Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Top Five Ways to Beat Cabin Fever

Cold

This week, living in New York City has been brutal.  We are in the middle of a five-day stretch of 20-degree weather and going outside is about as fun as punching yourself in the face.  As bad as the cold is, nothing is worse than the 45 minutes I spend getting myself and my kids ready to walk out the door.  This is how it typically plays out:

  • 8:00 – 8:01 – Put on my jacket, scarf and hat.
  • 8:01 – 8:09 – Chase the kids around the living room trying to put their jackets on.
  • 8:09 – 8:13 – Argue about whether or not they need to wear a hat: “But Daddy doesn’t make me wear a hat.  I don’t wannnnnna wear a hat!”
  • 8:13 – 8:23 – Remove their jackets and hats and take them to the bathroom to pee.  (Note, I am still in my jacket, hat and scarf)
  • 8:23 – 8:28 – Put their jackets and hats back on.
  • 8:28 – 8:38 – Try to line up their actual fingers with the fingers of their gloves.  This includes stopping to ponder how in the world they consistently get their pinky, middle and index fingers stuck together in the thumb of the glove…I just don’t know, must be magic.
  • 8:38 – 8:45 – Lift them like sacks of potatoes into the stroller and wrestle them into their cushy, cocoon bags (which pretty much negate the need for a jacket, hat and gloves and thus, the last 38 minutes of hell).

By the time I am done, my inner layer of clothing is drenched in sweat and I start losing my peripheral vision.  On the verge of fainting, I sit down, in all my drenched padding, and drink a glass of water until my vision clears.  When we finally do get outside, we can’t actually go anywhere because the 20-degree temperature (and 5-degree wind chill) instantly crystallizes the sweat that is now streaming down my entire body from my upper lip to my ankles.  I am a frozen statue of a tortured mother.

OK, that last part doesn’t ever happen, but you get the picture: going outside right now sucks.

So we have been staying home as much as possible and to avoid the arctic concrete tundra that is NYC.  Unfortunately, staying inside for days on end generates a completely different type of torture than going outside in this freezing cold weather. It brings on The Sickness.  The Sickness that they call Cabin Fever.  But fear not, for I have a few suggestions on how to ward off the fever.  And they don’t include putting an onion in a bowl in every room of the house (did anyone else see that stupid Facebook post?) or drinking some disgusting herbal cocktail.    I give you: The Top Five Ways to Beat Cabin Fever – The Preschool Version.

  1. Make an indoor snowman:  When dad inevitably falls asleep on the couch, arm your preschoolers with cans of shaving cream and Sharpie markers and have at him.  If you’re really feeling mischievous, show your kids how dipping his fingertips in warm water will make him pee his pants.  You’ll all get a good laugh and your kids won’t feel so bad the next time they have a middle-of-the-night accident.
  2. Go ice skating:  Flood your kitchen floor with water and then open up all the doors and windows until it ices over.  Then strap on your blades and wow each other with double axels and triple salchows (I know, I thought it would’ve been spelled sow cow too).  This activity can stave off boredom for hours…or possibly even days if one of you falls and you all end up having to take a family trip to the hospital.  Hey, at least you’ll get a change of scenery and some free jello.
  3. Make a Movie: Video tape all of the boring things you and your kids do while stuck inside the house.  Record the family eating bowls of cereal, laying on the floor, watching TV, drawing with markers, throwing temper tantrums, reading books and whatever other uninteresting you all do.  Make sure you have enough memory to record a full 12 hours of footage.  Then, the next day sit your kids on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a bag of Twizzlers and let them watch the movie.  If I know anything, I know kids love eating snacks and candy and I know kids love watching themselves on video.  They will not move an inch all day and you will be free to do whatever boring sh-t makes you happy.
  4. Have a Tea Party:  Partake in the age-old preschooler pastime and set up a cute, little tea party for the whole family.  Only instead of pretending to drink tea, actually drink tea.  But since little kids don’t like tea, drink apple juice.  And for extra flavor, spike your apple juice with some whiskey.  And then once that kicks in and your judgment gets fuzzy, spike the kids’ apple juice with some Benadryl.  And then before any of you realize what’s happening, the cold front will be over and none of you will have any idea that you were ever stuck at home and bored out of your mind with cabin fever. (Note: Please do not actually try this at home.)
  5. Grow a Pair: You could also just stop complaining about how damn cold it is and go outside.

