This afternoon as I looked around my house after de-Christmasing, I had a mild panic attack.Â Not really.Â But I did stop for a minute and evaluate the situation.Â Whether it was covered in dog hair, drool, or dust, everything needed to be cleaned.Â There were little piles of crap everywhere.Â Bills stacked on top of unopened Christmas cards stacked on top of sale coupons I had clipped stacked on top of Netflicks envelopes.Â There were Christmas presents, unwrapped, laying around the house in no particular order and in no particular place.Â And the baby toys.Â Oh, the baby toys.Â It looked like Toys R Us threw up all over my house.
And while I know that its not Chris and Bean’s fault directly, I did find myself blaming them today.Â I found myself thinking back to when I was in college living with the Two Meatheads.Â True, those two boys were far dirtier and smellier than my two boys today.Â But at least in that small apartment in college, I had my own space.Â My two college roommates, Jay and Neal, were really respectful of my space.Â They never came into my bedroom, never asked to use my bathroom even when we had a house full of people, they never ate my food, and never used my laundry detergent.
But these two boys?
Well, these two boys are different.Â They’re just all up in my space.Â My living room is overflowing with Bean’s toys now.Â My desk is overflowing with Chris’ cables and cords and hard drives.Â My bathtub now has a giant duck living in it and squirt toys and bubble blowers hanging on the walls.Â My laundry room runneth over with tiny, little socks and giant, smelly socks.Â My fridge is full of beer and baby bottles.Â My garage now houses a pool table and dart boards and ping pong tables in exchange for my car.Â And I can’t tell you the last time I got into my bed and didn’t fish out a burp cloth or binky from between my sheets.
Now, don’t get me wrong.Â I love these two boys.Â They make my life fuller and richer and all that other warm, fuzzy stuff.Â But, I’m feeling a bit claustrophobic lately.Â Take, for example, my writing.Â I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about a book.Â Or started a magazine article.Â Hell, even a birthday card to a friend and I’ve been interrupted by something.Â Dinner needing to be made or a diaper needing to be changed or groceries needing to be bought or bills needing to be paid.Â And while I know that none of these things are anything worse than the next person deals with on a daily basis, too, I’m just feeling it all a little more intensely right now.
In 2010, I’m not going to make any resolutions.Â But I am setting a few goals for myself and the one at the top of my list this year is to learn how to balance these two boys with time for myself.Â To learn how to make myself a priority so that I’m not just running in circles all day long and then using whatever is left at the end of the day to meet my needs.Â I know this sounds selfish and ungrateful, but I know myself and I know that I can’t give to others if my mind is preoccupied with personal needs that aren’t being met.
The great news is that my two boys…Well, they’re pretty much two peas in a pod.Â I’ve got a supportive partner and that makes it possible for me to dial it back a little bit.Â Chris is the first to step up when I need to step back and I know that he will, once again, rise to the challenge.Â And Bean won’t complain because his Dad is his favorite playmate.
And because he can’t talk.
So, in 2010, my main goal is to make time to take off my Mom hat.Â To take off my Wife hat.Â To take off my Blogger hat and my Full-Time Working hat.Â To lower my expectations of what can be accomplished in one day and to spend some time with Katie.Â Doing things that rejuvenate me and excite me.Â Spending time writing more than just blog posts and exploring things that are important to me and for me.Â In the end, I think that will make me a better mother and a better spouse.
Viva la Katie!
So, this afternoon Chris and I got into a big fight.
A huge fight.
A colossal fight.
We haven’t fought like this in a long, long time.Â I think the last fight of this size was one night when I was very pregnant and I was standing on the bottom step of the stairs in our house and I yelled so loud that I knocked my huge, preggo self right off the step.Â I’m a powerful yeller.
Here’s the thing about my fighting style.Â I hardly ever do it.Â I’m not a big fighter at all.Â In fact, I’d rather just apologize, even though something may not be my fault, just so we don’t have to go through the hassle of a fight.Â Its not that I’m a pushover.Â Its that I’m lazy.Â I just haven’t found too many things really worth the effort of fighting over, so I’d rather just be the one to say, “I’m sorry” and then we can move on to more fun things.
But here’s the thing about being married to someone with this kind of fighting style.Â Once you push them too far, you’ve pushed them too far.Â And you better find a football helmet and some kind of wooden spoon because you are about to go to war.Â Whether you want to or not.Â And whatever you do, whatever you say, just know that you are only going to make the situation worse.Â Either immediately submit or hold on tight.Â Once you’ve made me mad, there really isn’t an off switch.
9 out of 10 times, Chris is pretty good at going to battle with me.Â He puts on his armor and then he stands there silently and takes it.Â He doesn’t usually fight back when I’m in the red zone.Â Instead, he lets me rant and rave and knock myself off steps.Â And then he lets me storm off to a neutral corner where I can calm myself down.Â And then he either waits for me to realize that I was wrong and I apologize, or he comes and apologizes to me if he was in the wrong.Â At which point I then break down into a sobbing mess, professing my love and devotion and begging him to take off the football helmet and put down the wooden spoon.
