The Blog You’ll Never Read

In my childless days before Oliver, I felt like I never had enough time to get it all done. Between work, the drudgery and obligations of every day life, and spending time with family and friends, my schedule was always packed. When Oliver was born and I suddenly found myself knee-deep in diaper changes and marathon feeding sessions,  I couldn’t imagine how I ever felt busy before. How much time I must have wasted, I thought. Watching television, spontaneous lunch dates with friends, lounging on the couch all afternoon in my pajamas—those were frivolities I could only dream of. If only I had the luxury of that kind of free-time in my new mother-of-one life.

Then I had another kid.

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If caring for one little being feels like a climbing Mt. Everest kind of feat, imagine strapping a twenty pound weight to each leg and keep going. That is life with two kids. Now I laugh when I think about how busy, how all-consuming caring for one child felt. I marvel at how I could ever feel stressed or pressed for time. This mother-of-two thing, this is hectic. Not only do I have to do so many of the things that made my pre-baby days feel busy, I now have to do it with two kids in tow. It can be overwhelming on a good day, panic-inducing on a bad. Simultaneously nursing a baby, cooking dinner, and reading Spot Goes to the Beach with your toddler—that requires some serious multitasking skills.

When you have two kids finding time to do anything for yourself becomes a challenge. A minute here. A minute there. Seconds carved out between feedings and naps and building Lego towers, all strung together into a few precious hours a week. That time is sacred. It’s essential. It helps to create an identity outside of “mom;” it adds definition and layers to a life that can feel very one-dimensional at times.

Knowing this will help you understand the story I am about to tell. Let’s call it “The Only Time I’ve Been Reduced to Tears Since Having Two Kids.” Or maybe “Sleep Deprivation and Hormones: The Perfect Recipe for Sweating the Small Stuff.”

This story is about a blog—one that you will never read. I wrote it last week, or more accurately, I wrote it over the last eight weeks in one or two sentence increments. Sometimes I wrote at night after both kids were asleep. Other times I wrote while nursing Parker in the carrier while Oliver played in the other room.  On the rare occasion when both Oliver and Parker would nap at the same time I’d tip-toe into the kitchen, open my computer and see how many sentences I could churn out before Parker woke up and decided the only acceptable place to nap is in mommy’s swaying arms.

After eight weeks of mini-writing sessions, I finally finished the blog. “I can have it all!” I chanted enthusiastically as I danced around my kitchen, arms fist pumping into the air. I can balance two kids with all the other responsibilities of a stay at home mom and still find time to pursue my passions. It might not be easy, but it is possible. I closed the computer, planning on doing a final read-through later that night before posting.

But my computer had other plans for that blog.

During a routine, automatic update, the blog disappeared. Poof. Gone. Vanished into thin air. I stared at my blank screen, bleary-eyed and on the verge of post-pregnancy hormonal tears, willing the auto-recovery to work. When it didn’t I called my on-call tech support husband and begged him to work his voodoo computer magic. When that didn’t work I resorted to less rational tactics—relentlessly tapping the keyboard, restarting countless times, blowing into various ports hoping to dislodge some evil, blog erasing dust. Nothing. The blog was simply gone.

I started to cry—big, ugly tears that were equal parts sadness and pity. It’s not a big deal, I told myself. It’s just a blog. You can write another one. But like most people on a downward spiral fueled by hormones and lack of sleep the irrational part of my brain took over. All that hard work for nothing, it screamed. All of your “me time,” wasted on something that won’t amount to anything. It’s not fair! (Note: nothing is ever fair to the irrational part of the brain).

I took a couple big breaths, paced the room and stomped around angrily like a toddler on the verge of a meltdown. I let out a big, loud, guttural groan.

“Mommy, what are you doing?” Oliver asked, looking up from the picture he was painting on the table.

I stopped in my tracks, my cheeks turning pink from embarrassment. In my frustration I forgot Oliver was sitting front row and center to my mini fit. I realized I could either lie or use this as a teaching moment.

