Real-Mom Resolutions

It’s that time of year, people. The time when if I were still working for a health web site I’d be crafting headlines like “New Year, New You” and “Be a 10 in 2010!” The time of year when regular gym-goers curse the well-intentioned hordes that inevitably descend on the Stairmasters. Until March, when the gym empties out again.

Well, this year I’ve decided to make REAL resolutions. You know, ones I actually WANT to achieve and maybe have a real shot at? Here goes:

Leave my children alone. What? You were expecting me to say spend more time with my kids? I already spend nearly every waking hour with them, people, and some of the sleeping ones! And I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that our offspring often behave better when Mom’s not breathing down their necks.

Case in point: Riley will be happily playing in the Exersaucer -- until he catches sight of me. Then it’s nonstop screaming and whining until I spring him loose. Similarly, Miles will amuse himself quite nicely with a book or toy in the next room, then when I walk in he’ll suddenly start acting up.

Eat more. That’s right, no carrot sticks and crash diets here. Don’t you remember, I have a built-in diet and exercise program? Besides, as an astute commenter once pointed out, mommy meltdowns are frequently caused by the all-coffee diet. You’re so busy attending to everyone else’s needs, you don’t take time to meet your own, such as food. That means protein, people, not cookies or the crusts of your kid’s PB&J!

Be nicer to my husband. This list just continues to shock and confuse, doesn’t it? I KNOW, me too!! But now that I’m (sometimes) getting a full night’s sleep and 3 meals a day, I have a new perspective. It’s easy to let civility slide when you’re in postpartum survival mode. It’s easy to snarl, “Get back to me when you’ve grown a PERSON inside your body!” when your hubby complains of a headache or a man cold.

But come on now, you’re both on the same team, right? And you must like SOMETHING about him if you made a baby with him. So I guess it won’t kill me to be a little more pleasant to C. now and then. (I just KNOW these words are going to come back to haunt me!!)

Stop sweating it. You know how sometimes someone can be inexplicably rude or mean to you? And you let it ruin your day and go over and over in your head why that person said or did that and what you did to provoke it and how you should’ve responded? Yeah, I’m going to stop doing that. It’s almost always about THEM, not YOU. Like that woman in yoga class who gave me the evil eye for putting my mat in “her” spot? Namaste, lady. You can have it.

Give myself a break. OK, this is where I get clichéd. But it’s true; I am SO much harder on myself than anyone else. Most moms I know are. So instead of focusing on the times I’ve lost my temper or fallen short of perfection, what I’m NOT doing, what I SHOULD be doing, and how I could be doing everything better, I’m going to try to give myself credit for what I AM doing. Like keeping 2 children clothed, fed, and alive day after day, for starters.

What do you think? Can I keep these up? Or will I be lunching on lattés and cursing the slow old lady in front of me at the grocery store by March? And what are YOUR New Year’s Resolutions? Do tell!

P.S. O’ THE WEEK: Another resolution, which wouldn’t fit neatly into this list, is to seek out new blogs to read regularly. No letting the media pick the “top mom blogs” for me. Here’s one, for instance, about a mom-to-be who quit her reporter job and is trying to simplify her life: Little House on the Southern Prairie. Fascinating!


Comrades Amidst the Chaos

Anyone else in a post-holiday funk, or is it just me? The presents have all been opened, the new toys are scattered throughout the house, the relatives have gone home, hubs is back at work, the cupboards are bare, and the laundry’s piled up again. Oh, and school’s still out. Back to real life.

The thing is, we actually had a very nice Christmas. Words cannot express how wonderful it was to be in our own home and not have to travel. We hosted some friends and family, but that wasn’t even stressful because it was just a few people at once and our overnight guests only stayed for a few days.

And also, because our basement is finished now, we have a whole extra floor/guest room/playroom. (Good thing = more space. Bad thing = more room to clean and for kids to get into trouble. Now my 10 m.o. has TWO flights of stairs to climb at break-neck speed.)

Some holiday highlights:

- Miles frantically cleaning up his room on Christmas Eve so Santa wouldn’t think he already had too many toys.

- Miles opening each present and wanting to play with it immediately. He seemed to like everything he got, even things he hadn’t asked for, and didn’t notice the things he HAD asked for that were missing. ( A motorcycle at 3? I don’t think so!)

- Miles and my dad attempting to read the directions to some new toy and M. saying, “Grandpa, I didn’t know you speak Spanish!”

- My niece singing Rudolph with his nose “like an iPhone.”

- Riley in his cute Christmas outfits, clapping during the school pageant, climbing over the piles of wrapping paper and boxes, and playing with his new toys. (A laptop for a baby? Really?!)

I realized one of the things I liked best about this holiday was having company. Having people around to share the craziness of my daily life with 2 small children.

People who will go into the fridge and grab a juice box without waiting to be served, people who will wipe your baby’s nose for you, people who don’t mind screetching and shouting and balls bouncing off every surface. People who respect nap schedules, don’t care if the catering is provided by Costco and the local pizza place, and understand why the festivities have to end by 8 p.m.

It’s comforting to have comrades in the midst of the chaos. And now that everybody’s gone home and it’s just me and the boys, it’s a little lonely around here. Good thing we have 90 thousand new toys to play with. Note to people who gave us toys with a bazillion tiny pieces: I’m coming for you. I know where you live!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Quick, before they’ve had time to take inventory, hide some of your kids’ new toys and bring them out later, one by one. Heck, if you want to hide them for months and pass them off as Easter presents, I won’t tell!


Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays, everyone! From my family to yours, with love.

Riley's celebrating his first Christmas with his own video:
"The Little Drummer Boy."


Joy to the World, the Baby Slept!

Joy to the world, the baby slept!
He slept right through the night;
From 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.,
He let mama and dada sleep,
He let mama and dada sleep,
He let mama, poor mama, and dada sleep!

That’s right, people. Riley slept through the night for the FIRST. TIME. EVER. In his nearly 10 mos. of life, that’s an unprecedented event. (Except for that one time he had a fever and slept for 7 hrs. but that doesn’t count.) Not only that, but he’s done it 3 nights in a row.

It’s almost as if he KNEW I was at the end of my rope. Either that, or it was letting him cry for 45 min. straight the first night. Here’s what happened: I reread Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. I really can’t recommend this book enough. It’s not light reading, but you don’t have to read it cover to cover, either. You can dip in and out as needed.

The book reinforced what I guess I already knew: that at 9 mos. old, Riley does not need to be waking up 1-4x/night. In fact, I’m doing him a disservice by responding to him, because I’m not allowing him to get the rest he needs. Also, Weissbluth is a bit of a nap nazi. So for 3 days straight, I made sure Riley was down at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and in bed by 7 p.m. And it WORKED!!!

I don’t think it’s so much that the book was a miracle solution, but rather it’s due to a combination of factors, including stopping nursing, his age, and giving him more food. (I switched from 6 oz. to 8 oz. of formula at night and 1 jar of baby food per meal to 2.)

Anyway, I don’t need to tell you the thrill I felt when I heard him stirring -- first clue something was different: he was cooing, not crying -- and I looked at the clock expecting it to say 3 a.m. and it said 6:24 a.m. I immediately woke up my husband to tell him the good news! :)

I also don’t need to tell anybody who’s ever suffered an extended bout of sleep deprivation what a HUGE difference an uninterrupted night’s sleep makes to a person’s wellbeing. I was a ball of Christmas spirit the next day! Adding to my festive mood was the 16-inch snowfall (!!) we got. Made all the more wonderful because it happened on a weekend and Daddy was home to shovel it and take Miles out to play in it for hours!

Meanwhile, I policed Riley’s naps, got the house in order (including going through the foot-high stack of mail on the counter), organized and uploaded all the pictures and videos, displayed the Christmas cards, put away laundry, changed sheets. You know, all those things you don’t have time to do during the week with 2 hooligans underfoot. Also, C. prepared almost ALL the meals. Heaven! Of course, his fancy-schmancy strawberry French toast and tuna melts are going to be a tough act to follow, but whatever.

