Monday, April 29, 2013

Baby will accept no substitutes, and certainly not a lousy bottle full of cow's milk

I've been waiting to pare down on the breastfeeding until Terza turned a year old, because then, I knew, she could start drinking cow's milk. I don't precisely know why this made a difference to me -- I could just have supplemented with formula, like I did with my other two. I think it was a combination of laziness (didn't want to deal with picking out a formula) and frugality (even the fancy organic milk is cheaper than formula). Either way, I had in stuck in my mind that when she turned a year, that'd be a good time to get around to giving her the bottle.

Terza, however, has different plans. Her plans are more along the lines of. "Obtain all my calories directly from my mother until her dugs dry up from old age." Kind of inconvenient for me.

We introduced the bottle to Terza when she was about 3 weeks old, just so she'd get into the habit of drinking from it, so I could have -- pause here while I chortle - freedom. It might have even worked, too, had we kept up with the bottle. Every few weeks, I'd remember that we should offer her a bottle soon so she'd be accustomed to the idea and I would do it, eventually, maybe once a month or every six weeks. I'd pump and hand over the milk to Nonnie and the baby would take the milk, usually, and the whole system seemed to be working decently. It was just such a pain to pump though, so much more time-consuming than just tossing her on the teat, seeing as she was always nearby and all. So I had someone feed her the bottle when absolutely necessary and besides that, I let her nurse, which was easier for everyone.

Except now, she won't take the bottle. Which is not easier for everyone. Namely, for me.

Seconda did the same exact thing when she turned a year, and we tried soy milk and rice milk and almost milk and every kind of bottle out there but the answer was always the same, some version of "Fuck, no." It would be useful if I retained any memory of those years because then I might recall how it all worked out but having the kids two years apart wiped out all my recall so its anybody's guess how we got from her never imbibing a sip of milk to gorging on it now, as a big kid. The one thing I know is she never took the bottle, yet she survived.

Which is why I know it will be fine. Except it means I can't really leave the baby for long periods of time, at least without feeling guilt-ridden and worried that she'll starve.

So, I'm back to pumping, in the hopes that if its Mommy's hard-won breastmilk she tastes coming through the bottle, she'll agree to drink it, and then maybe I can sneak in little bits of cow's milk at a time, gradually increasing the quantity until she's drinking regular milk like all the other babies around me do.

At which point, I will have to wean her off the bottle.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Little Ipad Addicts

My in-laws gave us an iPad three years ago for Christmas. It was such a big and exciting gift and I was very grateful, but I also sort of wondered what the hell we were going to do with it.

"I already have a computer," I thought, "and a phone."


Ha. Ha.

As if having a bunch of electronic devices meant you didn't need MORE. Three years later, the iPad is totally indispensable for our day to day living. And by that I mean: the kids' daily living. Really, its just Seconda, who is a Netflix junkie and finds sitting on the couch near her family members to watch something on the television, all together as a group, to be claustrophobic, and limiting. She's such a teenager, my six year-old. "I want some space to watch my show! Close the door and leave me alone!" And then when I say, "Is that how you talk to your mother?", she adds as a concession, "Ugh, ok -- pretty please???"

We let her use the ipad most mornings when she wakes for about a half hour, as a gentle way to make what would otherwise be a grueling, jarring and unthinkable transition to wakefulness. And, if she's not too awfully-behaved after school, she uses it for a half hour at night for the same purposes, before we have dinner and read books. Its not much screen time -- during the week at least -- but it is indispensable to her happiness. Take it away and the delicate balance on which our family's peace rests would likely fall to pieces. Look, I'm not proud to admit it, but its the truth. Left to her own devices, I'm confident she'd spend all day glued to that little screen. I know this because when I don't make her stop -- on sick days, for example -- that's exactly what she does. Its demoralizing, man. And its also why I am totally waiting as long as I can to introduce screen time to Terza. For crying out loud, just read this article in the Telegraph about toddlers so addicted to the Ipad they're in therapy

I feel like we need a "Crack is Wack" campaign for mobile devices, only in kid-friendly language. Maybe "Ipads are Bad, Bad"?? Get an up-and-coming graffiti artist to make a mural with that slogan on some handball wall somewhere?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Packed schedules

"My schedule is so busy, I'm beginning to feel like a businessman," said Primo yesterday.

