Tag Archives: parenting

Namer’s Block

Baby Name Book

The clock is ticking.  I’m 34 weeks pregnant, we’re having a boy and we have no idea what to name him.  With Addy and Zack it was so easy.  Their names just jumped off the pages of the baby name book.  Our choices were so meant-to-be that one of Max’s dearest friends, Rudy, actually guessed what we had chosen for both names on the first try.  This time around, we haven’t been so lucky. In fact, I’m pretty sure baby number three is doomed since this is the list of options for first names that we’ve come up with so far…

1.  Asdo

Asdo is the name our family has been calling the baby for the past five months.  When we told Addy and Zack that I was pregnant, we asked them what we should call the baby while it was in my belly.  Zack responded, “We should call him A-S-D-O.” While he was seemingly spewing a random mishmash of letters, the vowels and consonants lined up to create a pronounceable “word” that has since become the placeholder name for our little nugget.  The “name” caught on so well, everyone from our parents, to our friends, to Addy and Zack’s teachers to my OBGYN have referred to the baby as “Asdo.”  Clearly, as a loving mother, I will not allow this to become the baby’s actual first name.  I am, however, currently in the throes of an intense internal struggle over whether it is cute or cruel to make “Asdo” the baby’s middle name – a request that Max has been intensely lobbying for.

2.  Penelope, Evie, Violet, etc.

Why are girl names so much easier to like than boy names?  Why???  I could flip through a baby book and come up with a list of ten girl names I like in about five minutes.  I’ve had eight months to find a boy name that I like and I’m blank.   At this rate, I think I might just buy Asdo a baby wig and some dresses, name him Shirley and call it a day.

3.  Zack #2 

I liked it the first time so why not slap a number on the end like they do for movie sequels?  It worked for Teen Wolf 2, RoboCop 2 and Speed 2, right? Right?  Didn’t it?  Crap, you’re right.  Bad idea.

4.  President, Doctor or Justice 

What?  Isn’t this what all Jewish mothers are supposed to want to call their sons?

5.  Iloveyoubut 

Now that Addy and Zack are three and I’m done with all the little annoying things that come with caring for babies, I suspect I will need some help on the patience front when it comes to starting over.  Naming this baby Iloveyoubut should take care of any guilt I feel when I act like a whiny, complainy jerk.  “Iloveyoubut, please stop waking me up 15 times a night.”  “Iloveyoubut, I really don’t want to change another sh-tty diaper today so I assume you’ll be cool if I leave it for tomorrow, no?”  “Iloveyoubut, seriously, if you don’t stop crying, I’m going to suck my own eardrums out of my head with your Nosefrida.”

6.  Woofster

woofster1

For those of you without preschoolers who are obsessed with the show Super Why, Woofster is the dog that belongs to the main character, Wyatt.  Addy and Zack, also known as Princess Pea and Wyatt, have decided that when Asdo arrives, he will play the role of Woofster in their Super Why shows. Curtain goes up at 7:00 PM nightly with matinees on weekends if anyone wants to come see their performances.  Tickets are free, or depending on how desperate I am for some peace and quiet, I might consider paying you to come so I don’t have to play “the audience member” for the 5,627th time.

7.  Enos

As all desperate parents who can’t think of a good baby name do, I naturally turned to a number of baby name wizard type websites to help us decide.  My favorite was a website called nymbler.com where you can put in sibling names and other names you like and it will generate a list of suggestions that it thinks would work based on your inputs.  When I entered “Addy” and “Zack”, it gave me brilliant suggestions like Lon, Mose, Orie and Zeb.  But my favorite, by far, was Enos.  How in the world did they know that all I’ve ever wanted was to give my kid a name that could easily be mistaken for the grossest part of a tush?  I’m sold.  Enos it is.  Now we just have to decide whether the middle name is going to be Benis, Fagina or Crotom.