Now that I’m feeling rested and festive and grateful, I’d like to extend a sincere thank-you to all my faithful readers and commenters out there. Seriously, you don’t know (or maybe you do!) what a boost you give me. It really is like having a virtual community of moms who are in the trenches with you. Hugs all around!

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Writer and mom Holly Bowne shares 20 Tips for Savoring the Holidays. I commented that some days my gratitude list includes only “babysitters” and “wine.”


In All Honesty...

Spoiler alert: serious post ahead. Believe me, I’d love to write a light, upbeat entry about my “Seasonal Activity Disorder” flaring up again and our Christmas tree debacle. But it would take more energy than I’ve got right now.

Besides, I took a quiz on Oprah.com that told me my true destiny is to be an “adviser” and an “equalizer.” I took that to mean I’m here to help other moms in any way I can and show people that if I can do this motherhood thing, then any idiot can.

Except sometimes I can’t.

I’ve half-joked about quitting being a (mostly) SAHM and about my ongoing quest for optimism and balance. Though some (such as my spouse) might disagree, I do try to look on the bright side of disasters and not dwell on the ugly parts of life. I’m all for honesty, but I prefer to leave the all-cards-on-the-table confessional stuff to the Dooces and Anne Lamotts of the world.

But you know, sometimes motherhood isn’t funny or light. Sometimes -- a lot of times -- it’s the hardest f@#$%?!ing thing I’ve ever done in my life. And the scariest, too, because there are 2 human beings dependent on me for survival and I can’t quit or call in sick. EVER. For the REST OF MY LIFE.

There have been plenty of days I didn’t want to get out of bed and/or I didn’t want to go to sleep at night because that would make the morning come sooner. And then I’d have to get up and do it all again. There have been plenty of days that I cried when my husband left for work.

I’m not a big believer in medication (maybe because both my epidurals failed?!) especially the mood-altering kind. I did briefly seek help from a therapist, but since I believe my current state of mind is situational, not chronic or chemical, I eventually stopped. Besides, who has time to fit one more appointment into their schedule?!

One thing that does really help me is knowing that I’m not alone. I’m lucky that I have several close friends, family members, and neighbors who keep it real and help me out whenever they can. When a friend told me she nearly got divorced following the birth of her second child, I was grateful for her honesty. When a blogger I follow confessed she’d made “The Call” to her husband one day (as in, “Get home IMMEDIATELY if you care about the safety of your children”), I thought, thank God it’s not just me.

And when my writing students share essays about miscarriage and postpartum depression I admire their bravery and think about all the people they will touch with their words. (And they do, because many students have gotten their essays published and received heartfelt responses from readers.)

So I’ll admit here that I have been having some really bad days lately. Behavior issues, sleeping issues, teething, the holidays, too much sugar, not enough exercise or help -- all the usual stuff but all at once and without a break. There was one day in particular I really thought I was going to hurt somebody. REALLY HURT THEM. So I dumped the baby in his crib with some toys and put Miles in his room with a baby gate across the door. And I walked away.

And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing.

Everybody was fine. In fact, Riley had a blast. He was probably thrilled to have his brother off his back for 30 min. And even Miles, aside from calling mournfully down the stairs every few minutes, was fine playing by himself.

I related this anecdote to the kids’ pediatrician the other day. And you know what she said? “I’m so glad you did that.” And then she went on to ask if there was any way I could get some more help. It might be tough, but I’m going to work on it. Part of me wants to pretend that I’m a perfectly competent mom and writer who juggles it all by myself with grace. After all, I know plenty of people who do. But I am not one of them. And that’s OK.

READ O’ THE WEEK: Author Claudine Wolk sent me a review copy of her perfectly titled book, “It Gets Easier! … And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers.” It’s part “Girlfriends’ Guide” and part “What to Expect” with a healthy dose of humor and practical, real-world tips.

I think Wolk really hits her stride in Ch. 10: “How Did I Get Into This Mess?”, Ch. 11: “What is a Housewife & How Did I Become One?” and Ch. 12: ”The Most Frustrating Job on the Planet.” Unlike other books that gloss over the working vs. staying home topic in a couple of paragraphs, Wolk goes deeper into the real issues.

Like coming to grips with all the chores that accompany new motherhood. And how your marriage will change. And how neither working or at-home moms have a easy choice or often any choice at all. (She points out that working moms have TWO f.t. jobs.) In fact, Wolk’s is the most thorough and respectful discussion of this topic I’ve read.

This book deserves a place on the bookshelf alongside the other titles about this life-changing, gut-wrenching journey we call motherhood.


Ready, Set, Run Errands!

I don’t know about you, but I can be in and out of the supermarket, pharmacy, and liquor store in under an hour and usually still have time to get gas. IF I don’t have my kids with me, that is. Everybody knows that with a kid or 2 in tow, your time-to-errands ratio goes WAY down. You’re lucky if you can get through Trader Joe’s in an afternoon.

I was reminded of this today when I attempted 2 seemingly simple errands with both kids.

First, our departure was delayed because the baby refused to take his morning nap. After one failed attempt, I gave up and got everyone bundled up to go out. First stop: Staples. I had to make some copies and purchase some packing materials. On the way there (5 min. from my house) Miles announces he’s hungry. I fish a couple semi-stale peanut butter crackers out of the diaper bag and hand them over.

We park, I hoist everyone out of the car, and we trudge into the store. There’s a line for the copiers, which I stand in while holding Riley, who is getting heavier by the minute. It’s as if someone swapped his diaper with a bag of sand. Miles grabs some scissors and markers off a display stand and goes running off with them. I wait and wait and wait some more. Until I realize I’m in the wrong line. Back to square one.

By the time I’ve made my copies and paid, my biceps are burning from carrying my leaden tot and Miles has coerced me into buying him candy by putting his sticky mitts all over it before I realized what he was doing. Riley has lost a shoe, so we retrace our steps throughout the store and parking lot before finding the errant shoe in his carseat.

Second stop: post office. A couple weeks before Christmas, we’re asking for trouble, but I have no choice if I want my packages to get there in time. As we swing into the parking lot, I see a line out the door. Abort, abort! We’ll never make it out alive and home in time for lunch. I make a U-turn and head for another branch a little farther away.

We park, I hoist everyone out of the car, and we trudge into the post office. But not before checking that the baby has both shoes. There’s a line, of course. I keep Miles busy by letting him drop the Christmas cards in the mail slot 5 at a time. He’s done in no time, and begins to amuse himself by pulling his shirt over his head. My arms are growing weaker. Seriously, how much does this baby WEIGH? Did the hat and mittens add an extra 10 lbs?

Next stop: the gym. Before the carseats are even buckled I know it’s not going to happen. The baby’s whining and rubbing his eyes; Miles is complaining he’s still hungry. It’s not worth it. Besides, I’ve already done my arm workout for the day.

We desperately need groceries, since the only thing in the house resembling baby food is an aging sweet potato in the bottom of the pantry. And the craft store’s calling, since we ran out of garland halfway through decorating the Christmas tree. But I’m no dummy. I know enough to quit while I’m ahead.

Besides, on a day when the boys are at school and the sitter, I can breeze through every store in the mall and STILL have time for a cup of coffee on the way to pick-up. Just time me and see.

NEWS O’ THE WEEK: I learned from one of my Twitter friends that many Target stores are starting to stock fresh food. I’ve long thought they were the cheapest place to buy all sorts of groceries, including organic stuff and baby food, so I’m super-psyched about this.


We Are Family

It's the holiday season, and you know what that means... Dashing through the airport, sitting in traffic, waiting for a plane to go or a bus to come or a train to go or a car to run. (Apologies to Dr. Seuss.) All to visit FAMILY. Because that's what you do this time of year, right?

Well, this year we opted out. For Thanksgiving anyway. We stayed home, hosted nothing, visited no one. It wasn't an easy decision, but for the first time, I realized that we -- just the 4 of us -- well, you'll have to read more at TheBump.com to find out:


2009 (Gag) Gift Guide

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that I am a lousy gift-giver. Occasionally, I come up with an amazingly perfect, personal, creative gift, such as the year I got my mom a customized antique locket from Etsy containing pictures of her grandchildren. Alas, I cannot sustain that level of gift-giving year after year.

