Terza get a lot of ear infections. One might use the word "chronic." One might even suggest ear tubes, but that's a whole other blog post . This chronic, ear-tube-worthy ear infections make her quite cranky, quite frequently. Now I'm not averse to putting on some Elmo for the kid when necessary. She's baby number three, and as such certain AAP recommendation such as "no TV under the age. of two" just don't apply, but if I let her watch Elmo every time she was cranky or sick, she's be glued to the iPad pretty much half of her existence and even I think that's a bit much So i try other measures before resorting to Elmo. One such measure is music. After all, my close personal friend William Shakespeare once told me that music tames the wild beast, and when she's got an ear ache there is no doubt my daughter is both wild and a beast, though I certainly don't hold it against her, poor thing. Primo right now is going through an Elvis phase, and one day while DJing on my computer one evening, he put on "Hound Dog." The baby, who was on day two of earache, went LOCO. It was as if she was a teenage girl seeing Elvis live in concert. Alongside her brother, who was attempting some pretty fancy, pretty frenetic dance moves, she began to get DOWN. Mainly her dance consisted of the warm-up Jennifer Beals does in Flashdance in her leg warmers - the super fast running-in-place on her tiptoes -- except with a chicken wing flap added in that really made the move really sing. Making the moment inedible and delicious, she was laughing like a madwoman the whole time. It was one of those moments you live for as a parent, a transporting moment where there are no problems, no troubles, no stressors. Just joy, mind-erasing, expansive, effervescent joy. It was the kind of moment you wish very much to replicate. Be careful what you wish for. After her Elvis Flashdance Moment Terza often asked to listen to "Hound Dog" and how could we deny her? The problem is, the more she listens to it, the more she wants to. She just can't get enough. She wants it on repeat play, two, three, four, twelve times. There is no amount which is too much. The first time she hears it, she gets up and dances her patented Flashdance Chicken Joy Dance and it is delightful and life-affirming. The second time, too tired to maintain such ebullience, she sits down and listens, not unhappily, but not altogether pleased either. And after that, she just goes about her cranky business, throwing kicking tantrums on the floor, whining to get more cookies, grabbing her sister's drawings and crinkling them into balls, except that in the background is Elvis singing "Hound Dog." Whenever the song ends, the takes a break from screaming COOKIES! or ELMO! or "PICKAMEUP!" to screaming "HOUN DOG! HOUN DOG," and we put it on because our brains are so addled we don't know what else to do. Which is how I have come to hate Elvis Presley. Sorry, Mr. Pelvis, but talk to the president of your baby fan club, because it's her fault. Saturday morning, David let me sleep in until the crack of 7:30 at which point I was awoken by the sound of a drum roll followed by "You ain't nothing but a …" "Nooooooo," I moaned. Five minutes later, when I emerged from the bedroom to find Terza whining about waffles while listening to "Hound Dog" for the fifth consecutive time, I was forced to ask David, "What is this song ABOUT anyway? Who is the hound dog in this scenario? And is it supposed to be a bad thing to be a hound dog? In what sense? I JUST DON"T FUCKING UNDERSTAND WHAT HE KEEPS TRYING TO TELL ME." This is how people go insane. If I end up in Bellevue, have the docs go on my history on Spotify and tally up how many times I was forced to listen to "Hound Dog" and they will understand why I am sitting in a corner muttering incessantly to myself: "you ain't never caught a rabbit.".
I was working on my computer when Seconda walked over to David in the kitchen and asked him: "Daddy, do guns still exist?"
He reflected for a second and replied: "Yeah, they do."
Her face wore an expression of shock and terror and disbelief. "What?" she gasped, "They really do? In real life?" It had never occurred to me that she wouldn't know this. We don't let her watch the news, but she hears things and catches bits of things, so I just figured she knew that guns don't just exist in movies and video games and historical accounts but in this flawed world we live in. My six year-old found the idea of that kind of weapon so beyond the realm of reason and sense, she relegated it to make believe. And we had to tell her the heartbreaking truth, that it wasn't make believe. That it was altogether much too real. I couldn't, in good conscience, even tell her it would be OK, that the people in charge make sure that dangerous people can't get the guns. Because that would be a bald-faced lie. But I could tell her it was an issue a lot of people, in particular, a lot of mothers, were working on addressing. And that will have to be good enough.
So, I have this memoir coming out in June (hey, why don't you pre-order it? You know you want to. How alluring are those sunglasses?). And apparently, when you have a book coming out, your author website should not be a DIY hot mess you cobbled together one night, where none of the links work and where all the different pages are in different fonts and sizes and where information never gets added or removed or adjusted in even the most minimal way. My old website's only value was as a time capsule, since it was essentially froze in amber the state of my life in 2005. So, I got a cyber facelift and here is my . . .
After the relentless snow fall, I'm considering pimping my stroller with Winter Survival devices. Maybe I'll outfit the front wheel with a machine that propels salt out ten feet ahead. Or I may attach a plow to the front so I can clear a path. Or just get this stroller on skis since wheels are more or less of no use anymore.
