Tuesday, May 28, 2013


We'd driven about 15 minutes away from my parents' place in NJ when I realized I'd left my cell phone there.

"We'll give it to you tomorrow morning when we come back into Brooklyn," my mom said when I called to make sure my phone was there.

"Ok," I replied, trying to be reasonable. It was Memorial Day, after all, and who knew what the traffic would be like getting back into the city. It didn't make any kind of sense to waste a whole half hour driving back to retrieve a phone I could have delivered to me in less than 24 hours/

"I can last until tomorrow,"I agreed.

But really I was thinking, HOW??????

Thus began my wireless-less day. Which, frankly, wasn't even truly unplugged, because I still had my cordless home phone, computer, iPad and David's cell phone at my disposal. That's FOUR OTHER electronic devices with which to communicate. Still, who are we kidding? It just wasn't enough.

It was an instructive 18 hours. What I learned was this: I am totally fucking addicted to my cell phone. Big-time. It's not that the fact of my addiction surprised me, but the extent of it did take me aback. Essentially, I couldn't perform any of my regular tasks without the use of my phone. Life stopped in its tracks.

The baby was hugging her sister and I wanted to take a picture. No camera.

We needed David to pick some milk up but alas, I can not text with my brain alone. My brain lacks wifi.

We were at the playground and wanted to see if my sister could meet us but I could not call her - not because I lacked a phone (we had David's) but because how the hell would I know her number without my contact list? What is this, medieval times, where people retain addresses and last names and shit like that in their minds?

Primo told me something hilarious which I fully intended to blog about but when I went to ask Siri to remind me to blog about it, SIRI WAS NOT THERE.

"Oh my God," I said aloud, "I will need to remember this idea MYSELF. Old school style. I will have to serve as my own Siri."

"Mommy," Primo giggled, "You are addicted to your cell phone."

"See?" I replied, "I'd like to put THAT in my blog but how will I remember it without the voice memo app?"

"Its good to have a wire-less-less weekend," he told me, "It builds character."

Clearly, he was right, since as you can see, I emerged victorious, having recalled my blog post topic including my son's pithy, cyber-friendly sound byte.

That's not to say I'm going to attempt to wean myself even one iota off my phone. I'm too far-gone. If this love affair with my phone is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kids are creepy, especially once they start talking

If you are looking for a means to bust a gut today, allow me to suggest a very pleasurable way to do so. Its a good thing I just met my health plan deductible because I think I seriously injured myself laughing at this hilarious video, posted by Babble's Brian Greeko, of a Creepy Conversation With a Two Year-Old.

The tone of it so exactly captures how I feel sometimes with my kids, like the Twilight Zone music should be playing in the background, like maybe I should call a helpline because inmates are running the asylum.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

First Fall

I never take Terza to the toddler playground. Its part of the price she pays for being the third child: she doesn't get baby-centered activities. But now that she's really running around, and its such beautiful weather, I am trying to make it more of a priority. Mommy Guilt has kicked in.

Last week, on the way home from dropping the kids off at school, I took her to the Tot Lot. It was a resplendent sunshiney day and Terza was over the moon to be amongst her fellow toddlers, squawking and yelping and sucking on pacis. I felt delighted with my ability to manage it all. Super Mommy, that's me.

As she toddler around the playground equipment, I trailed a few steps behind, relaxed and confident  letting her clamber onto the steps of the little toddler playhouse. I did not do this for Primo -- with him, I never let go of his hand, never let him experiment with anything that could result in a fall or a tumble, always swooped him up to avoid any potential accidents. I was the hover-iest of helicopter moms. I might have been the same way with Sec but as I was so exhausted, all my memory from those years has been lost forever.

But now, with number three, I am able to relax a bit, give her room to grow.

I was, that is, for about five minutes. Until, while on the toddler playhouse, she raced too fast towards the door and missed a step, falling face first onto the plastic playhouse floor.

I was right there, right next to her. I may even have been holding her hand. But she lost her balance and toppled so quickly, there was nothing I could do to stop it. I wasn't all that alarmed initially, because I say her fall, and it wasn't a bad fall, was the kind of wipe-out she has often, since she is still learning how to keep her equilibirum while standing, the kind that never results in more than a startled whimper. But this time, she started screaming, not the annoyed or angry scream but the blood curling pain scream that makes a mother start to have heart palpitations.