But there are those times, those special, rare times when Chris decides that not only is he going to put on the armor and go to battle, but he’s going to fight back, too.Â So, then I have to rant and rave AND rip his head off.Â And it takes sooooo much more effort to fight like this.
And that’s what happened this afternoon.Â Lack of sleep, lots of vacation travel, and just the good ol’ daily grindstone all came to a head today and neither Chris or I felt like taking any crap from the other one.Â So, we didn’t.Â We went round for round until finally, we both told the other to leave the house.Â And neither of us listened to the other person, so we both retreated to neutral corners and pretended the other person didn’t exist for the next several hours.
Under normal circumstances, I would say this was just a terrible fight and we’d look back on it and laugh at how silly and headstrong we were both being.Â But this time, it was different.Â Because as I was ranting and raving and ripping Chris’ head off and as he was yelling right back at me, I had Bean on my hip.Â He was right there.Â In the middle of it.Â And I didn’t even really notice until I stormed up to my bedroom and realized someone was hanging off of me.
So, then I cried.
I skipped the anger and the cool down completely and went straight to the crying.Â How could I have gotten so involved in some stupid fight that I would lose my cool like that in front of a baby?Â And not just any baby, but my Beanie.Â He’s never heard me yell before and there I was yelling right over his head like I had no sense at all.Â The guilt of my actions stopped me cold.
I cried for a little bit while Bean chewed on his feet and pulled my hair, seemingly oblivious to what had just happened.Â And then I got up off my bed and wiped my face, I changed Bean’s diaper, changed my clothes, and I pulled myself together.Â Because as mad as I was and as much as I wanted to either punch Chris in the nose or curl up in my bed and sleep off what had just happened, I couldn’t do either of those things.
Because someone was counting on me.
The thing is, fighting before you have children is a luxury.Â You can be as moody, as sulky, as self-indulgent, and as immature as you want to be.Â And trust me, I was an awesome self-indulgent sulker.Â But now that there’s someone else in our house, issues between me and Chris take a backseat really quickly.Â That doesn’t mean that I don’t get just as mad as I did before Bean came along and that doesn’t mean that my temper isn’t just as powerful and just as prevalent as it was before Bean.Â But as a mom (shoot – as a mature adult!) I have to learn some self-control.Â I used to think I had a green light to pitch colossal fits every now and then because I so seldom got mad, but it doesn’t matter if I get angry every 10 minutes or every 10 years, I have to learn to keep it in check because someone else is depending on my stability.
I don’t ever want Bean to see me that angry again.Â I’m sure there will be times (probably MANY times…) when my anger will rise in front of Bean and that’s okay.Â Anger is an valid emotion and I don’t want to show myself to him as some fake, perfect human who doesn’t ever get mad.Â But I don’t ever want to lose control like I did today in front of him again.Â We teach by setting an example, even to 7-month-old babies, and I don’t want my example to be that temper tantrums and yelling and harsh, unkind words are ever justified. There is a right way and a wrong way to have a disagreement and I want to be sure to set the right example for Beanie.Â Its going to take me a while and I might bite my tongue off multiple times while I learn to keep it in check, but its an effort that I need to make to be a better mom.
So, there you have it.Â I am far from perfect.Â Our family is far from perfect.Â We fight.Â We yell.Â But we love each other.
And now I must go.Â Chris is sitting on the living room couch in his football helmet, holding his wooden spoon.Â He says its just a precaution, but he’s really freaking out the dogs…
Last week we were in Florida for Christmas.Â To get all of our presents home, we shipped them with UPS because it was cheaper than trying to check them on the plane.Â The bummer was that this meant our gifts weren’t going to get to Connecticut until sometime next week.Â It is absolutely no fun to open Christmas presents one morning and then have to pack them away the next day for a whole week.
And that’s where my parents save the day!
My parents came up to Connecticut last week to spend a few days with us and to have our Christmas with them.Â Lucky for us, my mom doesn’t know what a “light Christmas” is and she more than made up for all the packages we had shipped and can’t play with for a couple more days.
I would try to make some excuse about the room being really small or something to make it seem like we aren’t as overwhelmed with presents as it looks like we are, but those would be lies.Â My parents don’t know how to not overwhelm at Christmas.Â So, if the wrapping paper piles look about 5 feet high, that’s because they are.Â And if it looks like I’m a spoiled brat, that’s because I am.
But its my parent’s fault.Â It’s always the parent’s fault.
After Christmas, all of Bean’s toy preferences changed.Â I think the great thing about gift-giving is when people give things that you normally wouldn’t have picked out, but it turns out that its just the perfect present.Â That’s how Bean’s Christmas from his grandparents was.Â Most of the toys I probably would have passed on because they seemed too advanced for Bean, but in actuality, he loved them!Â So what if he can’t use them for their exact purpose right now, he can still play with them and that will teach him as he grows.
One of my favorite things to read on other people’s blogs is what their kids are playing with.Â It gives me such good ideas for Beanie.Â So I thought I’d share with you some of the toys that Bean received for Christmas this year.Â Maybe it’ll spark some ideas for your Bean, too.Â Bean did not want for toys, so I’m breaking this up into a couple posts throughout the week.Â We’ll start this week with the ones that I’ve seen work on Bean’s eye/hand coordination.
