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Hooray! The holidays are over!

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I’m no Scrooge, I hid that stupid Elf with everybody else, and Santa belief is alive and well at my house. But as depressing as a grey, snowy January may seem, I’m glad to be on this, the far side of Christmas.

The holidays were sad as I missed my friends and my city but the kids enjoyed having their dad around (in our old lives, he would have been working for much of the “vacation”) and having a non-city Christmas. One morning Christmas week, both kids were weepy because they missed New York. Of course, these are hard for me because I miss it, too. Somehow, my big son finally determined that he and his sister missed the people in NYC but tried to cheer his sister with this:

Now we have another whole group of friends. We have NYC  friends, we have friends at the cottage and we have Ohio friends…

Hard for to argue with him. Now onward to find some more Ohio friends.

Filed under Cleveland, NYC
Jan 3, 2012

Central Park and bags of chips

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This morning before school, Jenn announced sadly, “I miss New York City. I like it best.”

Though I wholeheartedly agree with her, I asked her why she missed New York, as if that were the craziest notion in the world.

Jenn:  Because I really, really like playing in Central Park.

As always, trying not to cry, I point out that I miss Central Park, too, but that it will be there when we go back to New York. We chatted a little about the Balto statue, the candied peanuts that cost $3 in the park but only $1 on 73rd Street and playing on “her” rock. And because she’s four, she moved on.

Until dinner. She again mentioned that she missed New York.

Again, I acted surprised:  Oh?

She continued:  Yes. I want to go to J and C’s house.  And I want to eat those little bags of chips that they have in the garage. I want to eat bags and bags…

So a Costco trip is in my future, because I can’t deliver Balto or our NY babysitter or our friends or the other things we miss, but I can certainly stick some little bags of Cheetos in the garage for the kids to sneak, for a while. Maybe some Doritos, too.

Filed under Cleveland, Moving, NYC
Oct 10, 2011

Middle school

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When I moved to New York in 1992, I was alone in a city of millions. Now, in my new home, I’m alone in a small community and it’s much harder, I think.

I spent an hour last night at a PTA meeting and I was sad sitting in a room of women who have already called “same seats” in the middle school cafeteria where we sat. There is definitely some cruel irony in the fact that the meeting was held at the middle school: I can’t say I miss my overbite, frizzy hair and glasses. (Yes, I really was THAT cute in 7th grade.)

I’m not outgoing even at my most confident and as much as I might try to be that way, it’s not my nature. I’m a watcher and it will take a few PTA meetings for my extraordinary kindness and brilliant wit to rise to anybody’s attention. I volunteered to help with a handful of activities – when they see how years of micromanaging tv shoots has prepped me for organizing field trip payments, they’ll all want me to sit at their table.

 

Filed under Cleveland, Expectations, NYC
Sep 8, 2011

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

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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

Letter to the lady on the M7 bus yesterday

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Dear Sanctimonious, Judgemental Mom,

I hope you had a nice ride uptown yesterday morning. I know that I did, and I’m quite sure that my daughter did, too.  And do you know what made the ride so nice? That for the sixteen blocks from my son’s school to my daughter’s school – maybe 10 minutes  – my daughter and I did not have to talk to one another or really even acknowledge one another. It was like we lived in the suburbs and she was buckled into her car seat while I drove, listening to NPR. Only we were on a crowded Tuesday morning bus.

I am sorry that your son (or daughter, I couldn’t tell w/ that long, stupid hair) was more interested in the shape game my daughter was playing on my iphone than the giant hard-cover book you pulled out of your bag. (Though I’ll note that my daughter initially wanted to listen in on your story until you turned it so she couldn’t see it. I have to believe that was an accident.)

I don’t owe you an explanation, but I’m generally an over-sharer, so let me justify:  though my daughter looks like she’s five, she’s actually three (we’re big people), and for some reason, we all rose at 5:34am today so everybody at our house was particularly tired; everyone – dog included – had already thrown his or her version of a tantrum before 7am, and though I didn’t know it then, by noon pick-up, my daughter had a raging fever, so she wasn’t feeling great. We were on the last leg of our kids-to-school journey and, believe me, I did the whole bus a favor by handing over my phone.