I scooped her up and carried her over to the bench, where I sat and lay her face against my chest. I pulled a paci out of my pocket and pipped it in her mouth, sure that would console her. It did not. So a minute or two later, when she was still shrieking, I pulled her away from me so I could take a look at her and I noticed a bit of red near her mouth. I remained calm. There were no open wounds on her face or anything.

But when I pulled the paci from her lips and blood just kind of oozed out in a vague blob around the perimeter of her mouth, I ceased to remain calm.

"Oh my God, you're bleeding!" I gasped.

She shrieked inconsoloably.

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" I'm not great with the sight of blood, particularly when it belongs inside of my children.

At this, two or three moms walked over and started handing me things -- tissues, wet wipes -- and talking in soothing voices: "Ok, here, let me help. She's OK. She's fine."

"Oh my God, Oh my God, why is there so much blood? Where is it coming from?"

It wasn't pouring out or anything, but there was a lot of it, viscous salvia-blood just kind of oozing from all sides. It was awful and bright and causing me to feel light headed.

"She probably just hit her lip," one mom said, handing me a wet wipe, "Or her tongue."

"Let's see," said another, peering at her face, "Yep, I think that's it, I think its her tongue."

I pressed in the general vicinity of her mouth and in a few seconds, the bleeding had stopped, though the baby continued to shriek in pain.

"Maybe she wants some water, to get rid of the blood taste," suggested one mom.

"Yeah, that's a good idea," I agreed, "I'll go to the bagel shop and get some."

It took me a minute to collect myself, though, so shaken was I from the sight of the blood.

Then I stood, slung the diaper bag over my shoulder and thanked the women, all first-time moms of toddlers from the look of it, though they probably assumed the same about me.

"The crazy part is," I told them, "This is my third child."

They laughed then, but not in a mean way. They understood that no matter how many kids you have, you never become immune to the shock and terror of having them bleed from the mouth.

As it turned out, it wasn't so much her tongue as her upper gums, which she hurt -- I found that out when I too her to the doctor later that day, to make sure she hadn't sustained a concussion or anything too damaging.

"Just a hematoma," he concluded cheerily, "And she'll have a bruise for a few days. Comes with the territory of learning to walk."

Terza's lip was mondo swollen for a day, looking like she's taken a hit from Muhammed Ali. Then it developed into a purple bruise which felt indicting when moms at drop off stopped to ask what had happened to my pretty baby.

After a week, the bruise has almost fully faded. As has my relaxed and confident approach to playground parenting. Yes, after a brief hiatus, I've been restored to my natural state of Helicopter Mom, and here I will remain for roughly three years, until the kid is in pre-school, and on someone els'e watch.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Babies can hear you fighting even when they're asleep

Now I'm going to stress you out by telling you that recent research suggests babies can hear their parents' arguing even when they are asleep, and its probably not great for their emotional development. Yeah, I know, its not a nice thing for me to do on a Monday morning but I listened to this piece on NPR and I figured I'd spread the contagion of stress and anxiety around, in an attempt to alleviate my own.

In the study, researches performed brain scans on sleeping infants who were wearing headphones that played people speaking. All the words were nonsense, but they were spoken in a very angry tone, a moderately angry tone, a neutral tone and a happy tone: and the brain scan machine monitored what was going on in the sleeping infants' brains. So, researchers know that babies can perceive when you're fighting with your spouse over why he never soaks the pot after cooking when IT IS ONLY TAKES TWO SECONDS AND MAKES LIFE SO  MUCH SIMPLER! -- but what they don't know is exactly how it affects the babies later in life, probably because it depends on many variable factors. Duh.

So, I guess the take-away is, don't fight in front of your kids, or when they're asleep either. Don't fight at all, ever, even when they kids are off at a sleepover out of state because chances are, any day there'll be a new study reporting that even 50-100 miles away, after they fall asleep, your children retain the ability to hear you arguing and it will fuck them up irreparably. You can do that, right? Its not like the pressure of having to be totally perfect all the time will make you more likely to argue, is it? You ARE a Stepford wife, after all.

What can I say? This is what happens when I'm not allowed to raise my voice. I get reaalllly sarcastic.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

F$@k, that sh*t is interesting!