Especially with the men in my life. Do you know how hard it is to buy for my husband? He’s so picky about his apparel I couldn’t DREAM of buying him something he’d actually wear. The Nike watch of ’07 is still a sore subject. Even when he sends me a link to the exact thing he wants, it still somehow goes awry. (It said “unisex,” I swear!!)

[Sidebar: have you noticed the disturbing trend towards “practical” gifts once you’re married? “Honey, let’s get a new garbage disposal and call it our Christmas present to each other this year, OK?” NOT OK!!]

For your convenience, I’ve compiled a list of thoughtful gifts that you and your loved ones will TRULY cherish:

For moms:

If a working lock for the bathroom door is not feasible, give her the gift of letting her do her business solo without talking to her through the door. Imagine, an entire shower without someone coming in to ask where the red sippy cup is or flushing the toilet and scalding her.

For dads:

Let him watch the whole game by himself without talking to him about the suspicious-looking crack in the ceiling or the state of your 401k. Allow him to drink his coffee before asking him if he remembered to put out the recycling and what you should get his mom for her birthday. Don’t hand him a crying baby and a whiny toddler before he’s even fully in the door from work. At least let him turn off the engine first.

For grandparents:

As in, give them the satisfaction of thinking you are taking their advice – or at least considering it. When they say, “We used to put you kids in playpens” or “Give the baby a bottle of water when he cries at night” or “Don’t give in to those temper tantrums; show her who’s boss,” just smile and nod. Bonus points for throwing in a “Why didn’t *I* think of that?”

For babies:

Every parent knows the more dangerous the object, the more a baby wants it and the longer and more happily he will play with it. So let him have your germy keys, those sharp kitchen implements, and the dog’s filthy chew-toy. He’ll be in heaven, and you’ll be on standby with the Purell, ready to call 911 if necessary.

For toddlers & preschoolers:

Imagine an entire day where your child gets to make all his own decisions. The striped shirt with the plaid shorts and Elmo rain boots? Why not! Waffles and M&Ms for breakfast? Sure! A 4-hour Dora marathon? Go nuts! What’s the worst that could happen? Cavities? Public ridicule? A nuclear meltdown? You’ll live. Of course, MY son has been known to ask to drive the car, play in traffic, and drink Red Bull, so you’ll have to draw the line somewhere.

I see these gifts as a win-win for everyone. They cost you nothing (except possibly your pride) and you don’t even have to wrap them. Any way you look at it, they’re way more festive than a new muffler for the minivan. Here’s wishing you & yours a happy, stress-free holiday!

PICS O' THE WEEK: "Snow angel? More like snow DEVIL!"

"Check out my disco stroller!"


One Card Short of a Full Deck

Has there ever been an object so fraught with conflicting emotions as the Christmas card? First, there’s the frustration of staging the perfect picture if you send photo cards. And if your family includes small children and/or pets this seemingly simple task could take WEEKS before you capture that elusive shot where everyone’s looking at the camera and no one’s crying, running away, or picking their nose.

Then there’s the anxiety over ordering the cards, the tediousness of updating your address list, and the anger you may feel after standing in lengthy lines at the post office behind people who are taking their sweet old time perusing the stamp choices as if they were touring the Louvre. It’s a friggin’ STAMP, just PICK ONE!!

Then, ultimately, there’s the joy experienced by the people who receive your cards. That goes without saying. At least they BETTER be filled with joy after all that effort.

I wish I could delegate this tiresome chore, but I’m what some people might call a control freak. Personally, I prefer to think of myself as having high standards, but whatever. Sticks and stones. Besides, you’re asking for trouble if you give up the reins. Here’s a cautionary tale I borrowed from my friend L.H.

Her husband was in charge of the cards this year. Apparently, he looked only at the design, not considering the type of paper, flat versus folded, coupon codes, or the quantity they needed. So when my friend found out the staggering sum he’d paid for them, she nearly choked. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t considering the joy in the recipients’ hearts.

That’s why I do the Christmas cards myself. So maybe it took me several hours of searching online to find a deal. And even longer to figure out that company’s photo editing software and get the picture looking just the way I wanted it. And maybe I feared the deal was too good to be true so I ordered some back-up cards from another website just in case. Some might call this making extra work for myself. I call it doing things right. (Aren’t you so glad you’re not married to me??)

I never even used to SEND Christmas cards. I didn’t think anyone cared, so why add another time-sensitive chore to my holiday to-do list? But then my friends started having kids, and we started having kids, and before I knew it I was sticking antlers on my baby’s head and propping him in front of the fireplace shouting, “We need more light! And fix his two strands of hair!”

And I have to say, I do love receiving all the cards with everyone’s cuties on them. We hang them up on a ribbon and talk about who’s who and how much they’ve grown. And what the heck that family’s deal is who sent the cards on the 98-lb. metallic cardstock with opaque vellum envelopes. Are they TRYING to show off? Hee, hee…

PRODUCT LINKS O’ THE WEEK: I ordered my first (free except for shipping!) batch of cards from SeeHere.com and they are perfectly nice. My back-up batch was from Snapfish.com. Last year’s cards were cropped off-center, so I complained and they gave me a bunch of credits for free prints. This year’s card came out great.

BLOG LINKS O’ THE WEEK: Here’s a mom who risked a broken nose to get the perfect shot for her holiday cards. Also, McMommy is hosting a Holiday Card Spectacular and she wants to display your cards!


The Pain of Parenthood

Are you familiar with “the fishhook”? That’s the term C. and I coined for this little maneuver of the baby’s where he pries open your mouth with his tiny fingers and pulls REALLY HARD on your bottom lip. When you’re nursing him or trying to get him to sleep next to you at 4 a.m., for instance. It’s even more painful when his fingernails need to be cut.

That’s not the only injury I’ve sustained since becoming a mom. Not by a long shot. And I’m not the only one. I know a grandmother who got a black eye during a scuffle over a hairbrush with her grandson. That kid REALLY didn’t want his hair brushed.

Besides perforated lips and black eyes, caregivers of small children run the risk of:

Pulled hair. One way to keep my baby from log-rolling off the table while I’m changing his diaper is to tickle his face with my hair. He loves this. Unfortunately for me, he’s got lightning-quick reflexes and an iron grip. Just think: if I lose a clump of hair during each diaper change, it won’t be long before I’m looking into those Paris Hilton clip-on hair extensions.

Pinching, scratching and/or purple nipples. I don’t know what it is about my baby, but he likes to keep his hands busy while he’s eating. So if he’s not doing the fishhook or trying to turn my nostrils inside out, he’s probing my body for handfuls of flesh to squeeze. REALLY HARD.

There was a passage in my new favorite book, Dadditude by Philip Lerman about “the purple nipple” that had me in hysterics. Basically, his son wouldn’t go to sleep until he pinched his dad’s nipples. And the dad LET him because that was the only surefire way to get the kid to sleep! It’s so true; you do what you have to, and sometimes that means a purple nipple or two.

(Speaking of nipples, I’m not even going to go into the pain and suffering lots of us experience with breastfeeding. That’s a whole other post...or 20.)

Head butts. Is there any parent out there who hasn’t experienced the searing pain of a child’s surprisingly hard skull cracking them in the nose or under the chin? I’m flinching just thinking about it.

Board-book paper cuts. So much worse than the regular kind. Brought about when an overly enthusiastic young reader turns the pages too quickly during storytime.

Burns. “Mommy, try my oatmeal and see if it’s still hot.” Sure, and why don’t I lick the George Foreman grill while I’m at it? Burns also may be incurred while testing the temperature of bath water and making sure your flat iron is turned off.

Obviously, this list only scratches the surface. (Pun intended.) From “carseat elbow” to feet punctured by stepping on Legos, the list goes on and on. It’s a wonder any of us survives till they hit kindergarten, isn’t it?

PIC O’ THE WEEK: “My Mommy ordered the Maclaren hinge guard, or as we like to call it, the severed-finger saver! You can, too.”