Anyhoo, she played her game, without sound, for those 10 minutes, and we both got a chance to re-set for the final slog to school. So please save the “parenting for public” – you know what I mean, when you said to your child in a tone for the entire bus, “Please pay attention to this book. We are not going to resort to that every morning on our way to school.” (Though I liked the way you gestured toward my daughter and the phone by lifting your eyebrows and angling your head in our direction. Careful with that, though – don’t want any unnecessary wrinkles!)

I remember when I was a bettter parent than everybody, too, WAY before I ever had kids. And I know that despite our best intentions, we all judge and think we make better or worse choices than everybody else. (Remember my mention of your kid’s long, stupid hair?) But like they say, we don’t know the shoes other people are walking in, so we should all shut the hell up and keep our foreheads smooth.

Let’s save our disdain for that guy who was giving his 2-year old a ginger ale on the bus. I bet we can all agree that sugary drinks on the bus before 9am are a mistake, especially ones without caffeine. Though again, maybe they overslept and had raced to the bus and that ginger ale happened to be in his bag and was the kid’s first sustenance that day. See? We just don’t know.

Looking forward to seeing you again, riding the MTA,

-lamemom

Filed under NYC, Preschool
Apr 13, 2011

It’s not about the ice cream.

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Monday afternoon, my son Jake (5) wanted something else to drink at the cafe. We’re neither fancy nor French but my son LOVES “cafes,” and I can turn any local coffee shop into a cafe by simply calling it a cafe. He wanted more to drink so I handed him three dollars (I knew it was only two but I hated the idea of him not having enough — nothing more embarrassing than that, as far as I’m concerned.) and pointed him in the direction of the front counter, maybe 100 feet from where we were sitting.

He insisted that I go up to get it for him and I insisted that he go. Eventually he realized that I wasn’t going to bend. For him to obtain another lemonade he needed to put on his big-boy pants and march bravely forth:  stand in a line of strangers (grown-ups), order, pay and return to the safety our table. He thought for a while and eventually he mustered up his courage and set off.  Of course, I watched him the whole way and felt a surge of relief when he actually had his drink in hand and was headed back to me.  He was proud (and no longer thirsty) and I was proud, too. Of both of us.

This cafe day, coupled with a great post by Jenny Heitz this week at A Child Grows in Brooklyn called Parenting in the Age of Fear, has me wondering when it’s okay for us to start encouraging (or pushing?) them to be more independent? Of course, I don’t let the 5-year old walk the dog by himself but he gets to hold the leash and and “be in charge” while I bite my tongue (almost off) as I try not to micromanage leash length, treat allocation, etc. (Yes, I’m a pleasure to live with. Shame my husband doesn’t have a blog.)

I don’t know how old I was when I got to start doing things on my own but I know I was probably allowed to ride bikes with my friend Tricia to Gebos for penny candy when we were 8-ish. Or maybe we weren’t allowed, but we were out riding our bikes so we just ended up there. Lots of freedom comes from having wheels, and as a city kid, my son will probably not ride anywhere on his bike for a long time. (That he is barely done with his training wheels is another whole story.) And of course, along with my desire that my kids are capable, independent people comes the desire that they don’t become those people too quickly.

I often imagine letting Jake go to our corner deli alone. He would have to ride the elevator to the lobby of our building (the elevator has an attendant), walk 8 or 10 steps to the corner, turn the corner and enter our deli, where the guys know us. No streets to be crossed, but a corner when he would leave my sight if I were to follow him as a spy. (And of course, I plan to follow him for a long time.) I envision him selecting whatever his $5 can buy him. I wonder if he would be safer if I sent his little sister along as a back-up and made them hold hands? (Because a snatcher might successfully snatch my sweet son but wouldn’t have a chance if he tried to snatch the crazy little sister.) And though I know he can order my coffee (he even knows my order at Starbucks, which is different than my deli coffee order; his father, sadly, choses to know neither), he doesn’t read yet so what if he grabs me a pint of chocolate chocolate chip instead of the vanilla heath bar crunch I really want?