"I know how you feel," I replied.

My kids have, and have always had, a far less packed schedule than their Park Slope peers, in terms of extra curriculars. This is mostly because they've both protested vehemently when I tried to get them "involved" in the normal things -- soccer or ballet or chess.

"I just like having time to myself to do nothing," Primo likes to tell me. And I agree, wholeheartedly. I've written plenty of articles for parenting magazines for which I've interviewed experts about all sorts of things and something all the experts seem to agree about is that Primo is right; kids need free time, time they are in charge of, to wind down, to day dream -- to do nothing, as my son so eloquently puts it.

But then, two things happened:

A. I realized that what Primo meant by "time to myself to do nothing" was actually "time to play video games." For Seconda, that translated into, "time to watch Netflix." Which is a horse of a different color.

B. I had a baby and needed some child care foe the big kids, and found that paying for after school classes was a cost-effective way to get this AND stop them from gorging themselves on video games.

So, for the time being, my kids are enrolled in a few after school classes, all of which sound like something you might read from the catalog of offerings at Pinocchio's Pleasure Island,

"Swim games!"

"Creative yoga!"


These are activities they've chosen incidentally, not ones I've forced on them. Well, to be honest, it was a blend of me forcing and them choosing, as in "Well you HAVE to choose SOMETHING so what will it be? Ballet or gymnastics? Swimming or soccer?"

They don't have classes every day and nothing on the weekends. Most of them are just for an hour, 90 minutes tops. I host playdates like I'm running a day care in my apartment. Which is to say, these kids have ample time to "wind down." They also have plenty of time to "do nothing" aka "feast on screen time."

Still, they lament their lack of free time. And really, ultimately, I don't blame them. Both the kids and I pine for that long-gone time where they could roam the streets on their own after school, playing stick ball or hopscotch or whatever the hell kids in Norman Rockwell paintings did -- I don't know because i had the world's biggest helicopter mom in bell bottoms. The kids long for it because because then they wouldn't have to follow instructions and be on someone else's time table, and I long for it because, well,  then I wouldn't have to pay for child care.

But for now, the kids will just have to accept the unbearable fate of learning to cartwheel and do the breast stroke. It's just their miserable lot.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Those are supposed to be 'skinny' jeans?": Or Why You Shouldn't Go Shopping With My 8 year-old Son

Three years ago, I bought an amazing pair of $30 skinny jeans from H and M. I took my daughter with me, who was three at the time, and my son, who was six. I let them play on my Iphone and I worked quick. In under fifteen minutes, I was on line to pay, flattering and very affordable jeans in hand. I could not believe my good fortune. It was a once-in-a-lifetime denim-shopping experience.

After wearing those jeans every day for three years, they have expired. Its not just the hole that ripped the left knee in two; though that alone is a deal breaker, as I've never been the type to rock the "ripped denim" look. Its also the fact that $30 jeans just don't hold up to hundreds of washings. The fabric got thin and threadbare, the jeans became stretched out and I started to look like the Saggy Baggy Elephant. After that happened, I wore then for another six months. Finally, I could not ignore the bleak truth that was staring at me in the mirror: I needed a new pair of jeans.

Even in my previous life before kids, when I loved to shop, I always hated shopping for jeans. I feel like there are exactly two kinds of jeans: amazing, transcedent jeans which make you look like Megan Fox and awful, irremediable jeans which make you look like a soccer mom on laundry day. There is nothing in between. And since the transcendent jeans comprise approximately 5% of the denim population (1% of those under $100), I know from the get-go its going to be fucking pain in the ass.

But a few weeks ago, I could put it off no longer. My disgust at my own reflection outweighed my aversion to jean shopping. So I told Primo we were going to have mother/ son time and we boarded the subway to Soho.

"Where are we going?" he asked once the subway doors had shut.

"Oh, you know, here and there." I was evasive: "We'll get lunch!"

"Mommy," he asked, "Are we going" -- here he paused, the word so loathsome, it took him a second to spit it out --- "shopping?"

"I just need a pair of jeans," I promised, "We'll be in and out."

And because he's 8, he didn't know any better.

