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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Grinch Who Stole Santa

Why is it that Santa always seems so much better from afar?
In talking about going to see Santa, the child jumps up and down and chatters on with delight. “Let’s go! Let’s go! See Santa!”
And then the reality sets in. Slowly.
Even standing in line, the child still seems excited and restless. “When will it be my turn?!”
When Santa gets up from his throne to take a water break, the child worries. “Where is he going?! Is he coming back?”
And Santa does come back. (The parent wonders: why not keep a bottle of water by your throne? But perhaps water is just a buzz word for potty).
Finally, after a nearly 45 minute wait, it is the child’s turn.
By that time, close up, Santa isn’t looking so hot.
“Go sweetie,” we tell the child. We even push a bit.
“Go tell Santa what you want.”
The child walks up to Santa stunned.
And why shouldn’t he be stunned?!
Santa is a stranger.
Santa is old.

I remember my mother trying to get me to visit Santa in his house at the local shopping center. I was young; maybe three or four, and I remember crying in terror. Yes, terror. I did not want to go in his house. "But he'll give you a candy cane," she'd say. I'd cry some more.
Looking back, I always thought it was because I was Jewish. Maybe Jews are inherently scared of Santa or something.
Then, however, I had children of my own. Children who are only half-Jewish. And they too, seem to be frightened of Santa.

“Now get on Santa’s lap, honey, and smile,” we tell the child.
He approaches cautiously. Skeptically.
He refuses to get on Santa’s lap.
“What do you want for Christmas?” Santa bends down and asks him.
“A computer,” he whispers.
“Now turn around and look at the camera!” we yell at the child.
He turns. He stares at the camera with a blank look on his face. “Smile!” we yell. But he won’t. At least he’s not screaming and crying this year, we think. Progress.

So, I wonder, are these visits to Santa really worth it? Do we risk scarring our children by forcing them to come face to face with an overweight, elderly stranger? Look at me, for instance. I’m over 40 and I still can’t eat a candy cane.
Isn’t it better to just put the cookies out and imagine Santa coming from afar in the dark of night when we won’t have to talk to him or sit on his lap? Sure, I sound like a Grinch, but what do you think??

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Snowy Day - updated and revised

Author Ezra Jack Keats published his classic children's book the Snowy Day in 1962. It begins "One morning Peter work up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see."
This is about the point where Keat's version of events digresses from my own. The following line reads "After breakfast he put on his snowsuit and ran outside."
Did he actually put on his own snow suit? Was it really that simple that he just ran outside?! I don't know who this Peter kid is, but he's nothing like my kids.
Ladies and Gentleman, here is my updated version of A Snowy Day based on the events of this past Sunday:

One almost-winter morning Ethan and Jonas woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as they could see.
"MOMMY! DADDY! Wake up!! It snowed! Let's shovel!!"
It was 6:30am.
Ethan and Jonas cried to go outside. They gathered their snowsuits, boots, hats and gloves from the closet and scattered everything throughout the kitchen, living room and hallway. "We're ready!" Ethan screamed.
Unfortunately, their mommy and daddy were not. They were still in bed. "Come on...!" Ethan screamed. "GET UP!"
Eventually, mommy and daddy did. Eventually, they had some coffee and much to the children's delight, began getting ready to go outside.
Mommy and daddy gathered up the snowsuits, boots, hats and gloves, which were scattered everywhere. Of course, they couldn't find one glove and mommy said "God damn it!"
"What did you say?" Ethan asked.
"Oh..nothing Let's go outside and have some fun!"
On went the snowsuits. On went the boots. On went the hats and jackets. Off came a jacket.
"I dont' want to wear it," Ethan whined.
"You have to wear your jacket," mommy said.
"But it ruuuuuuuubbbbs...."
"It's neck. I don't want to wear it."
"You have to wear it."
"Then I'm just going to wear it like this." He draped it around his shoulders like a shawl.
"Fine," mommy said, annoyed.
The gloves came next. Mommy tried to make them wear the waterproof ones, explaining how the kind they preferred, the regular kind, would make their hands wet and cold. Nobody was having it. Mommy tried to get the nice waterproof Land's End gloves she had purchased for Jonas on his hands but they were too big and simply slid off. "God damn it!" Mommy said again.
"Let's goooooo" Ethan whined.
Mommy gathered several different types of gloves for the boys to take outside, just in case. Daddy grabbed the camera and finally, after 20 minutes of preparing, off they went to the front yard for fun fun fun.
Ethan shoveled briefly with his kid shovel and Jonas found a large stick, which he dragged across the snow and then used to poke his brother in the leg.
"Ouch!" Ethan yelled, then swung his shovel in his brother's direction.
"Let's make a snowman!" Daddy cried, hoping to distract them. He started rolling a snowball. The boys tried to help him, but their hands were cold. Out came the gloves. Ethan was agreeable this time, putting on his waterproof mittens, which thankfully fit. Mommy tried Jonas's again but they fell to the ground and he cried and refused to try any other pairs.
"I'm hungry mommy," he said.
Moments later Ethan said "I'm cold, I want to go inside."
"What?" Mommy and Daddy said. "But we're building a snowman! This is FUN!"
"I want to go inside! Ethan whined again. "Let's goooooooooo."
Ethan cried, then Jonas followed.
"PIck me up mummy," Jonas said.
"I'm cold!" Ethan whined again. "God Damn it."
Mommy and Daddy looked at each other. They hoped the neighbors would not hear all this. Then mommy wondered Is there something wrong with my children that they can't have fun in the snow? She was pleased when she saw another father and his son across the way and the father was saying to his boy in frustration "You said you wanted to go on your scooter! Now ride your scooter or we're going home!" The boy was crying. This made mommy feel better and less alone.
In the end, mommy and daddy quickly finished the snowman as Ethan cried from behind the door to the foyer. Daddy took some pictures and then they all went inside, everyone frazzled, and had some hot cocoa.
"That was fun," Ethan said as he sipped his drink.
Mommy looked at him in wonder, forced a smile and prayed it would not snow again until next December.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bye Bye Sadie

My mother-in-law’s dog died this weekend. It wasn’t a shock, but it was a surprise nonetheless. Sadie was ill for some time, but we had just seen her two weeks ago and she seemed to be doing OK. With her passing occurring just before Thanksgiving, the first thing I thought when I heard she had died was “The boys will be so sad.” Then “What will we tell them?”

But it also dawned on me that I am sad. We always go to my mother-in-law’s house for holidays, and Sadie is always there, waiting for scraps from the table or a good belly rub. She was a part of our family. I can remember when she was just a puppy; back when I was just my husband’s girlfriend. She had spunk then. She’d run around, driven by all that puppy energy, just like a furry toddler. Give her a toy, like the stuffed monkey or mailman dolls we picked up for her, and she’d tear it to shreds in no time at all. Yes, she had mellowed, as most of us do as we age. And then her illness sapped even more energy, but with the help of my mother-in-law, she hung in there.

Some folks say “Well, it’s just a dog.” But typically the attachment goes much deeper than that. No doubt animals, dogs in particular, often make better companions than humans. They’re loyal. They’re goofy without self-consciousness, making us laugh and smile. They’re warm, and like to cuddle.

So this is my little goodbye tribute to Sadie. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, thanks for bringing joy to our lives. You will surely be missed.(and if anyone has tips for what to tell the boys, please let me know!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Julie and Amy (and poop)

So last weekend I actually went to the movies with a friend. We saw Julie and Julia. Although I really enjoyed the movie, I couldn't shake this negative feeling I was having toward Julie, the main character. At first I wasn't sure why I disliked her so, but then it dawned on me: I was jealous. Julie wanted to be a "real" writer. And so do I. Only thing is is that Julie's dream came true...the book and then, even more astounding, the movie! I couldn't help thinking why her and not me?

