Category Archives: Fun

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.”

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Meet Emesis, My Nemesis

I have one real phobia in life and it is idiotic.  It is an intense and crippling fear of puke (Emesis, I have learned, is the medical term for throwing up).  I’m not sure why this fear came about or got so out-of-control.  Growing up my brother had a sensitive stomach. When he regularly got sick I’d be subjected to terrifying hurling and heaving sounds, similar to those I imagine a lion mauling a hyena makes, emanating from our family’s bathroom.  My best friend, who is a psychologist, thinks he is the culprit (sorry Manny).  Whatever the reason, the sight of vomit, the sound of vomit, the remote possibility that someone might vomit within 50 feet of me, makes me feel, well, like I’m going to do the deed myself.  I’ll save the everyday implications of having this phobia and being a mom for another post.  Today, I write to you from the beautiful beaches of Jamaica to share my long, emesis-phobia-filled journey to paradise.

Almost every year since I met Max, we have spent President’s Day Weekend at his grandma’s 55+ retirement community condo in Boca.  In 2011, we took Addy and Zack for the first time.  They were 18 months old.  I worried that they would be a handful on the flight but was pleasantly surprised when they slept through take-off, had a blast during the flight (which included chowing down on an entire box of Annie’s cheddar bunnies) and were generally in optimal form.  That is, until we started to descend into Miami.  Addy was sitting on my lap and I noticed little beads of sweat forming on her forehead.  Her previously spirited demeanor pulled a 180 and she turned desperately quiet.  “Do you think she’s OK?” I asked Max, who was sitting next to me with Zack on his lap.  “She’s fine.” He replied dismissively.  “Uh oh, I think she just gagged!” I said frantically.  “What are you talking about?  She is totally fi—“ and before he could properly eat his words, Addy gagged one more time and painted Row 22 an Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies shade of bright orange.

While I was able to compose myself enough to clean up the mess, I was in shock. I pretty much spent the rest of our long weekend obsessing over whether or not this was a fluke.  Every time I thought about the flight home, I broke out into a cold sweat.  Was there a harmless way I could guarantee Addy would sleep through the entire flight?  Could I tape a barf bag to her chin so that the mess would be contained if she did puke? Could each of the four of us pass for 55 so we could live in Boca Lago forever and never get on an airplane again?  Of course, the answer to all of these questions was no.  And, of course, she barfed all over the place on the flight home.

For the rest of 2010, I swore to Max that I was never getting on another plane with Addy.  He told me I was a nut job.  When December rolled around and he suggested we book our President’s Day flights, I seriously contemplating bailing, but eventually realized that I really needed to figure out how to get over this crippling fear.  Neither of us had traveled much with our families as kids and we had promised ourselves we’d see the world with ours one day.

I started researching ways to conquer phobias.  Therapy would take too long and would probably require some sort of horrifying exposure exercise, like bathing in a vat of vomit, so I ruled it out.  My brother generously offered to make a recording of his puking noises so I could listen to it over and over to desensitize myself.  I declined.  Short on good options, I ultimately decided to go with the obvious route: hypnosis.  It actually turned out to be more like meditation or guided imagery.  We worked on envisioning me sitting in a movie theater, laughing hysterically, while watching a movie of Addy projectile vomiting on the plane.  I was instructed to play the movie in my head forwards and backwards, in fast forward and slow motion, all while imagining I was relaxing, listening to Come Away With Me by Norah Jones.  Needless to say, six weeks of meditation and imagery did not make me feel less freaked out about the flight.  All it did do was make me look like a big moron for thinking I could dump this phobia in six weeks with a few imagination sessions.

In the end, what got me through Family Florida trip #2 was the simple solution of going back to my roots.  I am a Type A, high strung, NYC mom.  What would such a person do in my situation?  What else but buy a bunch of Dramamine, four pairs of anti-nausea wristbands, a bottle of Motioneaze herbal motion sickness ointment, two boxes of Queasy Pops lollipops for kids, a towel poncho and a roll of kitchen garbage bags.  Then, run to the doctor to get my very first prescription for Xanax.  In between ripping on me for being completely mental, Max offered to book a 3 + 1 seating configuration (3 seats together and the seat across the aisle) so that I could sit somewhat solo and keep my insanity contained while he took one for the team and sat in between Addy and Zack (with Addy in the window of course).  Thanks to my lunacy, and Max’s understanding, Addy did not get airsick on either flight and I passed out, slumped in my seat with my mouth hanging open and drool dripping down my chin.

