Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Here's how it goes down:
I (unpictured, as always because hey, someone needs to operate the camera), take a shitload of pictures.
Seconda eats a shitload of apples -- without, I might add, bothering to polish off the pesticides.
Primo picks a shitload of apples, each with painstaking care. He is in charge of Quality Control and he is exacting.
David does everything else, including lifting children for high-altitude picking, changing baby's diapers, and caring for kids in general, while I take pictures and enjoy the fresh air.
David also carries the monumentally mammoth bag of apples. This year, though, he began the young one's apprenticeship.
Now I have enough apples to feed a small village. I should donate them to a small village, in fact, because what inevitably happens is David says we should make a deep dish apple pie and I say, sure, but there's no way I am peeling allllll of those apples AND making homemade pie crust, too. Its one or the other. And fresh apple pie with frozen piecrust, well, I won't say its garbage, but its a lot of coring and slicing for a sub-par pie experience. So then David says HE'LL make the pie crust and I say I won't hold my breath. Which I don't, thankfully, since it never happens, because even when he gets as far as checking recipes, he remembers we don't have the Cuisinart thing requisure for pie-crust making. So then we figure its best to just eat the apples, fresh and raw, like God intended -- I mean, advised us not too. Except by that point the apples are no longer fresh. So I give them to my grandmother who then eats a lot of apples for a long time, since she lived through the war and knows the meaning of an empty stomach. How do you like them apples?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Its stream of consciousness word association all the time with her. So, either like William Burroughs or the crazy pregnant lady in that commercial who talks like a Google search engine and freaks out the nice woman in yoga class. You know the commercial I mean.
Here is an excerpt from one of Seconda’s monologues:
“I like Dragon Tales, you can’t feed a dragon because it will bite you, a dragon will bite you right on the head and it is so FEROCIOUS, and my dog is ferocious and my dog will bite you and my dog will not bite a dragon but do you want to see my dog bite you, Mommy, right on your head? When I grow up I’m gonna get a dog and a cat and chew gum but you can NOT chew the wrapper because that is paper and if you gonna chew the wrapper than you gonna get TIME OUT. Time out is where I got my bloody finger from the air conditioner in my room and I was cryyyyyyyyying and I was so sad and you said ‘Why you crying, honey?’ And I said, ‘I got a bloody finger’ and then you gave me a Band-Aid and it had Snoopy and Snoopy’s a dog who can bite you on the head and he likes to drink milk and my brother likes milk and I want some milk milk MILK FOR THE MORNING CAKE!”
If her brother starts to say something, she will literally start talking at the same time, even though she has nothing to say, just so that he can not be heard. She will use the few first words of his sentence as a platform, as above, and then just dive right off the edge of sanity, until she is hoarse. But usually it doesn’t take too long for her to get hoarse because when she starts these conversational coups, Primo goes nuts and they start yelling at each other within seconds.
“IT’S MY TURN TO TALK!” they shout simultaneously.
The prime location for this to occur is in the car, where David and I are trapped. David says it’s like being plunged into icy water. Bracing.
Monday, September 28, 2009
So, as I confessed in the post before last, I use fairies as a parenting crutch. And no sooner so we kill off the Sleep Fairy and her sister the Nap Fairy but the Potty Fairy was born.
There was just no avoiding her creation. Primo was entrenched in the Poop Strike of ’07, where he insisted he was too scared to poop for 6-7 days at a time, and the discomfort this caused him made it impossible to continue with our daily living. Upon the pediatrician’s advice, we blasted his system with MiraLax, the go-to laxative for ths kiddie crowd. But, the doc emphasized, we needed to address the emotional aspect of the problem as well, and make the potty a friendlier place. It seemed friendly enough to me, as cozy as a toilet could be, but, I figured, a little fairy dust couldn’t hurt. To grease the wheels, so to speak. I suppose it could have been Mommy and Daddy giving him an M and M in reward for doing the deed but why make something simple and uncomplicated when you can invent a fairy persona, one who you’ll later have to find an exit strategy for?
And that is how I found myself on a plane to
But the paci fairy is different, The Paci Fairy is a one-time and one-time only deal. So we started dropping hints about her when Sec turned two, and continued to reference her until my child knew the deal backwards and forwards:
“When I’m a big girl the Paci Fairy’s gonna come when I go to sleep and she’s gonna take allllll the pacis and give them to the little babies and she’s gonna give me a present!:
I kept postponing the fairy touch-down because I didn’t know how I would possibly make it through the night without the magic soothing device. Plus, I was sentimental about it. It kept my baby a baby.
But then a month or so ago, we came to grips with the fact that the paci no longer worked magic to get the kid to sleep. She’d get into her crib, throw the paci out a dozen times, have us come back to root around for it in the dark, and scream nonetheless for long periods of time after we gave it back to her. Sure, it put her to sleep when she finally exhausted herself screaming for a half hour but it wasn’t like the paci was eliminating the bedtime battle or anything. Around the same time, she began skipping her nap, no matter how much I pushed the paci on her.
We figured it was time for the Paci Fairy to strike.
So about a month ago, David and decided suddenly, to do it, that night. No further ado, Screw our courage to the sticking place.
The Paci Fairy left a note. A scroll, I should say, rolled tight and tied with a golden ribbon. Here is what it said:
I was planning on something more eloquent and laudatory but I didn’t have much time. So to compensate, I wrote in along the margins, “You’re big! I love you! You can do it! Hooray! Hurrah!”
Seconda was very excited. We bundled the pacis in an attractive little bag I found left over from a party favor and put it by the door. With a minimal amount of crying the big girl went to sleep.
I considered for a long time what might be the right present to give a child in exchange for the greatest love of her life. I thought we should get her something warm and cuddly that would help her to go to sleep instead of the paci, like a blankie or something. But at the end of the day, I didn’t think she’d dig that. So I opted for what would put the biggest smile on her face, because I don’t mind a heavy dose of gratification and that’s when when Seconda woke up after her first paci-free night ever, she found Tasha, the yellow hippo of Backyardigans fame by her bed. She was tickled pink.
Of course, when we got in the car a few hours later, she immediately asked for a paci.
