Tuesday, September 29, 2015

August 31 and September 13

August 31 at 6:17 am
September 13 at 13 minutes to midnight:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Picture Day

Yesterday was picture day at the boys' school.

Pictured: LO's 2013 photo disaster
I have long since given up on trying to dress the children up for their school pictures, as you can see from LO's terrible 2013 photo shoot. (To be fair, I gave birth that day, but still).

However, J and I hoped that the kids could at least have better hair this year. To that end, we got out the comb before school and ran it through both kids' hair.

BB, ever happy to enjoy a new experience, submitted to the combing with good grace and pleasure. He even tried combing his own hair, with the non-toothed edge of the comb, in solidarity.

LO, on the other hand, wanted only to snuggle with me. In an attempt to get him to sit up so we could complete the minimal photo prep, I told him, "LO, please sit up! We need to make you beautiful and handsome."

LO snuggled even closer and shouted "No! I don't want to be beautiful!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When the Ground Refuses to Swallow You Up

BB here is a lover of life. He is a generally happy guy who is delighted to join in any activity life throws at him.

For instance, when we dropped LO off at Sunday school this past Sunday, BB (who is too young by a good 13 months for the three-year-old class, let alone LO's K/1 class) followed the group into the classroom, pulled out a chair to sit, and looked up as if to say, "All right, what are we learning today?"

In addition to wanting a jump start on his Jewish education, BB also wants to know if there is anything better available wardrobe-wise than the clothes he happens to be wearing at the time. The way he generally indicates a preference for a different outfit is to remove all of his clothes and bring me the new ones to help him make a new sartorial statement.

I explain all this in order to tell you why and how BB was the center of the most embarrassing incident that has ever happened to me.

Here is, officially, what happened:

J and I signed up to purchase back-to-school clothes for a child at Lafayette Transitional Housing. Because of our unparalleled skill with planning, we had yet to buy the clothes as of the night before we needed to drop them off.

Since we wanted the boys to be involved in this small bit of tzedakah, we piled everyone in the car after dinner and told LO and BB that we were shopping for clothes for a little boy. (LO called the little boy, whom we have not and will not meet, a "friend." LO calls anyone under the age of 10 a friend, whether or not he knows them. As in, "that friend over there has a Thomas train. I want to play with it.")

When we got to Target, we immediately spread out among the boys' clothing section. I was distracted by a Darth Vader sweatshirt with an actual cape and the overwhelming sense of unfairness in realizing that it would never come in my size. J was doing the responsible adult thing of comparing prices of jeans vs. khakis. LO was running around like a maniac, excited to see some of his favorite licensed characters on toys that we. are. not. taking. home, so stop asking.

I was bringing the world's greatest sweatshirt over to show J when I realized I'd lost track of BB.

LO then said three words that did not strike as much fear in my heart as they should have.

He said, "Where's BB's shirt?"

Here is why those words did not strike fear in my heart. He neglected to add "and his pants and his diaper?"

Yes, my youngest was standing stark naked in front of a display of tee-shirts, reaching for a yellow shirt sporting an astronaut on the front.

(Upon looking back on the situation, I now understand why LO only asked about his brother's shirt. The pants and diaper were bunched around BB's ankles, well within LO's view. It was only the shirt that LO had lost track of--never mind the unorthodox way in which BB was adorned in said pants and diaper.)

That would have been bad enough. But in addition to my naked child, there was a grandmotherly type standing right by him keeping an eye out for the terrible mother who allowed her toddler to strip naked in the middle of Target.

"I thought his mom had to be nearby," she told me, as I wondered why sinkholes are never around when you need them.

"Mrrp," I said to the kindly lady while hurriedly pulling the child's pants up, wondering if embarrassment could still be considered a fatality in one's 30s.

"I thought maybe he had to use the potty," she added, trying to be nice.

Perhaps stomping on the floor could get that sinkhole going, I thought.

As it turned out, the grandmotherly type actually was a grandmother, and she couldn't have been kinder or more gracious. She told me her grandson was only a little older than BB. (She did not mention if he had ever taken down his skivvies in a major big box retailer, which makes me think the answer is no.)

Throughout, BB just kept looking at the display of shirts, wondering why Mommy's face was so durn red.

We successfully completed our trip with no further nudity. And I have had some time to think through my embarrassment and realize that it's just a part of life.

So my darling child, I want you to know something.

Someday, you will no longer be my exuberant little guy.
You will be a teenager.
You will know more about the world than Mom and Dad possibly ever could, and you will be embarrassed by everything we do.
You will wish for a sinkhole any time I start my exuberant public singing or your father wears his gardening clothes to run errands.
Most of all, someday you will be horrified and embarrassed when we meet the object of your affection.