“I’m mad right now because my special story I wrote is all gone. Sometimes when I’m mad I scream to let the anger out, then I take a deep breath and talk about it.” I gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back for my imagined parenting win.

Oliver stared blankly—a cricket chirp inducing stare. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. And back to coloring he went. I moved on to the growing pile of dishes.

Five minutes later, my hands immersed in soapy water, Oliver came up to me wielding a pink sheet of construction paper.

“I write you a story,” he said, proudly presenting his scribbled paper. I took the paper, feeling tears welling behind my eyes again.

“Will you read it to me?” I asked. “What does it say?”

Oliver looked at me contemplatively, smiled really big and yelled, “poop!” He laughed. I laughed. I wiped away a stray tear and gave him a hug, marveling at how far my arms had to stretch to reach around my no longer little baby. It was a very real reminder of just how fleeting this phase of motherhood is—how, by the time I stopped to note how quickly these first two years passed, they were already gone. And it got me thinking.

Yes, motherhood is stressful, hectic, and overwhelming, especially with two. At times it truly does feel like I can’t possibly handle anymore, like “me time” is my one life-line to sanity in a never-ending cycle of diaper changes and crying spells and sleepless nights. For most parents who are lost in the haze of the baby stage it feels like it will never end. But it does, often without us noticing. Oliver is proof enough of that. One day all too soon that completely dependent baby will turn into a toddler who is capable of independent play, a toddler who can feed himself, walk on his own two feet, a toddler who needs his mommy just a little bit less than he did before. Life will once again settle into a predictable pattern and from that pattern, free-time will emerge. Maybe it’s not as abundant as before, but it’s there, a few hours of calm in the midst of the chaos.

Yes, losing my blog was unfortunate, but it’s not as tragic as it initially felt; it’s not a moment really worth my tears. There will be time for writing in the not so distant future, in a time when both my babies don’t need me as intensely as they do now. And it’s in that moment, when I’m alone with my computer and the thoughts in my head that I’ll finally understand that the moments really worth crying over are the ones lost because I didn’t realize how precious they were until they’re gone.

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Top Ten Reason NOT to Circumcise

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When my husband and I found out we were having a boy, our first reaction was unbridled excitement. A week later when my doctor was reviewing the ultrasound and found out it was a boy, her first reaction came in the form of a question. “So are you going to circumcise him?”

I have to admit, it wasn’t a topic I had given much consideration to. After all, daydreaming about nursery themes and baby names is a lot more fun than thinking about my son’s penis status. But like all of the less than ideal parts of parenthood, I knew I couldn’t avoid the issue forever. So what did I do? I talked to my doctor,  turned to family and friends for advice, and searched around online. I was hoping this would just be another one of those easy parenting decisions (you know, like the decision to feed the baby (yes!) or the decision to bath the baby from time to time (yes again!)). Boy oh boy, was I in for a surprise

Reactions ranged from “why wouldn’t you circumcise?” to “I can’t believe you would circumcise!” Arguments swung from wildly emotional to purely scientific. Personal biases ran rampant. Cultural and religious justifications added to the confusion. After my initial investigation, the only thing I was clear on was that both sides of the controversy believed they possessed irrefutable evidence for why their viewpoint was correct.

Facing this maelstrom of opinions, I did the only thing I could do—I put on my thinking hat and uncovered the facts for myself.

After weeks of research, sifting through evidence-based studies, reading the testimonials of medical professionals, and, probably most important, listening to the nagging feeling I had in my own heart, my husband and I decided NOT to circumcise our son.

At the time, I knew we had made the decision that was best for our family, but I was hesitant to say our decision should be applied universally to baby boys everywhere. Today, after educating myself even more about the topic, I would openly encourage all parents-to-be to pass on routine-infant circumcision and leave their baby boy’s penis intact. Want to know why? Here are my top ten reasons.

