Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pre Pre Pre Pre Pre Marital Counseling.

I have a friend named Lucy.

She is kind of-- forgive me, Lucy!-- obsessed with the idea of getting married.

She tries on a lot of white dresses. This, in turn, leads her to stare in the mirror and worry about her weight.

She talks all the time about the guy she plans to marry (problem is, I'm not sure he feels the same way about her, ugh).

She refuses to accept the idea that maybe she simply hasn't yet met Mr. Right, or that it's perfectly ok to *not* get married.

Oh, also: Lucy is five.


My own daughters have been similarly affected by this curious phenomenon. The 3- and 4-year-olds often request to watch our wedding video (and dwell on the getting ready part, I guess it's a stealth way of getting in some professional makeup instruction?). The 4-year-old goes on at length about the boy she considers to be her future husband (hello, A!) and dismisses me out of hand when I suggest that maybe she's a little too young to start planning a registry. And while I appreciate the important teaching moment that presents itself when I spot two of my daughters dressing up in bridal attire simultaneously ("Hey, are you two girls marrying each other? Well of COURSE two girls can marry each other, as can two boys! You MARRY the person you LOVE!"), it troubles me that weddings already feature so prominently in their projections for the future.

I honestly have no idea where all this is coming from. I don't think it's just that they interact with their own married parents every day; we hardly walk around the house pimping our matrimonial status like newlyweds. Nor could it be originating in the much-maligned princess stories, because, while our household is certainly not immune to the ATTACK OF THE KILLER DISNEY MARKETING CAMPAIGN (yes, we have princess *everything*), I've held off on telling them the anti-woman, first-meet-the-man, then-live-happily-ever-after stories that accompany each character (in fact, my 3-year-old recently told us she overheard someone at school talking about "Snow White and the Seven Skurfs") (smurfs with biker headscarves?). And I'm sure they're not getting it from movies, because our viewing habits generally revolve around Mary Poppins and Hi-5 / Wiggles / Barney dance numbers. Not a lot of bouquet-throwing there.

What else could it be? The kids have only attended one wedding (in which they were flower girls) (seized with such sudden stage fright that it was necessary for the bride and groom to EACH CARRY ONE OF THEM DOWN THE AISLE, creating the appearance of long-hidden love children to befuddled distant relatives who had flown in for the occasion, I almost DIED). And sure, our costume box does boast a few plain white dresses, but it was entirely the girls' idea to turn their ballet tutus into bridal veils. So what gives?

Perhaps the marriage mentality is just so completely OUT THERE in all the cultural cues that I've become desensitized to it. When my eldest and I peruse the tabloids over breakfast (is that wrong?), we are quick to ooh and aah over the celebrity wedding spreads. And when one of our family friends gets engaged, I guess we do make a big fuss over celebrating the milestone-- maybe to the point that the girls have come to believe that getting married equals joy, praise and attention? Hmmm.

Ok, well, putting that aside for a moment: Why does it make me nervous that the preschool set is so passionately marriage-minded?

I think the reasons are twofold:

One, I worry, as all parents of girls do, about the pressure on kids to be sexually precocious; I am always surprised that romantic physical contact between boys and girls even occurs to children of this age. My neighbor told me that when she recently chaperoned a field trip for 6-year-olds, the kids were pretending to HOOK UP in the back of the bus (hence the need for chaperones, I guess!!). Famously, my own parents were summoned into a teacher conference to discuss my kindergarten self's insistence of smooching all the boys (it should have been obvious THEN that I would be trouble later on). And this very afternoon, a teacher had to interrupt the gym class to rescue my 3-year-old daughter from a little boy who was trying to pin her down and kiss her. I wonder, then, if all the hype over marriage, which at this age seems to suggest one boy and one girl pairing up (note to self: read "Three to Tango" to the kids more often), only furthers the children's curiosity as to what they are supposed to do *after* they've paired up? Do I need to start my girls now on "Why would they buy the cow when they can get the milk for free?"

Second, I am concerned about the self-esteem issues that immediately flow from the idea that marriage is mandatory. At what point does a little girl realize that she is pretty, or not? That finding boys who want to date her (and eventually, marry her) will be easy, or challenging? At what point does she begin taking steps to making herself more attractive to the opposite sex: sucking in her tummy, batting her eyelashes submissively? And at what point does she start feeling bad about herself when she realizes that there are other girls who are prettier, thinner, and more confident? Is there any way to stem that tide... or at least postpone its impact?

I know there are things we do, as a society, that expedite our daughters' evolution from sexually ignorant to sexually aware. I mean, heck, one of my earliest childhood memories is being "married" at age 7 to a kid named Kevin on the way to day camp: the bus was extravagantly decorated with wedding bells, and some kid puked (too much champagne) so we had to pull over and abandon the matrimonial vehicle in favor of a decidedly less-celebratory van. On Valentines' Day, schools encourage our kids to draw big red hearts and talk mushily about love. There is no shortage of Barbie dolls decked out in full bridal regalia; is this bad? What's ultimately more hazardous about Wedding Day Barbie: the rib- (and soul-) crushing dimensions of her waist, or the symbolic white of her polyester dress?

My concern over little kids trying to make sense of adult themes doesn't end there, no: we have not only toddlers & marriage to contend with, but also its evil stepsister, toddlers & divorce. I found myself in a real ethical bind this summer as Jon and Kate, hosts of the girls' former favorite show, tore each other to shreds in the public colosseum. How was I to respond when my 4-year-old said to me, "Hey Mom, who's that skank in the magazine with Jon?" (slight embellishment). Was that my cue to delve into the mature topics of mid-life crises and famewhores and the reckless abandonment of wedding vows? Or should I have just stuck to, "His friend, honey"? I chose the latter. Not because I don't think my eldest could absorb the idea of people getting un-married, but because I didn't want her first exposure to divorce to involve the parents of kids her age, didn't want her worrying that it could happen to us.

I guess the upshot of all this introspection is recognizing that my daughters' interest in becoming brides is probably no passing fad, and therefore the onus is on my husband and me to continue to provide them with as many positive, egalitarian demonstrations of matrimony as possible. In fact, as I sit here and contemplate the societal implications of a 4-year-old who is already waiting for someone to put a ring on it, I find myself doing this little mathematical calculation: My eldest is four. I got married at 29. This means, if she's anything like her mom, she's got another TWENTY-FIVE YEARS before she walks down that aisle. For all my daughters' sake, I desperately hope that marriage experiences a rebirth during that quarter-century: that, by the time she finally says, "I do," gay marriage is as widely-accepted as "opposite marriage" (it just never stops giving, Miss South Carolina), and that the sobering trend of divorce in this country has been reversed. Because while my daughters' current view of marriage is unrealistically simple and rose-colored, I actually kinda hope it is something they don't outgrow: a little child-like optimism and whimsy might be just what the ol' institution needs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Our Poor, Poor Husbands.

It's not easy being a stay-at-home mom to a bunch of young children.

It's also not easy, I'm pretty darn certain, to be the working husband of a stay-at-home mom to a bunch of young children.

