Where Is A Padded Room When You Need One

Kids make no sense sometimes. OK, most times.

Sterling was climbing the walls this afternoon. And I mean that literally, like a little Spider Tot, so I decided to move the party outside to enjoy the gorgeous afternoon.

The weather was warm but breezy and the skies were perfect crystal blue with fleecy clouds.


We hadn't been outside 5 minutes before Sterling stepped in dog poop and promptly came over and dropped the befouled shoe. In. My. Lap. No big deal, I calmly picked it up, prayed that none of it had gotten on me, and set the shoe aside.

Sterling then went to the far side of the yard and desperately started yelling "help, help". Like any mom, I jumped up and ran around the house... to help her retrieve her sunglasses that she had thrown into the flower bed.

When I came back, Bennett had managed to crawl over to Sterling's poop shoe, and was happily chewing on it. I yanked it out of his sweet little mouth and calmly reassured myself that the little brown smudge on his lower lip was definitely was not poop. Definitely not.

I had just set him back on the blanket when Sterling's little voice called from around other side of the house "help, help". Again. This time, I took a more leisurely approach...

And arrived just in time to right a fence climbing gone bad. I peeled her off from the spot she had wedged herself into, and walked back to Bennett on the blanket. In the three seconds I had been gone, he had crawled to the edge of the blanket and stuffed his mouth full off grass.

After several long minutes of prying open baby jaws (MUCH harder than you would expect), his mouth was empty... just in time for Sterling to come racing by, laughing like a loon with a mouth full of something suspect.

I chased her through the yard until I could catch her and remove the rocks she had crammed into her cheeks like a little hamster.

I had finally sat back down onto the blanket and was just starting to enjoy the weather when a mosquito landed on Ben's little head and I automatically reached out and smashed it.

At which point I packed everyone up and headed back inside. Pretty confident that to any neighbors watching, I appeared both inept AND abusive.

Longest 10 minutes in history. Guaranteed.

Look Ma! I's eating grass!

Screw Sharing, Let's Go For Thunderdome!!!

Teaching toddlers to share is super easy. As in "I have absolutely no idea how it's done" super easy.

I find myself repeating platitudes constantly throughout the day about turn taking and sharing.

And yet somehow, my little angel is no better at sharing now than she was when I first started.

In fact, she has dialed her yells of "No Ben Ben, it's moine" up a few decibels. And the awesome part? Her claim staking is not limited solely to things that she actually wants. No, pretty much anything that Bennett wants instantly gets claimed as "moine".

And for the most part, Bennett has been pretty accommodating to having things ripped out of his fingers. No screaming fits... yet.

The clip below gives you a pretty accurate sense of how things are going. Oh, and ignore the potty chair in the background.

Yep, parenting at it's finest :-)

P.S. Is it just me or am I starting to sound like Caillou's mom?!?!?! When the hell did that happen and how do I stop it???

Insanity On The Incline

Whats this, you ask?

Oh, nothing much.

This is just Sterling's method of getting to the lip balm momma thought she had tucked conveniently out of reach by putting it at the top of the stairs, about 3 feet up.

Don't know if you realize this, but evidently a tube of lip balm is all the incentive S needs to boldly go where no kid has gone before.

To be totally fair, it's not like she needed any incentive.

So now I need to figure out how to gate off the OUTSIDE of the stairs.

Fun fact? If you look closely, the little bugger isn't even holding on. Yay for safely!

Yep, it's been one of THOSE days already...

A is for Amazing!

It's multiple choice day! You can file this under:

1. holy bragging parents, Batman
2. kids are crazy cool
3. Caraline has no idea what appropriate/interesting blog topics are
4. Roll your eyes and come up with a way cooler option than the three I've given

Take your pick.

But anyway, I've discovered something incredibly cool.

Sterling, my super crazy 26 month old, somehow learned her ABCs and many of her phonics by sight! And pretty much without any help from me (aside from lots of singing of the ABC song).

I totally credit Sprout and Your Baby Can Read, because I sure as hell didn't do it. But it's still pretty freakin cool anyway.