The Top Five Things That Suck About Traveling Without Your Kids

Max and I just returned home from a 4-night babymoon in Turks & Caicos and it was a dream.  Perfect weather, amazing hotel, uninterrupted sleep, uninterrupted reading, uninterrupted meals, uninterrupted po—well, you get the drift.  Traveling without the kids is something every parent should be required by law to do at least once a year.  It, no doubt, does wonders for the mind, body and marriage.  But there were a few things that did kind of suck about our kids not being there with us…and here are the top five:

5. I didn’t have to pack kid snacks for the flight.  Usually I pack a box of Teddy Grahams in my carry on, give my kids five bears each and then eat the rest of the box myself.  Since packing snacks only crosses my mind when I’m with the kids, I realized, while sitting on the tarmac at JFK, that I needed to come up with an in-flight food option.  Fumunda cheese and cracker pack for $10??? I’ll take two.

4. Since the kids weren’t with us, we Face Timed with them every day.  It was so great to see their sweet faces on the screen each time we called.  Until they started whining and fighting over who was going to hold the phone.  And who was going to give us a tour of our apartment.  And who wasn’t sharing.  And who Mom and Dad love more.  Just kidding – they know which one of them we love more.  Our calls consisted of three seconds of quality talk time followed by 15 minutes of them flipping the screen back and forth between a view of our black kitchen floor and our white kitchen ceiling.  Or they would weave through the apartment, holding the phone as if they had slinkies for arms, to show us that, indeed, you can still see New Jersey from our living room window.  Between the blood curdling screams (“It’s myyyyyyyyyyyy turn!!”) piercing the microphone and the Blair Witch-style camera work, we had to take turns running out of the room to hurl into the tropical shrubbery every time we checked in with them.

3. I learned nothing on this trip.  I had no one to challenge me with hard-hitting questions like: Why does a plane turn into a car when it lands on the ground?  How does the plane go up in the sky? Why is Turks & Caicos called that?  Why is the ocean blue?  How do you make a person?  Why don’t boats sink down to the bottom of the water?  Where does sand come from? Why is that 20-year-old girl making out with that 65-year-old man by the pool?  Oops, that last one was the question I asked Max over and over, but I’m pretty sure if our kids were there they would have been equally confused.

2.  I was able to watch The Twilight Saga: New Moon for 20 minutes on the flight home.  If the kids were with me, they would have saved me from this horrible mistake because: a) they wouldn’t have given me a moment of peace to watch, and b) If I had turned it on, the vampires and wolves would have caused them to sh-t their pants and I would have been scraping poop off of their clothes in the bathroom rather than sitting in my seat staring at my TV.  But since they weren’t there, I was free to flush 20 minutes of my precious time, 10% of my brain cells and all of my dignity down the toilet (instead of their poop).  And so, I sat there and watched Kristen Stewart, what’s-his-name and their digital baby live with a bunch of weird-looking people and fight the whoever-they-are and convince a bunch of other weird-looking people that their digital baby’s tantrums won’t kill everyone around them.  If that synopsis wasn’t enough to convince you never to watch this movie, please seek help.

1.  Drumroll…and the number one thing that sucks about not traveling with your kids is:  As Max so eloquently put it while taking in this ridiculously beautiful view:

TurksandCaicos

“You know what sucks the most about traveling without kids?  There’s no one I can steal wet wipes from every day when I go to take a sh-t.”

The True Masterpiece: A Work In Progress

Work In Progress

It’s a miracle. I read a book from start to finish within two weeks. And it wasn’t written for 14-year-olds. Or three-year-olds – I can read like five of those in two weeks, maybe even six if there aren’t too many words. It was an incredibly interesting book written for educators, psychologists, social workers and neurotic, type-A parents who are obsessed with doing a perfect job raising their kids. The book is Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. In it, Tough argues that developing character traits such as grit, self-control, zest and optimism in children is more impactful on future success and happiness than IQ. At the beginning of the book, I thought, “Great! For $9.45, Paul Tough will show me what to teach my kids so they can be happy and successful forever.” By the end, I realized,“S-it, I suck at grit, self-control, zest and optimism. My kids are screwed.”

