Reading Round-Up

Wow, it’s been AGES since I did one of these, hasn’t it? But thanks to my newfound love of the library, I’ve actually been reading quite a bit lately. Turns out I DO have the time if I don’t cook, ignore my children, and stay off the computer. Who knew?

Seriously, though, one day when the baby was napping I told Miles he didn’t have to go to his room for quiet time if he entertained himself while I read. And he did! For a good 90 min. almost.

There really is no rhyme or reason to my reading selections. For instance, I read the July 19 Time magazine cover story, “The Only-Child Myth,” at the gym, even though I am not an only child and blew my chance to have an only child about 26 mos. ago. (That’s 17 mos. plus 9 mos., right?)

It was actually a fascinating article. It turns out that only children really aren’t socially stunted and selfish. (Seriously. The author cites an early study that claimed just that.) In fact, they’re better off because they get more of their parents’ attention and resources. Oh, well, too late for us! Sorry, Riley, there’s always community college. Moving on...

In that same issue, there’s a funny essay by Joel Stein about his trip to a spa with his mother.

At the library, I picked out two books in my usual fashion. First, I trolled the new releases, zeroing in on the biography and memoir sections. Then, I wandered down the aisles where the books on writing are shelved.

I came away with Cathy Alter’s Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over. This 30-something, newly divorced freelance writer decides to make over her life by following the advice of women’s magazines for a year. (Note to writers: I’m convinced that anybody who commits to do anything for a year gets a book deal out of it.)

It’s an entertaining read, though I couldn’t help but wonder how Alter got away with being so candid about her friends and family without alienating everyone she knows. She’s a gutsier writer than I, that’s for sure. Anyway, anyone who loves magazines should check out this book.

If that memoir was like candy, then this was like a 5-course gourmet meal: Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness by Dominique Browning. The (50-something?) author loses her job as editor-in-chief of House & Garden (again with the magazines!), breaks up with her on-again, off-again beau, and has to put the pieces of her life back together.

With an empty nest and too much time on her hands (basically, the polar opposite of my own life), Browning rediscovers what’s important to her in elegantly written, thoughtful prose. I picked up this book after reading an excerpt in O magazine.

Well, that’s it, folks. Unless you want to read a synopsis of Carrie Underwood’s dream wedding, per People magazine. Or how Entertainment Weekly dubbed Lady Gaga’s costumes at a recent concert “Kinetic Snowflake” and “Vinyl Wonton.” Ha!

Now I’ve got to run. All this reading has put a serious damper on my Twitter time.


Jealous of WHO?!

Someone out there is jealous of you. Believe me, it’s true. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I’m just stating a fact. Because even though we all know we should count our blessings and be grateful for what we have and not compare ourselves to other people, blah, blah, blah… it’s so much easier said than done. Sometimes you need the jolt of seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes to really get it.

This happened to me recently. I was talking with an acquaintance. She’s a high-powered executive of some sort, and has kids the same age as mine. She mentioned that her family was just back from vacation. When she’d asked her son what the best part of the week was he’d said, “Having you around all the time.”

“Awww,” I instinctively replied, thinking nothing of it besides that it was a sweet comment. So it took me a moment to realize this other mom was worried about whether being away from her kids so much for work was negatively impacting them. I believe, for a moment at least, she was actually envious of me. ME?!

Look, I have a great life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows, either. For instance, it might be nice if we had the means to tackle home repairs immediately instead of waiting until the washing machine bursts a hose, spraying my visiting mom in the face as she’s helping with the laundry. (Sorry, Mom!)

Or if we had some more help in general so that I didn’t have to decide between writing, showering, or going to the post office during my rare child-free hours.

Looking at this other mom with her Blackberry and her laptop and her nanny, she doesn’t look like the type to let important things slide or fly by the seat of her tailored pants. It never occurred to me for a second that she might look at me as some sort of role model or great example of motherhood.

ME, in my wrinkled cargo pants and flip-flops! ME, nuking chicken nuggets and frozen peas for dinner night after night! (I wish I could say it’s because our oven is still broken but the sad truth is, I’ve barely noticed.)

Somehow, this exchange opened my eyes to something I knew intellectually, but never believed in reality: that other people would love to step into my flip-flops and be able to microwave peas for their children every day. It’s kind of like when you were in junior high and your mom told you that the boys were picking on you because they liked you. You wanted to believe it, but you couldn’t quite accept it as true.

Well, believe me – it’s true. That husband who second-guesses your diapering technique and insists on picking out the baby’s outfits? Is someone else’s involved dad. That overbearing mother-in-law? Is someone else’s free babysitter in shining armor. That flexible work schedule that complicates childcare arrangements? Is someone else’s dream job.