1) Important protective function

Human males, like all mammals, evolved to have a foreskin, and like most things evolution selects to retain, it serves a vital protective function. A good analogy is to think of the foreskin like the eyelid for the penis—it keeps out irritants, lubricates, and protects from abrasive surfaces.  Throughout childhood, the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis (glans) and covers the opening through which urine passes (urinary meatus), making contamination difficult. On the rare occasion that a contaminant does make it inside, the foreskin produces antibacterial and antiviral proteins to prevent infection, along with hosting a rich flora of good bacteria. Additionally, the foreskin creates the optimal environment for penile health by maintaining healthy pH levels, warmth, and lubrication, which prevents hardening (keratinization) of the skin.

2) Important sexual function

The foreskin is home to a high density of nerve endings and blood vessels that make it the most sensitive part of the penis. Couple that with the fact that it comprises about one-third to one-half of all the skin covering the penis, or approximately fifteen square inches, and it’s easy to see how removing it could impact sexual function. During sex, the foreskin helps to maintain lubrication, reducing vaginal dryness and making intercourse less abrasive for the female partner. Intact men are also significantly less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction disorder, and their partners are more apt to experience frequent orgasms.

3) A murky history

The first documented case of circumcision appears on an Egyptian tomb dating back to around 2400 BC. While the exact purpose of circumcision is debated, hypotheses include: a religious sacrifice, a rite of passage for young men, a sign of social status, a way to alter sexual pleasure, or a health preventative measure. It gained popularity in Western medicine when two French doctors linked masturbation to a host of diseases like polio and tuberculosis. By circumcising boys, the doctors believed they could prevent masturbation and in turn, prevent illness. This same thought process was applied to a host of diseases and disabilities, and before long, circumcision became the new snake oil of preventative medicine.

Circumcision gained popularity in the Victorian-era United States amidst a climate of negative attitudes toward sex. It was believed that through circumcision sexual desires and promiscuity could be curbed, cases of rape reduced, especially the rape of white women by black men, and marriages saved. During the World Wars, rates increased as the military led a concerted effort to circumcise soldier serving in sub-Sahara Africa in order to prevent the spread of AIDS. In the period of prosperity following World War II, families chose to deliver their babies in hospitals where it was common to offer routine circumcision. Since most fathers were already circumcised, they saw it as only natural that their sons be too, thus passing on the tradition for decades to come.

4) Not recommended by any medical association

It’s true! There is not a single medical organization that recommends routine-infant circumcision. In fact, most organizations actively condemn the procedure. Take the KNMG for example, a Dutch medical organization representing 40,000 doctors. In 2010 they issued a detailed analysis stating that circumcision does not have the preventative benefits its supporters claim, does have real and clear risks, and is an ethical issue on par with female genital mutilation. The American Academy of Pediatrics, whose official stance is that preventative health benefits, “outweigh the risks of the procedure,” still does not recommend it for all male newborns.

5) The benefits are exaggerated

Most new parents will do anything if they believe it is in the best interest of their child, so when they hear things like ‘circumcision reduces urinary tract infections, the spread of AIDS, and penile cancer rates,’ it seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately these sweeping statements only tell half the story.

Take UTIs for example. Your doctor would be correct in telling you that circumcision lowers UTI rates in boys. That’s a fact. It can’t be disputed. But the thing about facts is they only tell part of the story; they lack meaning without the proper context. What your doctor is leaving out by only citing this single statistic is that UTI infections are rare. They only occur in about 1% of boys under the age of one, a rate that is much lower than their female counterparts. When baby girls get a UTI they are easily treated with antibiotics. Now I may be in the minority here, but if I have to choose between administering an antibiotic or removing healthy genital tissue, I’m choosing the less invasive option.

What about STDs? Research found that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV by 47%. At first glance this seems like a compelling reason to circumcise. But if you look at the actual data, the risk decreases from 2.49% to 1.18%. Yes, that’s 47%. Again, facts can’t be disputed, but that 47% sure seems a lot less scary when you see the actual percentage of the population that is infected. Something else to note, all scientific research is not created equal (gasp!). Many medical organizations, including the AAP, point out that these studies, carried out in Sub-Sahara Africa with heterosexual men, are full of methodological flaws and are not relevant to the United States where most HIV cases result from homosexual contact or the use of contaminated needles. Similar studies carried out in the United States do not show significant reductions in HIV rates in circumcised men. Additionally, in many European countries where HIV cases are very, circumcision is almost nonexistent.