Here's a typical day in the life of my man, with only the slightest bit of interpretation on my part:

Wake up at 6:30. Shower and get dressed and eat in a hurry because Child #1 needs to be dropped off at school at 7:30. Go directly into office, which involves an hour-long commute. Spend the day furiously juggling marathon meetings, conference calls, deadlines, incompetent subordinates, vicious office politics, and the like. Try like heck to get out of the office in time to spend a few minutes with the kids before they go to bed, but end up idling in gridlock traffic instead. Wander tiredly through the front door only to find wife intensely typing away on her computer (oh no! she's blogging again!) and try to smile. Smile quickly fades when it is met with a glare. Wife launches pointed interrogation as to the explanation for said bedtime-missing. Retreat into office with a turkey sandwich when it becomes apparent that wife's bad attitude hasn't yet peaked. Spend next three hours working determinedly on a project that could have been better managed back in the office. Await the all-too-predictable appearance of wife in the doorway right before bed, sulking and apologizing and wiping away tears. Accept apology and give weary wife a hug. Drag self up the stairs at midnight, cursing silently for allowing another day to slip by without going to the gym, and fall asleep before wife is done brushing her teeth. Meanwhile, back down in the kitchen, the Blackberry vibrates intermittently all through the night...

So now you're saying, hey lady! how 'bout you be a little nicer to this hardworking man? Would a kiss hello or a home-cooked meal be too much to ask? (For those who know me personally, ha, ha, I know.)

Of course you're right (she says, peacefully reflecting on the situation in the rare calm of the late evening). I mean, it is hardly the case that I'm looking to trade places with my husband: he not only has a high-stress, high-intensity, high-stakes job, but he ALSO has to perpetually worry about putting food on the table for an awful lot of mouths, AND he has the ever-present guilt about whether he is getting in sufficient quality time with his wife and kids. It's as if no matter how many hours he spends with his work *or* with his family, it's never enough for either. Job stress + money stress + family stress = no thank you.

And YET!-- in the thick of the action, when at *least* one child has been crying for the past two hours, and I haven't remembered to eat anything since breakfast, and I'm still wearing the t-shirt I slept in the night before, and toddler bedtime is rapidly approaching, and there's no sign of my husband even though his text from late morning *assured* me he would be home to see the kids... well, at that point it's harder for me to appreciate the long day he's had. In fact, I even get a little (more than a little) angry at him.

Which is terrible! I'm evil! I know!

So WHAT exactly is it that I am angry about? It's not as if I didn't *ask* to be the full-time caregiver to 3 young kids-- I did!

Here are a few possibilities I've been considering, in furtherance of my New Year's resolution to be less of a total NIGHTMARE to my hubby when he comes home at night:

POSSIBILITY ONE: I am jealous that my husband gets to leave the house every day, even if it is just to go to work.

Oh, how I miss putting on nice clothes. And stopping for a coffee on the way out of the house, standing in line with all the other responsible adults of the world. I miss my office, which had a door, that could be closed. I miss my secretary, who answered my calls and made me feel much more important than I was. I miss high heel shoes. I miss lunch breaks. I even miss vending machines.

Also potentially inciting jealousy: the idea that a person's routine can substantively VARY from one day to the next. For the past five years, each of my days has more or less resembled the one that came before. The notion of regularly interacting with different people about different subjects in different venues: crazy!

POSSIBILITY TWO: I resent that, even if he has also had a total CRAP day, at least he just got some cold, hard cash for it.

This one isn't entirely fair, because I am blessed enough to have married a man who actually considers the money HE makes to be OUR money. Which gets me, because I'm not sure, if the roles were reversed, that I could ever be so equitable. ("You bought *another* pair of boxer shorts? What was wrong with the ones you already had? Do you think I am MADE of money??")

But still, even if he sees it that way, it doesn't mean that I can. No, it just feels *wrong* somehow to buy him a birthday present of any significance, like: Hey honey, I just threw away some of YOUR hard-earned money getting you a gift that, if you had actually wanted it, you would just have gone out and purchased yourself! It also makes it hard to treat myself to anything frivolous; I feel like I have no right deducting money from the stack when I'm certainly not presently adding any. The consequence is that I buy sweaters at the same place where I buy eggs, and then fly off the handle when my husband comes home with a new coffee maker.

POSSIBILITY THREE: I assume that he is having-- dare I say it-- fun? at work.

Ok, so my memories of corporate life aren't all happy ones; the mind-numbing work assignments in combination with the unrealistic expectations of superiors are one reason why I hung up my jersey in the first place. But even when the rat race got really brutal, I always had a friend somewhere down the hall who would fake a conference call in order to run down the block with me for an emergency ice cream cone. And what about the ubiquitous office crush? It was such a self-esteem-boosting indulgence to have a harmless flirtation going on with the guy who brought me the photocopies or whatnot. These days, I'm lucky if my barrista makes eye contact with me.

POSSIBILITY FOUR: I'm in way over my head here, and I miss having him around as my backup.

Awww, the sentimental choice. But no less valid: I struggle with my husband's business trips not because the afternoons are materially all that different from when he's just at the office-- they're not-- but rather because I NEED him to put me back together at the end of a kid-saturated day. And when he's gone for even the smallest period of time, it's like I have lost my ability to decompress before heading back into the trenches the next morning. It's also why I look forward to the weekend: it means that I will have a teammate, an ally, a set of familiar hands into which I can place a screaming child and not feel bad, or like I should be offering someone a raise. My husband is my sanity, and when he's stuck at work, or on a three-hour conference call out in the driveway, it's as if no one's got my back.

* * *

Ok, so now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, I'm noticing that none of these reasons actually justifies the grief that I often give my beloved husband when he comes through that door. Especially because there is a perfectly obvious foil to each of my 4 theories:

(1) I could go back to my corporate job whenever I wanted-- it's not as if I married a caveman who's insisting I remain barefoot and pregnant;

(2) My husband has never, ever tried to limit my spending, even when I come home with armfuls of new Barbie shirts for the girls (they were on sale!);

(3) My husband definitely works more than he plays at the office, not to mention the fact that I'm certainly no stranger to sneaking off to a lunch date with some of my mommy friends;

and (4) Even when he's traveling, he will *always* step out of a late dinner meeting to take my phone call in the event that I need to bitch and moan and sob about how vile the children have become in his absence.

So now that all of my proposed explanations have been debunked, where does that leave me? Being a (former) lawyer, I *should* be able formulate a compelling defense!

Well, it's a bit pitiful, but I guess all I'm left with is this:

Being a stay-at-home mom to a whole mess of little kids depletes a person of her most basic human resources, to the point that she's frequently left feeling chewed up in a way that makes rational thought quite difficult. In other words, even on my WORST day in the office, I was never subjected to a prolonged, eardrum-shattering scream right in my face; nor was I openly humiliated in public; and certainly no one ever sh*t on me (literally). No, work stress was of a completely different nature: it was mostly a cerebral experience, a mental exhaustion.

