Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Please bubble wrap your baby at the door

Usually I start thinking about my possible blog entry around 4 p.m. At that point, the day is winding down and we're approaching dinner and the witching hour, so odds are anything that anyone is going to want to read about will have already happened, if it's going to at all. Today, I wasn't sure I'd have an entry, but then I remembered that the newest catalog from ParanoidMommy had come in the mail and I knew I was set.

Any parent out there knows ParanoidMommy (not the company's real name, of course). It has a web presence, and a retail presence at Babies R Us, and a catalog that comes out at least once a season, chock full of various safety and preventative devices you'd never know you needed if not for these good people, who are proud to tell you just how you're putting your child at risk each and every day. Right on the first page is a wood sling chair that they proudly announce "doesn't fold!" to prevent pinched fingers. Way to make storing that for the other nine months of the year a real bitch, ParanoidMommy. The chair? Is not for babies. It's for kids age three and up. My four year old can sit in a chair and not injure herself. "Hey kid. Don't put your hand there. It will hurt and you'll cry." She believes me about this. And then I can put it in the shed all folded up like a normal person in the fall.

Some of the stuff they carry is good. They've got a great line of swim suits, and I can't argue with them about the importance of SPF. There are braces for tall dresses and book cases, and you know what? That just makes good sense.

Other things, not so much. For instance, page 17 has this little plastic folding seat called a "fold up germ protector" that you're meant to put on a public toilet seat so Junior doesn't catch The Herp or whatever. Unlike the chair, this little device "folds for storage." Wow, so I can fold up some extra e. coli and stick that right in my diaper bag? Purse? When I was a kid, you put toilet paper on the seat, or you hovered, or, if you were really little, your mom held your naked butt about two inches off the seat (cause any kid can pee mid-air). Then, probably when I was in high school, they discovered that, in the realm of public bathrooms, the toilet seat is really the least of your worries germ-wise. But just in case you don't believe that, you can shell out $10 for your own fold-n-go pee shield and cart those bad boys around all day.

There are other gems in there. How about a plastic shield that goes around your kid's thumb so he stops sucking it? The ad doesn't say whether that's from the shield or the shame of walking around with a big plastic thing banded onto your hand for three weeks or until you hate the sight of your own digits. There is the "timeless teether" - $12.99 gets you two washcloths with knots in the ends. "Just wet and chill!" You want me to spend $6.50 on a washcloth? Thanks, I got stuff here I can throw in the sink and then the freezer. Like some of those 50 cent deals from Target.

But the worst, absolutely the worst, is something ParanoidMommy has been selling for years. I want to meet the parents who buy this item because I've never met anyone who has, but someone must be. For $50 (not a typo) you can buy your crawler/early walked a padded foam helmet to help prevent bumps.

A helmet. A voluntary helmet that serves no medical purpose. For your infant to 20-month-old. And now it has a little brim, so it's "sporty." It's not sporty. And no kid in the world with two hands and any amount of motor skill is going to keep that on for more than 10 seconds.

Maybe there are tons of kids getting seriously injured while crawling. But I'm failing to see how. They're just not that far from the floor. They tip, they fall pretty slowly, they bonk, they fuss, they do it again. But just in case that's not enough, you can go online and get accompanying knee and elbow pads to further protect your fragile child. (Yes, I know there are some kids who need helmets and such for other medical issues, but this is being specifically marketed as walking and crawling "protection.")

Maybe I'm missing something. I do know any tears my child might shed over a fall is nothing compared to the screaming I'd endure if I tried to keep them in elbow and knee pads, let alone a helmet. Lily's not eight months old and she won't keep a regular hat on. And I look at the present generation of parents and we seem, by and large, like intelligent (if willing to buy into the helicopter mom hysteria) individuals. We weren't damaged by crawl-falls. How did any of us survive the 70s and 80s without helmets?

Well, forget it. No kid of mine is going in a helmet that isn't medically indicated.

Besides, we've got that base covered already.

Let the games begin!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The plague, I have it

The last entry I wrote about was a fun filled Saturday running around Boston like a college kid, and then I got the plague Tuesday night and that's all she wrote for a week. So I apologize.

When I took my temperature Tuesday night and found it was 102, I wanted somebody to blame. I mean, I went all winter with only one relatively mild bout of sickness and then, during the nicest week of the year, the warmest week of the year, I was going to be freezing anyway? But who to blame? My daughter's preschool? Her teacher was out and three and four year olds are veritable petri dishes. My husband's students? Come on, they're teenagers. And then only eight people showed up to rehearsal on Thursday (and I was not among them).

Folks, we've found Patient Zero.