Let me reiterate, a single statistic does not tell the whole story. And even if it did, say even if the African HIV studies were accurate, promoting circumcision as a way to prevent HIV infection does a disservice to patients because it reduces the use of condoms and other safe sex practices

6) The risks are real

Common risks of circumcision include oozing or bleeding from the surgical site, infection, and irritation from exposure to environmental contaminants or abrasive surfaces. More serious risks, occurring in 0.2 to 0.6% of circumcisions, include damage to the opening of the urethra, the formation of scar tissue, the removal of too little or too much foreskin, excessive bleeding that requires stitches, and partial or full removal of the tip of the penis.

Even without suffering from any of these immediate risks, circumcision still impairs important physical and sexual functions that were discussed in previous points. It also can by psychologically damaging to the circumcised baby later in life, when he realizes the implications of his parents’ decision. Don’t believe me, a quick internet search turns up numerous message forums and websites set up solely for the purpose of talking through these issues with others who have experienced similar trauma. In an interview in Psychology Today, one man who was circumcised later in life expresses a deep regret over undergoing the procedure and mentions both a reduced libido and loss of sensation even with a complication-free surgery.

There is conflicting evidence surrounding whether or not babies experience psychological trauma as a result of circumcision. Some studies suggest circumcision can cause behavioral changes that interfere with parent-infant bonding and breast feeding. Others suggest that, even with local anesthetics, babies still experience pain during the procedure. More research still needs to be done. As a parent, I know it’s impossible (and probably not healthy) to shield my child from all potentially distressing situations, but unless I know the benefits are substantial, I sure am going to try.

7) He doesn’t have to look like everyone else

Would you let your child undergo plastic surgery if he thought his nose was too big? What about if he thought he was too short, too tall, too thin, too fat, too freckled, too…. This list could go on forever. As parents, we routinely tell our children to embrace their differences, so why then does this not apply to his penis—a part of his body that shouldn’t even be on display that frequently to begin with. I realize bullying is a very real concern for many parents, but making a major medical decision to avoid future potential teasing is shortsighted. It also sends the subtle yet very destructive message that the appropriate way to stop bullying is to conform.

What’s even more relevant to note is that compared to the worldwide population, circumcised men are in the minority. And with rates declining steadily in the United States, it might not be long before the same is true here.

8) It’s a violation of his rights

Unless it is medically necessary, circumcision is a cosmetic procedure performed for religious or cultural reasons. It violates a child’s right to physical integrity, to freedom of religion, and to protection from physical and mental violence. Many worldwide medical communities are taking a stand, issuing statements that condemn the practice. For example, The Royal Dutch Medical Association issued a statement that “children must not be subjected to medical proceedings that have no therapeutic or preventative value.” The Ombudsman for Children in Norway advocates that boys should not be circumcised until they are old enough to provide consent. The Central Union for Child Welfare in Finland calls circumcision “a violation of personal integrity” and ruled it unlawful in 2006. Many other countries are following suit.

Why then, in the United States, do we extend this protection to women but not men? Many argue there is a difference between female genital mutilation and routine male circumcision. While that’s true, it’s interesting to note that in cultures where female genital mutilation is still common, the rationales cited include many of the same used to support circumcision in male babies—hygiene, disease prevention, improved appearance, and social acceptance.

9) It’s his penis, not yours

As parents, we make hundreds of decisions for our children—whether or not to vaccinate, what kids of food we feed them, the types of medicines they receive. Many would argue circumcision falls under this umbrella of health-related decision making. I would disagree. The majority of the medical benefits cited for circumcision are only relevant to a sexually active, adult male. Circumcising a baby boy does nothing to prevent STDs (he’s not sexually active) or penile cancer (a disease that occurs most commonly in men over 55). Choosing to circumcise as an infant to prevent diseases only occurring in sexually active adults is premature and irreversibly alters a part of his body without his consent. Wait until he is an adult, and let him make the decision for himself. After all, he is the one who will have to live with the consequences of the decision.