Mothering, by contrast, is a wholly VISCERAL experience. When my baby wails, I feel gripped to my core; when my toddler falls, my body lurches; when my preschooler mouths off to me, I feel profoundly betrayed. Surely my job never affected me on such a deep, personal level: it was only a job, after all, and if things got really bad I could always just quit! and find another one. This is unlike parenting, where the project never ends, you can never walk away from it, and its success or failure has repercussions that extend far beyond a bonus or an annual review.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my corporate job was challenging, absolutely, but it mostly just took place in my brain. Full-time mommying, on the other hand, penetrates every part of my body: my back and shoulders are sore from carrying around the children, my stomach hurts from enduring yet another supermarket tantrum, and my head is spinning from having again forgotten to eat. When my husband comes home, therefore, it is not a reasonable woman waiting there in the foyer to greet him, no-- it is a feral mama bear, one who has spent the whole day putting every ounce of her energy into protecting and providing for her young. And that bear isn't much for conversation.

So where does that leave you, the overworked, undervalued, overextended and underslept breadwinner-slash-husband?

I guess the only advice I can offer you is this: Don't give up on us. We just need a little more time. This mothering thing is harder than we expected. And we truly don't *mean* to take our frustrations out on you; it's just that the kids are too cute to stay mad at (and-- let's be honest-- their little minds are not sophisticated enough to grasp the full, crippling impact of a 4-hour silent treatment, so what would be the point). In our heart of hearts we DO appreciate you (SO MUCH)... we DO acknowledge that none of this would be possible without you... and we DO realize that you need a nap just as much as we do.

Just don't expect one to be offered anytime soon. xo.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Favorite Things, All of Which Are More Important Than Oprah's.

Sometimes, when I'm having a particularly drama-free day with the kids, I think to myself, "Thank GOODNESS I have X; otherwise I don't know how I would survive."

And the urge becomes very strong to make sure that all of my other mommy friends know about X, lest their days be any less great.

So here we go: I present to you the The Top Ten Child-Related Items This Mommy Could Not Live Without. (I do expect that, having identified these treasures, they will promptly begin flying off the shelves à la Oprah's Favorite Things. So Target, consider yourself warned.)

NUMBER ONE. Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor.
Ok, if you don't have kids yet, or know someone who doesn't have kids yet but wants them, then this item is a MUST. It goes without saying that lots of us are waiting until we're in our 30's to start having babies, and it also goes without saying that the anxiety kicks in pretty quickly when the magic doesn't happen IMMEDIATELY. This ovulation monitor is fantastic and is far superior to low-tech pee sticks, if you ask me. I didn't have a fertility problem but simply assumed that I did (see, i.e., earlier post about my impressive hypochondria), and this little puppy worked wonders. It's a little pricey but absolutely worth it.

NUMBER TWO. A lactation consultant.

This one is harder to pre-order on Amazon (ba-dum-bump!) but is essential for new moms nonetheless.

When I was preggo for the first time, I simply took it for granted that I would be breastfeeding my kid. Never mind the fact that neither my husband nor I had been breastfed (and both went on to achieve reasonable professional success), I was convinced by all the (unfounded? hmmm) propaganda that breastmilk was the only choice.

And then, in one of life's many little surprises, I became the proud owner of a kid who wouldn't "latch." (Just think! before kids, that word suggested to me a brass door closure, and now, forevermore, it will call to mind a neglected nipple.) My desperation was profound. And because I am nothing if not stubborn, I still refused to give the baby a bottle of formula. The result? I pumped breastmilk every day, many times a day, throughout the night, in parking lots, etc., for 12 loooooooong months. (You cannot imagine the crisis that ensued whenever we lost power during a thunderstorm: we would be frantically hauling precious bags of frozen breastmilk out of the freezer and over to the neighbor's house as if they were organs being rushed to donation.)

The second time around, I got smart. I wasn't leaving anything up to chance. We hired a lactation consultant who was to meet me in the hospital as soon as Baby #2 was born.

And I have to tell you, it was the best $60 per hour we ever spent. Our lady was not much in the way of bedside manner, but somehow, SOMEHOW!, she got that little peanut to latch. She visited me for instruction a total of 3 times in the hospital, and by the time we were discharged, wouldn'tcha know it I was a breastfeeding mom. She was even prompt in returning all subsequent phone calls re: how to deal with engorgement, clogged ducts, and other such Things You Didn't Sign Up For (zzzzzexy!).

Hired her for Baby #3, too. Breastfeeding was, for me, a powerfully rewarding bonding experience that I would not have traded for the world. And for that I give credit to the lactation consultant.

[HONORABLE MENTION FAVORITE THINGS: (1) The My Breast Friend nursing pillow. Firmer and far superior to the Boppy, I found. Also (2), the Medela Pump In Style, even though that name is ludicrous, there is nothing stylish about pumping. Utilitarian, maybe, but stylish, no.]

NUMBER THREE. Baby Signing Time DVDs, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Ok, if anyone asked me to name the single greatest child-related invention known to man, I think I would say the Baby Signing Time DVDs. (A.B., if you're reading this, thank you endlessly for turning us on to them!) There are a whole mess of them available, but here I'm referring to just the 2 introductory DVDs for babies. They are ALL. YOU. NEED.

Now, for those who have no experience with these little plastic miracles, you might be thinking to yourself, "Sign language for babies is a stupid fad," or "Who has time for that?" or "Teaching sign language to babies will only DELAY THEIR SPEECH DEVELOPMENT!"

Well I am here to tell you that all of these sentiments are mistaken.

When our first daughter was about 12 months old, it became obvious that she could understand just about everything that we were saying to her. But of course, she couldn't speak back to us in any intelligent way. And let me tell you-- the smoke coming out of her ears from frustration was visible a mile away. The poor little thing clearly wanted SO BADLY to tell us what she wanted or needed-- food, or a drink, or to get out of her highchair or whatever-- but only had generic screaming and crying with which to communicate. It was hard to watch, and we were stuck in a miserable marathon of charades. "What do you want? Apple? Milk? Do you have a headache? WHAT?"

Then, one wonderful day, after we expressed to a friend that our child's head was on the verge of popping off due to stunted-communication rage, he told us about these DVDs. And they revolutionized our lives!

In fact, the one sign-- "all done" (waving two hands, palms out)-- was, unto itself, a game changer. Our daughter frantically signed "all done" whenever she sensed the tide turning in a direction she didn't like: when she was being lowered into her car seat but wasn't in the mood for a ride; when we took the first step up the staircase to put her down for an undesired nap; when she was finished with her mushy carrots and was contemplating hurling them onto the floor. I can't tell you what a relief it was to finally be having a dialogue with our kid!

As for the concern over delayed speech, well, of course I can only speak from our own experience; but we started all 3 girls on the DVDs at their first birthdays (the movies consist of catchy songs featuring fellow toddlers, which babies can't resist), and all 3 of them were early talkers. In fact, interestingly, instead of opting *not* to speak in favor of using signs, each of them began using words in *conjunction* with their signs. They began asking for things by saying, "Peeeese," while simultaneously rubbing their chests in the sign for "please." Soonafter, perhaps with the kid not even noticing, the signs fell by the wayside, and the speech stood on its own. (The only time we see a sign these days is when our 2o-month-old gets busted doing something truly naughty; she'll hang her head pathetically and *sign* "sorry" instead of saying it. Too cute.)

The DVDs cost around $50 and I swear by them. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!

NUMBER FOUR. The Fisher Price cradle swing.