I have come a long way since this past February, although I have not completely conquered my anxiety around flying with Addy.  When Max proposed we book a trip to the Caribbean with the kids for the holidays, I quickly said yes and stifled the tiny voice in my head asking “what if she pukes?”  I prepared our little “Air Sick Addy” kit without the sound of my heart thumping in my ears.  I even passed on the Xanax and ventured to the airport with my neuroses unchecked.  A little deep breathing got me through take off and, when Addy screamed her head off because her ears were popping on the descent into Jamaica, I let Max handle it and kept my tight chest to myself.  Although I am getting better, it may take a few more years of puke-free flights before I stop worrying so much about this.  Addy will certainly be taking Dramamine before every trip until she’s old enough to test out a med-free flight without me.  But for now, I’m accepting my current mix of function/dysfunction and, lucky for me, Max is too.  After all, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to snap a photo of this today…

Jamaica

Do you have any silly phobias or anxieties that you’ve tried to beat?  Please share your stories and any tricks on how you conquered them!

Thanks For the Train Table, But My Kid Lives in an Apartment

Our family of four lives in a three-bedroom apartment in New York City. The kids share a bedroom and the “third bedroom” is a dining room that has been transformed into a playroom (a rare luxury in these parts). I am engaged in a perpetual war against Addy and Zack’s toys, trying to contain them in these two rooms in a configuration that doesn’t resemble a garbage dump.  See exhibit A for evidence of my failure:

Playroom

Two weeks ago, both my mother and my sister-in-law called me while holiday shopping. “Do you think Zack wants Legos?”, “How about a real workbench with a full set of tools and screws?” I had to veto it all. “Nothing big.” I said, “Nothing that comes with a million pieces, nothing that resembles anything they already have.” I needed to defend the small amount of grown up space we still have in our home. More importantly, the more puzzles, pegs, beads, squinkies, legos and 50-piece wooden food sets that accumulate, the closer I get to seeking professional help for the undiagnosed OCD that keeps me up until 1:00 AM organizing it all. The bottom line is that until we live in a house in the suburbs with a hoarders-inspired, kids-only basement, I will be the Grinch who stole Hanukkah. Accordingly, I have developed a list of a few of the top holiday gifts for preschoolers who live in apartments. Grandmas and Grandpas, take note.

Real Deal Gift Ideas…

Tickets to the Fresh Beat Band Concert

They’re small. We throw them in the garbage when we’re done with them. Most important, I can never figure out when they go on sale until I’m a month too late and only the crappy seats are left, so I need someone else to take over this job anyway.

Disney DVDs

They’re easy to store and they double as a free two-hour babysitter when I want to take a nap.

Gifts for Those on a Budget…

A Box of Cookies

There’s nothing that gets little kids more excited than giving them a box of cookies. What’s great is that they are perfectly satisfied when you give them just one. What’s even better is that they believe you when you tell them there are no cookies left in the box the next day because they finished them all.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is like the supporting actress who steals the show from the leading lady, the bread that you fill up on at a restaurant and then have no room left for dinner. No matter what amazing toy is protected by its cushy little buttons, kids always just want to play with the bubble wrap. It provides hours of entertainment and can be dumped with a clean conscience once it’s deflated. What more could a little apartment dweller’s mom ask for?

Gifts I Can Only Dream About…

Live-in Housekeeper

A perfect gift for a toddler, a live-in housekeeper will provide one more adult in the apartment who will bend to their every whiny command. As an added bonus, when grandma inevitably ignores your request to nix the fifty-piece puzzle books that constantly spill out all over the floor, a live-in housekeeper will help keep your sanity better than lithium. Where’s she going to sleep? Hell, if she really cleans up every day, she can take my side of the bed and I’ll sleep standing up in the closet.