Lily, Mary and a bonus family friend, Meg
Kudos to my kids, who bore the fact that they were stuck inside on the two nicest days of 2012 in relative good spirits. (I will smile fondly on this memory as, at the moment, my four year old is screaming bloody murder in the other room because her father is daring to tell her to put on a pair of pajamas. It's going to be open windows season for good soon - neighbors, please don't call the cops, I'm probably not actually beating her to death.)

On Thursday morning my fever was gone and my cough was a mere shadow of the death rattle it was the day before (which returned after lunch, sorry about that), so we attempted a play date with the kids down the road. Bella is just a couple of weeks younger than Anna and Savannah was born just eight days before Lily, so they've got some built in playmates a half a mile away and I love it. When I was growing up, my neighborhood had a bunch of kids in it and I was concerned when we moved in, because there didn't seem to be any young families in the area. I'm glad to say I was wrong about that and my girls will have the benefit of proximity when "there's nothing to dooooo!" and I push them outdoors.
Lily (left) and Savannah, built-in buddies

It's especially good for Anna, because she is still pretty shy and slow to warm up to people and I am trying to both build her friend base (so she has more people she instantly recognizes and will have fun with) and teach her important social skills. Yeah, she has her sister, but lately, they seem to be practicing diplomacy with small iron fists and that's not really the example I want to have her retain.

For instance, the other day, I was getting them dressed. It was 70 degrees at 9 a.m. and I was putting Anna into a cute, twirly dress that was turquoise with yellow polka dots. It was Mary's, it was a tent on Anna last summer and this summer it fits like a glove. Even Mary couldn't resist commenting.

"Anna, that dress is beautiful!"

Anna remained silent as I zipped her up, so I prompted her toddler self.

"Anna, what do we say when someone says something nice like that?"

"Never touch my dwess."

Yeah. We need to work on that. Play date, anyone?

Anna in a less highly prized dress, probably because her sister has an identical one.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quack quack to Boston Town.

I barely saw the kids this weekend, as I spent Saturday in Boston on a "duck safari" (more on that in a bit) and today at rehearsal. We left them in the care of Tim's aunt (who successfully raised three children of her own) and Tim's cousin (who is 20 and probably viewed the time as a crash course in why celibacy really isn't such a bad choice). But, I came home today with two bright green plastic necklaces that someone gave out at rehearsal, so the older two forgave my absenteeism.

So Boston. Tim and his friend Dan organized an incredible day out, where teams of two were given rubber ducks and told to run around the city photographing said duck at various landmarks and in various situations. The only real caveat was that you were forbidden to pay admission to any place, and several places required photographs in the science museum, the aquarium, etc.

Who's got two thumbs (and a duck) and talked her way into the planetarium, the Omni theater (but the picture didn't work out) AND the aquarium? AND got her duck to successfully order a green beer at a bar with  line out the door?

This lady!
Quack, quack, yo, I'm in the planetarium.
My partner in crime was my friend from college, Bill, and together we came in a very respectable second place. If you were not the first to text in a picture, you only got half points, and as it turned out, we were following the first place winners around all day (we had no way of knowing) so we did not take home the grand prize (free dinner), but we had an absolute blast. I laughed so hard when I found out that not one, but three teams, had convinced police offices to pose handcuffing the team duck...and that all three teams (mine among them) had managed to find and photograph the exact same officers.

Also, it was St. Patrick's Day, and that means Boston was full of crazy drunk people, and crazy drunk people are absolutely willing to be in crazy fun scavenger hunt photos. Kiss the duck? Sure! Let my duck pretend to bum a cigarette off you? Why not! 

Also, the next time my kids try to talk me into something crazy, I will have to remind myself they come by it honestly enough.

For instance, this morning, as we were pulling into the church parking lot (at 10:15 a.m.), Mary tried this one:

"Mom and Dad, you know what we should do before church? We should get ice cream."

"Mary, no ice cream, we're going to church and it's 10 in the morning. No."

"Okay, we can do it after church, then."

And you know, she almost had me convinced. But that could also be because I'm a sucker for ice cream.

If I let my duck get green beer (see it, at the bottom?) why wouldn't I get ice cream at 10 a.m.? I ask you!
 Then Anna later came out of Sunday School with jelly beans and negotiations went thusly from Miss Anna Beans:

"Wanna eat mine jellybeans now."

"Not now, baby, lunch, then naps, then jelly beans."

"Just one?"

"After lunch and naps."

So we get home and have lunch and we're getting the girls ready for naps and Mary reminds us about the waiting candy.

"After naps," we remind her.

"But you said after lunch, too, and it's after lunch!" (Or something to this tune.)