In our house, newborn babies go directly into the swing, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. My infants *lived* in them, for just about every daylight hour, the first several weeks of their lives. Then after that, they continued to nap in them until they were about 3 months old. (My baby nurse, rightly or wrongly, informed us that one way to unscramble an infant's day and night body clock is to put her in a different place for daytime naps than she goes for nighttime sleep.)

It's was a sad day when we finally had to pack up the ol' girl after 3 plus years of dominating our living room and thank her for all her hard work.

NUMBER FIVE. Brookstone Tranquil Moments Junior.

I'm not a great sleeper. So I think I had begun using these white noise machines even before the kids came along (I have no idea how people fall asleep to the sound of their spouses' stomachs digesting dinner). But these have also proven really valuable for the kids' sleep habits, even more so once new babies rolled into the house.

I was always paranoid that one kid's crying would wake up another kid. Put one of these beside each bed/crib and voila! they are lulled to sleep as if on a calming airplane, and any noise coming from their restless siblings becomes a distant din. (I'm so completely dependent on them, in fact, that if I ever forget to bring my Brookstone with us to a hotel, I turn all the radios on to static. The housekeepers must think I'm a moron who couldn't figure out how to turn the dial.)

NUMBER SIX. Ear thermometer.
Ah, the ear thermometer. We use Braun (pictured above). I'm absolutely positive that they're not as accurate as the, um, alternative, but let me tell you, the relief you gain from not having to make that unpleasant acquaintance with your baby's bottom far outweighs the small margin of error you risk (that said, I'd always recommend that you go the traditional route if the information is critical). (Some good advice if you do need to go there: lay the baby across your lap on her tummy) (good luck).

NUMBER SEVEN. Video monitor.

I'm a big fan of audio-only baby monitors; I feel that they are a small price to pay for having kids who don't go wandering around the house during the night seeking your bed as a viable alternative to their own. Our rugrats know that they should stay put unless there is a real emergency; all they need to do is call us if they need anything and we'll magically appear.

There is a short window of time, however, in which I think a *video* monitor comes in handy, and that is when you are trying to teach your little one to self-soothe (there's that WORD again! I told you it was hot-button!) and sleep through the night.

With our first baby, I was having a really hard time ever letting her "cry it out." It seemed to me Ferberizing kids put them at risk for insecurity and abandonment issues (probably not true, or else Ferber wouldn't be a household name), so I went in to calm our daughter during the night for longer than was necessary. But at her 11-month birthday, I decided I needed to break up with her, at least insofar as our middle-of-the-night dates were concerned.

Letting her cry it out didn't take as long as I expected (probably around 3 nights?) but it felt like an eternity. The only thing that saved my sanity, I tell you, was that video monitor. With it, I could reassure myself that she was screaming *not* because she had climbed out of her crib and clumsily dropped herself onto the floor, breaking each delicate bone in her body, but merely because she was pissed that I wasn't showing up for our scheduled rendez-vous. In fact, there were times over those 3 nights when the video monitor saved me from ruining an otherwise successful run: just as I was about to throw open her door in a heroic act, the video monitor informed me that she was already lying down (as opposed to standing up and rattling the crib rail), which always meant that the tantrum was gratefully coming to a sleepy end.

Once all the kids were sleeping through the night, we kept the audio but ditched the video component, and now just continue to enjoy the soothing sounds (or not) of every nocturnal cough and sneeze (which is still better than your spouse's dinner digesting, I maintain).

NUMBER EIGHT. Exersaucer.

I thought these were great for the 4-to-6 months-old crowd. They fold up for storage in between kids, and there are always new accessories that you can snap into the toy sockets. Bet you could sneak a shower in the time your kid can entertain herself.

NUMBER NINE. Stand-out movies: "Elmo's Potty Time" and "The Letter Factory."

My daughters all loved this one, especially the part when the kids scream out different words for "pee" and "poop." Elegant. But effective. For the 18-months+ group.

We encourage our kids to watch this movie by making it the only one they are allowed to watch on Mommy's computer (and lord knows, everything tastes better when seasoned with forbidden fruit). You may feel like jumping off a cliff by the way the song gets stuck in your head ("The A says Aaah! The A says Aaah!"), but you'll be impressed by how quickly your kids learn the sounds and get the concept of reading. Good for age 2-3.

NUMBER 10. Water Wow! (punctuation intended)

Oh, Water Wow! books, how I love you.

These brilliant little inventions have entertained our kids for hours and hours. I don't know how exactly they work, but they are small, 4-page cardboard books with black and white pictures. When the kids apply water (discard the flimsy water pens that come with the books; in our house we use PAINTBRUSHES), the color magically appears. Ten minutes later, the pages have dried, the color disappears, and the books can be used again. Genius! And perfect for travel. I think there are more than 20 titles available now; go right to ebay for the greatest selection.

Ok..... so there's my list. Phew!

Now it's your turn: what essential items did I miss?

Sibling Rivalry: I Make It Up As I Go Along.

I am an only child.

Who now has 3 children of her own.

All of whom were born within the same 4-year period.

This means that: (a) there is a lot of sibling rivalry under this roof; and (b) I have no CLUE what I'm doing here.

Again highlighting my parental ignorance, I once assumed that sibling rivalry would first come into the equation when the children reached 7, 8 years old. I thought to myself, before that age there's nothing much to be rivals over, right?

Wrong. While I was fortunate enough to have spared myself the jealous rage that I've heard many older children experience when a new baby is introduced to the household (my kids were either 18 months or 36 months old when they became big sisters-- too young to have any reliable memory about the solitude of their lives up to that point), the peaceful cohabitation was woefully brief. By the time my older daughters reached 3 and 4 years old, respectively, sister war could erupt at any time, and over the NUTTIEST things. It wasn't Mommy's attention or Daddy's lap that they were fighting over, no-- it was WHO OPENED THE FRONT DOOR FIRST! and WHO GOT INTO THE BATH FIRST! and WHO WAS SERVED GRAPES FIRST! and you get the idea.

This was even *after* we'd learned our lesson the hard way and begun purchasing all toys, clothes, bowls, etc., in duplicate (now triplicate!), thinking that a multitude of identical material goods would cut down on the hysteria. Nay, what we didn't anticipate was that the real issues of pride were tied up in the *intangible* rewards (for instance, the highly-coveted responsibility of being allowed to press "play" on the remote control, sometimes prompting the non-"play"-pressing sibling to boycott the movie altogether, which manifests true stupidity if you ask me) (then again, I'm not a sibling, so maybe it really does ruin the film?).

Months of trying to reason with the little buggers proved utterly fruitless ("Why are we ARGUING about this? Don't you people GET that IT! DOESN'T! MATTER!"), and so, like a character in Lord of the Rings, I was forced to make up new rules, from scratch, that would hopefully introduce harmony into this completely uncivilized population I had wandered into. (Resist my attempts at martyrdom, by the way; I'm sure there are universes of books written on this very topic for this very age group; I've just decided that it's more important to keep abreast of Runway and Idol than to actually learn from the experts about how to do my job.)