10) It’s easy to clean an intact penis

There is a big misconception that an intact penis is dirty. The truth is, it’s only as dirty as you let it get. For babies and children, the best way to clean an intact penis it to leave it alone. An infant’s foreskin is non-retractile and self-cleaning. The fusion of the foreskin to the glans keeps dirt out and sterile urine washes the penis out daily. To care for the outside, washing with simple soap and water, the same way you would a finger, will suffice. It’s important to note that the foreskin should NEVER be retracted during cleaning, until it has retracted on its own. When this happens, usually by puberty for most boys, teach your son retract the skin and wash underneath with soap and water, the same way he would wash any other body part.

Still uncertain what to do? Why not wait and decide later? Circumcision can be performed at any time during a boy’s life. Completely undoing the procedure once it’s done, that will never be an option.

A Trip to the Apple Orchard

Oliver likes to pick things. The specific sippy cup his juice will go in. What vegetable he’ll eat feed to the dog during dinner time. The shirt he’s going to get dirty before we leave the house. Even his nose from time to time. And much to my husband’s dismay, Oliver loves to pick the not-quite-ripe tomatoes and peppers off the plants he spent all summer nurturing from little seedlings.

We can’t seem to shout “Nooooooo” fast enough. One second the little red tomato is sucking up water, blowing in the breeze, the next it’s flying over the balcony as a smug 2-year-old laughs from above.

So what to do with an overly zealous picker of fruits and veggies? Take him to the one place where he is allowed to pick all the apples he can carry, which turns out to be quite a lot when it’s daddy carrying them in a half-bushel sized bag.

When we proposed the idea to Oliver, he instantly caught on to what we would be doing and ran around the house shouting “pick apples” over and over. This is where we learned our first lesson. Don’t propose any idea to a toddler until you are about to do it. Or better yet until you are doing it. There was a week lag-time between when we suggested going and actually went, which meant a week of listening to Oliver say “pick apples” in the whiniest toddler voice he could muster.

Yea, I guess we deserved that.

The day of the apple picking trip was all blue skies and sunshine. We headed out early in the morning to beat the crowds and had almost the whole orchard to ourselves—a good thing when your toddler’s preferred method of picking fruit also involves chucking it through the air the second it leaves the tree.

Other interesting things I learned about picking apples with a toddler:

1) The apples out of his reach are inevitably the ones he will want to pick the most (thank goodness for a tall husband!)

2) Toddlers do not discriminate between large, perfectly shaped apples and tiny, spotted, brown ones.

3) Instead of placing the apples in the designated bag, it is much more fun to toss them on the ground and watch mommy and daddy retrieve them.

4) Eating apples is just as fun as picking them.

5) But not as fun as eating the homemade donuts the orchard also sells.

6) And any trip to an orchard can be improved by a subsequent trip to the park.

We left the orchard with enough apples to make every apple recipe ever found on Pinterest, assuming the apples would stay fresh through December. (And I possess a Martha Stewart level of craftiness). Thankfully, Oliver’s unique picking style is also matched by his unique eating style. He takes two bites from an apple, hands it back to mommy and demands a “new one.”

Maybe those apples won’t be lasting so long after all.

Are there any fall activities you like to do with your kids? Looking for a great mom-approved apple recipe. We tried and loved these cinnamon apple muffins by Rachel from Add a Pinch.

Pregnancy Update: 20 Weeks

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How far along: 20 weeks

Total weight gain: 14lbs, 4 more than I gained by the 20th week during my first pregnancy. Although I started this pregnancy at a slightly lower weight so I’m still under where I was at this point last pregnancy. (Not sure that really makes me feel any better).

Maternity clothes: Yes! I’ve been rocking the elastic waist bands since week 10, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I often donned my maternity jeans in between pregnancies because they are so dang comfy. (and stylish…?)

Stretch marks: No! Although I think this one has more to do with genetics than my healthy eating and exercise habits (which have not been up to my normal standards this time around). Don’t ask me about cellulite and varicose veins. Eek!

