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New babies and my ever-sliding standards


Everybody seems to agree — parenting evolves with each subsequent child. Which is to say, in my case, my standards have fallen and I am less concerned with lots of the extraneous stuff. Maybe, 6 years after my first pregnancy,  I’m more lazy, (yes), maybe I’m more busy (yes), maybe I just know better which things we really need. (Or maybe I’m justifying. Very possibly.)

My third baby is coming in four weeks, I’m told. My cousin (younger and sweeter than I) is having her first baby in about two weeks, give or take, and our “parallel pregnancies” have been fun to follow. Aside from being younger and sweeter, she is also made for this parenting thing and seems utterly ready. I had a wild panic attack when, upon seeing a picture of her new baby’s room, I realized I didn’t have ANYTHING ready for my baby 3. Nary a diaper purchased. The preparations are complicated by the fact that we’re moving cities a few weeks after his grand arrival, but I hadn’t even come up with sleeping accommodations for my poor bugger. (Though I owe a big thanks to MomTrends, as at their Travel Event last week, I  was the lucky winner of the Britax Baby Carrier so my poor bugger will at least be schlepped in style!)

So while I now can haul around baby 3 easily, he has no where to sleep because I got rid of our drop-side crib (that my two nieces, nephew and my two big kids have all used) because they are now deemed dangerous.  My cousin’s baby’s room has beautifully painted knobs on the dresser and my poor bugger doesn’t even have a bed. Should someone call children’s services? Doesn’t it seem silly to put together a crib for three weeks? Won’t he just torture me in my bed for the first few weeks anyway? Happily, we still have a pack-n-play somewhere in the back of a closet, and that can be a bed for a few weeks, can’t it? I was feeling moderate about the decision, but still longing for a “done” baby’s room. This thought process inevitably set off one of my “I’m-supposed-to-be-nesting-not-packing” tantrums, which hit me most evenings.

Like everything else, it’s always a matter of what roads you have been down. The night I started worrying about painted knobs, I was chatting with my husband’s grandmother and she was remembering how sad she was when she left England as a young bride with her husband and kids. Of course, they were after a better life, but she was still sad to leave her home country. I was lamenting our upcoming move and she laughed when I complained that I didn’t even have a bed for the baby. “Well, dear, ” she said. “When they’re that small, a drawer will be fine. He won’t know and you won’t tell him.”  Begrudgingly, I have to admit that she’s right. Now if I can keep the big kids from telling him.





Filed under Babies, Expectations, Family
Jun 21, 2011

My heart is broken. After a month in the fetal position, it’s time to buck up…


My story isn’t different from many of the folks who landed here from elsewhere. I moved to New York City the week after I graduated from college. The job I found for the summer was at CBS and the hand-written note on my university’s job placement office deemed it “Very clerical in nature.” Perfect, sign me up!  A few faxes later, I was hired and off to the public library in my hometown to check out books about New York City. This was before the internet so I found a cheap place to live by making phone calls — I ended up at the Webster women’s apartments — yes, just like on Bosom Buddies. (Old enough to remember that show? I loved it. Here’s the opening I found on youtube.)

My family and friends were horrified of my decision and I’m certain they all figured “Camp New York” wouldn’t last the summer. In fact, I had a return ticket to Michigan because I knew I couldn’t afford to stay if i didn’t have a “real” job by that time. I got to New York with no friends and no money so when I wasn’t working, I walked the streets. What a way to learn a city. I really believed EB White, when he wrote that “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.” I was certain good fortune – a free drink or a date or a used book I wanted or a job – was around each corner. And it was. I have been lucky in New York:  jobs, friends, lots of fun and now, a family.

The thing with being part of a family, of a marriage, is that we have to do things we don’t want to do, I am realizing. And for me, 41 years old, with two kids and  6 weeks away from having baby three, my worst possible “thing I don’t want to do” is happening. The husband has accepted a job elsewhere, (he started this week) and we are moving. Not to the suburbs, or even to the country near our cottage. We’re moving to Cleveland. And I once spent a few weeks working in Cleveland and thought it was a fun city, so this isn’t about Cleveland. In fact, everybody I know from there speaks of it with almost reverence — they lovelovelove it. This is about not wanting to leave where I am. I’m sad and pissed but guess I have to pull it together, because we’re going.

The kids know and are thrilled about having a house though they have each asked me if they’ll ever get to see their friends or babysitter (who has been with us since Jake was 5 months old) again. But they’re ready for an adventure.

In my head, I know it will be fine. A yard and a house and a school bus will all be fun for them – “normal” life, like where I grew up. They’re going to make a bunch of friends and we’ll go to watch the high school football games on Friday nights and it will all be great. The husband seems happy there, too, so far. And New York will always be here, but how often will we really get to come back? And how long until I’m able to make our lives as rich as they are here?