He got this little pop-up toy, which I would have never picked out for him.Â He isn’t able to work the different buttons, so how much fun could it be?Â The answer?Â A LOT OF FUN.Â He can hit that big green button in the middle, so he now knows that those buttons make the animals pop up.Â This means he’s always fidgeting with the other buttons trying to figure out how they work.Â I can see his little brain just a workin’ in there.Â When he gives up on the buttons, he still likes the toy because he can close the animals and then he waits until I make them pop up again and he dies laughing.
He also got this bucket of different shaped hand toys.Â This was one of the gifts I gave him actually.Â I knows he’s months, probably at least a year, away from being able to match the shapes to the right hole in the bucket, but for now he really loves chewing on this!Â He likes chewing on the shapes, but for some reason he loves chewing on the top of the bucket.Â Not sure why, but he carries that thing around just a sucking on it.Â But you know what Bean can do with this toy that totally surprised me?Â He can put the pieces into the bucket (if there’s no lid on it).Â I dump the shapes out next to the bucket and Bean picks up each shapes, chews on it a while, and then puts it back in the bucket before moving on to the next piece.Â Clearly, the kid’s a genius.
Bean also got this boy.Â You put the balls in any of the shoots and they fly out of the bottom and it plays music.Â This one is a little advanced for him because he can’t follow the balls fast enough to see them come out of the bottom.Â But he likes the music.Â And he really likes those little red balls at the top of the dragon’s head.Â He chews on those.Â For now, we’ll keep on playing with this one trying to learn where the balls go, but it’ll probably stay a giant teether for a couple months.Â But at least he has toys he can grow into.
(And can we talk for just a minute about how this toy looks like a bong?Â I’m having some flash forward moments to about 16 or 17 years from now and I’m not liking them one bit.Â On second thoughts, maybe this toy isn’t the kind of educational toy that I’m looking for…)
Another toy that Bean got that was unexpectedly a big hit was this spinning toy.Â As soon as we opened it, I remembered the one that I had growing up.Â I loved it.Â Mine was orange and red and yellow with blue balls inside.Â This one is great for Bean right now because you push that big button on the top just once and it spins for FOREVER!Â So, Bean can just tap the top and he then watches those little balls inside bounce around for about a minute.Â Low effort, high rewards.Â Aim high, Bean.Â Aim high.
Check back tomorrow when we look at the bigger, more active toys that Bean got for Christmas…
This year, one of the big gifts that Santa brought Bean was this little scooter.Â I loved it…er,…I mean, Santa loved it because it has stages to it.Â For now, we have it folded down into the scooter so that Bean can sit on it, but it also extends into a pushing cart that he can push around when he learned to walk.Â I didn’t think he’d actually be able to balance enough to sit on it yet, but he was a pro.Â His favorite thing to do though is to sit next to it and play with all the moving parts.
Oh, and he likes when Chris and I push him around on it and chase Lucy.
For the record, Lucy hates this toy.
One of Bean’s favorite gifts that he got for Christmas was his very own jumparoo.Â He has two at daycare that he really likes, but Nana and Granddad brought Beanie his very own special farm-themed jumparoo.Â He loves it.Â He likes to sit in it and look at the lights.Â He likes to jump in it.Â He likes to play with all the buttons.Â Jumparoo?Â Big. Hit.
Bean is also really into this new singing toolbox.
I have a confession about this toy.Â I had it wrapped and under our Christmas tree weeks before Christmas.Â One morning, Bean was irritable and cranky and bored, and as I looked around my house for something to entertain him, I decided, “Oh, what the hell…” and I unwrapped this present and gave it to him to keep him busy.Â He loved it.Â And he still does.Â When you hit the little shapes, they light up and sing.Â It comes with a hammer to hit with.Â Bean uses the hammer as a chew toy (like everything else in my house) and he beats the shapes with his own hands.Â This is one of his favorites.
Santa also brought Bean this activity tunnel by Baby Einstein.Â It is a mesh tunnel with toys and pictures that hang down on the inside.Â He can lay down in there, or sit in there, or crawl through it when he learns to crawl.Â For now, he’s not quite sure about it.Â He doesn’t mind being in the tunnel as long as you stick your head in there with him.Â And he likes the toys that hang down inside.Â But he gets a little freaked out when he’s in there by himself.Â Not that I blame him.Â I bet this will be a bigger hit when he can crawl and move around more.
All of these toys are great and they’ve opened up all these new activities for Bean to learn.Â But as much as Bean loves all these toys, his favorite toys are still the two attached to his legs.Â Simple pleasures, I guess.
That just about wraps up the presents that Bean got from our Christmas in Connecticut.Â I’ll post Parts Three and Four as soon as our boxes from Florida arrive.
You didn’t think this was ALL he got, did you?Â Let me remind you that Bean is the FIRST.Â He is our first child.Â He is the first grandchild on both sides.Â He is the first great-grandchild on both sides.Â This kid is set for life on toys.
(Click HERE to read Part One of Bean’s toys.)