Mar 2, 2011

Stealing from a baby

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As the husband was traveling and we were hunkering down for the snowstorm that actually came last night, the diner brought us dinner – waffles and bacon and French fries. And if that seems like a low point because of the dearth of nutrition and abundance of saturated fat, you are not only no fun, you are also just wrong. The low point came much earlier in the dinner process when I realized I didn’t have the right cash to pay for said delicacies.

My wallet contained two ones and a hundred dollar bill, which is essentially useless because I didn’t let the diner know when I ordered that I only had a big bill and the delivery guy was already en route I realized it. I have life-long money issues – (stemming, I’m sure, from a bike ride with my sister to the Dairy Queen when I was about 7) – so I got a little anxious and started rooting through my coat pockets and bags to find money. Fortunately, I’m also a little careless with cash so I quickly found enough to pay for dinner, but I was a little low on the tip

Enter young son. Poor guy didn’t see it coming.

“Do you have a one-dollar bill I could have?” I asked.

He has a cash register that is full with fake money, Canadian money, coins and the rare US dollar or two he comes across.  Helpful as ever, he agreed immediately.

“Actually, do you have two ones?”

Again, he did not balk and set off for his room to get his lamemom his dollars. Once in his room, I see a ten-dollar bill in his register.

“Actually, do you want me to give these TWO ones for that one ten-dollar bill?”

Admittedly, I was getting greedy, but the ten would allow me to pay for dinner, tip the guy AND pick up a coffee in the morning when I was walking the dog. – it was solving my problem and promising a smoother morning for everybody. Jake jumped at the offer – two bills for the price of one and a happy mother – win-win.

Did I feel badly? I was without doubt taking advantage of my 5-year old son. But I really wanted that ten, and isn’t it better to play a little trick (unbeknownst to him) so we all come out ahead? The vanilla shake I “accidentally” ordered helped assuage my guilt. And now I know we need to spend a little bit of time practicing money math.

Filed under Kindergarten, NYC
Jan 12, 2011

The crazier the better

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As my husband believes, there could be one crazy in the room and he or she will find me. They come from miles away to be near me. This afternoon in the dog run, it happened again.

I noticed her when she walked in because she was with a puppy and she looked a little bit elegant, among the other cold December day dog run clientele.  She had the pre-requisite big sunglasses, furry hat and long-but-not-sloppy down coat. And perhaps because I was in gym clothes (that I possibly wore yesterday), I was pleased to see someone a little bit pulled together. As I do, I smiled hello when she reached the bench where I was sitting, but I didn’t strike up a conversation or take off my sunglasses or do anything really inviting.

She sat on the bench nearest where I was, motions to my black exercise pants (original, I know) and began, “Ha. I had on some pants like that yesterday. “ I knew immediately we were in trouble, and she continued, “but I couldn’t get them down in time when I had to go and I accidentally peed all over myself. ” Then she used hand gestures to show me that she was wet all over after the “accident.” I have small children, I thought to myself, I know what gets wet when one pees oneself.

Horrified at her confession, I laughed louder than necessary and said something inane about it being a typical Monday. I didn’t know what else to do. Let me clarify:  it wasn’t the peeing on herself that horrified me, it was that she began a conversation with a total stranger about it.  Some of my mom friends joke about how they pee when they laugh since they have had babies, and my close friends share all kinds of embarrassing tales – sadly fewer since we stopped drinking our dinners – but she didn’t know me at all. We weren’t at a prenatal yoga class, a mom’s group or even a bar – all places where lots of women share.  We were sitting in the park waiting to pick up our dogs’ poop.

She chatted happily along about what a relief it was that she had another pair of gym pants to change into and how it seems to be harder to “hold it” the older “we” get.  That riled me up, her use of we. She looked WAY older than I do, didn’t she? I didn’t see much of her face, but her hands…  (Needless to say, I’m Kegeling as I type and putting sunscreen on my hands the second I get up from my desk.)

Maybe she thought she knew me, I hear that I look like a lot of people. Or maybe she just needed someone to talk to. I might talk all day long to my friends about barf or pee or the like, but if we’re strangers, I’ll not scratch that surface. But I’ll listen while you tell me your about yours, and maybe that afternoon, I’ll write all about it.