David and I exchanged panicked glances, and then David said, “What, honey? What did you say?”
She laughed her crazy little laugh and said, “I’m just JOKING you Daddy!”
We laughed loudly, too loudly, and made a big fuss over how funny a joke that was.
“Good one!” I said.
To which she replied, rather pathetically, “But I want my paci.”
We continue to do this raucous routine every time we take the car anywhere.
“I want a paci . . . just joking.” Hardy har har. “Good one, Sec!”
Of course the poor creature’s not really joking. She really does want the paci and I want to give it to her, want to so much, I would give it to her for sure, had I not invented a fairy with more self-control than I have. And that’s why a mom needs a fairy or two around. Oversight.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
“Those big boys knocked me up and then I got mad at them!”
I would have gotten mad, too.
Friday, September 25, 2009
My daughter’s love affair with the pacifier is a story much too long to be unraveled here. Plus, it will be appearing in an article in Parents soon and so I can’t give it all up for free, folks. But what I’m gonna give you is the ending that couldn’t make it into the piece because life hadn’t written it yet.
While I wrote the piece, which was part essay, part reported article, Seconda was a total paci fiend, no holds barred. But in talking to other moms about their binky battles, I began to think maybe I should take action sooner rather than later to boot binky. I mean, I’ve been Binky’s biggest fan, don’t get me wrong. Not with Primo, who never used one, since I was naïve and thought I could prevent him from developing dependencies (Ha!). But since Sec’s arrival, the paci has been a member of our family. We all brake for Paci. Literally. If we start driving somewhere and realize we don’t have a paci, we will stop the car as soon as possible to get one, quick.
By the time I finished the essay, I’d limited Seconda’s paci use to just bedtime, naptime and cartime. That’s a lot less time than you think because we hardly ever use the car and are almost exclusively stroller people. So the gradual weaning had begun.
And thanks to the any parents I spoke with for the article I had garnered a very long list of possible way to terminate paci, permanently.
50 Ways to Leave Your Paci
Cut a hole in it so it’s “broken”
Have your child toss his whole collection in the trash
Tie it to a binky tree in
Send it to Mickey Mouse
Send it to the heavens on the string of a helium balloon
And the popular favorite –
Let the Paci Fairy take care of it
This was clearly the route we’d take. Our family is kind of nuts for fairies. OK, maybe it’s just me. I love fairies . . . and gnomes and elves and all manner of magical, fantastical, generally good but sometime mischievous sprites, Midsummer is my favorite Shakespearean comedy, for God’s Sake. It started as my love for fairies but it developed into our family’s reliance on fairies for our parenting.
Fairies, you see, do our dirtywork.
It all started with the Sleep Fairy, when Primo was about 20 months old and wouldn’t fall asleep even if we rocked him, gave him the bottle, lay beside him, held his hand, or bribed him with large sums of cash. I was in my second trimester with Sec and posted a desperate plea for advice on parkslopeparents and they delivered, as they usually do, with a diverse panorama of suggestions. Someone suggested inventing a Sleep Fairy who visited if the little boy went to bed without crying or calling his mommy back, etc. This fairy would leave a little treat by his door and when he woke (after !!!!! Or no go) he could see what she’d brought him.
We though this was a genius idea. Better than sticker charts because he was too young to understand anything that took several days to pay off. But better, too, then just Mommy giving him a treat if he did well, because, well, you can always argue with Mommy and say, “I DIDN’T CALL YOU BACK! YOU”RE WRONG! GIMME MY TREAT!” But you can’t argue with the Sleep Fairy, now can you, because you can’t ever track her down. She is like an imaginary impartial third party, Perfect! Genius!
So I told Primo, not yet two years old, that I’d read in the newspaper that this famous Sleep Fairy, whose name no one knew, was coming back to NY soon and visiting the homes of all children who went to bed without a fuss. He went to sleep like a dream and the next morning he had a Halloween sugar cookie waiting by his door. The morning after that, it was a little spiral drinking straw. Sheet of stickers, plastic finger puppet. Basically anything that could be purchased for $.50 or less or occasionally a little tasty treat.
The method worked like magic for a few weeks. But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I wanted the Sleep Fairy to seem real so I left little notes with the treats, written in curly, swirly letters, which said, “Great job!” and “You’re a wonder to behold!” and “Of all the children, I visit, you are my favorite!” When he got somewhat bored of the treats I threaded in a bit of intrigue to keep him hooked.
“I wonder what the Sleep Fairy’s name is? The newspaper says no one knows.” I told him.
And the next morning, he found a note which revealed her first initial, “M.”
That turned into a big guessing game and night after night, she’d reveal another letter until he discovered her secret name ….. MELINDA!!!!!
The problem is, once you have a fairy for bedtime, you need one for naptime too, or WTF? What’s up with the understaffed afternoon hours in fairy-land? Primo wanted to know? And then once you get a Nap Fairy and reveal her name, slowly, letter by letter (ALINDA!!), the novelty of it all wears thin and Primo starts wondering if she can bring a
The Sleep Fairy becomes permanent. And Santa Claus. And every day is Christmas.
And you explain, with rising frustration, that Melinda is a very small, tiny little creature with wings no thicker than a blade of grass, and how could she possible heave something as large as a stuffed Elmo all the way through the night sky to his door?
“She’s magic.” he replies.
And that’s when it dawns on you that you’ve made a terrible mistake and that this fairy must be killed off. Stat.
But how? These things must be done delicately . . . .
I started to send little hints in her notes which said, “I think I will have to leave you soon. My Mommy and Daddy are moving to Florida.” And “I will miss you very much when I take the plane to
He was disappointed but he got over it. And our house was free of fairies until the great Poop Withholding of 07, when the Potty Fairy was born. Yeah, you heard me right.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Death Knell of Naptime; or Screw-off, you moms with low-key kids, why don't you just let me gripe in peace?
On Labor Day weekend, David and I took the kids to a BBQ at the home of one of our closest friends. There on the deck we ran into some acquaintances, whose kids are similar in age to ours, and the mom and I were catching up, when she asked it I was having a third. Not third hot dog, mind you. Third child.