Kids are such amazing little information sponges.

Side note: It's no longer enough to spell naughty words in front of her. What the hell am going to do now, sign language? Translate them to Elvish? Bitch at John using smoke signals?

Hmmm, looks like momma is going to have to get (even more) creative...

Heimlich Horror

Tonight I had to do the Heimlich Maneuver on 7 month old Bennett.

It was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. And one of the most unexpected.

We do a big family dinner on Sunday nights, and Bennett somehow got a bite of Sterling's veggie burger.

No one saw it happen. Babies are amazingly quiet when they choke to death, and we were all talking so it took a while before anyone realized what was happening.

When we did, it was a mad rush to figure out what to do about it.

Some long ago lessons from a pre-baby class flickered in my mind and I instinctually followed them.

Thank god I did.

I laid Bennett across my knees and started doing firm whacks to his back while John called 911.

Bennett wheezed shallowly, turned red, then stopped wheezing and turned blue. His eyes bulged, snot streamed out of his nose and mouth, and tears flowed out of his eyes.

And still the blockage remained.

I remembered a long ago quote from my friend S. She was talking about attending a CPR seminar and the instructor said "If someone is choking to death, don't be afraid to get too rough with them. They are dying, you can only make it better."

And so I continued to whack his back with all my strength. Finally, after 30 or so whacks, a tiny little nugget of veggie burger flew out, coated in snot and saliva.

Bennett took a deep, raspy breath in and let out an angry bellow. It was the second sweetest cry I have ever heard him give.

My hands were shaking, my heart was pounding, I was covered in snot and clasping an angry, screaming baby... and I was so incredibly grateful.

The scary thing is that as soon as I told friends, I started hearing stories of people who had watched their loved ones choke to death in front of their eyes. It was terrifying how many stories there were.

So I want to ask a favor of you. Take a few minutes and learn how to, or refresh your knowledge of, CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver. Google it, watch videos on YouTube or take a class. Whatever works for you.

And I ask that you familiarize yourself with both the infant and adult versions, even if you don't have any children in your life. You never know when you may be around a choking child and have a chance to save their life.

Tonight, I got to watch my beautiful baby boy fall to sleep because of a class I took nearly 3 years ago. With the exception of some broken blood vessels in his eyes, he is perfectly fine.

I never thought I would actually need that infant CPR information, but I am so incredibly grateful that I paid attention anyway.

Harder Than The Peace Corps

No lie, parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done, the thing that I have invested more of my heart in than anything else, and the thing I seem to get the most "constructive" feedback from others on.

It's tough because parenting is such a "voodoo science", as my friend M likes to say.

For every article out there that gives you guidance on how to raise a child, there is an opposite and equally well defended article that says the exact opposite.

Do you medicate for teething, or do you not medicate? Do you punish by spanking, by time out, or do you not to punish at all? Do you cosleep, or do you move them to their own bed right away? Do you sleep train, and if you decide to, how do you go about it? Do you let them cry until exhaustion or do you soothe as soon as they peep? Do you have them at home, or do you have them at the hospital? Do you go with a midwife, a doula, a doctor, or some combination of the three? Do you go with day care (and if so, how the hell do you pick a good one) or do you make the sacrifice and stay home full time? And if you have nursing issues, or allergy issues, or acid reflux, or dietary constraints (religious or otherwise), how the hell do you address those?

If you have a boy, do you circumcise him? Did you know that every year in America, hundreds of little boys die from circumcisions? And that you are removing over 70,000 nerve endings (and thus, a TON of sensation) if you do? But if you don't, will the other kids laugh at him?

And holy hell, don't get me started on the name… which everyone will judge your kid on long before they actually meet it, and everyone has an opinion on.

And these, these are just a sampling of the issues you are faced with in the first year alone. After that is when things actually get tricky. Then you're dealing with issues like potty training, shifting nap times, growing comprehension and language skills (and the constant repetition of every bad word or comment you have ever made in earshot of your little angel), socializing approaches, and simultaneously increasing demands and need for autonomy.

In short, that's when shit gets real.

