interest in a stroller. So sign up and swap with me already!

February 5, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday Dylan

Last year's calendar is filled with words like, "38 weeks, 39 weeks, THIS IS IT," and a "bonus" doctor's appointment on account of Dylan taking his leisurely time to trade in the all day buffet (I ate a lot) and somersaults for a real world experience. But when he was finally born, February 5th happened to be the day. When I look at the calendar I see days and weeks that very quickly became a year, and though the details aren't noted, it was not just another year. For me, it was the year.

It was the year I had a moment that for so many, becomes one of the most special and grasped memories in life. My first born was born. And it was the year I became a mom, the year I learned how to change the diaper of a kicking baby, the year I sat in the backseat, the year I read children's books, the year I worried about eczema, and the year I bestowed a lifetime promise of unconditional love.

But it's even more than that, it was Dylan's year. For him, it was the year he experienced life for the first time. The year he tried to beat the heat poolside in Vegas with a frozen bag of breast milk on his head. The year he held a bottle on his own. The year he was buried under laundry. The year of tummy-time. The year he was the smallest he'll ever be. The year he fell and bled profusely from his mouth. The year he went to Oktoberfest, experienced holidays, met his family, learned to sit up, crawl, and now walk. And before I even had a chance to blink, a year passed and became his birthday.

So yes, today marks Dylan as a one year old. But for me it marks so much more. February 5th will forever be the day I met my precious baby for the first time. Happy Birthday Son! 






February 3, 2014

Dylan's First Steps

Though I'm still under the weather with a cold that I just can’t shake, I'm super happy because Dylan took his first steps on Friday!!! Months and months ago, when my maternity leave was coming to a close and my return date to work was nearing, I prepared myself for a list of Dylan milestones that I was likely to miss. Walking was one of them. But I have to admit, I’m severely na├»ve. I imagined his first steps would be similar to that of a baby calf, going from unsteady to fluid within minutes of practice. Instead, he loses footing (and his sh**) every 4-12 steps. 

You see, Dylan does not like to flounder around. He is hung up on doing everything right the first time, which is a foolproof path to disappointment. I try to explain to him that he’s doing great, that practice will lead to mastery, and that if he is persistent and consistent, success will follow. But he doesn’t care. Dylan wants to walk without falling, period. So when his inexperience causes him to tumble down, he instantly throws a fit and repeatedly hits his head on the floor. Freaking out mommy with violent antics is Dylan’s specialty. But I could care less because my little perfectionist is on the move!