The Birth Canal is a One Way Street

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When I think of a childfree life it is not one of glamour, adventure, romance, travel and leisure that I envision. Nope– it’s much more basic, encompassing the minutiae of life. It’s sitting down to a meal where the first bite isn’t interrupted by someone suddenly needing the potty. It’s sleeping consistently without someone screeching from night terrors or dropped Pillow Pets. It’s getting out of a car without cleaning the spilled contents of un-spillable milk boxes that have seeped into the crevices. It’s reading Time Magazine’s The Childfree Life on the toilet, undisturbed.

Clearly my dreams are not lofty. For me the short hours of the school day (thank you, September) most closely resemble a childfree life. Oh to go for a run post-drop-off alone in Torrey Pines is simply blissful! Or to be out in the open waters, surrounded by old school surf dudes and some (gentle) marine life–paradise!

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And when I want solitary time–no people, no conversation, no kids– I might find myself here where a swim in a most perfect pool is just two bucks.

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And of course there is the productivity component: being able to accomplish the goals of the day that require a chaos-free environment such as offering nutrition advice, composing blog posts and writing my yet-to-be-published children’s stories. This is my childfree life.

According to the article in Time Magazine some opt for life sans-children because instead of reproducing they pursued interests, talents and careers that yield a certain lifestyle–one that is comfortable and fulfilling. Why change all that?

I had children fairly young, though not according to North Carolina standards where we were living at the time. There if you don’t have several kids by your late 20’s you were deemed barren. Or so it seemed. I finished school, including a graduate degree, and happily worked for $16.50 per hour.  I enjoyed a comfortable life, but not one so luxurious or exotic that introducing kids might complicate. Into this life Thing One arrived. And we were happy. By the time Thing Two joined us our lifestyle hadn’t evolved too much. In fact, living standards had declined due to our move to the pricier New Jersey. And we made the decision to rely on one income largely because my chosen field was not exactly lucrative. Nannies and daycare would be more costly than my own attempts at raising the clowns.

Yet I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t question my choice. At least once a day. I think anyone who claims that he or she doesn’t at times pine for a childfree life is not being truthful. I’m the first to admit that I am completely challenged, frustrated and depleted by my kids. It’s all too easy to imagine what I’d do with my time without them. So much activity and productivity!

Let me pose this question: would I appreciate a childfree life as much if I were actually childfree? It’s like East Coasters maintaining that they need the seasons to appreciate good weather. West Coasters (particularly down in the SoCal) don’t buy it: living in Utopia doesn’t make it any less satisfying.

But of this I am sure: the birth canal is a one way street. You can’t put the kids back (though no doubt one of mine would climb right in if he could). The fact is I do love my kids.  And the last thing I do before turning in at night is remind myself of that. I take a peek at them sleeping, a peaceful snapshot in which they truly are adorable and almost angelic.

I am also quite certain that had I opted for a childfree life, this would be the image I’d conjure when inevitably pining for children.

 

 

A Tiger’s Funeral

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Have you ever been to a funeral for a tiger? Nor have I. Apparently one took place just the other day right here in this house, but I was banned. I would have brought purple flowers to express my condolences.

The tiger had been a victim of drowning. For that my son holds me accountable. But I wasn’t the one who peed in my bed, resulting in having to wash all items from the bed–tigers included. Yet he doesn’t take responsibility for the tragic accident, maintaining:

Someone peed in my bed….and it wasn’t me!

Regardless of the culprit (and I have my suspicions), everything went straight into the wash in several shifts. I have a finely tuned system, as a veteran should. This time I enlightened my son, involving him in the process from carrying the pee-sheets to re-making the bed so that he might begin to appreciate the answer to the commonly asked question:

What do you do when we are   ______________? (Fill in the blank with any of the following)

  • at school
  • at camp
  • sleeping
  • playing
  • completely unaware of what it takes to keep the household going

Indeed the tiger may have drowned. But he smells a lot better now. Perhaps the tale of the tiger’s funeral will come in handy when I need to remind my kids that even when I inadvertently cause heartache, I’m looking out not only for their olfactory senses, but for their entire moral fiber.