And on that day, my sweet dear child, you will learn just how deep a mother's feelings are for her beloved son.

I'll tell your date this story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Roughing It

For years, J has been lobbying for us to do more camping. One of the reasons why he bought his current vehicle, a 2006 Honda Element, was because it would be ideal for car camping.

Pictured: Not J's car.
"We can just hoist up the back seats and sleep on the floor!" he would exclaim. "It'll be really comfortable."

This past weekend, we decided to field test the Element's camping prowess. It performed admirably in getting us down to Clifty Falls State Park (two and a half hours away, because we believe that sleeping outside necessitates being as close to Kentucky as possible).

The rear seats folded up, just as advertised, leaving a nice flat spot for two not-too-tall adults and a couple of kids to settle in for a long summer's nap.

However, J's assurance that sleeping on said Element floor would be "really comfortable" was not entirely true. (And by that, I mean it was a dirty dirty lie.)

We unrolled the camp mats, made a nest with several blankets, and attempted to climb in together. Therein we discovered our first problem. We may not be tall, but the fine engineers at Honda never considered the possibility of a family of four attempting to sleep on the floor of the Element.

As LO put it as we assumed several different sleeping positions in an attempt to find something comfortable for the vast majority of the campers, "it's quite squished in here."

Add in a restless BB (who, I must point out, was pretty much always comfortable because my increasingly numb limbs served as his pillow and bed), and it was not a super great night's sleep.

I am thankful that we at least did a trial lie-down before getting on the road. J had hoped to bring Obie, our 70 pound greyhound, with us. But despite the fact that I consider myself to be a pretty good Tetris player, it was clear after multiple attempts to fit four Birkens plus one Obie into the space allotted for our sleeping that there was no winning this particular round. Lucky Poor Obie had to spend the night at our local kennel/spa.

That said, I had a wonderful time camping. The campground had a well-appointed bathroom, fire pits at each campsite, and some lovely hiking trails. We made s'mores. I read a book outside. Lack of sleep no longer guarantees my lack of enjoyment of something, or else I would have been in a constant bad mood for nearly five years. (And no comments on that statement from the peanut gallery, thank you very much.)

Since we had such a good time, other than the sleeping arrangements, we are talking about buying a large and nicely appointed tent into which we can easily cram some air mattresses.

Since someone other than J has rated these sorts of accommodations as "really comfortable," I trust that they will be.

Next time, it won't be so "quite squished" is what I'm getting at.

Let's just hope the kids aren't planning on growing to be 6 feet tall anytime soon.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Emily! So Nice to See You Again

Last Tuesday, LO and BB attended the same childcare facility for the first time. They are now both going to Montessori five days per week.

I feel reborn.

That same week, I managed to actually accomplish the following things:
  1. J and I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road 
  2. I decided that if we ever have a daughter, she will be named Furiosa. (This may or may not be related to item 1.)
  3. I ran five miles two days in a row.
  4. I completed five articles well within their deadlines.
  5. I got some cavities filled. (Not a fun or a good thing, but this was also on a day I also wrote a long and complex article, so yay for that. Or more accurately/numbly, aaay bor dat.)
  6. I started on a major project for Temple Israel. (I will be taking over as financial secretary.)
  7. I reorganized our filing cabinet, which I have been planning on doing since long before BB was born. (This may or may not be related to item 6.)
  8. I stayed up past 10 pm four nights in a row.
  9. I felt like myself.
I've really missed me.

Being sleep-deprived and time-scarce really took a toll. I spent much of the last winter just trying to get from morning to evening without actually looking forward to anything. I would procrastinate terribly when it was time to pick up the boys, because I knew I would be in the car for 45 minutes and then I'd have to wrangle children and hungry pets at the end of it all. I just was.

Now, BB is sleeping through the night more often than he is not.

We have found a babysitter who is auditioning for the role of real-life Mary Poppins and J and I are able to spend time together watching spiked/armored cars explode and old women kick ass and take names. (Seriously, even though I have never had any interest in learning to ride a motorcycle, I am now thinking about it so I can be like the Vuvalini.)

And the boys are together at a wonderful school for seven hours each day, and picking them up takes all of 20 minutes--if we can't find someone's lunch box.

Yes, I understood intellectually that the really hard part of sleep-deprived/time-scarce babyhood had an end-date, but I still forgot to feel it. It seemed as though I would never get back to myself again.