I'm going to start saving for law school now. Or at least wait for the year I can team up with Mary on the Boston Duck Safari (they're thinking of making it an annual event!) because I have a feeling then we'll be unstoppable.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

No, they haven't taken my kids away

...I've just been insanely busy. Would you believe this is the first night in about a week where it's before 10:30 and I'm actually home? The show I'm in opens in about a month and if I'm not dancing my butt off, I'm working it off in my retail location...fun times, I tell ya.

So it's been a beautiful week and the kids and I are definitely taking advantage. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine suggested we start meeting at a local park on the water. Now, the last time I had been to this park was back when I worked for the local paper and "cleanup days" were held every spring, because the place was a wreck. I'm talking garbage washed up on the shore, graffiti everywhere, messed up playground equipment...and I listened to my friend telling me she liked it better than Posh Playground the next town over and thought she was out of her mind.


We went this week...

...and it is beautiful!

 I have no idea when the park was transformed, but it definitely looks different than I recall. Don't get me wrong, the graffiti is still there, but hey, it looks like someone tried to scrub it off and my kids can't read yet so we're rolling with it. We've been back several time this week - the girls love running on the sand (okay, Anna loves rolling in it so there's a small beach in my back seat) and the different equipment, and the day I took them over the retaining wall so they could walk along the actual shore line (okay, bay line, whatever) they were in heaven. Anna still thinks she's going to catch a sea gull and delights in chasing them.

Please don't catch any gulls, or, as a result, hepatitis...
I didn't realize how much they were enjoying themselves until they opted to go back to the park instead of going to the zoo. The zoo, people! The last time we went to the zoo, Anna fell in love with the seal and kept exclaiming "I see him! See! Him!" and waving through the tank. The seal obliged by swimming up to her over and over, and Anna has a new best friend. So for her to want to go to the playground instead...big news, folks.

Then on Tuesday I realized Anna could do basic addition (or maybe it was a fluke). We were running a few minutes early to pick Mary up at preschool, so I suggested we "look for horses." This also falls under the heading of "local pleasures that are free": On the state line are  couple of farms and if you drive along the back roads, you can see the horses out in the pastures (yards?). Anna loves to look for them and call out when she sees them, so Tuesday's drive went something like this.

"I see them! Horses!"

"Yes, look at the horses!"

"Two horses!" And indeed there were. We drove on. "Two more horses!"

"So if you have two horses and two more horses, how many more do you have?" I ask rhetorically, not at all expecting answer from my two and a half year old.

"Four," she said promptly. "Two. And an airplane up in the sky!"

Well, A for effort, kid.

Today she requested the horses again, so along the farm roads we went. This time, there was a large greyish horse next to the typical brown ones. I am completely farm animal illiterate so I have no idea what kind of horse it was, but it was BIG. Anna took this into consideration.

"I see horses! Two horses! And...I see...an elephant?"

You can see where she'd be confused. I corrected her but she seemed skeptical. Who can blame her? But it explains her earlier actions.

I mean, after all, when you've got the farm/zoo in your backyard, practically, I guess the playground is more enticing.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A few of my favorite things

*Anna, sitting on the floor between the baby on her exercise mat and the cat, who unwisely positioned himself nearby: "These are my favorite toys."

Cat, the baby has no excuse. She's not mobile yet. All I can do is hover nearby and make sure Anna doesn't try to hug her too tightly. You? You can walk. You can squeeze under things and run really fast. I know, because you do it every time I have to try and get you into the cat carrier. How has evolution not killed you off somehow? Also? You weigh 22 pounds. Twenty two pounds and you are a freaking American Shorthair. Your littermate? The one who gets exactly as much food as you do, as often as you do? Nine pounds. What the heck, Pavarotti.

*Anna and Mary, whenever we drive by the Lutheran church: "There's my work!" Yes, my children think they work at the Lutheran church. No, I've never worked in a church. No, we're not Lutheran. No, I have no idea where it comes from, but when they start bickering in the car, if I threaten to have them fired, they settle right down. Bonus!

*The older ones are spending the night at my in laws' and after work I called to check on them. Anna had the phone and then heard people laughing in the background. "Oh, we're havin' fun. Goodbye!" and away she went. Priorities, you have to have them.

*Lily has a tooth. I discovered this when she bit my finger and it hurt more than it usually does. She's a considerate little thing.

(As an aside, nothing makes you appreciate your own kids like spending the entire day with 10 to 40 children of various ages and attitudes.)