I’m not trying to heap another serving of guilt onto your plate. I’m just giving you some food for thought. Somewhere out there, there’s a mom who has no idea I’m insanely jealous of her because her baby’s NOT walking yet.

READ O’ THE WEEK: Gwyneth Paltrow addresses postpartum depression in her oddly named blog, GOOP. Actress Bryce Dallas Howard’s account of her struggle with PPD is especially moving.


Ramona Made a Reader Out of Me

Anyone have a tween girl I can borrow? I’m dying to see “Ramona and Beezus.” Oh, trust me, I WILL see it, tween or no tween. As a kid, my love of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona was rivaled only by my affection for Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik.

The following anecdote will either a) reveal what a geek I was as a kid, or b) prove that I was destined to be a writer when I grew up.

One night I was reading in bed when I came across a particular passage. I honestly don’t remember whether it was a Ramona book or an Anastasia book, though I’d bet on the latter.

Anyway, this passage was describing the hapless protagonist’s humiliating turn at being forced to shimmy up a rope in gym class. She inevitably lost her grip, and plummeted to the floor in front of all her classmates.

Something about that word “plummet” sent me into gales of laughter. In fact, as my mother tells it, I laughed so hard I fell out of bed. So, writers? If you’ve ever doubted the power of word choice, let this be a lesson to you.

This past year my son’s preschool class made little booklets about themselves. They listed their likes and dislikes, favorite activities, foods, etc. Under “Favorite thing to do with Mommy” Miles listed “read books.” I’m not gonna lie, people. I teared up. Especially because that’s MY favorite thing to do with my kids.

Miles has loved books from Day 1 and is the type of kid who will read anything in front of him, including a cereal box. Now, I’ll admit I don’t always love his choice of reading material, like the mind-numbing “Cars” books based on the animated motion picture, or the encyclopedia of sharks. (Which is clearly not intended for 4y.o.’s since it includes detailed instructions on what to do if you are ever attacked by a shark. The gist: punch it in the nose and swim like hell.)

But we both love reading all the Dr. Seuss books (although we agree the guy could NOT draw horses) and Jane Yolen’s dinosaur books and David Shannon’s books.

Then there’s Riley. I know he’s only 16 mos. old, but I genuinely feared he was destined for a life of crime and illiteracy since he showed zero interest in books for much of his life. Then, all of a sudden, things changed, and now he climbs up on the couch next to his brother with his own book every time he sees Miles reading. And he does the backwards butt-scoot into my lap when he wants me to read to him.

My second-born is WAY pickier when it comes to reading material, however. He’s stuck on the same 6 or so board books, including a stupid one about a cow that came from the $1 section of Target and a non-age-appropriate book about tractors that’s of questionable literary value.

But what do I care? I’m just thrilled that my children are readers. (Even though I know that can change at some point.) It’s even inspired me to rediscover my OWN love of reading, which has withered up and died tapered off since I had a second baby.

I had stopped going to the library because the overdue fees were starting to cut into my kids’ college funds. I simply could not finish a book or manage to return them on time. But I’m giving it another go. Although, wouldn’t you know, I’m overly ambitious right out of the gate and am currently reading 3 books at the same time. I’m taking full advantage of the library’s online renewal policy.

Just think: with all the late fees I save, I can buy a movie ticket to see “Ramona and Beezus”! Who’s with me?


Fun with Juggies and Funk

Think life with little ones is all dirty diapers, spit-up, and safety hazards? (Now who on earth could’ve given you THAT impression?! ;) Not so, my friends. Sometimes it’s more fun than you can shake a stick at. Though I wouldn’t advise it, because sticks are sharp and someone could lose an eye.

If your definition of fun involves tequila shots and shirtless frat boys, of course, you’re in for a bit of an adjustment post-kids. Though I would daresay the shirtless guys around my house are MUCH cuter than any beer-soaked dude in a backwards baseball cap. (Although did you SEE the photos of Zac Efron in People magazine recently?!)

Here’s just a small sampling of the shenanigans we get up to around here:

Making fun of each other. I’d say we laugh WITH each other rather than AT each other, but that would be a lie. Fortunately, a lot of times we’re laughing at the baby, who’s too young to realize he’s the butt of our jokes.

Speaking of butts, the Huggies jeans diapers he’s been sporting since my MIL bought him a pack are an endless source of amusement. Have you seen these? C. calls them “Juggies” (Get it? Jeans + Huggies) or Daisy Dukes.