Duchess Kate: No Rest for the Royal?

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Nary a hair out of place, Duchess Kate stepped out of the private hospital wing and into the media frenzy. She looked no different (and no less gorgeous) than when we saw her last, only this time the baby was not in her belly but in her arms. Perfectly coiffed, perfectly dressed, perfectly perfect. Isn’t that how we all felt having just produced a human? At least that’s what she claimed–she is feeling what any new parent experiences. Um, not quite. I’m pretty sure my experience, the ordinary birthing process, was not even close. Perhaps the only commonality is that underneath all of her glam, I’m fairly certain that some of her royal areas are seriously smarting.

Birthing is birthing, whether you’re pushing out king or commoner. But from there nothing is the same. Most moms struggle to shower and dress. We don’t have a personal hairdresser meet us at the hospital. On top of always having washed hair, I’m guessing that Duchess Kate won’t walk around smelling like sour milk–or worse. If she ever does feel like a real new parent she won’t ever let us see it.

This likely won’t change even as her regal offspring grow. Sometimes I think I have yet to emerge from the new parent haze. Eight and a half years in I’m as frazzled as ever and my spawn are no more civilized than when they first arrived. Last night’s dinner was case in point. It’s as if they weren’t in camp all day with the amount of energy they were able to expend popping out of their seats. It was like a prolonged pee-pee dance but without the biological urgency. Thing One was spewing bits of egg that finally stuck to Thing Two’s elbow. Thing Two had chocolate pudding up his nose–only after trying to lick it off his finger. Apparently we still haven’t discovered the meaning of a napkin. And then there was the miniature polar bear flashlight that took an unexpected plunge into the cup of milk.

“IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!”

It’s always an accident.

Except when it’s intentional. Between the two were are in a perpetual state of behavior modification!

I love a good irony. Yesterday when the world was waiting with bated breath (or some of us realized we could set the DVR to CNN) to catch a glimpse of this royal little angel my darling child went off to camp dressed as a red-hot devil. It was alphabet soup day; she chose D for devil. Why?

“That way I can be naughty.”

There’s something to be said for spirited children: they keep you on your toes. I don’t have time to be tired. I’m just glad that I don’t have cameras chasing me around in my haze. Poor Duchess Kate isn’t so fortunate. One day after the immaculate introduction of Britain’s Prince George she’s captured on camera with her flowing mane thrown into a less-than-fabulous ponytail and presumably tired eyes guarded by over-sized sunglasses.

Rest up, Kate, it’s only just begun. If raising a devil is hard work, rearing a future king is simply unimaginable.

 

 

Summer Lovin’

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Sixteen years ago tomorrow we shared our first kiss. Or at least I think we did. Forgive me as time challenges memory. We saw fireworks–literally. Overlooking Boston’s Back Bay we took in the July 4th Pops Spectacular and also celebrated the beginnings of us. It was likely the last time I stayed up late enough for such a display. Four years and a few days later we were married atop Vail Mountain.

This “holiversary” (think Chrismukkah) is witness to our union, friendship and partnership. Like the novel One Day (sorry Anne Hathaway but you ruined the movie for me) the course of an entire year can be examined on a single day, thereby revealing the passage of time and the evolution of a relationship. The day itself may be mundane or remarkable, depending on the year. In 2005 we greeted the day in the hospital, following the second repair of our firstborn’s heart. In 2011 we scattered some of my father’s ashes at the very spot that he gave me away. Other years have been recognized with a simple outing to the community pool or a patriotic small-town parade. Last year involved many, many boxes and an equal measure of stress.

This is the year we reclaim our adventurous spirit. The summer we met–way more fit and a lot less tired– we’d swim in Walden Pond and bike 30-plus miles for our favorite ice cream. We’d walk along the Charles into downtown Boston for a movie or we’d wake pre-dawn to compete in some sporting event…and perhaps even make it to the podium. Then of course we’d eat more ice cream.