So after several trial-and-error attempts that yielded mostly errors, for now we have placed this household under The (Made-Up) Law of "SPECIAL DAYS"-- and so far, gosh darn it, it's working! The strategy: On odd days of the month, it's Child #1's SPECIAL DAY. On even days, it's Child #2's SPECIAL DAY. (Don't ask me about the two potential consecutive odd days at the end of a month, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.) If it's YOUR SPECIAL DAY, then heck! party like a rock star! Whenever there's a question of doing something FIRST, you WIN! Whenever there's a movie that needs to be selected, you DECIDE! Whenever there's a dispute over who gets the PINK plastic bowl for fruit (god only knows how we ended up with 8 purples, 2 yellows, and 1 treasured pink), it's YOURS! Furthermore, when it's YOUR SPECIAL DAY, you are the proud holder of these illustrious titles: FIRST to get in and out of the car, FIRST to open any door, FIRST to be served meals, and FIRST to get tucked into bed! (One of those is a trick! bwahaha.)

Now before you rush out and implement SPECIAL DAYS in your own home, I should warn you that it is a policy not immune to abuses, no. My eldest daughter tends to confuse SPECIAL DAY with EVIL DICTATOR DAY, meaning that she occasionally tries to relegate her younger sister to just standing in the corner watching while she eats ALL the snacks and chooses ALL the books and hogs ALL the arts-and-crafts materials. So there is a certain amount of police work that is required, sure. But I have to say, overall it's really helped. In fact, nothing's funnier than overhearing this exchange between the sisters:

"Get off me!"
"Stop it!"
"It's MY day!"
"No, it's MY day!"

[thoughtful silence]

"Wait, was it your day yesterday?"
"Um, no, wasn't it yours, 'cuz you told me I could get out of the bath first even though it wasn't my day?"
"No, that was the day before yesterday, right?"
"I don't know, let's go ask Mom whose day it is."

And usually, by the time I pretend to hear them calling me, they've forgotten what they were fighting about in the first place.

See? Turns out I know exactly what I'm doing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mother Goose? Meet Mean Girls.

I wouldn't have believed it had I not observed it myself:

In Pre-K, there's a POPULAR crowd.

Wait, I need to rephrase this to ensure there's no confusion: Apparently, there are 4-YEAR-OLDS... who are COOL.

And that, by definition, means that there are 4-year-olds who are NOT cool.

I'm worried that my eldest daughter might fall into the latter group. And I'm worried that I'm worried.

It's a time-old riddle, one that will certainly not be answered here, but I'm forced to trot it out again regardless: WHAT MAKES CERTAIN KIDS POPULAR AND CERTAIN KIDS NOT?

If we were dealing with high school, there would at least be clues: The cool kids are slutty. The cool kids wear provocative clothes. The cool kids have cigarettes. The cool kids go to parties without parents. The cool kids drink, they smoke pot, they cut class. The cool kids have an air about them that makes the uncool kids just so totally and constantly aware of their lower rank.

Think back: as a teenager, there was never any confusion about whether you were popular or not; you knew. In fact, I can almost tell you the *day* when I made that near-inconceivable transition from the Nerds to the Popular crowd: it was the day that the captain of the soccer team took an interest in me. Soonafter I became his GIRLFRIEND, and bam! I was one of the popular kids. It was a lot like I imagine an apotheosis would be.

But here there are no cigarettes, no tattoos, no piercings, not even any fancy clothes that the rich kids could wear to make the less rich kids feel inferior. IT'S Pre-FREAKING-K. And there are UGLY SCHOOL UNIFORMS. And yet! I knew from DAY ONE which kids made up the popular crowd of that classroom. How is that possible??

You're thinking: Easy! It's the pretty girls and the obnoxious boys! All the other kids are intimidated by their beauty and their ADD!

But no, your theory fails. Because here, the popular crowd consists of 2 girls (though there is no shortage of spazzy boys in the class), and while yes, one girl is cute and blond, the other girl is a shrimp who is, um, decidedly not cute. What gives?

I had high hopes for my eldest daughter when the school year began: her assigned seat was at the blonde's table, and they seemed to be getting on well. More positive indications rolled in when the shrimp invited her over for a playdate. This is good!, I thought. It's not necessarily that I wanted her to be "popular," per se (in fact, I will COMMAND her to be a Nerd in high school, how else can she expect to get into a good college)... but rather, this was her first experience in "the big kids' school" and I wanted it to be great. I wanted her to have lots of friends and to gain confidence and to just generally love every minute of being four.

Then last night. I was tucking her into bed. And she said, in a quiet voice, "Mommy, do we have a list of kids for my 5th birthday party yet?" "No," I replied exhaustedly, "it's 4 months away." "Ok," she said, "well then let's make a list and let's take [Shrimp] off of it." I gasped, silently. "What happened? I thought you and she were friends." My eldest whimpered. "It's just that she's been so mean to me lately, running away from me and laughing at me and not letting me play with them."

And there it was: the decision was in. She had tried out for the popular clique, and she hadn't made the team.

I was sad. Still am sad. Not sure why. I guess because even when the popular kids are dumb, or skanky, or smell like smoke all the time, everyone wants to be one of them, right? Because the popular kids are the deciders. The ones who can make you feel like you're a star or like you're a shadow. And it's rotten and I wish it was otherwise but it's real and it's not going anywhere.

I just had no idea I'd be dealing with it in Pre-K. Sigh.

Friday, January 15, 2010

This Sucks.

O, my children, what have I done?

I first gave you the plastic nub because I couldn't bear to hear you cry... and now I worry that I have put a whole lot of tears in *both* of our futures.

In other words: By letting you hold onto your pacifiers for so long, have I committed my first major parental screw up?

It's an understatement to say that I was never a fan of pacifiers. I hated seeing toddlers running around the mall with those plugs stuck in their faces. I contemplated a picket line in front of the maternity ward whose nursery attendants gave our firstborn a pacifier without our written permission. And I breathed a magnificent sigh of relief when I saw that same firstborn child soonafter stick her thumb contentedly in her mouth: a thumb-sucker, just as I was! No stupid plastic panacea for us! Even our baby nurse-- a luxury that we afforded ourselves just once, thank goodness, since I was ready to fire her about 3 hours into her 5-day tenure-- congratulated us on having borne an infant so intelligent as to be able to immediately "self-soothe" (HOT-BUTTON PARENTING TERMINOLOGY if ever there was some).

But then baby #2 came along 18 months later, and baby #3 just 18 months after that, and in the midst of it all we were caring for my own very sick mother, and suddenly the two new babies who apparently weren't as intelligent in the art of self-soothing (but exceptionally intelligent in all other areas, of course!) forced me to make a very unpleasant choice: succumb to the pacifier, or risk a long-time-coming nervous breakdown.

So I went out and bought a few of the stupid things. And I felt dirty, like I was finally giving in to a meth addiction that I had managed to stave off for quite some time. I couldn't even bring myself to call them "pacifiers," "pacis," or worse, "binkies" (I was sufficiently embarrassed even without the baby talk, thank you very much). No, in my house, we were to call them "suckers." Which in my mind gave them a pink, sugary sound, like delightful confections that the wee ones just couldn't resist.