Two of Tough’s highlighted character traits, grit and optimism, really stood out to me as critical drivers of success and happiness.  There are so many great success stories that involve people believing they could accomplish/create big things, and pushing forward through failure to make it happen. Abraham Lincoln did it. Oprah Winfrey did it. Martin Luther King Jr. did it. Heck, I bet the genius who invented the Snuggie is the personification of grit and optimism.  How could you not be when you’re trying to convince people that an ugly backwards bathrobe would become a phenomenon of epic proportions? While I see these two character traits as extremely valuable qualities that I hope to help develop in my kids, I am all too aware that these are two areas in which I am sorely deficient. I am no inventor of the Snuggie.

I am the person who dropped AP Biology senior year of high school because I got a “D” on the first test. I’m the girl who, after singing in choirs and performing in plays and musical theater all through high school, abandoned the passion the minute I was rejected from a choir freshman year of college. (I know, NEEEERRRRRDDDD!) My brain defaults to enumerating the reasons why something is not a good idea instead of envisioning how it could be great.  Sure, there are exceptions in my life where I’ve set goals and worked hard for things – getting into grad school, having a family – but the majority of the time, if something doesn’t come easily to me I tend to run.

In realizing that my own character can use some work, I realized that, as parents, we might not always want our children to be reflections of ourselves. So what happens when we are not the perfect role models and want to instill in our children qualities we fail to fully embody as adults? How do you teach something you have yet to learn yourself? Do you hope that someone else close to your child – your spouse, an aunt, a grandparent – will fill in the gaps in your performance as a role model? Do you share with them stories of people who have mastered the things you value but are lacking? Should you articulate your disappointment in not having achieved certain things or embodied certain traits and hope that they will learn from your regret?

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that raising kids involves facing a lot of stuff you just don’t know and need to figure out. It’s not all as heavy as molding your child’s character and psyche. But whether it’s bathing a 7 lb. baby for the first time in your life or teaching the importance of grit and optimism, we parents get pretty good at figuring things out as we go.  Since I truly believe that helping kids build character is one of the most important things a parent can do, I am going to have to figure out how to do it as I go.

As I stumble my way through helping them grow into happy and successful adults, there is one lesson that I will, no doubt, impart.  I will share with them the journey of my own attempts at character improvement, admitting what I’d like to change and talking to them about how I am working to grow and evolve.  It’s just as impossible to be the perfect role model as it is to create the perfect kid.  So in addition to trying to bestow good qualities upon them, we should also teach our kids that we are always works in progress.  After all, what better example of grit and optimism can you provide than not giving up on yourself?

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!

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.

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!

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.

Things I’d Kill Max for Doing…That I Just Did

Since my kids are three, I have a treasure trove of mishaps and fun times to talk about in this blog that I’ve collected over the last 36 months.  But screw all of that.  Let’s start with what happened yesterday afternoon at the park.

Among my numerous neuroses related to the kids, a close second to them getting sick/injured is my fear that they are not active and adventurous enough.  When they refuse to get up from my lap at a gymnastics birthday party, it takes an intensely imagined straight jacket and gag to keep me from shoving them onto the trampoline after berating them with a Bobby Knight-style “pep talk.”  When they ride their scooters two blocks to the playground without complaining, the voice in my head sounds like Aly Raisman’s parents at the 2012 London Olympic Floor Exercise Finals with a touch of Mega Millions winner.

So when Addy and Zack expressed an interest in jumping off a 1.5-foot bench onto the sidewalk, I briefly saw two plaques awarded to brother/sister athletes of the year, [insert NYC Suburb] High School, Class of 2028, then figured, “what’s the worst that could happen?” because I’d surely hold their hands while they jumped.  I said OK and told them they would get one jump each because we needed to go home to cook dinner.

Zack went first and took a soaring leap about three inches up and four inches out while grasping both of my hands like we were seared together with superglue.  Then Addy approached launch position and it all went to hell.  “Get away Mommy, I want to go by myself!” she commanded and before I could respond she jumped and landed, two feet on the floor.  Sure enough, after a two second beat, Zack began scrining (scream-whining), “I wanna do it by myself!  Addy got to do it by herself! I wanna do it by myself! Addy got to do it by herself! I wanna do it by myself!” 