Imagination Education

It’s not looking good for us. We’re just a couple of good guys, minding our own business. Then along comes a pirate jaguar with his sidekick, the pirate bird. (The actual pirate being lost somewhere in the toy bin.) The pirate jaguar grabs a gun and sets off to fight the bad guys in the jungle trucks.

“But he’s just going to shoot out the tires so they can’t chase us, right? No one gets hurt,” I interject, ever the uncool, overly p.c. mom, even in the midst of imaginative play with my 3 y.o. son. He looks at me like, “Whatever, Mom” and goes back to making his plastic jaguar shoot at a jeep.

Welcome to my world.

There was a time when I used to edit out the references to hunters in “Horton Hatches an Egg” and when I let my toddler son think that squirt guns were hairdryers. There was a time when I was embarrassed about his aggressive energy and loud enthusiasm. (OK, that was yesterday.) There are times when I worry that all his games involve bad guys and gunfights. But mostly, I just go with it. He’s all boy, this kid. And if he wants to “pretend-fight” his friends on the playground or shoot at Matchbox cars with a block, who am I to squelch his fun?

Lately, though, Miles has been out-imagining me. He cooks up these elaborate adventures involving Batman and race cars and rocket ships, full of action and intrigue. And he usually wants me to play along. I’m good for a few minutes of this, but then I run out of steam. There are only so many car-chase scenarios I can come up with before I start plagiarizing scenes from “The Bourne Identity.”

What? You think because I’m a writer I should have a good imagination? There’s a reason I don’t write fiction, people. I stink at making stuff up.

C., on the other hand… The boys are lucky they have such an imaginative dad. Ask me to tell a bedtime story and I’m likely to launch into a barely modified variation of Little Red Riding Hood. But if you ask C., he’ll spin a wild, rollicking tale about Pierre the Snowboarding Penguin. Oh, the adventures of this little flightless bird! You wouldn’t believe it. I can’t say more, though, because the Pierre stories are copyrighted. C. has sworn me to secrecy.

Sometimes, I’m lucky and Miles will feed me my lines. Like when we’re playing his all-time favorite game -- Baby Animal. “Mama, you see this cute baby doggy in his basket and you say, ‘Hi, buddy, do you want to come home with us?’ OK, Mama? You say that.” Although this can get old pretty fast. Especially if I dare to veer from the script. Miles isn’t big on improvisation during Baby Animal.

Even though playing with a 3 y.o. can get repetitive (You want to play Construction Site? AGAIN?!), I know I should be glad he chooses me to be his playmate. The day will come soon enough when Mama doesn’t cut it anymore. Since I’m not ready for that yet, I’d better step up my game. Maybe I can go Google some scenarios for the pirate jaguar and baby doggy.

Say, they’re abandoned in the jungle and are adopted by a jolly bear. Oh, wait, that’s “The Jungle Book.” Maybe they’re stowaways on a freighter and get washed up on foreign shores. No, that’s “Madagascar.” See? I told you I stink at making stuff up.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know about IMDb.com? The Internet Movie Database is the fastest way to look up the plot of any movie or find out the name of that obscure actor who played that guy in that one movie about that thing. You know who I’m talking about, right?


Tofurky Time!

I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 23 years. (Typing that number just now I almost had a coronary, realizing how old that makes me!) Ever since junior high, when I just couldn’t take my mother’s cooking anymore. I think it was the ham rollups stuffed with ricotta and raisins that put me over the edge.

Don’t get me wrong, my mom is a good cook, if perhaps a little overly creative at times. I certainly appreciate her efforts a lot more now that I have to feed my own (picky) family, night after night.

So obviously, I was not raised vegetarian. I ate my share of Happy Meals and hot dogs. But somewhere along the line, meat began to gross me out. The thought, the texture. It may have also had something to do with reading Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” in English class. (Tip for happy carnivores: DON'T. You’ll never look at a burger the same way again.)

It started out as kind of an experiment. How long could I go without eating meat? Would I miss it? Would my iron levels plummet, making me weak and anemic and stunting my growth? (My mother’s fear.) The answers: a long, long time; no; and no.

I developed a snappy retort for all those people who asked, incredulously, “But if you don’t eat meat, what DO you eat?” Answer: “Everything else.” To be specific, I eat pasta, eggs, beans, nuts, peanut butter, and a range of soy products from the excellent Morningstar Farms brand. I am not a strict vegetarian, because I have been known to eat soup made from chicken broth, and I do eat seafood from time to time.

My husband is not a vegetarian, nor are my kids -- except sort of, by default, since I do most of the cooking. C. sometimes complains that we eat too many carbs, and blames any extra pounds on our meat-free meals. I tell him, “Cook yourself a steak, then.” I can abide meat in my house, even in my pots and pans, but don’t expect me to cook it. That's like asking a deaf man to compose a symphony. Oh, wait, Beethoven...

Anyway, Miles enjoys the occasional turkey sandwich, hot dog, or nuggets at Chick-fil-A, but he just as happily munches soy-based “Chik’n nuggets” and black bean tacos. Riley has yet to have his first taste of meat. (I don’t know about you, but I find the pureed, jarred baby-food meat nas-TY!)

It’s much more common to be a vegetarian these days, so I’m not as much of an oddball as I once was. Except on Thanksgiving. No one can believe that even on this great American holiday, I don’t let one bite of the bird pass my lips. Not that a hunk of steaming flesh sawed off a crispy bird carcass isn’t appealing and all. ;) But there’s so much other food at Thanksgiving – vegetables, even! – that I don’t miss it a bit.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I have tried the whimsically named “Tofurky.” Once, with some friends. We pretty much all agreed it looked, smelled, and tasted disgusting. And the texture... Yeeuuuccchhhh!

So I’ll just stick to the green beans, squash, and stuffing, thanks. That leaves more bird carcass for the rest of you!

READS O’ THE WEEK: One of my former students wrote this column about what happened when her teen daughter gave up meat. And here's an essay about the challenges of putting a strict vegetarian through preschool.


My Apologies, Mom

So you know how before you have kids, you think you're going to do everything differently? You're going to play only classical music to your newborn, you're never going to let them watch TV, you're only going to buy educational wooden toys, and you're never, ever going to force or bribe your child to eat or wear anything they don't want to.

You most CERTAINLY will not spoil your kid like your neighbor does, yell at them like those obnoxious parents at Walmart, or make them do menial chores like your parents made you do.

Uhhhh, right. How's that working out for you? Same here. Which is why I've compiled a list of people I owe an apology. Read more of my mea culpa at TheBump.com:


Zoo Days and Blender Days

It’s been 3 ½ years since I said good-bye to an office, coworkers, and the guarantee of daily adult conversation to stay home and raise one, now 2, boys. On a good day, it feels like I’m getting away with something. Like playing hooky, there’s this exhilarating sense of freedom when you’re still in your PJs at 9 a.m., or at the mall or the park in the middle of the day, and everyone else you know is at work.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom came to visit for a couple days. On Monday, we got up with no plans, no agenda, and decided on a whim to take the kids to the zoo. It was an overcast October day, just chilly enough to keep the crowds away, but warm enough if you bundled up with jackets and scarves.

Miles has only been to the zoo a few times, so he skipped around taking in everything with wide-eyed excitement. We rode on a tram to the African Journey part of the zoo. I think the ride was as thrilling to him, if not more, as seeing a giraffe up close. We saw gazelles and a cheetah, ostriches and rhinos, okapis and zebras, even a baby elephant. (Sometimes I think that kids who grow up watching Diego and Animal Planet and reading “My Big Backyard” aren’t suitably impressed by all this real-life exotic wildlife in the middle of a city. To them it must seem normal. Like, “Oh, there’s a camel. And look, a squirrel!”)

Even Riley -- usually fussy, clingy baby Riley -- had a great time out in the fresh air in his stroller. My mom, who hadn’t been to a zoo in years, gamely hoisted up Miles so he could see over the railings, chased him down the pathways, and even accompanied him on a couple turns on the merry-go-round. It was as close to a perfect day as you can get.