Some of the reasons are obvious. For one, I hate cooking. And my timing is off. Julie caught the blogging buzz early while I came to it after everyone and their mother and grandmother started doing it. Finally, Julie had no kids at the time she launched her cooking adventure, while I have two of them. In other words, I'm probably screwed.

Still, I've been thinking about this. Maybe all it takes is a good idea. Maybe that's really all that sets me and miss Julie apart, and holds the key to my book and movie deal.
So, here it is. My good idea (And free to tell me what you think...not that anyone is actually reading this):
I will start a blog about re-potty training my son.
I'll post daily and tell everyone how it's going. Then, after the buzz takes off maybe some NY Times or Wall Street Journal reporter will want to come over and write a story about us. Oh, and I'll parallel my life with the life story of the great Mrs. Fyodor Vassilyev of Shuya, Russia, in the 1700s. Perhaps you've heard of her? She had 69 children ...the most children born to any woman ever. Imagine how much potty training she had to do?! I'm sure it will make for some very juicy narrative. Probably more juicy than watching someone murder innocent lobsters and dissect dead ducks, don't you think?
Anyway, wish me luck!

Poop - the Sequel

It was an act of desperation. Normally, I prefer not to ask for help. I don't like to air my dirty laundry (in this case literal dirty laundry) to others if I can avoid it. But the time had come for getting some advice.
You see, after successfully bribing Ethan to pee and poop on the potty, we were regressing. At first I thought it was a fluke, but as pooping in his underwear became an almost daily, if not twice daily, occurence, I sensed the problem was more serious than I originally thought.
So I posted the following cry for help on the local parent's list: Poop; the sequel PLEASE HELP! Then I described the problem, and waited for the wisdom to come trickling in.

But let me digress for a moment. My relationship with poop wasn't always this bad. In the beginning , I remember poop being more of a wondrous affair. How happy we were when the miconium, the first poop, arrived! How adorable it was when Jonas would grunt in the library or the grocery store to announce that his next poop was coming! But alas, those days are long gone. I have reached poop saturation. I knew this for certain when I had a dream recently in which I stumbled upon a locker room covered in crap. I don't think you have to be Sigmund Freud to diagnose my problem.

Fortunately, the good and wise folk of the Arlington parent's list came to my rescue. The responses to my cry for help did not just come trickling in - they came pouring in! It seems Ethan's poopy problem was a common one, and one that people wanted to talk about. Most parents, it seemed, were against punishing for "accidents." Although there were a couple who proposed that I make my son actually wash the shit out of his underwear.
"Just have him wring it out in the toilet," one mom wrote. "I did this with my son and he never pooped in his underwear again!"
At first this seemed like a novel and promising idea. Then I rememberd how much my son likes to clean things; how he begs to wash the dishes, or play with the spray bottle, or pretend to mop the kitchen. With my luck, he'd probably love washing out his underwear so much that he'd poop in them even more.

Some moms asked if Ethan might be constipated. Others wondered if there was something stressful at home that could be causing the problem and I of course deleted those emails immediately. The majority of folks, however, agreed that this was just a normal phase, and one best treated with patience and bribes. The mom who most convinced me that positive reinforcement was the answer was the one who sent her five year old to potty school. She wrote, "The folks there said never, EVER punish your child for not going on the potty."
This was straight from the mouth of a potty school graduate's mom. Who was I to question her?