What fun ideas do you have to avoid cabin fever?  Please share them in the comments section below.  Please…I beg you…share the ideas now before the fever fries my brain!

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Plus One

It’s January 2013, roughly four years after Max and I first found out we were expecting twins.  We survived the panic of not knowing how we were going to take care of two newborns.  We successfully trained our kids to sleep through the night and poop on the potty.  We gave away our two high chairs, two exersaucers, and two infant car seats to make room for the myriad of little kid toys that multiply in our apartment like rabbits.  We can finally sit on a Sunday morning and watch TV or read the paper while the kids entertain themselves for at least an hour at a time.  We went for our first week-long vacation with the kids to Jamaica, had a great time and actually felt somewhat rested.  Despite the challenges that three-year-olds bring, life is good.  It certainly is much easier than it was one, two, three years ago.  We have arrived.

Entering this new phase of parenthood opens a world of opportunity for us.  For starters, we can go out on a Saturday night without worrying about how the kids will go to bed, or if they’ll wake up at 5 AM the next morning.  It is no longer terrifying to think about traveling abroad as a family or planning a ski trip.  But instead of reveling in our recaptured freedom by partying into the night and booking flights, we locked the handcuffs back on and threw away the keys for another few years.  I’m 17 weeks pregnant and due July 3rd.

As my belly expands and the reality of what’s to come sets in, I am amazed that pressing the reset button hasn’t given rise to panic attacks and heart palpitations.  Quite the contrary, I am over the moon excited to expand the family.  Why am I OK with three more years of diaper changing when I finally can’t remember the last time I hallucinated from the stench of the Diaper Dekkor?  Why do I shrug when I think about the first few months of sleepless nights that will render my brain even cloudier than it already is?  Why do we want to have another child when so many studies say that parents are less happy than adults who don’t have kids?

When Max and I talked about having a third kid, we acknowledged that the earlier years might be rough but figured it would be worth it to have a big(ish) family later on.  We picture the kids having a blast growing up together, on family vacations together and being there for each other through those angsty high school years.  We envision large, fun family gatherings on holidays that grow as the family expands over time.  Yes, there is a daily grind that comes with raising children, and presumably the more kids you have, the more you feel its crush.  But the joy that family brings seems to always transcend the temporary discomfort and frustrations.  The smiles and giggles stay with you infinitely longer than the tantrums.

At a more granular level, watching our kids grow from tiny babies to little people with their distinct personalities has been a complete wonder.  Addy and Zack spend almost all of their time together, yet so many of their talents and interests are entirely unique.  Addy loves art and babies. Zack loves technology and music.  But most often, rather than playing individually with what they love, they share their interests with each other and join them in a way that makes their days more interesting and fun.  We often comment on how much we love the dynamic between them, and among our little team of four.   How could this chemistry not get better when the two of them become three and the four of us become five?

the_simpsons

So this is why, after finally finding some semblance of a normal life, we are headed back to square one with baby number three.  Over the last three years, I’ve realized that even though they can make you want to jump out a window from time to time, having kids is pretty awesome.  But don’t hesitate to remind me of my excitement today when, a year from now, I’m sleep deprived, knee deep in sh-t diapers and arguing with my preschoolers about what they can and cannot wear to school.

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth…Please Help Me God

Back in November, Max’s grandmother passed away and I wasn’t quite sure what to tell Addy and Zack. A brief consultation with babycenter.com told me “Don’t dodge her [or his] questions,” “give brief, simple answers” and “avoid euphemisms.”  Still thinking that a succinct “she moved to California” could do the trick and save me some discomfort, I asked someone I know who is a child psychologist.  She also advised me to tell the truth. Making up stories to shield kids from things you think may be too scary or complex will only confuse them more later, she told me.  Telling them the simple truth and not framing it as something to be afraid of is the way to go.