Sleep: Much better than expected. I wake up about every 90 minutes, toss and turn for a while, but eventually fall back to sleep. And that’s with all this horrible side sleeping business that I just cannot seem to master. My pregnancy pillow and I are still on non-speaking terms after the last round.

Fetal movement: A few kicks every couple hours, and they are growing in strength. The baby kicked so hard just this morning that I could see the movement from the outside. Although Brad has yet to feel anything because the baby stops kicking the second Brad touches my stomach.

Food cravings: Soup! Panera Bread is going to bankrupt me. Normally I don’t make it at home because Brad calls soup of “waste of stomach space,” but I’ve decided to play the pregnancy card and start making it for dinner anyway. If you have a favorite soup/chili recipe, leave it in the comments! Crock-pot recipes are especially welcome!

Exercise: Thankfully I came into this pregnancy in great shape having run the Toledo Marathon in April. I’m now conducting an experiment to see how fast I can lose all that fitness. Just kidding—sort of. Morning sickness was worse this time which kept me from exercising intensely during the first trimester. I’m finally getting back into the swing of things now though, but sadly no running.

Miss anything: Yes! I want an Angry Orchard hard cider…or a nice margarita…or a glass of white wine. I think there is a theme emerging. I find this odd since when I’m not pregnant I have at most one drink per week, usually wine. I also miss back sleeping, a bladder than can hold more than a thimble’s worth of pee, and running.

Feeling sick or queasy: Only if I take my pre-natal vitamins in the morning instead of at night.

Anxious about: The future. Brad is graduating with a PhD in computational physics in December and has been applying to jobs all over the country. We don’t know when he will land a job or where it will be. Thinking about moving eight months pregnant or with a newborn is daunting.

Excited about: The future. As anxious as the uncertainty makes me, we are ready for a change. Having more to live off of than a graduate student stipend won’t be so bad either!

Belly button: Dangerously close to being an outie, and that’s saying something since before my first pregnancy I had the Mariana Trench of belly buttons.

Best moment this week: Anatomy scan. Seeing the baby again is always exciting. We did learn that he has something called fetal pyelectasis (enlargement) in one of his kidneys so we will go back for a follow-up scan at 28 weeks. I was worried at first, but after a lot of googling, I’m feeling much calmer. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time a google search for a medical condition hasn’t convinced me that I have a brain tumor.

Dad weighs in: The last 20 weeks have gone incredibly fast. “I’m buggin’ out. Does anyone want to give me a job?” (Author’s note: I don’t think he is kidding about that. Check out his Linked in profile here: Hiring Brad Hubartt will be the best decision you ever made.)

Oliver’s reactions: Oliver knows there is a baby in my stomach, and that when the baby gets big enough he will come out. We told him he will get to hold the baby after he is born so now anytime you mention the “baby” he shouts “hold, hold, me.” And then my heart melts. Although not to be outdone by his little brother just yet, this is how he chose to participate in my 20 week photo shoot. Perhaps he’s trying to tell me something…

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Want a more in depth update? Check out the video below.

Oliver’s To-Do List

If Oliver were to make a daily to-do list, one that covered all the most important aspects of his day, it would look something like this.

1) Watch as many episodes of Daniel Tiger as I can get away with
2) Poop
3) Play with mommy’s I-Phone
4) Hide mommy’s I-Phone to maximize play time later
5) Eat suckers, two at a time
6) Move all the toys in my bedroom to the living room floor
7) Do dishes, inadvertently wash kitchen floor
8) Poop #2
9) Eat popsicles, mine and daddy’s
10) Play baseball
11) Drink milk from special milk cup
12) Decide which cup is the “special milk cup” after mommy makes milk in wrong cup
13) Pee on carpet after daddy removes diaper for bath time
14) Take shoes off repeatedly throughout day, bonus if it’s while in the car
15) Make mommy sing Wheels on the Bus for minimum of one hour

When I make Oliver a to-do list, it looks a little more like this:

Because if there is one way to feel like you’ve accomplished a lot, it’s to make a to-do list of things you have already done. Yup, that’s parenting at its finest. And if Oliver helps and cooperates with new baby care as well as he cooperated when making this video it will only take about three hours to change a single diaper. That’s the magic of editing—not to mention a husband willing to play personal assistant (read wrangler) to one demanding toddler actor!