How are we going to earn said ice cream this year? We’re doing it SoCal style. That’s right– we are taking ourselves surfing! Forget romance. But I can guarantee comedy. I only wish I could document this destined-to-be debacle for you. You’ll have to rely on your imagination for that.

With the kids in camp on Friday we’ll have a few hours to play, just like we did that summer sixteen years ago.

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YouTube is Evil

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Can you hear Don Henley right about now? Never did I think as a young teen at summer camp that his slightly cheesy yet ever relevant classic bidding farewell to fairy tales would best summarize this particular juncture of my life. Still, somehow here we are:
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence…

It’s what happens when you have a curious, precocious child who absconds with your mobile device to explore the supposedly taboo. I had no idea what was happening upstairs until 1) I realized my phone was missing and 2) hours later I went to look up something on the internet… and up popped breasts so large they could have busted the glass on my phone. Mine eyes! Mine eyes!

I scrolled through the history of what had been viewed and let’s just say that Edith Wharton was way, way ahead of her time with Ethan Frome’s appetite for pickles and donuts. The difference being, of course, is that 100 years ago we were left to conjure up our own images, not the twisted documentations of disturbing minds posted on YouTube and similar sites. And those gems could not be brought to life by the touch of an innocent child’s finger.

Indeed the sun has set on our innocence.

My best defense needless to say is to take away the privilege of iPads, iPods, iPhones and iEverything. But that is a temporary solution. And anyone who knows us, our usage–very much G rated–is pretty minimal for starters.

The real issue to address is the curiosity, and do so appropriately. Our kids already know a lot. A LOT.  For example, the mystery of life had been inadvertently revealed in the opening scene of Black Beauty a while back. By the way, I highly recommend it to any parent as a template for that conversation.

Who doesn’t remember poring over What’s Happening to My Body? In our house I had the “for Girls” version and my brother had the “for Boys”, and we were forbidden to look at one another’s. Just last week on the plane my husband noticed a tween sitting in the row ahead of him sheepishly reading the American Girl version: The Care and Keeping of You– the Body Book for Girls. Ironically, the plane ride before that he sat next to a woman less covertly drooling over Fifty Shades of Grey. What would Edith Wharton think?!

On the evening of the discovery at hand, when my blood pressure returned to normal and after we had a lengthy talk with our darling child, I revised my to-do list for the week. It now reads:

1) Smack the hell out of a few hundred tennis balls                                                              2) Cash in on my gift certificate for a massage                                                                     3) Visit Barnes and Noble for some appropriate body-book reading material

Only, if only I liked wine…

 

 

How Does Justin Bieber Do That?

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His music is oddly pleasing, his hair intriguing and his man-child biceps endearing. But what fascinates me above all else regarding Justin Bieber is his massive Twitter following! Is he really that profound? Or eloquent? What is it that well over 33 million people–mobile devices afire–scramble to read?

Perhaps that’s just it: I don’t understand. Twitter and tweet– it’s all lost on me. And when it comes to social media I thought that I could continue to live in blissful ignorance for a while yet. I’ve long since been vocal about my resistance to joining the movement unless by necessity. Of course by necessity I mean  having to help my kids navigate the scene. I figured that would buy me some years, and maybe somehow this would all pass and the pendulum would swing the other way drastically so we could raise our kids without all of this crap technology.

Well, that’s not gonna happen now is it?!

Last week came the brutal awakening. Parents were notified that the second graders were now on Twitter. They’d be sending out tweets (as a group) from social studies, with the first informing us how, according to creation stories, the snake came to have no legs.

Oh, dreaded day!

With my son home sick and napping, I, the reluctant laggard, set up my Twitter account so that just in case my almost-eight-year-old daughter wanted to chat tweets I’d be one step ahead. Fast forward to the car ride back from school, when she asked what we had done all day. With pride and (feigned) enthusiasm I revealed my feat: setting up Twitter. Her response: What’s that?