“Wow,” I said, because the sheer thought of that was so mind-blowing, so terrifying, so panic-inducing I literally could not speak.
”So, does that mean “Yes?” she teased.
“Oh God, no. Absolutely not, It means no.”
“Yeah, we’re done with two as well,” she said, “And honestly, I can never quite fathom
why people would want more than two.”
“Oh I can,” I said, “I can totally fathom it. In fact, I think I probably do want more than two. I think I would even have more than two if I led a totally different life. If we had a ton more money and a bigger house – hell, even if we didn’t have all that, I’d probably take the plunge if only my kids were more easygoing. But they are shaping up to permanent hell-raisers, and I think two of those is more than I can handle”
“Oh,” she said, shaking her head, “Kids are kids. They all have their moments.”
I looked over at her four year-old, whose hair was pulled into a perfect ponytail and who sat on a grown-up chair polishing off a hamburger without spilling anything on her nice dress. Evidence A that this child is not prone to “moments”: she wiped her hand on a NAPKIN. My children think napkins are for sketching and clothes are for wiping hands. And it’s not because I haven’t taught them otherwise.
“Mommy, I finished all my dinner, Can I have a Popsicle?” she asked politely as you please.
She really did finish all her dinner, too, a whole burger and some hummus and maybe even a few carrots. God for I knew, she’d sampled the couscous salad. My children’s idea of “I’m FINISHED!!!” is eating one Thumbelina-sized bite of plain pasta with no green stuff on it.
“She looks very well-behaved to me,” I observed.
“Well, kids are kids. They’re all hard work,” she retorted.
“Yeah, I guess,” I murmured. I mean, pets are hard work too, and so is gardening. So is blowing your hair dry so that it looks just like it did when you left the salon the day you got it cut.
Ok, that’s unkind. It’s just that I was envious of her well-behaved, non-exhausting, don’t-make-scenes-in-the-lobby children, who allowed her to have an adult conversation and fed themselves and pissed in the bowl, too. And I think that when you are fortunate enough to have one child like that, much less two, at the very least, you should admit you have it easy and allow parents like me, the owners of rugrat ragamuffin hellraisers, to gripe about our lot. It’s the least you can do.
I should have excused myself at this point but for some reason, I felt I had to prove just how hard I had it, and I mentioned that Seconda had dropped her nap – at 2.5 years old – can you imagine! And she told me, “Well, I just force mine to take his nap.”
I’m sure she didn’t mean to pass judgment. But mothers out there will understand that that’s precisely what she did. I got her message. My daughter had prematurely dropped her nap because I wasn’t firm enough, because I didn’t possess adequate follow-through, because I wasn’t strong enough to put her temporary discomfort in the backseat and make her long-term health my first priority. I got the message.
And that’s when a synapse snapped in my exhausted brain. “Force mine to take his nap?” Like I hadn’t?
For weeks now, every day at 1pm I have locked my child in a crib tent, closed the dour and listened to her scream for an HOUR. If that isn’t forcing I don’t know what is.
It just doesn’t work. She can rage harder and longer than me. She is more powerful and resourceful than I. The child howls, like a raging werewolf who’s coming off crack cocaine, for an hour, but still, I ignore her. I really do. People call on the phone and I pick up and conduct conversations while she howls in the background and my friends without children are like, “Should I call you back?” and I am like, “Oh, no, this is a fine time.”
The problem is, no crib tent can hold her. Somewhere in the middle of the unending scream-fest Seconda shimmies out of the crib and either climbs on top of the dresser, flinging piles of neatly-folded clothes and fragile, beloved items belonging to her brother onto the floor; or she clambers to the floor and pulls out every single book off her bookshelf, often tearing pages out, purposefully, in the process. She rips the feathers off her brother’s dream catcher. She eats whole tubes of Chapstick and sucks all the juice out of magic markers. She does these shenanigans until either I tire of speculating what havoc she’s wreaking on herself and the home, or she just opens the door and announces, blithely, “I took a NAAAAAP! Let’s get ICE CREAM!”
So I know a thing or two about forcing a child to sleep. And I know you can’t. Period. End of story.
Another friend said, “Well, why don’t you try just putting her in the stroller and going for a walk?” Its like she doesn’t know who we are talking about. These techniques work for other, run-of-the-mill children. These techniques, in fact, worked for my son. I got that kid to hold onto his nap for a whole year after he started striking. But my girl-child is bionic. Since the age of about four months she has never fallen asleep in a stroller and I can count on one hand the number of times she’s drifted off in the car, even on long trips to South Carolina. She is indomitable. She is indefatigable, literally. She is a force of nature. And she is done napping.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
My son has a very active imagination. It’s quite diverting, to be sure, but sometimes it makes it difficult to tell truth from fiction. I really think even he can’t distinguish what’s real and what’s fantasy sometimes.
Lately, I’ve been grilling him about kindergarten. I know that if you ask a child, “How was school?” they are required by law to say, “Fine.” And if you ask, “What did you do at school today,” they are likewise bound to reply, “Nothing.”
So I fire off much more specific questions.
“When you go to dance class, does your teacher make you take your shoes off or can you leave them on?”
“Only the bad kids have to take them off,” he replied, “And I am never bad so I can leave them on,”
Interesting policy, I observed.
“What kind of games do you play at “Math Games?” I asked.
“Well the teacher is Miss Meg.”
“What a perfect name! Miss Meg the Math teacher.”
“And she asked what 7 plus 7 was and I knew the answer was 14 and I won! I got to wear a crown!”
This, too, seemed unusual -- kind of weirdly and atypically competitive --and also a rather large coincidence that she would have asked the exact mathematical equation to which my son knows the answer. Ask his 7+9 or 6+6, and he wouldn’t be wearing the crown. But still, I told him I was very, very proud.
Yesterday I asked, “What did your teacher read to you at storytime?”
“A chapter book about Elvis Presley doing karate,”
“What?” I countered, “Is that true? That sounds very strange.”
“It IS true,” Primo insisted, “And Marilyn Monroe was in it too but I don’t remember what she was doing.”