If you've read this blog even once, you know I like me some curse words. "Shit," is a particularly beloved one. I mean, there's nothing like the f bomb when you're feeling really emphatic but "shit" is just a great, everyday expletive, perfect for almost all occasions. So, clearly, I am dying to read this non-fiction book by Melissa Mohr called Holy Sh*t: a history of swearing

Here's a taste of her work in a piece she wrote for the WSJ  which I found totally shittin' fascinating. (Yes, now I'm trying to be cute).

Maybe I'll wean myself off modern-day expletives by substituting with old-school ones that are no longer taboo, as in "By God Nails! or maybe (my favorite Shakespeare one), "Zounds!" It would be sort of like swearing methadone. But then, instead of offending people, I fear I'd just freak them the hell out.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"You're not leaving the house in that, Missy!": a fight I dread

My oldest daughter is six and thankfully, still too young to want to wear sexy, grown-up, skimpy outfits. She's still very much in the throes of the princess bug and though her outfits get provocative, they only provoke attention because they are wildly colorful, over-the-top and unorthodox, like when she wears her white tulle ballgown over her azure sweatpants with her fur vest to complete the look. But I know the power struggles about what she wears, the "You're not leaving the house in that, Missy" fights are coming, because my daughter is headstrong and cares deeply about what other people think. Regrettably. exactly like me. So I found this piece in the NY TImes incredibly insightful and on a practical level, really useful:

Clothing Straddling the Line Between Sweet and Skimpy 

As someone who did change clothes on her way to high school, stripping off my jeans in the Ferry bathroom to slip on the mini skirt my mother wouldn't let me wear -- I know I won't be able to control what my daughter wears at a certain point. But I feel like these experts give a good overview of how to set guidelines for your kids, and help them to make good choices about what they wear, how they see themselves and how they present themselves out there in the world.

And, most importantly, it gives you slightly more elevated comebacks then, "Because it makes you look like a slut!" which is pretty much the reasoning I got.  Faulting "the pornification of culture" may not be a similar explanation but it sounds smarter, anyway.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Do you suck clean your baby's paci? Well, maybe you should.

Just listened to this NPR piece, describing new research that suggests that parents' saliva on their baby's pacis may protect kids from developing asthma, eczema and allergies. I read a fascinating book on the subject of the hygiene hypothesis, called Why Dirt is Good, a few years ago when I interviewed the author, Mary Ruebush, for an article I was writing in Parents. In the book, Ruebush presents many studies which suggest similar findings. After I interviewed her, I told my mother about the theory that exposure to germs actually strengthens a young child's immune system and I believe her quote was, "What are you, a moron? Don't make me throw up." Licking a paci would be nothing short of a nightmare for her, raging germophobe that she is.

For my part -- and I don't mind a bit of dirt and germs now and again -- the new study will not change the way I handle Terza's pacis. Because  you know what those researchers didn't study? The incident of illnesses in the parents that sucked on those nasty-ass pacis. It may sound selfish, but I go down, this whole ship goes down, so what about protecting my immune system from all the germs the baby has?  Study that, then get back to me.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tenth Anniversary

Ten years ago today I was in Hawaii, on my honeymoon i. David and I used our frequent flyer miles to get there and wedding gift money to pay for the hotel - no youth hostel, to be sure, but nothing lavish. To earn free dinners, we attended a few of those "time-share informational sessions." It was an idyllic honeymoon and as we lounged in bed and hiked the volcanos and swam in the ocean, we vowed that when our ten year anniversary rolled around, we'd return to Kauaii to renew our vows. Only next time, we'd pay for our friends and family to come. And we'd stay at the fancy hotel by the ocean. And we'd skip the time-share sessions because next time, we could pay for our own mahi mahi.

Oh, youth.

Ten years later and we can't afford an overnight getaway to Long Island. Hell, we can't even spring for the Union Street Holiday Inn. Chances are good we may never see Hawaii again. Not unless I make banks by grooming one of these blondie kids to be the next Macauley Culkin, which I'd do frankly if they weren't so damn intractable. Sure, our ship may come in yet, and sure, I still have years to accumulate the frequent flyers miles necessary for such a voyage, but there's college to pay for now, three times over, and braces. There's day care and skateboards and summer camp. We'll never be so footloose and fancy free again, and nether, certainly, will our bank accounts.