So, as of this morning, Ethan's potty chart is back on the refrigerator. And I am happy to report that this afternoon Ethan completed the deed on the potty. In return, he got two chocolate kisses, a Bob the Builder sticker and several high fives and hugs from his mom.
Shortly after he said to me, "Mommy, I like going on the potty because it makes you really happy."
Ah...if only that were enough.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Envy

Listen all you crafty mamas out's time to stop. Stop whipping up these elaborate outfits with your nifty little crafty magic fingers. No more homemade ladybugs, creatures from Finding Nemo (saw this one at Ethan's daycare yesterday...the kid had a light bulb coming off an antannae on his head...his parents are engineers I think), made from scratch dinosaurs or pretty princesses. There's a reason big companies manufacture Halloween costumes - so we will buy them! And right now, with the economy the way it is, we must buy buy buy our costumes! Heed the call, ladies!

OK. Yes, I admit. None of this really has anything to do with the economy. It's just that, well, I could not make a Halloween costume if my life depended on it. Crafty I am not (although i can talk like Yoda).

Every year, as Halloween looms closer, my stress level rises. I don't want to spend money on a costume, but I know that trying to make costumes is just not in the cards due to lack of time and artistic ability. Ethan's first Halloween I ran out and bought a kangaroo costume last minute and even that didn't go so well. Everyone thought he was a bear. Come on people! I thought. Do bears carry their young in pockets on their bellies??
This year, my husband took the lead and tried to save us some money by being crafty. He pulled out some old white sheets, cut them down and attempted to make some eye holes so the children could be ghosts. It was a decent attempt ( and he's quite sensitive about it so I won't go on about the lopsided eyeholes and the way the boys nearly tripped over themselves due to the length of the sheets).
But when it came time to dress up for their school's halloween party yesterday, nobody wanted to be a ghost. What then would we do? I pulled out the old costumes - the fireman, the turtle donated by our neighbors next door, the construction worker. But they refused.
"Mama, Justin's going to be a transformer," Ethan said.
I wasn't sure why he was telling me this. We were running late and I started to lose patience snapping "You have all these great pick one out! There are chcildren all over the world who are starving for Halloween costumes!"
Ethan looked at me blankly. Then he started to cry, which made me feel awful. Which made me, during my lunch break, get crafty with my credit card, scooping up a Buzz LightYear costume and a Super Why costume at Toys R Us for Ethan to choose from.

So again, as fate will have it, there will be no homemade costumes for our family this year. And I will rave about your homemade this or that, "How did you do that? WOW"...swallowing my envy along with too many piece of candy.

Happy Halloween everyone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Excuse me Disney, but my kids ARE genuises

Can you believe the nerve of the Disney company? They want to give me my money back for the Baby Einstein videos I purchased to turn my babies into genuises. Why are they assuming that these videos, such as Classical Baby, Baby MacDonald on the Farm, and my kids favorite,the Baby Wordsworth video "First Words around the House" with the cat puppet and Marlee Matlin doing the words in sign language, failed to turn my babies into genuises?!

Of course they worked! My children, now ages 3 1/2 and 2, are genuises thank you very much. Why just this morning, when I told Ethan, my 3 1/2 year old, that his breath was awful, he was smart enough to blow it in my face off and on for 45 minutes! How would he have known to do that had he not spent his early, most impressionable days plopped in front of the TV watching Baby Einstein videos for hours on end? And what about Jonas? Don't try to tell me that Baby Einstein had nothing to do with his ability to refer to the lines in my forehead as "train tracks?!" Pure genuis, I tell you. I'm a published writer and I could never have come up with such a perfet metaphor! But then again, I was a baby in the late sixties and seventies when there was no Baby Einstein.

For insinuating that my children are not genuises, I think Disney should not just reimburse me for their videos, but also pay my mortgage for six months and send Mickey Mouse to clean my house once a month. Otherwise when my genuises grow up and become high-powered lawyers, look out.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Are These People Trying to Tell Me Something?

This morning I went to have my eyebrows waxed. Yes, I have hairy eyebrows, but that is not what this blog post is about. The moment I laid down on the table and shut my eyes, the esthetician said, “You have a lot going on right now, don’t you?” Was she psychic or something?

“How did you know?” I said.

“It’s your energy....,” she said. “You must be tired.”