I’m still waiting for them to ask where Grandma Ann went (she lives three hours away in Boston so it hasn’t come up yet), but I feel totally prepared to tackle that question when it comes.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the complete opposite question that came up a few weeks ago at breakfast.  I was sitting at the table at 7:30 in the morning, sleepily eating my granola when Zack decided to smack me awake with one of his tough questions.  No, he didn’t ask me why Santa doesn’t come to our house on Christmas. He didn’t ask why Bert and Ernie share a bedroom.  He didn’t even ask what actually happened in the series finale of Lost.  He ventured into the vortex of the birds and the bees and asked, “Mommy, how did you get us out of your belly when we were babies?”

Had I delivered vaginally, this would have been an awkward situation but not insurmountable.  Unfortunately, I had a c-section.  I sat there silently for a minute while my brain scanned its hard drive for a suitable response.  I surveyed all the PG exit points through which I could say they vacated.  Mouth?  No.  Ears?  No.  Nostrils?  No.  Belly button?  Everyone knows that’s a doorbell and not a hole.  I contemplated telling them that the pictures they had seen of me 34 weeks pregnant were really just the result of me swallowing a watermelon and that they actually arrived by Fedex.  Then, I remembered the sage advice I found on the internet, which was subsequently verified by the child psychologist.  Tell the truth.  Hey, if that advice applied to death, why wouldn’t it apply to birth?

230px-Cesarian_the_moment_of_birth_2

At the risk of giving them horrific nightmares about bodies being hacked open, I told Addy and Zack exactly how they came out of my belly.  I said, “Dr. Goldman delivered you at the hospital.  First he made a cut in my belly, then he pulled you guys out, then he sewed me back up.”  “How did he sew up your belly?” they asked in response.  “Just like I sew up hole in your shirt,” I told them.  I conducted this conversation very calmly and matter-of-factly and my kids closed it out with a simple “oh” and then moved on to discussing which character they each wanted to be from the TV show Super Why.  I escaped my first brush with awkward preschooler questioning unscathed, or so I thought.

Addy and Zack are in their first year of preschool and every day, their teachers email a one-page reflection highlighting something that the class did that morning.  One of their teachers is eight months pregnant so the class is currently learning about babies and pregnancy.  Last week, one of the daily reflections was a transcript of a conversation the class had about babies and bellies.  Here is an excerpt:

Teacher: How did you get into your mom’s belly?

Kid #1: If you’re a grownup then a baby comes into you.

Kid #2: When I was a baby, I was in my mom’s belly.

Kid #3: When I was a baby I was in my dad’s belly, but my sister was in my mom’s belly.

Such sweet responses, right?  Sweet it was, until my child decided to give the conversation a dose of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Zack: Daddy put me in my Mommy’s belly.

Teacher: How?

Zack: Someone cut Mommy open so Daddy could put me in and then they sewed her back up.

When I read the quote, I thought, “Good Lord, what have I done?”  I immediately emailed the teacher to make sure she wasn’t angry with me for indirectly terrorizing the class.  I saw the other moms at drop off the next day and was relieved to find out that they were amused by the comment and weren’t passing around a petition to ban me from motherhood.  And while I know I will need to sit the kids down for a clarifying conversation, I’ve decided to take some time to think a little more about how to approach it.  After all, this one’s going to require an explanation for how they got into my belly as well as how they got out.  As much as I’d like to say osmosis, I’m going to have to tell the truth…but perhaps a little more delicately this time around.

Face Off

face-off-movie

The first four months after Addy and Zack turned three have been (yes, mostly adorable and amazing but) challenging. I, like many, believe that whoever coined the phrase “terrible twos” must have been referring to making the mistake of eating two back-to-back Reese’s Pieces sundaes at Friendly’s or having two chins. The real time to fear in the life of a child is the “throw-me-out-the-window-threes.”

I’ve been struggling to find ways to tame my two little beasts cuties and understand better how to head off tantrums before they begin. Part of this discovery process involves a post mortem analysis after each of our two to ten daily mini-Hiroshimas. In thinking about each situation and trying to pinpoint what went wrong, I’ve realized something earth shattering to me, but probably evident to my family and friends since my birth: I can be really f-ing annoying. All this time, I’ve been thinking there is nothing more irksome than a screeching, whiney, fist-pounding, frothing little kid but I have come to accept that I am a formidable competitor in the arena of irritation. Thus, I present to you a face off. Me vs. a three-year-old: who is more annoying?