Best Pregnancy Announcement Ever!

There are few things in life that I truly dislike. Black licorice and clothes hangers sit at the top of that last. Waiting in traffic and screaming babies fall somewhere near the middle. And wearing a bikini in public rounds out the bottom. Which is why this past Monday I was able to set aside my dislike for the bikini and don one for the sake of making one memorable, and very public, pregnancy announcement.

While my dad and I were in NYC for a long weekend we went to a taping of Live with Kelly and Michael. For every show they select an audience member to be that day’s Trivia Dancer, code for the person who is most willing to dance around on live television as if they were dancing naked around their bedroom. I’m talking about no-shame, shake-your-tail-feathers kind of dancing.

Since I lack any real dancing skills, I decided my only shot at getting picked would be to dance like a crazy person. And dance like a crazy person I did. We’re talking monkey-like arm swings meshed with Broadway style leg kicks and a side of toe taps that I pulled from a 1980s Richard Simons exercise DVD. The audience loved it, and they picked me to appear on the show.

After being selected, the producer says, “Now you’re okay with wearing a bikini, right?” Okay with it? Not really. But willing? I suppose. I’m all about taking advantage of once in a lifetime type experiences so I decided to go for it, asking her to give me a more “conservative” suit since I was four months pregnant. (Code for really only 3 1/2 months but I’d rather round up because I often feel 9 months pregnant).

Unbeknownst to me, she wrote that information on the cue card that Kelly Ripa reads when introducing me, and voila, you get one of the most surprising and public pregnancy announcements ever. Oh and a free bathing suit; they also let me keep that. Although I doubt it will be fitting in the near future.

Check out the video above to see how it all went down and to marvel at my amazing dance moves. Or laugh, that’s what I do when I’m not hiding my face in embarrassment over my incorrect grammar. I blame the too-tight bikini shorts for that one. It’s hard to think clearly when you’re concerned about mooning the audience, and your dad.

Lastly, if there is any take away from the video, it’s that, even though baby #2 is due in January, Oliver is still front and center in my mind. When Kelly asked “How’s the baby?” I instantly thought of Oliver and my chance of just succinctly responding, “doing well” went out the window.

Enjoy!

Keeping the House Clean With a Toddler: The Sisyphus Problem

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Ready for your Greek mythology lesson of the day? Once upon a time there was a king named Sisyphus. Because of his deceitfulness, the gods forced him to spend all of eternity pushing a large rock uphill, only to have it roll back down again. Sound familiar? I’m pretty sure in the modern telling of that story, Sisyphus could be played by an parent who has a toddler, and cast in the role of “rock,” any toddler.

So is it possible to keep your house clean when you have a toddler? If you asked me, the answer would be a resounding NO. Although, I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t too great at keeping the house clean before I had a toddler either.

When Brad and I had company pre-baby, cleaning meant a quick sweep of the house to gather all the clothes, dishes, and personal effects that had found their way to the living room. (Code for we dropped them there and never bothered to put them away). I’d pick them up, push them into the bedroom and close the door. Our visitors were none the wiser.

But with a toddler, there isn’t a bedroom large enough to hold the deluge of toys flooding our floor. Nor is there, to be quite honest, as much of an incentive to pick them up. You see, when you spend an hour organizing, it would be nice to get at least that much time where the clutter stays off the floor. With Oliver on the loose, I’m lucky if I get five minutes.

Cleaning up after a toddler is a lot like trying to bale water out of a boat with a hole. Only the hole is a size of a bowling ball, and I’m stuck with a thimble instead of a bucket. By the time the last block gets tossed in the basket, the container of crayons are littered across the floor. By the time the crayons get put away, the cheerios are crunching their way into the carpet.