So there are those days, and then there are the other days. The days when there are no visitors or playdates, the baby’s been up since before dawn and the toddler’s already complaining about being bored and it’s not even 10 a.m. The days when this one’s cranky, that one’s whiny, and Mom’s exhausted from getting up 3 times during the night.

The days when even going to the grocery store seems like a monumental task, and you can’t face one more trip to the library to pass the time, where you’ll inevitably have to break up squabbles and force your child to share and be quiet and maneuver everybody in and out of the germy bathroom. The days when the clock barely seems to move, and you find yourself pushing the stroller aimlessly around the neighborhood, peering into houses wondering what the hell THEY do to get through the day.

Days when you can feel yourself grinding your teeth and your back clenching up, when you say mean things to your children and think bad thoughts about your husband. Days when the freaking blender lid comes flying off, spraying pureed sweet potato and broccoli all over the kitchen, even the DOG. (People who get more than 5 hrs. sleep a night may find this funny, but trust me, to the rest of us it’s not. Not yet, anyway.)

The thing is, you never know what kind of a day it’s going to be. It could start out dreary, and then you could find yourself picnicking by a sunny pond on an unexpectedly warm fall day while your children amuse themselves for ages feeding the ducks. I guess that’s what keeps it interesting. That, and exciting challenges like figuring out how to scrub sweet potato off the ceiling.

LINKS O’ THE WEEK: Anchormommy often blogs about the adjustment to life as a SAHM. And, she makes yummy food. And Kelli from “Writing the Waves of Motherhood” seems to have such a positive attitude all the time. She is always doing fun & spontaneous things with her kids. Just read this post.


I Was the Real Ugly Betty

I have been a fan of “Ugly Betty” since it premiered. I’m not happy that ABC moved it to Fridays at 9 p.m. since that seems like a death knell for the series, but we’ll see. Besides the eye-candy sets, the snarky humor, and the insider’s glimpse into magazine publishing, know why I like it? Because I WAS Ugly Betty. For real.

It was my junior year of college. Picture it: NYC, the winter of 1995/96. Me: a frumpy, naïve college kid who’d never plucked her eyebrows or seen a Manolo Blahnik. Though I didn’t share Betty’s affinity for ankle socks and heels, my idea of fashion was a boxy Esprit blazer, pleated (!) pants, and chunky, rubber-soled loafers. Maybe even Doc Martens, I’ve blocked it out. Not pretty. Even less so because I had bad skin and was still carrying the “Freshman 15” -– or in my case, the “Freshman 22.” I would share a photo, but all pictures from that era have been burned.

I had this idea that I might like to work in magazine publishing. I’d grown up hoarding Elle magazines and making collages from the NYT Sunday Style section. Plus, I fancied myself a writer. At the time I was an editorial intern for a *tiny* local paper in upstate New York. So over Christmas break, I applied for and got an internship with a glossy magazine in New York City. The big time, people!

The magazine was called “Swing,” and it was a general interest publication for Gen-X’ers, NOT a porno, as I grew weary of explaining to people. Playing the role of Daniel Meade was David Lauren, son of the famous Ralph. (BTW, I learned that Lauren is pronounced like the girl’s name, not all Frenchy –- “Lau-REN” -– like people usually say it.) David was a preppier, more disheveled, equally charming version of Daniel. He was one of the few people in that office who looked me in the eye and thanked me for giving up my winter break to lick stamps for no pay.

The offices, sadly, were nowhere near as glamorous as Meade Publications’ digs. It was a Madison Avenue address, but the cramped quarters were cluttered and fluorescent-lit, and you had to ask for a key to use the bathroom.

Also, there weren’t any characters nearly as colorful or devious as Marc or Wilhelmina, though there was an Amanda-esque junior editor who wore glittery eyeshadow and got invited to events at the Met and MOMA. There was also an extremely unpleasant photo editor with B.O. who once bitched me out for not taking a message properly.

My sole friend at the magazine, if you could call her that, was a fellow intern named Sloane or Skye or something like that. She had grown up in Manhattan, attended fancy prep schools, and wore tight pants and Gucci belts. Coming from a campus where overalls and pajama bottoms were considered acceptable daywear, I’d never seen such an exotic creature as Sloane. She came to work with stories about her boyfriend’s exploits with “Leo’s posse.” Leo, as in DiCaprio.

I didn’t have any madcap adventures like Betty, unless you count running for the bus through a foot of slush or my encounter with a crazy homeless man. Nor was there any romance. (Have I mentioned how unfortunate-looking I was at the time?) I did once spot a supermodel on the street, one of those tall, blonde girls from the mid-‘90s. (But doesn’t that describe pretty much EVERY supermodel?)

I didn’t write a single article, interview a single celebrity, or attend a single event. I just stuffed envelopes and answered phones for 5 weeks. As thanks, some of the staffers took me out for a fancy lunch. I distinctly remember their words: “We’re not dessert people, but you go right ahead.” Can’t you just see Wilhelmina saying that to Betty?

Ah, good old “Swing” magazine. The experience that convinced me I wanted to stay as far the hell away from New York City as humanly possible. Too bad for me, it didn’t cure me of my lust for the glamorous world of magazine publishing. Which is why I ended up at “Maryland” magazine after graduation. But that’s not nearly as good of a story.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Check out this site for all your Ugly Betty news. Turns out Marc was recently on NPR. Cool!


How to Make Life Easier

My new motto is "If it’s only pee, let it be." What's the point of getting everyone all riled up -- especially in the middle of the night -- just to change a wet diaper? If it doesn't bother the baby, it doesn't bother me.

Same goes for baths and bottles. I'll skip a bath or two if I'm tired, and I never warm up my baby's bottles. And you know what? He could care less.

I've stumbled upon some other tips and shortcuts to manage the stress and neverending tasks that come with a baby. And who doesn't need that? Read more about how to make life easier at TheBump.com:


Can SAHMs Quit?

I ran into a friend at the playground who mentioned that her neighbor had recently quit her job as a lawyer to stay home with her 2 small kids. I found this interesting. You always hear people say, “Oh, I wish I could stay home with my kids.” But what about the other way around? How often do you hear a stay-at-home mom say, “I wish I could go back to work”?

Obviously, I know moms who stayed home for a while and then went back to their old jobs. To me, that’s more like extended maternity leave. I’m talking about people who have every intention of being a SAHM but change their minds and go look for a job. People who say, “You know what? I was wrong. This isn’t for me. My kids are far better off in daycare, and I’d rather go to an office everyday than play one more game of Candyland.”

‘Cause the thing is, I’m kind of leaning that way. Yup. I admit it. As I’ve said many times here, I never had the intention of being either a full-time work-outside-the-home mom or a 100% SAHM. I hate labels. And I sort of thought I could straddle the fence, have the best of both worlds as a work-at-home writer.

And for awhile, I did. Between preschool, a sitter, and my son’s 2-hr. naps, I had a decent chunk of time to devote to my freelance work -- until my second son was born last winter. Then, the balance tipped. This baby’s fussier. My husband changed jobs. The economy tanked. My toddler stopped napping. The sitter didn’t have room for an infant. All of a sudden, I’ve found myself to be less and less a WAHM and more and more a SAHM. (There are those labels again…)

And I gotta say, I’m not loving it. Partly, we’re in a hard stage because the baby’s still napping 2-3x/day and my 3 y.o. wants to get up and go every day. (I tell him all the time, “We’re not going anywhere this morning. No playdates, no parks, no Target, sorry. Sometimes we just STAY HOME.” BTW, how ironic is it that SAHMs rarely stay home?) So the 2 ages are tough.

And partly, I’m worried about money and germs. Huh? What I mean is, we really don’t need to be going to Chick-fil-A or Target or the mall every day, just to get out of the house. I’m not that into recreational spending. Not when that money could be used for a sitter! But the free places – the library, the gym, storytimes – are germ fests. What do YOU think people do with their kids all day when they’re too sick for school? Not all of them stay home, I’ll tell you that!

A lot of my friends are similarly germophobic right now, so that also means fewer playdates. (Coupled with the fact that some preschools are Mon.-Wed.-Fri. and others are Tue.-Thurs., plus factor in siblings’ naptimes and schedules, good luck EVER finding a time that works for both of you!)