Until an hour and a half later, when we were still in H and M, in the dressing room, me trying on the fortieth pair of jeans that fell into the "I'd rather wear a rucksack than these" category. The problem this time wasn't that they were soccer-mom-y. In fact, it was just the opposite. In the three years since I went denim shopping, skinny jeans have evolved from tapered and tight-fitting to vaccum-sealed. Also, you no longer have to option to choose anything else, at H and M at least, where the choice is between skinny, super-skinny and ultra-skinny.

This cut of jeans, which reveals your every curve, is absolutely perfect if you have curves only in the places you want to have curves, which is to say, you have curves instead of bulges. For the hordes of  20 year-olds under 110 pounds that swarmed the joint, I'm sure these jeans work great. If you are a 36 year-old mother of three who hasn't hit the gym since just after the millennium hit, they are not so ideal.

Primo put it best when he asked, "Is the name skinny jeans supposed to be a joke?"

"What do you mean?" I replied, scrutinizing my butt in the mirror. Were they really that bad? I wondered. Maybe I was supposed to see my panty line?

Primo elaborated: "Why are those called skinny jeans if they make you look fat?"

I gasped. Then laughed.

"You are totally right," I replied, "These re the pits. They should rename them 'Fat jeans.' But then who would buy them?"

"They should re-neame them "Jeans that make you look like a rolie polie little lady!'" Primo shouted, terribly impressed with his verbal flourishes.

"Ok, now you're taking the joke too far," I warned.

Like that has ever worked.

"They should call them 'Jeans that make Mommy's legs look like sausages!'"

"Enough!" I barked, "That's mean."

"It's not an insult," he protested, "Sausages are very nice."

I glared at him.

"Besides," I went on, "Mommy likes her body just the way it is."It was a lie, obviously, but I have to promote a healthy body-image for the yuongesters.

"Just not in these jeans," I added.

Then we left and got rice pudding down the street.

I'll go back to try again, only by myself next time.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Little tricks to make parenting easier

I don't know about you but if there is one thing I am always in desperate need of, its ways to make parenting easier. Since I have limited funds, my options are slim (nothing makes parenting easier than outsourcing it to someone else but that shit costs a pretty penny). So I was happy to stumble upon this list, n buzzfeed, of Ingenious ways to make parenting easier

Now, some of these I've tried, with minimal to no success (the monster spray, the handwriting grip tricks) but thats probably because my kids had particular difficulty in both those areas, not the sort of thing that an easy fix could cover.  Of course, it there was a one-size-fits-all approach to any of this stuff, there'd be nothing so very hard about parenting in the first place. The exhausting thing is that we all have to find the particular hack that works for our particular kid  and their particular quirks. That said, there are some pretty great idea in here, and I'm planning on giving a bunch a whirl.

Under the table hammock made from a blanket? Love it.

Behind-the-high-chiar bib hook? Done.

Pool noodle door stopper? Genius.

And dude, that baby shower cap which diverts the flow of water out beyond their forehead? I don't think I can resist that one.  I'm going to try, but I feel certain I won't succeed. In fact, I have a feeling both my big kids are going to fight ruthlessly over it after they steal it from the baby and try to jam it on their big heads. Then maybe I can employ the "Get Along T shirt."

Go ahead, and feast yourself. Here's hoping you get one quick fix out of the lot.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Tooth Fairy Screwed Up Last Night

She forgot the tooth.

Big mistake. Colossal, in fact. Ground for termination, some might say. And if they said that, the Tooth Fairy might say back, "Best news yet. Fire my ass. I am begging you to. I never applied for this job in the first place."

In her defense, let me say this: the Tooth Fairy is exhausted, and overburdened, and juggling too much. She bites off more than she can chew, that one, works herself to the damn bone and for God's sake, she's ONLY HUMAN AFTER ALL.

Did I say human? I meant "superhuman," obviously. The point is, even the Tooth Fairy makes mistakes sometimes.

This is what I had to tell my daughter when she woke up and found her tooth still under the pillow and no money there, either.

"Mommy!" gasped Seconda, "The Tooth Fairy didn't come last night!"

The fact that I managed to utter "Oh, for fuck's sake!" only in my mind is a testament to my pretty spectacular self control.