It's been long enough that this energetic person who jumps out of bed excited for the day feels kind of new--but she's really an old friend. I'm so glad to see her again.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Adventures in Cooking

This is a classic SAHMnambulist post from nearly five years ago, when I was pregnant with LO and J and I had just moved to Lafayette:

J and I are currently living in a POS sublet--a place that J has derisively nicknamed "The Flop House"--while we are waiting to close on our new house. This will theoretically happen on Friday, but that's another story.

The Flop House is unfurnished, and of course, the relocation benefits would not move us from our house in Columbus to a POS sublet to our new house, so we rented a U-Haul trailer hitch and brought the bare minimum for basic comfort. 
Of course, I've been finding over and over that I have forgotten something necessary for basic comfort. Like a spatula. I brought many things necessary for cooking, but no cooking utensils beyond the pots, pan, and baking dish I had packed. You've never really cooked breakfast until you've tried to flip an egg with no cooking spray on the frying pan (non-stick my ass) and the only utensils available to you are a fork and a knife. I like eating eggs by the individual molecule, don't you?

I did, however, bring our blender. We love smoothies for breakfast, and I figured it would do in a pinch if there was a need for a food processor, and why on earth would we need that in the 6 weeks we were in the Flop House?

Famous last words. Lafayette has a wonderful farmer's market every Saturday morning. This past Saturday, we overspent on produce because everything looked so fine. We bought gorgeous tomatoes, and I made plans for tomato-mozzarella-basil salad. We bought a bunch of fresh basil, because I had no idea that a "bunch" of basil was another word for "more basil that you can comfortably shake a stick at." The woman who bagged the basil suggested we make a big ol' batch of pesto. I haven't made pesto since I was in college, but it's delicious and we have the basil.

So, last night I made pesto. 
Those of you who know me recognize that patience and a methodical nature are NOT exactly my most striking qualities. I knew as I stuffed fistful after fistful of basil into the blender that this was not going to work. And yet the mad scientist child part of me just kept on stuffing, giggling madly. I threw in pine nuts, garlic (whole cloves), parmesan, and then poured a generous dollop of olive oil, figuring that might grease the blade enough to be able to handle the over-stuffing.

The blender made an unpleasant noise.

I shook the blender. Sometimes that works with smoothies.

It continued to make an unpleasant noise.

I took the top off and pushed the stuff down with a knife. Yes, the blender was still running. And yes, they are allowing me to become the mother of small child. The blender blade nicked the knife. Of course, I had used one of the fiddle head butter knives that are my favorite. See note above regarding patience and methodology.

I enlisted the help of J, a mechanical engineer. He found something flattish to push things down, and it worked.

Pesto, done! But of course, I am master chef and I am unsatisfied. The pesto just isn't smooth enough, in my humble opinion. (This coming from a woman who last made pesto literally 1 decade ago and last ate it probably 2-3 years ago. What can I say? I have an exacting nature). I add a little more oil. I start the blender running again. Of course, the pesto at the top is not coursing evenly down to be smoothed.

You can probably guess what I did next.

Back into the blender with the fiddle-head butter knife. The blade nicks the knife a few times, and then it takes matters into its own hands. Meaning, it pulls the knife out of mine. 
 Anyone familiar with either the laws of physics or slapstick comedy will know what happened next. The blender, wiser by far than the chef, turns itself off. But not before throwing the knife into the air, and covering the walls, ceiling, and my maternity shirt with pesto. (Of COURSE the top wasn't on the blender. Why on earth would anyone do something that intelligent?) The knife now also makes a sharp right turn at the end, which will make it convenient to butter toast around a corner.

There were no major casualties, with the possible exception of my shirt. J enjoyed making fun of me while cleaning the ceiling. Plenty of pesto was left in the blender, so we were not forced to eat it off of the flat surfaces of the kitchen.

However, an hour later we were eating salmon with pesto with a side of pesto pasta and some truly fantastic salad. J said, "Dinner is *really* good tonight. Thank you."

In cooking, the ends justify the means.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I’m Not a Terrible Mother for Leaving My Kids in the Car

It happened again this February. For the second time, after leaving my oldest son sleeping in the car while I ran a quick errand, I came back to my car to find someone waiting to shame me for being a terrible mother.

The first time it happened was nearly four years ago, when my son was nine months old. I was visiting my parents in Maryland and I volunteered to pick up dinner at a local restaurant. My son, who had not napped all day long and had slept fitfully the night before, fell asleep on the ride to the restaurant. His car seat was strapped directly into the back seat of my mother’s car, without the base I used at home, so carrying him in without waking him was not an option.