Terza, like most toddlers, can not abide winter gear. I can speculate as to the reasons why mittens and hats are so anathema to her - maybe she thinks the mittens delete her hands permanently from existence -- but I can't know for sure. What I do know is she will not keep them on, not if I sing like Elmo, not if I ply her with cookies. Not for any reason.
For a while I thought if I could only find the right winter gear, the problem would be solved. I tried hats that velcro under the chin and hats with long yarn braids on the sides that you can tie in Houdini-proof knots and I tried hats with bear ears and bunny ears and cat ears and rainbow-colored, fleece jester hats that virtually scream, "THIS IS FUN! THE OPPOSITE OF TORTURE!" You can guess what my success rate was, based on the number of capital letters I just used.
Fail. Total fail.
I think her record time for keeping a hat on was about 30 seconds. Ditto with the mittens. She can't manage to insert a spoonful of yogurt directly into her mouth half the time but man, can she get around knots. I tried collaborative problem-solving, not the easiest feat with a toddler, and offered the option of keeping her hood on instead. That was a non-starter. My daughter has a zero tolerance policy for garments that cover her head and hands.
Now that's all very well and good when it's 40 degrees or 30 degrees, or hell, even 20 degrees. But when a Polar vortex comes my way, and it's 4 degrees, with a wind chill that makes it feel subzero, I can't abide her not abiding winter gear. Not when we have a forty minute walk from her day care to my big kids' school and back again. We do more trekking that the Greely expedition, and if I learned anything from watching that harrowing documentary, it's: if you don't come prepared to the Arctic, you'll all end up eating each other.
Last week, with the temperature at a record low, I suited up for pick-up with a wool toboggan and leather gloves, and still, my hands and ears went numb, with pain shooting through my digits.
"Surely, she'll keep the hat and gloves on today," I thought. "At least that's what everyone keeps telling me: 'When she gets cold enough, she will wear the hat and gloves.'"
Turns out everyone underestimated my progeny's stubbornness. Not only would the child not wear her mittens, she caused me to shed mine every two blocks so that I could attempt to yank hers back on again. So we were BOTH freezing. As soon as I'd put my gloves back on and secure the wind cover onto the stroller, I'd see she'd already pulled off her mittens -- the allegedly "toddler-proof" mittens which zip up the sides and velcro closed at the wrist. After a few rounds of this delightful game, I decided to just give up on the mittens, and attempted to persuade her -- all while standing on the street corner, fighting the gale-force winds -- to please, PLEASE, tuck her hands into the cozy, criminally-fluffy stroller sleeping bag I'd zipped her lower half into. What I got was her default response: "I no LIKEIT!"
"Let her get frostbite!" you ssy. "Then she'll put on her damn gloves."
But think for a second about what an imposition a case of frostbite would be on my already hectic schedule.
I mean, I get it. There are some things -- many things -- beyond our control as parents. Some behaviors that can not be modified despite bribes, punishments, distraction techniques, and the force of reason. One of the hardest things I've learned to do as a parent is accept this and just let it go, let the natural consequences unfold. And then other times, you override your kid's aversion to winter gear with the use of duct tape.
In a moment of inspiration, I strolled Terza - screaming from the cold as much as from indignation -- right into the nearest hardware store, bought a roll of duct tape and duct-taped those mittens right on to the sleeve of her jacket. Then, when she was helpless to stop me, I yanked the pink sparkly fleece-lined hat with bear ears on her head. Cruel, awful, overbearing me. She was warm, did not require medical attention, and retained the use of all her digits. And yes, I was happy.
So, David's sitting on the couch folding laundry last night, just the way he does every single night ever since we had three children who produce just as many daily loads of laundry. He picks up a pair of cotton, rust-colored panties and asks, "Whose are these?"
The reason he is asking is they are large. Very large. One might say, gargantuan. My first thought is, "Thank God he realizes that those do not belong to me." Because had he handed those elephantine underwear over to me, and said, "Here, These are yours." I would have been forced to have an emotional unraveling, complete with, "Is that how LARGE you think I've gotten? I have had three kids, for God's sake, but please, I'm not size 16 yet." But, these panties are so large, even my husband, who doesn't pay attention to these things, would understand they do not belong to me.
So, he goes, "Who do these belong to?"
I shoot back, "I should ask YOU the same questions/" Because that is what they say in the movies when someone finds a mysterious pair of underwear in the apartment.
"You think I'm having an affair with a woman that wears THESE?"
He holds the panties up to showcase their full width and breadth They are almost as large as my toddler.
"If you are, you should really reconsider," I tell him.
So, he folded the panties up neatly and placed them on the coffee table, with the rest of the folded laundry. The rest, I put away, but the gargantuan panties remain on the coffee table. Because what do you do with such a find? Throw them out, I guess. But is that really my place? What if these are someone's FAVORITE pair of panties and they're looking high and low for them? I know I'm very attached to my favorite pairs.
So, if you've lost your panties at my apartment, please let me know. I will get them to you ASAP.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.