So, no Hawaii anniversary vacation. And much as I would like to be soaking in the sun against a Bali Hai backdrop, thats fine by me.  If I cared about stuff like that, really at all, I wouldn't be where I am today, wouldn't have had three kids in a one-bedroom apartment, wouldn't have married a novelist in the tradition of William Faulkner and chosen a career as a writer myself.

What I got for my anniversary was to spend all day and sleep all night next to the love of my life, a man I love more than I did ten years ago when I was hot and he was young and all we did was talk about James Joyce and have sex and make indie movies together. I still thrill to hear his voice when he picks up the phone or walks through the door. And its not just love I have now, but feelings that take time to develop -- respect and admiration and gratitude.

The idea that we would be renewing our vows now, after ten years, re-commiting ourselves to each other like we did on our wedding day seems so, well, redundant. We renew our vows every day - some days louder and more readily than others. Its just like the priest said in his homily on our wedding day, after hearing the Shakespeare sonnet my best friend read aloud: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment/ Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds."

"Love alters all the time," Father Greg said, "It is is constantly changing, and it will be shaken. What does not alter - what can not alter -- is the commitment to love. That's what marriage is."

Ten years later and I'm beginning to understand. All I can do is hope that I'll be lucky enough to have another ten years -- and another ten, and another, and another -- to really get it. Today and every day, I'm re-upping, for better or worse, richer or poorer. Hawaii or no Hawaii.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Learning the Times Tables; an inspiring tale with an obvious morale you already know but you should read this anyway because it is kind of funny.

At parent-teacher conferences, Primo's third grade teacher suggested he nail down his times tables. She had been sending home notes every week reminding parents to remind kids to practice their times tables for five to ten minutes a day and she even included a few ideas of ways to do this. I read these notes, and then I ignored them. Primo's a super smart kid, and I was sure he'd memorize his times tables just by, you know, doing math, like in class and stuff.

Shockingly, this laissez-faire, lazy-bones, nebulous plan was not wildly successful.

All I needed, though, was a direct instruction. We got home that night after PTC and I announced to Primo that we were officially nailing down our times tables. We, because I was quizzing him. Daily. For five minutes. With the flash cards that we would be making together, right then. I have been hoarding an unreasonable amount of index cards for a decade - don't know where I got them and haven't known what I'd eventually use them for, until that very moment. We sat down and did the 8s and the 7s tables, then a few days later did the 6s and the 5s, eventually the 9s and the 4s. I do not know why we did them in this order -- there is no method to my madness apart from the fact that I always had a hard time with the 7s and the 8s so I figured that was a good place to start.  We never did the 3s and the 2s because dude, those just come naturally (if you've ever wondered why I am not an educator, here is why. I would be a really shitty one.)

After we made those first few flash cards, I quizzed the kid on them and he knew . . . little to nothing.

"Primo!" I exclaimed  -- then I reminded myself not to make a big deal and to remain encouraging, which would rule out saying what I wanted to, namely "You don't know this for shit, kid!"

"Primo," I corrected my tone to upbeat and calm, "It looks like you could use some work in this area."

"Ugh, no," he groaned, "I know this stuff already."

"But its taking you" --  (here I was forced to pause again to stop myself from using words like "freaking forever") -- "its taking you longer than is efficient."

I'd show him the card, and then two minutes would pass as he computed four times eight by adding four to four to four to four to four to four to four to four. It was excruciating. I imagined him taking the SATs and asking if he could have ten more hours to finish.

I had the distinct feeling that he would never learn his times tables.

Then something amazing happened.

For two weeks, I quizzed him every day for five minutes.

Now he knows his times tables. All of them. Super fast, without thinking. He knows them backwards and forwards, inside and out. He OWNS that shit.

So, incidentally, do I. I am thinking about putting it in the Special Skills section of my resume.

I'm on an extreme high about it. Primo, he doesn't really care. I mean, he's cool with it, but he's not bugging out and getting all life-coachy, like I am. Its just, once you grow up and get used to life being complex and nuanced and ambiguous and skills being hard-to-impossible to master (like parenting, for instance) it is so refreshing, so wildly, satisfying to set out to do something and then FUCKING DO IT. Like, fully, masterfully. In two weeks.

I wish everything in life were as simple and easy as that.