Baby dance parties. Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of “America’s Funniest Videos” can attest to the fact that kids + music = hilarity. Kids just seem to have this natural rhythm that can’t be contained. Riley starts rocking out to any tune he hears, even the theme music of Miles’ video games.

The other day I had the XM Radio tuned to my personal favorite station, acoustic coffeehouse feminists or something like that, when the baby grabbed the remote and somehow navigated to old school funk. Get down, get down… He sure can shake his Juggies-clad booty.

Taking pictures. I’m going to reveal my advanced age with this comment, but can I just say how astounding I find it that my 4 y.o. can use a digital camera? And he actually takes really good pictures! Check out this artistic sky shot. I was twice his age before I got my first Polaroid camera. A Polaroid!! I’d have a hard time trying to even explain what film is to today’s kids. Wow, I’m old.

Other pastimes include streaking, karaoke, and Mommy & Me happy hours with the neighbors. Although I’ve sacrificed many a glass of wine to rescue someone from a tricycle collision or errant Frisbee. Maybe it’s time to get one of those hands-free beer hats. You know, like a beer-soaked frat boy.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: “Sh*t My Kids Ruined” features photos of – you guessed it – stuff kids have destroyed, defaced, or worse.


Warning: Family Outings May Be Hazardous

I’ve got some advice for you: next time you think about taking your kids somewhere, don’t. Trust me when I say it will only end in disaster.

Case in point: earlier this week, the boys and I joined a friend and her 3 kids on a visit to the science center. This involved packing up 5 kids ages 16 mos.-5 years in one minivan and driving downtown. Just installing the car seats was a major feat.

Unfurling the strollers, crossing busy intersections, and gaining admission were no small tasks, either, but things started off fairly smoothly. We got there right when it opened so it wasn’t crowded. The kids eagerly ran around exploring all the cool exhibits.

Then, 45 min. later, things started to go downhill. First, I ran out of snacks. I naively thought that since the baby had eaten breakfast right before we left, a bag of popcorn, some Goldfish, and a granola bar would last till lunch. Wrong. He plowed through all that and was still whining for more.

Then he started to protest being confined to the stroller. Against my better judgment I let him out, whereupon he promptly climbed up on a dinosaur display that was clearly labeled “Do not even THINK of climbing on this.” A chase ensued, followed by a heated struggle to get him back in the stroller. A passerby laughed. Glad I can provide entertainment for you, lady.

Then my friend’s 2 y.o. broke out in a rash all over his face and arms. A freak allergic reaction to the sand in the fossil-finding area? Or maybe the vapor used in the tornado exhibit? Who knows. We decided to high-tail it out of there, anyway. But first we had to feed the troops or risk mutiny.

When I tell you we caused a spectacle in the cafeteria, I am not being dramatic. The 2 babies were crying and kicking in their highchairs, another kid was lying on the filthy floor, and another was sprinting his way toward the exit. Meanwhile, all around us, groups of Stepford children were sitting with their parents, calmly and quietly eating their lunch. What the heck’s wrong with OUR kids?!

When we finally made it home, we were so traumatized we didn’t leave the house again for days. Until I decided to take everybody to the pool.

If only I hadn’t insisted on stopping by the post office first. If only Miles hadn’t worn flip-flips. If only I hadn’t asked him to open the heavy, metal-edged door so I could push the stroller through. Maybe then he wouldn’t have sliced off the top of his toe and launched a medical emergency right there in the middle of the post office.

The place looked like a crime scene by the time I’d quieted my son’s screams and rustled up a band-aid. And no one came to our aid, in case you’re wondering. Except for the nice guy who offered Miles a mailing label as an award for bravery. No pool for us. It was off to the doctor’s instead.

I won’t get into the ice cream outing that ended with a preschooler fistfight. Suffice it to say, we’re staying home and watching TV for the rest of the summer.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Pick a pediatrician you really, really love. I interviewed 3 before my first baby was born. If you’ve got kids like mine, you may see way more of their doctor than your own spouse.


Is Dr. Phil Off-Base?

You know I love my O magazine. So naturally, I dove into it the minute it arrived yesterday. When I got to Dr. Phil’s column, though, this Q&A brought me up short. It hits pretty close to home:

Q: My husband and I have two sons, ages 2 and 4. When our oldest was born, we agreed that I would be the primary caregiver until our children reached school age. I am a freelance Web designer and work from home, but it’s impossible to advance my career when I’m running after two boys all day, so I’d like to return to a full-time office gig.