A Storage Unit

For a mere $100/month, you can bring joy to the heart of a little one by bringing the coveted basement full of toys to the NYC apartment. So what if it’s just a 3’ x 3’ x 3’ metal cage? Who cares if I stuff it so full of exersaucers, baby swings and singing puppy dogs that if a kid actually took anything out of it, it would trigger a deadly avalanche? Big deal if the sub cellar where it’s located is also a rat tenement? I could get rid of TWENTY SEVEN CUBIC FEET of toys! Definitely worth the risks.

Ambien-Laced Brownies

Total non-sequitur. It’s 10:41 PM right now. Why the hell is Zack still up in his bed whispering to his team of stuffed animals? Either this kid needs some Ambien-laced brownies for Hanukkah or I do so I can go to sleep and stop staring at his beady, glowing eyes in the damn monitor.

Be Warned…

Ignore the aforementioned banned gift characteristics and your present will land on the re-gift shelf. The re-gift shelf is a thing of beauty. It emits rays of sunshine every time I crack open the closet door as if it was a direct invention of God him(her?it?)self. Entry to the re-gift shelf means there is one less toy messing up my living room and there is one less gift I have to buy for someone else. So actually, I beg you, please forget everything I said in this post and just give my kids something I can guiltlessly pass on to someone else.

Share your ideas!  What are some serious or funny ideal gifts for the space challenged?

Move Over Thomas Edison!

Admission: I love the show Shark Tank. In case you’ve never heard of it, it’s a show on ABC in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of investors hoping to land venture capital. Here’s a link to the website http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank/index. I wish I could come up with a great idea and get a chance to go on that show and kill it. I’ve been thinking that I should invent a series of fixes to address universal parenting problems, because when parents have problems, they’ll buy anything to try to solve them. Here are a few ideas that I think would bring the Shark Tank judges to their knees:

The Umbrella Mullet

Every time it rains, I get screwed. I take the kids out in the stroller with its perfectly fitted rain cover to keep them dry and warm and by the end of our walk an unsuspecting bystander would think that I got dressed before I showered. I tried buying an umbrella that attaches to the stroller handle, which was promising, but the umbrella is so tall, it ends up looking like someone picked me up by the top of my head with a toilet plunger and dipped the rest of me in the toilet. Holding an umbrella in one hand and pushing the stroller with the other works a little better, keeping more of my head covered and most of my front, but inevitably my entire back gets drenched. Luckily, I have dreamed up the perfect solution to this problem: The Umbrella Mullet. It is an umbrella hat that straps to your head like a bike helmet and is shaped like the Darth Vader’s head gear, except it is much wider and the back hangs down to your ankles. Very stylish, frees up your hands to push the stroller, keeps you dry. This thing is going to be the next Post It Note for sure.

The Couch Coffin

Ever wish there was a place in your home where you could steal a moment of solitude without completely leaving your kids unsupervised and free to trash the place? I give you the Couch Coffin. It looks and feels like a regular couch but opens up to reveal a (temporary) resting place as comfortable as the beds at the Four Seasons. When your kids aren’t looking, hop in and rest your weary body while spying on them through the one-way-mirror eye slot. For a small premium, you can upgrade to the Couch Coffin 2. The Couch Coffin 2 comes with a microphone and speaker that enables you to rest while simultaneously telling your kids, in the voice of Mr. T, to stop putting stickers all over the coffee table.

Hand Cones

We all know that clearing the boogs out of one’s nose is a regular necessity. At some point between the ages of two and twenty, someone teaches us how to do it in a sanitary and private manner. Unfortunately, until we are able to impress this important life lesson upon our children, they engage in an awful lot of public nostril digging. Just yesterday, I was proudly handed no less than seven green, gluey boogars. Wouldn’t it be great if, whenever the kids have colds, we could put little cones on their wrists that prevent their hands from touching their noses? They would look and function like a miniature version of the cones that people put on their dogs’ necks when they are recovering from an injury. While these hand cones would spare us the repeated vision of little Joey pulling a foot-long jump rope out of his nose and then rubbing it all over his chair, we still have to tackle the issue of the boogs streaming down his face into his mouth. (Are you gagging yet?) That is why each pair of hand cones would come with a free pair of nose plugs. Just slap on the cones, stick in the plugs and tell those boogies to beat it!