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It’s never-ending.

I turned to the internet for advice once and came across a website where the blogger suggests dividing your home into cleaning zones. She then goes on to suggest an order to clean each zone for maximum efficiency (read—hair pulling insanity) and a list of extras you should try to tackle at least once a week—you know normal things like dusting the top of your refrigerator, rinsing off your plants, and cleaning the upholstery on the couch. Huh.

Normal people, do you really do these things?

Because really, when I’m having trouble keeping the sink and laundry basket from overflowing, I have the time to think about the top of my refrigerator.

Before coming to my senses, I tried to follow the advice for one whole week (Note: don’t ask my husband for confirmation as he wouldn’t have noticed, see boat analogy). You know what happened? I spent a lot more time with the bucket of cleaning supplies than I did with Oliver. And while I’m for fostering independent play, my primary goal as a stay-at-home mom is to spend time with my son, to get out and experience the world through his eyes, to do things and go places that will stimulate his imagination.

Not crawl around on my hands on knees with a sponge and a bottle of Clorox.

So I made up my mind—housework will always come second….or forth when I really think about it. Having time to spend with my husband and “me time” also trump cleaning.

I was a little worried when I decided to throw in the err…sponge, that I would spend the day fretting the dreadful state of my apartment. That all that clutter would leave me feeling like my life was in shambles. After all, I’ve read enough articles to know that the state of your bedroom reflects the state of your mind. Or is it your car? I can’t remember.

Thankfully, whether room or car (and yes both are fairly messy at times), my life seems to churn on like the organized chaos that it is. The absolute essentials get taken care—we have clean dishes to eat off and dinner and underwear to put on in the morning. And the rest, we get to when we have the time. So the floor looks like a mine-field of Legos. So the windows are covered in mini handprints. So the top of the refrigerator is dusty.

None of these things are as important to me as spending time with Oliver, my husband, or when I’m tired and need the break, my personal Netflix queue. We all decide what we will prioritize in life. What works for me may not work for you.

Over time I’ve come the conclusion that it makes me happier to spend my time living with the mess, than living to clean it.

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Want some (Not So?) helpful hints for keeping your house clean with a toddler. Here are my favorites that I’ve read and my take on them.

1) Clean while your toddler naps.

You know how I said I prioritize spending time with Oliver over housework? Same with “me time.” I mean when else would I find the time to re-watch every episode of the X-Files. And this blog surely doesn’t write itself. Is it selfish? Sure. But so little of what we do as parents is so I take advantage when I can.

2) Get your toddler to help alongside you.

This one is nice in theory but horrible in practice. Take doing the dishes for example. Oliver loves doing dishes. But for Oliver, doing dishes means splashing in the water for a minute or two and then dumping cup after cup of water onto the floor. Which means for me, doing dishes means getting soaking wet, wiping up puddles from the floor, changing Oliver’s clothes, and then maybe if I’m lucky, washing an actual dish. I still encourage him to help me clean up as I think it’s an important lesson to learn, but you can’t expect a toddler’s methods to be comparable to your own.

3) Contain the mess to a single room.

Sure, if you live in a large home this one may work. But in our apartment, the single, central living room has no other choice than to serve as the living room, dining room, office, and play room. I’ve tried moving all of Oliver’s toys into his room, but you know what happened? It became a game to carry each bin out into the living room and dump it on the floor, thereby spreading the mess out even more. Once he’s older this might work, but in toddler world, contained messes are as rare as unicorns and leprechauns.

4) Clean as you go throughout your day.

I can see picking up the occasional food item or dirty bowl, but this seems like a classic case of spreading yourself too thin. Besides, how am I supposed to notice Oliver getting ready to do a belly flop off the couch if I’m focused on cleaning up the latest mess he’s made.

5) Get up before your kids and clean

Um…no. I need to amend my earlier statement. Cleaning is not forth on my list of priorities, it’s actually fifth. Without enough sleep I turn into a moody, weepy mess that make Oliver’s tantrums look tame.

What other advice have you heard that had you shaking your head? Have you found anything that truly works for you?