My husband hates the idea of our kids in daycare (I’m not crazy about it, either), and he’s upset that I want to back out of our deal. He promised to be more hands-on with the children on weekends to give me time to work, but his job is 24/7 and he’s always exhausted. Can we strike a better balance?

A: You made a deal. You can’t back out just because you’ve changed your mind. Either bear down and stick it out until your youngest reaches kindergarten, or try to renegotiate. If your husband won’t alter the terms of your agreement, be willing to keep your word – but explain that he has to keep his when it comes to weekend childcare.

Most important, optimize your circumstances within the confines of the deal. During the week, free up blocks of time for you to work at home or in a nearby coffee shop by arranging activities for the children under the supervision of trusted adults. I understand that neither of you is totally comfortable leaving the kids with others, but everything from parenting message boards to GPS tracking devices has made it easier to rest assured that your kids are safe and well looked after. Do your research, plan accordingly, and bloom where you’re planted.

# # #

Moms – WAHMs, SAHMs, and everything in between – what are your thoughts?

Personally, I found his answer a little harsh and off-base. He makes it sound like they signed a pre-nup in blood, for one thing. I have a similar “deal” with my husband, but it’s not like we hammered out a 7-page agreement and had it notarized. It’s a marriage, not a business deal.

And who says you’re not allowed to change your mind? Especially, I’d add, AFTER you get a sense of the real demands of raising two little boys. I had all kinds of preconceived notions and misconceptions and flat-out delusions about kids before I had them.

For instance, I pictured myself reading the Sunday paper and drinking coffee while my baby played quietly with wooden blocks on the floor. I certainly did NOT imagine I’d be fighting to keep my eyes open at 5:30 a.m. when the baby woke up, having run out of coffee and not had a chance to get to the store, while he shredded and chewed on the newspaper and threw blocks at my head.

Also, the “arranging activities for the children”? There’s no mention of cost, and I happen to know that every preschool activity in our area costs a minimum of $100 a session. And she’d probably have to find different activities for each kid, given the age difference. And who’s going to drive them and pick them up?

And lastly, the thing about GPS tracking devices? Huh?! Like you should install one on your kid and then go, from the coffee shop, “Oh, look, there goes my 2-y.o. running down a major thoroughfare. At least I know where he is!”? That makes no sense to me.

I’ve daydreamed about daycare, too. And I know that this is a complex issue that deserves WAY more than a 150-word answer. So I’ve got some recommended reading for you, Dr. Phil:

This is what raising a small boy is really like. You never know whether it’s going to be a good day or a bad day.

Being a full-time SAHM or part-time WAHM or whatever you want to call it is a HUGE adjustment. So much so that I wrote about my evolution as a new mom, Part I and Part II.

And THIS is what life as a WAHM is really like.

It’s not quite as simple as setting up some activities and getting GPS, now, is it?


Mysteries of the Universe

Motherhood is a mysterious business. Every day, you are confronted with quandaries and dilemmas and enigmas. Like, how can a baby eat more than a full-grown adult? And why does the poop shoot upward out the back of the diaper when the baby's sitting up?

I have a long list of these mysteries of the universe, a list that keeps growing along with my children. Read some I wrote down shortly after my first baby was born at TheBump.com:


Almost Like a Real Vacation

You’ll all be relieved to hear that we eventually rustled up an “African Dreams” CD, so we were not subjected to Christmas lullabies throughout our entire vacation. Just most of it.

And yes, I used the word “vacation” to describe our week away with 2 small kids. Not “trip” or “familial obligation” or “culturally sanctioned prison camp.” In fact, it might actually have been the closest thing to a real vacation since we had kids. Were it not for my 16-m.o., that is.

See, Riley’s a bit, shall we say, “high-maintenance.” Also high-energy, high-spirited, and high-volume. Good thing he’s a decent sleeper, or none of us would have survived this long. At least you can tell yourself that if you can just make it till 1 p.m., and then to 7:30 p.m., you might get a break.

But in between, watch out. I think my dad put it best when he said Riley’s like the Gerber baby on steroids. He may look like a sweet little cherub in a diaper, but turn your back for a second and he’s launching himself off the coffee table or rappelling up a barstool. Or tipping over chairs and hurling golf balls at the dog. Or emptying out the contents of the kitchen cabinets and balancing on top of an overturned spaghetti pot.

If we only had Miles, it would have been a semi-relaxing vacation. 4 is a good age. On the long car ride he amused himself with his handheld video game, art projects, and DVDs. He spent most of his time at my in-laws swimming in the pool and playing board games with his cousins. He can tell you when he’s thirsty or hot or tired (although he admits that rarely). He even went to the fireworks this year – and then fell asleep before the grand finale.