So what do you think? Would you invest? What? I shouldn’t quit my day job? Shooooooot, I already did.

My Plundered Privacy

One of the things I have had to get used to in my transition from peaceful, care-free adult to harried mom is the complete and utter loss of personal privacy.  It started when I became pregnant and has steadily gone downhill from there.  Once I started showing, both familiar and unfamiliar hands constantly fondled my stomach.  Taxi drivers regularly guessed that I was having a dinosaur based on the unsettling ratio of belly : rest of body (5:1 in my case).  When the babies arrived, random people approached me on the street, stuck their faces in my stroller and asked totally reasonable questions like “Did you have sex with your husband to conceive these twins or did you have to do IVF?”

But these jarring invasions of my privacy were nothing compared to what is going on currently, and the perpetrators are not strangers, they are my kids.  Ever since they figured out how to turn a door handle, I have not been able to go to the bathroom in peace.  While the initial interruptions were not terribly annoying, their more recent shenanigans have been increasingly disturbing, in more than one sense of the word.

Zack takes an in-your-face approach where he slams open the door with no warning and starts interrogating me.  “Hi Mommy, what are you doing? Are you making a pee pee?  Are you making a poopy?  Can I see? Is your pee pee yellow? Why is pee pee yellow?  Can you buy me a phone like yours?   Can I see your phone?   What are you doing with your phone?  Are you calling Daddy?  Why does it smell like poopy in here?”  He doesn’t ask all of these questions from the doorway, he asks them while hanging on me with his elbows digging like spikes into my knees.  He leaves me so little personal space, it would be hard for an outsider to tell which one of us was actually the one taking the…well you know.

Addy has a completely different strategy.  Over the past week, she has been quietly slipping into the bathroom and setting up a panel of judges on the tub ledge.  The first few days brought this:

These prissy little b-tches have surely never peed or pooped in their entire lives and from the look on their faces, they did not approve of what they witnessed.  I think that after a few days they outright refused to be subjected to such unladylike behavior because Addy stopped bringing them into the bathroom and instead brought these things:

These freakish, fat-headed Squinkies have been staring at me while I do my business since last weekend.  Their presence shortens my bathroom stay substantially because I’m afraid if I sit too long, they will start marching, single-file, into my nostrils to eat my brain.  I’m pretty sure that next week, Addy’s going to bring in a hologram of Dora singing “You did it!  You did it! You did it!  Hiciste una caca!”

I don’t totally know what to make of all of this.  What I do know is that my bathroom will no longer be a sacred refuge where I can steal a few minutes of tranquility, at least not for another ten years.  So if you see me with a box of Depends in the dark alley down the street, leave me alone, I just may have found the answer to my problem.

The Scanted Plant

Behold the unfortunate-looking symbol of one modern woman’s struggle to reconcile her inner feminist with her outer stay-at-home-momishness.  This plant somehow managed to sit on our kitchen windowsill looking like a bomb casualty for almost a year.  When I was working, I delegated “plant care” to Max in an attempt to chip away at the mountain of household responsibilities that sat on my shoulders.  While he did consistently water the plants each week (good job sweetie!), this orchid’s journey from “thing of beauty” to, well, “thing,” began under his tutelage.   However, that is no excuse for my behavior.  I let this poor, busted bloom become a victim of my identity crisis.

When I left my job, Max pointed out, and I agreed, that I should become fully responsible for the household duties that we used to share, including plant care.  It was a totally fair request since he would continue to slave away at work to fund my shopping, personal trainer, botox and bon bons.*  However there was something about being completely in charge of a long list of mundane tasks at home that made me cringe.  I feared that if I completed the list each week, and completed it well, I would morph into a soulless 1950’s zombie housewife.  My only aspiration would be making sure the ladies of my bridge club would be able to see their beehives reflecting off of my perfectly polished silver, and I’d have a nervous breakdown if they couldn’t.  So I waged a slow and quiet rebellion against the Feminine Mystique that threatened to invade my identity: I refused to fix the orchid situation, GASP!