And the ugly secret that no one ever tells you, except for the crazy old lady who cackles madly when she sees you struggling with your small child?

Supposedly... these are the easy years.

And I believe it, because every warning that I've received so far has been far milder than the reality. So if people say these are the easy years, it means grab your ass and stock up on the boxed wine now, because it's going to be a wild ride ahead.

Anyone want to go in halfsies with me on a cold war-era bunker? Pretty confident that if we stocked that puppy with boxed wine, Herr's (totally addictive) Cheddar Horseradish chips, and Netflix, we could ride out the teenage years of at least 2, maybe 3 kids...

Back In The (House) Saddle Again

It's official, we are under contract on a house! Again!

It has been a pretty stressful week with the back and forth of negotiations and new offers popping up all over the place, but we are officially under contract.

This house is in much better shape, with much nicer finishes, in a MUCH better area... and a much higher price tag than the last house.

It's oddly comforting to be under contract again. Which is odd considering the amount of money we will be spending.

But it feels like I am getting my life back into gear again. I am moving back to the place that I "belong", and it feels amazing.

Over the years, I have lived in a variety of places, but none have never felt "right". I lived in Kansas City for over 10 years, but in my heart I was always an East Coast girl.

I've lived here in my parents house at the beach for what will be six months (we take possession on the actual 6 month anniversary ironically), but the entire time I missed being near the city.

And it's not just any city, there is something special and unique about DC for me. It's the energy, the gentility, and the beauty.

It's the way the monuments look at 2 AM, when they're shrouded in a little bit of haze, clean white beacons against the dark night skies. It's the soft pink cherry blossom petals that drift in the breeze every spring, like some kind of magical, iridescent fairy snow sprinkled all over the city. It's the way that you can drive down the street and see leaders who control entire nations, buddhist monks in their orange robes, Hollywood bigwigs, and extremely passionate individuals striding along with fierce determination to make a difference, all on the same block.

It's the way that the soil itself is steeped in generations of change and power. There is a never ending optimism in DC, a belief that anything is possible with enough enthusiasm and determination to get it done.
Photo courtesy of the amazing Anita Schrage

And because there's so much diversity, there is also an incredible level of acceptance. Not only am I a minority in DC, but I would be hard-pressed to tell you what the majority was. It's a great feeling to be surrounded by all that culture.

In DC, I find that not only can the cashiers at the grocery store discuss politics and world events, but may even share some thoughts on their doctorate work in astrophysics if you are interested.

I have heard people wax poetic about New York, and I've never really gotten it. But for some reason, DC speaks to my soul.

Every time I go back to the metro, I can feel some little piece deep inside me relax and settle in, a little voice whispers "home".

I will be honest and say that I am not letting myself get truly excited about this specific house until we actually take possession.

But I have started arranging furniture in my head.

And I have to be honest, in my bones I feel like this is the right house for us. Ironically, this morning the house that we had originally been under contract for came back on the market. They are asking about 70 thousand less this time, I am guessing to offset a lot of the issues. But oddly, I wasn't even tempted.

In addition, this morning another house that we had been seriously considering also came back on the market. Again, not even tempted.

This house speaks to me. It has almost all the features I would want in my dream house. In fact, the only real lack is no in-door water dispenser on the refrigerator. Instead, they went for one of those funky freezer on the bottom models. Not a major issue :-)

I guess the old saying that when a door closes, a window opens has some merit here. This house meets a lot more of our immediate needs, and is much more beautiful than the original house. Add in the fact that the schools are better, and clearly this window was waiting for us.

So I am happy to be moving back to the metro in a couple of months, cannot wait to get my stuff out of storage and be back near so many wonderful friends.

Please send thoughts that it all moves quickly and easily, September 17th I can't wait!

Poop Inspector #2433738, Reporting For Duty!

Evidently, we have evolved here at Casa de Hickman.

No longer content to merely be a recipient of constant diaper inspections, Sterling has decided to turn the tables and started checking the back of my pants lately, saying "Momma poop?"

While her concern is appreciated, it is only slightly less wonderful than when she pats my chest in public and proudly proclaims "Momma's boobs".