Boy, had she hit the nail on the head. I was just thinking this morning about how I’d gone and fallen in the hole again. The hole was a metaphor that Dr. K, a couple’s therapist my husband and I used to see, would use for us. It seemed we were always falling in the same holes; fighting over the same things. What we needed to do was learn to see the hole coming and step around it, something we are still trying to master.

In my own life, the hole I’m trying to avoid is taking on too much. But I can’t seem to help myself. Besides the regular activities of my part-time job, taking care of the kids, my writing, and trying to maintain some sanity, I recently committed myself to an online class called StilletoBootcamp, joined a community service committee in my town, and decided to start this blogging thing. Oy.

This habit is nothing new. After having my first child, I decided to try teaching for the first time. I would stay up until 3am preparing for class as I had terrible stage fright, and then the baby would wake me at oh, 4 or 4:30 am and I’d walk into my 8am freshman comp class ten minutes late, barely awake. This lasted for about two months, when I just couldn’t sustain it any more. I wrote an email to the dean, “Can you please try to find me a replacement?” I asked. They did. I chalked it up to something I’d try again later, when life was more under control.

But I’m beginning to wonder if my life will ever be under control. And do I really want it to be? Maybe I simply like all this fast pace and pressure. Although it would be nice to have a little more balance.

At the time I was teaching and juggling my new baby, I went to see a new eye doctor. The eye doctor was an elderly gentlemen, maybe in his early 70’s, with a Kennedy-esque accent. What struck me most about him, however, was his office. With its brown panelling and simple furnishings, it looked like it hadn’t been update since 1965. His demeanour struck me too; he was so calm and unlike most more doctors, he took a full hour to get to know me and do my eye exam. Although i felt ancy to get out of there because, of course, there was so much to do, I did appreciate the attention. And he made a comment to me that I always go back to:

“Simplify,” he said. “That’s what we need to do to enjoy life.”

I suppose the fact that he was my eye doctor was what infused that comment with such meaning. Believe me, I read things about simplifying all the any women’s magazine and they’ll tell you the same thing. But when it comes from your eye doctor (or your eyebrow esthetician for that manner) one can’t help but think “how wise”...or at least I can’t help but think that. Eye doctors are all about perception, and vision and the way we see things. So I always go back to this: simplify, Amy.

I haven’t done it yet, of course, but I’ve heard awareness is the first step to change. Forgot who told me that one. Maybe it was my hairdresser.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Really...they get older and I'm responsible for them?