*Anna kind of views my parents and in laws like one big experiment a la Schrodinger's Cat. If she cannot see the person in question directly (say, her Boppa) then any building may or may not contain said grandparent, and she will comment on every person who walks out of the store thusly: "That's not Boppa. Dat Boppa? No, dat not Boppa. THAT'S BOPPA! No it not." and so on. She also thinks the picture IDs on my phone are in real time, causing her to demand to know how Mim is with her in the swimming pool if she (Anna) is also sitting on the couch at home, or why Mary is chilling out in Connecticut on the couch with my dad. No amount of repetition seems to convince her otherwise, so whenever I call my mother in law, Anna starts loudly asking her why she's in the pool. It makes for an interesting conversation.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

See: dervish, whirling

There are days I feel like crying "my kingdom for a cleaning person!" and today has been one of those days. With three kids, I know the house is never going to look like a Martha Stewart Living showpiece, but just to keep things at a non-disaster zone level, the morning looks something like this:

Girls have breakfast. While serving breakfast, I notice there are some errant macaroni pieces in the corner. I grab the broom and start sweeping while the baby babbles on her play mat. Girls finish cereal, put bowls in sink, at which point I realize the dishwasher is ready to be unloaded.

Unload the dishwasher, put dirty bowls in, realize sink has spots. Realize sink cloth is kind of gross. Go to put it in the laundry and grab another from the linen closet in the bathroom, at which point I realize the sink in the bathroom has toothpaste spots and evidence of Tim's shaving routine and squick. Grab another cloth and clean the sink, at which point I decide to do the rim of the tub and toilet seat, you know, while I'm in there.

Go to throw that in the laundry room, realize diapers need washing. Throw in a load of diapers, which means switching the darks to the dryer and folding the towels. Do so. Put towels away. Startle the cat, who is in the bathroom, who promptly runs into the family room and horks up a hairball just to spite me.

Clean the hairball, while on eye level with the litter box, realize that could use a scoop. Go to get a plastic bag from under the sink in the kitchen, at which point I realize...the kitchen sink still needs to be cleaned.

At this point it's only about 8 a.m. and we could run in circles like this all day. And while I'm doing all this, I am also dressing kids, doling snacks, settling wars over stuffed bears and dollies, cuddling the baby, you name it. I am hearing things like,

"Anna, we best friends!"

"We not friends."



"Twinkle, twinkle, widdle STARRRRRRRRRRRR, howIwunnder whatchoo ARRRRE. Up above da world so hiiii - MOMMY THERE'S A DIAMOND UP THERE!"

Thank you, Anna.

The kids go to bed eventually (note I did not say sleep) and I spent 20 minutes hitting "reset" on the house so when Hurricane Toddler rolls through at dark thirty, I'll be somewhat ahead of the game.

And odds are, the kitchen sink never gets cleaned.

Mommy ADHD for the win.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's raining babies

(and other irreverent titles)

Y'all, I am beat. I drove all over creation today with Miss Lily in tow but I am proud to say the baby shower was a truly enjoyable event (and those of you who have been to your share of showers know that's saying something). Please note, if you did not read yesterday's post, that this was not in any way a shower for me or some pending offspring. (I have to put that in there, it appears. I told Mary I was bringing Lily with me to the baby shower and she loudly and proudly informed her ballet teacher that "tomorrow is the baby shower for my new baby sister!" Cue immediate parental interjection.)

Then I came home and ran because even though I was exhausted, it was 50 degrees and not snowing or raining, but cut it short because for some reason the neighborhood was teeming with fast-moving vehicles and I don't trust my reflective patches that much.

So you get bullet points because I am about 10 minutes from incoherency.

*On the day that you will be seeing one of your best friends (and her extended family, other friends and such) and want to look your best, your baby absolutely will sleep like crap and wake up for the day at 4:30 a.m. Thank God for parents who are willing to walk babies and feed preschoolers so you can recoup some of that missed sleep.

*I tried to feed Lily before going into the shower and she managed to rip the front of my dress. Stay for the show, folks! Fortunately, the restaurant staff was able to find a safety pin, because otherwise, it went from Classy in Westport to J-Lo at the Oscars reaaaal fast.

*Your children will experience the Grandparent Effect, which will make them somewhat...feral. It doesn't matter which grandparents, or which kids, they all do it. So when your oldest two are riding bikes ("driving") on the back porch, your eldest absolutely will announce "I'm the mommy!", begin pedaling as fast as possible, crash into her sister's bike and announce "I crashed the car!" Yeaaaah.

*Nursing pads as baby gifts. Yes, useful, yes, practical. Yes, screams "Hey, hey, regardless of your infant feeding choices, for at least a few days, you'll be leaking from strange places! Let's have cake!"