So that means I’m stuck in the house a LOT with 2 kids with very different needs who both need a LOT from me, and very LITTLE time to devote to work or writing or seeing my friends or any of my other interests. (If you think I could be doing that stuff at night, you’ve obviously never spent a day with 2 energetic kids who wake up at 5:30 a.m. and keep going full throttle till 8 p.m.)

Plus, my husband and I are totally in that “ships passing in the night” phase. (“You take Miles to gym class and I’ll stay home with Riley. Then we’ll switch so I can run to the grocery store and you can put the baby down for his nap. But first, let’s synchronize our watches!”)

It all adds up to a not very balanced life. Which is why I’ve been daydreaming about daycare lately.

There is this, though: I had Miles’ parent-teacher conference the other day. He got a glowing report. And I left with a glowing feeling. After all, I’ve been home with him for 3.5 years, so I deserve SOME credit, right?

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Hybrid Mom, the print magazine, and HybridMom.com have the right approach for label-shunners like me. Recognition that moms are a lot of different things. Plus, I love their tagline: “Mother your ambitions.”

RECALL O’ THE WEEK: Maclaren is recalling 1M strollers, due to a possible finger-amputation risk. Super.


You WILL Sleep Again (Someday)

This morning I talked to a friend who had a baby 5 weeks ago. (Congrats again, M.C.! Thanks for inspiring today’s post.) She’s in the stage of new motherhood I affectionately call the “what the hell did I get myself into?” stage. The stage where the post-birth euphoria has worn off, your help has gone home, Daddy’s gone back to work, and the baby has decided to reveal her true colors.

The stage where you go, “Oh, THAT’S why people kept harping about getting my rest while I still could.” When you realize weeks of sleep deprivation really is that bad and WORSE. When you wonder how in the hell people can do this more than once, and what the heck you were thinking when you were all, “Sure! Great! Let’s have a baby! It’ll be FUN!”

My friend said something that made me laugh. Another woman in her new mom’s group said she sees people with toddlers and is in awe that anybody lasts that long. It’s so true. As a new mom, you can’t imagine making it through the next DAY, let alone the next 18+ years.

The people who come up to new moms and tell them to enjoy every minute because it goes so fast don’t realize how much they’re endangering themselves, making those comments to an unstable, sleep-deprived, possibly homicidal new mom. (Here’s my rant against those people.)

So how DO people survive the tough early stages of babyhood? And the arguably tougher stages that follow it? I’ll tell you how the BABIES survive. As my mom says, “God made babies cute so we wouldn’t leave them on a hillside.”

But seriously, the answer is -- you get used to it. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, you learn to function on much, MUCH less sleep. You begin to think of showering not as a daily necessity, but as an optional activity. You become a devotee of Drs. Karp, Weissbluth, and possibly Ferber. Through the process of trial and error, you figure out what your baby likes and doesn’t like. (My friend has already discovered what she calls “the magical fleece blanket.”)

Soon, you will think nothing of whipping out a boob in public and sniffing your baby’s butt. You may have long, passionate discussions about sleep schedules and nipple cream – with strangers. You consider it a good day if the baby “only” screamed for 3 hours or “only” woke up 4 times during the night. Coming in frequent contact with another person’s vomit and feces no longer fazes you. You simply dab at it with a baby wipe and go about your day.

Yep, life after baby is a strange new world, people.

Who was it that said, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going”? That’s pretty much all you can do. And believe it or not, it WILL get better. One day you’ll wake up with a jolt at 6 a.m. and realize the baby FINALLY slept through the night. One evening you’ll notice a strange sound in the house and realize the baby ISN’T screaming. And one night long, LONG after you’ve given birth, you may turn to your husband and not only NOT hate him anymore, but actually feel attracted to him again. I know -- crazy talk!!

But if it wasn’t true, how would the human race continue to reproduce? Because after the “what the hell did I get myself into?” stage eventually comes the “it wasn’t really so bad” stage. And that, my friends, is how you end up with Baby #2 and beyond. Consider yourselves warned.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: If you’re not intimately familiar with the 5 S’s, run -- don’t walk -- to Amazon.com and order The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. (Not the book; new moms don’t have time to read!) Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version.


Did You Hear the One About…?

So we’re sitting around the dinner table tonight and my mom (who’s visiting) says to Miles, “Can you eat that big piece of broccoli or do you need me to cut it up into smaller pieces?” And Miles holds up the spear of broccoli like a cross and says, “Go in peace.” We all cracked up.

Encouraged by the crowd’s reaction, Miles starts rattling off the jokes. “How did the dinosaur get on top of the building? He jumped over it!” “What if there was a CROCODILE sitting at the table?” (3-year-old humor.)

The thing is, the kid is actually funny. Hilarious, even. He can do impressions. He does this uncanny impression of his dad singing a Chubby Checker song to the baby. (Get it? ‘Cause he’s chubby?) I guess you had to be there…

My son and my husband have similar senses of humor. They both think it’s hysterical to call each other names like “shark eyes” and “meatball.” With friends Miles’ own age, of course, potty jokes kill. That NEVER seems to get old to kids, huh? Miles calls his baby brother all sorts of “poopy”-themed names, which, I hate to admit, are pretty appropriate.

But nothing seems to crack up my boy more than good old-fashioned violence. The cartoon kind, anyway. We got him a Tom & Jerry DVD featuring classic cartoons of the cat and mouse chasing each other with hammers and slamming each other over the head with frying pans and that sort of thing. I have never, I mean NEVER, heard Miles laugh as hard in his life as when he’s watching Tom & Jerry. And when you see a little kid shrieking with laughter, you can’t help but laugh yourself. It’s impossible, people.

I have to say, I’m glad that my son has a sense of humor. Laughing at the funny noises the baby makes definitely lightens the mood on days when everybody’s tired and whiny. Did I tell you about the time C. staggered downstairs after a long night and said, “I can barely keep my eyes open”? And Miles, without missing a beat, launches into Johnny Cash: “I keep my eyes wide open all the time…” Now THAT’S funny.

A lot funnier than his knock-knock jokes. A poopy-headed dinosaur may be hilarious to the toddler set, but it’s lost on me. Keep working on your stand-up act, buddy!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Check out this site for kid-friendly jokes, including an interactive knock-knock joke generator. Sample: Knock-Knock. “Who’s there?” Amish. “Amish who?” Amish you when you’re gone.


What a Scream

What the hell is wrong with my baby? That’s what I want to know. Ever since he came into the world, this child has been giving me a run for my money. Or, more accurately, headaches and minor hearing loss. Every day, for a good portion of the day, he screams and cries and yells and then, just to mix it up, he’ll SCREAM SOME MORE.

OK, that’s a *slight* exaggeration. If he’s just been fed and is well rested and is in sight of Mom and is not cooped up in a crib or highchair and is allowed to crawl around exposing himself to as much danger as possible, Riley is all smiles. For awhile.

But god forbid you ignore him at 3 a.m., or stop in the middle of feeding him to, say, cross the room to grab some coffee. He will let you know AT TOP VOLUME what he thinks of that.

He’s been a huge mama’s boy since Day 1, so you’d think I’d be used to it 8 mos. in. But no, I am still surprised when he bursts into tears when a stranger smiles at him, or when he clings to me for dear life when I drop him off at the gym daycare for an hour. I thank my lucky stars that he doesn’t pull this crap with our regular babysitter. (Or if he does, she doesn’t rat him out.) Because if it weren’t for those little breaks now and then, I hate to think what I might do.

Lots of people – including my gentle, loving husband, Riley’s dad – find it hard to believe anyone could feel animosity towards a tiny, adorable, defenseless baby. I know, it’s shocking even to me the mean thoughts I sometimes have about my own flesh and blood. (Like, “If I could duct-tape that binky to your face to shut you up for half an hour, I WOULD.”)

But seriously. How would you feel if EVERY SINGLE DAY from breakfast through bedtime, a tiny tyrant was screaming at you every time you weren’t giving him your complete, undivided attention and/or carrying his 22 lb. self around? You’d feel worn out and pissed off, that’s how!!