I know, I know what you’re thinking:

Boo hoo. Stop your pity party.  Lots of people can’t find a job, even in Ohio. Lots of people don’t have wonderful families like you do. Lots of people are desperate for babies but something is not working. Lots of people have severe medical problems. Get over yourself…

I understand that I have it pretty good. But I’m still sad. (I’ll note that being pregnant is not helping.) Maybe most importantly, I’m still willing to be lucky , even if it’s in Ohio.

Lucky or not, I told the husband that I would probably cry every day for a year. So far, I’m right on on track.



Jun 8, 2011

Husband recovers: Mother’s Day do-over a success


So my husband failed Mother’s Day this year.  He neither planned anything nor stepped up to make any impromptu grand gestures. The kids made cards under the direction of the babysitter and she helped them buy my gifts:  a rose with a teddy bear magnet on it saying “I love you” and a small white ceramic heart thingie that now sits near the sink in my bathroom.  Perfect. Only orchestrated not by my husband.

His fumble was puzzling, as I had been mentioning the “holiday” for weeks. And I had even offered it up as chance for him to have a return to glory  following his UTTER failure of my birthday, one week prior. (Lest you judge me as harsh:  it was like 16 Candles with no Jake at the end. He didn’t remember it was my birthday until noon, which meant I left him sleeping as I walked the dog at 6, got the kids ready for school, etc. I think he clued in when he noticed that the babysitter had brought me flowers, gifts from the kids, cards and a cake – perfect again, though again, orchestrated not by my husband.)

After the birthday debacle, I blamed myself. I simply needed to implement some remedial training, showing him how one should celebrate a birthday properly. Rather, showing how I believe one should celebrate a birthday properly.  So I offered a re-do, in the shape of Mother’s Day. Obviously I was not clear enough, as that holiday also did not go well. (I’ll point out that I’m pregnant, so a little nuttier than usual.)

Mother’s Day evening, I was spent from watching my husband nap on the couch (truly) while I scraped together bowls of cereal for the kids’ dinner, so we watched a DVR-ed episode of Modern Family — the Mother’s Day episode. After the show, I pointed out all the instances of proper celebration:  coffee and breakfast in bed, cards made by the kids, a special meal not created by the mother, etc.

Well, apparently that primer was just what he needed as this past Saturday morning, while I read in bed (!!), he and the kids wrapped up a bunch of gifts, –  an apple, last week’s rose w/ teddy bear stuck to it, white ceramic heart thingie and a beautiful new ipad (the actual item, not a piece of paper saying “Good for one ipad” — this husband stood in line at the Apple Store!)  – and they all helped me open them in bed. Then we went on a Mother’s Day, Take 2,  hike, got Mother’s Day, Take 2, ice cream and tackled the grocery store and dinner together.

Of course, all I really wanted to do is stay home and figure out and play with my new ipad, but the day was perfect, regardless. I imagine I should start planning Father’s Day.  Though the pressure is low, as I figure I have a few tries to get it right.

Filed under Expectations, Family
May 16, 2011

Yes Day


I have been pretty lucky in life and while I believe that we can make our own luck to some extent, sometimes luck is just luck. When I was younger, my friend Cathy could be called on to justify ANY drunk, late night with the “we could get hit by a bus tomorrow so let’s have one more” argument. And as I have gotten older and had kids, and our families have gotten older and we have all been generally unscathed thus far, I have given a lot of thought to the idea that we are just one phone call or doctor’s appointment or walk in the park away from not being so lucky.

Of course, the most recent example of this (that the whole world and I can’t stop reading about) is the Brooklyn family, Elisa and Nathan Bond. They are a mid-thirties couple with a young daughter and they were both diagnosed with serious cancers last month, within a week or so of one another. He was diagnosed first, on Valentine’s Day, so on February 13, their lives were “normal,” or maybe unscathed, too. She started their blog to keep family updated on their newborn baby a year and a half ago and now it chronicles their cancers and treatments and unfortunately, now they can’t go back to that place. (Especially since their plight went viral in the last week or so.)

Last week I was in a taxi with my daughter, headed to the hospital so she could have (what we hoped was) a Spitz mole removed from her leg, and I couldn’t stop thinking, “this might be the day we remember as the last day before X happened.” I don’t really know I thought X might be, but it wasn’t good — deadly cancer, I expect. Fortunately we received a favorable oncology report and, (in spite of a 2 inch incision), all is fine. But maybe we won’t be next time. Or maybe we will. Don’t think that I’m sitting up at night imagining what’s going to “get us” next – (Ok, maybe sometimes – though I’m pregnant, so crazier than usual.) – but wondering if “today is the last normal day” certainly makes me reconsider some of the worries I have or decisions I make.