It was a lovely and mild June day. My mother had already called ahead and paid for the meals, which were waiting for me behind the counter. My son badly needed to sleep, far more than I needed the unnecessary reassurance of having him by my side. I made the decision to lock the doors, roll down the windows, and leave my baby sleeping.

Despite the fact that I knew that it was insanely unlikely that anything could or would happen to him, I was a nervous wreck for the entire ten minutes I waited in line in the restaurant.

I came back to the car to find a very angry man with a cell phone standing at the driver’s side door, threatening to call the police on me. I mumbled something about only being gone for a few minutes and high-tailed it out of there. My son slept through the whole thing.

I have left both this child and his younger brother alone in the car several times since that first incident. Every time I have left one of my kids unattended in the car, there is a reason why I decide to do so—a reason that I believe is both compelling and sufficient, and I feel perfectly confident making these decisions as my children’s mother.

But if you listen to the 24-news cycle, you will learn that many people believe that I am in the wrong by making this judgment call. I was confronted with that lesson again this winter, when my older son, who is now four years old, fell asleep in the car on the way to pick up his one-year-old brother from the YMCA daycare.

The parking lot for our Y is large and busy, and even under ideal conditions, I feel nervous about ferrying both of my boys across it by myself. Add in my cranky and sleepy 35-pound preschooler who would demand to be carried (or otherwise lie down on the ground and wail), my 20-pound one-year-old who must be carried, the baby’s lunch box and other accouterments, and the fact that I could get in and out of the Y much faster by myself, I decided to leave my son sleeping peacefully for the ten minutes it would take me to run in and run out.

Apparently, a Samaritan saw me and complained to the front desk, because on my way back out to the car, baby in tow, I was stopped by two staff members. They informed me that it was the YMCA’s policy that children cannot be left unattended in cars.

I realized after the fact that I overheard the Samaritan point me out to the staff. I must have been followed into the building.

Despite the recent attention that the Free Range parenting philosophy has gotten in the news because of cases like the Meitiv family in Montgomery County, Maryland who were found responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect and then had their children picked up and detained again for walking home alone, and Debra Harrell who was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to play unsupervised at a park, many people think that what I am doing amounts to child abuse.

Don’t you know there are predators out there? is how the thinking goes. Won’t somebody think of the CHILDREN!?

As a matter of fact, there really aren’t predators out there. Our children are enjoying the safest possible time to be alive. Crime rates are down. Mass shootings are down. Sexual abuse of children is down. You only need to look at the statistics to understand that leaving a child alone in a car while running a short errand is much safer than driving the child to the errand in the first place.

But irrational fear for our children is prevalent, and it seeps into every interaction a modern parent has.

And the thing is, fear for our children is really beside the point. Because the motivation that led to two different unpleasant altercations with strangers is not fear, but shame.

The Samaritan who was so very concerned about my son’s safety that he or she followed me into the building in order to point me out to the closest authority…left my child unattended. If a belief that my child was in actual danger had prompted the busybody’s actions, then I would have come back to the car to find him or her keeping a watchful eye for the evil man lurking in the bushes.

What both of these Samaritans have really felt was not fear for my precious boy, but righteous indignation at the evidence of my terrible motherhood.

Instead of simply watching over my sleeping 9-month-old and assuming that I must have my hands full to leave him there while I run an errand, the angry man who accosted me in Maryland wanted to make sure I knew he was watching and judging me.

And at least he stayed by my child. At the YMCA, my anonymous Samaritan made sure to tell others what I had done, rather than actually be charitable and talk to me. His or her actions were all about making sure I fall into line. The Samaritan and the staff members wanted me to feel ashamed of myself for choosing my convenience over the presumed safety of my children.

Never mind the fact that as their mother, I knew that my boys would both be much safer if I did not have to juggle two tired kids across a busy parking lot by myself.

The cliché is that it takes a village to raise a child, but I’m certainly not feeling like the member of any village. No one seems willing to lend a helping hand. They would rather call the police.

I have decided that it’s time to compel the village to step up. If my son falls asleep on the way to the YMCA again, I’m going to call the front desk and request that a staff member come out to watch my child so I do not violate their policy. If I find myself staring down an impossible parenting Catch-22, I’ll ask a bystander to be my eyes for a few minutes.

And I will also do my part. If I see a parent struggling because all her available choices are wrong, I’ll offer to watch her sleeping child or accompany her daughter to the restroom or hold her groceries or entertain her toddler. Because that’s what a village does.  

My hope is that sometime in my lifetime, Americans will remember that all of society is responsible for our children, not just parents and the authorities.