1. Each morning, after breakfast, I brush Addy and Zack’s teeth. Getting them into the bathroom and up the stepstool to the sink is torture. What’s more annoying?

A. Having to yell “time to brush your teeth!” fifteen times before I get any response, followed by Zack whining, “Addy goes first!” Then Addy whining, “No, Zack goes first!” Then, “Addy goes first!” Then, “Zack goes first!” Then, “Addy goes first!” Then, “Zack goes first!” Then, “Addy goes first!” Then, “Zack goes first!” Then I lie and say “Whoever goes first gets a prize.” Which is followed by Zack screaming “I want to go first!” Then Addy crying “No, I want to go first!” Then, “I want to go first!” Then, “I want to go first!”, etc. etc. And then I tune it all out and fantasize about blowing my brains out.

or

B. Having a mom who wakes up late and rushes you through breakfast, but insists that you eat sufficient portions of your fruit, whole grain and dairy food groups while she eats a bowl of sugar cereal and no fruit. Then having her force you onto the toilet and bark, “focus on your poop!” when you are clearly busy pretending the roll of toilet paper is a tropical waterfall pouring beautiful white frothy water all over the floor. And finally, after dressing you in embarrassing t-shirts that say cheesy sh-t like “Rock Star” or “Captain Adorable”, she lies to you and says she’ll give you a prize if you brush your teeth nicely.

2. The most frequently uttered word in our house isn’t “love”, it’s not “cookies” and it’s not “microdermabrasion” (although it should be because I have some serious zitssues). It’s “no.” What’s more annoying?

A. Being a mom and repeating these conversations every single day: “Ok, kiddos, time to get dressed for school.” “Nooooooooo, I don’t wanna get dressed!” “Dinner time! I made you your favorite barbecue chicken with pasta and corn-on-the-cob.” “Noooooooooo, I want hot dogs for dinner, I don’t waaaaaant chicken!” “It’s a beautiful day, let’s go ride our scooters to the playground!” “Nooooooooo! I don’t wannnnna go outside. I wannnna watch TV!”

or

B. Being a three-year-old and repeating these conversations every single day: “Mommy, can I have a cookie?” “No, you didn’t eat your blah blah blah blah.” “Mommy, can I wear these shorts and this t-shirt to school today?” “No, it’s 35 degrees out, blah blah blah blah blah.” “Mommy, can I watch one more episode of Dora?” “No, you’ve already watched blah blah blah blah blah.”

3. OCD runs in our family. What’s more annoying?

A. After you slave away “cooking” a healthy, delicious, organic dinner for your family, having your kid wail for an hour, as if you just stabbed them in the eye, when one piece of your perfectly microwaved Amy’s mac and cheese touches their expertly toasted Applegate Farms frozen chicken nugget.

or

B. Having a mom who makes you wash your hands no less than ten times a day – after you go to the bathroom, after school, after you go to the playground, after you come home from a playdate, after you do arts and crafts, after you touch your feet, after you scratch your itchy tushy, after you fish your Barbie doll shoe out of the toilet, after you ride a carousel and after you washed your hands but didn’t suds up the soap for the full length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday three times.

So the next time I am feeling exasperated by the trials and tribulations of tres, I will try to remember to back off, and see if maybe there indeed is a little “maniac mom” to blame for the “throw-me-out-the-window threes.” Clear your conscience and share some of your annoying face offs in the comments section below!

New Year’s Commendations

Every year, as December rolls into January, we get out our trusty pen and paper and make a list of New Year’s Resolutions.  They usually sound something like this:  work out more, lose weight, be more proactive at work, be more positive, read more books.  As I began to think about what my resolutions would be this year, I stopped short and thought, “This is stupid.”  I am basically sitting here mulling over why I am disappointed in myself and my life so that I can 1. resolve to change these things, and then 2. in all likelihood fail to follow though, making me feel even worse.  So instead of making New Year’s Resolutions this year, I am going to flip this tradition on its head and make a list of New Year’s Commendations.  Rather than essentially listing all the things I want to change, I am going to list a few things that I think are just great about myself and my family members.  I figure starting out the year appreciating ourselves (and our loved ones) is much better than starting off the year thinking about what sucks about us.  Below are mine in case you’re curious but please feel free to stop reading after this paragraph (because I kind of think you might end up wanting to gag yourself, although I have tried to make you giggle a little too).  I mostly wrote this post because I thought New Year’s Commendations would be a nice change of pace.  You should do it too.  In fact, if you want to join me and turn this post into a gag fest, feel free to share your commendations in the comments section below.  I’d love to read them.  Happy New Year!