That’s probably for the best, I thought to myself. I mean, I love
Since I often look for books that Primo has read in school at our local library, I asked his teacher today at drop-off: “Hey, Cathy, what’s the name of that Elvis Presley book you read to the kids?”
“The what?’ she asked.
Primo tugged on my arm hard and whispered with a mischievous grin, “No! Don’t say anything about that!”
“Oh,” I replied, “Nothing, I guess I was confused.”
“OK,” she smiled, just glad, I’m sure, that the day was over and that the last of the naggy parents and wacko kids had left the building.
Then a block later, we ran into his schoolmate Myrna, on her way home.
“Hey, Myrna,” I asked, “I’m interested in your opinion. Is Miss Meg the math teacher boring or fun?”
Primo tugged on my arm again as Myrna said, “Who?”
I glared at him and asked her, “What’s the name of your math teacher?”
“Joe,” she replied.
The funny thing is, Primo is a total straight-shooting honest Abe when it comes to everything else, He won’t even lie when he stands to gain sugary treats.
“If I give you this cookie, will you stop attacking your sister?”
“No,” he’ll say, “I won’t! But gimme the cookie anyway!”
He often uses the expression, “I cannot tell a lie . . .” to preface confessions of guilt. He is precisely like David, whereas my daughter, like me, lies just for shits and giggles.
But now, for no reason whatsoever, we’ve got tall tales galore about Kindergarten. Is the reality of it so gruesome that he has to invent a fantastical world populated with Elvis Presley and Miss Meg Mathmaster? Only time will tell.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I don’t want to seem like a narcissist or anything but it seems I’ve caused a bit of a stir in the blogosphere. OK, a small section of the blogosphere. One post of one blog to be exact. Still, a stir’s a stir. It appears that this fellow mommy blogger read an essay of mine, “No Milk Left Behind,” which is in the current issue of Parents magazine. If I were you, I’d read it, but of course, I’m biased. The essay is about how I hatched – and fulfilled – a crazy plan to not only pump my breasts throughout a romantic weekend getaway to Mexico – but to bring all the milk back stateside without spoiling.
So Sarah, the blogger behind harrytimes.blogspot.com, read the piece (Thanks Sarah) and liked it (Thanks again) but took issue with an aside comment I made, “Now I'm not a lactivist or anything (my daughter is well acquainted with the taste of formula), but . .” And in her post, she details exactly what about that comment distressed her. You can read the post and comments right here.
Sarah brings up a lot of really interesting points (a PhD will do that for you) as do the people who commented on the post. Her main message is that by attaching myself to my breast pump every three hours while vacationing in Mexico, I am, like it or not, a lactivist, and by shying away from that label, I’m undercutting my own work and the work of other women who advocate breastfeeding.
The truth is, (and one commenter – a bottle feeder – guessed this), I was using the aside only to distance myself from the obnoxious sancti-mommies that hate on formula-feeders. I can’t stand that crap. Do what’s best for you and your family, is what I always say. It’s a national magazine, and many different kinds of moms read it, and I didn’t want formula-feeding moms to feel like I was judging them.
But that said, Sarah’s right, really. I guess I am a lactivist just by busting out the boob in public and making people wait for twenty minutes for the airplane bathroom because I’m expressing breastmilk. I just don’t love labels and try to stay away from them (unless it will get me a book/ movie deal and in that case, label away!)
The "No Milk Left Behind" essay isn’t online yet but if you’ve got the October issue of Parents, go ahead, take a read and tell me what you think. Am I a lactivist? Or just a narcissist?
Monday, September 21, 2009
After a grueling Friday night where my children took two and a half hours to go to bed, prompting me to consider sleeping in the tub just to get away from the yelling, we had a lovely weekend.
Saturday morning, my coffee aficionado hub pitched a trip to 18th Street for some coffee and biscuits. Seemed a bit far to haul my ass but I do like biscuits, and coffee, and taking up my husband’s suggestions when feasible, so we dragged the uncooperative kids down 5th Avenue to Little Buddy Biscuit Company.
That’s where we ate
A terrifically tasty assortment of biscuits including buttermilk and cheddar with black pepper
One dastardly delicious crum bun.
The crum bun was a recommendation from the little buddy himself, the 5 year-old son of the owners, who popped right out from behind the counter to point it out to Primo who was undecided. Then he invited Primo to go to the back and play with the computer: “C’mon, ask your mom. Ask her, ask her, then I’ll ask my dad.”
I said it was OK which in retrospect was kind of irresponsible because “the back” is probably chock-full of blazing hot ovens and not the best place for two little boys.
But it was no matter because half a minute later, the little buddy ran back with bad news. “My dad says no but we can make flip books. Do you want to make a flip book? Do you? Do you? Hey, why aren’t you saying anything? Don’t you know what a flip book is? Dontcha? Huh?”
“Go ahead, hon,” I said, pointing to a corner of the bakery where the little buddy had set up shop with paper, stuffed animals, Sponge bob books and a mammoth collection of magic markers.
The little buddy then began to fold, cut and staple paper like he really meant it. In the middle of this lengthy process Seconda ambled over (beware the second-child amble, it never bodes well) and picked up his little stuffed mouse.
“NOOOOOOOO!” he yelled, “YOU CAN”T TOUCH MY STUFF!”
“Sec,” I reprimanded, “you have to ask first.”
But the little buddy spared her the trouble, “If she asks me, I’m going to say no because it’s my special stuff and if she touches it again, I will be FURIOUS!”
I relocated Sec to another corner of the bakery and worked on helping Primo, who seemed slightly skittish of the little buddy, with his flip book.
“Make your book,” I encouraged, “You can use his markers. He said so.”
“No I didn’t,” corrected the little buddy, “You said he could.”
I was beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t take the crum bun to go, but I’m never one for giving up on a budding friendship so I asked, “Can he use your markers?”
The lithe buddy looked skeptical but reluctantly agreed, “OK.”
A minute later I heard, “What kind of a flip book is that? You can’t make a picture out of dots!”
Obviously, the little buddy hadn’t heard of pointillism.
I collected our stuff before Primo got his feathers ruffled, and then the little buddy looked apologetic, regretful that we were leaving, wanting to make amends. But still, a picture made out of dots? He couldn’t let that fly, now could he?
