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Ten Super-Human Traits Only Parents Possess

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1. Opposable big toe- With the onset of parenthood, the big toe quickly becomes opposable, allowing easy retrieval of dropped items without the arduous task of bending over or squatting.

2. Incredibly dexterous non-dominant hand- Being a parent means never eating without a child in your arms again. Ever. Therefore, the non-dominant hand steps up to the plate (so to speak), to provide slow but steady delivery of essential nutrition to the mouth.

3. Selective sense of smell- You will become extra sensitive to the smell of feces, except in the presence of the significant other, when the smell will be ignored until the other’s will is broken and they offer to change the diaper. You will also become immune to the smell of spit up on your own clothing, and body odour since there is likely no time to shower.

4. Extra-sensory nighttime noise perception- Inevitably, if your children do not rouse you from sleep regularly, your inner ESNNP will, which allows you to detect the faint sound of your child’s breathing or movement from down the hall before falling back asleep. This trait seems to be strangely under-developed in fathers.

5. Overdeveloped right bicep-Specially honed to balance babies, haul cars seats, and lug groceries, this super-strong muscle is essential to daily parental functioning.

6. Specially cushioned thighs and belly- A carry-over from pregnancy (or the “sympathy belly” in male partners), this extra padding provides comfortable support for sleepy or cuddly babies and toddlers.

7. Auto-bounce and sway function- Initiated by the presence of a baby in your arms, the bounce and sway reaction is designed to maintain sanity in all household members, and to induce sleep or contentment in babies. It may also persist to occur when baby is not present.

8. Spit-up direction controller- A difficult to understand special feature, the spit up controller acts to direct the stream of baby vomit in the exact opposite direction of the applied burp cloth or receiving blanket. It also has a time function, whereby spit up will be launched the exact instant a bib or other absorptive material is removed from the baby’s vicinity.

9. Magical healing kiss- Can be applied to all nature of injuries for instant healing results. Especially powerful when combined with superhero band aids.

10. Enlarged Heart- This develops with the appearance of the child(ren), and will persist for the lifetime of the parent. Likely the most beneficial of all the Super-Human Parenting Traits and should never be used sparingly.

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Birth. Nailed it.

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This is a birth story. It’s long-winded and lady parts may be mentioned but the ending is awesome, trust me!

As this was our second baby, I had a fairly good idea of what to expect and also what type of birth experience I didn’t want- one that involved a lot of interventions and ended with a fairly traumatic (both for the wee boy and the lady parts) forceps delivery and a very long recovery process. We both came out of it healthy and ok, but I knew the process could be better. My attitude about birth had also changed; for our first baby the birth was something that was going happen TO me, while this time birth was something I was going to DO. And do a lot differently. We took Bradley Method (husband-coached natural childbirth) classes where we learned a ton about staying healthy and low risk during pregnancy and comfort measures for each stage of labour. We developed a list of birth “preferences” and I felt very confident that we were going to have a very different birth experience.

I think the birth story begins on Thursday (birth day -1) when I had a great massage from a doula and she really went to town on the “labour inducing” pressure points. I definitely felt different afterwards and had twinges on and off for most of the afternoon and then went to yoga class at 6 pm. The massage (and likely the birth hormones) must have opened up the old pelvis because I was doing lunges and squats like a rock star. I had a couple if mild contractions on the way home. I had a good supper and we decided to go for a family walk since I was pretty sure labour was starting and wanted to keep things moving along. We walked along the same route we had taken when I was in labour with Davin, but this time he came along on his bike!