greatjob

Zack

You rock for your awesome imagination.  The stories you make up and tell us while you’re on the potty are hilarious.  Your “other” parents, Smokey and Pae, seem so real I sometimes think I can ship you off to their house when you are being a handful.  And thank goodness those two little baby cows you were playing with in my room this morning were fake because real cows smell like s–t.  Keep dreaming little guy.

Your love of learning and curiosity are such a great gift. I marvel at the way you ask us “what spells [insert word]” fifty times a day and how you made me explain, in gory detail, how Dr. Goldman took you and Addy out of my belly.  Your eagerness to understand the world will certainly shape your future in amazing ways.

Addy

Who knew a three-year-old could be one of the most compassionate and caring people I know!  The way you take care of your brother, bringing him his blankie when he is sad, always insisting he choose treats first and standing up for him as if you’re his hired attorney when he is misbehaving, is so wonderful to watch.  You would share your last gummy bear with a friend if it made her happy and if there is a baby within ten feet of you, you will immediately run over to help feed it, change its diaper or give it a paci.  Being so loving and considerate is one of the most beautiful qualities in a person and I am so happy to see that in you.

While you have an amazing soft side, I’m also proud to see a strong, assertive nature in you.  You are not afraid to speak your mind, stand up for yourself and others and ask for what you want.  While it can be challenging in the moment sometimes, you clearly tell me when you think I am not being fair and explain why you feel that way.  (“Mommy, why are you eating a cookie before dinner when you just told me I couldn’t have one?  That is NOT nice.”)  Being a confident girl who communicates her thoughts clearly are qualities that will surely take you far!

Max

We often talk about building character in our kids and there will be no better way for them to learn about grit, optimism, integrity and compassion than from watching you.  You’re the state school guy who got an interview at a big NYC investment bank senior year of college by calling the head of the group’s admin daily for weeks.  Then you scored the job against a sea of ivy leaguers by slapping on an ugly green Banana Republic suit and crushing the interview.   You’re the marathon runner and triathlete who still tells me I can run 26.2 miles one day if I put my mind to it (ha!).  You are the guy who gets dust in his eyes when he watches those ESPN stories about the down-on-his-luck high school basketball player who overcomes.  You know, the one who lost his arms and legs in a shark attack and then scored the winning basket at the championship game when his teammates carried him across the court and bounced the basketball off his head.  There really is no greater guy than you and Addy, Zack and I are so lucky to have you as our father and husband.

Me

Um…let’s see…I wash a mean dish and can fold my tongue into the shape of a clover?  It really is hard for most people to say what they think is commendable about themselves and that includes me, but I thought about this all day and here’s what I came up with.  I really do love helping others and making people happy.  I truly get a rush of happiness when spending a half hour on the phone helping a former colleague navigate career decisions or cooking a bunch of eggplant parm for my parents when my mom broke both of her ankles at once (true story).   I love making people laugh or smile, which is really the primary motivation for starting this blog.  Writing it is fun and thought provoking, but the ultimate joy comes from getting comments that say I made readers chuckle or just that they enjoyed a post.

So instead of looking to a list of New Year’s Resolutions to guide my focus in 2013, I am going to look at my list of New Year’s Commendations.  I will keep my family members’ commendations at the top of my mind so I can marvel more regularly at what I love about them and avoid taking them for granted as so often happens in the daily grind of life.  And I will use my commendations to simply remind me to do more of what I love doing.  Somehow, I think this approach will bring me more happiness than making a resolution to try to work out five times a week.  Especially when after two weeks, the “try to work out” in that sentence will be replaced with “eat a snickers bar in my closet.”