Now not only did I have to join Twitter, I also had to explain it. My explanation involved birds, and announcements and mass communication and loads of (presumable) misinformation. I even brought Justin Bieber into the conversation to sound relevant. In the rear view mirror I could see her processing thoughts. Her response: So, if I wanted to announce that I were pregnant, then the people in China would know?

Holy S—!!!  Beat that one, Justin.

Can’t we just leave tweeting to the birds?

Lessons from an Unlikable Suspect

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My mom’s done it. My mother-in-law is still doing it. And Pukey Pukerson’s mom showed us how the real pros do it. What is it exactly? That would be resourceful outsourcing, all in the name of a successful vacation. This year after an epiphany on the slopes I joined the ranks.

I entered parenthood thinking that I was going to be the cool mom. Among the many activities I enjoy, I’d swim, bike, ski, play tennis, horseback ride– you name it– with my kids. I’d even teach them myself. Bring on the bonding opportunities!  (And of course they would appreciate them all.) The strategy seemed to work with my daughter, whose athleticism and risk-seeking tendencies favor such endeavors. At seven, with only a handful of “real” ski lessons under her belt, she not only keeps up but often leads the way down the hill. We’ll be chasing her in a season or two.

Then we put skis on my son. He’s a whole other animal– cautious, reserved and a little bit less than agile. My moment of defeat came on the first run. Half-way down the bunny hill I extricated him from between my knees and encouraged him to slide down just a few yards to where I would catch him. With that, he slumped to the snow– melting like the Wicked Witch when doused with water. Having duck-walked back up to him, I struggled to bring him upright. From that angle I just couldn’t lift 52 pounds of wet noodle. That’s when I knew: I would have to outsource to ski school.

Heartbroken (yes, both of us) we made our way to ski school the next day. That’s where we met Pukey Pukerson. This poor kid was waiting for his mom to purchase his ticket when his semi-digested breakfast reappeared all over the floor, his jacket and chin. His mom, completely unfazed, took some tissue from the counter, swabbed his coat, dabbed his face, then made a light attempt to remove the evidence. The result was a sizable and stinky stain on the carpet where the barf residue mixed with tissue filaments had seeped in. With that Pukey Pukerson was off to ski school.

There I was– the horrified and now nauseated witness– left to wonder doesn’t she know the universal rule that requires children be fever and vomit free for 24 hours before returning to school, camp, day care and so forth? Not 24 seconds, lady.

I mean really, what kind of mother sends her barfing child off to ski school for the day? The really hardcore, resourceful outsourcing kind. Nothing, especially not a little puke, was going to keep her from big plans for herself that day. Suddenly I didn’t feel like the worst parent ever, sending my own son through the rainbow arches of the ski school entrance with quivering lower lip. Now I just hoped for the sake of his very sensitive nose that he wouldn’t be in Pukey Pukerson’s group.

This incident was life altering for me. Not because of the trauma I suffered watching the kid vomit nor the aftermath. Rather, from Pukey Pukerson’s mom I gained invaluable perspective. It’s OK to take care of the self sometimes, even if it seems that in the moment it’s not in the best interest of the child. It just might be what he needs for long-term success. As a parent I do need to outsource from time to time. (Fortunately finances prevent us from doing it all the time because I can see how it could be completely addictive.)

I now see how outsourcing the family during vacation actually promotes successful family time. At long last it makes sense why my own ski-adverse mother agreed on and even looked forward to a family ski week. What fun was that for her, sitting around waiting for us all to return from the slopes? Therein lies the answer. She had time for her– and sitting by the fire alone, reading the paper alone, sipping coffee alone, enjoying a book alone, was vacation in and of itself.  She is the unsung genius of successful family vacations.

To that end, my mother-in-law is no slouch either. She still outsources– her retired, stay-at-home husband that is. Many a winter day she is asked to drive not just my father-in-law but also his cronies both to and from the slopes for an afternoon of skiing, burger-eating and beer-drinking. What?! Why on earth would she, a self-respecting woman, agree to this?! I silently pitied her for years, questioning doesn’t she have anything better to do with her time? Again, therein lies the answer. This alone time is the precious commodity, and being master of the car pool is the no-brainer trade-off.