But still, having your toddler check your pants for accidents is... special.

I can't decide whether she is mimicking something she sees me do a million times a day to her and her brother, or if she is making a commentary on what she perceives to be a significant shortage of showers in my world.

Either way, it's humbling. And a bit embarrassing.

Multitasking Magic

So I have a confession to make.

When snacks get spilled on the floor, I *might* accidentally sometimes set Bennett in the middle of it.

What??? A crawling baby is WAY better than a vacuum cleaner when it comes to cleaning up spilled Cheerios.

Everybody wins, seems like parenting gold to me...

The Sauce Pimp

Bennett is seven months old.

Which means that he is just starting solid foods. This time in his life is supposed to be carefully regulated, watching everything that goes into his mouth for allergic reaction.

However, I also have hurricane Sterling in my midst.

Sterling and "carefully regulated" are mutually exclusive concepts. Which means I am always pulling crazy crap out of his mouth.

Sterling hates to eat, and Bennett loves to, which means he has officially become her "cleaner". In the last week she has fed him a broccoli floret, an apple slice and a jelly bean... that I know of.

Today, she woke up from nap and asked for "sauce", which in our world is Sterling Shorthand for a packet of applesauce.

She took exactly two sucks of applesauce, trotted over to Bennett and helpfully showed him how to hold it.

That's about all it took.

Evidently his instinct to eat is strong enough to override the obstacle of figuring out how to get it into his mouth. He finished that puppy in less than a minute. Which is impressive for a small baby.

More impressive was the "I will cut you if you even try to take this from me" stink eye he gave me the whole time...

Evidently, we are taking a slightly unorthodox approach to introducing solids.

Crapping Up My Coffee

My good friend L has a daughter A, who's a little over six months older than Sterling.

A is one of those wonderfully well-behaved kids, one who wants nothing more than to please. It always makes me more than a little jealous to watch how she interacts with the world.

I am pretty confident that her first thought is rarely "hmmmmmm, wonder how I can climb/break/dismantle that" and I have NEVER watched L repeatedly peel her off of anything.

A few months back, I watched A while I was pregnant. I was craving chocolate milk, so I got a big glass of it and A instantly asked for some. I remembered a "technique" I had watched L do and said "sorry but that is for adults, it's not for kids". A nodded solemnly and said "coffee is for adults, that's coffee".

I figured that's as good of an explanation as any, and went with it.

Fast-forward eight months, Sterling is now a little bit older then A was when we had that interaction. I routinely have a cup of coffee in the morning, and Sterling routinely jacks with it.

I have been trying that "coffee is for adults" line for weeks, and Sterling happily prattles "coffee is for adults mommy, coffee is for adults, yep"... right before she throws a toy into it, or fishes her hands in it.

Evidently, I am doing it wrong...

Holy Hotel Hellions, Batman!

When the power was out last week, we packed up the kids and headed to a hotel to get a little respite from the heat.

We reserved a 2 room suite. What we didn't do was take the time to research the room configuration.

The outcome was mayhem, pure and simple.

See, the first bedroom was nice and simple. Roomy, spacious and clean.

The second room was a bit... quirky to say the least.

It was on the second floor, a loft that was open except for a low wall around the front. A sort of glorified balcony. Or a launch pad if you are Sterling Rose.

And because we were fleeing the heat, we hadn't thought to bring such essentials as kiddie gate. Or air mattresses. Or crash helmets. Or wings. Or a straight jacket. Or tranquilizers.

You get my point. We holed up for a several days in a mayhemist's dream world, annnd a mom's nightmare.

About ten minutes after we arrived, I was changing Ben Ben, and S comes trotting in brandishing a saber. Or a butcher knife.

Anyway, I hurriedly take it away from her and rush to the kitchen to figure out where she found it.

Turns out the bottom drawer was a toddler's dream arsenal, complete with several other equally as medieval looking knives, barbecue skewers, and two different wine openers that could easily have doubled as torture implements during the Spanish Inquisition.

Once the kitchen was secured, I thought I could relax a little. I was wrong.