One of my most memorable new mommy group moments was when one of the new mommy's expressed her amazement that yes, her baby will keep getting older and yes, she will be taking care of him for a long, long time. Her comment floored me because, guess what? That thought never crossed my mind either. Having a baby at 36 was more of an experiment...I wanted to know what it was like to give birth, and to love a child. Well, a baby. At least that was as far as I got into thinking about it. There was so much to worry about with just taking care of a baby for the first time; how to feed, bathe, clothe, and properly hold one, for instance. Honestly, I never thought past the first six months.
But as life would have it, thankfully, my children have continued to grow and thrive. Well, sort of thrive. Today I had the pleasure of taking them to their joint three year and 18 month check up. Seems my children are a little on the small side. My three year old in particular. The way the pediatrician--a man my kids call "Dr. Penguin" because his last name sounds like penguin and not because he looks like one--put it was "About 98 percent of kids his age are bigger than him."
"Hmm," I said. "Well, he doesn't look that small."
"He's all muscle," Dr. Penguin said, "No fat."
For a 35 year old woman that's a good thing, I suppose. But for a 3 year old boy? What if it continues? Would he be picked easy target?Was it my fault because I'm not much of a chef? Because i don't make us all sit down at the same time and eat dinner together? Because I sometimes go for days and forget to offer him something new? Or because I was the one who got him to try peanut butter, a milestone we were both very happy about, until he broke out in hives and had to be taken in an amublance (just a precaution) to the ER?
In the pediatrician's office, we went over what E eats, his basic menu consisting of: yogurt, blueberries, bananas, mac and cheese, cheese, the occassional cottage cheese, crackers, cookies, chocolate, and "apple doo doo."
E was the one who slipped that one out.
"What's apple doo doo?" Dr. Penguin asked.
"It's apple sweet potato," I explained. "Baby food."
"Wow, he's 3 and he's still eating baby food...huh."
Ok, now I felt stupid.
"Well, at least it's fruit and vegetable," I said. "And the doo doo just came about because he couldn't pronounce sweet potato."
Dr. Penguin smiled.
"Does he eat any meat?"
"Nope. Won't try any." I shrugged.
At that moment, Ethan asked for a snack. "I'm huuuuuuungry mommy," he said, trying to break into my backpack.
I pulled out a large sandwich bag with two rice cakes inside. Both of my boys started panting like dogs waiting for a table scrap.
"Who wants a rice cake??" I asked, only then realizing what this must look like to Dr. Penguin who immediatley commented:
"A nice, no calorie treat, huh? Rice cakes?
"Oh, yeah...well, these are actually mine," I said. "They just like them so I share."
There was a short, uncomfotable pause and then Dr. Penguin asked, "How about you? Have you lost weight? You look thinner...your face."
Well that's a weird thing for your kid's pediatrician to ask you, I thought.
"Sure, I've lost weight since I had my kids," I joked.
What was he getting at? was he trying to guage if I have an eating disorder and as a result, not feeding my children well either?
"I'm on a gluten sensitive diet," I said, as though that explained everything.
Fortunately, we moved on after that.
Tonight at dinner time, however, I came on strong trying to get E to try something new. In exchange for one bite of something new (my suggestions included such traditional kids favorite as grilled cheese or pizza), I would give him M&Ms as well as a surprise present, a toy (I had a stash of small toys in my car in preparation for potty training bribing). A lot of parenting, I'm slowly learning, revolves around bribery.
But E wouldn't have any of it. "Not even one little bite to see if you like it?" I begged. He shook his head defiantly.
I threw my hands up in frustration, as though the weight of the world, his world, was on my shoulders. How will I get him to use the potty? To give up his pacy? To eat something new? It was all too much. Too much reponsibilty for one day.
I made him his favorite Annie's Mac and Cheese with a little apple doo doo and called it a day. Maybe tomorrow I'll try again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

While we're on the subject of monkeys...

Did you hear about the study regarding male monkeys and toy preference by researchers in Emory University's Department of Psychology? If not, here's a bit about it:

We compared the interactions of 34 rhesus monkeys, living within a 135 monkey troop, with human wheeled toys and plush toys. Male monkeys, like boys, showed consistent and strong preferences for wheeled toys, while female monkeys, like girls, showed greater variability in preferences. Thus, the magnitude of preference for wheeled over plush toys differed significantly between males and females. The similarities to human findings demonstrate that such preferences can develop without explicit gendered socialization. We offer the hypothesis that toy preferences reflect hormonally influenced behavioral and cognitive biases which are sculpted by social processes into the sex differences seen in monkeys and humans.

This was amazing to me. I remember someone at my baby shower (for my first baby) giving me books about trucks. I knew I was having a boy, but still, my first thought was: Yuck. I mean, who wants to read a book that simply shows a picture of a truck on every page...Dump Truck, Digger, Cement Mixer? The woman who gave it to me was already the mom of two young boys and she wrote in her card, "My boys love these!" I thought: 'Well mine won't.'

I always assumed that the differences between boys and girls was more nature than nurture. That society and advertising and our parents shaped our preferences and behavior. Well, lo and behold, then I had my first boy. I was floored when, at quite a young age, he started pointing to trucks and buses on the street. I certainly wasn't getting excited about them, so he wasn't learning that behavior from me. Nope, it was 100% innate. His first word was actually truck (pronounced with a c, however,since he had not yet mastered 'tr'). Interestingly, his second word was ball, so we had a few moments where we'd be walking down the street and he'd suddenly shout out "Cock!" followed by "Ball!" But that's another story.