Filed under Dogs, NYC
Dec 8, 2010

I still love Thanksgiving

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My kids were sad yesterday morning at the early morning departure of our holiday guests (two grown-ups and three kids):  yes, all were staying in our apartment with us! No, we don’t have that much room and yes, I had to buy pillows and blankets because who in NYC has space and supplies for five extra? Anyway, they left early so we had a whole day to re-acclimate to normal life and we all have a little bit of day-after-Christmas syndrome. We’re finished “counting the wake-ups” until the cousins’ arrival, I’m done planning activities and food and worrying that there won’t be enough space.  Ultimately, as far as we are concerned, the weekend was a success: we all wish the visit had been longer. And some day maybe we will have a bigger apartment! (Not likely, however.)

The dads took the kids to see the balloon blow-up on Wednesday night for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and the kids loved it. It looked like a mosh pit so I’m glad I could dispatch a spouse to bring the kids;  I didn’t have it in me to crutch through the throngs of people. On two good feet, I would have been game – next time. (Note I didn’t say next year.)

We got up at the crack Thanksgiving morning to get a good spot to watch the parade on Central Park West and again, the kids loved it.  While I don’t need to make it an annual event for our family, I felt satisfied hearing 5-year old Jake say, “Look!” with true excitement at each arriving balloon or float. And little Jenn is still talking about the Hello Kitty balloon, five days later.

Logistics here were important:  three of us went to secure a good spot at 6am and the remaining adult brought the kids along at about 8, for the 9am start. If the kids had come much later, they most likely wouldn’t have been able to make it onto Central Park West as the cross streets were jammed with people who wouldn’t let others through. If the kids had arrived much before 8, they would have been too cold and bored and would have probably needed a bathroom before the parade’s end.  We had a rare moment of perfect parental timing that morning and we were home in enough time to watch the last 30 minutes of the parade on tv. Next time we’ll remember to record it.

The rest of the Thanksgiving holiday included lots of snowflake-making by the under-8 set, the Detroit Lions losing another football game and burgers and fries ordered from the diner  – (although my husband ordered the turkey dinner) – a perfect NYC Thanksgiving.  I’m worried, somehow, that these children of mine are wearing down – first the Thanksgiving Day parade and what next? A Disney visit? I may keep these crutches of mine around for a while…

Filed under NYC
Nov 29, 2010

I love Thanksgiving

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In my 20s, my friends and I would spend every Thanksgiving Eve roaming the Upper West Side bars, giddy, drunk and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons get blow up. It was a huge party and we wouldn’t miss it.  Of course, we were all too hung over to actually ever go to see the parade the next morning, but we were able to make it to our friend’s house for bloodys and the parade on tv while her mother, Donna, made us all dinner.

In my early to mid 30s, I’m quite sure I avoided the balloons and the parade like the plague, figuring I had been there/done that. We still went to the Thanksgiving hostess’s house for dinner, though she had triplets around that time so our visits were definitely shorter;  even just visiting three infants was so much work.  Then, in my late 30s, I was having kids and was quoted as saying I would rather light myself on fire than take a toddler and an infant to the mob scene of the parade.

Now, at the dawn of my 40s, (and hobbling around on crutches, no less), I’m apparently kinder and gentler. I’m absolutely thrilled to 1) bring the kids tonight to watch the balloons get blown up (without drinking a bucket of beer first) and 2) leave the apartment tomorrow at 6am to get an actual spot to watch the parade. Since we have family visiting, I will lead a few of the hearty to the mid-70s to lay claim for some prime viewing territory. The parade starts at Central Park West and 77th Street and travels south to the bottom of Central Park, down 7th Avenue until 34th Street, and over to Macy’s. The route map can be found here, and A Child Grows in Brooklyn has some great tips here for balloon and parade viewing.

Our hats and mittens are ready; the alarms are set  and with the hard core, will go to the parade. My family’s traditional holiday egg and cheese casserole will be waiting in the fridge to be baked upon our return; the DVR will be set to record the parade for when we give up, and after a busy morning, we will eat and drink with family and watch the Detroit Lions play Thanksgiving football. What could be better?   Hope we see you there.

Filed under NYC
Nov 24, 2010

What you’ve missed