Mild contractions (could keep walking and talking) continued and we called Grandma to come and pick up Davin around 9 pm. While we waited for her I rocked on the birth ball and read Davin a story; he wanted a ball too so he sat on his soccer ball during the story. The contractions were regular but I could breathe through them easily enough. I texted the massaging doula and told her I was in labour; she told me to “relax and enjoy the ride” so I stopped timing the contractions and just went to bed. I was worried everything would stop but things continued to intensify once I laid down. Dan slept for a couple hours since I was managing fairly well on my own; relaxed on my side, had a bath, leaned on the birth ball. Groaned. After a few hours the contractions continued to get stronger and I was getting restless. I knew it was time to head to the hospital when they were quickly less than two minutes apart. Now I had reached the “get down to business” stage and needed Dan to be with me for each contraction. We used sacral counter pressure (all Dan), low pitched vocalizations (more groaning), and Dan counted me through each contraction (he knew how many breaths each one was lasting generally). I tried to keep my jaw and body relaxed and take deep belly breaths. I closed my eyes for most of the ride to the hospital, but I’m pretty sure some red lights were ignored. On the way up the 4th floor of the hospital we had to stop 4-5 times to focus on the contractions. The hallway seemed to go on forever! Dan took care of the paperwork and I leaned on a chair during another contraction. Right then another couple from our class wheeled by on their way to labour and delivery and their doula stopped and said something very reassuring (strange how you forget things in labour).

Once we were in an assessment room they checked my cervix and I was 4 cm dilated. The nurse monitored the baby for about 20 min to make sure he or she was happy with the whole labour situation. Baby was handling it like a pro. The intensity of the contractions was increasing rapidly so I knew it wouldn’t be long even though I was “only” 4 cm. The hospital was very busy that night (full moon maybe?) so we waited awhile for a room. I leaned over a birth ball and laboured on hands and knees since that seemed most comfortable. Once it was time to move over to labour and delivery the nurse asked me if I wanted to walk which seemed impossible to me and I said “are you kidding?”. We took a wheelchair.

Things moved pretty quickly once we were in our room. I was in and out of the bathroom and starting to feel the urge to push at 6 am but was 7 cm dilated so the nurse told me to wait. My groans were starting to sound like grunts! Dan kept me hydrated with water and pushed on my back with every contraction. I was starting to think I couldn’t handle it much longer and was wondering about laughing gas or something (not sure if that was even an option!). At one point I turned to Dan and said “I think this is transition!”. I really hoped it was since I knew that was the hardest part and we were near the end. During this transition stage there were double peaked contractions and I was definitely wondering if I could manage- all the emotional sign posts we had learned about in class were there! Dan kept me focused and encouraged me it wouldn’t be much longer. I could tell things were changing quickly and could feel increasing pressure with every contraction and the baby moving down. I must have indicated this somehow in my vocalizations because the nurse got on the phone in a real hurry and told the doctor to come right away because the baby was on its way. We had quickly progressed to 10 cm and I was given the go ahead to start pushing-thank goodness because the urge is totally uncontrollable and I was already doing it!

Contractions were very close together so I didn’t have time or a rest to move out of the side lying position to deliver- it was happening so fast I felt like I couldn’t move. I had planned to try delivering in a squatting position since it can be very effective for opening the pelvis and preventing tears. Also very primal. However, all my concentration was focused on getting through each contraction. I pushed however felt right (grunting a lot seemed to help), and panted through the end when the baby was crowning. I reached down and felt the baby’s head at that point- it was all wrinkly and squished! A few more pushes and baby was born and on my chest. Dan announced “It’s a girl!” and I was laughing. Such a huge relief. It’s true the pain stops as soon as they are born. Dan was a super star Daddy coach. I could not have done it without his support. I noticed right away that her hair was reddish like mine. I had my own mini-me! I cuddled her on my belly under a blanket and she crawled up and found my breast all on her own. Her latch was nice and deep and she nursed heartily twice on each side. We were in love with our little girl.

I had a minor first degree tear which was repaired with a few stitches. We opted for delayed cord clamping, delayed newborn procedures (weighing, vitamin K shot, etc) until after skin to skin and breastfeeding and all of these wishes were respected with no question. The staff had clearly all read our birth preferences. She wasn’t weighed until 2 hrs after birth (8 lbs 10 oz) and even had some skin to skin time with daddy. My dear friend and labour and delivery nurse Cindy took care of us after the birth and brought me the biggest breakfast tray ever (she even put peanut butter on my toast!).

Our baby’s birth was a truly amazing and empowering experience. Yes, it was painful, and intense, and there were times I wasn’t sure if I could continue. Dan was there to support me and remind me that women’s bodies are not flawed; they are designed to give birth and can manage the pain of contractions since it has a purpose- bringing that little baby that we had prayed and hoped for into our welcoming arms. Welcome, Violet Marie, and thank you for such a rewarding experience.