For a while, I continued to water it but stopped short of actually separating out the orgy of plant species that so wrongly cohabitated in one pot.  My lame effort to stink at plant care led to the realization that if I wanted to be the real deal I needed to smash that potted mess to pieces all over the kitchen floor.  I’d show the world that I am a member of the free-thinking, graduate-degree-holding, badass womyn’s club. Ugh, but if I did that then I’d have to bend over with a dust pan to clean it all up and that would suck.  So I said screw it and just decided to ignore the plant altogether.  No pruning, no watering, no love. By neglecting this one plant, I was failing to completely fulfill my housewifely duties and could therefore hold on to my identity as a strong, successful, educated woman.  And so, this now brown, ugly plant stood on the windowsill for visitors and passersby to see as a testament to my feminist chutzpa.

Until, one day, I realized two things.  First, taking on all the household duties was not an affront to my feminist predecessors.  Creating a fulfilling life, which for me will include a period of exclusive family focus (and the household duties that come with it) bookended by years of career focus is, in my opinion, living out the life of choice for which these feminists fought so hard.  The second and clearly more profound realization was that I was a moron and all this dead plant did was make me look like a dirty slob.  So I threw it in the trash and bought a shiny new fittonia plant at Home Depot.  Isn’t it pretty?

*No, I am not serious.

Momamasochists

My dear friend Kate and I have something in common besides being moms of three-year-old twins.  We’re insane.  For our kids’ birthday parties, we both decided to completely pass off the work to one of the 18,000 kiddie gyms on the Upper West Side.  They plan and run the party, they provide the space, they order the pizza and juice boxes, they make the goody bags, they clean up and all we have to do is sign the credit card receipt.  Piece of cake, right?  Not if you are a momamasochist like us.

Kate and I both could not leave well enough alone, and we decided that even though the gyms provide the birthday cakes, we would make them ourselves.  I figured it would be fun and it would probably save some money, so off I went to two supermarkets and Michael’s to get all the supplies.  Yup, three different stores where I spent over $100.  Since the cost saving objective was out the window, I said screw it and decided to make one cake for each kid.  At 8:00 PM on the night before the party, I started to decorate the cakes – a skull pirate and a princess.  The pirate actually wasn’t too difficult and came out pretty decent, but the princess…the damn princess.

As I decorated the princess cake, things seemed to be going well except for a few minor details along the way.  Here were the small issues I encountered:

  1. The sleeveless, v-neck dress I drew on her looked like it was from Loehmann’s.
  2. Her hair was poofed a la Peggy Bundy.
  3. The black icing I used for her eyes and eyelashes was a little too thick and runny.
  4. I messed up her lips and attempted to fix it by adding layers of pink until they were, shall we say voluptuous.
  5. Speaking of voluptuous, this princess needed a breast reduction.

I was so razor focused on getting all of the tiny details on this cake right that I didn’t step back and actually look at the whole thing until about an hour into decorating.  Based on my list of issues above, can you guess what I saw when I finally did take a moment to admire my creation?  You are correct, instead of a princess, I had made a cougar.  Not the four-legged, furry, lethal kind.  The two-legged, furry, 48-year-old, lethal kind.  I needed to fix this, and fast before Addy’s third birthday party was ruined by my old, slutty cake.  I did the best that I could do at midnight with my eyes crossing and my hands shaking, and shaved a few years off of the poor hag before heading to bed much later than I had planned.  It’s amazing I didn’t have nightmares that night because this is what slept in my fridge:

In the end, the kids loved the cakes and I felt I had done my part to make their third birthday, which they are sure to never remember, unforgettable.

Last weekend, we went to Kate’s kids’ birthday party and saw this homemade treasure chest cake that she slaved over as well:

Reflecting on our creations, she asked this question: is it extreme love or plain insanity that possessed us to make these cakes?  The answer is a little of both.