All and all it has opened my eyes - the way that E, without any outside influence whatsoever, has gravitated toward standard boy toys. Although he still likes trucks, tools have taken over as his toy of choice. And his little brother is following in his footsteps. I have no problem with this whatsoever, nor would I have any problem if they wanted to play with Barbie dolls. Whatever makes them happy. In fact, the thing that makes them happy right now happens to be a Minnie Mouse doll that came with a box of Rice Krispies. They fought over it so much that we had to keep buying Kellogg's cereal until we got another Minnie Mouse. Now they take their little Minnies anywhere they go, a blow to male stereotypes everywhere! Just yesterday at the doctor's office a father had to confirm with me that it was Minnie, and not Mickey, they were carrying. I smiled and said "Yep, Minnie," while thinking "You got a problem with that??"

One last thing: to the friend who bought me those truck books for my shower: Nice job, and we thank you from the bottom of our gender-neutral hearts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Monkey business

Here is a headline I read the other day: CT Woman had Unusual Relationship With Chimp.
Can any human have a "usual" relationship with a chimp? And hadn't we heard all about the weirdness of their relationship for a couple of days? We already knew how police had to shoot the animal after he attacked the woman's friend. We already knew that she loved her chimp like a son; That she slept with him at night, and let him brush her hair. I'm sorry, but did I somehow miss the unusual part of the relationship before this new headline/story came out?

Now don't get my wrong. I like chimps and monkeys. For several years, as a working adult at an advertising agency, I had a monkey puppet in my office. Yes, our relationship could also be labeled unusual. For me, it was love at first sight at a toy store in the mall. I had to have him. I named him Monkey, and although I hugged and talked to him, I never, ever, slept with him, or let him brush my hair. Once I came into my office to find the outline of a monkey body in masking tape on the rug; a ransom note on my desk. I was in despair until I found him a few days later, shoved into the company microwave. Fortunately he was unharmed.

As far as real monkeys, however, I'm not too excited about nuzzling up to them. I met some on a beach in Costa Rica and they were a little noisy and aggressive. They liked to steal food from tourists and they pooped everywhere. Not my idea of a good house pet, but hey, to each their own, right?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Worst Idea Ever?

I can't help but think that taking my kids to Trader Joe's after a long day at daycare falls into the Worst Idea Ever category. Really. I had reservations going into it, a strong feeling in my gut. A smarter woman may have just brought her exhausted children straight home and called it a day. But no. I just had to have fresh blueberries and another box of gluten free Gorilla Munch cereal.

If you've ever been to a Trader Joe's, you know that some of their stores cater to kids. The one we go to in Burlington, Mass. features little kids shopping carts and a play area with a bus that my 18 month old goes crazy for. The first time we discovered both of these items we were all very excited. Shopping could now be more than just a chore, I thought, but a playful experience for all of us! Ah, the good times we would have together, with E pushing around his little cart and J being a perfect angel just sitting and smiling in the front seat of my shopping cart, enjoying the ride. I think this actually happened. Once.

Of course, this was not at all what happened last night. Last night we had a coup d'etat . Instead of sitting peacefully in mommy's cart, j insisted on driving his own cart. Not good. At 19 months old, most kids do not have great cart control and his kept crashing into things (fortunately no people) including a large box of clementines, which then went scattering in various directions across the floor. Perhaps it's important to note here that I am not one who likes being the center of attention. I'm perfectly happy to be all but invisible at the grocery store, or anywhere, for that matter. But now, with one child screaming and clementines rolling like pool balls just after a break, all eyes were on me.