Today, the only time the baby wasn’t screaming was when he was sucking on a banana in his little mesh feeder thingy or being pushed in the stroller outside. Believe me, I’d do these things 24/7 if it weren’t for annoying little chores like taking my 3 y.o. to school, eating, and getting 3 people dressed.

Sometimes I just want to scream at Riley, “DUDE!! Shut the f*** up!! You’re killing me with that air raid siren you call a voice!!” Of course, that’s usually when he decides to break into a big, drooly grin. That little bugger has me under his tiny little thumb.

LAUGH O’ THE WEEK: Miles was looking at a picture of Jesus in his Bible storybook. He pointed to his feet and said, “Mom, are those flip-flops or Crocs?”


Flu Frenzy

So I was all set to write a post about the flu frenzy and the insane level of misinformation and fear surrounding the swine flu, vaccines, etc., and then I decided I was already bored and fed up with the topic.

I mean, just because I’ve wasted countless hours on the phone and spent my days running all over town talking to scarily incompetent healthcare professionals who “just” ran out of flu shots and “may” be getting more “sometime,” eventually, maybe, in the not-too-distant future but they can’t be sure and they don’t know whether they’re allowed to give them to kids or not or if so, what age, doesn’t mean you all have to read about it.

But can I just say, I knew more than the lady who answered the H1N1 hotline at the COUNTY HEALTH DEPT!! She did not even know the correct URL for the CDC web site, and she referred me to a hospital whose next scheduled flu shot clinic is in JANUARY 2010!! The sheer ineptitude of these people is scarier than the potential risks of the flu.

And by the way? If I see one more news segment talking about how important it is for young children and especially those with asthma (like my 3 y.o.) to get their shots and how Oct. is the best time to get them I WILL SCREAM.

Since I am completely powerless and unable to protect my family in any way even though I live in AMERICA and have the best healthcare coverage you could hope for, I have become that crazy germophobe lady. I am the mom at Chick-fil-A who’s hosing her kids down with Purell before, during, and after the meal and twice after my son has visited the bathroom and play area.

I’m THISCLOSE to making everyone wear matching surgical masks a la Michael Jackson. I greet my husband at the door after work with a bottle of hand sanitizer. I serious consider making him wear rubber gloves to hold the baby. So, yeah, it’s been really fun around here lately!

In other news, Miles had school picture day recently. He brought home the photos and the first thing I thought was, “Wow. His hair really won’t hold a style. Instead of a hairbrush and gel, I might as well have attacked his head with an egg beater and gotten the same result.” My husband took one look and said, “Why isn’t he wearing a nice collared shirt?”

Why do you THINK?! Maybe because he threw a hissy fit and refused to get dressed unless I let him wear his guitar T-shirt? Listen, a pre-K photo is not worth a knock-down drag-out fight at 8 a.m. if you ask me. Besides, you only have to look at the class photo to see he’s not the odd man out. 90% of the boys are wearing superhero or truck T-shirts while the girls have on party dresses.

But funny thing -– there’s not a surgical mask in sight.

READ O' THE WEEK: "Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore" by David McPhail seems appropriate.

UPDATE O’ THE WEEK: A reader wrote in to ask about Miles’ recurring cough which turned out to be asthma. He now takes Singulair nightly to manage his allergies and when a cough/cold flares up we give him Benadryl to dry up the post-nasal drip and Albuterol in a nebulizer when the cough gets really bad. It’s a pain, but it seems to be working.

RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: C. made Rachael Ray’s Chili Lime Tilapia the other night and it was dee-lish! Even the picky eater ate a few bites. For dessert: Trader Joe’s apple blossoms are to die for. From freezer to microwave to your lips in 60 secs.


Brother Bother

Bringing home a new baby 8 mos. ago was a huge adjustment, I'm not gonna lie. Especially for our first-born, who for almost 3 years had enjoyed a nice run as an only child and The Center of the Universe. In our house, anyway.

Miles' feelings for his little brother have run the gamut from curiosity to amusement to love to annoyance. I hesitate to say "hate," because it's never gotten quite THAT bad. This video perhaps best illustrates my sons' relationship:

Since Miles has to put up with a screetching sidekick most of the time, it's no surprise that on the few occasions he gets an outing -- or a parent -- to himself, he's over the moon. Read more about our recent mother-son bonding at TheBump.com:


I'm a Scary Mommy, Too

Well, I didn’t win TheBump.com’s Mommy Blog Award, but I WAS a finalist. So thanks to all of you who voted for me! As they say, it’s an honor just to be nominated. Good thing I hadn’t picked out a fancy gown or anything... ;)

You know who DID win? Scary Mommy. And in honor of the new movie Motherhood, starring Uma Thurman, she’s running a contest to find other Scary Mommies out there. She defines it like this: “I believe a Scary Mommy is a mother who doesn’t leave the house wearing lipstick at all times. A Scary Mommy loves her kids to death, but will admit to feeling totally overwhelmed and exhausted by the gig. A Scary Mommy doesn’t really care what other people think, and a Scary Mommy thinks that all mothers win when we admit our weaknesses.”

Weaknesses? I have a few. Loves her kids? Check. Overwhelmed? Check. And going out without lipstick? How about without shoes? I left the house in my slippers the other day and didn’t even notice till I was in line at the drugstore. Anyway, here’s why I think I’m a Scary Mommy.

Yesterday started typically with my 8 m.o. screetching from his crib around 5 a.m. Having woken up to nurse at 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., he was starving, naturally. So what if he weighs well over 20 lbs? So what if he’d consumed half a sweet potato, a cup of squash, a banana, and a bowl of cereal throughout the day? So what if he’s got more chub on his thighs than “The Biggest Losers”? The baby must be FED!

His shrieks awakened his older brother, who exited his room bewildered and wet. Why, oh WHY, did we not put a Pull-Up on him, “just in case”? Because the potty training? Didn’t fully “take,” you see. Even though he’s 3 ½ and we’ve been at it for almost a year. Between the baby’s constant spitting up and his brother’s frequent accidents, we do more laundry in a week than a laundromat.

With Dad long gone to work, we three trudge downstairs to find the dog has been in the trash again and shredded a dirty diaper throughout the first floor. Clean-up in Aisle 2! Breakfast is procured as quickly as possible to minimize the squawks from the highchair and complaints from the booster seat. “I don’t WANT cereal, Mama, I wanted a WAFFLE! I don’t want BANANAS on it, Mama, I want BLUEBERRIES!!” Meanwhile, Mama hasn’t even gotten to go to the bathroom yet, let alone make coffee.

Filling the coffeepot with water, I notice the sink isn’t draining. I flip on the disposal. CRUNCH!! Oops. How did that glass baby food jar get down there? The waffle is taking an awfully long time to toast. Oops. Maybe because I unplugged it to plug in my breast pump. Where are all the bottles and sippy cups? Oops. Still dirty in the dishwasher; “someone” forgot to run it last night.

On a good day, getting 3 people fed, dressed, and out the door to school or the sitter makes us only 20 min. late. Factor in a lost sneaker, a diaper blowout, or an appointment requiring makeup and you’re looking at a 40 min. delay.

I used to be an organized person. I used to be punctual, fairly well-groomed, and able to use the bathroom whenever I wanted to. I went entire weeks without encountering another person’s bodily fluids. I did not refer to myself in the third person or know who Wow Wow Wubbzy was. But now... Now I’m a mommy. Pretty scary, huh?

LINK O' THE WEEK: Another Scary Mommy, Loukia, posted these hilarious pics of her 2 boys' antics. Now THOSE are shots for the family scrapbook!


Baby Food Blues

Imagine how much easier it would be to raise kids if you didn’t have to feed them?

You could blissfully go about your day without having to puree anything or push green beans on anyone. You wouldn’t have to water down juice, cut off crusts, or pick the raisins out of raisin bread. You wouldn’t have strenuous negotiations about how many bites of chicken equals half an hour of Spongebob, and you wouldn’t have to hose down your kitchen floor 3 times a day. I know -- crazy talk!