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An Animal Scientist’s Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth

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4295579918_57411b3467Although I now work with parasites in food, my educational background is in Animal Science-pretty much anything having to do with raising livestock and their delicious edible by-products (I mean eggs, meat and milk). My biology and anatomy lessons were learned on dog, pig and cattle carcasses. I studied reproduction by poking and prodding cattle uteruses (uteri?) donated from the slaughter plant. So naturally, when I read/think/talk about pregnancy and childbirth in humans, I mostly think of animals.

For instance, during a workshop I attended on breastfeeding, whenever oxytocin and milk let down was mentioned, I was thinking about the dairy parlour. Last week when a fellow prenatal yogi announced that she was leaking milk late her third trimester, I proudly told her that the same thing happens to mares before they foal-it’s called “waxing up” so it might mean that baby would be arriving soon! Good right?  I’m not sure she was impressed. No one likes to be compared to a large animal when they are 41 weeks pregnant.

So, although some may find it offensive to be compared to a cow*, much can be learned from nature. Here are some lessons from an Animal Scientist that may be applied to pregnancy and childbirth in humans:

  • Exercise: Every cattle producer worth his/her salt will tell you that a fit cow is less likely to have difficulty calving. To facilitate exercise in pregnant bovines, the producer will often strategically place water and feed in spatially distant locations so that the mammas have to waddle 1 or 2 miles between the feed and water troughs. Fit cows pop out smaller calves more easily. Application of this in humans may be difficult (I’d like to see you grab a pregnant’ lady’s dinner plate and take off down the street yelling, “Here honey! Come and get it! It will be good for the baby!”), however a good daily exercise program to improve stamina is certainly not a bad idea. Labour and delivery is no cake walk. (Did someone say cake?)
  • Weight gain: If cattle are subjected to the food/water separation exercise plan, excessive weight gain is typically not an issue; it’s generally recognized that overly fat cows will have more difficulty calving. I personally like to refer to my pregnancy weight gain as a nice “finish”, or layer of fat that in a market animal, would be considered desirable. I have adequate depth and cover in the loin area and my udder is filling out nicely. Post-partum, I hope to regain more “dairy character” and “angularity” that is considered desirable in a milk-producing animal. However, for the time being, I am quite happy resembling a well-fed bred heifer.
  • Ante-partum preparation: During the last few weeks of pregnancy, the cows would be brought in from pasture and fed a richer diet to facilitate milk production and to ensure calves are not born out in the bush somewhere. Similarly, human mothers tend to stick close to home during the last few weeks, organizing closets, freezing meals, napping and eating ice cream (No? Just me?). In cattle, signs of eminent calving include a relaxation of the ligaments around the tail head (or saggy looking lady parts for those who prefer a more direct visual), “bagging up” (udder looks full and distended), and an increase in vaginal mucus production (no further description required). Producers watch carefully for these signs and may isolate cows who appear ready to calve soon. In humans however, publicly drawing attention to any of these or other signs that the birth is eminent (due date is close, due date is passed, baby has dropped, mamma is waddling, mamma looks like a house, mamma can’t reach her shoes, etc, etc) is generally met with a low growl and an evil stare. Human females never need reminding that the baby is coming soon. They know. Trust me.
  • Labour and Delivery: Generally this is a quick and straight forward process for cattle with the following key features: cow isolates herself when near calving, and stays upright and moving until it’s time to push the little gaffer out. Obviously it is not always that simple and sometimes calves need to use an alternative side exit or be assisted by a veterinarian-and thank goodness for that. However, it should be noted that the following practices are not routine in cows: labour induction, continuous fetal monitoring, pain medication, labour augmentation, cervical dilation checks, episiotomy, or feed/fluid intake restrictions. Also, she will quite happily eat her placenta afterwards and none of the other cows think she is crazy. Humans (thankfully) do not have to give birth out on pasture or in a barn. We have trained professionals (doulas, midwives, nurses, doctors, obstetricians) and clean, safe places to bring our babies into the world and take life-saving measures when necessary. Still…maybe there are a few things we could learn from Mrs. Cow.
  • Post-partum: If everything has gone smoothly, the instant baby drops, Mrs. Cow is up and licking him like it’s the most important thing she’s ever done. She “talks” to baby with low grunts, and encourages him to get up and nursing as soon as he’s able to stand to ensure he receives colostrum and develops a healthy immune system. Interference in this important process is generally met with snorting and head shaking-cow translation: “Back off bitch, we’re bonding”. In humans, this time shortly after birth is called “skin to skin” and involves lots of naked snuggling, cooing, and staring in amazement at the miracle of life in your arms. Eventually, he will be lured away for cleaning, measuring, and cataloguing and will return in the form of a large burrito with a hat. After a nice hot shower (a fortunate benefit of being human) and some peanut butter toast, you are wheeled away to a small pen to “mother-up” before finally being let out on pasture with the rest of the herd. Welcome to Motherhood.