“Well you have to at least CONNECT the dots!” he urged, “C’mon!”
I thanked the little buddy for showing us a good time -- the biggest adventures we’ve ever had in a biscuit shop -- and we polished off the crum bun on the way out. We almost bought another one for the road. They were that good. Pullowy goodness, just as advertised.
Friday, September 18, 2009
When my son was almost a year old, I got forwarded this email called something like, "Before I Became A Mom"-- a pretty darn corny list of ways in which motherhood had changed the writer. It read to me like that wrong answer one is tempted to give when an interviewer or application asks you to name your greatest weakness, and you say, "I guess my biggest weakness is I just try too hard to be perfect!" Its bullshit and we all know it.
So I wrote a list of my own, and this was several years ago, when Primo was just under one, before Seconda was around, in what I now see was the "honeymoon" period of motherhood. If I were to write an updated version of this list now, it wouldn't be quite so mild in either direction. Honestly I don't know if my dear readers cold even handle my current "Before I was a Mother," because, man, having two hellraisers two years apart, will bring you to some heady highs and some gritty lows. But at this, the end of the first week of Kindergarten, I'm just thinking of how me and my baby made it through, both of us, our greatest separation yet, and I thought I'd revisit this. It may be sort of corny but that doesn't make it less true.
Before I was a mother
My teeth were always brushed, my legs were shaved. My house was in order. I did not trip over rattles or step on Cheerios, I did not find my telephone in the fridge. I did know knowingly leave the house with drool or vomit on my pants.
Before I was a mother
My breasts were decoration. They made blouses fit right and plunging necklines attractive. They were the same size every day. I wore lacy, push up bras. And sometimes no bra at all.
Before I was a mother
I feared motherhood. I was certain I would fail. I couldn’t imagine how it all would work.
Before I was a mother
I had plenty of time with my husband. We dined out, drank wine and saw art films. We stayed in bed until on weekends. We took road trips with no end in sight. We finished our sentences.
Before I was a mother
I understood pain only in the general sense. I did not beg for spinal injections and I did not pant on all fours in public.
Before I was a mother
I could not tell one stroller from another. I could not recite the theories of pediatric sleep experts or the schedule for infant immunizations. I thought cradle cap was an accessory. I did not call anyone “little goat” or “stinky butt” or “my old heart.”
Before I was a mother
I dreamt of being a mother. And when I woke, my arms ached from the emptiness of no baby there. I was a puzzle with important pieces missing, right in the middle. My shoulder was not a cushion, my hip was not a resting place, my breast was not nourishment.
Before I was a mother
My heart did not feel in Technicolor. The sight of a chest rising and falling could not paralyze me with gratitude. The sound of monsyllablic babble could not cause me to guffaw. The feel of a heart pounding very fast next to mine did not render me speechless and cause me to cry. I did not say my prayers every night. I did not offer thanks every day.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
So, remarkable feat of mischief my daughter treated me to yesterday. In the spirit of school starting, I’ll present it to you as a problem set.
How are the following items related?
The AC/ heating unit in our brand-new apartment and
The small bottle of Chanel No. 5, given to me four years ago by my husband as a birthday gift.
Clue: The bottle is now empty.
If you guessed that my daughter poured the entire contents of the perfume bottle into the AC unit yesterday, you would be correct! Our apartment now smells like Marilyn Monroe’s boudoir.
News on the big biy front:
As David was turning out the lights at bedtime last night Primo informed him, “2 +2 = 4”
“Yes, that’s right,” said David, “And 3+1=4, too.” He went to shut the door.
But not before Primo chimed in: “That’s impossible.”
Kid goes to kindergarten, thinks he knows everything.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Well it ain't raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens that rock my world but I do have a few favorite things. And here they are:
When Tim Gunn uses the word “caucus"
Berkeley Breathed’s Mars Needs Moms, which is as close to perfect as a picture book about motherless aliens gets.
How my daughter refers to corn as “popcorn on the cob”
The silence that ensues after a visit to the Mr. Softie truck.
The fact that you can spend $19 at Ikea and leave with a classy black/brown coffee table with the ability to store all clutter on the bottom shelf.
My husband, for getting my name tattooed on his arm after dating me for only four months, and for waking with the baby who is not a baby anymore all through the night.
The Juniors’ section at Loehmann’s.
When my son gets my jokes, when he wakes after 7am and when he calls me “O Great Mommy.”
Elevators, dishwashers, washer/ dryers and microwaves.
The term "vajajay."
The Guy Who Did Pluto In
Pretty damn funny.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Speaking about space travel . . .Now I don’t know too much about Pluto. I’m no expert or anything but I will tell you this. I’ve taken a shine to Pluto. My son likes Pluto, ergo I like Pluto. And what’s not to like? It’s tiny, and freezing cold and oh-so-far away from our dear planet. It’s got a great name that rolls trippingly off the tongue. Pluto is a damn crowd pleaser. Even Aldrin agreed when we saw him this weekend.
So why’d they de-frock it, I want to know.
Honestly, I’m peeved about what seems to me a rather sudden and reckless decision to cut Pluto off the planet circuit. I mean, who gets to decide that? NASA? Planetary specialists? Don’t we get a vote? I grew up with Pluto and I’m sentimental about it. My son has plans to start a restaurant on Pluto one day. I don’t like to hear his dreams of becoming a outer-planetary conquistador/ entrepreneur diminished by Pluto’s de-frocking.
You better believe Mars is there, because hey, everyone loves Mars. And Venus, sure – she’s not going anywhere. Saturn's a shoe-in. Who gets kicked off the planetary team? The underdog, of course. Typical.
In our house, under my watch, Pluto always counts. If you agree, you may enjoy this T-shirt, (thanks M, devoted follower, for the tip).
Nobody puts Pluo in the corner.
At least, that’s what I say.
Monday, September 14, 2009
This weekend we met Buzz Aldrin. That’s right, the astronaut. Pretty frickin’ cool. He was giving a talk and then signing his new book Look to the Stars at the best children’s bookstore in the universe, Books of Wonder. I love Books of Wonder more than I feel is normal (but not more than is merited).