I shot a look at David.

I thought you were on top of that shit, his eyes said.

My eyes replied: Me? What about you? You're not capable of swapping a tooth for cash for once? 

His eyes got loud: Oh don't even. Don't you even start with that shit. 

OK fine, forget it, its no one's fault, my eyes backed off, Except for yours. 

Because we've been married roughly sixty years, we can have this non-verbal argument in approximately two milliseconds, we've nailed it down that well.

So, within a second, while Seconda was rushing over to show Primo the tooth that had been left in its little plastic tooth treasure chest, I was rushing over to my wallet, extracting three dollars and shoving it under the pillow in the bedroom while the kids were still in the living room. I was only gonna give one dollar but now there was a three hundred percent guilt surcharge tacked on the original amount.

Then I ran back into the living room and pointed out real casually: "Well, did you check well under the pillow? Maybe she left money WITH the tooth."

Primo shot me a hal-disgusted, half-disappointed look, like "What kind of shit are you trying to pull now, Ma?" He knows the Truth about the Tooth Fairy. Kid made me confess to being Santa last summer and after that cover was compromised, it only took a few hours before he came rushing over wanting to know if the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy were also big, unforgiveable lies too.

"Not lies," I'd explained, "Stories! Fun stories!"

"Just tell me the plain truth!" he'd exclaimed, fully fed-up with my evasions and more than a little betrayed: "Are you the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, too?"

"Yes," I confessed, "I am all of them."

Then I forbade him to utter a word of this to his little sister, implicating him in the lie. He is now an accomplice. And also, in a position to shame me when I screw up and don't fulfill my fairy responsibilities.

Seconda was too excited, though, to notice her brother's response. She found the money under the pillow and was thoroughly relieved, if a bit confused.

"Wow! We got to keep the money AND the tooth?" she wondered.

"You know what, honey?" I ventured, "I bet she just forgot the tooth. I bet she gets really tired because she is up all night collecting teeth and she probably got home to the Fairy Castle and was like, 'Oh shoot! I forgot to take the tooth again! Darnit! Now I have to go back and get it tomorrow night!'"

Sec piped in: "Yeah, because if she doesn't, she'll get fired!"

Little does she know this particular fairy would love to get someone else to take over her job, in this one respect. Three kids now: that adds up to a lot of teeth collecting. But, hey -- maybe I can get Siri to do it for me.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My 8 year-old just taught me how to use my iPhone

It has officially happened: my child, at 8, now knows more about technology than I do.

The other day, I told him we were going shoe shopping at Target, the which, unsurprisingly, he did not want to do. I knew this because he whined about it for no less than 10 minutes, after which point he quieted down, mysteriously. A few minutes later, he appeared next to my desk, holding a piece of paper on which he'd written, in his best penmanship:

"Notice: Target is closed. Copyright 2013. Any copying of this notice is unlawful."

"Oh look, Mommy, we got a notice about Target," he remarked oh-so-innocently, "Says here its closed."

"Nice try," I said.

So he went high-tech, pilfered my iPhone and about 10 minutes later, the phone dinged! and the following message popped up "Reminder: Target is closed!"

"How did you do this?" I asked him.

"Oh, I asked Siri to do it," he replied.

"You can make Siri remind you of things?"

"Sure, Mommy!" he assured me, "You can make Siri text people for you, and call people, too."

"Are you SERIOUS?" I was amazed, "Can you show me how?"

He was so elated to know more about my iPhone -- considerably more, at that -- that he got over the fact that we were going to Target. So, I had a good day on all counts.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

16 Inappropriate T-shirts for Kids

You'll enjoy feeling shocked and chagrined when you check out Babble's round-up of  16 Inappropriate T-shirts for Kids. At first, they stretched the limits of my credulity, and I was just about decided that these were not actually manufactured in children's sizes but then I saw the photograph of actual baby wearing a onesies that said "Nice Tits. Can I Try One?" and I decided I had to share.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Looking for a novel? I got one for you . . . .