We should all thank Pukey Pukerson’s mom. Not only has she schooled us in the art of effective and relentless outsourcing, but she has also made us look pretty darn good as parents!

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Game of Love

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Ping. Pop. Bounce. Spin. Satisfaction.

Smash. Slam. Whiff. Shank. Frustration.

That’s right– it’s the sport of tennis I describe. If you’re looking for schmaltzy romance, you’re on the wrong page. In this game, love means nothing. Literally: Nada. Zilch. Zero. What is to love about that?

Supposedly the scoring system reflects the notion that one plays for the love of it, and nothing else. Not points, not victory. As I chip away at the (many) layers of rust, I might have a tiny understanding of that–finally.

I grew up a tennis player, and put a lot of time, sweat and tears into my game. I loved it as much as I hated it– and after my last high school match the latter feelings forced me to take a 17-year hiatus.

Much has changed since my final days on the court. My knees are creakier, my eyesight is poorer. I have grown into my large feet… and also into my sports bra. I might– just might– have developed some maturity and perspective, too. I’m appreciative for all that my parents gave to me: lessons, encouragement and a lot of court time with my dad. He and I even won a mini-tournament, a highlight (I think) of his parenting years.

In my return from retirement, my stroke actually hasn’t changed much. Timing is another story. What a fine line there is between miss and a winner! If I can keep enjoying the sport, I know that I can only improve.

As my game is coming back to me, my expectations increase. I have to check my irritations at the gate, accepting that less fit women with much less finesse will lob and “push” their way through the points. It gets me every time. I will not bend to that kind of game– never have, never will. I vow to work only on my stragety and also to silence the profanities that are eager to fly from my mouth. Remember– the maturity is still very much in development. I have to actively remind myself that it’s all about the love.

Tennis anyone?

 

 

The Hijacking of a Holiday Classic

‘Twas some weeks before Christmas and all through the town

Halloween decorations came tumbling down.

The very next day signature cups were here

As Starbucks abound brought red holiday cheer.

 

But I’m not ready; I protest you will see,

Thanksgiving was rushed— was passed by easily.

Christmas scenes at malls were quickly erected

Before the plump turkey was even selected.

 

Hold onto your bells and red Santa Claus suits;

With commercialists and marketers in cahoots!

Slow down premature spending for goodness sakes;

We hadn’t had time for giving our thanks.

 

Not to mention out here, all the way out west,

We needn’t a coat—only sweater or vest.

New Yorkers we know that it’s no big charade:

The real Santa shows by ending the parade.

 

Now that the cooking and the feasting’s been done

And our dear guests and family have all gone,

I relish this now, oh so sweet Monday morn

When I sit silent, not any bit forlorn.

 

I need just a day—fine maybe even two

To recover from this before something new.

It’s not just Christmas but New Year’s, too,

And thanks to my mom, I’m a little bit Jew.

 

To gather the gifts and an additional eight,

Which one on what day, when shall we celebrate?

Palm trees do twinkle with festive bright light

Faux evergreens are seen in windows at night.

 

It’s weirdly warm, supposedly normal—

Strapless can be worn to the Christmas formal.

Ready now, I embrace holiday season;

To delay any longer I have no good reason.

 

On browsing! On buying! On wrapping! On giving!

At toy stores and books stores, clothes stores and e-stores:

Shop away! Shop away! Shop away, all!

 

Sam, too, has arrived—our own elf on our shelf,

Each night he reports to the big man himself.

He keeps us in line, or he tries to at least.

But how does a tiny guy tame our two giant beasts?

 

Four weeks more until school is out once again.

That brings a fortnight of true solid mayhem!

The day that I rest, the day of pure glee,

Is way off on 1-7, 2-0-1-3.

 

My effort’s complete; here ends my festive rhyme.

Happy prepping to all, and to all a good time!