First, it carries an incredibly impressive array of kids’ books; all the standards, for sure – there’s a whole section including everything Sendak ever wrote and/ or illustrated, and more Eric Carle than you thought imaginable – and then all these fantastic indie books you would never find and Barnes and Nobles, like this really innovative and fun book we found, What’s Wrong With This Book? And one of my favorites Roger, the Jolly Pirate (both of which I bought during their crazy annual 75%-off-great-books sale).
The second reason I love Books of Wonder is that inside this incomparable book sanctuary is the Cupcake Café. Now, I have a longstanding love affair with the Cupcake Café which started about 20 years ago when my aunt had me go over to their little shop on
Back to Buzz Aldrin. Primo has been fascinated with outer space of late, particularly Pluto. So we hit BOW, where after 15 minutes of squatting in a tiny corner of the room where we could in no way see Buzz much less hear him clearly, we opted to just eat a cupcake and wait to get our book signed.
We ate cupcakes. Read Adam Rex’s Pssst (genius) The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, The Circus is Coming by Hilary Knight, Mummy Never Told Me by Babette Cole (love her but thought it was going to be about Halloween mummies and found it freaked me out a bit) and a hundred other books. We finally went up to Buzz Aldrin who is a funny and dapper white-haired man with a lot more vigor than I’ve got and a great booming voice. Primo was too shy so I told Buzz about his dream of starting a restaurant on Pluto.
“Its cooooold on Pluto,” he laughed. How could you not like the guy?
Then on the way home in the car– after Shake Shack Burgers and romping around the Madison Square Park – the kids were yelling and hitting each other and demanding shit like they were the Kind of Queen of England and David looked at me in a very beleaguered way and said:
“I don’t get it. I work all week and then devote my entire weekend to providing these children with leisure and
He couldn’t finish because I burst out laughing. He’s totally right. We bust our asses night and day to not only care for but enrich and divert these little suckers and this is the thanks we get? But the idea of children having leisure, man, that cracked me up, Leisure from what? Those long days of picking berries til their little fingerpads are raw? Selling matches on the street, barefoot?
Leisure! I’m still laughing/
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
So yesterday was the big day. Kindergarten. Were we ready? You be the judge. My son went to school wearing:
Brand-new backpack and matching lunchbox, chock full of aliens.
A customized luggage tag (thanks, Shutterfly for prompt delivery) featuring our family photo, hanging from said backpack.
New (and ridiculously expensive) mini Sigg bottle which promises never to leak or break and to keep water icy-cold. My son likes icy-cold acqua.
A T-shirt which my sister and I made for him the night before, spelling “I LOVE SPOOKS” in iron-on decals.
His beloved collection of Garbage Pail Kids.
His beloved collection of monster maniac action figures.
a gold chain with the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus on it.
In the preceding weeks, we read every single "Going to Kindergarten" book out there. We got a Sandra Boynton calendar and X’ed off the days leading up to “FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!” We sneaked into the building the day before school started and took a peek around before the parent coordinator kicked us out. But not before we saw a photo of his new Kindergarten teacher on the wall -- Ms. Rhonda Finn
“Oh I like her,” I said, “She has a nice smile.”
“Yeah,” said Primo, “She has a nice smile and a thin face. She looks like a corn husk doll.”
I did all the prep work that can be done. And then some.
And yesterday, when we walked him to school, he was happy. Or at least, trying hard to be, Telling everyone he passed that he was going to his first day of kindergarten, singing an “I’m so happy to go to Kindergarten” song. When we approached the school and saw the throngs, the veritable masses assembled at the gates, I grew tachycardic but we soldiered on, smiling and singing.
It was no nursery school drop-off, that’s for sure. There were literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people making their way into the school – moms, dad, babysitters, kids, babies along for the ride, everyone scrambling to get through the doors and find their rooms and get their bearings. I think David had a small and silent panic attack. But we made it into the building, up the stairs, to the room. We shook hands with thin-faced, nice-smiling Rhonda Finn. We “explored the classroom,” bumping into the dozens of other kids and families who were also adventuring through the dress-up corner and book collection. We located Primo’s nametag and settled him into his assigned seat at table number 5. And then, with a kiss and some fortifying eye contact, we said goodbye.
When I went to pick him up a few hours later, there he was, head on his desk, looking tired, but brave. He made it. We made it.
And so the school daze begins.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
There’s an elephant in the room readers. I think you know what. It’s the second week in September. My son will be turning 5 this year. The elephant in the room is
It’s happening. This week. Lord help us.
“So I hear you’re starting school next week,” said my cousin to Primo.
“Yes,” he replied, “I’m a nervous rex.”
“Don’t you mean nervous wreck?”
No, he informed her. A Nervous Rex. It’s a Garbage Pail Kid.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you, guys. The kid’s not happy at all. He does not want to go. He’s panicking. I don’t know what he thinks happens in Kindergarten but it must be bad because he will sing loudly to blare out the sound of the word whenever I mention it to him.
“It will be just like your old school for the most part,” I reassure him, “You’ll have a cubby where you put your stuff and there will be colored pencils and crayons and Legos and blocks. I think you’ll like Kinder—“
“JOHN JINGLE HEIMER SCHMIDT!” he yells.
So I bought him a special lunchbox with aliens on it and a new spooky T-shirt for his first day and I stocked up on his favorite monster action figures so my bribery arsenal would be full.
On the bright side, he’ll have a good friend in his class with him. “A childhood friend,” I told someone the other day. They laughed. He is, of course, still a child. But it’s Kindergarten, man, public school, the big leagues. My baby will have to wipe his own butt. God, time flies.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I always like to lead with the bad news and the bad news about our day at the beach was I burnt my backside. You know this already.
The good news is me and the boy rocked the socks off the sand castle contest.
That’s right folks, we won.
Third prize, baby. Or at least, we tied for third. Out of seven contenders.
But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are WINNERS. I mean, what matters is that we tried our best. And our best happened to be win-worthy. ‘Cause we are winners.
I am not the sort of person you want to play a board game with, in case you haven’t noticed yet.