* My mom wrote a really awesome poem about being compared to a cow during pregnancy. I will post it sometime.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cboheler/4295579918/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Rebooting…

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reboot

I’m not a computer expert. My sole fix-it-all strategy if something goes wrong is the trusted and true standby-reboot. This will fix the problem 99% of the time.

If only life were that simple. Yesterday was a perfect example of a day that was sorely in need of rebooting. Or maybe an entire system restoration. Either way, we were heading for the “blue screen of death” and a major crash.

Here’s how the morning went. Sleeping in. Whining. Crying. Arguing about pants. Throwing things. Swearing. Stomping around. Arguing about socks. Collapsing on the floor. Threats. Screaming. Arguing about breakfast. Still more crying. Yelling. Complaining. Slamming the door. Being late. Further crying. All parties participated equally in each activity.

Driving to work, I felt like complete garbage. I had pretty much displayed every poor parenting skill in the book-yelling, losing my temper, swearing, being impatient, using threats, you name it. I really wanted to rewind the morning and start all over again. I would be well-rested, calm, patient, cheerful, caring parent instead of tired, cranky, late, nasty parent. All I needed was a reboot.

I sent big man a text: “Sorry. I’m officially the worst parent ever”. Perhaps sensing my dismay, the big man brought me surprise flowers at work. (Special Note to dudes, if you need a reboot the husband-wife operating system, flowers are a sure-fire fix). We talked about what we both could do differently tomorrow, starting with an earlier bedtime for everyone. Sleep = Harmony at our house.

Luckily, children are amazingly resilient. I called little man’s daycare to see how much damage had been done by our morning meltdown. Relatively little, it seemed. When I picked him up, he was his usual happy self. I told him that I was sorry for yelling and losing my temper and that parents don’t always do the right thing. We agreed tomorrow would be better.

What I learned about parenting: You are a parent for life.  Every day you get to reboot and try again, until you get it “right”. We make mistakes and learn from them. No one knows exactly how to be a perfect parent (except maybe people without kids)-you learn by trial and error, following your instincts, and….I’m still learning what that third thing is.

When in doubt, reboot.

 

Equal and Opposite: How Newton’s Third Law Applies to Everyday Pregnant Life

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GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689

To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions.”

For some reason, a high school physics lesson (which I was certain was buried in a dusty corner of my brain along with math and *gag* phys ed class) came to mind as I contemplated various things going on in my life at the moment. Some are pretty awesome, and others not so much. I try not to focus on the less awesome aspects; usually by shifting my thoughts to an equally important, but far more positive point. Equal, but opposite.

Not so good stuff (I promise this is the only time I will make a list of completely self-centred complaints):

  • My immune system has given up entirely to compensate for the parasitism occurring in my uterus; I just recovered from a third bout of stomach-flu plague since being pregnant and am now getting a cold.
  • I bought a new bra, which I have been trying to wear but have decided it is the most uncomfortable bra EVER manufactured and am really wishing it was 1968 so that I could burn it.
  • Heart. Burn.
  • Pretty much uncontrolled weight gain (Excuse me, nurse? I think the scale needs to be calibrated?)
  • Gas. There I said it. Being pregnant makes me gassy (er). Also, being gassy in yoga class is really inconvenient. You would think that with a room full of pregnant women, someone would just let one rip so that we could all relax and follow suit. I just don’t want that “someone” to be me.