Sterling quickly discovered the stairs and silently took off up them. I hadn't even had an opportunity to miss her yet when I hear a little giggle above me, look up, and see that she is perched on the ledge of the loft.

Luckily, we have had ample time to practice "off" and so she had scampered off the wall by the time I made it upstairs.

While I took a few moments to rearrange the furniture in an attempt to block off the stairs, Sterling conveniently tested out the long distance on the phone.

After I had removed the phone cords from each of the phones, I could not find her anywhere.

At which point, John called me over to the stairs. Apparently she ran out of steam while trying to figure out a way around or over the stair blockade.

Not sure if I won that round, or merely survived it...

Knife Krazy

It appears I have a budding Giada on my hands. Or a budding Lizzie Borden.

Not entirely certain which.

This is the second time in a week that Sterling has let her fingers do the walking... straight to the biggest honking knife she could find.

Today, she climbed up onto the counter to grab one that her daddy had just used to cut vegetables. It was super helpful because she came over and handed it to her baby brother.

Yep, that will test a momma's reflexes :-)

Gateway To Mayhem

They say a sign of higher intelligence, what separates humans from most other animals is... the use of tools.

Sterling has long been a fan of using
tools in her mayhem to elevate the game.

Often, I completely underestimate what Sterling will use as a tool, or how many naughty, naughty uses she can come up with for the most mundane objects.

Case in point: the photo below.

That kiddie gate? The bane of Sterling's existence. The barrier between her and unbridled holy mayhem upstairs.

She constantly climbs it and fiddles with it, looking for weaknesses. When I go upstairs, she stands rattling it, yelling "Momeeeeeeee" at the top of her lungs, like a chimp at the zoo.

When I went upstairs this morning though, homegirl got crafty.

A new box of diapers arrived yesterday (we go through so many that Amazon kindly automatically ships them). She dragged the box over and had one leg over the gate by the time I came down.

She knew she had been caught and quickly scurried down before I was able to get my camera out, but this shot is her giving me the "yeah, what you gonna do about it, sucka" stare down after she was caught.

Evidently the gate has devolved from "blockade" to "fun climbing obstacle".

Yay for me!

Housing Hell

Tonight I was having a group text chat with a couple of my girlfriends.

We are all three in the process of or contemplating upsizing in the DC metro.

Sounds great, right? It's not.

See, the DC housing market is crazy competitive. As my girlfriend L said, "it's frustrating to be well educated, well employed, responsible with money and still be hurting" when it comes to purchasing a house.

Quite frankly, it's depressing.

John and I are shopping with what once was my ideal budget. I always imagined that when we got to this point, we would be purchasing our "dream home".

We aren't.

To give you a little perspective, on Saturday we looked at a 2300 sq foot house with original 1930s era kitchen and baths, a garage that had a tree crash in half of it, located half a block from a busy intersection and... NO AC. The asking price? More than we paid for our last 3 houses... COMBINED.

And I actually thought it was a "possible", until I realized that the couple who was looking at the house when we arrived had sat down at the dining room table to write an offer.

Competing in a bidding war goes against my core beliefs, so I instantly crossed it off.

Plus the lady writing the offer looked like she would cut a bitch if I crossed her. She had angry stalker eyes. And I'm pretty certain she wrote down our license plate number before she left. So I decided not to cross her.

At this point, I have been on 11 different shopping expeditions.

Which may not seem like a lot, but factor in the fact that every time I go to the metro to house shop I have to: find child care for the munchkins, drive two hours, spend roughly 3-5 hours slogging from house to house, then drive 2 hours home, and it becomes an exhausting prospect. I skipped that first step ONCE, and regretted the choice immensely.

Know what's worse than peeling Sterling off of my stuff? Peeling her off of someone else's extremely expensive, professionally arranged stuff.

While juggling Bennett the wonder chunk.

Good times.

Which is why going without AC when you are living in a swamp no longer feels like a major deal. I mean humidity is good for the pores, right? It would be like I spent every night at a spa, just more expensive. And without the whole "luxury" thing. But other than that, pretty much the same.