We rolled into the small, lakeside beach in NJ around 10am, ready for just an ordinary day of fun in the sand. Then I saw the sign.
“Sand Castle Contest Today. To enter, see concession stand.”
“This is our lucky day,” I said to my family.
“You’re not really --- “ started my nay-sayer party-pooper husband.
“You bet your sweet ass I am,” I shot back, “Me and Primo. Team Supreme.”
It is never a good sign when I start using expressions like “sweet ass” and “team supreme.” What it means is the adrenaline is pulsing through my blood and I am gearing up for a fight to the finish. It means I have my eye on the prize, even if I don’t know what the prize is, as was the case on this occasion.
I love making sand castles. And I’m good at it. I am gifted in this respect precisely the same way I am a gifted packer. I started with natural talent, and then apprenticed with my father, who is both a master castle-maker and packer-of-suitcases. These may not be glitzy or even very useful talents, like being a fabulous cook or home decorator – but by God, they are mine. And now I am passing on the legacy to my son.
“First thing we’ve got to decide is what kind of castle we’re making.” I told Primo as we looked for a good spot in the sand.
“I don’t know,” he replied. The more excited I get about something, the less excited he becomes. It is a law of parenting.
“Then may I suggest a haunted castle?” I offered, “That’s right up your alley.”
“OK,” he said, “I want to dig a moat.”
“Excellent idea,” I said, “Because the first thing you have to do when making a sand castle is amass a pile of sand. And that requires digging. You dig, I pack.”
He dug, I packed.
“Now we need to make a choice. Tall and skinny or low and wide?” I asked him.
“Tall and skinny.”
“How’d I know?” I said, “I’m not going to lie to you, that’s the tougher choice. It won’t be easy but I think we can pull it off. One tower or two?”
“Three?” I gasped, “Three towers? I don’t know that it can be done. That is highly risky stuff. But it it’s three you want, its three you’ll get. Now lets’ sculpt!”
This is the point at which Primo got bored and went off to the water’s edge to do what he named “Combustion Mustion!” – dropping balls of sand into a pail of lake water -- leaving me to finish the castle myself. But not before he had a major brainwave, a light-bulb moment. And his little innovation won us that contest. Third prize. But still.
That’s Primo’s term for them. I prefer to call them . . .
Yeah, they’re just balls of sand, exactly like snowballs. Except much harder to make. The trick is to make them perfectly round so that they look fetching, not sloppy. This takes practice and patience.
The SandBalls had a powerful effect on the children at the beach who were drawn to them, seeking to smash their perfect rotundity to nothingness. So once I finished the castle, I was on duty as castle-guard.
“Whoa!” I was forced to shout more than once, “Hands off the castle please! Those balls are not for touching!”
“We aren’t really going to hang around here until the judging at 2pm, are we?” asked David.
“You better believe it.” I replied, “Don’t you get it? We got this thing LOCKED UP!”
At 2pm, the judges came by, a very old man with a very young man, both in blue T shirts. They asked our names and I launched into a speech detailing our castle-making experience, our inspiration, and most importantly, the history of the SandBall. Primo couldn’t even be bothered to get up from his “Combustion Mustion!” experiment to comment.
“Can I give you a piece of advice?” said the old man, “Don’t sell it so hard.”
Looking back, I think had I annoyed them less, I might have scored us second place. Nonetheless, we were delighted to receive the news that we had tied for third and were receiving a $10 gift certificate at JimmyBob concessions.
“I can’t believe we won!” whispered Primo in my ear as the judge took our picture by the castle.
It was a good moment, the kind you file in your “warm and fuzzy” archive.
Then we went straight over to the JimmyBob concession stand to redeem our certificate and let me tell you what -- $10 goes a long way at JimmyBob’s. We just kept putting stuff on the counter and the teenager working there kept saying, “You still have money left over.” It was genuinely great.
In the end we walked away with:
Two peanut butter and chocolate wafer cookies.
One whiffle ball set.
Two candy bracelets.
One orange Gatorade.
Two multicolored Dreamcatchers.
Well worth a pain in my ass. Well worth it.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Here’s something I’ve wondered while browsing the “Gift” section of Snapfish.
Is it not a little odd to make someone a gift of a cutting board with your face emblazoned on the surface? Or worse, to get a cutting board made for yourself with someone else’s face there? Then every time you slice a tomato you’re slicing them up.
I’d prefer a mug.
Happy Labor Day.
Friday, September 4, 2009
I went to the beach over the weekend and I did something ill-advised. I decided to forgo sunscreen. The sequence of events that led to this mistake were as follows:
1, Our SPF 70 spray-on sunscreen was running on fumes and I, ever the martyr, wanted to save the last for the children.
2. I could not be bothered.
3. I kind of believed that because it was late August, my skin had built a certain tolerance to the harmful rays of the sun, even those emitted at high noon at a beach.
4. It was partly cloudy and I hold the belief, which is, of course, completely erroneous, that if the clouds are there, the sun cannot get through and one cannot get sun burnt. This is tantamount to believing that you can not get pregnant the first time you have sex. It is idiotic. But sometimes I’m an idiot.
So now, guess who has a scorched backside. As if I needed another pain in my ass.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Have any of you ever found it difficult to introduce the concept of feminine hygiene to your preschool-aged son?
I don’t know how long it takes for most kids to ask about their mother’s period, but it came up for us pretty soon, sooner anyway than I was prepared for it, which I find is really the way it always goes with parenting.
One day, I was putting in a tampon and my son wandered in and asked what I was doing.
I stuttered a bit and then I just said, “I’m putting in a tampon.”
That handled it for awhile and then he wanted to know what a tampon was, reasonably enough, and so I said “It is my lady product.”
Primo seemed satisfied but I felt like that was a lousy answer. Not just lousy, but weird, and maybe he’d end up in the 6th grade with strange ideas about shit because of it. So I said, “It is something women use to take care of the part of ourselves that makes babies.”
This clearly did not make any more sense to him than the explanation of “lady product” or the word “tampon” for that matter, but I wasn’t about to get into the uterine bleeding and the Fallopian tubes and the PMS and the rest of it. I figured that was enough. And it has been, so far.