Pretty Darn Good Stuff (I shall endeavour to make more lists like this):

  • Lately the baby has been getting really active and the other night was kicking me in my side and making me giggle like a school girl.
  • The reason for the new bra is that I have “grown out” of my old ones. Finally the girls look less like old tube socks and more like nice juicy mangoes.
  • Davin randomly tells me he loves me just about every day. “I love you Mom” he says. And sometimes he adds, “And I also love Power Rangers”. Boys.
  • I get to wear stretchy pants every day and no one looks at me funny.
  • Thankfully I married someone with next to no sense of smell who at least acts as if being outrageously gassy is totally normal. Also, little boys think farting is hilarious. So really it’s a win-win-win.

Really, there is no point in fighting with the Laws of Physics. Embrace them. If you find not-so-good thoughts floating across your mental screen, remember there is an equal, but opposite force out there somewhere to counteract it.

Pregnancy 3.0- An Apprehensive User’s Guide

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This guide is designed for anxious moms-to-be who may have had difficulty completing previous versions of Pregnancy. Don’t worry; you don’t have to “pass” previous levels to complete Pregnancy 3.0. In fact, lucky users will get a free version of the program just for trying. This may lead to some obvious anxiety about completing Pregnancy 3.0, however this guide will assist you with overcoming the challenges facing you in this version.

Level 1: Peeing on a Stick (aka Pregnancy Tests)

Pregnancy tests shall always be referred to in the plural form since they never exist as a solo unit. Tests should be completed in duplicate, or ideally quadruplicate for absolute confirmation. Your initial reaction to a positive test will likely be disbelief, elation, followed by a constant and lingering feeling of anxiety. Don’t worry! This is completely normal part of the Pregnancy 3.0 programming.

Level 2: The Early Ultrasound

Upon having achieved Step 1: The Positive Pregnancy Tests, you may now proceed to anxiously awaiting Step 2: The Early Ultrasound. You are convinced that once you see the bean bouncing around with a healthy heartbeat you will be able to relax and enjoy Pregnancy 3.0. Seeing a healthy baby is a short-term diversion only. The effects will likely last an average of 16 minutes, after which you will resume feeling distressed until your next appointment in 4 weeks.

Level 3: First Trimester Limbo

During the next phase, you will enter what shall be referred to as “First Trimester Limbo”. You are pregnant. You saw the little bean on the ultrasound. Still, you are only partially convinced that you are even participating in Pregnancy 3.0 (maybe it’s like the Matrix, and nothing that appears to be happening is really happening). However, the evidence is mounting. Your pants don’t fit. Your boobs hurt. You are hungry/sick/exhausted/have to pee 90% of the time. The remaining 10% of the time you just want to punch someone or cry. But no one must know this! You have to keep the pickle jar carefully hidden in your filing cabinet and the afternoon nap hammock slung discreetly under your desk. You must simply wait, act “normal” and cross days off the calendar until you have reached P3.2 (the second trimester). At some points, you may irresistibly drawn to online discussion boards, pregnancy help pages, and scouring Dr. Google for the meaning of every ache, cramp, twinge, or burp. This is a trap! It will only increase the paranoia level during P3.1. Although alluring, avoid these sites at all cost.

Level 4: Doubting Thomas

Somewhere near the end of P3.1, you will  undergo another doctor’s appointment. Fixating on this date, when you will likely hear the little bean’s heartbeat again, will carry you through the Limbo/Matrix phase. As you wait in the office, your own heartbeat is thumping in your ears, your pulse is racing, and your palms are sweaty. This is it…the moment of truth. The nurse has to take your blood pressure twice since it is off the charts. You joke, “Haha, that’s what you get for taking the stairs”, she nods as if agreeing, but you can tell she thinks you’re crazy. Deep yoga breathing, in and out, in and out. It’s going to be ok.

When the doctor places the doppler on your belly, you hear the thump thump thump thump, and relax. What a beautiful sound. “That’s not my heartbeat, is it?” you ask. “Not unless your heart rate is 130 bpm” he laughs (can robots laugh?). “Right, of course”, you agree. My heart rate couldn’t be going that fast, I’m just lying here. You leave the office and get into the car. Just to be sure, you take your pulse (your heart is still pounding in your ears from the whole experience). 125 bpm. You count again. 130 bpm. Bloody hell. It wasn’t the baby’s heartbeat, it was mine! It must have been! You bang your head on the steering wheel and cry in exasperation.  It’s not fair. Why do you have to keep going through this? When will it end???