Appropriately, my second child adored her suckers. The only time we *ever* put her to bed without one planted firmly in her mouth was the 3-day period that our house was cruelly overtaken by Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease (cue the shivers running down your spine, mother friend); the poor child's tongue was so swollen that she had to settle for pitifully rubbing the suckers against her cheek instead. And I didn't mind the suckers back then, because they brought her comfort, and what mom doesn't want her child feeling comfortable.

My third child also fell promptly and deeply in love with her suckers (after she, too, failed the initial thumb-sucking trial period). In fact, it was one of her very first words: "Suck-a, suck-a," she requested, in a voice so comically tiny it seemed to come out of a cartoon character. How cute!, we thought.

Well, it's not so cute anymore, as my middle daughter turned 3 in October, and the reign of the suckers doesn't seem to be coming to an end ANYTIME soon. In fact, her nighttime ritual revolves around a delicate process of lining up her 8 suckers (not 7, not 9; 6 regular suckers + 2 that are attached to little stuffed animals; 6 go on the left side of the bed and 2 go on her pillow; don't stray from this format or else there WILL be a problem), and sometimes when I peek in on her during the night, she is holding onto those horrible plastic placebos like they are her lifeboats in a storm.

Meanwhile, the third child has just passed her 20-month birthday... which *maybe* makes her the perfect candidate for sucker-confiscation?? (Mommy asks, shuddering at the thought.) Old enough that she doesn't technically *need* them anymore (so say the parenting books) (then again, what is more critical than the need to feel comforted??), but not so old that she could actually *do* anything to retaliate against me for abducting them? (other than to bring me literally to my knees with guilt, but I guess that's what Zoloft is for.)

Of late I have tried broaching the subject of sucker-abandonment with the older one... but it's a terrible position I here find myself in, because I am about to exercise overt discrimination against her toddler drug of choice. I personally sucked my thumb until I was eight (8) years old, never had to wear braces of any kind on my teeth, and don't consider myself particularly orally fixated as a result. In fact, legend has it that I contentedly sucked my thumb throughout my elementary school years until the morning my dad presented me with a cheery ultimatum: quit the habit or else be fitted with a draconian headpiece made of fishhook-like devices that would dangle menacingly from the roof of my mouth. (Wait, was that wrong?) And in a move of still-celebrated ingenuity, I immediately took it upon myself to fashion a makeshift "cast" out of tissues and Scotch tape that I would apply to my thumb each bedtime, hence freeing myself of the monkey on my back (and saving my thumb from being shred to ribbons, so I thought). Accordingly, I have always assumed that I would do the exact same thing with my eldest daughter: let her suck her thumb in peace until the time comes to traumatize her over it.

And yet while the thumb-sucking doesn't bother me, I simply can't stomach the egalitarian notion that the thumb's rubber counterparts-- a.k.a., the physical embodiments of my greatest parental failure to date-- could potentially be in our lives for another half a DECADE. Especially now that the 3-year-old was recently subjected to wholly uncalled-for (completely justified) ridicule when she absent-mindedly wandered out of the house and into our front yard, mid-afternoon, sucker in place and on full display. "You still use a pacifier??" the neighbors' kids taunted, and my heart sank to my kneecaps. Your first public shaming, and the shame is more rightfully mine!

So suddenly the pressure is on. I have a crisis of conscience whenever either child gets tired or injured or car-intolerant and pleads for a sucker. Is it too late?, I wonder. Instead of pot, will my girls have a brown-bag stash of suckers hidden in their college dorm rooms? Will they have white ones tucked in their garters on their wedding days? Will they move helplessly from one oral addition to another-- pacifier, bubble gum, cigarettes, gross chewed-up pen caps, etc.-- for all of their misguided lives?

Please, if you have experience with this topic, help me out. Tell me what to do with my innocent 3-year-old who has been unknowingly led down the primrose path. (But be gentle with your suggestion to have the Pacifier Fairy come pay us a visit... I have already floated the idea, and I accidentally rolled my eyes in the middle of the explanation. WHY do I have such a hard time lying to my kids, even when the benefit clearly outweighs the immorality of it?) And while you're at it, please also tell me what to do with my little cherub of a 20-month-old, who stands underneath the sucker drawer in the kitchen with her arms upraised as if she is waiting for Mother Theresa herself to lift her off the ground....

Thanks in advance. And I GUESS if you also want to share some wisdom about the perils of long-term thumb-sucking, MAYBE I'll listen to that, too. But I won't be happy about it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Catastrophic Earthquakes, and Other Things That Terrify Me.

Oh christ, it's happened again.

Another cataclysmic act of mother nature has left tens of thousands of people dead.

I thought these things were supposed to happen but once every hundred years... and now, they seem to be happening again and again, only a few years apart.

I can't even bring myself to look at the pictures of the bodies lying in the streets; I feel as if my heart might implode. My skin is already so thin when it comes to my ever-present fear of being able to protect my children, and I avert my eyes as a means of self-preservation.

But what do I say when, as happened this morning, my 4-year-old asks, "What are you guys talking about, Mommy?"

My poker face is non-existent, so it's hard for me to lie. Further complicating my role as mother is that I don't *want* to lie to my children: I want them to know that they can trust me to provide accurate information. I want to set the precedent that I am honest with my kids, so that one day, when it really matters, they will be honest with me. (This is why I'm getting stuck on the Tooth Fairy-- but that's a subject for another day.)

So I told my 4-year-old that every once in a while, in certain parts of the world like California, the earth sometimes shakes, because there is rock under the ground that is moving around. (Not at all scientifically correct, I'm sure, but I was trying to make this-- wait for it!-- "age-appropriate.") And in a part of the world called Haiti, I told her, there was a very big shaking of the ground, and it has caused a whole lot of damage to a whole lot of buildings. She seemed satisfied with that answer and went back to humming a song she learned in school and looking out the car window cheerfully. (I left out the 100,000 dead people part; don't answer a question that wasn't asked, I figured. Call it a lie of omission, which is definitely not a real lie.)

But I was left unsettled. Because I know that, as my girls get older, the questions will get tougher, and the answers will need to be more elaborate. And how can I look into my darling, precious, trusting children's eyes and tell them that sometimes, the earth shakes, and every building falls, and people-- mommies and daddies and children and babies-- die?

I don't really believe in God (I say "don't really" because there is a part of me that truly *wishes* I did, even though the idea goes against every rational thought I've ever had). But I don't know if a belief in a supernatural steward would make my job as a parent easier or harder.

SCENARIO ONE: GOD. Mommy, what are you guys talking about? Well, kids, a lot of people have died in an earthquake. And when I say a lot, I mean more people than you could count. And that's very sad, especially because some of them were probably crushed by buildings and others probably had to watch those people being crushed by buildings and there was probably a lot of screaming and for the few people that survived, their lives are effectively over anyway and they will never for one second stop thinking about what horrors they saw. So they would probably be better off if they had died, too. But the good news is, all of those dead people have gone up to Heaven! And they are happy now, and they are all reunited with their families, and they are not in pain any more. They are with God and God is great! But Mommy, why did God let those people die in the first place? I don't know, honey. It's God's plan, and we can't understand it. We just have to have faith that God knows what He is doing.