Right now I have essentially two options:

1. Lower my expectations. Like "wow, that cardboard box really has character" lower.

2. Move so far outside the metro that distance is measured not in miles, but in hours driving.

And it is really hard to commit to something you are lukewarm on because the market turns over so rapidly in DC that you are always thinking "maybe the perfect house will come up tomorrow" in the back of your mind.

So the search continues. Hopefully someone puts a house on the market tonight and accidentally leaves a zero off their asking price. And they don't realize it until after the closing. Because they are so independently wealthy that the extra zero doesn't really mean anything to them. And are secretly happy that they are helping a lovely family like us.

Sounds likely, right? Because otherwise, I am looking at more "quirky" properties...

But What Am I Really?

I had an odd experience the other day, one that took me a few days to process before I could really wrap my brain around.

John and I went out for lunch last Sunday at one of our favorite restaurants. It's not fancy or in the greatest area in town, but they do seafood with a down-home flair that is INCREDIBLE! No lie, I would bathe in their applesauce, it's THAT damn good.

We had just finished an incredible lunch when an older gentleman arrived and the hostess started to lead him to a table next to ours. About 10 feet away he saw where he was heading, planted his feet and with a wild-eyed glare at us, loudly proclaimed "I won't sit next to no white people".

It was clear that nearly everyone within ear shot was as shocked as we were. We are often the only white faces in the room at this restaurant, but we've always felt totally welcome in the past.

The hostess took him to a table diagonal to us, in the opposite corner of the room. You literally could not get further away.

At first, I was so stunned that I couldn't believe I had heard him correctly, but John confirmed it.

I wont lie, my first response was anger, then indignation. There was a part of me that was deeply hurt by his bigotry and I kind of wanted to discuss it with him. As I thought over it, I realized several things.

First and foremost, he wasn't judging me. He was judging some specter in his mind that was his approximation of "white people". It had nothing to do with who I am or what I do and everything to do with his assumptions.

Second, that must be an incredibly sad way to go through life. I love people from diverse backgrounds, I often learn the most about myself by talking with someone who has extremely different viewpoints. I test out my opinions and sometimes completely debunk them. In fact, I sincerely miss talking politics with my super conservative friends because they gave me such a holistic understanding of the political arena and world in general.

Third and most importantly, keeping that kind of fear/distrust/hatred alive cannot help but limit his joy. I have no idea what events occurred in his life to bring him to that view of "white people", but I do know that maintaining that level of vitriol blocks happiness.

I choose to accept people on their individual merit and hope that they do the same for me. That is part of why his judgement shocked me so much, it was based on nothing more than my skin color.

And I know this is nothing new. Cultures throughout the world have been doing this since the beginning of time. No matter who we are underneath, such a senseless distinction as skin color is for most cultures a major sticking point.

Look at modern India, where your entire lifelong worth is determined by skin pigment, and it's not uncommon for girl babies with dark skin to be abandoned in the streets.

It certainly is not a new concept for our nation either. The genocide that the American government levied against the Native American population remains an topic of embarrassment that our culture tends to brush under the carpet. It's as if by ignoring it, we can erase the taint from our collective memories, and thus our history.

To be fair, I don't hate this gentleman for his viewpoint. Sometimes I don't want to sit next to (some) white people either. But I make that distinction only after I have taken the time to get to know them. It has nothing to do with their skin color, and everything to do with the content of their personality.

No, he was feeling ugly and decided to let it out.

So I am choosing not to let it color my view of people. Instead, I have been choosing to smile extra big at total strangers. And whether it makes their day, or it makes them wonder what kind of naughty I am up to, it definitely makes me feel better.

And I am going to focus even harder on making sure that my kids have open, loving hearts because I don't ever want them to make someone else feel like he made me feel: like I am nothing other than a skin color.

Because the point is this: racism and bigotry exist. They exist all over the world in a multitude of ways. But the more we focus on how we are different rather than look for ways that we are the same, the more we nurture that animosity and give it room to grow. And I personally feel that we have had enough. Let's let old lines of demarcation die, and rejoice in the beauty alive in each of us.