Don’t worry. This is the most critical test phase of P3.1. You will ignore your doctor’s 30 + years of experience listening to baby heartbeats and let your own irrational thoughts take over. This is normal for P3.0. To compensate, you are permitted to participate in the “Frivolous Shopping Bonus Round” where to distract yourself you may purchase something that you a) want b) do not need and c) cannot really afford. Unfortunately, once you have completed this critical test phase and bonus round, you must re-enter the Limbo/Matrix phase until you have passed the next test.

 Level 5:Inflection point

The location of the inflection point in the time-space continuum of Pregnancy 3.0 is not documented anywhere. You must find it on your own. It is not really a place, but a new mental plane that will be reached when you are ready. Like the Force, it can only be harnessed with awareness, power and training. First, you must become aware of your unhealthy anxiety, use your power of positive thinking to overcome it, and retrain your thoughts to focus on successfully completing Pregnancy 3.0.

Here are some ideas to steer you “towards” the turning point-a) attend a prenatal yoga class with a really cool hippy earth mamma instructor who asks you to visualize your healthy baby and talk to it, b) consider upgrading to Doctor v2.0 (NEW! Now includes obstetrician with both surgical expertise and actual human qualities!), c) hear the baby’s heartbeat AGAIN and finally believe that it’s real, d) buy your son a big brother T-shirt and smile when he won’t wear anything else, e) finally let yourself be excited about being selected to participate in Pregnancy 3.0.

Although this guide has only led you through Pregnancy 3.1-The First Trimester, for those who may have had difficulty completing other versions of Pregnancy, this guide will suffice. Once through P3.1, you will have already gained the necessary skills and strength required for the rest of the journey. The perseverance you have learned will assist you with completing “Birth 2.0-Newly Revised and Extended Version” and “Parenting 2.0-Now with Bonus Add-on Child Pack!”.

Dinner Olympics

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I’ve been doing pretty awesome with the meal planning lately. On Saturday morning, I browse through my current favourite cookbook (they come and go like teenage fashion trends around here)- this week it happens to be 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver.

The 30 minute part is a lie, by the way. But the food is good. I pick four recipes and make a grocery list, and after Little Man’s swimming lesson we brave the crowds to do the weekly shopping. Everything has been going along famously; Big Man even noticed that we haven’t been eating frozen garbage for at least a few weeks anyway.

For some reason this week I picked a “lovely mushroom risotto” recipe. Sounds yummy. Looks yummy in the picture. Seems fairly simple.

I’m so easily fooled.

I know NOW why when you go to an Italian restaurant, a risotto is a MAIN dish. The *%&$ing thing completely consumes you for 45 minutes and you have no no soul left to cook anything else. So…TADA! Mushroom risotto, served solo.

For those of you haven’t been conned into making a risotto, it requires constant attention as you “gently massage” the starch out of the rice with continuous stirring and small additions of broth. Meanwhile you are also chopping herbs, sataying and broiling mushrooms, crushing garlic, squeezing lemon, reading the instructions (written in tiny print for an extra challenge), and somehow conjuring a “brilliant” salad out of random vegetables in the fridge.

I was so distracted during the process I scorched my entire left hand on a fry pan handle and had to complete the rest of the “starch massage” whilst holding a bag of frozen pees. All the while, Little Man, who in all his young wisdom has realized that Mommy is having trouble with dinner, is creating his own kitchen masterpiece in the sink with every dish and utensil that I am not already using.

My kitchen, which is normally cleaned up in “real time” while I make dinner (OCD) looks like a culinary bomb exploded, I’m wearing half the risotto (it splashes if you stir too vigorously), and I’ve accidentally tossed some of my own hair into the salad.

When the *%&$ing risotto is finally done, I proudly present it to Little Man. He spots the bag of pees I’m still holding and asks if he can have some of those instead. He then declares that the *%&$ing (my words) risotto looks like oatmeal (Perfect! That’s exactly what the book said it would be like!) and that he “hates” it. I told him he could go eat the dinner he made in the sink and settle down to enjoy my hard-earned meal.

Holy fuck is it good. Gold medal for me.

I think I’ll make it again next week.