[Ok, that sounds like the biggest bunch of BS I've ever heard, honestly. And I wasn't even trying to be snarky, it just happened. Let me try another approach.]

OPTION TWO: NO GOD. Mommy, what are you guys talking about? Well, kids, sometimes nature does crazy things. And some of that craziness is probably the fault of people, because for many many years, people haven't been taking very good care of the planet, and our bad behavior is probably messing up things like weather and ice and oceans and things like that. So every once in a while, things happen in nature like earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes and floods, and sometimes nature causes buildings to fall down and lots of people can get killed by the falling buildings. It's very scary and very sad when this happens but I don't want you to worry about it because the chances of something like that happening to us are very very small. Chances are, we will live long and happy lives. But just to be on the safe side, please try to be happy every day, because everyone just gets one life, and it's very important that we appreciate all we have while we're here.

See, this explanation also sucks, and would definitely leave my chicken-sh*t eldest daughter complaining that she can't go to bed for the foreseeable future because she's convinced that an earthquake will indiscriminately strike during the night. But at least I can imagine getting through it without choking on the words, as I might in the first scenario.

Does this mean that I plan on raising the girls to be atheists? Not necessarily. In fact, I *hope* that they learn a faith in God, either from me (if they can see past the uncomfortable smile that appears on my face whenever I talk about religion) or from elsewhere (like from their dad, who I think still believes, bless him, despite my cold-hearted efforts to convince him otherwise). I *hope* that they have faith because the world can be an utterly terrifying place, and how could any person NOT want their children to believe that (a) it's all going down according to God's plan (which includes even the child molestations and the runway model decapitations and the genocides, I have to assume); (b) all the good people are ultimately rewarded for their goodness and all the bad people are ultimately punished for their badness; and (c) we will all live happily ever after on a cloud one day, for all of eternity, eating our favorite foods and watching our favorite tv shows and just generally giggling ourselves silly. How could any parent deny a child this existential safety net? Conversely, how could any parent coldly tell a child that bad things-- unimaginably bad things-- sometimes happen to perfectly good people, just by random chance?

I was a philosophy major in college. My mom died recently and at a very young age. I have never witnessed a miracle (in the biblical sense, like frogs raining from the sky. Of course another school of thought dictates that I witness miracles every second of every day: my heart beating, and the existence of my children, and the sunrise... but this just reminds me of the line from that brilliant Bill Maher movie "Religulous" in which he accuses some guy of having "a very low bar for miracles"). For these 3 reasons, I am rather disinclined to believe that there is a Heavenly Father who is watching over us and smiling down upon us and who intended for the Haiti earthquake to happen.

But then there are 3 other reasons-- my 3 impossibly precious little girls-- that make me hope like hell that I'm wrong.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Toddler Discipline and Other Jokes I've Heard

If you're one of those people who's going to tell me that your toddler doesn't act out and/or responds favorably to discipline, then let me just go ahead at the outset and call you a liar.

See, I have been exclusively studying these wild animals (toddlers) for almost 5 years now, and I have come to the well-researched conclusion that they are uncontrollable acts of nature. As in, you'd be more likely to get a tornado to sit on your "Time Out Dot."

I've read the books and watched the Supernannies. I've heard about "coming down to their level" to speak to them in a non-threatening manner and I've attempted to remain cool in the face of confrontation.

Problem is, that kind of kumbaya advice only works for two kinds of parents: robots and yoga instructors. For the rest of us-- those of us whose blood feels like it's boiling as we watch our 3-year-olds writhe around on the floor while they are screaming like raccoons in heat-- OVER SOCKS, no less-- it's like asking us to put our hand into a fire and hold it there. The urge to react-- for me, at least (and my shortcomings are many, so perhaps this is just one of them)-- becomes impossible to resist. I MUST raise my voice, I MUST lift the maniacal child up by the back panel of her shirt (it's always a little rush when I hear the fabric tear just a smidge, means I'm getting my point across), I MUST drag her into a room where I can indelicately deposit her and invite her to scream to her little heart's content. It's not my fault: the crazy in her brings out the crazy in me.

Now I can already hear your harsh judgements seeping through your computer screen and spilling out into my living room... you're telling me that we have to remain in control, that we can't respond in anger, that by losing our composure they WIN! But sister, I've heard it all before, and I can assure you that you're wasting your time. I have learned the SECRET, and it has nothing to do with one minute per one year of life, Jo Frost.

NO, the secret (can you believe I'm about to share it with you? get giddy!) is THIS:


Yeah, I said it. You can do Time Outs, you can act as if the tantrum isn't happening, you can call the kid names (my personal favorite is Biggest Baby In The World, as in, "Right now you are acting like The Biggest Baby In The World"). DOESN'T MATTER. The trick is, they are going to OUTGROW the tantrums ALL BY THEMSELVES, and-- provided that you didn't do any permanent psychological damage to them during the toddler years (spanking may or may not fall under this heading, I'm not sure and haven't done it; but I can reassure you that mild pinching is just fine)-- they are still going to grow up to be fully functional, semi-productive members of society (or not, but that has more to do with their DNA than your reward charts).

How do I know this with such certainty, you ask? Well, I know it because I witnessed it with my very own bespectacled eyes.

My now-4-and-a-half-year-old daughter was once one of those rabid hyenas depicted in the photograph above. At 3 years of age she melted down always and often, to the point where I once was famously driven-- in a blind rage-- to TEAR DOWN and TEAR APART all of the lovely and beloved posters that adorned her bedroom, much to the petrified kid's abject horror. (In retrospect, perhaps this, too, would fall under the category of permanent psychological damage? Hmmm, I guess one day in therapy we'll find out.) I had tried ignoring the offensive behavior, I had tried rewarding the good behavior, I had tried Time Out corners. And nothing was working: she would still, without warning and for the world's most inane reason (i.e., being asked to get in the bathtub, etc.), ABSOLUTELY. LOSE. HER. SH*T.

And then it dawned on me in a glorious epiphany: These kids are no more capable of resisting the tantrum than I am to pretend I'm not hearing it. Toddlers are, I have come to discover, simultaneously highly sophisticated and highly unsophisticated creatures: At age 3, my daughter was as likely to paint a gorgeous sunflower on a blank piece of canvas (which I still have hanging on our wall) as she was to have an apoplectic fit over the color of the sweatshirt I'd laid out for her. And trying to reason with her while she was mid-meltdown was as futile as trying to reason with someone in the throes of an epileptic seizure; there was nothing that either of us could do other than wait it out, and grip each other gratefully when it was over.

Now, by stark contrast, that same kid is 4 months away from turning 5 and is, with a few minor exceptions, remarkably well-behaved. She is articulate, funny, and frequently praised by her teacher for being a stickler for following the rules. Now does this sound like a child who was raised in anarchy? Ah, but she was!

It is this wisdom that guides my interaction with our present 3-year-old. In a heartbeat she can morph from impossibly sweet and delicate nymph fairy into lunatic running screaming from the asylum, to the point where I'd swear she wasn't even my kid (or at least, I'd be actively wishing she wasn't my kid). And yet a few short moments (read: 15 interminable minutes) later, she is returned to us, confusedly shaking her head in disbelief as if she'd just been dropped back down to earth after an alien abduction.