I was reminded how labor-intensive the feeding of small children can be when my 7 m.o. son, Riley, started solid food recently. Unlike for my 3 y.o., Miles, I couldn’t just throw a toaster waffle and a whole banana on a plate and call it breakfast. I had to mix the oatmeal, blend in the peaches, heat it to just the right temperature, and then sit there shoveling it into his mouth for 20 min., not to mention the considerable cleanup afterward. Our morning routine doesn’t allow for that kind of time, people!

I remember before I had a baby thinking that people who made their own baby food were nuts. Isn’t that what Gerber is for? Then when Miles was tiny, I realized that pureeing a sweet potato wasn’t that hard, not to mention way cheaper. Then I got a little TOO ambitious. There was the steamed carrot explosion and later, the broccoli-cheese muffin debacle. (Tip: Just because your child likes blueberry muffins does NOT mean he will fall for muffins containing stinky green vegetables.)

This time around, I still microwave the occasional sweet potato but don’t have time for much more. And that’s a shame, because I’ve decided to do only organic baby food and that stuff’s EXPENSIVE!! Almost $1/jar for watered-down applesauce?! BTW, why doesn’t Trader Joe’s come out with their own line of baby food?

Anyway, there have definitely been some culinary hits and misses in our house when it comes to feeding our children. My husband earned a permanent spot in our family lore with his signature Kung Fu Panda maneuver. Miles was refusing to eat something or other until C. served it “Kung Fu Panda style.” Meaning, he held out a bite of food with chopsticks and Miles took a flying kung-fu leap and ate it in mid-air. My mom was visiting at the time, and this episode pretty much cemented C.’s title as Super Dad in her eyes.

C. has a far higher success rate with getting Miles to eat than I do. His creations include veggie burger “sliders” – mini burgers w/ all the fixings – and BBQ chicken wraps. “It’s all in the presentation,” he says smugly, as I try to foist forkfuls of shepherd’s pie into my picky eater’s face. But except for occasionally using a star-shaped cookie cutter on his PB&J’s, I can’t be bothered.

After all, I’ve got another kid to feed now. When I remember, that is. Fortunately, Riley’s still getting most of his calories from breastmilk because otherwise, he might wither away. On more than one occasion, I’ve packed a picnic lunch for the playground only to realize, oops! I brought nothing for the baby. And it’s not like I can give him a bite of his brother’s cheese stick.

Just today, we forgot Riley’s breakfast in the morning rush. Sorry, buddy! (Don’t worry, he’ll more than make up for it during those 2 nighttime feedings he’s STILL insisting on!) And since he refused to try Indian food, Miles’ dinner consisted of blueberry yogurt and half an apple. Oh, well. They say what a kid eats over the course of a week is more important than what he eats (or doesn’t eat) in one day.

So, anyone interested in 2 dozen broccoli-cheese mini muffins? Anyone??

LINK O’ THE WEEK: My SIL tipped me off to this web site, Weelicious.com, for fast, healthy, kid-friendly food.

READS O’ THE WEEK: My last post sparked some intense debate as well as some spin-off posts, which I’ll be the first to admit are perhaps, ahem, more thoughtful and diplomatic than mine was: “Mommy on the Sidelines” on It’s Not Like a Cat… and “A Plea to Spouses” on So Much to Say, So Little Time. I feel blessed to have such positive, constructive, interactive readers.


Deadbeat Dads?

Lately I feel like I’m a hotline for overworked, underappreciated moms. Friend after friend has vented to me with some variation of the following: “I do practically EVERYTHING around here, taking care of the kids, the meals, the laundry, the bills, the shopping, etc., etc. while my husband surfs the web/ watches TV/ sits on his ass/ or just doesn't notice. What is his problem? How can I get him to pitch in more? And when do *I* get some friggin’ time off?!”

I’m not even going to TRY to be politically correct or diplomatic in this post because, well, it’s my damn blog and I don’t have to. Besides, I’ve heard it from so many women at this point I’m going to go out on a limb and say guys like this are the norm. Parenting magazine wouldn’t have devoted a 2-part series to this issue if it weren’t a problem for lots of us.

This is inevitably going to piss off my husband and all those other dads out there who think they’re doing their fair share. And to them I say, “Really?” Do you REALLY, HONESTLY feel that your contributions are equal to those of your wife?

Do you really, truly believe in your heart of hearts that mowing the lawn every couple of weeks and changing the oil and taking the kids to Chick-fil-A on Saturdays offsets your wife’s duties? Do you even KNOW the extent of her duties? Hint: they probably include large amounts of time spent on stain removal, making things for preschool bake sales, and commemorating every event for family and friends with the proper card and/or gift – which includes KNOWING WHERE THE STAMPS ARE and addressing and mailing said cards on time.

I’m going to stop there because a complete list could fill several hundred pages and I’d like to finish this post before I turn 40. And also, because it’s making me mad.

Mad is the feeling I get when I encounter these real-life scenarios (some of which were NOT taken from my own life):

-- The husband of a busy SAHM of 3 children involved in countless sports and activities says to his wife, “I’ve noticed most of the other moms in the neighborhood mow their lawns. Why can’t you do that?” I literally had to bite back the obscenities when I heard this. Did I mention this guy travels for work at least half of each week, so the mom essentially works 72-hr shifts with no relief?

-- A husband volunteers to cook dinner one night. At 6 p.m., he begins surfing around on Foodnetwork.com and rummaging through the pantry. I guess hoping the exact ingredients will magically materialize? When the kids begin to have hunger-induced meltdowns and the wife loses her cool, the husband accuses her of being a control freak and calls out for pizza.

-- A husband volunteers to do the grocery shopping but can’t be bothered to make a list, asking his wife to text it to his phone instead. He still forgets the top 2 most essential items -- milk and toilet paper -- neglects to use the $5 coupon for formula, and comes home with regular baking potatoes instead of sweet potatoes.

-- A husband tells his wife she should stop breastfeeding because it’s making her bitchy. However, he refuses to do any middle of the night feedings because he has to be alert for work the next day. And he doesn’t even know what a bottle sterilizer IS, let alone how to use one.

I’m sorry, but this is just not right. The question is, what can we do about it? You can’t MAKE someone care that the clothes will get wrinkled if they’re not folded straight out of the dryer. You can’t FORCE someone to notice the collection of curdled milk-filled sippy cups under the couch. And you don’t WANT to set up a dynamic with your husband in which you treat him like a spoiled child and he treats you like an unreasonable shrew.

So how do you turn the tables? How do you even out the workload? How do you get to a point where you don’t feel like spitting nails whenever your husband shoves aside a pile of unfolded laundry to put his feet up and watch the game? Good questions.

The Parenting articles I mentioned contain loads of good info. (Such as: 46% of moms get irate with their husbands once a week or more. Those with kids younger than 1 are even more likely to be mad that often.) This web site, which I’ve mentioned several times, has this to say about “How to Stop Fighting Over Housework." I found the book "The Lazy Husband" to be validating, if not life-changing. And I’ve heard the authors of "Getting to 50-50" on several talk shows. I’m not yet convinced such a balance exists in any marriage.

In fact, I don’t know that there really is a solution. Maybe time and gradual (begrudging?) acceptance is the only way. That seems to be what worked for my mom, who considers herself a feminist, worked AND raised kids most of her life, and has been happily married to my dad for 35 years. She said to me once she doesn’t know where we women today got the idea that parenting and household duties should be shared equally. After all, it’s never been 50/50 for any generation.

She may be right, but at this point I’d settle for 70/30.

READ O’ THE WEEK: In Home Game, author Michael Lewis’ hilariously honest memoir of fatherhood, he freely admits that his m.o. is to do as little as possible when it comes to parenting. He estimates his domestic contributions at about 31.5%. He gets points for honesty, but I still feel sorry for his wife (ex-MTV news reporter Tabitha Soren, BTW).

FACT O’ THE WEEK: A survey of 360 married men found that the more satisfied a wife is with the division of household duties, the more satisfied a man is with his sex life. WAKE UP, GUYS!!

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