At dinner last night my son asked when he got to have “Yes Day,” which he learned about in an adorable book by the same name in which a little boy (you guessed it) has a day full of yes-es. Jake ran through what the day would and wouldn’t include for him and it didn’t seem too crazy:  more ice cream than green vegetables, but nothing dangerous. So I think I should plan a Yes Day. Maybe we should all have more Yes Days, (or fun nights out with Cathy), because we don’t really know when we won’t get to have them any more.

Filed under Family, Parenting
Mar 29, 2011

I’m freezing. Put on a sweater.


On the weekend, I got into another (misguided) brawl with my 3-year old daughter.  The impetus? Our cottage (barely insulated on a good day) was about 45 degrees when we arrived there on Saturday, which was freezing, a typical early winter day. After we arrived and did the typical warm-up with blankets in front of the fire, Jenn declared herself warm and took off her shoes and socks. Then she left the coziness of the fire and took off her sweatshirt, leaving herself in cheetah print fleece pants (at least warm, if not stylish) and a long sleeved shirt. The rest of us were still wearing down jackets and hats (and happily were not in cheetah print fleece).

Looking at her made me shiver. And given the last two weeks of family flu, I was determined to get that sweatshirt back on her. Not that I believe that being cold makes you sick, I just wanted to make her comfortable. She, meanwhile, was determined to continue to play in her space shuttle tent. Even my cleverest cajoling didn’t work. I signed up the husband to help (I’ll note that when he told this story recently, he saved the day. I don’t remember how.) and he couldn’t woo her into anything warmer, either.

I know you’re thinking:

She’s not going to die. Let her be. When she’s cold (hungry/thirsty/tired) enough she’ll put on her jacket (have a drink/eat something/sleep).

I’m not always stupid; if you were recounting the story to me, I would be the first to say, leave her alone; she’ll be fine.  But I was already too deep in the battle, so to speak. Yes, I understand there is a problem with considering myself “in battle” but I find rational thought to elude me on occasion when I’m being ignored.

She and I screamed about it for a while.  And she eventually got cold enough to allow her sweatshirt to be put on her. So I guess it was a tie.  But I know I was right:  it was much too cold to be without warm clothes.

My grandma Dorothy would give us a drink when she was thirsty or a sweater when she thought it was cold, and I’m pretty sure that was infuriating at the time, but now I only remember it fondly. So as we have all tried to avoid turning into our mothers, at 40, I have managed to become my grandmother.   Certainly, there are worse things.

Dec 13, 2010

Happy Birthday


My son Jake turns five next week and I have spent more than enough time wrestling with what to do about a birthday party.  Or maybe, it’s about how to make him really happy for a few hours – and that’s where I get stuck.

Of course, he wants a party at a NYC sports facility where he went to a party once for a classmate. When he returned, he (and his father) couldn’t say enough about it: two hours of gymnastics instruction, pizza, cake, party bags. What more could one want? Dreamy for the kids and dreamy for the parents – no mess, no baking, no child wrangling.  It costs a bunch – on the low end the party would probably be out $800 – but boy, is it easy: just give them your credit card and you’re in.

If you live outside of NYC — this will seem absurd but remember that we don’t have the back yard you have. Yes, Central Park is our backyard, but carting party supplies 5 blocks and trying to find a patch of vacant grass with a few picnic tables and some bathrooms nearby is different than mowing the lawn and throwing a cooler of juice boxes and beers out on the deck.  And most of us just don’t have the space – our apartment feels it when there are three or four additional people in it; it would implode with 12 more kids. (Or, my husband may argue, I might implode. Regardless, there’s no space.)

So what to do?  When I was growing up, my 4th or 5th or 6th birthday party would have been on a Sunday afternoon and would have included all of my family – cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents; I don’t remember friends being included.  But we’re transplants so that’s not really our situation.  Some people use the formula: one party guest for every year you’re turning (so Jake would have five friends over), and that feels like a reasonable way to limit. Most people we know have parties for their kids every year, with too many kids, too much money spent and party bags filled with crap. And I’ll be the first to admit – parties are fun for the kids and easy for their parents, especially if there’s a glass of wine in it for me.

Even if I weren’t a little bit horrified by the cost of some of these parties, I might still struggle with it, because where do you go from here? How do we top it next year? Can‘t we make the birthday boy feel special with something low-key and at home? And if we can’t manage this when he’s turning five, how on earth will we ever swing it when he’s – gasp – turning six or eight or ten?

Filed under Family, NYC
Nov 18, 2010

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