Does my newfound insight mean that I don't get mad, or have stopped yelling at her when her head starts doing 360 degree rotations? Of course not! As I explained, I'm no better at controlling myself in the heat of the moment than she is, and I'm done apologizing for it. So we both screech at each other with reckless abandon, momentarily surrendering to THE TANTRUM control of our dignity and our bodily functions, somehow instinctively knowing the backs of our (adrenaline-addled) minds that This, Too, Shall Pass.

*NOW* do I get my own tv series, ABC?

Monday, January 11, 2010


Ok, I can't wait for anyone to notice that this blog is here, I just have to say this.

My post-baby boobs are absolutely tragic.

I didn't start out with wowsa knockers, mind you. No, those belonged to my mom and, even more bodaciously, my grandmother (it's as if they are being phased out of my bloodline in a cruel Darwinian prank). But they were OKAY; they got the job done. I could hoist them satisfactorily in a push-up bra and feel confident in their perkiness. And while I always joked that one day I would purchase a pair of killer ta-tas, I was never SERIOUS.

Then one day, after breastfeeding three children in rapid succession for a sum total of three years, I woke up to discover that the saddest, most pathetic little things had taken up residence on my chest.

It's not just that they are smaller than they were before kids; it's that they look... depressed, like their dog just died. Forget the Pam Anderson superpowers they were magically endowed with during the first week post-partum-- I knew that such awesomeness was only temporary (hence the many, many Hustler-type photos that I took of myself in the mirror). But I expected that they would at least *resemble* the boobs I had before. And yet these new boobs appear to have simply lost the will to live. What am I supposed to do with them??

Well of course I have two options: keep them or trade them in. Neither option is terribly appealing, for the following reasons.

OPTION ONE: KEEP THEM. Ugh. They embarrass me. I tell my husband that the current state of my post-baby body should bring him great reassurance in my fidelity, as this is hardly the physique that screams out STEAMY EXTRA-MARITAL AFFAIR. I even contemplated the notion of only presenting them to Husband dressed in cute, non-removable lingerie... but (a) it's hard to find cute lingerie that also boasts rock-hard cups to disguise boob flaccidity; and (b) it might embarrass me more to suddenly start wearing clothes in the sack after ten freewheelin' years. Like, Hey honey, it's all downhill from here, that's the last you've seen of those tittays, hope you took a lot of mental snapshots while you had the chance! We're too young to start hiding from each other... aren't we?

OPTION TWO: BUY NEW ONES. This doesn't totally appeal to me either, because: (a) they cost money; (b) they require surgery; (c) they necessitate those awkward introductions ("Hi everyone, look what Husband got me for my birthday!"), and (d) they would surely launch my pre-existing hypochondria into heights never before imagined. As in, Can't lie on my stomach to sleep, they'll explode! Can't wear a sports bra, they'll explode! Can't run after the kid who is scrambling into traffic, they'll explode! Not to mention that I *already* suspect I have foreign substances slowly and silently leaking toxins into my body, just by virtue of the fact that I'm not *presently* in any pain, therefore something MUST be festering SOMEWHERE...

So you see, I'm kinda stuck. Further adding insult to injury? My post-3-baby belly seems to have found a happy equilibrium at just around the 4-months pregnant mark (I almost dropped dead of mortification recently when the school nurse-- a NURSE!!-- patted my belly at school drop-off and asked if we were expecting again) (the NURSE!, a person who is medically trained to diagnose physical symptoms on sight! aaaargh!!).

I guess what all this means-- at least for now-- is that I will keep the boobs I've got, continue to perform Superman-like costume changes behind the closet door, and pray like heck for a visit from the boob fairy just like I did when I was eleven. Bitch owes me! and fortunately for her I'm a very forgiving soul.

Let's Begin: Mommy Wants A Drink.

Hello there.

I'm the Mommy of this blog. I have three little girls, aged 4, 3, and 1. Here's a story that I read to them recently:

ONCE UPON A TIME, Mommy was hot! She had boyfriends-- lots of them! She wore makeup and heels and wiggled her bum when she walked!
[turn the page]
NOW, Mommy washes her hair every 6 days. She lives in ratty t-shirts, all of which, the kids know, happily double as snotrags. She only puts on makeup when she has to, even though she often looks in the mirror midday and is more than a little bit horrified by the very pale, wholly disheveled, slightly overweight image that stares back at her...

Wait. Before you click away, dismissing me off as just another cog in a million-pronged wheel of cranky motherhood blogs, let me offer you this incentive:

Once upon a time, Mommy was smart, too! I graduated from an Ivy League university and an Ivy League grad school. I even worked as an attorney for 5 years (before I threw away all of that expensively educated grey matter in favor of the worthless mush that presently occupies the space between my ears). So the hope is that, while the motherhood songs remain the same, perhaps here you can find them sung in an entertaining tune.

As for the title of this blog, it's worth noting that I am presently living in a house with absolutely no alcohol in it. Which doesn't prevent this thought from occurring to me, several times a day: THE CHILDREN ARE DRIVING ME TO DRINK. Good lord, does Mommy want a drink. My problem is that I want a drink, on average, about 55 minutes into any given morning. You know, when the first kid melts down over an ill-fitting t-shirt or a supposedly crooked pigtail or a scooter that some other sibling is riding. I think, aaah, how nice it would be to dash into the kitchen (or garage or broom closet or whathaveyou) and down a nice long swig of cheap pink wine (pink, of course, because everything in this godforsaken girl-overrun nuthouse is pink). But I don't, because that's a bell I think can't be unrung. And also, once you break the seal on drinking just to get through the day with the rugrats, I think you are officially In A Very Bad Way. Thus, I just fantasize about that drink... while I listen to the not-so-soothing sound of my blood pressure ratcheting up, and up, and up...

I promise that everything that appears here won't be all doom and gloom, however. I intend to also write about the good stuff that happens within these 4 walls... the reasons that I stay home day in and day out, coloring princess pictures and bandaging phantom injuries and scooping processed noodles out of cans. As for how honest I'm going to be here... well... I honestly haven't decided that yet. I mean, I know what I'd *like* to do here: I'd like to spill my guts about the hot-button Mommy topics such as marriage after children, and school politics, and teaching religion, and playdate nightmares, and the constantly-changing dynamics of mommy friendships... I'm just not sure if anything good could come of that (and more likely would just land me in a whole lot of trouble, with my husband and my friends and my playdates and my kids' schools) (and God, of course, who I'm quite certain has nothing better to do than surf the 'net). So we'll see. We'll see how the spirit moves me, and how safe this space becomes. I guess it will further depend, in part, on *you*... how honest *you* decide to be with your comments, and whether this space turns out to be a monologue (I'll be more guarded) or a dialogue (I'll show you mine-- first!-- if you show me yours, afterwards). In fact, maybe you could suggest some topics that you'd like to see discussed... just so I know that you're out there?

Ok, I've just finished half a box of Snackwells Creme Sandwich cookies (they're healthier than Oreos!) (aren't they?) while writing this so I should step away from the computer before I consume the remaining nine. Thanks for listening, and here's to a mutually-satisfying future of bitching and moaning together! xo.