What with my three wild children and all, I don't get much time to read, and even less time to read for pleasure. Over Spring Break though, having just met a big deadline, I gave myself permission to take a few days off and enjoy some "me" time, which took the form of a lot of soaks in the tub reading a brand-new, fantastic novel by Kimberly McCreightReconstructing Amelia. I'm lucky enough to call the lady a friend so I got to sneak a peek at an advance copy: me and Entertainment Weekly who called the novel one of the best books of 2013  The highest praise I can give the book is to say that I'd almost finished it by the end of our Tennessee trip and that is high praise indeed, seeing as it usually takes me a month or two to finish a magazine article. I was actually sneaking in reading time whenever the baby was asleep or the kids were busy watching TV -- something I haven't done in years.

Here's the synopsis from the back of the book:

"When Kate, single mother and law firm partner, gets an urgent phone call summoning her to her daughter's exclusive private school, she's shocked. Amelia has been suspended for cheating, something that would be completely out of character for her over-achieving, well-behaved daughter. Kate rushes to Grace Hall, but what she finds when she finally arrives is beyond comprehension.
Her daughter Amelia is dead. 
Despondent over having been caught cheating, Amelia has jumped from the school's roof in an act of impulsive suicide. At least that's the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. In a state of shock and overcome by grief, Kate tries to come to grips with this life-shattering news. Then she gets an anonymous text:  
Amelia didn't jump. 
The moment she sees that message, Kate knows in her heart it's true. Clearly Amelia had secrets, and a life Kate knew nothing about. Wracked by guilt, Kate is determined to find out what those secrets were and who could have hated her daughter enough to kill. She searches through Amelia's e-mails, texts, and Facebook updates, piecing together the last troubled days of her daughter's life."
The book blends the best parts of a mystery -- that compulsive readability. those exciting plot twists-- with the best parts of a woman's fiction book -- intricately-woven characters who you grow to really care about, a rich and developed sense of place and time and relationships that resonate deeply. As a mother, the issues this book grapples with - growing up in the age of cyber bullying, falling in love for the first time, what it means to be a "good" mother -- are close to my heart, and I found them explored in a nuanced and affecting way.  But most importantly, it was insanely fun to read. Because if there's one thing I don't have time for at this point are books that bore me. Those were one of the first things to go after having kids, right along with working out regularly and putting on makeup. So, if you're looking for a good read on the subway or plane or during your "me" time soaking in the tub, consider yourself informed. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring Break Travel or, this is why Mommy needs a drink

A glimpse into Spring Break travel, with my crazy children

This is what 20 Questions sounds like in our car:

Me: "OK, so its a man, he's from Europe but not Europe. He has a moustache. And he's a playwright. And he's not Shakespeare. Is it Moliere?

Primo: "Mommy! I don't know who that is!"

Me: "OK, I give up. Who is it?"

Primo: "Stanislavski!"

This is what it sounds like when we get to security:

Seconda: "This is too crowded! I want my OWN airport!"

Primo: "What if someone sneaks a bomb in here? I saw it on the news, at Nonnie's house."

Terza: "Wah. Wah. WAAAAAAAH."

This is what it sounds like waiting at the gate:

Seconda: "Are you saying my butt is Oscar the Grouch?"

Primo: "No, I am saying it is Oscar the Grouch's roommate."

And this is what it sounds like at 12:30 am, while David is trying to attach the infant car seat in the rental, and his hand is bleeding for some enigmatic reason related to the inferior LATCH system:

Me: "I'm not putting the baby in that pierce of junk. Just look at it! Its flopping around like crazy. Why even BOTHER with a car seat if its not installed properly?"

David: "Can you back the bleep off! I'm bleeding! Literally bleeping bleeding over here!"

Seconda: "I'm hungry! Can I have a milkshake?"

Me/ David simultaneous: "FORGET IT!" "Are you KIDDING ME?"


Me: "Just go get another car seat from the guy! Get another one!"

Primo (sobbing): "I am having terrible growing pains! I can't take it! I"m in agony! It hurts! And I"m so tired! Tell Sec to stop talking! She is always bothering me! WHY DID WE HAVE TO TAKE A FLIGHT THAT LANDS AFTER MIDNIGHT????"

Me: "Everyone is going to lose dessert!"

Primo: "We already had dessert."

Me: "Tomorrow, then! And the next day!"


But that's all behind us now.

Until our return flight.