Although Zack is less sure-footed than Addy, I threw caution to the wind and did what I needed to do to turn the volume down – I said OK.  After what seemed like an hour-and-a-half waiting for him to decide where on the bench he wanted to climb up, he shimmied to the edge and considered jumping.  His face and body language couldn’t have been any clearer – he was not sure he really wanted to do this by himself.  He bent his knees and threw his arms back but stopped short of jumping and told me that I needed to say “one, two, three, jump!”  I heeded his request and he jumped, but my instincts screamed “catch him!” and I did.   Fury filled his wide, innocent eyes and he screamed at me “I wanna do it by myself!  Don’t catch me!” then ran back to the bench for a third try.  He again tentatively made his way to the edge of the bench and struggled through a few false starts and a few unanswered “one, two, three, jumps.”  Then he did it.  Right there in the middle of the crowded NYC park, he presented me with the Moron-Mother of the Year award.  He curled himself into a watermelon, slowly tipped his body off the bench and landed square on the sidewalk, head-first.  The sound that his skull made as it met the ground was a cross between what it sounds like when you drop an egg and a 10-pound free weight on cement. 

I basically stood there watching, dumbfounded until the blood-curdling screaming of both Zack and Addy woke me from my daze of horror.  When I picked him up, I thought for sure blood would be spurting out of this forehead and shooting me in the face like that scene with the bicyclist from Monty Python.  Then I thought his eye would be dilated and he’d puke all over me (this is what my pediatrician told me to look out for the last 73 times I emailed her asking what to do when one of the kids bumped their heads).  Before I could even assess the situation, I decided the best course of action would be to call 911, give Addy to the homeless guy eating tuna fish on the bench across the way, throw the tricycle we had with us in the garbage can to my left and hire an attorney on behalf of Max to write up divorce papers that I would be served in the ER waiting room.  But then I looked up at Zack and he was totally fine.  No blood, no egg head, normal pupils, no projectile vomit.  Just some tears and an imprint of the sidewalk on his nugget. 

Addy and Zack were still crying as we walked home and I couldn’t calm them down until I did what any loving parent would do in this situation.  I started making fun of him, and it slayed! “Hey Zack, next time you jump off a bench, try landing on your feet instead of your head!” The crying transitioned to craughing, I was onto something.  Then I went all out and started calling him Humpty Dumpty and it was over, they were toast.

We called Max when we got home to tell him what happened and his reaction was akin to me telling him that I was making boiled chicken and beans for dinner or I had gotten 50 cents off a box of tampons as CVS today.  Clearly, had this happened on his watch, my reaction would have been similarly unruffled.  Psyche.  I would have yelled at him for 20 minutes, given him the cold shoulder the rest of the night, then I would have reminded him of the “mishap” seven times a day until Zack was 25 years old.  But I’m the mom so I’m allowed to react like that, right?  I mean, I’m the one who carried those two babies for 34.5 weeks, suffered through two months of bed rest , then had my abdomen cut open and my guts laid on a table to get them out.  I think I earned the right to overreact a little, no?

Thankfully, Max still loves me (I think) even though he knows I would have castrated him if he let Zack smash his head on a sidewalk.  Here is a list of other things that I’d kill Max for doing that I have actually done:

1.       Leaving the two-year-old kids in bath seats in the tub for “two seconds” while I threw their diapers in the Dekkor.  (They were in bath seats!)

2.       Giving them candy after they shit in their underwear. (Addy and Zack, not Max)

3.       Letting Addy and Zack chase pigeons down 72nd Street while I talk on the phone to my mom.  (What? I don’t need my mouth and ears to see them!)

4.       Telling Addy and Zack that there will be no TV on school mornings under any circumstances, then promptly turning on Dora when they run into our room at 6:30 AM.  (Me sleepy)

5.       Letting the kids stand up in the stroller, unbuckled, while I pushed them uphill with bags hanging on the handlebar, only to have the stroller give from the weight and fall backwards, rendering the kids completely upside down (still in the stroller) and hysterical.  (Oh, stop! They were fine!)