*We had to play baby shower games. One was guessing unlabeled jars of baby food, which you'd think I'd be good at after three kids, but let's face it, most baby foods are some shade of orange, yellow or green, so when I ran out of obvious guesses, I totally wrote "soylent green" for a few spaces. I did not win the game. I will probably not be invited to many more social occasions.

*Your baby will be one of three babies present and will apparently find this some kind of competition. Therefore, she will by some law absolutely be the one who abandons her "cheery in the face of everything" persona to loudly grizzle through lunch. (Thankfully she's cute, people are kind and I had lots of nice space to walk.) I thought the other two were newborns, they were so quiet, but no, one was Lily's age. Superb!

*I found myself behind a really nice black Lexus SUV with plates that said DIVA, followed by a number typically reserved for a certain adult activity. Of course the thing was registered in New Jersey. I know I was totally surprised.

*Mary loudly, at dinner, asked my brother and his fiancee "after you get married, when are you guys going to have A BABY?!" causing me to, once again, loudly interject about how "we don't ask people things like that, that's between Uncle and Auntie, you have to be polite..." Points to my future sister in law for choking back laughter and benignly telling my daughter "Well I don't know about that but if we do I'll let you know. I'll call you." Mary is totally going to grow up to be "that relative" at weddings.

*My feral kids on the ride home had a long, loud, drawn out (LOUD) conversation about how they didn't want to go home, they wanted to go back to Mime's house, or Mim's house, but not HOME, and then Mary would announce she was going to "do magic" to bring them to said place. She would loudly say this, pause, loudly say it didn't work, at which point Anna would snap "BAD MARY!" and Mary would try a different magic word or location. All. The. Way. Home. That's an hour and a half of improv, folks. Oh. They also sang songs from West Side Story. They don't actually know many words to that particular libretto, but who's counting details?

Still good to see friends and family. Even nicer to see my bed in 3, 2...

It didn't work.



Friday, March 2, 2012

Home again

A month or so ago, Tim and I started attending a new church. We were talking with the pastor when he asked me where I used to live.

"You're not from around here," he said, referencing my lack of telltale Rhode Island accent. And he's right, though I haven't gotten a comment like that since I left college. Home is Connecticut, and thanks to the baby shower for one of me best friends from high school, the girls and I hopped in the car and I am blogging on location from my teenagehood living room.

The girls are in the other room, thrilled to be with their Boppa. Lily has taken up permanent residence on his lap, the older two are kicking a ball around while Skipper, the deaf West Highland terrier (and butt of many a joke, I am only somewhat ashamed to admit) attempts to join in. Mime will be home soon and my brother and his fiancee will arrive, and we'll spilt a traditional pizza.

Tomorrow I'll go drive practically into New York with Miss Lily and see someone I haven't seen since Mary was a year old. I've known her since I was 14 and it seems crazy that next year, I'll have been friends with her (and Anne, and Meg, my other partners in crime from high school) for longer than I haven't been. She flew home from Paris to be in my wedding (and flew back the next day to sit her finals), I was in hers at 36 or so weeks pregnant, looking like a big pink house. She brought home German story books from her trip to Switzerland for a soon-to-be born Mary, I've gone with a classic bear and A.A. Milne. To get in the spirit of nostalgia, I've brought my dvd copy of the stage version of The Phantom of the Opera. Our entire freshman year of high school, Kara and I were obsessed with all things Phantom and spent countless Friday nights watching various versions of the Gaston Leroux story (worst version? The Phantom of Manhattan. Don't Google it. Don't rent it. Run far away).
My girls don't understand why they're here, except that they get to spend tomorrow with my parents and that's good enough for them. Between work and rehearsal, I haven't been "home" in weeks and it's nice to be back.

I still remember the voice mail I got back in July from Kara. "I just wanted to tell you that we're pregnant at the same time," she said. Lily arrived a couple of weeks later and Kara's son will be here sometime next month. We did high school together, gossiped together, fought together (why did we stop speaking junior year? Neither of us remember why), compared state college war stories, stood up in each others' weddings, lost touch when our lives diverged - mine into motherhood, hers into law school - but always coming back together for the important moments. It's one of the things I cherish most about my three friends from high school - no matter how much time we're apart, it's never too long to remember why we're in each others' lives. Meg and I talk on the phone constantly, Anne and I get together at Christmas and she has somehow never forgotten any of my girls' birthdays or any of our inside jokes. (Tomorrow is Aardwolf Day!) Some of my best moments of senior year were spent with Anne (and on one memorable weekend, with her parents on our way to Pennsylvania to visit colleges and go to the zoo. Randomness, we have it).

I am very, very lucky and I hope one day my girls have the kinds of friends I do.

Here's to another next chapter.