A few months later though, I was sitting on the playground bench, watching Primo and his friend Eddie rifle through my diaper bag, looking for snacks. In his mad search, Primo pulled out one of said feminine hygiene products and scrutinized it for a second, as if trying to remember what the hell it was. I am sure he was trying to figure out if there was any way to use it in the furtherance of his playground fun.
Then his friend Eddie asked, “What’s that?”
I saw the recognition flicker across my son’s face, and then the disappointment, because this clearly wouldn’t help his situation any, being neither a snack nor a toy.
He said, “It’s my mom’s Pam-pam,” and tossed it onto the ground.
I nearly died. Laughing, not from embarrassment. It takes more than airing my Pam-pams in public to make me blush.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
If you’re stumped on what to give me for my birthday, I have one word.
David and I were watching late-night TV (and by that, I mean after 10pm) and we saw a commercial for this thing. Sure, I saw Tina Fey’s reference to it on 30 Rock but I didn’t know it was a real product. And I have to say, the commercial is very persuasive. Look, I’ll be honest with you. I like to cover myself with blankets. And sometimes my arms are cold. It’s true, I could put on a sweater, but why use TWO things when just ONE would do the trick? Plus, just look at the picture of that poor woman on the website. – buttoning up a sweater can be so damn time-consuming.
The women in the commercial look so cozy, reading their books under their Snuggies. And I’m not sure if you’re privy to this, but in New Jersey, they were extending a DOUBLE offer, where you get a free booklight.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I bet a lot of you readers took infant CPR class and if you did, your instructor probably highlighted the importance of Poison Control. Shortly after Primo was born, I took one such class, promptly bought Syrup of Ipecac and liquid charcoal and prominently displayed the number for Poison Control on my fridge.
Thankfully, I’ve only had to call PC once – when Primo was about a year old and I found him sucking on a Bic pen. I know, you’re probably thinking, why’d you bother calling PC for that? Seems pretty innocuous. But as his name implies, Primo is my first and I was super-neurotic in his early years.
Seconda, on the other hand, has ingested plenty of substances that would warrant a call to the PC if she were my first child. But as a second child, and a compulsive ingester of inedible substances, I have grown a little immune to her oral explorations. She bounces back quick and, I figure, lipstick, finger paint, Elmer’s glue. Trident wrappers and ants are probably all harmless enough, though I bet they taste like shit.
In fact, I don’t even have the number to Poison Control displayed on my fridge anymore. Not sure where it went but if I had to guess, I’d say Sec ate the piece of paper it was written on. Maybe even the magnet that held it in place.
Bottom line is: I no longer have the number for PC and that is relevant to this post because over the weekend, I poisoned myself.
Inadvertently, of course.
After bringing the children back from our ill-fated trip to the mineral springs pool, where a surprise noodle ban dashed all our hopes of happiness, I had a raging headache. Raging. I proceeded directly to the medicine cabinet and popped two Tylenol in my mouth. Though I’d like to pretend I’m the kind of tough chick who can swallow meds without water, I need plenty of liquid to help the capsules go down, and so, with my head pounding, my mouth full of analgesic and suffering from a sudden and desperate thirst, I walked into the kitchen for some water ASAP. And there on the counter I found a clean glass filled to the brim with crystal-clear wonderful, water. It seemed too good to be true but I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth so I guzzled it down. I drank about 4 ounces of the delicious, refreshing H2O, making huge swallowing sounds like someone who just got spring from the
I put the glass down and saw a spongey green Grow Dinosaur bobbing in a shallow puddle at the bottom.
“GODDAAAAAAAMNIT!” I shouted.
“Goddamnnit is not a nice word,” Seconda appointed out.
“Yes, but you can say it when you POISON YOURSELF!!!!” I shrieked.
“Why did you poison yourself, Mommy?” inquired Primo calmly. Although the sight of a dog across the street will send him into spasms of alarm, the information that I poisoned myself did not worry him at all. He was simply curious.
“I didn’t MEAN to,” I shouted. “DAAAAAVID!! Where the hell is the number for POISON CONTROL??????”
He, too, was not alarmed. I had to repeat myself at least twice before he even came into the room.
“What did you do?” he asked wearily.
“You know that goddamn—
“Goddamn is not—“ Sec started.
“Ok, Ok,” I said, trying not to glare at her, “You know those stupid capsules we bought with Grow Animals in them, from Target, like 12 of them for $1, the kind that are made in China and have large labels WARNING you not to go anywhere near them because they are chock-full of toxic chemicals? The ones we bought for the kids”
“Well I just guzzled down the water in the glass containing that toxic capsule and its stinky squishy poisonous Grow Animal.”
“Why did you do that?”
“It was an ACCIDENT,” I said, “I had a HEADACHE, From your CHILDREN. Why are we discussing this? I am poisoned. I need to call for help.”
David still didn’t seem alarmed.
“STAT!” I added.
He slowly walked to the computer to retrieve the information while I retired to the bed to wait for the effects of the toxins to manifest.
Then I heard him shushing Sec and saying,
“Hi, yes, is this Poison Control? . . . . Well, I’m calling --- I’m calling because my wife swallowed some Grow Animal water.”
He said it exactly as if he was informing her that there was a gerbil up my ass
“You know, those kids’ toys where you put them in water and they pop out of the capsule and start growing? . .
. . .Right, yeah, I had them too when I was a kid.”
He laughed and I gave him the international “Eye-on-the-prize-wrap-this-shit-up” gesture.
“No, she didn’t swallow the Grow Animal, just the water that it was submerged in . . . . uh huh . . . right . . . I know . . . that’s what I said . . . So I’ll just keep an eye out . . . OK, thanks. Thanks a lot/”.
“What did he say?” I asked from the bed.
“You’re fine. It’s probably just trace amounts of toxic chemicals. Good thing you diluted it in lots of water.”
“Well, that’s all well and good but I am lying here until I’ve recovered. I feel weak.”
My husband rolled his eyes.
“You are not weak. You’re all-powerful. Not even poison can kill you.”
I know he meant it as an insult. But I felt kind of proud.