"Let's do this quickly, guys," I whispered to my children. I began literally racing around the store, grabbing milk, yogurt, raisins, coffee (I highly recommend Trader Joe's coffee, by the way, if you're looking for a new brand). Then we hit the aisle with the school bus. To understand what is so wonderful about this bus, you must understand that it is open on one end so children can sit inside and play driver. On the other side, where the hood would be, is a train table. Even I have to admit, that's pretty cool. And if the bus wasn't enough, the folks at Trader Joe's had gone and added a play kitchen complete with fake stove and sink to the area. Witnessing my boys stumble upon this combination of bus and now new play kitchen was akin to seeing two weary travelers spot the ocean after walking miles through the desert. Pure joy.

"Five minutes," I said, and let them loose.

But five minutes turned into ten and it was now 7pm. "Two more minutes," I announced, hovering over the bus.
"But I don't want to go home," E whined.

"Yes, but we have to…daddy is waiting for us. It's getting late."

When their two minutes were up, no one was coming home without a fight. J tried to steal a fake telephone, and when I made him put it down, E picked it up.

"You can't take that," I said. "Please put it back."

"Why?" He asked.

"Because it's not yours."

"But I waaaaaant it."

"Sorry, but it's got to go back."

This is when he took off, running around the store with the phone in his hand. I put J in the cart with my shopping bags and told E we were going to leave without him. Now, I don't know if you're "allowed" to do that or not, but it's a threat that almost always seems to work. Of course I would never really leave without him, but as long as he thinks I would, that's all that matters.

As I got closer to the store exit, E inched toward me, but still refused to leave or put down the telephone he was trying to steal. I knew he was challenging me. I swooped him up and held him like a football under my arm (someone recommended this to me) but he squirmed and screamed so much that I had to put him down. Now everyone on the checkout line was staring at us, but fortunately most were women and I read sympathy in their collective gaze.

"We're leaving now," I said again, this time going so far as to walk out the front door. He followed, but was still screaming, nearly hyperventilating, for most of the ride home.

I cannot tell you how many times, as a mother, I've thought 'now this is a really bad idea'…yet done it anyway. Some days parenting feels like nothing more than an endless stream of really bad ideas, going back to the very idea to even become a parent. Or perhaps I'm just blowing a few bad occasions out of proportion. I think of a class I went to recently on parenting. The instructor talked quite a bit about temperaments, and how life with kids will run a whole lot smoother if you bend your own temperament to accommodate theirs (since their moods and temperaments, as all mothers know, are a lot less flexible). I interpret this to mean despite what you, the parent, wants to do, try to tune into your child's mood, and what they want or even more importantly need to do, including go home and go to sleep. I didn't think much of it at time she pointed it out, but perhaps it's not such a bad idea.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tina Torture

Ok, so another person told me I look like Tina Fey today. This should be a compliment, right? I mean, alot of men think Tina's hot...and here i am at 40, a working mother with a three year old and a 19 month old. I could be compared to much, much worse.
But none of this is really about Tina's looks. It's more that, well, I was supposed be Tina.
You see, I was supposed to write for Saturday Night Live. I was supposed to be hanging out with the likes of Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Not her! I was the one who sent in a truly revolutionary idea for a skit to SNL when I was ten years old. In my letter I wrote, "You have a family with big heads (the coneheads), why not a family with big noses??" I then proceeded to draw this big-nosed family, all of whom I'm now convinced appear to have penises in the middle of their faces. This was purely unintentional of course. Then, in return for my hard work and creativity, the folks at SNL mailed me a stinking generic rejection letter! One would think that they could have at least scribbled an inspiring note on the letter...I mean I was only 10. Something along the lines of We're not really interested in big penis-nosed people, but we'd love to see more of your work in the future.
But nope. No hopeful words for me. Perhaps that's the difference between me and Tina. Then again, maybe there is no difference between me and Tina at all (insert twilight zone theme music here). Maybe she is just me in an alternate universe. It's possible, right? I mean if people can have penises for noses, anything is possible really.