And then there’s Riley. He did OK in the car. We mostly kept him amused with endless snacks and kids’ CDs. He also kept busy by pulling his brother’s hair and playing tug-of-war with his blanket. But he was up EVERY SINGLE MORNING at 5:30 a.m. He manhandled my MIL’s knick-knacks, took every framed picture he could reach off her shelves, pulled up a loose floorboard that nobody knew was loose, squeezed through the deck railing, and even managed to fall through a narrow gap between the deck and a fence, where he remained stuck and screaming for 5 long seconds. (He’s fine.)

The definition of a vacation changes drastically when you have kids, there’s no question. Anxiety increases; expectations are lowered. When we were single, C. and I traveled to the Caribbean. At one place we stayed, they ran out of water temporarily, so we couldn’t take our post-beach, pre-dinner showers. Boo frickin’ hoo, right? What a crisis.

This vacation was a little different. I spent July 4 sitting home watching “When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story” while Riley slept and everyone else went to the fireworks. Our “date night,” as it were, was grabbing lunch near the hospital when C. and I went to visit his dad, who’s recovering from complications from chemo. When we got to my parents’ for a couple days’ stay, an epic heat wave struck the Northeast and the beach was loaded with jellyfish. And did I mention they don’t have AC?

And yet, it was a good week. We got to see our families and did most of the stuff we usually do on vacation – swam, went to the beach, played mini golf, got ice cream, ate lobster, and argued over whose turn in was to get up with the baby.

The baby, who could usually be found bench-pressing an antique lamp or crushing someone’s sunglasses with his bare hands.

QUOTE O’ THE WEEK: “Grandpa? Did you ever go to Target?”
–Miles, who believes there’s only one Target in the world and that everyone should know about this prime destination


Christmas in July

Ah, family vacations. What’s not to love? You spend 3 days doing laundry, packing everybody up, and making lists upon lists. (Swim diapers? Check! Inhaler? Check! Extra wipes and plastic placemats? Check, check!) Then you pile in the car, set off, and immediately discover you forgot several crucial items.

Like, say, the car charger for the portable DVD player and the lullaby CDs -– items which are your only CHANCE for surviving a 7+ hour drive with 2 small children.

We set off last night after dinner, naively hoping that the kids would fall asleep in the car. Around 10 p.m., the baby finally nodded off – almost 3 HOURS past his normal bedtime! And that was only because we finally rustled up a “Baby’s First Noel” CD from the depths of the glove box. “Away in a manger…”

The 4 y.o. fought off sleep thanks to his new handheld video game that he’s already obsessed with after only 3 days. Goodbye, active childhood; hello ADD and childhood obesity! Anyway, it kept him busy.

Good thing, because we got lost somewhere in New Jersey trying to find our hotel and ended up going 10 miles out of our way on a road that did not allow any U-turns or left turns, and probably would have ended up in Canada if it weren’t for a kind police officer who led us to a “jug handle,” which is apparently New Jersey for “the only friggin’ way to turn around on our endless one-way roads.” “Silent night, holy night…”

We finally found the hotel, which was a fairly swanky boutique hotel that C. found on Priceline. We carry in our groggy, pajama-clad offspring, who promptly become fully alert and begin to sprint around the room. We finally wrestle them into bed, deciding that 1 kid and 1 parent per bed is the best arrangement. “It came upon a midnight clear…”

C. had the pleasure of sharing a bed with Riley, whose nocturnal acrobatics led to a less-than-restful night’s sleep. While I, in the other bed, was kicked repeatedly in the ribs by Kung-Fu Miles. At 6 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the baby woke us all with his clarion voice. Then we discovered we’d carried both kids in barefoot from the car. So our shoeless hooligans ran screeching through the halls on our way out. Hmm, wonder why the concierge didn’t say they look forward to our next stay?

We were back on the road by 8:30 a.m., sure that the kids would pass out from exhaustion and donuts. By 11 a.m., we had resorted to “These 3 Kings.”

When we FINALLY arrived at my in-laws’, the baby was rested enough to get right to work proving just how un-babyproof their house is. He dismantled a baby gate, got hold of a loose screw, found a pin buried in the carpet, knocked over some china figurines, and chewed on a plug in under 5 minutes.

Now it’s naptime -– I mean, what SHOULD be naptime. But instead, Riley has been screaming in the Pack ‘n’ Play upstairs in a too-bright bedroom for 40 min. Time to bring out the big guns. That’s right: “Have yourselves a Merry little Christmas now…”

Related Posts with Thumbnails